Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Word at the Beginning and the End

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
(John 1:1-5 & Revelation 19:11-16, NLT)


I spent quite a bit of time in choir and chorus both during my formative and adult years. Often, when rehearsing a particular piece, the director would tell us to focus on a strong beginning and an equally strong ending. If we were able to accomplish that, then the audience wouldn't pay quite as much attention to what was in the middle and our number would come across as more polished than it actually was. Start strong; finish strong. Not a bad motto to claim, if you are one given to do such a thing. And, if you are, you want to make sure the substance of what you start and end with are worth the effort. If that's what your impression is based on, then you had better choose wisely or none of it will make sense anyway.

I've written a few times about God having the final word. But, if we take God's Word in a different sense, we can easily see that He also starts and finishes strong (not to mention everything in between). This impressed on my heart a while back as I listened to Revelation and got to the nineteenth chapter. The beloved Apostle John, who had already written about the Word of God being there at the beginning, now comes along and writes of the Word of God finishing what was started long, long ago. Like perfect bookends, John reveals Jesus as the One who will complete it all and do so in dramatic fashion.

If I try to imagine what it was like in the pre-existence, when the Godhead had perfect communion within the Trinity, I can almost hear the Word spoken out into the void and what we know as Earth being formed. Jesus, according to my take on John chapter one, is the Divine Agent of all that was created ... he started the ball rolling. And while we've come to compartmentalize our thinking on this into creation, fall, promise, etc., I still want to come back and see that the first Word of God spoken was still "Jesus". It is the Word that embodies the plan to reveal God's glory and holiness through redemption. The Word became flesh, lived with us, and then returned to Heaven. And then at the very end of it all, the Word comes riding out on a brilliant white steed and completes all that was started. His name being Faithful and True and the name only He understood all play into this scene. Could we ask for a better final act in the story? I don't think we can.

The further I travel on this Crooked Path and the more I understand of God and His very nature, the less I'll admit to knowing. I'm not really patient by nature and I don't usually take well to a situation where I don't know the end from the beginning. But as my vision of God grows and my faith in what He has provided increases, I do find I can more easily accept His first and last Word as embodied in Christ. No, the middle part might not be clear, but it is as good as the beginning and certainly worth living through to get to the end. Besides, Jesus saw it start and already sees how it wraps up. I think that might just be enough for me.


  1. Does your life begin and end with The Word of God? Can you see that nothing else is even worth your consideration?
  2. Are you having difficulty dealing with the reality that is "the middle part" of the journey? Do you find your focus is there instead of on the One started it and will complete it?
  3. Are you willing to take a deep breath, step back, and see the whole story God has provided? Have you come to the place where He is enough just because He says He will be?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Carnival Barker

"Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you — the sure mercies of David. Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, a leader and commander for the people. Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you." Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:1-7, NKJV)


I still recall the immediate impression this passage had on me when I heard it years ago in a Sunday School class. In the voice of the prophet, I heard the old carnival barker at the side show or the midway game calling out, targeting the people walking back and forth in front of him. Some were more creative (or persistent) than others, but the essence of the message was the same ... "I have something that you just don't want to miss!"

And we fell for it, probably far more often than we would ever want to admit. We forked over our hard-earned cash to play a semi-rigged game we had little chance of mastering or to see the bearded lady or the tattooed man, neither of which was nearly as stupendous as we were lead to believe. And the call outside continued on.

So, when I hear that type of call in the Isaiah passage, I believe it is made to wake us up from our semi-conscious drifting. It is meant to peak our curiosity about the caller and what He is offering. And in this case, his message is strange indeed. He offers the same thing as the carnival barker - something we don't want to miss but his call has a decidedly different twist. He isn't after our money ... his offer comes to us free of charge.

What an odd thing to hear, especially to our ears trained to catch the price of everything anyone is trying to sell to us. Yet the offer touts the absence of price up front. And then, the Caller even chides us as to why we would ever spend money on what can't possibly satisfy or sustain, especially when He is making this incredible offer. We are drawn to His stand and He reveals the full terms of the "deal" He is making with us.

It goes far beyond food and sustenance. It is an offering of life itself. It is a covenant with the Almighty for protection, governance, guidance, and pardon. God is engaging with man (in this specific example the Israelites) and revealing part of Himself and His enduring goodness. He wants us to stop wandering aimlessly and with dull, absent minds. He wants to be our only source for what can truly bring life and have us put aside all the rest that can never bring us more than a fleeting moment's pleasure. He wants us to let Him be God so that we can take the far easier role of being His children. And none of this will cost us one thin dime!

As I continue my walk along the Crooked Path, I am constantly inundated with calls from those carnival barkers hawking their side show. In the end, they are nothing more than temporal distractions. The Voice I need to hone in on is the one calling from the end of the path, the sound of my Father exhorting me onward, consoling my hurt, and reassuring me that He has provided all I could ever need. It may sound like just another sales pitch on the surface, but if I tune my ears to Him, I can rest assured it is far more substantive. It is a call to life in the fullest under His watchful eye.


