Saturday, September 27, 2014

Better Days Are Coming

2 Chronicles 36:23 - This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build Him a temple at Jerusalem in Judah. Whoever among you of His people may go up, and may the Lord his God be with him.

The Old Testament kings of Israel were a mixed group. Though some honored God, most did whatever they wanted to with no regard for how it impacted their relationship with the Lord. Their disregard for the God of their fathers caused tremendous pain not only in their personal lives, but in their nation.

As the story winds down at the end of 2 Chronicles, the entire kingdom collapsed. Jerusalem was destroyed. The people were carried off into exile in distant lands. At first glance, it seemed that all hope was lost and nothing great would ever happen again in Israel. Then we come to the last verse of the story, 2 Chronicles 36:23. In that verse God touched the heart of King Cyrus of Persia, a foreign conqueror who was not a follower of the Jewish faith. King Cyrus passed a decree allowing the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. This story, so filled with disappointment and failure, ends with a promise of hope.

Life is often like that for us when we allow God to be at work in our lives. We may face many failures, hardships, and difficulties, but when we re-focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, we find hope in the midst of despair. Godly hope does not disappoint. It leads to amazing things we never thought possible.

The book of Ezra follows Chronicles. It picks up the story of the Jewish people in exile. In the opening verses we learn that not only were the Jews allowed to return home to rebuild their temple, but that the very kingdom that enslaved them was now going to help pay for the repairs. Though some opposition remained, and many hardships still lay ahead, the tide had clearly turned. They were eventually able to rebuild their temple, which remained intact and functioning for hundreds of years.

Many times in our lives God uses the very thing that looked like it would destroy us as an instrument of blessing to us. Ephesians 3:20 (NAS) reminds us that Christ “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” When we are discouraged, we must remember that better days are coming, and they will be more amazing than we could ever imagine.

Lord, when we find ourselves in the midst of despair and our days full of trouble, help us remember that better days are coming. 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:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Do We Have Too Much Stuff?

Matthew 6:19-21 - Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Nearly 18 months ago my wife and I relocated to Connecticut to plant churches around the urban areas in the state. As part of the preparations for the move, we decided to downsize the amount of stuff we owned. This took a lot of effort because our home in Vermont was an old farmhouse built around 1860. It had large rooms and lots of nooks and crannies to put stuff. We spent countless hours cleaning out closets, garages, attic space, and bookshelves. Every time we thought were done, we found one more corner that we had not sorted yet.

We sold some of the stuff. A lot of it we gave away to people in our church, to the Salvation Army, to a family that had lost their home to a fire, and to a church yard sale that raised money to help needy children. After getting rid of so much, we still had a lot of stuff to move!

Somewhere in the process of cleaning, sorting, packing and distributing all this stuff, it occurred to me again how rich Americans are. Only in America do we have clothes stored in totes and boxes because we cannot wear them all. Only in America do we have a set of dishes that we use only at Christmas and another set we use only when guests come for dinner. Only in America do we have chairs, tables, beds and decorative items that we have not used in months, or even years, which serve no real purpose other than to impress guests a few times a year. Who really needs that many clothes or dishes or beds or chairs or tables?

This effort to downsize our lives gave us opportunity to think through the consumerism that so grips our nation. It helped us consider how we could use our excess to help those around us and expand God’s Kingdom instead of just accumulating it in extra rooms. Perhaps we need to clean more than our physical closets and attics? Perhaps it is time to clean our hearts from the hunger that drives us to want more and more and more. When we clean up our emotional and spiritual closets and attics, the physical ones become much easier to tackle.

Lord, help us to focus on what is really important in life instead of becoming consumed by accumulating stuff. 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 25, 2014

Contemplating God’s Grace

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 - Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.


An experience I had at our local McDonalds reminded me of God’s grace. My wife and I were having lunch with friends. When I went to fill up my soda, a woman was already at the machine. As she tried to fill her soda cup, her hands were shaking so much that she could barely grip her cup. Just as I was about to offer assistance, she managed to get the cup in the right spot and start the beverage flowing. She seemed very nice and we chatted politely for a few minutes, with her body shaking the entire time.

Twenty minutes later, just as we were finishing our meal, we observed a similar situation. A man in a wheelchair was eating at a table near us. He was also physically challenged. He kept coughing and also had a lot of tremors. My heart went out to him as I watched him struggle to eat. At one point he coughed so badly that his false teeth flew across the room. His friend jumped up to retrieve them, as if it were a normal occurrence. Watching his dentures fly across the room might have been a somewhat humorous scene, had my heart not already been stirred as I watched him struggle to eat his cheeseburger.

