Busted Brackets

I did my civic duty tonight. No, I didn’t vote. I filled out my NCAA basketball tournament brackets (nine in all).

Some of them I played straight. I picked all the #1 seeds to win. On some others, I just went plain crazy. I picked just about every game to be an upset.

It hit me as I was filling in these brackets. As you know, no 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Ever.

There have been a few #15 seeds upset the #2 seeds and a few more #14 seeds pull a shocker over their 3 seed counterpart, but no 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams back in the 80’s.

What hit me was this: what God did for me in saving me was the equivalent of a #16 seed winning the whole enchilada. Or if you will, the 64th best team (think Austin Peay) winning the national championship.

I’m definitely not saying that God’s the underdog in this story. I am. On my own, I had absolutely no shot of making it out of the first round. I was the equivalent of a team of corpses.

But God made me alive in Christ. He raised me up with supernatural power. in Jesus, I have become more than a conqueror. My salvation story is akin to that Austin Peay team reaching the finals and beating those mighty Kansas Jayhawks in the national championship game.

A pipe dream? Maybe. But I know that in God what seems impossible to me and you is possible for God. In fact, it’s not even remotely difficult for God (thanks again to Pete Wilson for that one).

I have a feeling that most of my brackets will be busted and broken by the Sweet Sixteen. I know that spiritually speaking, my life in God will never ever be busted and broken because I serve a God who knows the way out of hell and the grave.

The end.


Unquenchable Hope

Maybe what you’re looking at a week into the new year are the ashes and crumbs of what’s left of your hopes and dreams.

Maybe you’ve 99% given up on anything ever changing in your life.

Maybe you need to hear this right about now: your God is the God of the never impossible and the never hopeless and the never finished. There is no such thing as too difficult for this God.

Look at Golgotha. If any dream seemed dead and done for, it was what laid inside of that tomb for three days.

If Jesus could overcome that grave and that death and that hell, there is absolutely nothing in your life that you are facing right at this moment that He can’t and won’t overcome. Nothing.

Maybe what you need is an unquenchable hope built on  an undefeatable God.

It’s never too late to start hoping and dreaming again.




Another Great Awakening

“I have heard the reports about You,
    and I am in awe when I consider all You have done.
O Eternal One, revive Your work in our lifetime;
    reveal it among us in our times.
As You unleash Your wrath, remember Your compassion” (Hab. 3:2).

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in and amongst the American churches in general.

We’ve lost the uniqueness that made us different from everybody else. The salt has lost its saltiness and the light has been hidden under a bushel of tolerance.

We know that the Bible calls us to love everybody and we’ve mistakenly believed that loving people means accepting any and all of their behaviors and lifestyle choices. We take the admonition not to judge to mean that we can never ever call out a person’s sin, even when that sin will ultimately lead to their destruction.

We haven’t spoken the truth, and when we have, we haven’t spoken it in love.

We’ve toned down or eliminated from our vocabulary those words deemed offensive by the culture around us. Very rarely anymore will you hear about the wrath of God or hell or sin or any of those topics. We assume that love would never do that.

We’ve tried so hard to fit in and be relevant that we’re no longer recognizable as a separate entity. The love we teach and preach isn’t the Agape Love of the Bible, but a touchy-feely love that is more transient than transcendent.

There has been at least one great revival in every century of this nation. Maybe if enough of us decide that the status quo of nice religion and self-help style of morality no longer works, we will seek with tears and sighs another great revival and not rest praying for one until the fire falls from heaven again.

I know that too often I am apathetic when it comes to God. I also know that I am far from being alone in this. We’ve grown too accustomed to the things of God that we no longer hold them as sacred. We no longer meditate on the glory and holiness of God and we forget that He is the Holy Other, not a bigger, stronger, faster, smarter version of us.

I write this with fear and trembling, hoping to err on the side of grace yet knowing that the church can only blame herself for the state of the nation. I don’t claim to have all the answers or to have it all figured out. I do know that more than someone telling us that “I’m okay,  you’re okay,” we need someone telling us of our great need for repentance.

I do know that I need Jesus. I know that we all need Jesus, especially in these desperate times.



My Takeaways

Here’s what I’m taking away from the Supreme Court’s decision to essentially legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

1) I don’t agree with the decision, but I’m not going to bash those who disagree with me. It doesn’t accomplish anything and is counterproductive to how Jesus told me to love people regardless of whether they agree with me or even love me back.

2) Just because I disagree with someone’s beliefs or lifestyle doesn’t mean that I hate that person. The old adage stands true that you can love the sinner (a category which includes all of us) while hating the sin, or more accurately, what the sin does to the person.

3) If you’re my friend and you’re gay, know that I won’t love you any less or be any less of a friend to you. I may not agree with you on everything, but I’m sure you wouldn’t agree with me (or anyone) 100%. Jesus Himself chose to dine with sinners and said that He didn’t come for those who were righteous, but for those who know they need lots of help.

