Starvation Diet

As I’ve mentioned, I’m memorizing a Scripture passage, Colossians 3:1-17. In doing so, it has me thinking about the meaning of certain words and phrases, prompting me to dig deeper.

In verse 5, Paul says,

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (NIV)

As I was reading and reciting this verse again, I wondered what he meant by “Put to death.” How am I supposed to kill whatever belongs to my earthly nature? The devotional book I’m reading that partners with the memorization explains it well this morning.

James Bryan Smith in his devotional “Hidden In Christ” explains that the phrase “put to death” is translated in the King James as “mortify”. It has the same root in Greek (and Latin) as mortgage. “Mort-” means death. A mortgage is the slow death of your home’s debt. When we mortify or put to death our earthly nature, it is a slow death. It is not done overnight. It takes time. It is intentional. It takes purposeful planning.

I’ve often heard that our spiritual nature and our earthly nature (our spirit and our flesh) are like two dogs. The one we feed is the one which survives. If we starve the earthly dog, our flesh, it will eventually die off. This takes planning and intent. It takes time.

There are sins that a few of us struggle with every day. We’ve struggled with them for years and they keep tripping us up. You would consider them “besetting” sins. These are the sins that have been “fed” over and over again, and to be free, now require intentional planning. Will power never works. But doing your part by planning to avoid the situations where they begin tempting you is the beginning. Avoid the temptation and you avoid the sin. (See James 1:14-15)

In our strategy, in addition to starving our flesh, we must also feed our spirits. We have the Holy Spirit inside us and He desires to show Himself more and more. However, He is a gentleman and won’t force Himself on you. You must invite Him into your life by prayer and reading His Holy Word, the Bible. The more you “feed” your spiritual nature, the more your spiritual nature will grow.

Something else to remember: If you are in Christ, then you are a child of God who has Christ dwelling within you and you live in the unshakeable Kingdom of God. You were bought at an extreme price, by the death of Jesus, God’s Son. You are priceless in the eyes of God.

Frankly, sin is beneath you. Kingdom living is your right and inheritance. Walk in it. Revel in it. Experience the joy and wonder of eternal life right now while participating in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

Abundant living is waiting.

I just can’t get past it…

There is something in Christianity I can’t get past. It’s something I’ve discovered fairly recently and I just can’t stop thinking about it; I just can’t get past it. I’m sure my wife is tired of me talking about it, because it dominates my thoughts. Even my friends have noticed my obsession with it. Maybe you have, too.

It’s the love of God.

“Oh, brother,” you think, “Here we go again. I know about the love of God already. After all, John 3:16 says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..’. I know that. That’s Christianity 101.”

Yes, that’s probably the most famous and well-known verse in the Bible. Yes, you probably know that verse by heart. But do you really know the depths of God’s love? Do you really understand what it means for you everyday? Do you know why the Gospel is really Good News?

I think not. Well, at least some of you reading don’t. Because if you REALLY understood the love of God, it would be a game-changer for you. (And I see a lot of sour-faced, defeated people out there who claim to know Jesus and the love of God.)

First, the love of God is not the kind of love you and I are used to. It’s not based on our performance, our attitudes, our actions or behaviors. God loves us the same today as He did yesterday… and the day before… and the day before that. He knows all about the bitterness you still hold on to. He knows all about the lies you told last week. He knows all about your pitiful prayer life and the fact that you don’t read your Bible as you should. And He still loves you with a dance-on-the-rooftops, swing-on-the-chandelier-kind-of-love! He sings over you, Scripture says. Despite all your daily screw-ups, failures, blunders and mistakes, He loves you the same as the day you were born. Unbelievably, He loves you and I the same as He loves super-saints like Billy Graham or Mother Teresa.

In turn, this means that He won’t love you more if you become a super-saint yourself. He doesn’t love you more for reading your Bible two hours every day and spending two hours in your prayer closet each day, although you may get to know Him better. It’s startling to think about, but even though you may do that, He doesn’t love you more than He does any terrorist or pedophile or murderer.

For me, this kind of love ends all my “checklist religion”. It is (or should be) the end of performance-based living, which dominates our world, and dominates how we give and receive love. We love those who love us in return. We love those who do nice things for us. But God, while He wasn’t even on our minds at all… while we were living our own selfish lives… while we even cursed His Name… loved us and died for us. In doing so, He wiped the slate clean… and He continues to wipe the slate clean – with the blood of Jesus – every day. Since my life is “hidden” with His, my soul is secure. I don’t have to strive and strive and strive to earn God’s love, His favor, His gifts, or His blessing. I have Him. And He is all I need.

Lastly, this is amazing, Good News! If you were to ask someone what the Gospel is all about, they might reply that Jesus died for our sins and now we have eternal life. Yes, but that’s only scratching the surface. Eternal life is not just life after death.

It’s eternal living, too. The love of God doesn’t end with sending His Son to the Cross. While it’s true, that is where the amazing grace of God is discovered, His love endures through all generations. He loves you as much right now as He did when Jesus went to the Cross. What this means is that He is with you right now! He knows what you’re going through right now. And He is working things out for your good right now, even though you may not think so. Even if you are suffering right now, He promises to be with you through it all and turn it into something that makes you more like Christ, giving Him resounding glory.

Not only that, but in the end, you, I, and Christ WIN. Evil will be defeated. There will be no more pain or sorrow, and God Himself will wipe away our tears. This is where Christian hope comes from. It’s not a pie-in-the-sky, wishful-thinking kind of hope. It’s a sure thing, a certainty, and Rock-solid. It’s the hope of a better tomorrow, no matter what today looks like. We are living in the unshakeable Kingdom of God!

All because of the love of God. Good News indeed!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Set your station…

As I mentioned a few days ago, I am memorizing a passage of Scripture: Colossians 3:1-17. It’s a daunting task, to be sure. However, I’m doing it by working my way through a devotional book based on those verses and it’s helping me take my time, ponder the meaning of words and phrases, and delve deeper into the richness of God’s Word.

In verse 2, Paul repeats something that’s a common topic in his instructions for Christian living. He says,

“Set you minds upon things above, not on earthly things.”

In the companion devotional, the author likens “things above”, “heavenly things”, or things “of the Spirit” to an AM radio station. He compares “earthly things” or “things of this world” to an FM station. We all have radios in our cars and we can choose the AM band or the FM band. The FM band has clear stations. The sound comes through loud and clear. The sound is in stereo. The message of this world is unmistakable: money, power, selfishness, and materialism.

The AM station doesn’t come through as clear. The station is difficult to tune in. It takes a little work to tune it in just right and hear its message. There is interference, but its message is also clear: self-sacrifice, compassion, and love. These are some of the values of the Kingdom of God.

Thinking about “things above” also involves contemplating what God has done for each of us. With the love He has lavished on us, we are now His children! Because of the love of the Father, Jesus made a way for us to be intimately connected to God through His Spirit. He now intercedes for us, seated at the right hand of God. Because of the Cross, we have been raised with Christ and are forgiven forever! That is something to think over.

Paul says in his letter to the Philippians…

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (4:8)

There is an acronym in computer programming – GIGO. It means, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” What is inputted as programming language becomes output. If you program incorrectly, you get erroneous output. It’s the same in our lives here on earth: What we allow past our “ear-gates”, “eye-gates”, and “mind-gates” powerfully influences how we live.

This could translate as imposing a bunch of rules to Christian living, but laws never work. All I know is this: What I think about and where I set my heart drastically impacts my life and its quality. And I have a choice.

Justice. Purity. Love. Excellence. These are the “things above.”

Where are you tuning your radio?


I love it when I learn something new. I’m 55 years old and still learning everyday (sometimes the hard way — ha!).

In Colossians 3:1 (and several other places in the Bible, Jesus is described or portrayed as “seated at the right hand of God”. I’ve always viewed the “right hand of God” as the place of honor, a highly esteemed place, a position of authority.

But this morning in my reading, I learned that Bible scholars also view the word “seated” as a metaphor for work being completed or finished. One is seated when the work is complete. Hebrews 1:3 helps explain:

After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

After He finished the work. After the Cross. After His sacrifice for sins. After He reconciled the world to Himself. It’s a picture of Christ’s work being completed once and for all. It’s a tremendous reminder that all my striving and struggling to be righteous is in vain; the work has been done. I can rest.

For me, this fills me with gratitude and compels me to live my life for the One who gave His all for me. It makes me worship Him.

I can rest because He is seated.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)


Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)

Author James Bryan Smith gives us this affirmation:

“Jesus rose from the grave. (Because I have been raised with Christ,) there is nothing I cannot rise from. Even death cannot hold me down. Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”

It’s all because of the Resurrection. As Christians, all we believe hinges on the resurrection. The Resurrection has the final word. It has the last laugh. It is our victory, our healing, and our hope. Because of the morning the tomb was found empty, we celebrate Easter.

But our celebration shouldn’t stop then and there. We should celebrate this ultimate and underlying victory every single day. Defeat is no longer an option. Death no longer has any hold. Sin no longer has any power.

Because of Jesus and our faith in Him and His resurrection, you and I are raised with Him, and as a result, you and I can rise above it all! As Smith says above, “There is nothing (we) cannot rise from!”



Several years ago, while playing in a church softball league game, I slid into home plate. To be honest, I don’t remember if I was safe or out. What I remember is that a metal bat the batter had used was still lying across home plate as I slid with the catcher’s feet holding the bat in place.

When I slid into home plate and into the bat anchored by the catcher’s feet, I came to an abrupt halt and landed awkwardly on my right wrist, breaking it. One of my friends, Gary Reed, gave me a ride to the emergency room and I was taken into surgery, put under anesthesia, and my wrist was then set into place.

Of course, while under anesthesia, I don’t remember a thing about the procedure. After the procedure, I was in the recovery area, and Dr. Burgess came to see me, asking how I was. I can remember asking him when I was going in to have my wrist set and he laughingly replied that it had already been done.

He went on to say that anesthesia does strange things to people. He said that most people curse under anesthesia. I never knew that. But then he said that I didn’t curse; in fact, he said that I quoted Scripture. I was amazed. I praise God for that.

There are a few passages in the Bible about reading Scripture as a spiritual discipline. Psalm 119 is entirely about God’s Word. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” They talk about more than just reading it, though. They imply that we should ingest and digest it, allowing it to feed us, and shape and mold us. After all, Jesus is called the “Logos” in the first verses of John’s Gospel, which, as you probably know, means “The Word”. As we ingest God’s Word into our lives by reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture, we are allowing Jesus to fill us more and more.

I’ve always loved reading and studying the Bible. I wholeheartedly believe in memorizing Scripture verses. It has the power to transform as God’s Word comes alive within. To that end, during my devotional time this morning, I have been prompted to commit to memorize Colossians 3:1-17. It’s a long passage and most likely, will take a month to complete. But in those thirty days, I’m believing that God will do something marvelous.

Besides, you never know when you’ll be under anesthesia.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2)


My mornings begin similarly each day. Make coffee and oatmeal. Walk my dog Bella. Read.

I don’t read much. I might read a little Scripture. I might read a few paragraphs from a book I’m working through. I don’t read novels. I read in the morning to set my thoughts and heart on God.

This morning, I read like I always do. I love James Bryan Smith. After reading his trilogy of sorts: The Good and Beautiful God, The Good and Beautiful Life, and The Good and Beautiful Community, I was hungry for more.

I found Embracing the Love of God, which, like his previous books, are about replacing the narratives we naturally repeat to ourselves with God’s narratives. As Joyce Meyer would say, we have a lot of “stinkin’ thinkin'” going on, and we need to reverse that trend by renewing our minds with God’s Word, His truth, and His promises.

To be frank, I didn’t get very far in my reading. After skimming a couple of pages, I read the header: “The Secret of a Blessed Life.” 99 out of 100 people will read on to find out this “secret”, and being in that group, I read on. I didn’t have to read very far.

“God with us. This is the secret of the blessed life.”

I stopped there. Wow. Simplicity has its beauty… and so does truth.

Smith goes onto to say that this is what David the psalmist meant in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

In other words, I have God with me and I don’t need anything else. He provides. He protects. He is wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, and He is right here with me. Better yet, He is inside me! As I get out of the way and yield to Him, He makes Himself more and more known, evident, and eventually, obvious in my life… both to me and to those around me. He makes Jesus known through me. He is all I need.

Blessings come in many forms, but the essence (and source) of blessing is God Himself. Immanuel. God with us.

Blessed indeed.

I am WITH YOU and will watch over you wherever you go (Genesis 28:15a)

And surely I am WITH YOU always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20b)

Parting of the Red Sea…

I’m sure you know the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea on dry ground. Yes, God parted the sea to allow the people of God to cross, and as you know, allowed the sea to cover and drown the pursuing Pharoah and his chariots.

There are folks who try to explain away the miracle of God on some meteorological phenomenon, wind, or tidal anomaly. Personally, I don’t buy it. That’s not what the Bible says, nor does it account for the drowning of all the Egyptians… but I digress, and that’s a topic for another day.

Today, on our motorcycle trip, I saw God part the seas, in a manner of speaking.

imageWe rode from Valentine, Nebraska to Des Moines, Iowa, a distance of 424 miles. We ate lunch in Decatur, NE, which was just over half way. We saw, by looking at the weather radar, that a wide band of heavy rain was just northeast of Omaha, and we were going to have to go through it. It was inevitable… we were going to get wet again. We had spent two days nearly a week ago in Yellowstone National Park in nothing but rain. So, we put all of our raingear on and readied ourselves for the weather.

imageAs we traveled down I-29 South, I watched on my iPhone (mounted in a waterproof box on my handlebar) weather radar as the line of storms started to move ahead of us to the east.

By the time we headed east on I-80, the band of storms had weakened and somehow (ha!) changed direction and moved to the
south of I-80. We encountered 10 minutes of light rain and then, as we sat in 5 mph construction traffic, the rain stopped altogether.

For us, this was God parting the Red Sea and we crossed on dry ground.



How did Moses respond? In song.

The Lord is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
(Exodus 15:2 NIV)

Sounds good to me… I’m singing too.

Mend the broken hearted…

The more places we stop on our motorcycle trip, the more broken the world seems. I’m not talking about the systems of health care, the economy, or our government, although you could make cases for each being broken.

What I’m talking about is all the broken lives. Divorce, illness, dashed dreams, lonely hearts, and longing for something better… something more. Today, Paul and I crossed paths on our motorcycle trip with two such lives filled with brokenness.

imageThe first is Doyle, a military veteran whose health is failing, benefits are being curtailed, and more importantly, whose wife passed away just over a year ago. He sits under a gazebo next to a convenience store watching the traffic go by from his motorized chair. His home is six blocks away, but it is a lonely place and he can’t bear to be there. His kids live locally but I get the feeling don’t see him as frequently as they should. He doesn’t have a church home ever since he became disillusioned because nobody seemed to care while his wife was sick and dying.

Paul and I visited with him while we were cooling off after crossing half of Wyoming. After we talked, I offered to pray for him and as I did, he began to sob. He actually shook from sobbing while I prayed. It was heartbreaking, but as we said goodbye, he seemed to have a little twinkle in his eye and maybe a little more hope than 20 minutes earlier.

The other broken life we encountered was Ted. He wandered up to my bike at another stop admiring my stickers and he wasn’t hesitant to tell me his story after I asked him if he rode one too. His dreams were shattered and his life was broken – literally – in 1997. He was involved in an accident in which he broke his back. It wasn’t diagnosed until 10 months later after never really recovering. He had surgery and has been on disability ever since. Since the diagnosis took so long and his disability benefits didn’t begin until after surgery, he lost his home to foreclosure. Ever since, for the last 15 years, he’s been living out of his camper. He moves from place to place, until the owner of the property or the town makes him move. Broken bones, broken lives.image

They’re everywhere, if we look. But as I reflect on those two, I know that God made a difference in their lives as we happened upon them. For Ted, it was a hug. For Doyle, it was the heaving sobs. Both were touched. And that’s what it’s all about.

We’re taking our faith on the road again today. I can’t wait to see what awaits.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:3-10)

(Incidentally, prayers are needed for a rider named Tim who was involved in a motorcycle accident which we witnessed; and also for a group of riders we came upon which required three ambulances and a gurney)

The best laid plans…

As you may have read, I’m on a motorcycle trip. I’ve been planning this trip for some time. This kind of trip takes planning, in my opinion. It’s over 5300 miles in 18 days, including five national parks and 13 states. You have to plan what you pack and how you pack. If you want to stay within the national parks, in our case, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Teton, you must make reservations well in advance. It takes planning.

I did research, I looked at seemingly endless resources about things to see and the most scenic roads to travel by motorcycle. I had to plan how many miles to travel each day, taking into account the sights we wanted to see. It takes a lot of planning.

My buddy Paul and I even planned to spread the Gospel as best we could along the way, either by the way we treated those we met, helping the hurting we encountered, or just by directly sharing God’s Word with those whose hearts we sensed need to hear it.

I think we’ve done well thus far. Tomorrow will be Day 11 of our 18-day trip and Paul has nearly exhausted his supply of Gideon New Testaments and I’ve shared encouragement with over 50 people in one form or another.

What I didn’t plan on is the weather. Yes, I brought proper raingear and warm clothes. But with all the planning, I didn’t plan on the rain which has been virtually non-stop throughout our visit to Yellowstone National Park, obviously one of our prized main stops.

There are mountains in Yellowstone… I think. We never saw them. The low cloud cover hid them. There were so scenic places we would’ve loved to stop and just watch for wildlife, but the steady rain made it impractical and frustrating.

But as I sit hear on the porch of the Signal Mountain Inn in Grand Teton National Park, I am nevertheless grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to see this wonderful country and see sights that most will never see. I’m grateful for the safety God has provided throughout the trip, including protection from bison crossing the road directly in from of us. They inched closer and closer to me and having no escape, I was forced to sit motionless until they were 10 ft from me on my motorcycle.image

God has provided safety and favor… favor in holding off the rain while we waited 50 minutes for Old Faithful to erupt and favor in allowing the clouds to part so we could enjoy the astounding beauty of the Tetons.

Truly God has been the One who has been faithful… and I know I can plan on that.

James 4:13-14 NIV says:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.