Sunday, December 26, 2010


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
(Luke 2:8-18, NIV)


Somewhere, buried among often forgotten verses of Christmas hymns and carols, are some true treasures that we need to hear more often. One of those came out a week ago during our morning worship hour. I've been in an "Advent" frame of mind for some time based on what we've been reading at home, recent messages, and a host of other reasons. Then, we sang a verse of "Angels from the Realms of Glory" that I had never heard before.

In fact, it wasn't even the entire verse; it was just one phrase. I had to do a search on the Internet when I got home just to confirm what I had seen and sung. The phrase? Quite a simple, but powerful one ... "Justice now repeals its sentence." One word came to my mind as I thought about this verse ... clemency. It's a legal term denoting a reduced or cancelled punishment for a crime committed. And that's just what happened. The angels certainly knew it that night when they announced it to shepherds.

I find it an amazing thought. Something we rightly deserved, based on the Law, has been withheld. And not only that, it has been completely removed - repealed - never to be held over our heads again. That's precisely what the angel told them, "A Savior has been born to you." This was the message of hope they had longed for because without a savior, there is no hope. Without a savior, there is no clemency.

And so, these lowly shepherds considered what they had heard and went into the town to a stable. There, they laid eyes on their Messiah and witnessed for themselves the result of promises made long ago. In the form of a humble peasant child, God had come to Earth. In the unlikely place of a stable, somewhere that nobody would question the presence of such un-noteworthy a crowd, "Justice repeals its sentence". A baby, just hours old, lying in a feed trough and wrapped in cloths, with only the dim glow of perhaps an oil lamp is the fulfillment of the ages. He is the Christ!

I noted a few posts ago that the Great Story turns on the entrance of Christ into humanity. And, while we certainly know that the journey beginning in the manger must pass through the cross and exit at the empty tomb, we shouldn't rush away from this humble stable so quickly. Here, with no further angelic announcement, no bright lights, and no signs or wonders, we meet our Savior for the first time face to face. The warmth of a newborn conveys the love of the Father in a new and special way. We would do well to pause in reverence and gaze into His face once again.

My own Crooked Path finds life and purpose in those humble beginnings. I don't want to rush away, even to the completion of the salvation work some three decades later. I want to pause, especially at this time of year, to consider the humility and wonder that came together that night so very long ago. And I rejoice in the clemency granted by my Father. The sentence is repealed, never again to be mentioned. Now that's what I call a Savior.


  1. Have you stopped to consider the shepherds and what they saw? Can you imagine your reaction were you in their place?
  2. Have you taken the time to pause and reflect upon the newborn Savior, or are you in a hurry to move forward to the end (or something else)?
  3. When you consider God coming in this most humble way, what do you feel? Can you rejoice with the angels at the thought of a Savior who has come to grant clemency?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Love Letters

I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11; Galatians 4:4-5; 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, NKJV)


I date back to the day when you actually wrote letters to the one you love. No e-mail or texting; no cell phones or instant messaging to communicate. Quick notes passed in class, calls from the dorm phone (or a pay phone), and letters written on stationery. Oh, those were the days! Don't get me wrong, I'm quite fond of the speed of communication in this "modern" world. My cell phone and e-mail keep me in touch with my family and friends and the world of social networking has renewed contact and added new people to my life. But it seems to pale in comparison to the passion and thought a letter takes. And oh the stories they tell ...

God is telling us a story. In fact, He has written part of it on our very hearts. Talk about a personal letter! We don't understand the whole thing - we won't for quite some time - but the very substance of His writing is woven into our DNA. And as this great story unfolds, God continues to write (or more accurately reveal) more of the script to us.

In the fullness of time - at just the right moment - God writes Jesus into humanity, complete with all the frailty we experience and yet so very different. He wrote His very love in the most personal of ways. Paul uses the word "commends" in Romans. I've always associated that with making a special delivery. It's His most important communication to date and He doesn't want us to miss it. In the very center of Advent, we find that Baby nestled into humanity in the most peculiar way. Each year, we have the chance to be reminded about it once again as we re-read God's Eternal Love Letter to us.

And having accepted this wonderful gift, and with a growing understanding of the letter of eternity God has written on our heart, we become an extension of His love to a dark and confused world. We are God's love notes - written with the pen of the Holy Spirit - for all to read so they might be pointed back to the One for whom we celebrate and on whom we depend. We become part of His greater story for all to read. As Paul put it, we become the very letter of Christ.

I write this post as we approach the lighting of the fourth candle in our Advent wreath. We're currently reading a story during this season of a girl's journey to find that Special Baby. We've lit the candles of Hope, Love, and Peace and now eagerly await that final outer candle of Joy. But the story isn't complete without the center candle for Christ Himself. The one Perfect Letter from God to us expressing just how much He loves us. The story of eternity, taking its most important turn.

The Crooked Path promises nothing but the Hope of the One who waits at the end. And He has been there from the very beginning - throughout all eternity. My part in the story is so very small by comparison, yet it is so important to Him that He writes His Love Letter to me in the most personal way. He is my Father, my Brother, my source of Love. His letter to me asks that I join Him and let Him write more on my heart.


  1. If somebody read your heart, what would they read? Would they see God's love, His eternal story unfolding?
  2. Are you comfortable reading God's personal love letter to you? Can you grasp the idea that He did that - that it is that personal?
  3. Are you willing to embrace Jesus in a fresh way - perhaps especially because it is Advent? Will you take that risk so that God can write more of His story on your heart?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Unrecognized King

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel."

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." (Isaiah 53:1-5; Luke 2:25-32; John 1:45-46, NASB)


In the great hall of the king, in a seat beside the elevated and empty throne, the man in important robes looks up at the outsider with a scowl. He scoffs at the notion this might be the important event he has supposed to have been looking for. Instead, he coldly remarks that the man is the "last of a line long bereft of honor." Aragorn is, in the addled mind of Denethor, just a no-account, itinerant mercenary. And surely, not a king. But what the near-insane steward in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings fails to understand is that his belief does not govern what is true. A king stands before him, acknowledged or not.