4) Jesus died for sinners. Period. There were no exclusions or exceptions to who Jesus went to the cross for. If you believe in Jesus with your heart and confess with your mouth, you will be saved. Period. PS You won’t just be saved from hell, but saved to an incredible, amazing, everlasting and full life.

5) If you believe in Jesus sincerely and solely for your salvation, you are saved, whether you are gay, straight, bipolar, alcoholic, prideful, arrogant, drug-addicted, lazy, or anything else. Jesus doesn’t ask for anybody to clean up his act and get his life together before salvation can take place. Jesus will meet you where you are,  but He won’t leave you there.

6) There will be a lot of people who will use this as an excuse to condemn other people and pronounce judgment on them. I won’t be one of those. I know that if anyone has a right to judge and condemn, it’s God. I also know that God could very easily judge and condemn me for what I’ve done and said and thought in the past. So I choose grace instead.

I think that about covers it.


A Beautiful Worship Prayer


“God, deliver us from the professionalizers! Deliver us from the ‘low, managing, contriving, maneuvering temper of mind among us.’ God, give us tears for our sins.

Forgive us for being so shallow in prayer, so thin in our grasp of holy verities, so content amid perishing neighbors, so empty of passion and earnestness in all our conversation. Restore to us the childlike joy of our salvation.

Frighten us with the awesome holiness and power of Him who can cast both soul and body into hell (Matt. 10:28).

Cause us to hold to the cross with fear and trembling as our hope-filled and offensive tree of life. Grant us nothing, absolutely nothing, the way the world views it. May Christ be all in all (Col. 3:11).

Banish professionalism from our midst, Oh God, and in its place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unremitting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovereign Lord.

Humble us, O God, under Your mighty hand, and let us rise, not as professionals, but as witnesses and partakers of the sufferings of Christ. In His awesome name. Amen” (John Piper).

God, help us always to worship in spirit and in truth, whether that be in a setting with hymns and an organ or with a band and modern worship songs or in the midst of our daily lives in how we reflect the glory of God in our actions and words.

Forgive us yet again for reducing worship to singing songs on certain days of the week. Help us to remember that every day we worship by laying down our lives as an offering, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1-2).

Help us always to remember that the sweetest sound in God’s ear is a joyful noise and a grateful heart.



In His Own Words


I thought it fitting on a day set apart to celebrate the legacy of one Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I shouldn’t try to speak for him, but instead let his own words speak for themselves.

I found this excerpt of a speech he gave in accepting the Nobel Peace award in 1964. I hope it resonates with you like it did with me:

“I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. ‘And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.’ I still believe that WE SHALL OVERCOME!”

A Prayer Before Sleep


I confess that I am selfish and self-centered, like so many of your children. My comfort comes first and I don’t want to be inconvenienced in any way.

Remind me how you gave up all your comforts above to come dwell among us.

Remind me how you chose a poor teenage girl and a backwoods town and a dirty feeding trough to make your entrance into this world. There was nothing comfortable or convenient about Your arrival.

Remind me how the first to hear the good news weren’t royalty or the high-ranking or the well-to-do but some lowly unwashed shepherds out with their flocks. They were your first evangelists, your first preachers, your first missionaries.

Remind me how you gave up Heaven and all the rights associated with it and chose to become nothing, a slave who was faithful and obedient to the point of a tortuous and excruciating death on a cross.

Remind me how it was all for me. It was all for people just like me.

Never let me forget that you went through all that because you would rather go through hell for me than be in Heaven without me.

Tell me again how You are with me, how You will never leave me nor forsake me, how You will finish what you started in me, and how nothing is too hard for You– not even my stubborn streak and my hard-headedness or my hard-heartedness.

Thank you that Advent means you love me where you found me like I was but you refused to leave me that way.


My Salvation Story


I’m sitting here on this gorgeous Fall Sunday, watching the embarrassing end to an embarrassing footfall game. By that, I mean my beloved Tennessee Titans losing to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars. Can we say, “Bye-bye, playoffs?”

In much happier news, I’ve been reflecting on my own salvation experience.

I can tell you what my salvation is not:

It is not based on me walking an aisle or signing a card 30 years ago. If my salvation is fire insurance from hell and nothing more, then it’s not legit. If all I did was pray a prayer and recite some words, then I’m just as lost as I was then.

It’s not knowing facts about Jesus or attending church or being born to Christian parents or being American or Republican or knowing all the Christian buzzwords. None of that.

It’s about when I gave up control of my life to Jesus. It’s when I said YES to everything Jesus has for me.

I was saved (justification) once and for all the day I opened my heart to Jesus and let Him begin His work in me.

I am being saved (sanctification) daily by putting off my old sinful self and putting on Jesus. Or you could say, I’m being saved by Jesus finishing what He started in me like He said He would.

