Friday, December 28, 2012

New year

A hymn to consider as we enter a new year. The words are by William Gadsby with some modifications by Sandra McCracken.  You can listen to it here:

Jesus, the Lord, My Savior

1. Jesus, the Lord, my Savior is,
My Shepherd, and my God;
My light, my strength, my joy, my bliss;
And I His grace record.

2. Whate’er I need in Jesus dwells,
And there it dwells for me;
’Tis Christ my earthen vessel fills
With treasures rich and free.

Chorus: Mercy and truth and righteousness,
And peace, most richly meet
In Jesus Christ, the King of grace,
In Whom I stand complete.

3. As through the wilderness I roam,
His mercies I’ll proclaim;
And when I safely reach my home,
I’ll still adore His name.

4. “Worthy the Lamb,” shall be my song,
“For He for me was slain;”
And me with all the heavenly throng
Shall join, and say, “Amen.”
© 2001 Same Old Dress Music (ASCAP).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Consider these words from a portion of Handel's Messiah:

For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

Such a simple but life altering truth.The Lord reigns! Here and now!  Advent is a great reminder that the eternal reigning Lord came here among us to bring life and that He will also return again. When we bring our praise to Him alone and align our hearts and thoughts around Jesus - life gets reordered and infused with purpose, value and strength. What a great message for our neighbors to hear.

Instead, what message do they hear during Christmas. While watching football this past weekend as well as the unending parade of commercials, one disturbed me the most. It was an ad for the Target Red Card and was structured around the Hallelujah chorus. At a time when people desperately need to find Jesus as their only hope and delight, they get directed to a store packed with frenzied buyers - a very different kind of Kingdom. I'd boycott Target except for the fact that I can't expect them to know any better.

"Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd." Matthew 9:36 What a timely picture - people moving through life feeling hurried, harassed, downcast and aimless. What was the response of Jesus? Compassion!

During this time of year, the distortion of who Jesus is and the relegation of Him to the fringes of Christmas usually elicits frustration and anger in me and anything but compassion. Jesus got it right and calls me to the same. Target Stores and the rest of the world may sing Hallelujah to anything  but rather than getting fed up with it I should have a broken heart for aimless people who need to hear the wonder of the Gospel and find the beauty of a life that lifts up hallelujahs to Jesus alone! Lord, may my life declare a hallelujah to You by living the Gospel out with compassion in the midst of a world that needs to see You.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


A brief thought for today... This weekend we are doing something a bit different for our service - we will be singing, reflecting and meditating through the 22nd Psalm. It is an opportunity to enter the places the Psalmist takes us as well as the places Jesus Himself went through as this is a Messianic Psalm.  I was considering that this is not a Psalm we would usually use on a Thanksgiving weekend as so much of the text reflects pain, loneliness and difficulty.

 As I was preparing I was struck with two personal  insights. 1) I am never as forthright as the Psalmist in speaking out my hurts and questions and longings, rather I keep them to myself or even worse, I ignore them all together. 2) My praises are never as intentional as I see here. For me - praise and thanksgiving come from some experience or insight or feeling. In this passage there is a decision to give thanks, a decision to give praise. In one place, right after he describes the coming of enemies upon himself, he says "In the midst of the assembly I will praise You!"

In the end - perhaps this is the best weekend to acknowledge our hard times, enter those dark places of hurt, acknowledge our feeling that the Lord is distant.... and then - Give thanks and praise. As we think of Psalm 22 - it is about His sacrifice for us and even as we take communion - the Eucharist - we are reminded that it means "thanksgiving!"

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Back towards the end of October I had the opportunity to spend some time in solitude and silence out in the middle of the desert just north of Benson, Arizona. God has a way of getting my sttention in those kinds of settings - perhaps that is both a strength of my personality - finding communion and insight all alone with God. It is also a great weakness - the tendancy to go alone and to miss stepping into deepening community.

So the Lord got my attention today at church - our "community Sunday" when we open up the microphone to share how God has been at work. Ther is nothing like the gathering we had today - we lifted up out voices singing, we were packed out shoulder to shoulder, and the testimonies from so many people just kept going! As we all noted - most every sharing involved God's work in lives through other people - it brought me back to the truth of one of our values - "we cannot live out the Christian life without one another!" And even better - when we finally closed our time taking the bread and cup together - we just continued what was already happening outside with a great BBQ. As I looked over all the groups sitting on the lawn, new people finding a place, piles of little kids running all over.... I thought, this delights the Lord!

While in the desert I spent a bit of time in the story of Zaccheus and I was reminded of it today. Here is a man wanting to see Jesus - and He does! And it ends with a story of redemption and new life and closes with a meal! We experienced Jesus today through His very real presence, through one another, through hearing stories of redeemed lives and a meal! So to all of you - THANK YOU!

