Saturday, September 24, 2016

Overcoming Racism

Galatians 3:28 (ESV) - There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.


A few months ago my son-in-law and I, who are both white, were shopping in a neighborhood where most residents were people of color. After making our purchases we headed to the door to leave and noticed they had a "checker" going through bags as each person left the store, presumably to make sure no one had stolen any items. That is not that uncommon so we got in line to have our bags checked. When the checker saw us, he waved us through without looking at our bags. While waving us through, he continued carefully going through the bags of the other people in line, all of whom were people of color. Though we cannot know for sure why he waved us through but made everyone else wait in line, the only conclusion we could think of was because we were white. The bag checker apparently thought white people could not possibly steal stuff from stores but people of color might. So their bags needed checked but ours did not. 

Since that experience I have become more aware of this kind of stuff happening. I cannot imagine the frustration, indeed the anger, that people of color must feel when they are degraded publicly like that in stores that they shop from regularly. I cannot imagine the fear moms of color of have when their sons walk to the grocery store. I cannot imagine the pent up angry that rests just under the surface of those who experience discrimination again and again and again so many years after the Civil Rights era was supposed to have solved all of this.

I don't know how to fix it, but I know that pointing it out so people become aware of it is one step. In retrospect, I should have gone back to that store and insisted that my bag be checked. I did later send an email to the store manager, though I never got a response back. Only by speaking up can we help people see how wrong this kind of thing is.

I also think we can address this issue by not falling prey to subtle racism in our own lives in the way we interact with people of color on a day to day basis. Though I'm not a perfect example to follow, one thing I try to do is when I see a person of color, especially a young man, is to look them in the eye and speak to them. Even if all I do is say hello as I pass them on the street, it is my way of saying "I see you and I think you are important enough to notice." I want him to know there is at least one white man out there in a position of influence who saw him as an equal. It may not change the world, but perhaps for that one young man, it makes him walk a little prouder that day. And if enough of us do it, maybe all those young men will realize they do not need to be pressed into a mold of someone else's making, they can become whatever the Lord leads them to be.

Lord, help us see past the color of our skin and demonstrate Your love for all people. Amen.


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Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Fine Line Between Judging and Helping

1 Corinthians 11:31-32 - If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, so that we may not be condemned with the world.

“Do not judge me!” We hear it all the time. Pop singers who do perverted things on stage say it. Movie stars who get DUIs say it. Politicians who have affairs say it. Co-workers who show up to work with a hangover say it. Friends who have made a real mess of their lives say it. Sometimes, we say it ourselves when someone points out our obvious faults.

Our culture has become obsessed with the idea that no one should say that any particular action is wrong. For the most part, people have accepted the idea that no one should think negatively of another person for his or her behavior. Such negative thinking is considered judging. Judging has become the ultimate bad behavior. If anyone does point out that someone's behavior was in poor taste, or just plain wrong, the speaker is the one who is criticized, not the person who actually did wrong.

This may be an acceptable line of reasoning for our culture, but it ultimately leads to disaster. If everyone does what is right in their own eyes, society devolves into chaos. That is why God gave us rules to follow. But who gets to interpret what God says the rules are?

I grew up in a very rigid religious environment in which we categorized everyone's behavior as either good or bad. This was often done without really knowing the person’s heart or any of the details of the actions. In our quest for purity we separated ourselves from those who engaged in actions we deemed bad. Many people were hurt by our judgmental behavior. I no longer want to be the behavior police with some mandate to classify every behavior that anyone around me does as being right or wrong. I also do not want to watch friends ruin their lives because I am too cold-hearted to speak to them about issues they are struggling with. Some behavior is just plain wrong, and one does not have to be a religious fundamentalist to recognize that truth. Somewhere between the two extremes of never saying anything and always pointing out everything is the thin line that we should walk that shows care and concern without being judgmental.

Finding that thin line is a constant struggle. One thing that helps is to ask people questions about the things they do. By asking them questions about certain behaviors, instead of just telling them it is wrong, their own thinking is often stirred up. Sometimes they are able to rethink their own behavior and state their own need to change. This can lead to a redemptive conversation about Christ and forgiveness. Even if they do not recognize the behavior as bad, it still makes them think, and sometimes that is the best thing we can help people do.

Ultimately, God is the one who judges all of us, and He is the one who gets to decide what is good or bad behavior. Though many of our non-believing friends may not care what God thinks, it is our responsibility as Christians to help them get to that place. By asking questions that force them to rethink their behavior, we can move on to a place where we can share what God’s Word teaches. It may take several conversations, over a period of time, to get there, but we will eventually get there, without having to negatively judge others.

Lord, help us know how and when to say something to a friend about his or her behavior. Guard us from having a judgmental spirit but also remind us of the importance of holiness. Amen.

