Monday, June 30, 2014


Who can resist warm, summer days? May God bless you with opportunities to bask in His seasonal goodness, even as the swaying trees do while lifting their arms heavenward to their Creator.



One day a hummingbird flew into my porch window screen. Its needle-like beak stuck into the mesh and it began to flutter its wings frantically. Fortunately, before I had a chance to push the beak out, the bird freed itself and flew away.

To that tiny bird, the screen must have seemed like a heavy chain holding it in its unrelenting grip. Perhaps we can relate to the hummer’s experience—caught in a chain of circumstances that holds us bound.

St. Paul and his ministry partner, Silas, once were physically bound in chains. The book of Acts relates how they were dragged to the marketplace in Philippi, arrested, beaten with rods, and thrown into the worst part of prison—all because God used them to free a slave girl from the demons within her. Once in prison, Paul and Silas’ legs were chained to wooden blocks.

In spite of their pain and extreme discomfort, the two men prayed and sang praises to God. A sudden earthquake and loosening of the prisoners’ chains resulted in a miraculous chain of events. All the men suddenly became free. The jailer, fearing the prisoners had escaped, wanted to commit suicide until reassured by Paul that none had left. The jailer took Paul and Silas home and washed their wounds. Astounded and desperate, he asked how to be saved from his sin. Paul led him and his household to a saving faith in God and their immediate baptisms.

What a story! We may not experience what Paul and Silas went through, but many of us are in chains of another kind. Bad habits and addictions are chains that can keep us from moving forward with peace of mind and body. Past memories easily can bind our thoughts with anger or feelings of low self-worth. Chronic illness and pain can prevent us from fulfilling our dreams. Sin itself keeps us in bondage.

But God offers us freedom as surely as He did Paul and Silas—and the jailer.  “Happy is he … whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who … executes justice for the oppressed. The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners.” (Psalm 146:5-7 in part)

If we’re to be released from our bondage, however, we must desire our freedom. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1)

Lord, like the helpless hummingbird, we want freedom of body, soul, and spirit. We embrace Your words from John 8:36:“If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, June 23, 2014


Wow, when the forecasters say “cooler by the lake,” they mean it! The temps here on Lake Superior have been in the 40s at night and low 60s during the day for the past month. When they reach 70, we feel as if summer has finally arrived, but then our hopes are dashed once again. Ah, well, at least it isn’t snowing. Whatever the weather conditions are, we can bask in the glory of our Creator-King.


Summer heat

In spite of our recent, brutal winter, I prefer our up-north weather. Compared to southern climates, our summer days are seldom too hot for comfort. Heat and I don’t get along. I don’t like sweat, smelly bodies, thirst, or the chance of hyperthermia or heat stroke. I’ll take the north any day.

On extremely hot days, people say it’s “hotter than Hades.” Maybe not. The Bible speaks often of hell and hellfire. We’re told there is “danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22) for those who are angry with a brother. Our tongue alone, though small, can be like “a forest fire” in its iniquity. “The tongue … is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6)

Jesus told the story about a rich man who died and was in torment of hell. He begged for mercy, but received none because his riches meant more to him than God Himself. The book of Revelation and other books of the Bible speak of the day of wrath, eternal judgment, fire and brimstone, and a fiery pit.

We don’t like to hear or think about such things. People question how a God of love can send people to such a terrible place. Many believe there is no such judgment and even joke about it. The truth is, many of us bring judgment on ourselves. We suffer the natural consequences when we refuse to care for our bodies, minds, and souls.

Some preachers use fear tactics to bring listeners to salvation. Conversely, other preachers speak exclusively of God’s love, forgetting about His justice. The Bible is full of either-or choices. God is a holy God who will not abide sin. 

