A Gift

A pastor has to be becoming known for something, when a man sees this, while far away on vacation, and one pastor comes instantly to mind ~

Thank you Scott and Cyndy! The even better gift has been that of your friendship. Sharing a meal together, talking about the things that matter most, as we did last night, is mine and Tim's favorite thing in life.

A toast to the Grace of God, through Christ!

The Gospel is Worth Our Cheerful Endurance

Go find your hairbrush. Go on...I'll wait. Draw from it a single one of your hairs. Now, take that hair and tape it to the front cover of your Bible study journal. It will be an icon for you, both of what is about to happen in your life story, and the outcome of your story. That single hair will also remind you of how to deal with what is about to happen.

In short - it will be more than difficult, but you will be more than just okay.

If you stand firm on the gospel of Christ Alone, here is what will happen to you:

You will be betrayed. (meaning: someone who you thought was with you, will leave you. Usually they will betray you "with a kiss" - saying with their lips that they love you, and still want to be your friend...or your family.)

Betrayal does not come by the kiss of just anyone, otherwise it wouldn't matter. No, betrayal comes by the kiss of a dear one, always.

But listen to me. It is a loss at first, but in the end, you will not have lost so much as a hair from off the top of your beautiful head. This is experience speaking! I have found the words of Jesus to be dramatically true.

Expect to be betrayed and lose those ones, yet expect to lose nothing. The Christian life is full of paradox. Bear it all with cheerful patience. Patience is no patience at all if it is not cheerful. Otherwise, it is just fleshly stoicism...an unattractive martyrdom.

You are not going to suffer the loss of so much as a hair from your head, see. That is yours and God's little secret. So let them kiss you and walk away. The gospel is worth your cheerful endurance, and it is through this cheerfulness that you possess an untroubled soul.

I taped a single hair of mine to the front cover of my Bible study journal just now. It is for me an icon of the fact that I am living a dream I do not deserve. In spite of weathering the worst, I am receiving the best.

If God is fully committed to the preservation of that hair from my head, how much more will he preserve and protect my heart...my reputation...my relationships and my resources? I've been betrayed, and I have lost, but as I look at the bottom line of my balance sheet, there is more in the bank than ever before, so to speak.

Each time I open that journal, and break open the word of God, I will see...a seemingly unimportant part of me that God has committed Himself to keep count of, and to protect...a single hair of a woman with an untroubled soul, a soul breathing deeply of the atmosphere of eternity, where all is undisturbed Shalom.

"You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls."

Slipcovers by Sarah

My newly-married daughter Sarah discovered some amazing fabric last week, clearanced for a dollar a yard. She decided, just like that...

::snaps fingers::

...to sew her mother (me) new slipcovers for her parsons-style dining room chairs.

The fabric color couldn't be more perfect. The quality and weight is the best - a very heavy weight fabric with a soft, thick hand to it. Here is the beautiful result, delivered to me just yesterday:

Side view - she also made the pillow.

Back view - contrasting tie

I'm loving this grayish-blue color. This color is going on a wall adjacent to the dining room. It plays well with my beloved white/neutral palette.

My idea for changing up the look whenever I want - pillowcases, standard size. (These are from Target...gorgeous stripes. So fresh and summery.)

My first truly "styled" picture I've ever snapped for this blog.

The whole look...love! (Pink linen napkins bought at an antique shop today, $5 for all four! They are trimmed in a tiny white crochet!)

Thanks, daughter. I could not be more happy, more comforted, more cheered! (Well, I could be, but only if you found out you were...you know. But no rush. Really.)

I love you...

Mountain Moving Faith

A faith that moves mountains is simpler than you think. Jesus said it best, when He said, "...if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'be removed and cast into the sea'..."

A mountain represents a Present Problem. A mountain is a problem so looming, it chills you with its consuming shadow. A mountain is a problem that fills your field of vision, blocking out everything else. A mountain feels too big, and seems too urgent. It is an obstacle to living a peaceful and ordinary life.

But in Christ, you have been given a measure of mountain moving faith. The mysterious paradox of mountain moving faith is this: you aren't supposed to work it up.

You are supposed to speak to the mountain. In the case of mountain moving faith, actions speak louder than words. Your actions do all the talking, in fact.