The lady at the soda fountain seemed like a kind person. She was well dressed. Yet her body shook constantly with whatever physical ailment she had. The man in the wheelchair had carried on an engaging conversation with his friend. He seemed like he had a good quality of life. Yet having his teeth fly across the room was just part of a normal day for him.

As I reflect upon my own life and the good health God has blessed me with, my mind is filled with thoughts about the grace of God. By God’s grace, I have overcome what should have been a fatal car crash, with only minimal lasting results. By God’s grace, I have survived cancer, which could have easily ended with a very different outcome. Why has God given me good health while others struggle with simple tasks like filling up soda cups or eating cheeseburgers?

Those of us who are in good health must remember that we are no better than those who live with chronic illness or disability. God does not love us more than He loves them. We have no more value to the world than they do. We must be mindful of the fact that since the curse of sin came into the world, there has been pain and difficulty. Some people are born with physical challenges, and others are not. Some people experience great sickness during their lives; others do not. None of us are better than the other. These situations are simply part of the curse of sin that has fallen on this world. Thankfully, one day that curse will be lifted. Until that day, each of us should spend some time contemplating God's grace in our lives.

Lord, thank You for giving us good health. Help us be a blessing to those around us who face physical challenges. 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 24, 2014

Don’t Judge Me-I’ve Had a Rough Life

Romans 6:1-4 - What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.

My friend shared a story on Facebook of something she had done that was in poor judgment. When people began to post comments about how unwise her actions were, she responded with “Do not judge me because you do not know what I have been through.” We have all seen comments on Facebook like that. When folks post such a comment, it is often because they have done something questionable that they think people will judge them negatively for. Since they do not want to be judged, they appeal to the pain of their past as an excuse for their current questionable behavior.

This is a faulty line of reasoning. While some people have had more pain than others, we all have something in our past that caused us pain. If we allow the pain of our past to be an acceptable excuse for poor behavior, then we can justify almost any action.

Even if appealing to the pain of our past is an acceptable excuse in our current “do whatever we want” culture, it does not actually help us overcome our struggles. Instead, those who engage in unwise behavior, while using past pain as an excuse, only feel even worse about themselves because deep inside they know their behavior is wrong. Even those who are not believers have the law of God written on their hearts (Romans 2:14-15). Though we may not want to admit it outwardly, inwardly we sense we deserve the very judgment we despise.

We may not have been able to control what happened to us in the past, but we can control how we act today. Instead of playing the pain card, we should begin to address the pain of our past and learn to deal with it in positive ways. Countless people who have gone through horrific experiences in life have chosen to become better instead of bitter. Such overcomers choose to use the pain of the past as a motivation to be a comforting voice to others. They choose to be victors instead of victims. We all have a history, but our history should motivate us to engage in self-improvement, not in self-justification of poor behavior.

Lord, help us move beyond the pain of our past and live lives worthy of our calling as followers of Christ. 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:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Personal Preferences or the Word of God

Matthew 23:1-4 - Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples: The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them.



The Facebook discussion began with an honest question from an innovative church planter serving in a more traditional part of the country. He asked for the pros and cons of having his primary worship service on a day and time other than Sunday morning. Some responders were very traditional in their thinking, suggesting Sunday morning was the only legitimate option. Others focused more on whatever option would be the most effective evangelistically. What was insightful was that many participants, on both sides of the issue, seemed to think that their personal preferences were the same as God’s Word.

One person said she attended a church for a while that had a Saturday night service, but it was not convenient for her. That person concluded that since Sunday morning was the most convenient time for her, Sunday morning was the only biblical option. Other people gave the very same reason, convenience, for why worship services should be held at times other than Sunday morning. After a lengthy comment thread, people on both sides of the question concluded that what was convenient for them was what God wanted everyone to do.

One individual felt empowered to speak for non-believers. However, in supporting the supposed views of non-believers, he only offered his own preference as a committed believer. It was a bit difficult following his logic, but he concluded that “If non-believers want to come to church, they need to get with the program and not expect believers to make it easy for them.” It sounded a lot like the attitude of the Pharisees in the New Testament who seemed determined to make faith difficult for as many people as possible.

Regardless of what we may feel about the issue of when we should worship, those of us who have grown up in traditional Christian settings need to acknowledge that we frequently substitute our own preferences for God’s Word. We tend to make selective use of a scripture or two in the effort to prove our viewpoint is right without looking at the whole canon of scripture. Without realizing it, we have fallen into the deception of thinking our preferences are actually God’s Word.