As the Advent season progresses toward the lighting of the Christ candle, my thoughts turn toward the words of Isaiah once again, specifically his writing about the coming of Messiah. In a nation that has not heard from God for over 400 years yet has so much writing that leads up to the moment, how can it be that so few will realize the One who is before them. Simeon, in that simple passage of Luke saw Him and knew. And, perhaps, he knew because he never stopped seeking and, while he was most likely looking for a handsome young man, was open to the idea that God would come in the form of a common baby. Whatever prompted his spirit, the old man took the baby and danced, knowing he had seen God's faithfulness. Perhaps he even recalled the words of Isaiah which said the Messiah would be rather ordinary.

And ordinary He did appear. This King of kings spent his formative years as a carpenter's apprentice in a rather remote and rural town. Nathaniel's thoughts on hearing from his brother emphasize that - nothing of any account comes out of Nazareth. Yet this One who Simeon saw and declared his own life complete was most certainly the promised King, even if they didn't recognize Him. That baby in the manger was and is Immanuel - God with us!

Yet how many of us today recognize Him when He comes to us? Just what are we expecting to see anyway? If He came once as an average baby and grew up to take on a brief ministry as an itinerate rabbi, why are we looking for crowns and jewels and swords? It's our complacency that keeps us from seeing Him as He is, just like it kept so many from seeing Him as He was 2,000 years ago. The lesson here, in my way of thinking, is to take the approach that Simeon took: Don't limit God, and never stop looking.

As my Crooked Path winds through the season of Advent again this year, I'm encouraged to know that God in Christ came to us in the most common form. Remembering that, perhaps I can recognize the King when I see Him working around me. After all, He is the Servant King, so why wouldn't He be serving?


  1. Are you willing to set aside your complacency and open your eyes and heart to who God is and what He is doing right around you?
  2. Are you willing to remove the limits you have placed on God so you can see His work in new and exciting ways?
  3. Will you make the effort to keep looking for the King so that you are sure to recognize Him when you see Him at work around you? Are you ready to sing and dance with Simeon at the coming of Immanuel?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Story Turns - the Birth of Hope

Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor's rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian. The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven's Armies will make this happen! (Isaiah 9:1-7, NLT)


All the great stories build up to a turning point, a hinge upon which the story turns one way or another. The movies we love do this through establishing a climax (or maybe two) that builds the suspense for the viewer. The setup for these turns comes in many forms and in many ways, depending on the story being told. Each installment of The Lord of the Rings (one of my favorites) comes with crucial decisions and actions that lead to either great victory or more ill-fated themes. The tension that builds is what we love, largely because we have an inborn sense of story that exceeds the boundaries of what we know as time. And God is the author of that story.

Among the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah stands out for his vision of what is to come in the story of Israel. This passage in particular, immortalized by Handel in The Messiah rings especially true. And, as I heard it again this past week, I was reminded why the first candle of Advent is traditionally lit for "Hope". It is the "hope of the prophets" as called out here that so appropriately kicks off the season leading up to Christmas. For this passage and so many others point to the turn in God's story when Hope is born as a human and changes everything. It was Isaiah's forward gaze which gives way to our own.

Wrapped inside the hope is the promise of a kingdom, and a kingdom of peace at that. In the face of the political turmoil Isaiah and the Israelites faced, this was a significant promise. The line of kings had all but failed and to hear that the throne would one day be restored must have been a great encouragement. A Son, one Who had always existed, was to be given to them. He would enter their story as the catalyst for the turning point - the Promised Hope Himself! And yet, when He came, they were all wrapped up in other things and didn't really notice. Hope was right under their nose and they couldn't see it.

But if we step back and look at the Great Story of God, we see that just when it appeared He had abandoned us, He enters our world and sets the stage for what will become the Final Act. He takes on the very worst of our suffering so that He can conquer it and leave it behind once and for all. Our Hope of permanent and final redemption is fulfilled as a tiny baby appears, born to a peasant tradesman and his yet-to-be-wed bride. As the songwriter said, "What a strange way to save the world."

But through this all, Isaiah clearly brings us the message that God is "up to something" ... and that Something is the Hope of All Ages. As I walk my own Crooked Path and pass through the annual cycle of Advent, I need to remember why we light the candles and tell the stories. They are part of our backward glance that leads to our longing gaze toward the future. As I pass through the Manger again this year, may I do it with sincere reflection on the turning point in God's story that so impacts me ... the Hope that is Christ.


  1. Have you taken a fresh look at the words of hope the prophets have spoken? Would you be willing to do that?
  2. And if you're willing to do that, how about taking a look at the manger as the turning point in God's Great Story? Can you see the significance of what God is "up to"?
  3. So, where is your heart this Advent season? Is it still stuck in a dark and disconnected world, or can you see the ray of Hope that shines as the story turns?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Neighborhood Makeover

I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea. I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband. I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: "Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They're his people, he's their God. He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone." The Enthroned continued, "Look! I'm making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate."

The main street of the City was pure gold, translucent as glass. But there was no sign of a Temple, for the Lord God—the Sovereign-Strong—and the Lamb are the Temple. The City doesn't need sun or moon for light. God's Glory is its light, the Lamb its lamp! The nations will walk in its light and earth's kings bring in their splendor. Its gates will never be shut by day, and there won't be any night. (Revelation 21:1-5 & 21-25, The Message)


Among the more interesting reality shows (at least in my book) are the ones dealing with a house or room or neighborhood receiving a makeover from professionals with an eye for design and detail. The one show where a house is picked for the full treatment but those around receive at least some cosmetic work is especially fun to watch. The little changes that are made so often have huge impacts on the way things look. And then all the neighbors come together for a party at the end of the work. Some might even call it inspiring.

As I write this particular entry, I'm in the middle of a remodel/facelift project myself. It's fairly ambitious, but I'm enjoying the challenge of seeing what I had envisioned come to life. But, as gratifying as it will be when I finish the project, it pales in comparison with the change God has in store for our future. You might even want to call it "Extreme Makeover - the Universe."

The Apostle John caught a glimpse of what is in store when the current clock "stops ticking" and God resets everything to a new state. I've used this passage previously, but recent studies and thoughts along these lines made it come quickly back to my mind. Unlike my remodel project, where some of the outcome is based on what already existed, God has promised to start fresh. It's all "new" which means, as I interpret it, that it didn't even exist before the events spoken of in Revelation 21. In that way, it is much more than just a makeover.