Thursday, October 18, 2012


At the Vineyard we are putting in a new sound board and a couple new projection devices that require new cables and some wiring. In order to pull the new cables from the sound booth to the stage at the front of the church it was necessary to get under our stage. Yesterday we cut a 1 foot by 1 foot access in our storage closet and discovered space under the stage with about 9 1/2 inches of clearance. Somebody needed to get in there and crawl the 10 plus feet to the other side of the stage. Enter the skinny guy! Well I worked my way in feet first and begin a very uncomfortable "slide" under the stage. I had a headlamp but because i couldn't lift my head I was unable to look ahead to where I was going. As I crunched 20 year old dead cockroaches under my back I kept wondering if some angry animal might be looking at my feet boxing him in to a corner. Not only that but my legs kept catching on various braces and once, when attempting to roll over I became a bit stuck!

Proverbs 4:12 says this of those who follow the ways of wisdom, "when you walk (or crawl) your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble." Life can be difficult enough, it is hard to imagine moving through the events and experiences of our day without the Lord making a way, without Him first going before us to clear away the hindrances that we could never overcome on our own.

Today - it turns out - we needed to run an electrical wire and again it required a trip under the stage. This time I arrived equipped with a strong utility light. As I dragged the light along, the entire under stage area was lit up. No animals, nothing unexpected and the whole journey - which still was not very easy - had a very different feel to it.

Proverbs 4:18 says that "the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day, but the way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble." I love the picture of darkness slowly, little by little, giving way to the light and the light gets brighter and brighter as the Lord leads us forward. Where does that light come from? I believe it comes through the Spirit, through God's Word as we feast on it, through one another as we encourage each other along, and through our offerings of worship. ( I am reminded of Paul singing in a jail cell) Because we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ we can count on Him to light our way.

Monday, October 8, 2012


So we have now held 2 Saturday services in addition to our regular Sunday morning gatherings with many more ahead. I have joked several times that if i don't get the message right when I teach on Saturday, I always have another chance to get it right on Sunday.

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." 
2 Tim. 2:15

I was in AWANA all through elementary school - I know that verse! But knowing is not enough. Last week I was challenged on a couple of ooccasions about my schedule, what things get the best of my time, following through and being faithful in my primary tasks. One area of not giving enough time - of not following through, has to do with letting the Word work its way into my heart before sharing what I have studied. In my teaching, when Saturday evening rolls around is not the time to begin letting it sink in - that needs to happen way before then.

This past Sunday as I listened and sang during our musical worship time - the same songs as Saturday - they gripped me in a more significant way, they got into my heart in ways that had not occurred the evening before. Sometimes - perhaps at all times - we need to visit songs and scriptures over and over - then they impact and then we can share from a good place. It takes more time, a bit more work, discipline in time and scheduling and in study - but that is the calling for us all if we are to accurately handle the word of truth.

Study - wait - meditate - study - discuss - wait .... get a good grasp on the Word and let the Word get a good grasp on us - then share it!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


My son is 13 years old and can be quite animated - something i am usually not. Early this morning he called me at work shouting on the phone in expressions of joy, triumph, celebration - absolute, unbridled shouts of praise and victory. The news - he is now 72 inches tall - yes, 6 feet. Growing is always on his mind, constantly measuring and checking even as he eats us out of house and home! Of course all this rapid, wild growth - which shows no signs of slowing down - comes with wide ranging emotions, tiredness, shoes that never fit and everything else you get with an adolescent..... BUT - it is filled with fun, refreshment, wonder,  uncertainty, newness, the unexpected ... it is the picture of LIFE.

I have been considering how easy it is to let that way of living slip away, to get buried in stuff and the passing of time. In reading the Gospels and Acts - it is like watching my son grow - so much going on - yes, the young believers make mistakes but God is on the move and they are chasing after Him. When we jump to the book of Revelation we see some pictures of a church that has lost much of that - Jesus calls them to stir up their love afresh!

Does the church need faithful, grounded, steady people slowly plodding along - absolutely - and a good thing too since that is probably me. But we also need those who are like my son - noticing each fresh move of the spirit, seeing opportunities for new growth, full of ideas and the desire to make them come alive, on the edge a bit sometimes but for all the right reasons. What does it mean to be a church - a body - it means to be alive, growing, changing, discovering, - and all the while we are looking to Jesus - the Chief Shepherd, our center - who calls us on.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


"... so we, who are many, are one body in Christ ..." Romans 12:5

"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of god's household..." Ephesians 2:19

Thanks to my church family for a morning of gathered worship and our "communion project" that keeps reminding  me of how good it is to be in "God's household".

