The Last Words-Serve

While the cross waited, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples and shared some final instructions before being arrested. John chapters 13-17 record the powerful, emotional words that Jesus chose to leave with them. First, He demonstrated how to serve by washing the feet of the original Twelve (including Judas). He then instructed:

I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (13:15 NKJV)

The lesson for us today is that serving others as modeled by our Lord will include a mixture of reactions and people:

  • Most accepted quietly
  • One protested out of pride
  • One was planning to betray Him
  • All were unworthy

And He concluded the demonstration with this promise:

If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (13:17 NKJV)

Will you choose to be blessed by serving others today?

(Tomorrow- “The Last Words-Love”)

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Why “Running the Race” is More Than a Sprint OR Marathon

It’s been said that the race of faith isn’t a sprint but a marathon. However, I submit that it’s neither sprint nor marathon, because in truth it’s more like an endurance race. To be clear, I mean no disrespect to anyone’s appreciation of the marathon illustration, but for me, after revisiting Hebrews chapters 11-12, the racing visual took on new meaning. Unlike a marathon course that requires runners to steadily work their way through an urban or country landscape, the race of faith is more like one of those off-road races that go on for nearly a 1,000 miles, or a team obstacle course with different stages, contrasting venues, varying challenges, and weather difficulty. There can be times of great fatigue, welcome moments of rest and refueling, daunting challenges that require a teammate, cuts, bruises, and a nagging temptation to quit.

Perhaps today, you feel like you’ve been grinding through an endurance race, if so, the writer of Hebrews has some encouraging words for you:

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1b-2a NKJV

Let me also encourage you to take the race one-day-at-a-time, find joy in the little things, set small achievable goals, and trust the Lord with the results.

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Trust for the Future

The idea of “the future” invokes many emotions, hopes, worries, dreams, and personal questions. Some try not to think about it at all, while others are captivated by its promise. To be clear, there’s a certain end result as revealed to John, but there are also many choices to be made in-between. With that in mind, I once-again offer this simple poem as encouragement to “set your sails” according to the truth and trust the Lord for the destination.

“One ship drives east and another drives west

With the selfsame winds that blow.

“Tis the set of the sails and not the gales

Which tells us the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,

As we voyage along through life:

“Tis the set of the soul

That decides its goal,

And not the calm or the strife.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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What’s True in the Light is True in the Dark

It’s been said, “What’s true in the light is true in the dark.” and it’s a timely reminder. Not only is there a push now to accept immorality, but an increasing demand to celebrate it. Even some prominent church leaders have compromised and embraced various lies being sold as enlightenment. We must hold fast to the standard of God’s word, even as the light dims around us. Yes, there will be those who call us judgmental, discriminatory or backward. There may also be some who say we lack love for others, but it’s just an effort to bully us into submission. The rhetoric can be loud, obnoxious, personal and vindictive, but we must remember, “What’s true in the light is true in the dark”. If you’re experiencing this in your circle of life, remember you’re not alone. Hang in there and remember this verse:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

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The Friday We Call Good

Each year, I’m reminded of a Friday in 2012 when a small group of us were in Munich, Germany visiting the grounds of the Dachau Concentration Camp. After walking through the various displays, I looked out across the main part of the camp and wondered “Why would they do such a thing?” It’s one thing to read about in history books, but something totally different to see in person and stand in the rooms where such horrible atrocities happened. It was a powerfully moving and sobering reminder that sin is incredibly ugly. It is the sickness we struggle with and scripture tells us in James 1:15 that sin fully grown brings death. Man’s capacity to do hurtful things is often shocking because we desperately want to believe we’re inherently good, but the evidence reveals otherwise. We need serious help and thankfully it came…

On another Friday 2,000 years ago, the unimaginable weight of mankind’s darkest sins and cruelties were laid on Jesus in a crushing blow of blunt force trauma. The Bible says in Romans 5:8 that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus knew the full scope of sin’s price tag and still chose to pay it. He was literally “crushed and bruised” for our transgressions. Our world has been affected in every way by sin entering creation and only Jesus has the ability to bring peace at the soul level (John 14:17).

