Friday, July 27, 2012

Weekly Devotional - July 27, 2012

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?”
Psalm 139:7 NIV

A friend’s testimony of what she’s going through as her husband faces a life-threatening infection led me to Psalm 139. King David wrote the psalm expressing attributes of God: He knows all things and is present in all places. Especially moving to me when I read Psalm 139 is the listing of places a person might go - intentionally to hide from God or unintentionally as driven by circumstances - yet God is there. And God did not arrive when that person arrived there; He was already there.

A couple of decades ago I enjoyed writing songs. Some were pretty good and others were quickly forgotten. Perhaps I wrote some of them just for myself because I cannot remember much more than a hook phrase for some. But one was written out of Psalm 139 and the phrase I remember is, “Where you are now, He’s already been.”

My friend’s circumstances - and my own, perhaps yours, too - have taken her to unexpected places. She wrote in a Facebook post that she felt like she was on an emotional roller coaster: at times high in the clouds then suddenly in the depths. You’ve been there, haven’t you? The good news / bad news of a medical emergency? The sudden change in a job situation? The chill of an empty house when the spouse has moved out? The constant ringing of the phone and you know it’s bill collectors?

“Where you are now, He’s already been.” If you were to try to escape God’s presence you would find he is waiting for you around the corner or in your hiding place. If circumstances drive you to the heights and depths of emotion you will find God is there.

And God is not there to punish you but to restore you, refresh you, and redeem you. Pray that God will meet you where you are today.

Freedom of Speech

Interesting how the pendulum swings. Fifty years ago, Christian principles were more a part of the fabric of our society than today. Divorce was kept quiet and not seen as a good way to resolve marital problems. Abortion was still illegal and tabu. Sexual promiscuity was gaining popularity but nothing like we know now. Homosexuality was not talked about or portrayed in entertainment media.

I'm not saying that all these social issues are new to our generation. They were all part of the biblical story. And they were all considered to be sin because God's word established it so. What has changed over the last 50 years, or the last 4,000 years, is that all these social issues are no longer tabu, no longer kept out of the media, and no longer considered to be sin.

God's word has not changed.

In the news this week is the topic of traditional/biblical marriage versus gay marriage. Dan Cathy, President and COO of Chick-Fil-A, said in an interview with a Baptist paper that his company (privately owned by his family) was built upon Christian values. One of those values is the belief and adherence to the biblical definition of marriage. (Read the interview here -

The reaction of many in media, the LGBT community, Hollywood, and left-leaning politicians has been heavy and harsh. Mayors of three cities - Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco - have publicly stated that Chick-Fil-A is not welcome in their cities because of this. Social media and blogs are filled with opinions.

To say that we live in a country that values freedom of speech would make one scratch his head. We say we value freedom of speech. Our constitution's First Amendment guarantees it. But when a Christian speaks freely about his convictions, the firestorm begins. Our actions speak louder than our words.

Here are some examples of what I think is a double standard regarding free speech.

Nabisco is marketing Oreos with cream stuffing in the colors of the rainbow, symbolic of Gay Pride. The LA Times posted an article today talking about using gay pride as a business strategy. Noted in the article are J.C. Penney, American Express, and Cisco. JCP "has earned kudos from many corners (gay and non-gay alike) for sticking with its views" even though the company struggles financially.

The article cites another article from the Economist stating that the workforce may be comprised of 5-10% homosexuals. Both sides would argue the percentages but it's probably safe to extend that percentage to the general populations. "The LGBT community may be small, but it and its backers are vocal." Yes they are. Ask Dan Cathy. (LA Times article,0,6550055.htmlstory)

Willow Creek Community Church hosted a leadership summit last year. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz withdrew from the conference under pressure from the gay community because of Willow Creek's affiliation with Exodus International (a ministry for those seeking to turn from homosexuality). An estimated 72,000 people were to participate in the conference; about 700 signed the petition threatening to boycott Starbucks if Schultz made his presentation.

Hybels clarified his and the church's position on marriage. "Now, what is true is that we challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics taught in the scriptures which encourages full sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage and prescribes sexual abstinence and purity for everybody else.” The biblical standard was taken to task.

Rather than call for a boycott of Starbucks - unfortunately, some Christians did - Hybels said, "Buy a cup of Starbuck coffee in the next couple of days and just show some Christian goodwill." Boycotts by Christians are generally mocked while a boycott by homosexuals was taken seriously. (Read the article about this

Here's my point: Christians are in the minority in America and Christian values no longer run throughout the fabric of our country's principles. This is evidenced by the way Christians are not allowed free speech. Sure, we can speak about stuff that the culture doesn't care about but let a Christian get vocal about a key social issue and the oppression begins.

I'm all for free speech. Let the Christian and the Muslim and the atheist speak freely. Let the proponents of the biblical family/marriage and the homosexuals speak freely. Without everyone having freedom of speech, nobody really does.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Weekly Devotional - July 20, 2012

"Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land
from the hand of the king of Assyria?"
2 Kings 18:33 NIV

The king of Assyria was a brutal leader. His army had conquered everyone around, including the northern kingdom Israel. Then he sent messengers to Hezekiah, king of the southern kingdom Judah. The message was simple: surrender. Even mighty Egypt was no match for Assyria. Surrender was the logical action to take.
Hezekiah's representatives asked the Assyrian messengers to speak in Aramaic rather than in Hebrew so the Jewish people in the city would not be able to understand them. Instead, the Assyrians spoke even louder in Hebrew. They told the Jewish people how powerful their army was and how they had defeated all enemies.
And they mocked God by putting him in the same category with all other gods. If the other gods had not been able to stop Assyria's army, then the Hebrew god would be of no help, either.
The Assyrians only knew false gods. They had never encountered the God of the Hebrews. They imagined Judah's God to be just like all the others. And all the others had been powerless.
But Hezekiah prayed to the all-powerful God. And Isaiah prophesied the fall of the Assyrian king. God responded by killing 185,000 Assyrians in camp that night. The king retreated and was later killed by his own sons while worshiping his false god.
God will not be mocked. He will not be considered just as any other god. He is the one true God who is supreme and sovereign.
You may face an enemy that mocks God. You may hear a message like Hezekiah heard: "What god can help you?" No false god can but the living God will. Pray asking God to help you stand firm in the face of enemy attacks.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Attributes of Discipleship - Stetzer

The church is commissioned to make disciples. Part of that involves sharing the gospel with lost people so that they might come to Christ in faith. The other part of the commission is to help each one of those who comes to Christ to develop into a maturing follower of Christ. Evangelism (the first part) must be coupled with discipleship (the second part). Neither works on its own. But together, the church becomes an agent of transformation in a world that badly needs the change that a new life in Christ brings.

This excerpt from Ed Stetzer's site lists eight measures of personal discipleship. I hope you find them useful and encouraging as you mature in Christlikeness.

In 2008, LifeWay Research commissioned a survey of more than 7,000 churches to discover the principles involved with healthy congregations. That research made up the framework for Transformational Church, a book I coauthored with Thom Rainer.

Last year, we conducted another study to focus not on the church, but on the individual believer. In this study, we asked more than 4,000 people about their spiritual lives and level of maturity. This was not a convenience sample drawn from participating churches, but a randomly selected sample to ensure an even higher level of research accuracy.
The results allowed us to identify eight Biblical factors that consistently show up in the life of a maturing believer. Those "attributes of discipleship" are:

    1. Bible engagement
    2. Obeying God and denying self
    3. Serving God and others
    4. Sharing Christ
    5. Exercising faith
    6. Seeking God
    7. Building relationships
    8. Unashamed transparency
Spiritual growth does not happen by accident, and since Jesus has called us to make disciples of all nations, we wanted to discover the common traits for those maturing in their faith. It goes without saying that such attributes do not make you a Chrisitan but, rather, are an outgrowth of being a Christian. Furthermore, these are measurements of growth, but only God causes the growth. (

Now we ought to assess our own spiritual maturity to learn where we can improve. And the church - your church, my church - should look closely at our discipling process to see how we might better carry out the Great Commission.

Different Views

Jerry Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in jail for sexually abusing several boys over the last couple of decades. As a coach for Penn State University, Sandusky had access and freedom and influence. He misused all that. He ought to spend the rest of his life in jail.

Listening to Dan Patrick on the radio this morning, Dan said that Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in jail and then die and go to hell. I understand the sentiment but not the theology.

At the base of this kind of thinking is the idea that sin sends a person to hell. Maybe it has to be a really big sin. Like sexually abusing children.

The Bible says that breaking one point of God's law is the same as breaking all the law (James 2:10). The Bible says that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). And the Bible says that all sinners deserve death (Romans 6:23). If that is the totality of what the Bible says about sin, then Jerry Sandusky is undoubtedly going to hell.

But the Bible says more about the subject. The rest of Romans 6:23 says, "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." That's good news because it means that any sinner can have eternal life!

The Bible also says that "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13). And if we confess our sins God will forgive us of our sins (1 John 1:9).

If only the first part is true then we are all going to hell. But if all of this is true then it's possible that anyone can go to heaven.

I understand that you may be uncomfortable with the thought that anyone can go to heaven. I am, too. But I wouldn't have it any other way because I could be going to hell if it were not for the grace of God.

Grace is what makes it possible for Jerry Sandusky to go to heaven. But if he doesn't put his faith in Jesus Christ he will go to hell.

A person's eternal destination depends not upon their sins but upon their decision to accept by faith (or not) the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Would you consider accepting this gift by faith? Message me in the comments if you would like to talk more about it.

Monday, July 16, 2012


I'm going on vacation Thursday and I'm not taking my computer. That's a big deal for me. I can't remember the last time I didn't travel with my MacBook Pro.

I must confess that this was not a hard decision to make. We are going on a cruise and won't have internet access anyway. Still, no computer?

I plan to read a lot so I'll have to take real books with me. (Haven't decided about taking the iPad.) And I'm reading the Bible following the Chronological Plan on so I'll have to plan ahead and write down the schedule for the days we are gone.

Are you like me? Are you dependent upon technology? It's not all bad but it is some bad. A vacation from technology may be just what I need so I'll try it. The mission trip to Russia is just a couple of weeks away. Maybe I can make it those eleven days without the laptop, too.

But for now, I'm using the MacBook Pro to post to the blog, checking text messages on the iPhone, and reading on the iPad. Is there a Technology-ics Anonymous around town?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Weekly Devotional - July 13, 2012

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."
Colossians 2:8 NIV

The last century and a half have been times of upheaval in one of the basic ideas about human origin. The advancement of the Theory of Evolution led to a rejection by many of the truths found in God's word. And, as should be the case, when one component of a belief system falls, folks begin to reject more, if not all, of the beliefs.

The crisis of belief is this: Do we believe the Bible or do we believe something that stands to contradict the Bible? If we believe the Bible - and as Christians we say we do - then everything must filter through it before we can accept it as truth. The Bible does tell of the creation of the universe and the origin of the human race. I believe this is accurate so anything that has to do with creation or origin must agree with Scripture or that teaching is false.

When my boys were pre-schoolers they all had a common trait: they denied an accusation if it made them look bad. My middle son's name is Caleb Tanner Loyd. As he learned to write the letters of his name, he always made the Ns capitals and backwards. One day I found his full name neatly printed on the wall of his bedroom in crayon. Capital and backwards Ns just like always. Standing there with him looking at the wall I asked him if he had written his name on the wall. He consistently and emphatically denied that he had done it. Any handwriting expert - or novice, for that matter - could tell he had!

Crisis of belief: Do I believe the Bible when it says we are all sinners or do I believe we are all innately good? You are faced with a crisis of belief many times each day. Do you believe the Bible to be true and the only worthy guide for life or do you accept human philosophies in its place? Pray that God will help you understand and apply all the Bible teaches.

Monday, July 09, 2012


What does it take to motivate you? Some of us need money or recognition. Others of us just have an inner drive to get it done. I've been trying to motivate my son Riley to read this summer. He's going into 6th grade and I want him to become a lifelong reader. That's a struggle I have and is one of the reasons I'm not finished with my DMin project.

During the Chick-Fil-A Leadercast, John Maxwell said his father did not give him and his siblings an allowance for doing chores because you did chores because you are part of the family. Instead, his father gave them an allowance for reading books. Not just any books but books that would challenge their reading ability and their thought processes.

I like that idea so I adopted it for Riley for this summer. We need to save money wherever we can so Riley tags along with me when school is out instead of going to a daycare or something like that. Since I have a certain amount of study and sermon prep to do, he has lots of time for reading.

He's spent most of that time watching TV or playing video games, though. That's only partially his fault. I must carry most of the blame.

Anyway, we went to Barnes & Noble Bookstore several weeks ago and picked out four books for his summer reading program. And we added some books of the Bible to round out a list of biographies, mysteries, fun stuff, and scripture.