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


I officially said goodbye to my daughter whom I had driven to Michigan to go to school and then began the 2000 plus miles long drive back to Tucson. I started crying somewhere in New Mexico. It always takes me awhile before I look eye to eye with how I feel - but I do get there. I am uncertain as to what moved me at that point - there were many things bundled up with my emotions about letting my daughter go ... saying goodbye to my brothers and their families after a great weekend, saying bye to my mom who was sitting in her room at an assisted care apartment, perhaps it was the deaths of two very significant and much loved men this week both of whom I will greatly miss. It could have been how much I was missing my wife and my other two kids back in Tucson. Truth is, I was thinking over all these things and as I did so i drove mile after mile  - it all looked so desolate and empty. I drove through southwest Kansas which seemed  to go forever and then cut across the Oklahoma panhandle, across the corner of Texas and then i took a 2 lane road from one corner of new Mexico to the other.... empty.

Empty - I suppose that is the word that best describes how I felt - I was thankful for where my daughter was going to school and my time there only reinforced my sense that she had chosen well - but without her there is an empty place. Apart from my family on both sides of the country there was an empty place. So I cried.

As I cried I remembered that Jesus had emptied Himself (Phil. 2) and that he had put aside glory, heaven, even His rights - He chose to be separated from the glories of heaven and eventually even separated from the father as He hung on the cross - He emptied Himself so that I could be full. Eph. 1 tells us that we  - the body of Christ - are the "fullness of Him who fills all in all."

Thank you Lord for all the wonderful gifts of events and experiences and people that fill my life and thank you for the reassuring reminder that when those things are absent - you still fill me!

Friday, August 31, 2012


Mumford and Sons recently put out a new song  titled "I Will Wait". It is actually a new version of an earlier untitled song. I have been listening to it frequently this past week. I have no idea what is behind the song; like much of their music it is likely about a relationship but could also be a spiritually oriented song about a relationship with the Lord. That is the beauty of a well crafted song - it can mean so many things depending on the listener.

Two images connect with me. The first is a picture of weakness, giving up control of my life, coming to that place of complete inability - surrendering. The second picture in the song is one of resolve - a decision to move ahead in a whole new way. I guess it is the presentation of that tension that the song seems to capture for me that got my attention. Embracing absolute brokenness and weakness and at the same time pressing forward with hope and life. As a child of God I can step forward because I can trust in the strength that only rests in Him. Isaiah 40 describes us like the grass of the field but the Lord is the One whose strength never fails. It is a hard place to live - completely weak and yet moving out into all the places he calls us to - hard, yes - and also life giving and full and beautiful.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Tomorrow my oldest daughter leaves home to attend Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has been a joy and it was great having her at home this past year as she worked and attended the local community college. I came home late from a meeting last night to see the living room covered in all her things as she organized them and began packing it all up for the move east. How do you send one of your kids off? How do you really release them? What do you say and feel and do? Of course, this has been the goal all along and I trust we have prepared her for this next great step, yet in the moment it comes, what does a parent do?

I was reminded of Jesus this morning and his farewell to the disciples. His prayer in John 14-17 shows a bit of how He sent them off to their next step. It was actually quite simple. He expressed His love, He prayed for the Spirit's work in them, He warned them of things to come, He encouraged them in the Lord and He served them. You can feel His love for them in His prayer and even sense His desire not to be parted from them ... even so,  He loves, prays, encourages, serves... and then He releases them to the awesome things for which God had prepared them.

My prayer for my daughter as she steps "apart" from us is that she will know the key for living as Jesus shared it in John 15

 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in Him,
he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


As I shared earlier, I recently returned from a worship leaders conference in Kansas City. There were 2 general sessions each day during which several well known worship bands/leaders would lead us in song and then there would be a time of teaching. Often during the music they would bring all the house lights down and it was then that I would notice how many people had ipads - in this dimmed sanctuary filled with about 1700 worship leaders - you could see the bright glowing screens of scores of ipads. During one session the band was up front leading - most everyone was standing, singing - arms raised. There was a gal in front of me who stood and sang for a few minutes and then sat down with her ipad and proceeded to her Facebook page chatting back and forth with a friend - every now and then she would look up, raise her hands for a bit and sing and then go back to her Facebook page. Here we are singing about being "captivated' by God's presence - well maybe not.

When Isaiah saw the Lord in His temple - nothing could have distracted him. When John saw the "door to heaven standing open" and was invited to "come up here!" - he wasn't distracted by anything else - the Lord had his attention. We can so casually enter God's presence - even doing so without any thought at all. Of course the Scriptures tell us to "boldly come before the throne" - that's because nothing stands in our way because of the cross - but to come boldly and freely is not the same as to enter casually or thoughtlessly.

Truth is - even without an ipad in hand - I am easily distracted and i often can enter into times of corporate worship without any real thought or focus. In Revelation 1:17 after John sees Jesus it says; "when I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me..." What a great picture of coming into His presence with awe and wonder and at the same time feeling the gentle, welcoming touch of our Savior. Next time you enter a time of corporate worship - be sure to come prepared, anticipating, waiting, looking, attentive and praying.

