That Great Pumpkin and Faith

great pumpkin


Every year around this time, Linus Van Pelt takes his favorite blanket and heads out to the pumpkin patch, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. For those unversed in the lore of all things Charlie Brown, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch and showers gifts upon those faithfully awaiting and believing in said pumpkin.

Every year, Linus waits and every year Linus goes away disappointed. But you know the next year he’ll be back.


Charlie Brown goes trick-or-treating every year and every year he ends up with a bag of rocks. And on a side note, who gives rocks to kids on Halloween? I mean, really?

But you know full well that Charlie Brown will be back at it next year with hopes set high on candy corn or Snickers. Something besides rocks.

Don’t you feel the same way?

You’re 30-something and still single, yet you keep showing up at God’s door asking for a spouse.

Your prodigal child hasn’t come home in years yet you keep pleading to God to find him and bring him home.

A relationship has gone south and you feel like there’s no way it can ever be mended, but yet you pray for the person one more time.

You feel like you will never break free of your addiction or your stronghold, yet you keep asking and believing for a day of freedom.

I’m reminded of a character almost as foolish as those Peanuts folks.

This widow kept badgering the unjust judge in Luke 18. She probably shouldn’t have even been bothering him, as it was customary for people to wait until their appointed court date to appeal. But she was desperate to get her wrong made right. She kept pestering that judge after being told “No!” at least a thousand times.

She simply would not give up.

That’s my takeaway for this Halloween night: don’t ever give up on your dream. Don’t quit on your goal. Don’t stop believing (as that old theologian Steve Perry used to sing).

Persistence in prayer always pays off. I’m not saying everyone gets everything they ask for if they say the magic words and believe hard enough. I am saying that God will change you in the process. He might not give you what you ask for, but what you end up with will always be a thousand times better.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll find me out in a pumpkin patch one fine Halloween night.


Waiting and Praying Through


“Did you catch what this self-assured judge said? If he can be moved to act justly, won’t God bring justice for His chosen people when they cry to Him day and night? Will He be slow to bring them justice? Mark My words: God will intervene fast with vindication. But here’s the question: when the Son of Man comes, will He find anyone who still has faith? (Luke 18:6-8)

Something Aaron Bryant said tonight at Kairos really caught my attention. He said something to the effect of “If God granted you that one big thing you’ve been praying for at that very moment you asked for it, what would happen? Would you be ready for it?”

If God gave you that hot-looking guy or gal, how would that turn out? Would that relationship implode because you weren’t emotionally ready for such a relationship? Would getting that career you asked for cause your family relationships to suffer because of the extra work hours and responsibility?

I know one of God’s best gifts to me has been not giving me what I asked for that I thought I had to have right then and there. For one, what I asked for was stupid and for two, I wasn’t near ready for it.

That girl that I was certain God should bless me with as a wife? I can’t even remember her name. All I know is that our marriage would have been one big hot mess.

According to one wise church member, God has four answers to my prayers: 1) “Yes”, 2) “No”, 3) “Maybe”, and 4) “Are you kidding me?”.

I know you could never imagine God saying that last one. But think of some of the things you’ve prayed for. I can think of times when I prayed for my team to win a game or another team to lose. I can think of a time or two when I prayed for a really attractive girl to be attracted to me. Probably we’ve all prayed that the whole bag of Oreos we ate in one setting would turn to muscle and not fat.

God sometimes makes us wait for what we pray for so we can see if what we’ve asked for is something we want or something we need. Like praying for a Porsche versus praying for reliable transportation.

Right now, my prayer is that God does whatever it takes to conform me into the image of Jesus. That people come away from me having met Jesus, even if they don’t remember my name. That I can be the best me that God made me to be.

And if you don’t remember anything else, remember to keep on praying and don’t give up. Ever.

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.

For the Underdogs


The sports fan in me always love this time of year. It’s called March Madness for a very good reason. All the NCAA conferences are holding their championships, and while the usual suspects normally win these kinds of things, there’s always a chance that some lowly team will come out of nowhere and win 4 games in 4 days to get the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament field of 68.

Even if the team has played badly all year, they can suddenly catch fire and win. I saw a documentary about the 2008 SEC tournament when Georgia came out of nowhere to win 4 games, including 3 in a span of 30 hours to win the tournament.

I love underdogs, mostly because I used to be one. And so did you.

The Bible says that once we were without hope, alienated from God, strangers to the promise, and headed nowhere good. In basketball terms, we were nowhere close to getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. We had pretty much lost every game by a large margin.

But God. The best parts of the best stories always start that way.

But God, being rich in mercy, made us alive.

We went from hopeless underdogs to champions in the moment it took God to make us alive. He made us more than conquerors through Jesus and promised to crush the enemy underneath our feet. Kinda like the way Vanderbilt beat Kentucky earlier today (with apologies to any UK fans reading this right now).

God has a heart for the underdog. The orphan, the widow, the outcast, the downtrodden, the poor in spirit. All those who know they are headed for certain defeat and know it will take a miracle to get a win. In fact, God blesses those who bless the underdog, who look after those who can’t look out for themselves and speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.

