Monday, February 22, 2016

Wonderfully Made

I recently returned home from visiting family in North Carolina and had a wonderful time with them. While there, my son-in-law came down with a cold. Then my daughter caught it. And about the time I was leaving my granddaughters were showing symptoms. I guessed, correctly, that I was next in line. Driving home it started with the scratchy throat and progressed to the sniffles and a sore throat. Now I'm going through Kleenex like Sherman through Georgia. I’ve got a good old fashioned head cold.
Technically, I’ve been invaded by a rhinovirus. And based on past experience, give me about seven days and all will be right again with me and world. God created my body in such an amazing way that it will eventually overcome this virus and the symptoms will leave and my health will return. It is amazing to think about what’s happening right now as I recover. The virus that is causing all my problems is a thousand times smaller than a bacteria and is little more that a soccerball of RNA covered by protein. It enters my body because someone sneezed or coughed on me. Or, perhaps more likely,  I touched someone or something, got the virus on my fingers and then rubbed my nose or eyes. (WASH YOUR HANDS!) Once inside of me, the virus attaches to a healthy cell and hijacks the replication process forcing the cell to produce more of the virus. Eventually the cell explodes and multiple virus copies are released and the process repeats itself exponentially. 
My situation would be hopeless except for the wondrous immune system God designed and created in me. When the virus enters my body, the intruder alert goes out and a war begins. The fever and chills I had one night . . . a sure sign of the inflammation that results from virus fighting cells and proteins in the immune system going on the attack. All the mucous (what a yucky word, forgive me) is being produced as the result of an enzyme being released by my white blood cells for the purpose of trapping the virus. The aches and soreness . . . protein is being pulled from my muscles to help in waging the war. So thank God for white blood cells (your body produces about a million of them everyday in your bone marrow) that eventually shut down the virus reproduction. And then, amazingly, when the last of the virus is gone, a few of them “hang around” retaining a memory of the destroyed virus which helps with immunity if the same virus returns in future.
And this is just one of perhaps thousands of biochemical processes that go one inside of me every day, awesomely complex and mostly unnoticed. Food is digested, energy is produced and distributed, wastes are removed, cells in my brain are firing giving me vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, motion and all the rest. My heart beats; my lungs breathe. It is so easy to take it all for granted until something goes wrong.
Remembering all of this (memory is another amazing design feature) called to mind this passage of scripture: 
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I AM FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE; your works are wonderful, My soul knows that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 
– Ps 139:13-16
Honestly, my soul isn’t enjoying this cold. This morning I have a deep frog in my sore throat, my nose is raw, my head feels like it’s full of cotton . . . you know the drill. But there is a part of me that will praise the Lord and be thankful for His goodness and faithfulness because I am his skillful creation. How awesome to realize what provision he has made to daily bless me in this amazing body of mine.

Friday, February 05, 2016


If you’ve seen “Fiddler on the Roof” you’re sure to remember the song “Tradition.” Before the song breaks out in earnest with the papas, the mamas, the sons and the daughters each singing about their traditions Tevye gives a little explanation:

And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: Tradition! Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything. How to sleep. How to eat. How to work. How to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl. This shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, how did this tradition get started. I’ll  tell you. I don’t know. But it’s a tradition. And because of our traditions, everyone of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.

As a father of five daughters Tevye is struggling to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences start to encroach on their family’s life together. Three of his daughters want to marry for love and their choice of husbands doesn’t exactly fit the family tradition. So what to make of Teyve’s explanation? Are traditions a good thing that help us keep our balance? I believe most of us would agree that traditions are good. They bring comfort and stability. They can make it easier to pass values on to the next generation. Tradition can give us roots or Tevye’s words, keep us balanced.

But traditions can also be a source of contention as each generation evaluates their relevance to their own time and place. And in particular, religious traditions can have a dark side when through time they are elevated to “God’s Law” status. Jesus dealt with this in Mark 7 when the religious leaders attacked his disciples for not washing their hands before eating. “Why do your disciples not live according the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 

Here is how Jesus replied (Mark 7:6-8):

He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." 