If we expect revival to come, we are going to have to give up our personal preferences and stop assuming that our opinion is God’s opinion. We will have to remember what Jesus said in John 8:31, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.” We must hold firmly to scripture, but be willing to give up our own personal preferences for the sake of the Kingdom. Sometimes it is hard to know the difference, but if we pray, and study the Word of God with an open mind, the Holy Spirit will give us discernment, and we will be able to follow biblical principles even if it means we must abandon our personal preferences.

Lord, help us to diligently study Your Word and be willing to abandon our own personal preferences for Your glory. 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:


Friday, September 19, 2014

The Power of Self-Deception

Jeremiah 17:9-10 - The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable, who can understand it? I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.


Once I was following a Facebook conversation between two people I have known for many years. Both are classic spend-a-holics. If they have a ten dollar bill in their pockets, they are going to spend it. They often spend their ten dollars in advance, causing them constantly to be indebted to others. As the Facebook conversation unfolded, both prided themselves on how well they handled money. They went on to talk about how they enjoy lots of free or inexpensive activities in the community. Having known them for many years, the words “free” and “inexpensive” do not come to mind when I think of the types of activities they like to engage in. They are both good people. But they enjoy spending money, almost to the point of being obsessed with material possessions and expensive activities. Yet, in their own minds, they are thrifty and excel at living frugally. They are self-deceived.

All of us have met diet experts who told us how to eat healthy. Far too often these experts weighed more than we did. Experts only in their own minds!

It is fascinating that we can have such an amazing capacity for self-deception. Another time I recall a long email I got from a person filled with gossip about various people in her church. She wanted me to come preach at her church and fix all these people. Near the end of the email the person said that she knew she was not perfect but at least she was not a gossip. I wanted to print the email off, underline the boast about not being a gossip and then number each item of gossip in the email and send it back to her. I did not have the courage to do that so I just replied that I was praying for her and her church.

When we live in a world of our own delusional thinking, we become trapped in a negative cycle repeating the same mistakes over and over again. We repeat those mistakes because we do not acknowledge that they exist. We must be willing to open our minds and hearts to the constructive criticism of others so that we can see our own faults and begin to address them. The ability to honestly assess our own lives and self-correct is essential for healthy living.

In my own life, I find a daily quiet time with the Lord essential in this process. As I read the scripture and pray, the Lord points out things in my life that need work. I do not always like what the Lord points out to me. But when I listen and respond, He helps me have a more authentic view of myself.

Lord, help us see ourselves as we really are and make the changes needed for a healthy and happy 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:



Thursday, September 18, 2014

When Cravings Collide

James 4:1-3 - What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.

I started in ministry when I was only 18 years old. I have served as a children’s minister in a large church, a youth minister in a medium sized church, and as pastor of both small and medium sized congregations. In my many years in these various capacities, I have seen many families that were torn apart by internal struggles. Though they loved each other, they just could not overcome their negative feelings toward one another. Some families broke apart completely, and no longer have any connections. Other families remain connected, but tension lies just under the surface, ready to erupt at any moment. I have often wondered why people who love each other have so many struggles with each other.

James 4:1 answers the question of why we have struggles and conflict with other people in our lives. This verse identifies the root of these conflicts as the cravings that are inside all of us.

What do we crave? We crave acceptance. We crave love. We crave control. We crave power. We crave recognition. We crave security. We crave both connection and independence, which makes us feel conflicted internally. Some of these cravings are normal and may not lead to conflict with others. But some of these cravings will cause conflict because the other people in our lives crave different things, or sometimes the same things but in different ways.

While there should always be enough love to go around for all members of the family, it is impossible for everyone in the family to be in control. While every member of the family should be accepted for who they are, not everyone in the family will have equal power or independence. When we forget this important truth and our cravings collide with the cravings of others, the result is always conflict.

What is the solution? For non-Christian families, I am not sure there is a great solution. They will just have to negotiate the situation the best they can and hope it works out. But for Christian families, the solution is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus (Matthew16:24-27). As Christians, our goal should not be our own power, our own control, or our own agenda. Our goal should be to lift up Jesus in every area of our lives. That can be hard in the midst of a heated discussion with those we love. But it is the only path to lasting happiness and peace. Any other path will lead to constant conflict with those we love.

The next time our cravings begin to collide with the cravings of someone else, we should take a deep breath and ask ourselves what response would glorify the Lord. Then, as hard as it may be, we should choose that response. Though it might not result in instant gratification, it will produce long term healthy results. After all, we will be part of our family for the rest of our lives. A future without constant conflict sure sounds better than one with constant conflict.

Lord, help us not to create conflict with others because we allow our own sinful desires to rule 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: