There are leaders in this world and in our own country who have elevated pride above all other character traits. Now, let me be clear. There is a kind of pride that is good as it celebrates compassion, kindness, justice and even achievements in line with virtue.

But there is also a PRIDE that elevates us above others, that boasts in success and pushes for might and power at the expense of goodness and truth. There is a pride that sees no fault of its own, sees no need for forgiveness or even humility before God. There is a pride that provides spacious habitation for evil to roam and thrive. Pride can accomplish much on the world’s stage but in the words of King Solomon:

‘Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor
than to divide the spoil with the proud.’ (Proverbs 16:18,19)

While Christians are bound to pray for their leaders they are not called to give allegiance to any but God.

Let us pray. Let us be vigilant.  Let us not be led into temptation.



The National Safety Council reports several thousand deaths each year due to distracted drivers on our highways. I think most of them are in Colorado where I am told people feel a certain entitlement while driving meaning they can pretty much do whatever they like. Everything from cellphone use to adjusting the radio to just plain daydreaming and not thinking about what they heck they are doing.

Anyway. Enough of that. What I am writing about today is the DISTRACTION OF COMPLACENCY within the Christian faith. Driving the highway of life.

I recall Jesus speaking with his disciples not long before his arrest. He told them to WATCH and PRAY so that they would not be led into temptation away from God- their true source of life. (See Matthew 26:41f) He concludes by saying that the ‘spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’.

We grow complacent when we stop watching and praying thinking that all is well for us at the moment. It happens when we are not vigilant about what is going on around us. So many times Jesus told stories about a master going away and leaving his servants to care for his estate. The creation and the people of it are so important to our Lord. We dare not just take care of our selves while the world suffers.

And it can get to the point where we are like the church of Laodicea, a city just southeast of Philly (not the one in Pa.), which is now in ruins. But back their heyday they had it made. And in the book of Revelation Jesus speaks to the church there: “you all say that you are rich and have need of nothing not realizing how pitifully poor and naked you are even with all your wealth and finery.” (See Rev. 3:17f)

Complacency distracts us from the Christ at the center of all life. Even in this season I am troubled by the bumper stickers that say KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS. What that does is legitimize the extravagance of Christmas for the ‘well off’. Keeping Christ at the center of our lives would be to recall that Jesus came with nothing worldly for those who were poor, marginalized and treated unjustly.

So now in this beautiful season we have a TAX PLAN. I guess that’s great for some folks but it is a distraction of complacency from the threat of poverty, poor health coverage, nuclear war, and a nationalism that says, ‘US FIRST’ at the expense of so many in want and in need of some of the basic necessities of life. The better economy and the greater number of jobs and general political euphoria on the part of at least one party provide the same situation that we find in Laodicea.

“We have all we need.” “What a great Christmas present.” And let me repeat that for some it may be ‘life saving’. I am personally for a more robust economy from which America can help the poor. And recall that ‘the poor’ are the centerpiece of God’s attention for this earth.

Prov. 14:31 Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.

Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Is. 58:10. “And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”

But forgive me if I am a bit suspect on how this new economy will help the poor.

Recall God’s words in Deuteronomy 4:25f “When the time comes that you have children and grandchildren, are growing older and you start taking things for granted and growing complacent and start to make any idol no matter what kind and form – well then I can tell you. You are in big trouble.”

What does the Lord really require of us but TO DO JUSTICE (this doesn’t mean arresting undocumented people) LOVE MERCY, AND WALK HUMBLY WITH OUR GOD. Humble means acting in the attitude and manner of Jesus. (And just so you know. I have a long way to go in this regard.) See Amos 6.

Now I realize that our country is not a theocracy and that’s a good thing but as Christians we, in this country, are called to be a LIGHT FOR THE WORLD. Let us not be distracted or grow weary from doing good.

The other day I encountered a man on a street corner asking for some money for his family. I’m not sure how he will benefit from the new tax law but I care more about how Christian lawyers and laypeople can help our country to help those like him. (See Matthew 25)

I was hungry and you fed me

Thirsty and you gave me drink

Homeless and you gave me a room

Sick and imprisoned and you visited me.