Come  Sunday, I will fill out my brackets and hope for the best, but if all the underdogs win, I’ll be okay with that.

Why I Love Underdogs

I’ll be honest. Until this year, the College World Series was barely a blip on my radar screen. I didn’t keep up with it and I couldn’t tell you who won last year or the year before or even tell you any of the teams that made it.

Until this year. Little Stony Brook made it to the CWS. They were probably the longest of all the long-shots to make it in, but they did.

The main reason that I love underdogs in any sport is because I really and truly believe that God does.

God is a fan of the underdog. The Bible says so. Just look at all those passages about the poor, the orphan, and the widow. All those forgotten and abandoned by society.

The Bible says in James 1:27 that true religion is taking care of these. In other words, pulling for the underdogs of the world.

But not only that, I read that I was once an underdog, too. I was lost, dead in my sins, alienated from God, and without a hope in the world. I think the odds on me at Vegas would have been fairly astronomical.

But God in Jesus found me and made me alive and reconciled me to Himself and gave me a hope that nothing or no one can ever take away. Not only did I not go down to a crushing defeat, but I came out on the winning side. In Christ, I am more than a conqueror.

So I know that the underdog can win. I’m proof. And I bet some of you out there are, too. We are daily reminders to the world what the awesome power of the love of God can do if given even the tiniest bit of room to work.

So, yeah, I’ll be pulling for Stony Brook. But more than that, I’m pulling and rooting for you. Best of all, so is God. He’s your biggest fan.

Behold, I Am Making All Things New


There’s a part on The Passion of the Christ that is not in the Bible in the strictest sense, but I think it fits. The part where Jesus falls while carrying the cross and His mother runs up to Him to help Him and comfort Him and He tells her in essence, “I have to do this because I am making all things new.” That is such a great line and it struck me powerfully tonight.

To the one who has struggled with addictions for years, He is making all things new.

To the one who keeps getting visited by the same old fears, He is making all things new.

To the one whose life feels wasted and who feels unneccesary to anybody or anything, He is making all things new.

To the one who said goodbye to a loved one and buried a piece of their heart with them, He is making all things new.

To the one who carries a broken heart that hurts more than it did when it was broken the first time, He is making all things new.

To the one who has almost lost hope that anything will ever get better, He is making all things new.

To the orphan and widow, the homeless and outcast, the unwanted and unloved, He is making all things new.

He is making everything right again. He is making all the lies come untrue.

He can make you new. Not just better or stronger, but a completely new creation. One where you get to be what you always wished you could be and dreamed about, but never thought could actually happen. All you have to do is look up to Jesus and say, “Help me. I need You.”

Celebrated this Easter the Day that made it possible for you to start over. Know that it’s never ever too late for a do-over. He never gets tired of making broken things whole, dirty things clean, and old things new. Including you.

Amen and amen.

Some thoughts about worship

Jesus didn’t die for our good works or good intentions. He didn’t die to make good people better. Or for that matter to make bad people good. He died to make dead people come alive. He died for our dark places, our wicked deeds. He came to take our blame and our shame and give us His perfection. Jesus died to make us worshippers.

John Piper says in effect, Worship, not missions, is the purpose of His people. The reason that missions exists is because for so many peoples, worship does not. People can’t worship a God they don’t know. People can’t worship a god made in their image that is too small to save or love or rescue anybody. Redeemed people worship a real God. Really when you look at it, missions and evangelism are both forms of worship– declaring the great worth and works of God to all peoples.

Worship is Romans 12:1-2, offering our bodies as living sacrifices. In the Old Testament, part of worship was offering sacrifices like bulls and goats. Since Jesus did away with the old sacrificial system, what we bring as our offering of worship is ourselves. Worship is giving to God our bodies, our souls, our true selves. Worship is giving back to God what was already His and acknowledging that He owns it all, including us.

Worship is James 1:27. When we give to the widow and the orphan, we give to Jesus. Whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Jesus. Jesus didn’t choose the popular or strong or wise; He chose the throwaways of the world, the lepers, the outcasts and the abandoned to be His worshippers. Worship also means keeping yourself unstained by the world, to be set apart and different. Worship is either a 24/7 lifestyle or it’s nothing at all.

Worship is taking your two loaves and five fishes and watching Jesus turn it into a meal for thousands. When we give what little we call our own to Jesus, He takes it and not only blesses the multitudes, but gives back to us more than we can contain.

Worship means to kiss, to adore and to sacrifice. It is saying that God is supremely worthy of all of me. It means I will give my life away on a daily basis for the Kingdom of God. It means that every breath is a praise and every thought a prayer.

Honestly, after all this, I still don’t really know what worship is. I’m not very good at it. Or I should say I am not very good at worshipping the right thing, i.e. Jesus of Nazareth who died on the cross and rose triumphantly from the grave and has all authority in heaven and on earth, including authority over my life.

In the New Testament, when people worshipped, they fell on their faces. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John fell on his face before Jesus as a dead man. That’s what I pray for: to die to everything else, to fall on Jesus, and live to Him, with Him and for Him only.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.