There is a restoration of relationship between the Creator and the created. All of the worst we've experienced will be erased from our memories and the Comforter will give comfort to us one final time as He wipes away all tears and replaces it with pure, unbridled joy. Never again will we know sadness or pain. It's all so distant that we won't recall it. Our focus will be turned to our Savior and that will be enough for us.

At the heart of the scene is the Center of our worship - the Living Temple Himself. Just think of it! We won't have to long for His presence or seek Him out ever again. He will be right there and we will surround Him in the most perfect relationship imaginable. He will be the Light that shines out among us and no darkness or shadow will ever again be found. No more waiting through the night, we'll have visibility of 100% without restriction.

And because there is no night, the gates of the city will never close. It dawned on me as I read this passage just how significant that fact is. Walled cities were a source of protection and gates always closed at night so they could be more easily guarded and the "unwelcome element" kept out. But in God's New City, there is no night, no fear, no darkness, and no reason at all to shut the gates - ever! It is the City of Eternal Peace - Salem, if you will - and we will feel completely at home for the very first time.

As I walk my own Crooked Path, I can take heart in knowing that, when it all finally ends, my Loving Father has a plan that will blow me away. It will be a makeover beyond all makeovers and He's designed it with me in mind. Thinking about it makes my mind race and my heart skip a beat.


  1. Have you ever thought about what comes next? How does your concept of it stack up against the Revelation 21 passage?
  2. What does the idea of "created new" make you think of? Can you catch a glimpse of God's heart for us as this scene is unveiled?
  3. What about the concept of the city pictured in the passage? Does a city of eternal peace sound out of reach, or does it sound like home?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Backward Glance, a Forward Gaze

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Hebrews 11:8-10; Philippians 3:12-16, ESV)


Perhaps you can capture the image of the high-stakes jockey turning the corner with the lead and glancing under his left arm to see where the competition is. Or maybe it's the vision of an Indy car driver, briefly glancing in the rear-view mirror (small as it is) to verify his position. Even the runner, making the slightest head turn during the curve of the track, looking to see who is following and how close they are. So many things we do and experience involve a glance behind. It's healthy in many cases and it is absolutely necessary so that you can gain or verify your bearings. But the glance behind is invariably brief. If it weren't, one would lose focus of what is really important.

The jockey knows he has to cross the finish wire first. The driver is pressing on to pass under that checkered flag. The runner has his heart set on being the only one to break that tape. And all of these things have a common thread - they involve a distinct forward gaze. After all, you have to see and know what is in front of you if you are going to achieve that prize.

When God called Abraham, he picked up and moved to a place he had never been. We have record of Abraham maintaining some ties with his former home, but they appear to be limited to the times he sent back for a wife for Isaac. You may recall that Jacob ended up back there as well - but that's another story. The significance here, as I read it from the account in Hebrews, is that Abraham trusted God to be there at the end of his journey. He believed God would provide that city, even if he had never seen it before. Sure, he may have glanced behind to remember where he came from, but it was that forward gaze that really defined him. His faith, as recalled in the passage above, drove him to obey on a completely different level.

Paul certainly had this scenario in mind when he wrote to the church at Philippi. He was exhorting them not to completely ignore what came before or where they had been, but to place their primary focus on what lies ahead. He called it a prize based on an "upward calling" from God. I know Paul didn't read C.S. Lewis, but I've got to believe the thought here is similar. The past does shape us, but it doesn't define us. What we are to be for eternity lies ahead and that's where we must turn our attention. With that type of vision, what we've come through will seem forgotten by comparison.

So what about the rest of us? We're not being called out to go someplace we didn't even know existed (though we may be called to go somewhere other than our current place). We're not a struggling first-century church (though we are definitely in the same battle). For the most part (and I can only speak for myself with any level of certainty or authority), we're comfortable ... perhaps too comfortable. Perhaps what we need is a good dose of the competitive drive that Paul mentions or the forward-looking determination that served as the core to Abraham's faith. Maybe I glance back too often or do so with a lingering gaze when my focus should be on what lies ahead.

As I travel my Crooked Path, I should remember where I came from and what I've been through. Those events, people, and places serve as a basis for who I am and why I think and react the way I do. But I can't forget to fix my eyes forward most of the time. My prize isn't behind me, it's out in front. As Larry Crabb once noted, we go through our life stumbling, picking ourselves up, and pressing on until one day we find ourselves Home with a Heavenly Father, who loves us more than anyone could, and a Divine Brother, who died for us and will embrace us ... and we will break into an eternal smile.


  1. Where is your focus most of the time? Is it behind you fixed on what is immediately around you?
  2. If you can imagine being able to focus on what is ahead - your true prize - what would it do to you? How would it change the way you live?
  3. Are you heading toward a city where God has laid the foundation, a prize from His "high calling"? In your vision, is there a Heavenly Father and a Divine Brother waiting to welcome you with open arms?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dancing in the Puddles

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me for I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God my rock, "Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, while they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 42, NASB)


"Hope dances in the puddles 'til the sun comes out again." It was the verse from an electronic card I sent to my sister. I sent it on the day that marks the fifth anniversary of the loss of her husband. The day after that marks eleven years since we laid my younger brother's baby boy to rest. Shortly, we will pass ten years since my brother Mike left us. And, as I've noted before, this season of remembrance was "kicked off" by recalling the loss of my father just over twenty-four years ago. So the tone of David's despair rings pretty close to my heart during these several weeks. My soul definitely feels disturbed and disquieted.

But true hope "dances in the puddles" even while it grieves. It asks the same questions as others do, but it rests firmly in the answer of the One Hope on which it is built. The pain and sorrow are real - no doubt about that; but the reality also rests in a deep trust that God will bring the sun out again and has a distinct purpose in the rain. That's the reason my family hopes and knows these relationships that have been cut short on this earth will be restored once we join our loved ones. And we "dance in the puddles" even when those puddles are created by our own tears.

As has been the case for the past several years, friends and family join my brother, his wife, and his son in providing shoeboxes filled with "hope" to the Operation Christmas Child project. This year, the people that run the program have made provision for coded labels that will allow us to track packages as they zip around the globe. And as those boxes are filled, shipped, and delivered, we will watch them and "dance in the puddles" instead of turn our grief inward.

