Broken Crayons

Have you heard the saying that broken crayons still color? It’s true.

It’s also true that God uses broken people to bring out the colors in the world. Those, and not the perfectly whole people, are the ones God favors to work in and to work through.

God uses wounded healers because He is a wounded healer. He still bears the scars from His wounds by which we were healed.

Those marks on His hands and feet are to remind us that we weren’t healed and saved to bask in our deliverance, but to turn around and help others find healing. We have been reconciled through shed blood in order to facilitate a ministry of reconciliation based on the Prince of Peace.

Gideons and the Gospel

I had a random flashback of a memory from me as a child sitting in a church pew with a Gideons Bible in my grubby little hands. I was decked out in my Sunday best, which for an 8-year old means my most uncomfortable clothes. I still recall the look and feel of that Gideons Bible. To this day, I still remember how in the front pages of the Bible in bold letters was John 3:16 translated into all the known languages.

That little memory apparently has stuck with me through a lot of transitions and changes in my life. I think now I understand more of what it means than I did then.

It means that God so loved the world. Not just the people who think and act like me. Not only the people with my skin color and language and ethnicity.

God so loved all the nations and ethnic groups in all the world with all their various languages and dialects that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever from anywhere in the world, no matter how dark or light their skin, who believes in Him should not perish but have full and abundantly everlasting life.

That included 8-year old me with the grubby little hands sitting in that church pew way back when. That includes anyone and everyone ever born into this world. No one is exempt from this saving grace. No one gets left out.

The only prerequisite is faith. Whosoever believes in Him, to use the old King James word, will not perish.

That’s still good news to me 38 years later, with all the knowledge and life lessons I’ve obtained through the years. That simple verse keeps coming back to me, reminding me that I never outgrow my love of and need for the gospel that saved me back in the day.

Camping Out in the Gospels

After several years of reading through the Bible in different translations, I decided to swerve off the well-trodden path and do something a little different. I’m reading through the Gospels in 2018.

I’m using the NIV Harmony of the Gospels, which instead of presenting each Gospel separately, puts parallel passages side by side and puts the story in narrative order. For example, the birth narrative starts with Luke’s introduction, John’s description of Jesus as the eternal Word of God, the genealogies of Jesus, the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and the conception of John the Baptist, and so forth.

I’m looking forward to rediscovering Jesus, free of all the political baggage that has been placed on Him from both the right and the left, conservatives and liberals alike. I have a feeling that Jesus said something at some point that both sides would deem offensive.

I want to fully embrace Jesus as both 100% man and 100% God (and not 50-50). I want to know Emmanuel, God with us. My plan is to read through the Gospels as many times as I can this year and let Scripture speak for itself.

If you’re interested in the book I’m using, you can pick up a copy here:



Longing for the Word

“Christians are persons who no longer seek their salvation, their deliverance, their justification in themselves, but in Jesus Christ alone. They know that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them guilty, even when they feel nothing of their own guilt, and that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them free and righteous even when they feel nothing of their own righteousness…

Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

One question: when last did you long for the word of God? When did you last hunger and thirst for Scripture?

These are questions not meant to guilt you into picking up your Bible, but to gauge where you and I are spiritually. I know for me if the Bible is the last thought in my mind when I have some down time, it means that I am in a spiritually vulnerable place.

May God grant each of us a desire for His word that outweighs all other appetites, even physical ones, so that we can search the pages of His word and find Him there.



My Read Thru the Bible in 2017 Update

My quest to read through the Bible in 2017 finds me in the book of Joshua. So far, I see that God has established a people who are in the process of becoming a nation while claiming the promised land.

I’ve noticed two things– 1) These people seem to go out of their way to screw up and to disobey what God has decreed, even when they’ve learned from numerous experiences that God’s ways are always best. 2) God continues to be patient with His people, though not always letting the people’s rebellion slide.

At first glance, it’s easy to be come frustrated with the people of Israel. Why can’t they just do what God says the first time and save a lot of trouble and heartbreak?

The more I look at these people, the more I see myself mirrored back. Why is it that I have such a reluctance to do what I clearly know God is asking of me? Why do I have such a tendency toward disobedience and outright rebellion?

Maybe the real question is this– why is God so patient with me after all the times I’ve given Him no reason to? Why is God still pursuing a love relationship with me when all I seem to do is respond with anything but love?

God’s people continue to be an imperfect representation of God and His Kingdom. We’ve gotten it wrong far more than we’ve ever gotten it right. We’ve made it far more complicated than it needs to be to get to God as we’ve set up way too many obstacles between people and God.

Still, we’re a broken people trying to figure out what it means to follow and serve God individually as well as corporately. We’re a work in progress that thankfully remains in progress not because we deserve it but because God has promised to finish what He started in us.

Now back to those meddling Israelites.


The Church as a Refuge

I’ve been thinking lately about the whole refugee crisis. I’ve also been putting some thought into what my pastor said about the church being a refuge. Who better than to show hope to refugees than people whom the Bible calls aliens and strangers in this world who await a coming Kingdom?

The body of believers should be a place where people can go to escape from the fallout from the lies that society tells people about finding inner peace and fulfillment through outward change.

It should be where people go to find God and find the hope of salvation offered in the person of Jesus Christ, not more condemnation for lifestyle choices. It should be where spiritual transformation happens and not mere behavior modification.

I noticed today that when Jesus talked to the woman at the well, He didn’t force her to change her lifestyle before He offered the living water to her. He didn’t make her go end her relationship with the man she was living with who was not her husband.

He simply offered her a gift that would change her life forever if she took it. After all, it’s the Gospel that changes people. It’s what changes peoples’ hearts, which in turn leads to changed lives.