Friday, July 20, 2012


There is very little grass in Tucson - at my house there is no grass. At the church we nurture a precious piece of lawn - its biggest need of course is water - 4-5 times a day during these summer months. You can't have a lawn in Tucson without a built in sprinkler system unless you want to stand out in the sun all day with a hose! But - even in the worst heat and dryness - water brings green!

I just spent the past 5 days in Kansas City at a worship leaders conference. The church where we met had a huge expanse of grass - it just went on and on - it was so refreshing to see so much green on Monday. Now, 5 days later, after 103 degree days and no rain - all I see is the beautiful green withered into a dry, brown expanse, The church didn't have any sprinklers! No water! The grass was daily crying out for a drop of water - without it ... dry ... brown ... withering.

They say you need some crazy number of glasses of water per day to be healthy - I have at lease that much coffee - since coffee is mostly water - I think I am covered ... well, probably not. Such a simple thing - a glass of water, the quick sprinkling of a lawn - the difference between beauty, life ... withering, brown, dying.

How often do I assume that  the water of God's Word and Spirit from last month, last week, or even yesterday, are sufficient to give life and beauty and freshness to my soul today. Truth is - we need that water poured out upon us daily.  Don't miss His daily invitation to hear His voice through His Word. Are you withering away? Go to the Rock that is higher - Jesus.

 "He opened the rock and water flowed out; it ran in the dry places like a river."
Psalm 105:41

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I am afraid that my image at church has been forever tainted by my description of my shoe wearing habits last Sunday. In response to the many questions I endured...  Yes - I buy all my shoes used - yes - you can certainly tell that someone else has had their old feet in the shoes - no - I don't spray them first, I just put them on and pretend they've been mine all along - no - so far as I know I have not gotten any kind of disease .... yet.

We were reminded on Sunday that the Lord Himself has already clothed us in new garments that are created in the "likeness of God, in holiness and righteousness." (We will discover in Eph. 6 that we have a great new pair of shoes as well!) He has not just stored away our old garments (the old self) but rather those garments are gone for "we have been crucified with Christ", and "we have died and our life is now hidden with Christ."

There is a great passage about new clothes in Zechariah 3:3-10. Joshua, the High Priest, is standing in "filthy garments" and the Lord commands an angel to take away the old clothing and He instead adorns him with "festal robes" and he gets a new hat as well! It is a picture of our iniquity being removed and the righteousness of Christ being placed upon us. The source of these wondrous new clothes is of course Jesus - Zech. 3:8 describes Jesus as The Branch who will accomplish that great work in one day. The picture ends with all of us sitting under fruitful trees, dressed in fine clothing, drinking the fruit of the produce and enjoying the Lord and one another.

In Christ - that is a picture of what we have today! You are clothed in His righteousness today - the old has passed away - the new has come!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


In 1989 the Cubs and Giants were in a series for the National League Championship. My wife and I were living in the San Francisco area at the time. A friend called who had 2 tickets to one of the games at Candlestick Park - I hadn't seen my team - the Cubs - since moving away from Chicago years before. It ended up a terrible day. Earlier in the day I had 4 wisdom teeth out but was determined not to miss the game. Upon arriving in my Cubs shirt I was surrounded - not a Cubs fan to be seen - by Giants fans - they were only too happy to rain insults upon me the entire game - insults that increased with every round of beer they drank. My mouth was too swallen to give any response. The Cubs lost as I sat isolated in a hostile world!

Last weekend a good friend treated my son and I to a Diamondbacks/Cubs game up in Phoenix. Despite being born in Seattle I have successfully raised my son to love the Cubs and we were thrilled to get to see them although I wondered if I would experience a similar reception as I got at Candlestick. Not so - as we sat waiting to meet our friends, Cub fans - one after another arrived at the stadium - my son had on his Cub hat and shirt and was frequently greeted and encouraged the the steady stream of blue shirts. I am sure the stadium was 1/3 or more cub fans. We relaxed, cheered and felt quite at home ... as we watched the Cubs lose again.

I Peter 2:11 says that we are "aliens and strangers" in this world - other places tell us that we are of "God's household" and "citizens of heaven." What does that look like here? It can mean that we sometimes receive hostility - Jesus said to expect it. It doesn't mean we are to be antagonistic - the verses in Peter which follow tell us to "keep our behavior excellent" in the world. It doesn't mean we can just be about heaven and disengage - our calling is to engage and serve and love here and now! I am not sure how this all gets lived out but i do know that even while being involved, serving and living here - I am not to become rooted here - I don't think I am supposed to quite get comfortable. A stadium full of like minded Cubs fans is not where God has placed me - although I have many along the way that are an encouragement and we can walk together - ultimately this is not my home -  I am a pilgrim - a stranger, an alien. I have found that when I get too rooted here - my calling to mission is actually dulled. When I embrace being a pilgrim - my passion for mission is increased.

