“Young women . . ., I charge you: do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time” (Song of Solomon 8:4, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

In my quest to read through the Bible in a year, I recently went though Song of Solomon. I noticed several places where the verse said to not awaken love until the appropriate time.

I have some observations about relationships (from the serial non-dater, so take it for what it’s worth):

Too many are in too much of a hurry to get into a relationship that they’re not considering whether the person they are pursuing may or may not be who God has for them, or even if the person is compatible in terms of sharing faith and life goals.

Too many are so wrapped up in planning every detail of the perfect wedding, yet they have failed to even begin to plan for a godly marriage. No one remembers the beautiful wedding if the marriage tanks. No one.

Too many are staying in relationships because they’ve already invested so much time and effort. As I read recently, don’t cling to a mistake because you spent a lot of time making it.

As much as it sucks to be alone, it’s much worse to be in a bad relationship where you and the other have nothing in common and are pulling in two different directions. To be with someone who mocks and belittles your dreams and only offers you negativity is way worse than being by yourself.

Learn to be alone without being lonely. If you can’t really ever be alone, then you’re not ready to be with someone else. If you’re not comfortable and complete in who God made you to be, then there’s no one who’s going to fix you and make you whole.

Take this with a grain of salt. Or a huge bucketful of salt. But whatever you do, make sure that if you enter into any kind of relationship, pray over it and make certain in your heart it’s what God wants for you instead of asking God to bless what you’ve already decided.


Day Two of 2016

“Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, VOICE).

There are probably some of you out there smarting over the fact that you didn’t get invited to any New Year’s Eve parties and you sat at home alone with your pet looking at all the pictures your friends posted on social media of the fabulous times they were having.

You are not alone. You may feel alone, but you’re not. God still sees and knows you. He knows you by name and knows you better than even you know yourself.

Some of you made resolutions for 2016 and have already fallen off the proverbial wagon. Those wonderful lists of things to improve in 2016 are now lining your bird cages or resting in peace at the bottom of your trash cans.

Something I’ve learned is that what counts and matters most isn’t your resolve to be and do better in 2016 but Jesus’ resolve to complete the salvation process He started in you way before 2016 (thanks to Ann Voskamp for that one).

The beautiful part is that you don’t have to wait until January 1, 2017 to start over. Every day you wake up is a chance for a do-over. In fact, every breath is a second chance to do right what you messed up and failed to do right the first time. Every second is a chance for surrender to stop trying so hard and let God do what only God can do in and through you.

FYI. You still have time to make those resolutions and set those goals if you haven’t already done so. I think it was C. S. Lewis who said something like this: It’s never too late to become who you always could have been and who you were meant to be all along. You’re never too old or too far gone to start over and choose wisely.

I think that about covers it for January 2, 2016.



But you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
        of the clans of Judah, are no poor relation—
    From your people will come a Ruler
        who will be the shepherd of My people, Israel,[b]
    Whose origins date back to the distant past,
        to the ancient days” (Micah 5:2, The Voice).

For some of you, this time of year is the time when you feel the most insignificant of all. You just happen to be scrolling through your Facebook feed and you see all the exciting events and parties that your friends are having that you weren’t invited to.

Maybe you end up sitting alone on your couch on Fridays and Saturdays because no one thought to ask if you had any plans for the weekend.

It’s easy to feel like you don’t matter to anyone. You are not alone. But you matter to Someone.

You’ve been invited to celebrate a birthday. Not just any birthday. This is the birthday of God-turned-fetus-turned-newborn wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.

The first evangelists of the blessed event were smelly shepherds. If anyone could feel like unwanted outsiders, it would have been them. Their occupation didn’t lend itself to a lot of socializing.

This year, Jesus invites you to celebrate His birthday. You don’t even have to bring anything– just you. It doesn’t even matter if you cleaned up and straightened up. All He’s asking is that you show up.

There’s not a single person in the Bible who found significance before God called them. Your significance ultimately isn’t in where you live, what you do for a living, or who you know. It’s Who knows you. It’s Who chose you.

At The Church at Avenue South, Aaron Bryant said that God is drawn to the insignificant, off-the-radar people.

Look at where God chose to introduce Himself to humanity. It wasn’t Rome or Jerusalem, but backwater Bethlehem via a peasant couple surrounded by barn animals and some of those aforementioned stinky shepherds.

God was (and still is) saying that all lives matter. Every life has significance. Simply being created in the image of God gives you incredible significance.

Just remember that when you’re sitting in the dark staring at your cat. You matter.




“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love” (1 John 4:17-18, The Message).