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This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MJ2UE4E

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hiding From Our Sin

Proverbs 28:1 - The wicked flee when no one is pursuing them, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

My friend suddenly stopped coming to church. I reached out to him several times before he finally called back to say that he would no longer be attending church. He was honest in confessing that he was engaged in a particular sinful activity but felt that no one had the right to judge him for his actions. He went on to explain that when he came to church, he felt bad about himself, so his solution was to stop coming to church.

Many people in our society have adopted the same approach as my friend. The problem with this approach is that dropping out of church does not address the behavior that brought out the negative feelings to begin with. Regardless of what our culture may say, there are some behaviors that are right and some that are wrong. Simply avoiding people, or groups, who may point those wrong things out will not solve our problem. That is like a person with a heart condition refusing to go to the doctor out of fear of what the doctor may say. If the condition goes on long enough without treatment, the result is not going to be positive and the treatment for the condition will be much more invasive than it could have been if it had been addressed earlier. The same is true when we have poor behavior in our lives that we have not addressed. Eventually we will reap the consequences of that behavior. By the time all those consequences finally hit us, it may cost us far more than we ever intended to pay. In essence, our fear of minor judgment eventually causes us to experience much more significant judgment because we have not dealt with our sinfulness.

Perhaps it is time to start re-examining our opinion of church. Obviously there are some overly judgmental churches that may not help us be healthy. But there are many churches that understand that in our human weakness we made bad choices and now we are trying to fix those issues. Those churches will walk with us through the journey until we get where we need to be. They will not tell us that all of our behavior is acceptable, but we already know that. But they will remind us that God loves us in spite of our behavior and that He will help us become the person we always wanted to be. It is time for us to overcome our fear of judgment and start dealing with the baggage in our lives. We are going to need the help of other people to do that. That is what church is all about. It is a group of sinners encouraging one another to be transformed into the image of Christ. There may be some painful moments in the short term as our sinfulness is exposed, but the joy that comes from godly living will be worth it.

Lord, help us examine our own hearts so that we can be in right relationship with You. Do not let our fear of judgment cause us to flee the very thing that can change our lives. Amen.


This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Small Mistakes Can Have Big Consequences


Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.

I was on the way to visit an acquaintance who was interested in being involved in ministry. He gave me the address where I was to meet him, but when I arrived, I could not find the house number. There were houses with numbers higher and lower, but that house number was missing. After driving up and down the road a couple of times, I called him on his cell. We realized I had gone to Stevens Street, when I was actually looking for Stephens Street. The streets are pronounced the same way, but have a slightly different spelling. They are on opposite sides of town. I would have never found the address on the first street, because that address does not exist. We had a good laugh about it when I finally got to the right place. What a difference those letters made!

That experience made me think about how important it is to make sure we get our facts right before striking off on some task, journey, or course of action. If we have a faulty premise, it will lead us in the wrong direction, and we may never find what we are looking for. Even if the underlying mistake is minor, our faulty premise will take us the wrong direction, causing great frustration as we come so close to what we were trying to do, and yet cannot quite accomplish it.

For example, when considering marriage, if we start out thinking that if it does not work out, we can just get a divorce, that will impact how we handle conflict in our relationship. Such thinking leads us to a much different conclusion than we would come to if we went into it thinking we were going to stick with the marriage no matter what, and trust God to make the relationship what it should be.

In thinking about what college to go to, if we start out thinking which school has the best recreational activities, we will end up in a much different place than if we ask ourselves which school will best help us gain the training we need to achieve our career goals.

Examples are numerous, but the point is clear. We need to start off with right information and correct reasoning so we can head in the right direction in life. How do we find the right information? Do some research. Discuss the issue with people who have already been there. Ask lots of questions. Most importantly, read the Bible and pray for guidance. The Bible is still relevant for today and God’s advice is always right. As we learn to trust in the Lord’s advice, we will head in the right direction in life.

Lord, help us listen to Your advice and follow Your directions. Amen.


This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary
Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link:

Monday, September 12, 2016

Ministry Priorities

Matthew 6:33 - But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

As a denominational leader I get to spend time with many fine young couples who have a passion for changing their corner of the world. One of the ways I assist those couples is in finding partners who will stand with them in prayer, giving, and volunteering. Those partners come from other area churches as well as from churches outside our area. It is a lot of work to find partners willing to sacrifice their time, their treasure, and their talents to help a church they are not even part of. But the Lord touches hearts and partners join the cause.

One week a church planter sent a Facebook message to me. He had been working the social media angle pretty hard trying to find partners. Though some people had responded, many had not. In a pointed moment of realization, it occurred to him that many of the people he was contacting about partnering with him in church planting were ignoring his messages about partnering, but sending him countless messages inviting him to play games on Facebook. He found it ironic that they would talk to him a lot about video games, but not about sharing Jesus with others. He wondered what it would be like if he could get people as excited about partnering with him in ministry as they were about playing games on Facebook.