Monday, June 11, 2012


It has been close to a month since I updated this  - I would excuse it by saying I have had too much work but then I would be revealing how badly I listen to my own advice considering we just completed a 4 week series on "A Theology of Work"! We discovered that work - vocation - is integral to the image of God - that we participate in His creative and redemptive work as we work - that His redemption has broken the curse and finally that we always begin first with REST.

For this post I was looking up in my concordance the word for "cultivate" as used in Gen 2:15. I found the word and the proper reference and checked the number next to it - #5647 - I turned to the back of the concordance but accidentally looked at #5447. It said " burden ... load." I  panicked thinking I had misled the church - perhaps what we all thought was true - our vocations are just a heavy load! Fortunately I discovered my error and turned to the correct entry - yes - just as we had studied... the word for cultivate - the vocation God gave to Adam - is sometimes translated - WORSHIP. I must admit - particularly last week - I viewed my vocations as a load or burden to carry rather than offerings of worship. But as we learned from Luther - God is hidden in our vocations - as we find Him moment by moment - there are unending opportunities to grow, serve and worship.

I received a prayer request from a someone in the church yesterday. He asked for prayer during a very challenging time at his job - his request was that he would not just survive the challenges - he wanted to thrive in them. This is letting our vocations be worship and God is glorified - not necessarily by getting it right - but rather turning to Him again and again and again and again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


This week we began a short series on work and discovered first that work began in the very heart and nature of God. The first verse of the Word begins with God working and it continues through the creation account. Gen. 2:2 states, "by the seventh day God completed His work..." We also noticed that God created Adam and gave him work to do and declared it GOOD. I mentioned Exodus 31:17 - a verse that we have considered several times in our studies on Sabbath rest - and I have been considering it this past week in regards to work.

"... on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed."
Ex. 31:17
What does it mean that God is refreshed? Was He somehow depleted from His work in creation? God can't be depleted - He doesn't get worn out - He sure wasn't weary and in need of a nap. I think of refreshed as getting back something lost but perhaps it is more about the delight one receives when experiencing something good like the refreshment of a cold glass of water during a hot Tucson afternoon. When God ceased - maybe He experienced the delight both of work well done as well as the delight of laying the  completed work down.

In a world now marked by sin in which its effects are often most evident in our work - where is the refreshment? For many, work depletes, drains and causes a deep weariness. Is refreshment the weekend - a time of not "working" - somehow that is a far cry from the refreshment evidenced in Ex. 31. I believe our God is about redemption and it would seem that redemption would touch something as important to the heart of God as work. Here on this side of the cross God still opens a door to finding refreshment both in our labor as well as in laying it down  - yes - delight in work - deep, abiding delight and refreshment.

So what is the key? I think there are several but one that we might consider for a time shows up in Acts 3:19 where it states "that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." When we begin to see that there is no sacred/secular divide - that every area of our lives are places of His presence, places of His work, places of worship - that everu "work" He calls us to is holy - when we begin to get that - we find delight in the most unexpected places - even work.

Monday, April 9, 2012

06 House Of God Forever

06 House Of God Forever

This is a Jon Foreman song done by the group that will lead our worship on 4/15 - page cxvi


"Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  Psalm 23:6

This past Sunday morning - as we filled up on a great breakfast that we had each contributed to, as I listened to the beautiful noise of conversations out on our courtyard of green grass, as the music began to fill our neighborhood, and as I watched the children running around the property - this is the body of Christ gathered together! I thought about the children, and how this experience of "church" would shape their views of the Lord, His people, and what gathering together is meant to be. It got me thinking about Psalm 23 and what it means to "dwell in the house of the Lord forever." I like how it is linked with "all the days of my life" for His Kingdom - His house is not just someday but it is here and now - out on the church lawn, in our homes, sitting together in a restaurant - wherever we might be.

First - the Scriptures tell us that we are His temple - so wherever I am - I am a dwelling place of a Holy God. Second - we are described as being "in Christ" - so I am always breathing, speaking, working, playing ... living, within the sphere of His life - it is the "environment" within which I exist. Lastly, as in Ephesians 2:19 - we are together 'God's household". Gathered together we experience the wonder of being "in His house"! So when we gather to sing, to discuss, to play, to eat!!, to watch our kids play, to hear the Word of God, to clean up a neighbor's yard - we are in fact enjoying being in "the house of the Lord forever. So - take every opportunity to be with one another for in doing so we experience the Lord's House!