David asked the questions of God, but in the end he knew that God had not forsaken him at any moment. He faced untold moments of despair when he was being chased by a multitude of enemies. But underneath this Psalm, David knew the Source of Hope would allow him to forge ahead. It wasn't always easy and it wasn't always immediate. In other words, there were often puddles in front of him. But I believe that David knew how to dance in them - and dance he did!

My travel on the Crooked Path will be filled with bends and curves, ups and downs, and rises and dips. It will rain, and that means there will be puddles. Some of them will be shallow and some fairly deep. Many will disappear quickly, but some will linger on. In each case, when the sky clouds over and I am tempted to despair, I will have a choice. I can either give in and wallow in my own self doubt, or I can kick off my shoes and "dance in the puddles." I hope that in the midst of my own grief, I can continue to choose to dance. The sun will return, you know. If not in this life, then in the next.


  1. Do you find yourself struggling under a weight of despair and difficulty? Do you find it hard to see the sun because your world always seems to be overcast?
  2. Have you turned your worries and grief inward, rather than seeking for the Source of Hope and crying out to Him? Can you imagine the relief that is available if you could only do that?
  3. Are you willing to "dance in the puddles" and trust God to see you through until the sun returns? What is your answer when He asks, "Do you trust me?"

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Then Moses said to the LORD, "See, You say to me, 'Bring up this people.' But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, 'I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.' Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people." And He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Then he said to Him, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth." So the LORD said to Moses, "I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name." And he said, "Please, show me Your glory." Then He said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live." And the LORD said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen." (Exodus 33:12-23, NKJV)


Driving to a meeting tonight, I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I've observed in a while. The sun was below the horizon and the sky and clouds above it were layers upon layers of fiery pink, crimson, yellow, and orange. The gray-blue tops of the clouds, colored as the twilight added its own shadow, made the scene even more spectacular. As I drove, I thought about the make-up of the sunset and the timing of what I was seeing. It would not have looked like it did just 30-40 minutes earlier. At that point, the sun would still have been above the horizon and the colors would not have been nearly that brilliant. Not to mention the damage one can do staring at the sun itself. No, it had to be just out of site to make the picture what it was.

Early during the long trek through the wilderness, God took Moses up on the mountain to give him specific instruction regarding how He wanted His nation run. Through the entire time (and even before that), God had repeatedly told Moses that He would be with him through everything. Moses had plenty of self-doubt (don't we all?), but God was patient with him. Here on the mountain, Moses makes another request ... he wants to see God's glory.

In so many words, God says, "You can't see it. It would kill you." But then God makes a provision for Moses to experience as much of His glory as he can bear and still live. God hides Moses in a corner, covers him up, and then passes by very close. At the last possible second, God removes His hand and Moses sees the reflective wonder of his Lord. And, I believe, much like the sunset I described, it was a completely wonderful sight. It was a sight he could never have experienced by looking at it dead-on. That would have fried him to a crisp! But seeing it as a reflection, with layer upon layer of color and texture and sheer majesty flowing behind the Almighty presented a sight so powerful, Moses glowed for days afterward. In fact, the Israelites pretty much demanded that he wear a veil over his face so they didn't hurt their eyes when they looked at him.

How much like our loving Father to provide Moses with a reflection of His glory and me with a vision of that sunset. Both of us were enriched by the experience, though I imagine Moses a little more so than I. Still, how many times to we try to find a direct line of sight to God and overlook the reflection He so graciously provides all around us? Certainly, when we cross over our own final horizon, we will see God in His glory and will be well-equipped to do so. Until then, we need to look for His reflection in the people and things He has created.

As I travel my Crooked Path, I will have many opportunities to see the sunset or the sunrise or some other wonder. Simple beauty, the kind that truly reflects the character of the Creator is all around me. Perhaps I need to slow down at times and really look for it. Then when I'm tempted to say to God, "Show me your glory," I can stop myself and realize He already has. And through the vision of that reflected glory, I can mirror God to a lost and confused world all around me. After all, that is what He wants me to do.


  1. Are you looking around you for that reflective glory of our Father, or are you trying to see him head-on instead?
  2. What will it take to make you content with God's answer and provision when you ask to see Him more clearly? Do you think you could withstand Him coming to you directly, or is it better to see His reflection?
  3. Have you overlooked the simple beauty God provides all around you and the wonder it can bring to your life? Will you commit today to looking for it so you can reflect God back out to the world around you?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

50-20 Vision

When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" So they sent word to Joseph, saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died: 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." When their message came to him, Joseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said. But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21, NIV)


I've needed my vision corrected for most of my life. I've done glasses, contacts, had corrective surgery, and now am back in glasses again (no, the laser surgery is not permanent for most of us). There were times my correction actually took my vision to 20-15, meaning slightly sharper than the standard we all strive for. My optometrist told me that the people working on the upcoming rounds of laser surgery are seeking for the "perfect" curve which would allow eyes to achieve 20-10 correction. I believe that's the very bottom line on the chart which says "If you can read this you probably got up out of the chair and are squinting anyway."

Then there is the vision we all look for that we like to call "hindsight". It's always perfect, or at least we pretend it is. We look back and declare "if I only did this or that, then I would be in a different situation now." But how many times do we look back and try to find what God was doing that lead us to this current time and place. Oh, we all claim to have seen His handiwork from time to time, but it is probably pretty rare in our lives that we actually take rest after the most difficult times to say that God was right there all the time and had a plan to use us in a mighty way ... a way beyond what we could have possibly imagined.

And that leads us to the passage above and the thought of "50-20 vision" that I'm writing about. Thanks to one of my cyber-friends, Gary, for posting this on a social network site. It immediately prompted me to look to Genesis and find out just what type of 50-20 vision Joseph had. It was a familiar account, but in light of the way God has prompted me to think about His Bigger Story, I knew it meant so much more.

Jacob was dead. He had at least died happy in his old age, having been restored to his precious son, Joseph. The ten conniving brothers had been provided for in the middle of their own crisis by the very brother they had shipped off for the most meager price, all while concocting a lie to tell dear old dad that would impress the best fiction writers. And with dad gone, the boys were deathly afraid that Joseph would give them what they truly deserved. The human conscience will do that to you, even if you ignore it for most of your life. And so they craft one more little story to try and safeguard their future. Though the text doesn't explicitly say it, I think Joseph saw right through this ruse, just like he saw through most of what his brothers said and did. And he quickly turns the tables, based on his 50-20 vision (as in verse 20 from chapter 50).