The Church has been guilty of putting up barriers between people and the Gospel almost from the very beginning. The people who need Jesus and the Gospel most are often the ones who feel the least welcome inside our doors.

The Gospel is for everyone. Thus, the Church is for everyone.



One of the most disturbing trends is how quick people are to react on social media to news events without taking in all the facts. I completely agree with Denzel Washington’s statement that if you don’t read (and watch) the news, you’re uninformed, and if you do, then you’re misinformed.

That being said, I don’t have a position on the current refugee situation. I don’t know all the details and I don’t necessarily trust all the news reports and how much they decide to include or leave out.

I do know a few things that have been on my mind lately.

I do know that God has a special place in His heart for the poor, the orphan, and the widow. God blesses those who look after the least of these. It’s all over the Bible.

I also know that every refugee is someone’s daughter or son or brother or sister or mother or father. Every single one is a person that Jesus loves and for whom Jesus died.

I remember that the Bible says that one time I was an alien and a stranger to the promise of God’s kingdom, but now I who was far away have been brought near. I truly believe that no one should be denied hearing the gospel of Jesus because of where they were born or what ethnicity they are or what language they speak or the color of their skin.

I remember that God told His people that He desires mercy above sacrifice.

I know that refugees are human beings and not a statistic that we can shut off or deny. The Christlike response is never one of fear or alienation.

I see the Statue of Liberty and I see the part written about giving her the poor, the wretched, those longing to be free.

I’m sure that people on both sides of the issue have valid arguments. I just can’t get away from how the grace of God is not limited to certain races or nationalities or cultures or people groups. It’s for all. It’s for everywhere.

Take it however you want. I’m too tired at this point to make lucid applications at this point. Well, maybe one. If you were the least of these how would you want to be treated. Better yet, how did Jesus treat you when you were one of the least of these.

Then go and do the same.


An Attitude of Gratitude

I found out that a friend of the family is currently walking through his own valley of the shadow of death in dealing with incurable cancer. To hear the word “cancer” coming out of the mouth of a doctor is scary enough, but to hear it preceded by “terminal” has to be frightening to an almost paralyzing degree.

Yet this friend of mine has faced this diagnosis with dignity and peace and an unswerving faith in the God who is still in the miracle business. While the odds seem insurmountable, I’m reminded yet again that what seems impossible to us isn’t even remotely difficult for God. Just ask any of the blind or lame men that Jesus healed. Or the lepers. Or Lazarus.

My friend said that it all starts with an attitude of gratitude. I truly believe that. A positive mental outlook is half the battle when dealing with a grim medical diagnosis.

Yet it’s more than that. This attitude of gratitude comes from the same place that allowed the Apostle Paul to pen the words that to live is Christ and to die is gain. It’s literally a win-win with Jesus.

Either my friend gets healed here and becomes a witness of God’s healing power or he is resurrected and finds ultimate healing and stands in front of Jesus to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

When you think about it, we’re all terminal. After sin entered the world, death followed close behind and that proverbial hourglass started on each one of us. Unless Jesus comes back soon, all of you reading this will come to the place where you breathe your last.

Thanks to Jesus death will not have the final word. The grave is only temporary. The resurrection truly does mean that the worst thing is never the last thing and Jesus will have the final word in your story.

I’m praying for my friend for healing here and now knowing that no matter what happens, God is always good and we are always loved and that grace still wins in the end.


Tonight We’re Gonna Study Like It’s 1995


I like to use a variety of translations when I read the Bible. For me, it keeps things fresh and keeps me from going into auto-pilot when I get to a familiar passage.

Lately, I’ve been going old-school. I dug out my 10th Anniversary NIV Study Bible, printed in 1995. It was a Christmas present in 1998 from dear ol’ Mom and Dad. I even have a Bible cover for it. Remember those?

I’d forgotten just how good those notes are. They go beyond the superficial, “what does this mean to you” stuff and really provide a lot of historical and cultural background to the Scriptural passages.

There are a LOT of good study Bibles that have maps, charts, and (usually) very helpful notes. I recommend at least one highly if you are interested in going deeper with your Bible reading (and are not a Hebrew or Greek scholar).

The point is to know the Word for yourself and not rely on teachers or preachers or anyone else. You have direct access to God through the Cross and don’t need anyone else to tell you what His Word says.

I also recommend the Holman Christian Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, and the John MacArthur Study Bible. Those are all worthy additions to any library.


My Translation for 2017

Those of you who have followed me and my blog posts for some time probably know that I read through the Bible every year in a different translation. Last year, I chose the Holman Christian Standard Bible. This year’s pick has been the New Jerusalem Bible. I get the joy of reading through those extra books not found in the typical Protestant Bibles.

I’m almost through the book of Genesis.

I’m reminded yet again that the people God chose in creating a nation of His own were far from perfect. All of them had character flaws and a sometimes staggering lack of good judgment. I can relate.

God still doesn’t always pick the best looking or the best dressed or the most type A personalities. Some of the choices He makes with people He works through might seem like head scratchers to a lot of us, but God knows what He’s doing.

Remember God chose you and God chose me, not because we were the most qualified to get the job done, but because God delighted in doing so. The ultimate result is that the credit for anything good that comes out of you or me goes directly to God.

It’s also a reminder that when I get aggravated with those biblical characters choosing poorly and being ignoramuses, I can remember that I occasionally am one of those, too. I imagine some of you are as well.

I love how in the Gospels, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, not because of who he was but because of who Jesus saw he would become. It took a while for Peter to live up to his own name and Jesus put up with a lot of immaturity and foot-in-mouth disease from Peter and never gave up on him until he became one of the most powerful spokesmen for the early Church.

I’m thankful that God still chooses to work through nobodies and screw-ups and neurotics. I’m most thankful that there’s still nobody that’s too far gone for God to redeem and restore and repurpose.