Monday, May 27, 2013


Just as in a parade, we all are tempted to follow a leader. Whether we choose the newest fashion, political pundit, or religious doctrine, we tend to be swayed by the newest and most popular. As Christians, however, we are to pursue Christ, the only leader worth following. Our pursuit of Him is paramount in our spiritual growth and fruitfulness.   



Parades come in all shapes and sizes. Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades are popular in our country, with their combination of pomp and party-like atmosphere. And if a person can't attend one or be in one, there's always the New Year's Day Rose Bowl parade to watch on television. Large, holiday parades are always spectacular in their colorful variety. Small-town parades, though less elaborate, nevertheless elicit feelings of pride and joy among those watching. Kids and adults alike wave flags or other banners, shouting and praising the clowns, the drum majorettes, and the ornate floats.

We enjoy parades of a different kind, too—a string of ducklings quietly following their mama with papa tagging behind, a trail of ants carrying food or nest material back to their home, a family of youngsters dressed in their Sunday best walking up a church aisle behind their parents. They all bring a smile to our lips. Yes, everybody loves a parade.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem during the Passover festival, the people formed an impromptu parade. Unlike other parades, Jesus was the only participant. But many spectators followed him along the road, praising God in loud voices for all the miracles they'd seen him perform. They shouted, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" (Luke 19:38)

These people truly worshiped Jesus during his entry into the city. They even spread their cloaks on the dusty road for him. They treated him like an earthly king, waving their palm branches like soldiers who wave their country’s banner in honor of their ruler.

What a parade that must have been! But when the atmosphere changed, close to the time of Jesus' death on the cross, he didn't seem like a king any more. Already reviled by the Jewish leaders, He now became unpopular to many of His previous followers, those who earlier had paid Him great homage. In fear they scattered to safer places.

How do we treat Jesus? Do we sing joyful praises to him while sitting in church, then scatter to our safe environments where we don't think about Him until the next Sunday? Does life go back to normal after the Sunday parade, when flags and banners of worship are dropped or stored away? True followers of Christ, however, need never drop their banners. Indeed, we must not. Jesus is worthy of all the banner-waving and shouting and praising we can give—and much more.

Lord, may every day be a spiritual parade wherein we follow You with joy and exaltation. In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Lots of hard work is involved in keeping our Christian light shining brightly. We must daily bathe in God’s Word, seek to obey His will, and allow His Holy Spirit to fill us with wisdom and power. We can’t do that within ourselves, but through earnest prayer God can remove the smudges from our lives. Hallelujah! With Him all things are possible.



My great-grandfather and his new wife were lighthouse keepers for a year at a light near Bar Harbor, Maine. His tenure happened to be near the end of the Civil War at a time when light keepers had the added duty of watching for enemy ships that might come ashore. During war and peace alike, however, every keeper’s most important duty was to make sure the windows remained clear so ships could see the light shining through them. Back then, the lights were fueled by whale oil or other kinds of oil. The burning oil caused a build-up of soot and smudge on the glass prisms of the light and on the windows surrounding the lantern room. Later, kerosene was used—a much cleaner fuel, but not so clean as to disband the daily chore of cleaning the glass.

All keepers had to adhere to a manual demanding that absolutely nothing should hinder them from cleaning the windows. In case of illness, accident, or even death, a keeper’s wife or assistant must assume that duty.

Followers of Christ are like lighthouse keepers. Jesus said, in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

As Christians, we must shine our Christian light to those floundering in a sea of despair, lost in an ocean of self-condemnation, or those desperate to find a flicker of hope. And like lighthouse keepers who must keep their windows clean, we need to keep our lives free from the dirty smudges of sin that hinder us from shining brightly for Christ. That takes regular self-examination and repentance—with diligence and perseverance—to remove the smudges. Nothing should keep us from being the bright light God requires of us, a light that will draw others to Him. With a pure heart, we need to show love constantly, doing good while praising and thanking God even in the midst of adversity. When we take our lighthouse keeping job seriously, we will be blessed with God’s peace and joy.

Lord, forgive us when we forget to ask You to clean up the smudges of our spiritual light. We want to shine brightly for You so others will see You reflected in us. Help us to take our light-keeping task seriously, each day as we seek Your specific will. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I’m amazed how Bible stories fit the same basic format of those we read and write in today’s world. Each of God’s stories contains drama, strong characters, internal and external conflict, and resolution—the exact elements of a good story. No wonder the Bible has been so popular all these centuries. Who can resist His Word?

