Maybe a Mulligan

Number 20:11-12
And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

In a Golf a mulligan is a stroke that doesn’t count. You botch up a shot and you call a mulligan. I’m wondering if the Lord wasn’t prepared to give Moses a mulligan. What if he had just struck the rock once and then repented? But he didn’t. He stayed consistent with his sinful self, struck the rock a second time, because that’s how it worked last time, and his disobedience and dishonoring of God cost him the promised land. Whether or not Moses had a chance at a mulligan with God, you and I sure do. It’s called grace. If you are in the midst of something you know is not right, don’t keep at it. Stop. Repent. God is leaning as far forward as He can without violating His own integrity. He wants you to succeed with Him. That’s why He sent none other than Jesus Himself. And He prepared that promised land for you. Imagine His disappointment in having to keep Moses, of all people, from it. Go to Jesus today and take the mulligan. Don’t strike that rock a second time.

Lord Jesus, catch me before I go too far away from You in my thinking and living. I need Your holy restraint in my life. Limit me, as well as forgive me, so that I can live for You and walk into every Promised Land with You. Amen.


Numbers 11:4
Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!

It did not turn out well for those who craved. In my Apologetics Study Bible the note on this verse says, “Insatiable craving leads to a life of bondage.” Boy, have I seen this. The funny thing about the people of Israel in this passage is that they were craving parts of the life that God had set them free from. I have seen this too. It is good to understand our craving. It has to be fed, but it will never feed. The old rule, “don’t go shopping on an empty stomach,” applies. We won’t get what will satisfy us in the long run, and what we do get won’t even satisfy us in the short run. The Israelites shout at us from history. “Stop!” A complaining spirit can kill the heartiest of us. We can see God part the seas and drown our enemies, but if we feed the complaint machine in our hearts, none of it will matter. We will combust with bitterness and our necks will grow stiff toward God.

“Lord, forgive and remove my cravings for anything that will hijack my faith and dampen my gratitude for You and what You’ve done for me. Thank you for Your Grace. Amen.” 

Plans and Ways

Acts 2:23
…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

God, it turns out, does not find the way He works to be mysterious. In fact, He has a plan. Every other plan from every other source is subject to change. Not His. Some disagree with this. Of course they do. This doesn’t change the fact that His plans don’t change. Part of His unchanging plan is that we can and do make our own plans. I had a plan for this morning and today, for instance. It is shot by now.

When tempted to complain to God about the sad fate of many of my plans, I am led to consider Christ’s Cross. Jesus’ death was not a failure or a change of plans for the Father. This amazes and reorganizes emotions inside of me. Even if I still keep complaining, I relinquish the idea that I have the right to.

Lord, thank you for Your plans for me that included sending Your One and Only Son to die for my sins on the cross. Never mind all that other stuff I was complaining about earlier today. Thank You for all the ways You are patient with me. Amen.




By Itself

Mark 4:28
The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

The other day I listened to my daughter read our Lenten devotional. I remember the struggle reading was for her years ago. Now she is doing so well. I know time, her own effort, and the work of gifted teachers all contributed to this, but it still seems to have just happened. Now she can read. So many things in life are like this. We don’t need to tamper with them. We don’t need to overwork them or strive. It’s when my daughter stopped trying so hard that she started having fun with reading. Relationships might benefit from this “by itself” approach. If you spend time with and try to improve your relationship with someone, it often just happens. Whether it be the Lord or your spouse or your neighbor, sometimes you can stop trying so hard and let the processes God has put into place take effect. It’s called trust. I’ve seen people, families, and churches grow by themselves. In fact, some of the best things in life happen this way. God is the One who makes them happen, of course, but He often performs his work in story form. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you’re at the beginning, you cannot skip to the end. If you walk through the story chapter by chapter, however, you’ll get through the whole book. As long as everything is in place, the story just happens. It’s a beautiful thing.

Lord, help me let go and let things happen. You are God. I am not. Things take the time they take. It’s a matter of me trusting You, doing what I can, and being where I am while not trying to be somewhere or someone else. Teach me to be satisfied in and with You now, in Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.



Hidden For Now

Mark 4:22
For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.

I’m always amazed at what can be found under couches or in between or tucked behind couch cushions. Food, money, toys, mail, and clothes were all under a couch in our home recently. It’s like someone is living under there. Here are some other astounding finds…

  1. Broccoli in our breakfast room table drawers. It was on the menu the week before.
  2. Candy in a child’s closet. She’s learning to be prepared for emergencies.
  3. Legos in every single room in our house and only underfoot where traffic patterns are heaviest.

The thing about all of these items is that they are always found. Built into every one of our homes is this lesson, which has such an important meaning spiritually. Out of sight is NOT out of mind, at least when it comes to God’s mind. It’s always better to clean certain things up earlier rather than later.


Happy Birthday, George

Isaiah 32:8
But he who is noble plans noble things,
and on noble things he stands.

Happy Birthday, officially, to George Washington today. In 2016, we seek a leader for our nation who will come closest to one of the best leaders our nation ever had, despite his flaws and failings. The best of who he was flowed from his faith in Christ, often denied by modern historians, but affirmed to the hilt by actual history. Here is a prayer of his from the end of his last address to congress as President on December 7, 1796. Goodwill had been a Christian Church for 88 years and Presbyterian for 67 of those years at this point.

The situation in which I now stand for the last time, in the midst of the representatives of the people of the United States, naturally recalls the period when the administration of the present form of government commenced, and I can not omit the occasion to congratulate you and my country on the success of the experiment, nor to repeat my fervent supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe and Sovereign Arbiter of Nations that His providential care may still be extended to the United States, that the virtue and happiness of the people may be preserved, and that the Government which they have instituted for the protection of their liberties may be perpetual.