"You meant to harm me, but God intended it for good." The words had to seer like a hot iron through their hearts. They stood guilty, judged, and convicted of their own deceit. And without bragging, Joseph almost thanks them, because it allowed him to be God's agent to save not only them, but multitudes in that region of the world. Then he went one step further and spoke "kindly" to them, reassuring them he would make sure they continued to live in peace and prosperity for the rest of their days. Joseph's acute vision saw God's hand in the past and trusted in God's plan for the future.

As I travel the Crooked Path, I can rest in complete confidence that God is at work through me and around me. He has a master plan that will be fulfilled and He invites me to be a part of it. He alone will correct my vision so that I can see Him and His work. 50-20 vision like Joseph had is achievable, but only when I turn the work over to God and look through His eyes. Thinking about it, it brings me a great sense of peace.


  1. How's your vision right now? Are you having trouble seeing what is right in front of you, or perhaps what lead to you being where you are?
  2. Is it possible for you to get the same visual acuity that Joseph had, allowing you to see God working in you and through you?
  3. Are you ready to be God's hands, feet, and eyes in your world? Are you ready to have an impact on others even if your life seems to be headed places you never intended to go?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Who Am I Really?

For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don't know which is better.

For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. (Galatians 2:19-21; Philippians 1:20-22; Romans 8:16-18, NLT)


I've never had amnesia, nor have I known somebody who has suffered with it. I can only imagine the frustrating and debilitating nature of the disorder. In its deepest (and most rare) form, the person loses almost all links to the past and is left continually asking, "Who am I really?" It's the stuff of fiction mostly, but I think you'll agree it portrays the ultimate identity crisis and none of us would willingly wish it on another person.

I have recently finished a book about person who sought all her brief adult life to answer that golden question, "Who am I really?" Richard Schmidt compiled what must have been reams of information and spent countless hours putting together the biography he titled Little Girl Blue. The story is familiar to many, though I'd never heard all the details Schmidt brings out. The book's cover is a picture done in a shaded blue tone of pop icon Karen Carpenter. A friend of mine (thanks Mike) and fellow Carpenters fan pointed me to the book and I knew I had to read this unvarnished account of her life.

As I finished reading it, I was struck by Karen's constant search for an identity other than the one thrust upon her by her family and the music industry. She finally exerted control over one thing in her life ... and it cost her dearly. She died from heart failure brought on by her own unintentional poisoning with ipecac. Her anorexia and bulimia, which she had once used to help structure her life, had claimed the very thing she sought to preserve. Her search for her own identity had been cut short - very short in deed.

Yet control and identity are things we often seek for ourselves. Though most of us don't go to the extreme that Karen Carpenter did, we still pursue our own answers to the question of "Who am I really?" We'll try most anything, or at least consider it, and then somehow be shocked when our feeble efforts fail and we end up right back where we started. You see, the search for self-reliance must always end this way. God never intended for us to be self-reliant at all. He wants us to find our identity in His provision of Christ and the finished work on the Cross. In fact, as Paul noted, we are to consider ourselves crucified with Christ and loudly proclaim that He is the only reason for living, as it is He who truly give Life.

What an excellent promise we can claim because our identity is bound up in Christ! We have been granted the position of joint heirs ... legally declared equal in status with our Divine Brother and inheritors that Divine Treasure without any reservation. In the mystery that is His vicarious death for us, we are afforded the opportunity to cast away our own sense of self-identification and take full stock in His identity as sons and daughters of the Holy One. Never again need we puzzle at the question "Who am I really?" The Answer was shouted out at Calvary and is ours for the asking.

As I travel my Crooked Path, I know that to have true identity and individuality means to give up my own ideal and cast everything I have and am in with Christ. In doing that, I can confidently say that I am an image-bearer of God and an eternal brother of the One who gave it all up for me. No more searching; no more uncertainty. My steps quicken and my heart fills with those thoughts. I am God's child ... pure and simple!


  1. Do you find yourself suffering an identity crisis? Have you somehow lost sight of the One in whom you will find your true self?
  2. Have you grown tired of the constant struggle to prove yourself, the battle to assert your own will upon a difficult and cruel world? What would it feel like to rest from all that?
  3. Does the concept of being the brother or sister of Christ somehow seem unreachable or foreign to you? What is it going to take for you to stop searching on your own and give it all over to your Divine Big Brother? He is more than capable of handling it, you know.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Searching for Help in All the Wrong Places

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1, ESV)

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD. (Isaiah 31:1, NIV)

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1, NASV)

What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 31:1, NLT)

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1, NKJV)

Doom to those who go off to Egypt thinking that horses can help them, impressed by military mathematics, awed by sheer numbers of chariots and riders - and to The Holy of Israel, not even a glance, not so much as a prayer to God. (Isaiah 31:1, The Message)

How terrible it will be for those people who go down to Egypt for help. They think horses will save them. They think their many chariots and strong horsemen will save them. But they don't trust God, the Holy One of Israel, or ask the Lord for help. (Isaiah 31:1, NCV)


Several years ago, when traveling home from a family trip, we had an incident with our camping trailer that sticks with me to this day. We were in the middle lane of the Interstate with a significant amount of traffic on either side of us. The lug studs on one trailer tire all sheared at once, causing the wheel and our vehicle/trailer tandem to go their separate ways. I can only attribute it to God that we were able to get over to the right lane, up an exit ramp, and stopped safely with no injury to us, no significant damage to the trailer, and no reports of the "dearly departed wheel" hitting anyone else. Oh, and it was a single-axle trailer, which made things all the more interesting.

Once we had regained whatever composure we could and tried to think about what to do next. We were due to stop soon, but without the trailer available to us, we'd need to make alternate plans. Part of what we did involved calling the insurance company who provided our trailer and road hazard insurance. After a series of calls, the representative arranged with a local towing company to come get our trailer - and it took two trucks to get the job done. Here, God also provided what I can only term a pair of "angels" in a couple who had the trailer deposited in their driveway, saw we found our way to a motel for the night, and repaired the wheel with the spare the next morning. Considering I never saw a bill from the towing company, we were only out the cost of the motel and a little more time than we planned on taking for that brief overnight stop.