Conflict and Resolution

While writing my new book, my mind whirls with ideas about the main character. What external problems will he face? The harsh, Alaskan weather? Getting lost in the woods? Trying to avoid the authorities after ditching Juvenile Detention School? He faces internal problems, too. Wanting to protect his twin sister while feeling like a failure. Grieving over his grandmother’s death. Wondering why God has abandoned him along with his family.

While creating my true-to-life story, I ask myself, “What if?” What if he can’t protect his sister when they meet a bear in the woods? What if the snow doesn’t stop? What if the campers they meet are bad guys?

In real life, we often wonder about the unknowns, too. As a kid, I asked a lot of What Ifs about my home life. I’d watch a movie and wonder if the scenario could happen in my own home. I would sometimes feel the tension at mealtimes and wonder what I’d do if my parents divorced. I’d ask, “What If my twin sister and I are separated?” As we all know, youngsters tend to be overly-dramatic in their thinking.

In real life, we don’t—or at least shouldn’t—agonize over the What Ifs of life. Rather, we focus instead—or should—on the reality of our conflicts and how to resolve them. Life isn’t a fiction book. But fiction books can portray real life in such clarity that the readers can actually see themselves as the stories’ characters. That’s the power of story—whether the final resolution is happy or sad.

God is the best story teller because His stories are true. His book has been the number one seller for decades. His stories have changed the lives of millions because the readers see themselves as the same kind of sinners in need of salvation as those portrayed in the Bible. God’s stories are about Man against Nature (Noah, the disciples, Paul), Man against Man (Cain against Abel, Israelites against Egyptians), Man against God (Jonah, Saul, the Pharisees). They include action, emotion, and final redemption.

God knows our stories—the details of every conflict we face. He guides us through them and brings us His perfect resolution—His redemption—because He knows how the story will end.

Lord, thank You for redeeming us from the conflicts that occur because of our sins. We don’t have to ask What If  because we know You have the perfect resolution for our situation. Help us remember Your promises. In Jesus’ name, amen.   

Monday, May 6, 2013


God’s armor includes combat boots. As Christian soldiers in the battle against sin, the world, and the devil, we put on many miles. That is why we need durable, protective foot wear that gives us firm support and balance—the firm foundation of the Gospel of peace. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news … who proclaim peace ….” (Isaiah 52:7)

Yak Confidence

In most children’s alphabet books about animals, the Y page shows a great, hairy yak. These Asian mammals make excellent pack animals because of their surefootedness over rough terrain.

"YakTrax" is a great product on the market for people like me who are fearful of falling on ice or snow. These ingenious devices slip over one's shoes or boots easily. Their rubberized, flexible frame holds rows of steel rings that grip ice and snow when contact is made. When I wear them, my confidence level soars and I picture myself, like the yak, traversing icy slopes. No longer do I fear walking the slippery driveway or the snow-covered ice on a trail or road.

Confidence can come from many directions. Unfortunately, I tend to depend only on myself too often. If you have a lot of self-confidence, perhaps you can relate to that problem. It truly can be a problem, because sometimes our own confidence and strength—whether physical, moral, emotional, or spiritual—isn't enough to rightly see us through a tough situation. Then where can we place our confidence? 

The world is full of wrong teachings and wrongdoers who would have us depend on and place our confidence in them. The Bible, however, says we should place all our confidence on Jesus Christ. "Have no fear of sudden disaster…for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared." (Proverbs 3:25-26) 

Since we humans tend to slip and fall easily on our walk through life, how good it is to know we have a sure confidence in the Lord. The Psalmist, David, wrote that the Sovereign Lord has been his confidence since youth. And the apostle Paul, in his letter about putting on God's armor so we can withstand the attacks of Satan, includes foot protection. “Stand therefore, having … shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace,” Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:15. God means that the Gospel must be our firm foundation.

We all need firm support under our feet as we stand our ground against any problem. Like the yak's surefooted hooves, our spiritual feet can take us over the rough terrains in life when we wear God’s Gospel of Peace. What firmer foundation can we find?

Lord, we thank you for the Gospel of Peace, which keeps us sure-footed against the weapons of the enemy. Help us remember to wear Your armor every day, for we cannot depend on succeeding in our life journey without the confidence You give. In Jesus’ name, amen.