I will be saved (glorification) when Jesus comes back for good and all those annoying sin habits and destructive thought patterns go away forever. When I become what God has already declared me to be– a perfect replica of His Son Jesus.

As Pastor Mike Glenn says, if I don’t live it, I don’t believe it. No matter how eloquent my words are, they mean nothing if I don’t live what I preach.

I’m so glad it’s not up to me being good enough or smart enough or strong enough. I’d never make it. Thankfully, it was and is and always will be about how Jesus found me and rescued me and did for me what I could never to for myself.

That calls for a celebration, don’t you think?

Hello, My Name Is . . . : What Jesus Wants to Say to Every Woman


This is inspired by something I heard tonight from Amy Jo Girardier, guest speaker at Kairos tonight. I think if Jesus could talk face to face with any one of His daughters, He’d say something like this:

“My Precious Daughter,

I see the way you look at yourself in the mirror and sigh. I see the way you look at your life and see only chores and tasks left undone, goals unreached, dreams dashed.

You’ve once again allowed the world around you to define you and name you. You’ve believed that insidious lie that you in and of yourself are not enough, that you need something more to be complete. A man, a marriage, children, a career, a title, a reputation.

You look back with regret and despair at your past and take on names for yourself such as Useless, Damaged Goods, Unwanted, Ugly, Invisible.

Do you not know that you are the apple of My eye? Do you not know that you have ravished My heart with one look of your eye? Do you not understand that I look at you, the pinnacle of My creation, and say, “She is very good. She is exactly what I dreamed her to be. She is beautiful”?

I saw you at your worst moment, in the grip of fear, insecurity, and doubt. I saw you when you were unable to trust anything or anyone, even Me, and I fell in love with you.

I would rather go through hell for you than go back to heaven without you. For you and you alone, I’d gladly endure all the torture and pain of the cross. You were (and are) to die for.

Let me name you. Hear Me calling you


My Lovely Bride

Fair Daughter of Zion

My Beloved in whom I am well pleased

Princess of the King of Kings


Lily of the Valley.

I love you passionately, perfectly, and permanently all the days of your life. I am in you, with you, beside you, and for you. Always.

Believe My love is just as real in the dark, in the pain, in the quiet moments when you can’t feel me near. Believe I don’t just have what you need. I Myself am what you need.

And I don’t give you strength or wisdom or grace. I give you Me and all of My strength, My wisdom, My grace, My perfection.

I can’t wait to unveil the finished you before creation and see you dazzling and radiant and perfect. In other words, just like Me.”

Blessed Are the Ignored

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty” (Mother Teresa).

Have you ever felt like you were being ignored?

Have you ever worked in an office where a co-worker made the point of chatting with everyone else but never with you?

Have you ever sent out a friend request on Facebook and not even gotten the dignity of a response?

Have you ever texted or messaged someone and it seemed like that person didn’t even feel you were worth bothering to respond to?

Have you ever felt that no guy or girl ever even saw you as a romantic possibility or even thought about you as anything other than a friend?

I read this week that to feel ignored is the worst feeling of all. I agree. It hits at one of our most vulnerable spots– the need to feel valued and appreciated as a human being.

When someone ignores you, that person is essentially saying to you, “You don’t matter. You have no value.” It’s demeaning not only to that individual, but also to the God who created them (see Psalm 139).

Jesus knows exactly what that feels like. He stood before Jerusalem, weeping because they refused to turn to Him so that they could have true and eternal life.

Do you know something? There is never a moment that goes by where you are not on God’s mind. There is never a second where you are not on God’s heart and His eye is not on you.

Jesus would rather go through the hell of crucifixion and death for you than go to heaven without you. If you had been the only one, He still would have gone through all of the torture and pain because He thought you were worth it. And He still does. He still thinks you’re to die for.

Jesus’ love for you proves once and for all that you have worth and value. You matter. Whatever anyone else ever says or does to you will never negate the fact that your Abba loves you and is very fond of you. He has forever set His affection on you and nothing and no one can ever take it away.

Maybe you’re reading this and realize you’ve been guilty of ignoring someone, either consciously or otherwise. Maybe you’re feeling a tug at your heart compelling you to go to that person and make it right. Don’t let another day go by until you repent before God and restore that relationship.

Remember, God’s heart is still for the widow and the orphan, the outcast and the forgotten, those that society ignores. He still blesses those who bless them. In the Kingdom of God, everyone has a place. In God’s call, everyone is to hear the Good News; no one is ever to be left out.

I now understand that sometimes people are too overwhelmed by circumstances to see me. Sometimes, it’s all they can do to hold themselves together and not fall apart completely. The best thing you can do for someone who doesn’t acknowledge you is to pray God’s peace and healing over them. To pray they know in that very moment that God sees them in their pain and knows where they are.

God, you see us when no one else does and You’re with us when we feel most alone. Be with the ones feeling alone and may they feel You near in the moment of their greatest need. Amen.