This story came to mind as I thought of the single verse quoted in this entry. The verse was brought to my attention by someone who noted he had read it as the first verse of a daily passage and never gotten any further. The words had a huge impact on Tim, and he just couldn't continue. He shared the verse on a social media site and I began looking it up in multiple translations.

The meaning of the words - the near heart-breaking statement from God - hit home. Unlike the incident I described where I called the "appropriate" agency for assistance, we too often face life's trials without turning to God at the very first. Just like Israel when the Assyrians were knocking on their door, we look to Egypt because they appear strong, sleek, and well-positioned to help. And God weeps over His children who don't seek him, don't even give him a glance or a prayer.

As I travel this Crooked Path, I need to constantly remind myself that God wants to be my first resource. He has provided in so many ways at so many times and He is always ready to hear my plea for help. As I noted a few entries back, we have a Tireless Advocate. Our God never tires of us and will never turn us away. That's a comforting thought and very reassuring.


  1. Who or what do you turn to when you see trouble approaching? Or, in a more basic question that might require a deeper answer, who do you trust to provide for you?
  2. Have you found yourself trying to work out your life by yourself, or planning some route of escape without consulting God? Can you imagine how God feels when you do that?
  3. Will you make a fresh commitment now to seek God first, to give Him far more than just a passing glance? Can you trust Him to provide the rescue or relief you so desperately need?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The "In" Crowd

You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom. Not only that — count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens — give a cheer, even! — for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God. (Matthew 5:10-12; 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, The Message)


I would wager there was a time in your life when you really wanted to be part of a certain group. Whatever they did, whoever they were was something appealing to you, if only for the briefest of times. In the end, it may have even been the exclusivity that drew you far more than any other element of that group. You just wanted to be part of the "in" crowd. Nothing else would do.

I've been part of groups where admittance was only by audition or invitation. If the groups were "legitimate" ones (meaning not in existence just for the sake of their own exclusivity and the demeaning of others who were not a part of their special circle), there is a sense of pride and satisfaction that comes with being "in". The call from the choir director asking you to bring your voice to the group. The letter from that particular school announcing your admission. The call from across the room leading to a conversation telling you that you are now part of some fraternity or group.

God also has an "in" crowd, though most of us might not think of it that way. Both Matthew and Paul, in writing the passages here, speak of it very specific terms. This last grouping from the Beatitudes in Matthew tells us of the blessing that is to come because we are persecuted for our participation in what God calls "right". It draws us deeper into the Kingdom life and way of thinking, calling us to speak up even when it makes others uncomfortable. It calls us into the company of great saints from ages past who have "always gotten into this kind of trouble" and tells us that the very hosts of Heaven cry out in rejoicing when it happens. In fact, we should be expecting persecution to be the "baseline" of our existence. After all, if we are projecting God's light into a dark world, they most likely won't be very happy about it. Much to the contrary, they will fight us and even curse us because of what we represent.

And then there is Paul's perspective on it as he writes to the Corinthian church. He notes that God, in His generosity, has included us in His plan and supports us in a way that we don't have to worry about growing faint of body or heart. We are invited to be open, honest, and sincere as we call out God's message of love that leads others to Kingdom living. We don't lose heart or threaten to "walk off the job" either. Instead, we drop our masks, cease playing games, and represent God as He truly is! We reflect the Truth without twisting the message.

There is a catch, however. Living this kind of life consistently will put us in a position to be persecuted. And, while that really doesn't sound appealing to my human side, God has promised both in these verses and throughout His story that living that kind of life is the one that leads to His blessing ... both now and forever. The Crooked Path is just that ... crooked! And it is crooked by design so that I will stop worrying about it and look to the One who sustains me and orders my steps. He has included me with His "in" crowd and I should do everything I can to show others just how great that experience really is. In doing so, I don't respond in fear of possible persecution; I respond in love and service to God and those around me.


  1. So, what have you done in your life lately that might be worthy of bringing you persecution? And odd question, but isn't that what we are supposed to be doing?
  2. Are you longing to belong "somewhere"? Have you considered that God has an "in" crowd made up of some pretty spectacular servants?
  3. Are you willing to drop your mask, stop playing games, and be an honest reflection of the Savior you claim to serve? Wouldn't life be far less stressful if that's the way we lived it?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Tireless Advocate

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (Psalm 121:1-4; 1 John 2:1-2, ESV)


A few times in my younger years, I attended parties that lasted all night long. They were the typical thing where we were "locked in" one of the buildings at church (though we all knew anybody could have sneaked off if he or she really wanted to do so). There would be games, competitions, food and, most importantly, no sleeping of any kind. He who was caught napping somewhere was to be awakened with a bath of ice-cold water. All great fun, but I also recall it took the entire next day or so to recover and feel "normal" once again.

I've also taken a few of those all-night drives where you press on to a destination stopping only briefly for food or gas ... and you'd better take care of any other necessary stuff on one of those stops as well. No cell phones back in the dark ages and tape decks in the car if we were lucky, so you had to keep each other awake and only take your turn napping when you were in the back seat shift of the rotation. Looking back, those kind of trips hardly seem worth missing the sleep just to get somewhere a couple of hours earlier. Let's face it, we just can't go without sleep for very long.

In my recent quest to enter into God's grander story, I began thinking about this and the two passages quoted here came to mind. I know I often rail against taking short passages and proof-texting ideas, but I think the marriage here is warranted. The Psalmist is writing a passage of great comfort for Israel. He is telling them in no uncertain terms that God, the Creator, is the source of all their health, help, and strength. And they can rely on Him not to fall down on the job or go off napping and forget about them even for a little while. It even brings another story to mind where Elijah is taunting the Baal prophets about their god going on a trip or being asleep. But the idea is very clear - the God of the Universe is active and watchful at all times.

Skipping ahead to the passage by John, we find the Beloved Apostle writing comforting words to his people just like the Psalmist. He's encouraging them to live a pure life, one committed to Christ. He wants them to live in such a way as to work against sin in their own lives. And then he gives them the great hope of an Advocate who will not hold anything against them because of the provision He made at the Cross. Our Divine Brother is ever an Advocate for us, reminding, as it were, the Just Father that He has already paid the price for everything we did or will ever do. He is our Mediator and Intercessor, the Completer of our justification. And, as God Himself, He never sleeps or slumbers either.