And one more thing. Let’s enjoy ourselves this festive season but let not our religious ceremonies distract us into thinking what good people we are to observe the day. No, Jesus doesn’t call us to ‘religion’ but to life …. important and maybe more so on the 26th (oh by the way, that’s my birthday, speaking of distractions) and beyond. Watch and Pray.


Grace and Peace to all. And God bless us EVERYONE.


Recall that after Jesus teaches his disciples about prayer he concludes that if we don’t forgive others their sins, God won’t forgive us. Is that really true or was Jesus just using hyperbole to encourage this band of students to keep their community alive in love.

I want to throw this idea out there. It’s probably from someone else because that’s where all good ideas come from. Forgiveness means letting go of someone as though you were holding him or her by the neck for their debt to you or their trespass against you. It’s hard to hold out your hands to receive from God if you are preoccupied with payback from another.

You may remember Jesus telling the parable of the unforgiving debtor, one who having himself been pardoned by his master subsequently finds a debtor to himself out of whom this man almost literally chokes the life. Jesus concludes by saying that the first debtor was locked away for good.

Here’s the thing about forgiveness. It’s grace. It means doing for another what they cannot do for themselves. Grace means that you and I take the debt on ourselves as Jesus did for the whole world. If we cannot issue grace to another then it is evidence that we do not receive the grace of God and if we do not place our confidence in the grace of God we are left alone, removed from God as it were.

Amidst all the evilness of the world there is no one who does to us what we did to Christ. And make no mistake. He willingly took all that upon himself. He did it to make the world right with God. And anyone who wants to stand in that new world needs to do the same work with the help of God working in and through us.

Certainly it is possible to desire to forgive when the action comes with difficulty. God understands that. How hard was it for Jesus to take action to bring forgiveness to the world. Towards the end he would have like to escape such self-denying love.  So when it is difficult for us to forgive the best place to go is in the arms of our Savior to rest with him and abide with him and let him do the loving within and through us. Maybe it’s a little baby step at first but baby steps are good when we look to the growth they will bring.

So think of someone who needs your forgiveness even someone who has died. Think of someone far away or maybe in your own household. Then go to school with Jesus and let him teach you…and me the essence of his Grace.

And if we won’t forgive? Well, what we are saying to God is ‘no thank you.  We will handle life in our own way’, and we won’t want God anyway.

Many will come in those last days to Christ saying, ‘Lord Lord’ but Jesus will say that some will have to depart because they really didn’t want God’s will anyway.

But I would submit that forgiving another will be one of the greatest christian spiritual experiences of your life when you …and I let go of another to embrace God. That is the good life. So let’s be students of the good life.




So begins some thoughts on prayer which is probably best understood by doing it rather than talking too much about it but since there are so many questions surrounding the idea of prayer some conversation is needed. This arises from speaking with my son, Josh, about praying for a friend of his who has cancer. Many people are praying for this young man and many are wondering what kind of prayer and how many people are needed to pray effectively.

One of the first questions surrounding prayer is the nature of the One to whom we are praying whether in praise or in petition. If I am talking with someone I want to get to know them, know about them and know how best we can communicate together. And in the case of God I want to know God which means intimately understanding God and how it is that God communes with his creation and how God relates to his people. There are thousands of books on prayer. Right now I am reading Calvin, Foster, Bounds and C.S. Lewis as well as understanding more about Father, Son and Holy Spirit through the Scriptures. I would like my better understanding of prayer to be dialectic by which I mean a dialogue, a conversation, and an investigation if you will of the matter of prayer.

To the issue at hand. First of all I begin by the assumption that God is good, that God’s mercy, love, and kindness are everlasting. I believe that God’s love for us is at best revealed on the cross where Jesus died for us because ‘God so loved the world.’ I believe that God is sovereign which means that God’s reign, or rule extends to wherever God wants it to throughout God’s creation for his will and pleasure and for our good.  So we have a sovereign and loving heavenly Father whom Jesus himself said cares infinitely for his children. How did the old song go? “His eye is on the sparrow”. (see Matthew 10)

So when I commune, communicate, converse or just talk with God I believe the above to best describe the One to whom I am praying. Am I making contact? How should I feel? How does God view me? What is God up to in my life and in his creation and how do I join God in that work? I believe that when Jesus prayed to his Father it was concerning the will of his Father. That’s what I want to know. What is the will of God? In my life and in this world. See there is much to know about prayer.