By the way - if you live in Tucson - a great chance to "be together" is this coming Sunday night, April 15th. We will gather at 6pm  - to eat of course - a BBQ out on the lawn followed by an evening of Hymns and Communion 7pm. We have special out of state guests coming to lead our worship - you can check them out at

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Resurrection, a Puritan’s Prayer

O God of my Exodus, Great was the joy of Israel’s sons, when Egypt died upon the shore, Far greater the joy when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust.
Jesus strides forth as the victor, conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death, tramples the powers of darkness down, and lives forever.
He, my gracious surety, apprehended for payment of my debt, comes forth from the house of the grave free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.
Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted, that the claims of justice are satisfied, the the devil’s scepter is shivered, that his wrongful throne is levelled
Give me the assurance that in Christ I died, in him I rose, in his life I live, in his victory I triumph, in his ascension I shall be glorified.
Adorable Redeemer, thou who wast lifted upon a cross art ascended to highest heaven.
Thou, who as Man of Sorrows was crowned with thorns, art now Lord of life wreathed with glory.
Once, no shame more deep than thine, no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high, no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.
Thou art in the triumph car leading captive thine enemies behind thee.
What more could be done than thou hast done!
Thy death is my life, thy resurrection my peace, thy ascension my hope, thy prayers my comfort.

Resurrection, a prayer from the Puritan Valley of Vision

Thursday, March 22, 2012


So... I turned 54 this past week - kind of a weird number/age. 50 is significant and brought all sorts of thoughts about what's next, what have I accomplished etc.. 60 is big - I think. Even next year - 55 has a ring to it like "I can't drive 55!" or the lure of being able to order off the Denny's 55+ menu - can't wait!

   But 54 ... it sounds so routine, nondescript, insignificant ... bland. Now that's a word I would not want to describe myself with! The dictionary says it means "pleasantly agreeable, nonirritating, indifferent - all passive words. To me it points to just passing time, lacking any impact, without a definable purpose - lacking in life, color and passion.

I hate to say it but that could often describe me  - perhaps 54 is not only my age but is a fitting description of what I have allowed my life to become!

On Sunday we will be unpacking Ephesians 2:4-6  "even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ..." Romans 6 says that we were raised to "walk in newness of life!" To have been made alive is to be freed from sin, it is to have purpose and focus in His kingdom, it is to be brought in to share in His work and His life, it is to be brought from the dead so that color, passion, creativity and a fresh vision for the day can be generated by the Lord through my life! Why would I ever embrace blandness? I am not altogether sure but I think it slowly creeps into our days, sapping them of vitality, dulling our minds and creating the deception that this is what life is.

It isn't! As Ephesians 2:10 reminds us - "we are His workmanship (masterpieces) created in Christ Jesus for good works ..." Created for purpose, focus, wonder, mystery - to be pulled into the eternal working of our creator as He continues it in  the midst of our everyday activities. His calling to me at 54 is "I have made you alive - live!" "I have prepared you - step forward!" ""I am in all your days ahead - embrace them with gratitude, expectation and delight."

So - Lord, a year from now when I am eating breakfast at  Denny's - may I have learned to see Your Life anew - press me to keep me alive to the moments You give and do whatever You need to do to rescue me from my own blandness. amen

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Our passage for Sunday appears to be some really bad news! Ephesians 2:1-3 starts out;

"And you were dead..."

What a contrast to the wonders of what we have in Christ as declared in chapter One. I think the Holy Spirit wants us to fully understand the desperate condition we were in because grasping that we were really dead opens the door for a life fully alive to Him. At least two troubles assail us when we fail to grasp that before Christ we were dead.

1) As a little kid I knew I needed Jesus but I didn't really get that I was dead. As a result I think I harbored the notion that my efforts and abilities helped Jesus redeem my soul. That sort of beginning leads to what Tozer calls a "Jesus and ..." approach to the Christian walk. I hold the idea that I can reform my own life, if I just try harder I can overcome sin ... I depend on Jesus - sort of, but it is mostly up to me. It leads to a christian life marked by struggle and defeat - the Lord didn't intend that for us.

2) The second problem is that because I didn't realize I was really dead - I don't think the world is really dead either - it just needs a bit of Jesus and a bit of moral reformation and all will be well - or at least better. Our country had periods when it was very "religious" and had a moral veneer - God had to bring a Great Awakening to bring real redemption - real life. During that event people suddenly saw how dead they were and that is what led to great stories of redemption. I am afraid that too many in the church just want to morally reform the world and actually think it is possible - God wants people to see that they are dead - there is NO LIFE outside of Him .... then and only then can people be alive and awake to the Lord.I am not sure that our purpose is to help people be better - rather, through the Spirit  - to enable them to see that they are dead.

So, we will consider in our service that we WERE dead, enslaved and condemned. Then we will reflect that through Jesus it is not our present condition - we are NOW alive, redeemed, His portion, His beloved.!!