Thanks to God, there is hope. His Word teaches that through His Son Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can approach God free from our sin. His extreme love opened a way for us so that we won’t have to spend eternity in hell. No one has to go to hell. Whether we will go there or not is our own choice. And whether we believe in hell, heaven, or God as Creator and Savior, one thing is certain. “At the name of Jesus every knee (will) bow … and every tongue (will) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)        

Lord, thank You for Your great love that opens the way—the only way—to Your heart. By Your mercy and grace, we can experience eternal life now and forever with You. Increase our faith and give us the power and will to accept Your love and salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


When we take the time to observe God’s creation, we can find many valuable lessons about following Christ. A doe’s sure-footedness, for example, shows us how to walk our Christian life with steady steps. The new leaves of spring give us a glimpse of the spiritual growth we need. Rain is a reminder of God’s steady, life-giving blessings. Yes, and the red squirrels’ habits bring conviction of our failure to rest in the Lord.


Comings and Goings

I enjoy watching the endless comings and goings of red squirrels. They hurry and scurry from one tree to another. They run across our decks, perch on our railings, and steal food from the birds. Their continual search for food makes their comings and goings valuable.

My own comings and goings often seem to have little value. Some days it seems all I do is come here and go there, with little reward.

Jesus experienced a special coming to earth and a special going to the cross. His life had infinite value, and so should the lives of us who follow in His footsteps.

Jesus invites us all to come to Him—for healing, deliverance, and salvation. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

We all want rest for our body, soul, and spirit. God’s Word and Spirit will draw us to Him for the rest we crave from our frantic, and often valueless, comings and goings.

Coming to Christ should not be the end of our spiritual story, however. We are told to follow Him by “going” out as His representative. What does that require? It requires humility rather than pride and it requires selfless love. It probably does not mean giving up our physical lives for His sake, as martyrs have done—and still do. Jesus means, however, that we should be willing to do so if we’re faced with such a choice.

Jesus clarifies this in His words recorded in Matthew 16:24-26. “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

This is not a touchy-feely, God-is-love type of message, the kind we like to hear. God’s Word includes many such hard lessons and commands. Hard or soft, they’re equally important.

Lord, forgive us for following the squirrels’ habit of frantically coming and going to satisfy our own desires. As we come to You, give us the will and desire to go for You as well, no matter the cost. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Worms definitely have an important role in the food chain. We may not like to handle them, but the fish we go after relish them. It’s the spiritual ones that worm their way into our souls that we must watch out for. When we expose them, God can get rid of them for us. Praise His name!


A Can of Worms

Someone once likened humans to a can of worms—crawling with hidden secrets. After a heavy rain, angleworms come up from the ground and cover the sidewalks and roads. When the sun comes out, they dry up and die.

It seems gruesome to think of ourselves as being full of worms. Full of beans, maybe, but not creepy, crawly worms. But the metaphor has merit. Whenever we hang onto our sins and bad habits, purposefully hiding them from others, we dry up and begin to die. Those who live with addictions as well as those who are prideful or judgmental may fool others, but not themselves and not God. Some even make light of their habits with lies and excuses.

Recently I read the story of a man who had been addicted to pornography for years. He graduated from buying porn magazines across the counter to Internet porn. When he reached the point of despair, he confessed his secret to a trusted friend and to God.  Confronted with the healing power of Christ, he became a free man. He now speaks to groups about his victory over that chokehold on his life.

Anyone desperately bound by any sin can gain victory. First, pride and fear and shame must be let go. That's the hardest part. But the metaphoric worms of our hidden secrets will destroy us if we don't release them and allow the light of God's forgiveness and love to kill them off. Wouldn't we rather have our secrets killed off and not fear our own eternal death? 

The metaphor about being a can of worms should make us aware of the compelling need to bring our sins out in the open to God, and perhaps to a trusted friend or pastor. True forgiveness and repentance can come only by admitting our guilt. It's God's imperative!  "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9) By doing this, we will be guaranteed of God’s forgiveness, healing, restoration to righteousness, and the blessing of knowing that our prayers will be answered.

Lord, we don't want to hide behind a can of worms. Give us the desire and strength through Your Holy Spirit to release them so we can receive Your healing and blessing. In Jesus' name, Amen.