First, you acknowledge your mountain. You let it be there - tall and daunting. Let it be every bit as unvanquishable as it is. This isn't mountain climbing faith you have, it is a faith that moves the mountain...it is a faith that allows you to live with the same joy you had before your mountain existed; the same joy as if your mountain did not exist. For all purposes in your life, this mountain is no longer in the way of anything God is able to accomplish.

Secondly, you do the next thing, without regard to the mountain. Let your actions do the talking - and your actions are declaring, "What mountain? Before my God you shall become a plain!"

Plan your weekly meals. Shop for the best ingredients. Kiss your spouse. Redecorate. Wash the car. Take a vacation. Do your job, every day. Obey God in the very next thing He says.

This is the critical thing - live! Keep calm, carry on. Really live, and do it smack-dab in full view of your mountain. The very act of living, of doing the next thing, is the faith-speak it takes to move the mountain!

And if simply living and doing the next thing seems too easy - you have never encountered a real mountain. When facing a real mountain, ordinary days seem impossible.

With God, all things are possible. Let your actions shout "Grace, grace!" to your mountain!

The Lord sent you here today so that I can tell you, when you "speak" to your mountain, there will come a day, not too far away, when suddenly you will feel the warmth of the sun. The chilling shadow will be gone. You will look up, and behold: the mountain is brought so low, it is at sea level! Gone!

And in its place will be a road. Proceed with great joy.

Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth...(Is. 40)

The Liberty of Grace!

We've celebrated the 4th in fine style here...the family gathered 'round hamburgers and hotdogs, puppies barking, pocket parrots screeching, family laughing, and fireworks all over the entire neighborhood...

...and my thoughts are on two law-busting, liberty-loving Biblical passages. I refer to "law-busting" in the sense of the uneducated modern day Pharisee-ism we've all seen from time to time...possibly even seen in ourselves.

I call it "uneducated", because the apostle Peter did so, when he said, "our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures."

I want to examine just two passages, two law-busting points. Just two. The first one being this passage in John 15 (and many thanks to Oscar Frias for preaching this at Harvest last week!):

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned."

The untaught (and the unstable, one lends itself to the other and back again) - the uneducated read that passage as proof text of their "Christian Perfection" doctrines. "There, see? If anyone doesn't abide in Christ, they are cast out, thrown into the fire and burned."

And so, these are perennially grumpy about someone else's salvation - not their own, since they themselves are fruit-bearing, virtue laden believers.


Context, context, context. So many misunderstandings of Scripture and of the doctrines of grace can be fixed if you simply read everything before, and after, and put what you read in proper context.

Keep reading.


"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another. "

End of story. Jesus said it, that settles it for me. I am in no danger of being hacked off and cast into the fire, not even on my worst day or worst year. No person who is in Christ Jesus is in that sort of danger.

And funny thing...loving others is fruit bearing. Loving. Not leaving.
(::cough:: I just wanted to make sure we all get the vowel straight...L-OH-V-E. Not L-E-A-V-E. Truly, love is not a place to come and go as we please.)

Next law-busting passage is found in Exodus 18, when Jethro advised Moses as to the quality of man to help him lead the people. These men should be:

~Strong men, of personal assets, and bravery

~God fearing


~men who hated covetousness

Wow. The perfect elders, huh? Wait. Keep reading.

Just...keep...reading. Moses found a few good men of sterling character to help him, and praise God for them!

But I ask you - how many of those men chose to meet personally with God, in the very next two chapters? How many of them inherited the promise?

Not. One.

Hear me: not one of them. Your disciplined character, important as it is, is no guarantee of the presence of God in your life. Your disciplined character is not The Blessing. Your inheritance is found in Christ Alone.

Now, lets put these two law-busting passages together in our theology, and make our theology affect our biography:

Any emphasis on character or self discipline that does not put relationships of a primary importance is not the full gospel, and could in fact possibly be legalism.

(note: thanks to Dr. Stephen Crosby for this truth from Exodus 18-20!)
Go. Mend your fences. Love people. Bear the sort of fruit God is actually looking for. Then show God your wonderful self disciplines.

And always...

...keep reading. Just...keep...reading.

The Day In Pictures

Considering the consequences of their home made Slip N' Slide...

Amber looks on, with great concern...


the sons-in-law

A good rinsing...

Trying to walk back up...

Ending the day with a rousing game of Settlers of Caton, and this...

Happy Independence Day Eve!