06 You Have Redeemed My Soul

You Have Redeemed My Soul
Written by Don & Lori Chaffer
You Have Redeemed My Soul
from The Pit Of Emptiness
you Have Redeemed My Soul
from Death

i Was A Hungry Child
a Dried Up River
i Was A Burned Out Forest
and No One Could Do Anything For Me

but You Put Food In My Body
water In My Dry Bed
and To My Blackened Branches You Brought The
springtime Rain Of New Life
and Nothing Is Impossible For You

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I was recently teaching at a Christian gathering over at the University of Arizona and in my message I referred to the children's book, "Harold and the Purple Crayon." I was shocked to discover that the vast majority of these students had never heard of the story. (Now I know what is wrong with our world.) Next to "The Pilgrim's Progress" it is my favorite not to mention being a literary classic! Now I could write a post about the parallels between Harold and Christian from "Pilgrim's Progress" or how the Image of God is demonstrated through the story, or how there is a tree with an apple and a scary dragon (think serpent) in the tree - but I won't. I could actually show that there are also many significant differences between Harold's story and the Gospel. At it's heart - Harold's adventure is about a little boy who loses his way and eventually ends up back at home - in truth, he never left.

The reality of our lives is quite a different story, although the ending - getting home, is the same. In Harold's story he decides to draw a forest, but because he doesn't want to get lost, "he made a very small forest, with just one tree in it." In truth, sin is a big forest and we are desperately lost! In the story Harold finally remembers some things about his home and bedroom and simply, and on his own, makes his window, colors his bed and "drew" up the covers and "dropped off to sleep." In reality, Jesus came into the forest, died on a tree and in destroying the power of the forest - brings us home again - a place of genuine rest!

I have been struck with the wonder of what we have as our church has been working through Ephesians 1. I have been amazed at how we have been described - His portion/inheritance, to the praise of His glory, His own possession, the fullness of Christ ... Considering how lost we were - considering how much we now have - it is incredible! In a couple weeks we launch into chapter 2 as we prepare for remembering His work on the cross and His resurrection. It is here that we discover that we can't just "draw" our way back home but that it took the "riches of grace" and the sacrifice on the cross to obtain for us all these wondrous things. So, be amazed, be worshipping, be thankful and be at rest today - the work of bringing us home is already done.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


   On occasion I get this glimpse of being a part of some grand movement of God - some lofty goal and purpose that will override all of the usual, busy routines of my day. On other occasions - OK, usually - I just plug along through my day. I check items off my list, I respond to the needs or demands on my time. The majority of the things I do are a repetition of the prior day and there is no real sense of a great, eternal purpose or calling. We just live and hope that perhaps at some point we will get to do something of significance. For many of us this(the belief that there is more but we will never be a part of of) leads to discouragement, a marked lack of zeal and a deep weariness of soul. Others just ignore the questions about purpose and significance and go along as though this is it - we proceed to find things that give a false value to our life.

At church we have begun our 25 week journey through Ephesians and get right into the thick of it this week as we look at Eph. 1:3-6. No matter what view you may take on election and predestination it is impossible to miss the truth in this section that God moves with intention and purpose. He chose us and destined us for a purpose - to be a part of His ongoing and eternal Kingdom work. So, what were we destined for? Sonship - to be heirs with Christ. And what does the passage say is the mark of sonship that God has destined in us? Love - love embodied in holy and blameless lives.  What a grand purpose - yet He called us to something even greater than that - to give "praise to His glorious grace!"

As a believer - every moment, every detail, every mundane task, every errand I run, each load of laundry, every conversation, each line I stand in ... everything has a design and purpose and God is in the middle of it. He made me His child and accomplished His redemptive purpose in me to make me holy and blameless, a reflection of His love so that my life - yes, my very normal, routine life - would point to and magnify His grace!!

There is no such thing as an insignificant moment, hour, day or life for a believer. The most routine and "seemingly" unimportant days of my life are all shaped and marked by a magnificent Savior and a glorious purpose.  He will exalt His grace through me today! There is no "great purpose" to look for - He planned it before the foundation of the world and is carrying it out right now in us! Enjoy today, receive it - we are not destined to a great calling someday - we are in the midst of it right now.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


In Exodus 24 Moses and 70 of the Elders of Israel go up to the mountain. In verse 11 it says "they saw God and they ate and drank." What a great meal that must have been sitting in the very presence of God. They later must return to the camp below - apart from God. Last Sunday we looked briefly at Deuteronomy 14. The Israelites were instructed to take 1/10th of their harvest and create a meal for their family to enjoy. There were no special instructions about what food to eat - rather it was to be "for whatever your heart desires." It was huge, extravagant feast. It says in verse 26 "you shall eat in the presence of God and rejoice!" There is something moving and inviting about sitting in God's presence and enjoying a meal.