You might not know this but the longest section on any one topic in John Calvin’s ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’ is on prayer.

On my mind as I write is the story Jesus tells of the Pharisee (religious ruler) and the Tax Collector (publican and thief) who go before God to pray. The ‘religious’ one prays to God so self-righteously and the tax man simply says, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.’ You can read this story in Luke 18. Jesus concludes by saying that when the two guys were finished praying it was the tax collector who was in ‘right relationship’ with God. All this helps me to know that I need to be in a right relationship with God before I think to really plumb the depths of prayer. And being in a right relationship doesn’t mean I have it all together. By no means. It is Jesus who has it all together and it is Jesus who by his love and sacrifice and resurrection makes a way for me to God. Even if I feel far away from God I know that through my confession of my sins and my distance from God that God is as ready to wrap his arms around me as the Father was in the story of the Prodigal Son, which you can read in Luke 15.

I read that story and realize that the Son had to come back to the Father to receive that love. While the Father was looking ‘for’ the Son, he did not go after the Son but waited for him to come back home.(perhaps I am reading too much into this parable) In prayer that is what I am doing, hopefully, coming home to God, my Father. And I may come tentatively like the ‘prodigal’ but come home nonetheless. And for me to return home is to know that I have a Father who, as I said in the beginning, is loving and sovereign. The God whom I worship is forgiving; removing my sin away from me and from God as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103) And the great thing is that God is looking for the ‘lost’ like those parables indicate in Luke 15. Jesus said that his mission on earth was, among other things, to ‘seek and save the lost’. So there is no doubt in my mind that I can come to God in prayer.

I know that some people say in reference to the healing of the blind man in John 9, that God doesn’t hear the prayer of sinners, which I think might mean people who are obstinately opposed to being faithful to God but using God more as a vending machine. However I do think that God listens to sinners and people of various religious persuasions who want to draw closer to God in the best way they know how. They too are coming humbly to God as that tax collector and as that ‘prodigal’ son.

So in conclusion for this time I should like to say that the God of the Bible is One who wants a relationship with us, so much that he paid the ultimate sacrifice to reconcile the world to God’s self. He loves us. While we don’t understand God’s mind we understand God’s heart and it is towards that heart that we draw when we pray. And as we draw closer, practicing this discipline of prayer we will more fully understand “our Father” as Jesus refers to God in the Lord’s Prayer.

I said to my son that as we talk ‘about’ prayer, one of the things we have to do together is pray. Good place to begin. And then write the questions you have. Let’s have a dialogue for I too am trying to understand how we go about this.

A Blessed Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday to all.


Think Good Thoughts

The world as it is, evil in the sense of being alienated against God, is against you and me. Let me explain. How do we see ourselves in the world? Usually we see ourselves as the world sees us and judges us; our looks, academic performance, power, wealth, sexual appeal and more. It’s a hard place to live when we feel the need to ‘measure up’.

And then there is the issue of faith. We are reluctant to follow Christ, believe in Christ, put our confidence in Christ because the world puts us down for being not intellectual, or for being too naïve or gullible or they mock us for the evil in the world or for the evil that believers have done over the years. No, it’s not easy living faithfully in this world among people who are living for themselves or for the material gods they have fashioned for themselves. So what to do? How to cope?

Let me suggest that Paul might have been on to something in Romans 12:1-2 where he gives advise to the earliest believers back in the first century where they were under severe pressure to conform to the Roman society, Roman gods and way of life.

This is how he puts it:

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, [a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] Do not be conformed to this world, [c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.(ESV)d

If you would like a modern paraphrase of this passage take a look at the MESSAGE

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

If we choose the CULTURE as our worldview in life we are going to be beat up badly, squeezed into a way of life that may seem satisfying but will sap our energy from trying so hard to fit it. And it’s a deadly dead-end road that leads to nowhere, no purpose, and no life with God. Instead Paul invites, encourages, urges us to let ourselves be transformed by God, to start thinking differently aided of course the God’s Holy Spirit. Thinking in terms of what it means to belong to God, that Jesus is our Lord and friend and Savior. To understand what it means to be truly loved and to live out our lives in that love and not under judgment. And greatest of all when we give ourselves to God we begin to discern with our spirits and our minds what God’s will is. Sometimes we don’t even need to ask. It’s just ‘there’, right in front of us.