Psalm 50:23
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!”

With e-mails, papers, and projects piling up, the one thing often lacking in my life is order. I just live and work better when I have a place for things and things in their place. While this physical order does my heart good, it points to a more important order. I need to order my ways. This starts with giving God thanks. Psalm 50:23 paints a clear picture of this. Everything hinges on what I give God. What am I offering Him today? Sometimes the answer to this question is not good. Sometimes I am offering God…

  1. Doubt. Doubt for me, and many others I know, shows up in the form of giving lip service to God while seeking to work things out on my own, relying on my own inner resources. Some believers do, straight up, doubt God or His Word, but most of us manifest doubt indirectly, through decisions that don’t involve Him.
  2. Anger. Again, the manifestation of this is controlled. I’m not usually angry in a way that will embarrass me; I am angry in disguise. Whenever I am not getting my way, I am automatically angry. I, like others I know, have to put away anger when it arises. I don’t avoid or prevent it very well, but I do stop it cold by reading and praying the Bible.
  3. Self-pity. This is the child of doubt and anger. Poor me. If I don’t catch myself before its too late, then I give birth to and drink this tonic of despair-flavored narcissism. It is the self-talk that is the opposite of prayer based on a take on things that is the opposite of Scripture. It is the manifestation of unbelief. I developed a taste for this when I was a kid. Self-pity, along with every related form of self-regard, promises to offer spiritual help when all it really does is turn us away from God and into ourselves. It is the fire in the idol-maker’s forge.

No, I want to offer God better. Just one “thank you” voiced heavenward begins to let the air out of the tires of doubt, anger, self-pity, and any other strange offering I hope not to offer God. Glorifying God seems too high a mountain to climb, but Psalm 50:23 says we get there via the path of gratitude. This is how we order our ways rightly. And only then, only when we start walking His way, does God have amazing things to show us.



Psalm 89:47
Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity you have created all the children of man!

I signed up for a well known service a long time ago: surefire protection against identity theft. It really is about protecting my money. The Internet is a dangerous place for our money. Someone could use the Internet to take our money from us. Now apps and services are on the rise that protect against a much worse kind of Internet theft, the theft of our time.

There’s still little true awareness of this, in my opinion. We can see it most in our youngest and now our oldest generations, spending lifespans in a state of Cyber-suspended non-animation. Experiences are less lived than they are photographed for online publication. Relationships are replaced with online digital surrogates. Real people are on both ends, but the middle, the connection, the relationship, is computer-generated, not human. Texts, e-mails, and images tend to be dehumanizing precisely because they are “dehuman.” It is the age-old struggle between form and substance raising its head again. Computers can be so neat and do so many great things for us, but, like every other advance in history, basic human nature (see Genesis 3), left unchecked, hijacks them. Then they hijack us.

To my mind, it seems complicated and pointless to think about this until we realize that it all boils down to time. Spend less time on devices, spend more time living. Yes, I think we in the 21st century need to arrive at the philosophical conclusion that anything we do that involves a device cannot, by design, be defined as life. Devices can be a supportive part of a life, at best, but they cannot be and are not life itself. You are not your online presence. The online world is not reality. A large enough solar flare will soon take care of everything. Reality reminds us that life is time. When we run out of time, we run out of life, at least on this side of eternity. Machines take time. The more machines we have, the more time we give over to them. Though they can be helpful, they often are not. How much of your day or mine requires a machine to experience it, a time-sucking machine? If I think a human relationship is helped when I put a machine between me and someone else, I then have a direct relationship with that machine and an indirect, proctored relationship with the human being. It’s important to remember that the humans come first. This message may become a very important part of what the Church communicates to the world in the 21st century. People matter more than machines. Machines serve people, not the other way around. People need other people more than they need machines or devices.

This brief (time-saving) message brought to you by a human using a machine… 🙂



Luke 19:23
Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’

It’s interesting. We all know that if someone loves money, he or she cannot love God. God tolerates no competitor for His affection. Why then, is there so much in the Bible, especially from Jesus, about how money reveals what we love? It turns out that Christians are supposed to care about money the way a farmer takes care of his land. There is attention to be paid, daily. Money is a resource we cannot escape. It is a mirror of what matters to us. It is a daily source of spiritual feedback, if we are to believe Christ’s teachings. It’s never about how much one has, but what one does with with one has. It can be liberating, in a way. Instead of serving money, we make money serve us. More importantly, money serves our interests. If we are interested in honoring God by helping others, then we have something good going on. I think this is what Jesus was after. In the end, whatever we get, we get from God. The point of a good life is to give back to God everything He gives us… with interest.


Psalm 27:4
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon othe beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

We had a service today for Eleanor Gerseik. She was at our church for about as many years as I’ve been alive. She believed the Gospel. She was a missionary to Egypt and then Lebanon. Then she was a nurse. Then she took care of her mom who had Alzheimer’s. She served so many in and out of the church in so many ways.

She was faithful, an encourager. Someone told a story today about her time taking care of her mom. Everyday she’d get a little break with tea and her favorite preacher on the radio: James Montgomery Boice. This break meant the world to her, because taking care of mom took a lot out of her. The day after mom died, her beloved radio broadcast was cancelled, apparently. She called the station right away. She wanted to know what happened to it. They told her that they hadn’t broadcast that program for many years. Whatever station she was listening to, it wasn’t their station. Yet it was. The only conclusion she or any of us can come to is that God provided for her in a special way.

And she provided for so many in gratitude to God for the gift of salvation through Christ Jesus.

None of this is normal, but it’s all God.