As wonderful as these scenes are, they are just a shadow of what we get to enjoy. Before the cross these were special occasions but because of the life, death and resurrection of our Redeemer the barrier between us and God has been removed and we get to sit in His very presence at all times. As partakers of the Bread of Life (John 6) we enjoy a meal of blessings - not just someday - but in every day. A feast of "every spiritual blessing" has been prepared for us to take and enjoy and embrace!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Camps often advertise as "the best week of your life." Although I am sure that is usually the case, my first - and last - camp experience was the worst 2 weeks of my life. I was 8 years old - read  that as not ready to leave mom - I went to Honeyrock. It is a camp about a million hours of drive time north of Chicago and is run by my Alma Mater - Wheaton College. I did know 2 others at camp - my brothers - but they were with the "older kids" and really wanted nothing to do with me. Bottom line - I was deathly homesick through the entire experience. They had a special "quiet hour" during which you were supposed to write home - I never finished a letter because I just cried the whole time. There was one highlight. The entire camp  - from something in the food - got a severe 1 day stomach illness and they were running to the bathrooms all day. I was the only one unaffected simply because I was too homesick to eat!

The heart of homesickness is this deep longing for someplace or someone. It runs so deep that it dominates one's thoughts and attention. Psalm 73:25-26 states

            "Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
                      My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever."

Whenever I read that I think - REALLY? Can I have that kind of single-heartedness - that kind of desire for God. It is what John Piper calls a "homesickness for God." It is interesting that the Psalmist declares this when his flesh is failing. The truth is, I sometimes do have that hunger and heart for the Lord. It is also true that sometimes my heart is dulled to Him, "used" to His presence, unappreciative of His gifts. In Piper's outstanding book  on fasting - "A Hunger for God" - he suggests that our longing and homesickness for God is because we nibble so much at the table of the world - we are not hungry for the Lord anymore. In Deuteronomy 8, the Lord tells the people that He let them be hungry to show what was in their hearts and to lead them to understand that "man does not live on bread alone." He uses hunger to enliven their hearts to Himself. Later in the chapter - after telling them to enjoy the food and fatness of the land - He warns that those same good delights can cause dullness and a loss of hunger for God.

It seems we go through cycles of being alive to the Lord - desiring Him above all things - and then we get filled up on other things - even good things - and our hunger for the Lord is stilled. So what is the solution. There are perhaps many... I think the regularity of Sabbath (ceasing and resting) is one practice that reorients our heart. Another practice is fasting - to come before the Lord for one meal or for days - and say - "a renewed hunger for You, Lord is more important than food - more important than life!" Somehow - in fasting - we are reshaped, awakened to His good gifts, filled with gratitude and prepared for His callings. I am reminded in fasting how good all of God's great gifts taste.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


People make a difference. We make a difference in the lives of others. It is such an obvious truth but in actuality I often enter the lives of others not intentionally but as an afterthought of the many other things of my day. In the meantime there are dear brothers and sisters in my path needing a note, a hug, a voice, an encouragement, a smile.

Last week was not the norm for me - perhaps I was just more in touch with myself - I was burdened, weighted,  a bit overwhelmed and disheartened... disheartened would be a good word. I needed some insight or words of hope - perhaps a visit of something really good.  Sunday morning I got that visit! Completely unlooked for, my brother arrived at church here in Tucson having driven all the way from Chicago. He arrived with a gift and he arrived bringing himself! I cannot describe the depth of joy and delight and surprise and wonder that I felt. He only had a couple hours and then was flying back home but I was left moved, encouraged, revived and refreshed!! My whole family was lifted up for the day.

Proverbs 25:25  "Like cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a distant land." Even better is when that good news arrives in person. We are called to be that 'cold water' to weary souls. They are all around - I've touched shoulders with them already today - people needing a visit of encouragement, a visit of listening, a visit of hope. It has been a calling that I have too often ignored and neglected. It seems as though that is mostly what Jesus did - He visited needy people. After a miracle in Luke 7:16, the people shouted out "God has visited His people!" As imitators of God, we should do the same.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


It is always a joy to get an invitation. Not like in Elementary school, where Birthday invitations went to every kid because that was the rule - but personal invitations. An invitation to breakfast or lunch, a cup of coffee, a hike in the desert, an evening gathering. We are strengthened and encouraged when someone reaches out and extends an invitation - it is great to be welcomed!

One of my favorite stories is when Jesus - following the resurrection - is on the beach cooking fish and bread. The disciples are back to their fishing and getting nothing. Jesus calls out to them and following another miracle catch they realize it is Jesus and rush to the beach dragging their catch. He says, "Come and have breakfast." Implied in the invitation is "come and be with Me." What an awesome invitation. We hear similar invitations in other places. "Come unto Me." (Matt. 11:28) "Lord if it is You, command me to come to You ... And He said, Come!" (Matt. 14:28) "Come away." (Mark 6:31) "Come up here!" (Rev. 4:1)

Invitations to come and be with Jesus, to walk, listen, talk, play, rest and even eat.We often ask Jesus to come and be with us - He is always with us - He said He would never leave us... Rather, we should be paying attention to His always open invitation to "come." The invitation sits open before us - no RSVP is required - I just get to show up.

"Jesus stood and cried out, saying,
"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink."
John 7:37