Think of it! A Tireless Advocate who is always working on our behalf. Never sleeping, never missing a beat, never absent even for a fraction of a second! As I began letting these thoughts sink in, I felt the rush of God's love once again, falling fresh on me. In a world where so much is missed or overlooked, Jesus has promised to be a ready Advocate at every moment. It almost makes my brain hurt to think about it.

As I travel the Crooked Path, I will stumble and fall ... quite often, in fact. That's the very nature of being human and living in a fallen world. But as I get back up, I feel the supportive hand on my shoulder of my Savior who loved me enough to die for me, and I hear Him gently say, "Forget about it. It's all been taken care of. I already spoke with the Father and We agree it's covered." Then, hand in hand, we continue the journey He has planned. Me and my Tireless Advocate - together to the end.


  1. Do you somehow think God has fallen asleep at the wheel based on what you see going on around you? How does that make you react when you feel hemmed in?
  2. Taking that a little farther, do you really buy into the idea of God watching over you every minute of every day? What about Jesus standing simultaneously by your side and God's being your Advocate?
  3. Do you really see Jesus as your Divine Brother, one who has gone through everything you are experiencing, and one who is always on your side? Can you imagine the freedom if you did?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Just One More Thing ...

A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. "You know the commandments, 'DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'" And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Luke 18:18-23; Matthew 5:8, NASB)


I recently read an article (or at least noticed the headline) that talked about the TV shows and such from our past shaping things we remember and even sometimes do. The imagery of Lucy crying, Archie in his chair, or Klinger in a dress is a familiar thing. The sounds of the theme songs and catch phrases echo in our heads. After all, who among us can't sing both versions of the theme from Gilligan's Island? Among these is Detective Colombo's often heard line as he was about to exit a room, "Just one more thing." And then, he would ask the question that would pin the suspect to the wall and solve the case ... all in less than an hour!

I can hear that same phrase as spoken by the Rabbi in this passage from Luke. A young man, one of considerable wealth, has been hanging around the periphery of Jesus' ministry. He's been listening to what has been said and has heard much about some Eternal Kingdom. He has grown up in a position to obtain whatever he puts his mind to getting and has never lacked for the smallest thing. Yet, through all he has heard, he has not quite figured out what is required to participate in what this Teacher is talking about. Swallowing hard (and maybe a little pride), he approaches the Master. He asks the question ... and the exchange surprises him, and then shakes him to his very core.

Christ almost "baits" him with the obvious. Follow the law; be a good Jew. He smiles, confident that he has measured up to that standard since he was knee high. He has this in the proverbial bag, but then the hammer hits. It's that Colombo "one more thing" line and the thing isn't a what was expected. He has to give it all away - everything he's worked so hard to get (or inherit). The Master is telling him to walk away from everything he has ever known and follow ... follow like one of these common disciples. "No!" he thinks to himself, "That price is too high." And he walks away, shaking his head at the very thought of it all. Whatever he thought he had heard, the price just isn't worth what was asked of him.

But what he didn't hear is what Jesus really said. Jesus wanted him to change his heart, his very way of thinking. He wanted the man to gain a new perspective, one that would allow him to trust to the point where he could walk away from all the externals and prestige he had known all his life. The Savior wanted commitment from his soul and not his wallet or rule book. Then again, this is the same message He had been preaching since His Sermon on the Mount ... the pure in heart are the ones who are in the unique position to see God at His fullest and most powerful. And you can't buy that stuff at any price.

Then again, the message is echoed throughout the Gospels and other letters (especially Paul's letter to the Galatians). We have a very human habit of focusing on something external, be it an act or creed on our part or something we can buy or earn. Basically, we are seeking something on our terms and we think we've heard that is possible ... right up until that "one more thing" comes into view. And, if our hearts are in tune with the Spirit, we see that God wants us to renew our inside first and everything else will flow from the heart He will give us.

As I travel this Crooked Path, I need a constant reminder that God is most interested in my heart. He wants me to cooperate with His plan to renew it and let His Spirit be released through my own. He wants me to know that the "one more thing" is, in fact, the only thing that matters. If my heart is pitched toward Him, I can confidently follow His lead and know that He is in complete control. I can rest assured that He has made my heart pure and that at the end of the path, I will see Him. That is the ultimate blessing anyway.


  1. Are you looking for some formula, some pre-defined plan that you can follow step by step in order to earn your spot in eternity?
  2. Do you find yourself comparing what you do to what others do, or even to what you used to do? And are you a little bit proud when you can give yourself a "higher grade" than you give others?
  3. What will it take for you to completely give in to the idea that God wants your heart and that all the externals don't really mean anything to Him? Are you longing to be that one who is pure in heart that the Savior spoke of in the Beatitudes?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Truckload of Grace

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:3-10, NIV)


It started as I've so often seen it of late. I was talking on the phone with a good friend of mine. He's been struggling of late with some issues and trying to listen to what God is saying, trying to grow based on what he is learning. During this particular conversation, while we were talking about the common struggles we have, always wanting some predictable set of steps to achieve a specific outcome and get us out of our current state of discomfort. In the course of the conversation, he asked me to pray that God would give him "a truckload of grace" to deal with it all. And right there is when it dawned on me.

Many of us, and I'm including myself here, tend to think of grace in terms of quantity. I've prayed that God would grant "an extra measure of grace" to somebody having trouble as I'm sure you have. I've asked for "more grace" and sung songs that say the same thing. But as I talked with my friend after he'd made his statement, I began thinking differently. God doesn't increase or decrease the grace offered to us based on some circumstance or prayer. It is already provided beyond measure ("lavished" as today's passage notes) and we have access to all of it all the time. Perhaps what we really should be asking for in these cases is that God reveal the depth and wonder of His grace to us in a new and fresh way.

