Wednesday, June 18, 2014


This morning I read the letter of Paul to the Christians at Philippi. It sounds so trite but this letter exudes joy because Paul lived out the old Sunday school saying "the secret of joy is
       J Jesus
       O Others
       Y Yourself

His life was Jesus centric, focused on helping others and his own wishes, such as to leave and be with Christ, came last. The second thing that leaps off the page is his upbeat joyful mood. He is in prison, possibly on death row, and he is the most positive joyful person on the planet. Either he is crazy OR he knows some truths that I need to learn.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Is that your final answer?

"Is that your final answer?" the host of Who wants to be a millionaire asks. Once you say "Yes" there is no going back. Some decisions in life are like that as well. Once you decide to steal from your boss, cheat on your spouse, take a bribe, hurt someone in anger ... there is no going back. Final answer. Consequences will follow.

What most of don't realize is that the seeds of those decisions were planted years, even decades before the acts were carried out. They were bitter seeds that sent down bitter roots and yielded bitter fruit. We allowed thoughts of envy, lust, jealousy, greed, hate, etc.  to settle down in our hearts and put down roots that eventually led to acting out of the "final answer".

Hebrews 12 warns against allowing these evils to take root in our hearts:

"Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;  that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.  For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears."  Heb 12:14-17

Many Westerners think that this passage is talking about the sin of bitterness, but from the context it is clear that any unholy thought can become a "bitter root". What "clinging sin" are you struggling with? Lust? Greed? Bitterness and hurt? Envy? Anger? _____? These have the potential to become a bitter root and lead to your downfall - the final answer. Once you give the final answer there is no going back.

What do you do with a bitter root? Pull it out. Like most weeds however the roots often break off and spring up again. If there is a bitter root in your life then you need help. You need some faithful brothers and sisters to walk with you and encourage you, to remind you when they see evidence of the bitter root, to pray with you and together strive to become like Jesus.

There is no going back once you have crossed certain lines. For Esau, he couldn't regain his birthright or his blessing. You can't un-ring the bell. Bitter roots lead to broken marriages, broken families, broken people. For some the final answer leads to a divorce, a jail sentence, estrangement from family and friends. There is no going back.

BUT there is going forward. Life is not over. There are still hundreds and thousands of good choices to be made. Esau lost his birthright, but later in life he chose to forgive and reconcile with his brother Jacob. He had a family and a life. Some of us have made mistakes from which there is no going back, only forward. If that is your situation, go forward. Forget what lies behind. Press onto what lies ahead.  You've lost something you can't get back, but God still has tons, scads, mountains of grace for you. He's not finished with you. There is a hope and a future.

If you are considering a final answer that you know (and you do know it) that is going to ruin your life, stop now. Ask for help? Heb 12 says that God's grace is available to you to help you. Get the bitter root out before it is too late. And if you haven't got to that stage yet, great. Don't go there. Don't let temptation find a landing place in your heart. Don't allow the seed to sprout roots.  Take hold of God's grace and don't let go.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fight for peace

"strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."  Hebrews 12:14
When was the last time you "strove" for anything?

  1. make great efforts to achieve or obtain something.
    "national movements were striving for independence"
    • struggle or fight vigorously.
      "scholars must strive against bias"
      synonyms:try (hard), attemptendeavoraimventure, make an effort, exert oneself,do one's best, do all one can, do one's utmost, laborworkMore

    • Modern people don't "strive", we stroll, we amble, we mosey along(when did you last use the word "mosey"?). We live distracted by smart phone updates, notifications, and "yeah, LOL" messages. Strive? What's that?

"Struggle or fight vigorously" for peace with everyone. I know you don't have a problem with everyone, you only have a problem with ____________ . Everyone means ____________. The rest of the people included in "everyone" are okay with you, but you and __________ have a problem. So guess what? God wants you to "struggle or fight vigorously" to make peace with __________.  "Everyone" here means that one person or few person that you have a problem with. 

Please do not use "strive" to describe the meagre and lame efforts you have made so far. Maybe you are that one in a hundred who has really striven to make things right, but it is far more likely that you are among the 99 who have written an email, or asked a friend to talk to _________ for you, or who have "left the door open" for reconciliation. Can you describe your efforts so far as "struggle or fight vigorously"? This morning I watched the NBC Nightly News on TVB and Tom Brokaw interviewed a 90+ year old veteran of the Normandy landing. He was part of a 9 man squad and everyone else in his squad died on the beach along with 4400 other allied soldiers. He was lying on the sand face down when he heard an officer shout "there are only 2 kinds of people on this beach. Those who are dead, and those who will soon be dead." The soldier got up and ran towards the enemy positions and survived. That is striving. You and I have probably not yet "striven", really striven. 

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Personally, I don't like the word "strive". I want peace and holiness by osmosis. I want to sit in church and soak. I want to relax and let things happen. Striving sounds like a lot of work and effort. I want God to do everything, like a self driving Google car, just take me there. Ephesians says "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that God is at work within you both to do and to will his good pleasure." I need to strive and struggle, but God is working in me to give me the "want to" and the "ability" to do so. I strive and struggle relying on him, using his power and strength, and with him giving me the "want to". So, if I don't have the "want to", should I sit around and wait for God to give me the "want to"? NO! Just obey, strive and struggle and somewhere in the midst of your struggle you will sense God's hand on yours guiding you in what to do and say, empowering your limp hands when you feel ready to give up. 

So, who do you need to talk to? ____________________ When are you going to do it? What are you going to do when they turn you down the first time? Striving isn't a one time thing.


Yesterday afternoon some of our JIFF ladies were in the office practicing EV2 (evangelism training) and afterwards I asked some of them to tell me about their dads. I heard stories of heroes, humble farmers, wayward dads, grandfathers stepping in when there was no dad, stories mostly of good decent men. They shared with me a song "dance with dad" and I shared with them the song "I danced with Cinderella." What is it about dads and daughters? They are our cinderellas, our Snow Whites, our damsels in distress ... and when we fail to protect them, rescue them, or avenge them we feel like such failures. When they were young it was easy to save them from a scary spider or to soothe them after a bad tumble, but life has so many evils awaitting. And when your child, your princess experiences them, your only thought is "I didn't do enough to prepare her, to protect her."

And then your daughters grow up, and as adults they see you not with little girl eyes but with grown up eyes. They see your failures and weaknesses. They notice that your armor is tarnished and what they thought was your white horse is only a donkey. They realize that you were often self-absorbed, and not always there for them. They discover your sin and your selfishness. They see you for who you really are, and
                                                they love you anyway.