The Gospel As A Process

I am in awe of the processes of God. The depth of detail to which He involves Himself in a human life is beyond profound. He is perfectly patient, and even delights in the process, because it all is His artwork anyway. He began the masterpiece, He sustains it, He works on it throughout the course of our collective lifetimes, and He completes it. He knows exactly what He is doing, and where He is going with it.

I, too, am in the school of Christ - learning to become as passionate about the process as Jesus is. Therefore, I can no longer put God in neat theological boxes labeled "judgement" and "mercy". They've kissed each other, you see, they have become intimate together, and now each one defers to the other.

To say that a consequence in a person's life is "too harsh", or "too lenient", proves I am missing the point to begin with. God's discipline is very, very difficult. His grace is very, very, very longsuffering.

First sign of a legalist: most of the actions of others are piously labeled and categorized as "too hard and harsh", or "too soft on sin". All they know are the categories...the letters, words, and phrases of a written code. They are not intimately familiar with the One who nailed those ordinances to His cross, getting rid of them, so that He could begin the process of our being conformed to His image, glory by glory.

Legalists aren't passionate about the process, see. They are passionate about their ordinance-driven perspective.

Well, in the process of dealing with the real souls of real people, not only "can" you have it both ways, you absolutely must have it both ways to be Biblical. You must hold to two seemingly opposite perspectives. When it comes to issues of sin and grace (not law and grace - the Scriptures are very clear that the law was created to make sin exceedingly sinful, and then the law has now become a non issue in the life of the disciple of Christ.)

...a courageous, outspoken hatred of the disfiguring, destroying power of sin and a bold preaching of amazing grace, a righteousness outside ourselves, a gift, not earned by any thing we do. Both fully preached, not as opposite perspectives. But the grace foundation, the Christ-gift is preached first, last, and in between. Then, the cost of discipleship suddenly seems reasonable, and sin is seen as the hideous, relationship destroying thing that it is. No apostle treated one to the exclusion of the other. They dealt with the churches individually, and differently, each one according to its unique season.

These matters of loathing sin and rejoicing in unmerited righteousness were inseparable in the minds of the Church Fathers, and so should hating sin and magnifying grace be inseparable in our mind. Sin is a tragedy. No mere mortal hates sin more than a true pastor and his wife. Thus, no one should preach and teach the reality of the Atoning grace harder than a pastor (and his wife).

The greater the revelation a pastor has into the deceiving power of sin, and the damning power of self righteousness, the harder he will preach the gospel of grace that fully addresses the whole scope of human experience.

For reasons I won't go into in one blog post, mid-life seems to be the time when a person wants to think they have it all figured out, finally, and they set up camp on one side or the other of a seeming contradiction. Then, I guess to finally feel vibrant and obedient, they defend their perspective to the point of absurdity.

As I sit here, facing mid-life myself, bearing many scars from those who have God all figured out, I have refused to fall to either side of the apparent contradiction. I am requiring myself to experience - and teach - the trembling fear of a God who paid a terrible price for sin, who became sin for me, and so God forbid that I should climb in bed with the wretched thing. I am requiring myself to fully bask in the hilarious celebration of the fact that all my sin, and yours, past, present, and future, was paid for, in full, on that cross.

Ah, if only the truth of that could grip more hearts!

As a leader, if I default to evaluating every situation in the light of "too harsh" or "too lenient" that means there is something wrong with my own spiritual foundation, pure and simple.

God's chastening can feel relentlessly harsh. His mercy is ridiculously patient to the point of unfailing. The question, therefore, is not "is this too harsh" or "is this too easy"...that is a false choice. That false dilemma makes it all about sin, and nothing about the grace that much more abounds. The real question is, "What is the heart of God for this person's life? What season are they in, spiritually speaking? Are we in a process of hard discipline, or are we in a process of longsuffering patience? And how, if necessary, can we proceed with patient discipline, encouraging the obedience of faith in the life of this person who, as a brother or sister in Christ, has already been made righteous?"

You ask the relational sorts of questions. You get to the spirit of God's law, utterly disregarding the letter of it, since you don't want to kill the relationship.

And then, you engage the process. Process is all we get to engage in anyhow - increase and salvation and repentance is entirely the Lord's doing.

If you have found church leaders who are passionate about process, and not just pushing for results, you have found a rare treasure. Stick and stay...I promise, that is part of YOUR God-ordained process.