And he gets a handsome allowance when he completes each book. To date, I am out ZERO DOLLARS! He's always asking for an allowance so I told him about Maxwell's reading deal. We both liked it. He just doesn't stick with it very long. I understand.

But when I make him sit down and read, like right now, he's constantly telling me about something in the book. Maybe we are making progress.

Sometimes you just have to do something you're not all that excited about in order to gain something you really want. For Riley, that means reading in order to get an allowance.

Will y'all take up a collection for an incentive for me to finish my DMin project? I need something. Maybe I just need to do what I'm not all that excited about in order to gain something that would be really meaningful to me.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Weekly Devotional - July 6, 2012

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine
and puts them into practice is like a wise man
who built his house on the rock."
Matthew 7:24 NIV
You may find this hard to believe if you live in a part of the country that is experiencing drought - like in Arkansas. But just a few days ago in Invermere, British Columbia, heavy rains led to the collapse of a retaining wall supporting a road into a residential community. Engineers say the wall was properly constructed but that the recent influx of water is the problem.
What? Aren't retaining walls built for the purpose of keeping soil from sliding downward? And isn't rainfall one of the things that can cause the soil to slide? I'm not an engineer and I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, so my thinking might not be up to par on this topic.
But I do know that Jesus talked about crumbling foundations and shifting sands. The uncertainties of life can lead to problems and even downfalls. What you think is solid ground can slide out from under your feet when tempted. Your secure footing can give way when bad news or disappointment comes. It's possible to maintain control even if you haven't prepared very well by implementing some disaster control. But most likely - hasn't this been the case in your life? - the lack of preparing facilitates the crumbling foundation.
Jesus tells us to prepare for floods by building the house on a rock. The solid foundation can withstand the torrents. You can eliminate some of the disasters that lurk around the corner but you can't avoid all of them. Life will certainly be marked by problems. A good foundation minimizes and even eliminates damage.
What makes a good foundation in life? Jesus said that a good foundation that will withstand the storms of life is to hear his words and put them into practice. Do you hear the word of God? Do you obey the word of God? Pray that God will help you put into practice what his word says.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

It's a Long Season

The Cincinnati Reds are my favorite professional sports team. I started loving baseball and the Reds in the early 70s and the love affair continues in today. The Reds are in first place in the National League Central Division by one game over the Pittsburg Pirates.

The baseball season in long. The teams play 162 games over six months. The the playoffs begin. The World Series caps the season in late October - a season that began in February when pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training.

Being in the lead of your division at any point in the season is an accomplishment, but the only lead that matters is after 162 games. The Reds have been five games out of first place this year. They've also been up by five games this year. The long season has an ebb and flow of wins and losses. Leads are built, diminished, and lost. In the end, the champion is not the team that scored the most runs or stole the most bases or had the longest winning streak. The championship pennant goes to the team with the best record over the long season.

My life has its ups and downs, too. I've had some winning streaks but I've also wallowed in the cellar some. Taken in narrow slices, you might conclude that my life is a huge success or a grand failure depending upon which slice you see.

God sees my life - and yours - as a whole. He notices the ups and downs, the victories and defeats, the good and the bad. But he doesn't pull the plug on us until the season is over. Then he may not pull the plug at all.

Jesus Christ died for your sins and mine. He had to because God demands punishment for our sins. That punishment is death - eternal separation from God. Yet God loves us so much that he desires to redeem us rather than punish us. So in order to meet his just demands for punishment of sins, Jesus died to take the punishment. So we don't have to!

Now, God extends an offer to each of us that, if accepted, sets us on a winning path. God freely offers salvation to everyone who will confess that Jesus is Lord. That means you repent of (turn from) your sins and follow Jesus. When you accept the free gift of salvation your unrighteousness is replaced with Christ's righteousness so that when Judgment Day comes you'll be found right with God.

Along the way you'll experience the ups and downs. You'll have amazing hit streaks. You'll commit some errors. You'll win some battles and lose some. But in the end God won't look at a scorecard to see how you've done. He'll look at a book that has written in it the names of all the redeemed.

Sure, I want my scorecard to look pretty good. But I want my name written in that book. And I know that it is because I have by faith accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. That's the only way any of us can know we are right with God and saved by his grace.

Now, I'm rooting for you to follow Christ and press on to the end, and I'm rooting for the Reds to press on to win the pennant.