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I get it. When someone wants to change my tradition it can make me uncomfortable. It can throw me off balance. But Jesus, as always, points us to the heart of the matter. The question isn’t “what makes me comfortable,” but is instead “what is God’s will in the matter?” And as modern day disciples the big question should always be this: how can we surrender to God’s will and reach the most people with the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ? Traditions will come and go; the word of God and the gospel abide forever.

The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God endures forever.  – Isaiah 40:8

Don’t confuse tradition with the word of God. Then, when it’s time to let go of an old tradition for a new one, as hard as it may be, LET IT GO! God will still be on His throne in heaven and you might just enjoy it!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Planets on Parade

Planets on Parade

Until the end of February, if you want to get up 45 minutes before sunrise, you can see something rare in the eastern sky: five planets simultaneously visible to the naked eye. Moving from the SE toward the SW Mecury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter are all on display. You’ll need binoculars for Mercury, but Venus and Jupiter are easily seen. How to differentiate planets from stars? Jason Kendall from the Amateur Astronomers Association of NT offered this tip in the NT Times: close one eye, stretch out your arm and slowly pass your thumb over a bright dot in the sky. If the dot slowly dims out when your thumb passes over it, it’s a planet. If it quickly blinks out, it’s a distant star. Prime viewing opportunities will be from the end of January until the first week of February when Mercury is at its highest points.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world – Psalm 19

Whether it’s before sunrise or in the middle of the day there is something to be said for getting outside and contemplating God’s creation. A sunrise or sunset, surf rolling in on the beach, the wind in the trees, a colorful insect or bird, the night sky and so much more . . . creation speaks to us of our creator. Time spent in nature is good for the soul. Get outside today, sit quietly, look and listen. Creation is declaring the glory of God!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Pray for the Persecuted

Open Doors, an organization that tracks Christian persecution around the world, states that 2015 was the “worst year in modern history for Christian persecution.” They have compiled a ranking of 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted, with North Korea leading at number one. (You can see the entire list HERE.) More than 7,100 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons and 2,400 church buildings were destroyed or damaged. And despite finding themselves in very difficult circumstances, Christians around the world continue to stand with Jesus and share His gospel with those around them.
This is tragic and challenging. What an evil that so many are arrested, jailed, beaten and killed simply for their faith in Jesus and what a challenge it is to us living in on a comparative easy street of faith here in America. We mostly experience persecution in terms of rejection by family and friends because of our faith. Physical persecution is something most of us have never experienced.
If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you…. If they persecuted Me they will persecute you… for they do not know the One who sent Me. – John 15:19-21
During this 21 Days of Prayer at FCC, take the time to pray for your brothers and sisters all over the world who face persecution because they love Jesus. And be emboldened by their example to be fearless in living out your faith and sharing His  story each day.
Grace and Peace,

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Tomorrow evening the College Football Playoff National Championship will take place in Glendale, Arizona. Clemson and Alabama will play for all the proverbial “marbles.” Actually, besides the bragging rights, they will be playing for a 35 pound trophy sponsored by Dr. Pepper who paid $35 million for the privilege. Close to 80,000 are expected in the stadium; 30 to 40 million more will watch on TV. Win or lose, each school has already received millions of dollars for their athletic and scholarship programs. Are you getting the picture? This is a big deal!
For just a moment, imagine what it will be like for those young men from Alabama and Clemson as they gather in the tunnel and run out on to the field to the roar of their fans, the music of their band, the cheers of their cheerleaders, to say nothing of the smoke and fireworks. Exciting, thrilling, overwhelming, breathtaking, electrifying, sensational . . . I’ll let you choose the adjective that applies. It will be an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Now, consider this. Hebrews says that every day, when we run out onto the field of life, we have a cloud of witnesses cheering us on.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of GodHebrews 12:1-2
Who are these folks? Check Hebrews 11– Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets with the rest of the list too long to mention. This great cloud of witnesses, who have already finished the race, look down on us, cheering us on. 
And Jesus stands there at the finish line, ready to receive us. “Fix your eyes on Jesus” the writer of Hebrews tells us. Run with endurance. Don’t give up; don’t give in.  
And finally, run with great confidence. As I write this no one knows who will win, Alabama or Clemson. But in the race of life, when you run with Jesus, you are on the winning team. Victory is assured!
Grace and peace,

Tuesday, January 05, 2016


Affluenza. When I started seeing this term in the news it was new to me. Turns out it was first used in the 1950's. It’s an amalgam of two words: affluence and influenza. The term was popularized by a PBS documentary in 1997 and a follow-on book, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic (2001), which defined the term as  "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more." More recently it has been used as a criminal defense strategy in which it refers to the inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions because of affluence and privilege.
Whether or not this constitutes a legal defense I’ll leave to the courts but it doesn’t take more that a cursory look at our society to see that affluenza is a real thing, a real sickness in which the pursuit of status, wealth, possessions and appearances leaves us empty and unsatisfied. And, we must add, deeply in debt. The average American carries $225,000 in debt.
The beginning of a new year is often a time in our lives when we try to sort things out and make resolutions for a new and improved life. Paul’s words to Timothy seem apropos for guiding our efforts:
6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either . . .
1 Timothy 6:6-7
As people of faith we must remember that the real gain in life is not measured by possessions, bank accounts and net worth. It is measured in our relationship with God. The goal is to become godly, more like our heavenly Father. The “dogged pursuit of more” will lead us astray everytime. Paul went on in chapter six to say this to Timothy:
9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.I Timothy 6:9-10
This might be just the time to take stock of our relationship with material things. And, although it sounds counterintuitive, it is most always true: less is more.
May God lead us all to godliness with contentment in 2016.
Grace and peace,

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Year of Our Lord

2016 is almost here; just a few hours and we’ll turn our calendars to a new year. More precisely,  A.D. 2016 is almost here. A.D. is an abbreviation for the Latin words Anno Domini which translate to the Lord’s year or the year of our Lord. During the sixth century a monk named Dionysius Exiguus introduced this system of numbering years.  In 1582 Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar which confirmed the useage of A.D. The Gregorian calendar is today the most widely used civil calendar in the world. Just in case you are wondering, there is no zero in this scheme. A.D. 1 comes immediately after 1 B.C. A.D. 1 marks the birth year of Jesus on our calendars. The birth of Christ is the dividing point of time in world history. B.C. was everything “before Christ” and A.D. is everything after his birth. Some secular scholars have attempted to remove these references to Jesus by using B.C.E (before the common era) to replace B.C. and C.E. (common era) to replace A.D. They have not been successful, however, in removing his influence. I am reminded the essay “One Solitary Life” by Dr. James Allan Francis:
He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant womanHe grew up in another obscure village Where he worked in a carpenter shopUntil he was thirty when public opinion turned against him
He never wrote a book
He never held an officeHe never went to collegeHe never visited a big cityHe never travelled more than two hundred milesFrom the place where he was bornHe did none of the thingsUsually associated with greatnessHe had no credentials but himself 
He was only thirty three 
His friends ran away
ne of them denied himHe was turned over to his enemiesAnd went through the mockery of a trialHe was nailed to a cross between two thievesWhile dying, his executioners gambled for his clothingThe only property he had on earth 
When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
hrough the pity of a friend 
Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human raceAnd the leader of mankind's progressAll the armies that have ever marchedAll the navies that have ever sailedAll the parliaments that have ever satAll the kings that ever reigned put togetherHave not affected the life of mankind on earthAs powerfully as that one solitary life
My 2016 truly be the year of Lord for all of us.