If we consider God's answer to Paul, when the apostle asked for his physical infirmity to be removed, is right along this line of thinking. Paul practically begged God a total of three times to be relieved of it, but God's clear and supportive answer was something else - grace. God's grace, in its immeasurable wonder was "sufficient" to sustain Paul through this current issue and through everything he was to face in the future. Paul didn't have to ask for God to "fill up his grace tank" again. No, that same grace that knocked him down on the road to Damascus, that same grace that he preached across Asia and Europe, that same grace that would be offered in lieu of healing would constantly wash over his soul and keep him. When you think of it that way, it's like trying to measure the ocean with a one-cup scoop.

My travels on the Crooked Path will take me through hills and valleys, plain paths and rocky ones, times of struggle and times of quiet. As I've said all along, God didn't promise and easy journey, He just promised to be right there with us, watching and guiding. His grace, always available beyond any possible human measure, comforts and sustains me in ways I may never quite comprehend. And while I may think about "getting more grace" at times, the reality is that God has made complete provision once and for all in Jesus. When I focus on that, I know that a "truckload of grace" isn't the point at all. It's the One who gave the grace in the first place.


  1. Are you feeling a little "grace deficiency" right now? Is it perhaps because you can't see just how much is available to you every minute of every day?
  2. When you see God's grace, do you find it sufficient in the way it was presented to Paul? If so, why do you go seeking for "more" instead of basking in the glow of the grace given?
  3. Are you constantly struggling, feeling like you just can't keep up with it all? Are you willing to sit back and let grace wash over you and experience the completeness of what God has provided?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Known, Seen, Accepted

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:1-16, NKJV)


There is no game of hide-and-seek with God ... and sometimes, that can be more than a little unnerving to me. If you are at all like me, there are times you really don't want anybody else to see what you are doing. There are things we believe we have hidden away, maybe even from ourselves, because to bring them up is to remember pain, sorrow, anger, and a host of other feelings we really don't care to deal with. And, ultimately, we feel like we need to hide them from God so we can hide our shame or perhaps because we don't really feel accepted and forgiven deep down in our souls.

Yet, this "hiding from God" is not only futile, it is a little silly and even seeks to diminish His omniscience. After all, if we can hide this from Him, then He can't really know everything. One of the most profound thoughts I've ever read on this comes from A.W. Tozer (Knowledge of the Holy). He writes,

"To say that God is omniscient is to say that He possesses perfect knowledge and therefore has no need to learn. But it is more: it is to say that God has never learned and cannot learn … He is never surprised, never amazed, He never wonders about anything … No talebearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick … since he knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us."

If I take this to heart, rather than finding it disturbing I should take a great deal of comfort in it. The Psalmist certainly did when he acknowledged that he could never hide from God. Tozer drives home the point that God still chooses us knowing full well who we are and what we are capable of doing. That, my friends is complete love and acceptance. And rather than drive us to use our freedom to pursue evil, it should overwhelm us with His mercy and repeatedly call us to true repentance and service.

As I travel my Crooked Path, I will be tempted at times to fall deep into the believe that God has not really forgiven me because He knows just how bad I can be. When those thoughts come, I can take refuge in the Psalms and in thoughts from men like Tozer, thoughts that understand our God-out-of-time who sees it all just as if it were happening at that very moment. And in seeing, He still pursues and forgives. I take comfort in being completely known, constantly seen, and unconditionally accepted. I can come home again, much like the prodigal, knowing my Father is waiting to take me in. He won't be surprised ... in fact, He's always delighted to see me again!


  1. Are you hiding, or think you are hiding, from God? Do you find it to be exhausting and difficult?
  2. Your head tells you, based on what you have heard, that you are accepted completely. Do you have trouble getting your heart to understand and accept that idea?
  3. Does this God who knows, sees, and accepts scare you a bit? Or can you take comfort in knowing that you cannot surprise Him?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Quiet, Confident Faith

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, "Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well"—but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, "Some people have faith; others have good deeds." But I say, "How can you show me your faith if you don't have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds." You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can't you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works. (James 2:14-20;26, NLT)


I have a friend who I would describe as a man of quiet, confident faith. He doesn't teach Sunday School classes. He isn't on the Elder board. You won't find him speaking out much and if you didn't take the time to get to know him, you would miss the best part of him. To say he is loyal would be a gross understatement. If you were in a group with him and thought he either wasn't paying attention or wasn't "getting" what was being said, you would be sorely mistaken. You see, I believe he is a living example of what James was writing about. His faith runs so deep, that you can see it in the way he lives his everyday life.

That's a challenge to me and all of you who "talk a good game" at times, but don't often back up the words with sincere action. It would seem, from reading the second chapter of James' letter to the early church, that he had a particular distaste for that kind of person. Now, theologians and scholars and all manner of people over time keep wanting to carve up this message, piece it back together, and interpret it in a way that clearly states our salvation comes via grace alone with nothing added to it. And I'm not debating that at all, and frankly, that's why I chose the New Living Translation's version of this passage. It's a matter of our faith either being alive and moving or being dead and entirely useless. Nothing more; nothing less.

I suppose my real question, when thinking about this passage and my friend, is this. Have we become so programmed and busy in our practice of faith that we miss the God-given opportunities to demonstrate it in practical ways? Many of us love to discuss and debate things, but when was the last time we brought a "cup of cold water" to a thirsty person without expecting something in return? Or even worse, wouldn't think of bringing that cup in the first place. I think James was on that very track when he wrote about the hollow words the "faithful" spoke. To a lost and dying world who is living on the ragged edge, even our most eloquent words fall flat if we don't actually do something tangible for them.

My challenge, as I travel this Crooked Path, is to look around me as much as I look up and forward. To recognize that my Father has entrusted me with a wonderful gift and I should not be stingy in sharing it. It doesn't mean that I can answer every call for assistance, but it does mean I need to constantly re-evaluate how I demonstrate my faith. I need to realize that, at times, I even need to "earn" the right to share that faith based on how I've demonstrated Love in very practical ways. I must remember that I am not on this path alone ... God placed me in a society where relating to others is not only necessary, it is part of the joy that fuels my faith in Him. That quiet, confident faith of my friend will speak more loudly than anything I have to say.


  1. How are you doing in the "cups of cold water" department? Do you even look for those opportunities so you are ready when they appear?
  2. How would those who know you best describe your faith? Better yet, what would somebody in need who you met have to say?
  3. Are you willing to make the commitment to shift from words into actions? Do you see how faith without it is dead and useless as James described it?