Everyone has fears. Everyone.

Maybe yours is a fear that you will end up alone in the end.

Maybe you’re afraid that people will see the real behind the well-rehearsed act and the painted-on smiles and not want to have anything further to do with you.

Maybe you’re anxious over the future, wondering where the money is going to come from to pay the bills.

Maybe you’re scared that you’ll never find out what your purpose in life is.

Ann Voskamp put it best: “All fear is but the notion that God’s love will end.”

As a black pastor put it so well, fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear only shows you half the picture. Fear envisions a scenario where God either isn’t present or is unwilling to help. Fear leads you to think that the way things are now is how it will always be.

But God’s love is stronger than fear. As the song says, “Every fear has no place at the sound of Your great Name.”

When you focus on fear, you live defeated. When you focus on the love of God and choose gratitude and thanksgiving and joy, you’re showing fear the door.

Choose joy. Choose gratitude. Choose life.

I’m not saying I have fear and anxiety mastered. Some days, it can feel overwhelming. But I know that the future Jesus has promised me is more real than the present fear that I’m feeling.

Perfect love casts out all fear. Just remember that.



That Mr. Irrelevant Again

I watched some of the NFL draft today. It’s interesting to see who gets picked where and when and by whom. Plus, you get the joy of seeing the experts’ predictions blown up. You see people who stay up late at night worrying about these kinds of things prognosticating on how these players will either be a great pick or a bust.

As always, the very last pick, around number 256, of the very last round of the draft is called Mr. Irrelevant. Usually, players who don’t get picked up until that point don’t make the final roster of the NFL team that picked them.

I love the fact that no one is Mr. (or Mrs.) Irrelevant to God. God loves each person as if he or she were the only person in the whole world to love. And yet He loves every single person that way. I can’t fathom that, yet I’m nowhere close to being infinite. I can’t even love the very few (in comparison) people in my life with anything close to complete and unconditional love.

At times, other people may make you feel irrelevant. It may or may not be intentional, but the hurt is the same either way. You may feel that what you do and who you are don’t matter to anyone and that maybe the world would be better off without you in it. The feelings may not be true, but that doesn’t stop them from feeling real.

Try this. Read John 3:16. Where it says “the world,” insert your name. For me, it would go something like this, “For God so loved Greg, that He gave His one and only Son, that if Greg believes in Him, He shall not perish.”

Remember that Jesus thought you were to die for. You matter to Him immensely. That’s something to remember on those nights when you feel alone and unwanted.




The writer of Ecclesiastes talked about there being a season for everything in life– a time to be born and a time to die, a time to laugh and a time to mourn, etc.

I’ve found that to be very true. Especially in my social life.

There have been times when I have constantly been around people and there are times when I’ve felt alone. There have been times when I felt very popular and times when it seemed like I was the only one not invited to all the social activities I was seeing plastered all over social media.

I’ve come to terms with that.

I am who I am, regardless of whether that makes me popular or not. I have friends who I still see on a regular basis and some that I don’t see nearly as much as I used to. Again, that’s okay.

It doesn’t matter who else knows me and knows where I am when God does. While it  would be nice to occasionally hang out with celebrities (and who hasn’t daydreamed about that?) and have some of them know your name, the best part of all is that the God of the universe not only knows your name but has it engraved on the palms of His hands.

That’s worth celebrating.

So maybe I spend a night or two alone while people I know are off having a grand time at places I wasn’t invited to. I’ll live. Things like that don’t bother me anymore.

It took a very long time for me to get to this point. I don’t claim to have fully arrived or to be 100% mature about all this, but I am so much further along than I was two years ago.

That’s the key– not so much looking at how far you have to go but seeing how far you’ve already come and the progress, no matter how small it seems, that you’ve made. That’s what really matters.


If It Hadn’t Been for Those Meddling Hypocrites!


For some odd reason today, I thought about the movie Annie Hall and a great line. Woody Allen’s character says something to the effect of: “I wouldn’t want to be a part of a club that would have me for a member.”

Then I thought of all those people who stay away from church because of all the hypocrites. So here are my thoughts on that.

First of all, if you never went any place where there were hypocrites, you’d be at home alone in the dark with your pet ferret. You’d never go anywhere for fear of running into one of those hypocrites. You might even have a hard time looking in the mirror, because . . .

That’s right. You’re a hypocrite. So am I. We’ve all pretended to be something or somebody we’re not from time to time. We’ve played the calm dispassionate part when we’re falling apart and screaming on the inside.

Society teaches us to be hypocrites, to never let our true selves out but to only show what is culturally acceptable and normal. You can be yourself as long as that fits a certain cookie-cutter mold.

If there’s anyplace where you can be you, it should be the Church. If there’s a place where you can let your guard down and admit your hurts and flaws, it should be in the midst of the body of Christ.

Churches aren’t perfect because Christians aren’t perfect. As the old joke goes, if you find the perfect church don’t go there because you’ll ruin it with your imperfections.

Church is about doing life together and figuring it all out together. And if you’re not getting anything out of it, maybe that means you’re not putting in your fair share. Isn’t faith about more than just receiving? Isn’t there the part of giving and losing yourself?

I’m glad I’ve found a church where I feel like I belong, where I matter, where I can be a part of what God is doing in the world. I hope you find a place where you can feel like family, too.

For When You’re Feeling Anxious


It’s February. And unless you’re living in Hawaii with all those palm trees and beaches, it’s cold.

My feelings on cold weather go something like this: if it’s gonna be this cold, it might as well snow, or what’s the point?

Maybe you’re feeling more than just cold. Maybe you’re feeling anxious or stressed.

Perhaps you’re out of a job and wondering how that big stack of bills is going to get paid. Or where they money is going to come from to put gas in the car. Or food on the table.

Maybe you’re still single and wondering when (or even if) that special someone will ever come along.

Maybe you’re children don’t want to have anything to do with you anymore and you don’t know how to get through to them anymore.

Maybe it’s just a combination of a million little things all rolled up into one big case of anxiety.

Don’t you know that Jesus didn’t come to bring your peace?

He came to be your peace. He is after all the Prince of Peace.

That’s what all of us who are overwhelmed with worry and stress need to remember. Jesus may not take away all those things that cause anxiety, but He promises to walk with us through every trial, every tribulation, and every dark valley.

Jesus has already overcome whatever you’re afraid of. Nothing can touch you apart from God’s permission. And absolutely nothing can come between you and the love of your Abba Father.

Sometimes, you need medicine to make those anxieties go away. That doesn’t make you less spiritual. It just means your brain needs a little help to function normally.

I love the line from that movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Everything will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.

I See You


I am your friend and I see you.

I see you when you think no one else does. I see you at your worst moments when you’ve made poor decisions and chosen based on fear and greed rather than from faith and love.

I see you when you broke another promise to a friend, to a parent, to yourself, to me.

I see you when you feel most alone and abandoned by everyone you thought cared the most for you.

I see you when all you can see is heartache and pain and all the broken pieces of your wrecked life.

I see your future when you can see only a past filled with regrets and a present with no end in sight.

I see you whole and healed and radiant and beautiful and desired and wanted and chosen.

For I am The Lord your God. I am your Maker, your Redeemer, your Father, your Lover, your Friend, your All.

I have been a Witness to every moment of your life. You have never ever been alone or forsaken. You have never been out of my sight or out of my arms or out of my heart.

My love for you is the same as it was yesterday and as it will be tomorrow. It is complete, perfect, passionate, healing, and life.

You are forever mine and I am forever yours.

You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased.

i will sing and dance with joy over you every night and hold you in my strong embrace every day. You belong to me.

Learning to Listen Well


I love serving at Room in the Inn at my church during the colder months of the year. It helps more than anything to get me out of myself and into a more others-centered mind frame.

Tonight, I went to a dinner where Dr. Ken Corr, Congregational Care Minister at Brentwood Baptist Church, spoke about how to effectively minister to the homeless. One of the takeaways for me was empathetic listening.

Empathetic listening seeks to understand what the person speaking is feeling. It’s where you step into that person’s shoes and hear the story from their side.

It’s not about giving advice or trying to fix their story to make it better. It’s not even about offering to give their story a better outcome. It’s certainly not about formulating your response (as I have so often done) so that you will come across as wiser and kinder than you really are.

For someone to tell you their story is a rare and precious gift. They are inviting you into their private world, letting you in to a place that few people have been allowed. You should value that trust and respect the gift.

But also, the gift of truly listening is equally a special gift to someone. You’re saying to that person, “You are not invisible, because I see you in your struggles and triumphs, joys and pains. You are not alone, because I am a witness to your story and I know where you’ve been and what you’ve been through.”

You earn the right to speak life and blessing into a person’s life by listening to not just their words, but the feelings behind those words. Many times, the person will be unable to understand their own feelings related to their story. You can share what their story made you feel and in that way help them understand their own emotions.

I want to be a better listener. I want to learn to listen to what you have to say, for that is one of the ways God often speaks to me. May we all learn to listen well.