  1. Have you heard the same call Isaiah writes about? Have you stopped your wandering long enough to really listen to what the Caller is saying?
  2. Do you find yourself distracted by the calls from the side offering something "you just don't want to miss"? Are they slowly taking your mind and heart from what is real and detaching you from the One who is calling out Truth?
  3. Do you think God's offer can really be trusted? When we live so much of life with people wanting something from us, is "food for free" really to be believed? Are you willing to turn those doubts over to Him as well?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A More Excellent Way

And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13, ESV)


By American standards, Brett and Sheri should be living a relatively easy upper-middleclass life. He is a pediatrician; she a nurse practitioner. They have three wonderful boys, all currently under the age of six. They should be living in the suburbs of a nice, US city in a large house located in a neighborhood full of others in similar positions. They should have all of that ... but Brett and Sheri have taken a far different approach.

They serve in a hospital in West Africa, Mali to be exact. And, while they do have some amenities others around them do not posses, it really isn't anything like the "American standard" most of us have come to expect. He treats a steady stream of malnourished and often dying children. She works with women of the region who have or may have HIV in an attempt to reduce the risk of transfer to their unborn children. And they both see the worst outcomes ... far more often than the shining moments where a life is saved.

Yet, in the midst of this, they have learned in the most practical way, that "love bears all things". It bears the short cycle of life and death in Mali. It bears the worth of a woman with HIV who has come to the clinic as her only opportunity to bear a healthy child. It bears Sheri's hesitance when one of the women she has treated comes to her house and kisses her youngest right on the lips. It bears all this, because of the Source of this love - Christ!

When I was growing up, the twelfth chapter of Corinthians was often a source of debate and confusion. The "gifts" were something to be desired, but often were a complete mystery. Some of them were said to be dormant. Some were only given for specific times and only in a temporary fashion. And the list of how, when, what, and why went on and the debate followed. In the broader story contain in Paul's letter, I have come to see the very last phrase of what we see as chapter twelve to have been lost to a degree. Paul, in much the same way as Jesus, is using what he is teaching as a "set up" to drive home a bigger, more salient point. He is getting ready to show "a more excellent way" to the Corinthians (and to us).

Love, coming from the very heart of God, is the most durable substance known to man. It can bear up under any stress and will give root to everything else that is good. It won't rush to judgment, it won't behave in a rude manner, and it will always seek and point to the truth. In Colossians (3:14), Eugene Peterson even renders Paul's writing on love as the "ultimate all-purpose garment" to be worn at all times. That is far more precious and substantial than any one of the gifts named in the chapter before. It is, as I see it, to be the very bedrock of our existence. After all, God's love came to us in the person of Jesus and began the process of setting us right with Him.

So, as I listened to Brett and Shari, home on their brief visit, I heard the words in chapter thirteen loudly and clearly. Brett could smile as he told us of those children who had been helped and how the Gospel had been spread. Shari could speak with confidence of reaching out to women in their deepest need and giving them life-sustaining medication in addition to touching their souls. And I, as I walk the Crooked Path of my own life, can take encouragement in knowing my Father loves me and that, through that love, I too can bear all things. Love truly is the most excellent way.



  1. When was the last time you really stopped to think about how much God loves you and what He has done for you through Jesus Christ?
  2. What things or people in your life do you regularly find unbearable that, when viewed through the lens of God's love, should be seen as something of worth to Him who created them?
  3. How do you stack up against the characterizations of love in this passage? Are you rude, bitter, judgmental, or filled with despair? Can you trust God's love enough to begin to hope once again?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Traveling Together

When I started to write Walking the Crooked Path: a Survival Guide for the Rest of Us, it became a passion for me. What started as a therapeutic way of dealing with the many aspects of life on this crippled Earth developed into a voice calling out things God had laid on my heart. While I've kept the main title the same in this second set of installments, I want what I write to continue to provide encouragement for all of us who are walking the Crooked Path.

Among the greatest truths one can embrace is that we do not travel alone. We have been designed in the relational image of a God who loves us and provides for us while we go through life. He has provided the greatest of encouragement in our Divine Brother, Jesus Christ. Our Lord walked every step of the path before us and has now "doubled back" to walk beside us as well. He can be trusted above any other to show us each bend, each fallen obstacle, and every rise and fall of the road.

God has also provided a wide range of people we will meet - fellow travelers, some of whom will provide great assistance to us. Some we meet will need to draw on our experience and wisdom as they journey. All of us are linked together in a great bond of Eternal Love provided freely and yet at the utmost cost to the Giver.

So, as we continue our journey on the Crooked Path, may we do so with a gladness of spirit that comes from knowing we do not do so alone. May we be encouraged by God, His Word, and our fellow travelers. And may we reflect that encouragement to others who we meet along the way.