May we always remember that Easter Sunday is a celebration because Jesus came out of the tomb having paid our debt in full!

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Is it Worth It?

Do you ever wonder if it’s worth it to do what’s right? To act right? To parent right? To do business right? To coach right? Daily routines and disappointments can undermine our resolve, but there’s a powerful verse to be held onto. It isn’t poetry written for greeting cards, it’s rock solid truth to be stood on:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” – I Corinthians 15:58 NKJV

That really does mean:

Trying to live in a Christ-like way is NOT IN VAIN.

Trying to parent according to the Bible is NOT IN VAIN.

Trying to conduct business with integrity is NOT IN VAIN.

Trying to coach for character-building is NOT IN VAIN.

Trying to show love to those who don’t is NOT IN VAIN.

The world says “quit”, but our Lord says, “Keep going, it really is worth it!”

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The Most Abused Word in the English Language

One of the striking traits of letters written in the 19th century is the level of thought put into them. For example, notes sent home during the American Civil War contain sentences filled with deliberate, carefully crafted terms of endearment. Today, emojis and acronyms have become the norm and the word “love” has been reduced to a casual term invoked to describe every passing preference, whim, and desire.

In the Bible, there’s a passage often quoted and incorporated into artwork that presents a powerful description of love (I Cor. 13). However, it’s easy to miss the point Paul was teaching about, because the context is related to spiritual gifts and how to properly use them. In other words, it’s written to be used as a real-life practical guide, not a list of unreachable, poetic ideals. It involves decision-making, long-term commitment and relational grit. The verses describe love as defined by God, which means the practical nature of genuine love is shown this way:

With the anxious, it’s patient,

With the selfish, it’s kind,

With the popular, it’s not envious,

With the distracted, it doesn’t yell,

With the simple, it isn’t arrogant,

With the quiet, it isn’t rude,

With the busy, it doesn’t compete,

With the grumpy, it isn’t provoked,

With the repentant, it remembers no wrong,

With the unrepentant, it doesn’t enable,

With the truthful, it rejoices,

And it steadily looks forward with a hopeful,

encouraging and unfailing expectation.

May genuine love be found in us today. As a matter-of-fact, Jesus said that’s the way “they will know we are His disciples”.

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What’s with the Razor Burn?

Shaving used to be a manly right-of-passage, even dangerous before “safety razors”. Now, according to Gillette’s new ad campaign, we’re supposed to contemplate the ills of masculinity while we groom. I guess in their mind, we need to trim manliness along with the whiskers. Sorry Gillette, that’s not happening at my sink. This business of “toxic masculinity” is not only broken logic, it sends the wrong message to our boys. It assumes men by default are abusers in need of re-education. Based on what I’m observing, the result isn’t going to be progress, but a generation of frustrated pansies. No, that isn’t politically correct language, but can we agree that enough is enough?

Our boys need to hear the truth. They need to know that rugged men fought for, protected, and continue to secure our way of life. Confused, apologetic men didn’t storm the beaches of Normandy, real men did. The West wasn’t settled by timid guys unsure of themselves, real men struggled through the challenges. Bullies aren’t defeated by fearful negotiation, but by those willing to take a punch and give one back. Generations of boys were once taught these things at church, in school, at the barber shop, on grandpa’s porch, and many other places where older men mentored young men-in-training.

If you have a son, grandson, nephew, or student, please don’t be afraid to tell them the truth. Our culture needs you to. God designed men to be strong, courageous, loving and defenders of biblical truth…no matter how uncomfortable it makes those trying to advance a lie.


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Considering Shamgar

Thought about Shamgar lately?

Probably not. He was one of the Judges of Israel like Samson and Gideon. However, he rarely makes the cut for children’s Sunday School lessons because the entire biblical narrative of his life consist of only one verse. Take a look:

“After him [Ehud] was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad; and he also delivered Israel.” – Judges 3:31 NKJV

That’s it. The guy shows up out of nowhere swinging a big stick, gets the “honorable mention” and then disappears just as quick. But the important part is; he got the honorable mention. From that one verse we get some important facts:

  • God stepped in and delivered Israel (at His chosen time)
  • God included facts that were pertinent (Shamgar’s lineage, Philistines, six hundred enemy…dead)
  • God left out details we needn’t worry about (as He often does)
  • God used a unique method (not many “ox goad” stories in there)

Based on those facts, consider this:

  • Perhaps you’re feeling a little short on details right now; maybe they’re not really that relevant.
  • Perhaps the method God’s using to shape you right now doesn’t look like the average story; maybe that’s because your story is unique.
  • And perhaps God’s timing feels off; maybe that’s because He works on His own schedule.

Prayer: “Father your ways are unique. Thank you for the many times you’ve cared for me and how you’ve always proved yourself faithful. Please help me to trust you; even if I don’t have the whole story.”

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Wisdom 14.12

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” – Proverbs 14:12 NIV

At the end of it all, our opinions about “what’s right” will be irrelevant. Polling data, legal rulings, academic theories, political correctness, and cultural norms will all be distance memories in the presence of the Almighty. So, when it comes to what’s right, choose wisely…

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Not Forsaken

There are points on the journey when the “weather” of life can go from clear and sunny to dark and stormy. Those are the exact times when the words of Psalm 9 are most applicable. Somehow, making the decision to speak them aloud reveals a previously hidden trail to a spiritual shelter from the storm…

“I will praise You O Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High…

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.”    – Psalm 9:1-2, 9-10 NKJV

Not forsaken. As a child of God, isn’t it incredible to know that you’re always remembered. There’s never a moment where you’re forgotten or out of The Most High’s sight. Speak the words so your heart can resonate with His goodness. Embrace the truth that brings strength to the deep parts of the soul. Praise His name for He is our refuge in times of trouble!

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Advent – Week 3 – “Joy”

During the private moments of the Last Supper, Jesus spoke many powerful words to His disciples (John ch.13-17). He challenged them, instructed them, encouraged them, and prayed for them. He also prayed for us (those who would believe by their testimony). In the middle of the discussion, he mentioned joy. Not happiness or celebration, but a deep abiding joy that only comes from Him. He said very specifically:

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” – John 15:11 NKJV

The natural question is, “What things had he spoken about for joy to be remaining and full?” The answer is “abiding”. He described Himself as the vine and a disciple as the branch; and when we abide in Him, there is a soul-level gladness. As deep roots nourish distant branches, He refreshes our spirits through the various seasonal changes of life. May His joy be full in us today.

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Spirit Led

Have you ever experienced the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit? A presence more real and lasting than manufactured excitement? In our world, there are a lot of voices speaking all manner of spiritual talk, but there is only one voice that speaks transcendent, eternal truth. Consider what Peter wrote concerning the prophetic word:

“For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”    – 1 Peter 1:21 NKJV

Perhaps today there are many voices in your head (from various sources) giving spiritual advice; consider a simple return to the scripture. God never violates or contradicts His word, so it’s always the best place to be. Besides, without the Holy Spirit’s leading, it’s just activity with little or no power anyway. Don’t seek the things about Him; seek Him…seek His word…and be moved.

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Truth and Opinion

Opinions are cheap and endless. They’re printed, posted, tweeted, spoken, and advertised; but at the end of it all, these words will still be true:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bring forth its fruit in due season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” – Psalm 1:1-6 NKJV

As believers, we must choose to focus our attention on the refreshing truth of God and not worry over the presence of the misguided; no matter how loud and obnoxious they are. Their apparent “wins” can unsettle the peace within us if we allow them to, but God says the way of the unrighteous will perish and their shouting is just the noise of a doomed agenda.

So what opinions are influencing you today and from what source do they come?

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Lines in the Sand

When a culture trades truth for compromise, the concept of drawing a moral “line in the sand” is considered extreme. However, in a similar environment, Joshua (leader of the Hebrews after Moses) made a bold statement doing exactly that. Take a look:

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”     – Joshua 24:15 NKJV

Joshua’s statement in verse 15 comes after a brief recounting of God’s faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. It wasn’t a random comment. It was a deliberate, bold statement representing the way he led his household; which was to follow God’s standards, instead of carnal, pleasure-centered idolatry.

The truth is, an obedient life has always been a contrast to the lost world. It’s been true since the beginning when Abel’s life contrasted Cain’s.

So where are your lines? Have you taken a stand and said “As for me and my house…”? It’s not a phrase to be uttered or displayed lightly – “Choose for yourselves this day…”

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Wisdom 13.20

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” – Proverbs 13:20 NIV

Over time, peers can influence our values, hopes, and dreams. The ideas and suggestions most often discussed around us will eventually affect choices, and the consequences that follow. So, when it comes to friends and mentors – choose “the voices in your head” wisely.

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There is No Other

In the lead up to Christmas, it’s good to pause and linger on some of words that were part of the prophetic proclamations of Isaiah. Along with the Messianic promises, God paints a vivid image of His character through the pen of the prophet.

“Remember the former things, those of long ago,
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me.”

(The gods of this world are dead. The belief systems of this world are powerless, but our God is unmatched and indescribable…)

“I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.”

(From the start, He saw both ends of time. His ways are unpredictable and beyond our limits…)

“From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that will I bring about;
what I have planned, that will I do.” – Isaiah 46:9-11 NIV

(His word is sure, His heart is true, His hand is steady, and His way is best!)

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Advent – Week 2 – “Love”

The word “love” in the Bible carries many meanings, but when associated with God’s love for us, it’s always pure, selfless, and enduring. In I John, there are many verses explaining how God loves us, how we’re to love Him, and how we’re to love others. They may sound poetic, but they’re not lofty verses reserved for theoretical application, they’re gritty, earthy words meant to change the way we think and live. Consider a few of them:

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” – I John 4:10 NKJV

“And this commandment we have from Him; that he who loves God must love his brother also.” – I John 4:21 NKJV

“For this is what love for God is; to keep His commands.” – I John 5:3a HCSB

May Godly love be present in our lives and shown to others as we celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year”!

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Anchor Points of Encouragement

Our souls long to know there’s more to life than what we see.

In the daily routine, there can be ups, downs, boredom and excitement. Relationships can bring encouragement, but also discouragement and the first century Christians knew the taste of both. Although, there was a kindred spirit among believers, they also knew what it was like for the tide of public opinion to turn against them. They experienced betrayal, dishonesty, abandonment, threats and rejection by those who once welcomed them.

Peter, a man who knew the highs and lows of a spiritual journey, wrote letters of encouragement and challenge. He had first-hand knowledge of personal failure, but he wrote these great words to remind us how to soar:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved for you in heaven.” – 1 Peter 1:3-4 NKJV

If your spiritual foundation needs strengthening today, perhaps the following anchor points will help secure it. There is:

  • Abundant mercy (lavish and gracious)
  • Living hope (alive and new every morning)
  • Inheritance incorruptible (untouchable by the world)
  • Reserved for you (He knows your name)

May these truths encourage your spirit today…

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Lyrics of the Soul

There’s something about music that “strikes a chord” within us. Some people are more naturally “musical”, but all of us have the capacity to “sing” within our souls. It may be the verses of an old hymn from childhood, a praise chorus from church, or the rhythmic words of an ancient Hebrew psalm. For Isaiah the Prophet, it was a natural reflection of what His heart knew was true (regardless of the world around him). At his commissioning, he had seen the throne of God and the glory of His presence. His assignment was during dark times in a country filled with evil people, but he KNEW in his heart that Jehovah was still sovereign! He may or may not have been inherently musical, but his heart knew how to sing and he instructs those of us who love God to give praise. Consider:

“Praise the Lord, call upon His name; declare His deeds among the peoples, make mention that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done excellent things; this is known in all the earth.” – Isaiah 12:4-5 NKJV

What are the lyrics of your soul today? Is there a rhythm of praise? Sometimes joyful praise seems natural, and other times not so much. Hebrews 11:15 reminds us to offer the “sacrifice of praise” and “thanks to His name”. “Sing to the Lord, for He has done excellent things…”

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