Now here’s the thing. The church can sometimes act like the world, all flesh and no heart, trying to squeeze us into this doctrine and that idea. I get real nervous going into a group of people who I think are sometimes judging me by the name of the church I attend or how I pray or even what I look like. I have more than a few quizzical stares at some of my tattoos or that cigar hanging out of my mouth.

Don’t let anyone SQUEEZE you into THEIR mold, the way of doing things. Sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself. But rather keep thinking on God, his goodness towards you and me. Think about what he did through his son Jesus …let your mind be soaked by that goodness and be very attracted to kind Christians who accept you and love you. When you are in such a situation you begin to see the will of God more clearly in your life because you are FREE to commune with God, not by the rules of anyone else.

The Bible talks a lot about freedom. Jesus said that the truth would set us free. The truth is the life of Jesus interacting with our life through the Holy Spirit. The truth on certain days allows us to look in the mirror and say, ‘why you most loved wretch, what is wrong with you?’ And you know the God who loves you forgives and loves you so much. Other days you may look in that same mirror and say, ‘my, aren’t I a good person.’ Then perhaps you need to blink your eyes and consider that the Christ who stands next to you is your measuring rod.

But here’s the thing. Fix your attention on God. Look at God’s through his holy word. Read the Psalms and the Gospels. Get it fixed in your mind whose you are, to whom you really belong. If God be for us who can be against us? That was not written to prepare for a military battle. It was written for us to know that no evil in this world has any real power over us. Oh they may take our lives but they will never take away our relationship with Christ.

When we get that firmly fixed in our minds then we can think about every person, every situation, every injustice in this world and we will have the good God sense to know how to live.

The world has no power to pressure you. And for the most part God won’t pressure. He will invited, he will nudge and once in a while a good kick in the rear from our loving God will get our minds right.

The world just doesn’t ‘get it’, never has but here’s the secret. The kingdom of God has landed in this world and you and I are blessed to see it. That’s what the whole born again thing means. We are given eyes to see what God is up to in us and in this world and then we join God. The world will put you down. Worldly Christians will do that too.

Look and long for Christian brothers and sisters who will build you up, who will stand against the ways of the world even those ways found within our own families. Seek fellowship that is challenging, and pray often with your Bible and heart wide open to what the spirit is saying to all of us. Amen



Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. What precisely is that cross for us in 21st century America? (See Matthew 16:24) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” I have been reading a wonderful book by John Bright entitled THE KINGDOM OF GOD, in which he details from Old Testament through New Testament the meaning of God’s Kingdom. In his book he writes about the cross and what it means to take up that cross today. “This, then, is our cross: that we lay down our unrighteousness, and that easy righteousness which is our deepest sin, that the righteousness of God may rule in us; … it means total surrender in faith to the Kingdom of God. It is also our victory for the cross and the victory are one. (Page 271 of The Kingdom of God).

All that we desire for ourselves must be relinquished in order that we say to God as Jesus did, THY WILL BE DONE. Those words do not come to us with unhindered ease if they are to mean anything at all. And so we in our most humble way let God know that our desire is for his Kingdom and that we are willing to take up the cross to live in that Kingdom. I think of the thief on the cross, next to Jesus, who said, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’ That is a cry that we can only make from the place of the cross in our lives.

We want peace. We want comfort. We want love. We want life. But Jesus tells us to seek more than anything else God’s rule, God’s governance, which includes the loving providence of God in all things. (See Matthew 6:33) Jesus follows that statement by one of profound significance. And everything you need shall be given to you. 33 Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well. (New Century Version) The ‘other needs’ is reference to that about which we are so anxious. Think of a place where you have had to give up your own will, willingly or not and that will be a place of the cross for you. It will mean both death and life. And the only way we will know it is true is to place our confidence in Jesus who has told us that the way to life is through death knowing that the victory has been promised to us.

Remember that Jesus, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross. And none but God’s Spirit can truly confirm this in us. And all of this should happen within the context of the fellowship of believers who know God’s word and God’s love. Today such an opportunity may come to you. Pray to receive it in Christ.