People who tell me they do not have time to volunteer seem to have the time to play on both softball and basketball leagues. People who tell me they do not have money to donate somehow have the money to drive the latest model car with all the upgrades. Pastors who tell me their church is too stretched to help plant another church find money for another round of renovations in a sanctuary that already looks pristine. Church youth groups and senior adult groups take amazing sightseeing trips on fully-equipped buses, but seem unable to take those same people on a mission trip. Once I got a letter from a mega-church asking me for money. They wanted to build a $120,000 playground for the children in their already well-funded private school. I sent back a letter suggesting they tithe off their playground fund to a church plant in New England. I never got a response.

The point I am trying to make is that we have somehow gotten our priorities all messed up. Now Christians play games and have fun instead of being about the business of winning others to Jesus. I am not suggesting that we should never have fun or play games, but somewhere along the line, we must stop playing games with our faith and start doing whatever it takes to win our nation to Jesus.

Lord, help us be serious about the business of sharing Christ with those around us. Amen.


This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Finding Joy In the Midst of Struggle

Psalm 30:1-5 - I will exalt You, Lord, because You have lifted me up and have not allowed my enemies to triumph over me.  Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me.  Lord, You brought me up from Sheol; You spared me from among those going down to the Pit.  Sing to Yahweh, you His faithful ones, and praise His holy name.  For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a lifetime. Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning.

No matter our profession or the season of life, life is filled with both joy and frustration. As Christians, we should be expecting God to transform our frustrations into joy. My primary vocation is to help start new churches. At one new church we were planning a special service to license to the ministry, the new pastor, a young man just out of college. We had invited a number of out-of-town guests and several denominational leaders to be part of the service, and everyone was excited. When we arrived to set up for the service, the building manager informed us that there had been a last minute change in plans. They needed the large room we normally used to accommodate a special meeting for the organization’s administration, and we needed to move to a much smaller room across the large complex. With only minutes until the service began, we moved all our equipment to a different building and quickly set it up. With very little time to inform the congregation of the new location, the third floor of another building and down several maze-like hallways, it seemed like the service was going to be a disaster. Our small core group started calling and texting members of the congregation and guests to tell them how to find the new location, but our hopes for a joyful celebration service were rapidly evaporating.

However, we got everything set up and began the service only ten minutes behind schedule. People kept trickling in as they discovered where we were. To our surprise, we had a record attendance that morning! The service itself went well. As we prayed over the young man to license him, all the frustration seemed to melt away and a sense of real joy filled the room. In the end, God got the glory, and His Word was proclaimed during the service.

Life is often like that. Unexpected things happen that raise stress levels. God works through them and blesses the situation anyway. Then another challenge occurs, and God works through that too. It happens again and again, but each time God works through the situation and brings glory to His name. The frustrations of life are many, but so are the joys. The joys overshadow the frustrations. If we just keep exalting the Lord, even in the midst of chaos and sadness, joy does come in the morning.

Lord, give us joy in the midst of the struggles of life. Amen.


This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Jesus or Personal Preference?

Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

After years of ministering in a wide variety of situations, I have observed that the initial environment in which a person comes to faith often remains their primary preferred religious experience. For example, I have a friend who came to faith in a house church. He was drawn to the close knit fellowship and the sense of family. Though he no longer attends a house church, he is still active in a small congregation that has a close knit family atmosphere. At least one time since I have known him, he switched churches because the church he was active in got too big. I have several friends who came to know the Lord during the Jesus Movement. That movement was known for its distrust of organized religion and its appreciation for a more organic approach to faith. That movement also preferred folk music. Most of my friends who came to know Christ in that movement still prefer a folk sound in their worship. They often refuse to officially join a church even though they may attend it for years and be very active in it. Then there is an older couple I know that came to faith in a highly structured church that used a strong liturgy. Though they have changed denominations because the church they grew up in has abandoned biblical theology, they have sought out a church that recites the Lord’s Prayer every week and celebrates communion at most services. In their minds, it just is not church if a service does not include those things.

In each case, my friends have remained in the same environment in which they came to faith. Though this was often not the church of their childhood, it normally is the church in which they found real faith in Christ. Those early days of Christian discipleship are important in forming our spiritual DNA. And when various groups come together for a larger worship experience, they bring these aspects of faith with them.

I am enriched by seeing all the various ways in which people can worship and still relate to one another as Christians. Though the Gospel never changes and biblical truth is the same for all, the various aspects of church, such as liturgy, music style, or local church polity, are different. Instead of being fearful of those differences, we should celebrate them. The person who prefers the high church can learn something from the close knit house church. The house church can learn something from the liturgical church. The 60-year-old Christian hippie can teach something to the 20-year-old Christian hipster, and the hipster can teach something to the 60-year-old man at church who still sports a pony tail.

If we keep our focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and if we keep our teaching based on the Bible instead of man-made distinctives, we can worship, fellowship, and serve with those who look at things from a different perspective and be enriched by it.

Lord, help us keep our eyes on You and learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ who approach spirituality in different ways than we do. Amen.


This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link: