Who Would Have Guessed?

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I am fascinated by how things connect, relationships between people and God, people and people, people and things (as well as places). It can be easy to be tempted to think of these connections as a coincidence. Some of them certainly may be very random, but as time passes I can discover they only seemed that way from my point of view. Let me share just one simple example.

Eighteen years ago I met a young couple while doing their premarital counseling. I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent together. Fast forward to eight years ago after I had retired and started to write. I had never created or set up a website. It seemed like a huge task, but by coincidence the young woman I had met so much earlier had just finished a degree in graphic arts and helped me by designing and setting up the website. Her husband, a writer and editor, was quick to encourage me with my writing and offered some helpful council. When I met them back then, I wasn’t writing and had no plan for a website; but before I asked He was providing.

Coincidence? Some would say so, but I have had so many things like this occur that I am persuaded that it is evidence of God’s provision, His faithfulness to provide us with what we need at a particular point in time as we seek to follow His leading in our lives.

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I think it can be easy for some of us to read in the Bible and watch how God moved then. There were so many concrete examples that seem spectacular. A burning bush, a sea dividing, walls of a city falling down after marchers marched around them blowing trumpets, a giant felled by a boy with a sling and a stone, men thrown into fiery furnaces and not burned up or even singed…really? These seem beyond our imagination.

These stories and others can tempt us to wonder why we aren’t seeing such demonstrations today. Who would have guessed these things would have ever happened? Archeological history points to evidences of the truth of them, however.

I wonder if it is easy for us to forget the creative genius of God that extends beyond our capacity to fathom.

Who would have guessed that He would send His Son to earth from heaven as a human infant to show us what He was truly like? Who would have guessed He would be sacrificed on a tortuous cross and then rise from the dead three days later?

As I consider those times I read about from Genesis to Revelation, I am convinced we need to keep an open mind about how God might choose to work in the world.

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Just because we don’t see Him with our physical eyes doesn’t mean He isn’t here and working. For those of us who are His, He dwells within us by His Holy Spirit and guides us as we yield to Him. Can that not also include leading us to people and places that He is using to fulfill His ultimate purposes in our lives?

What is further evidence I can see that points to Him working in such a way?

Satan is prone to copy what He has seen the Lord do. He is not all that creative even though his devices of evil are assuredly many. Does he not also bring people and things into our lives for evil, to pull us off track from following the Lord? Of course he does! He copies.

We need to pay attention as we look at the world around us and how things are unfolding. We need to stay close to the Lord and be open to new ways He may be at work. We need to know Him from Genesis to Revelation in ways that confirms His presence at work in the world and in us right now.

Who would have guessed that His body might not know Him well enough to recognize Him at work today?

Make no mistake…Aslan is on the move!


Our Challenge to Remember

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No matter what our age, the “Information Age” as some have called it, bombards us with new or recycled information second by second on a broad array of media devices. As a result of the fast movement of unfolding information, we tend to not recall parts and pieces and often end up with an overview that may be shaded based on our recall, our perception, or our worldview.

At present as the horizon appears to be darkening and an endless stream of information of injustice, evil, deceit, and moral decay assails us; we can be tempted to think that evil reaches its tentacles into everything. That can be and often is true, but should we despair and wring our hands when that occurs?

Perhaps we have forgotten (if we ever knew) that God can bring about good from evil. That truth echoes throughout the entire Bible.

The writer of Hebrews 13:8 (TLB) reminds us:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

His ultimate purposes and ultimate justice are always accomplished and will be as we near the hour of His return.

Modern stories rarely allow us to see evil used for good, but the Bible gives us a different view.

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One of the most famous examples is that of Joseph in the book of Genesis. You probably remember this favorite youngest son of Jacob’s (then called Israel) who was always sharing about his dreams. His brothers became jealous of not only the multi-colored coat his father had given him, but of his favored position with their father as well.

When they could take it no longer, Joseph was thrown into a pit and left for dead until some slave traders came by and offered to buy him. The brothers couldn’t resist the 20 pieces of silver and soon Joseph was sold and on his way to Egypt. All sounds pretty dreadful as evil abounds, but it was there that God would work on Joseph’s character and refine his gift of dreams and their interpretation. He would bring great good from what the brothers meant for harm and evil. Joseph would be used to save the Jewish nation when famine threatened to obliterate them.

Later when the favor of the Pharaoh Joseph preserved was dead and Joseph was gone as well, the Egyptians held this same Jewish nation in slavery. Nearly 200 years had passed and when all the male children of Israel were doomed to destruction through an abundance of evil, Moses was saved and later God plundered the Egyptians to provide for this beaten down people and lead them into a Promised Land.

The Promised Land was not so easy to claim due to the lack of faith and the power of the enemies before Israel. Jericho appeared impenetrable, but a harlot named Rahab hid the spies sent to scout out the land and the result was a great victory when the walls of Jericho fell without a single arrow coming against it as the children of Israel marched around the city walls.

Time and again the Bible shares stories with us that should remind us that God uses evil for ultimate good.

I also don’t think we need be undone by the legal maxim: “justice delayed is justice denied.”  Everything that happens on, above, or under the earth will be brought to ultimate justice.

The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk complained to God about the sins of immorality, lawlessness, and idolatry all around him. Then God spoke to him and let him know that it would be the evil enemy nation of Babylon that would be used to bring justice to the evildoers of Judah that Habakkuk was lamenting.


The believers in Jesus when He walked the earth were nearly upended. It appeared evil triumphed when the Savior they believed was there to be crowned king was brutally murdered on a Roman cross at the hands of the Pharisees and a traitor (Judas) who was among the first disciples chosen by Jesus. But it was this evil that brought about the ultimate good of eternal salvation.

As shadows deepen and unthinkable evil seems to increase, our challenge is to remember the Lord is not only a God of love, grace, and mercy, but He is also a God of righteousness and justice.

Remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18 (NLT):

“ For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

Luke would also remind us of where our focus should be:

“But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  Luke 21:28 (NASB)

What is that redemption? 

His return for those who believe in Him.

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What Makes A Good Story?

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One of the gifts we sometimes take for granted is the gift of reading. Many people around the world never have a chance to learn to read or get the experience of holding a book in their hands as a story unfolds page by page. There are some people who are not exposed to reading in childhood on the laps of people who love to read to them the most fascinating stories (complete with different voices and sound effects). Those lucky ones develop a love of books before they ever enter school.

Sadly, many of those who don’t have that experience don’t grow up with a desire to read the stories themselves and reading becomes just another subject and skill they must learn in school. I was lucky. I grew up loving stories. First, I loved the ones that were read to me and then learning to read them for myself. Reading is still a favorite activity. Inside the pages of books, I not only expand what I know but also take adventures to places I have never visited and likely never well. I get glimpses of the thoughts, ideas, dreams, and life experiences of others as well. I am challenged and inspired and grow because of what I read.

During the years I was a teacher, I loved times when I might read something to my students and when I became a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor it was not uncommon for me to pull a book from my shelves to read a few lines that seemed to speak to where the person opposite me was sitting. It was surprising to me to discover adults in that chair who had never had anyone read to them.

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A favorite question often shared with several friends of mine when we meet for coffee, breakfast, or lunch is, “What are you reading?” It always leads into a fascinating conversation about the latest thing she has read, how it has impacted her, and often means I add another book to my list that I want to read. Some friends have very different tastes in reading, but I still enjoy the retelling of a book they are enjoying and how it is influencing them to look at something in a different way or give them a puzzle to solve.

Each of you may have a list of what makes a good story from your perspective. My list and yours might vary quite a lot and that’s okay. One of the things I look for and delight in is good character development no matter what genre I am reading or what movie I am watching. People are fascinating to me so that draws me in or causes me to close a book or distract myself in a movie before I get to the end. Another thing that never fails to grab me is what the author or script writer puts together words that offer me a good quote to enjoy, revisit and savor. (You often find them tucked into things I write here.) If it is really a book or movie I love, I will not read it only once or watch it just one time.

One of the things that draws me (and many others) back to rereading the Bible is that it is God’s story and an intriguing one at that. Each time I read it, I learn or see something I didn’t see during the other times I read it. Right now, I am back in the Old Testament with all those stories that captivate me (even though I have read them many times before). I am also rereading a book that was first gifted to me in 1997 that I hadn’t read for many years. It focuses on the life of Joseph whose life was full of twists and turns. That is one of the things we find in the entire Bible – character studies that tell the whole story (the good, the bad, and the ugly). It’s a contrast to stories we read in magazines, news media, and the like today where we usually only hear the best or the worst about someone or something.

“…the Bible reveals the good and the bad about its heroes. It is encouraging to know that we don’t need to be perfect to be wonderfully used by God.”

R.T. Kendall
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So, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation God’s story unfolds with characters who are ones we revere but not unlike us, are flawed. And the Bible lays out those parts too. We see liars like Abraham, Jacob, and others. We see Noah as the hero who was saved from the flood and built the ark but gets drunk later in an episode we don’t expect. The man after God’s own heart, King David, commits adultery with one of his top soldiers’ wives and then has the man killed in battle so he doesn’t find out. Jonah gets swallowed into the belly of a fish and who knows what that was like. He just couldn’t obey God’s directive to go to Nineveh. In the New Testament we see Peter getting in trouble time and time again and yet he is the disciple Jesus says he will build his church upon.

Each of these stories should give us hope that reaches into our own stories that are a mixture of things not unlike these. Too often we can be tempted to be critical of these characters we read about as if we would never have done what they did, but that should always jolt us to the truth that we likely would have done them. And whether we are heroes to anyone or not, we tend to edit our stories sharing only certain parts either because we still feel guilt and shame about the worst parts or we have shared them at some points and had others respond to us as if we are worse than we believed we were when those things happened, or we made those choices. The Bible from the beginning to the end shows us a God who is far more gracious and merciful than we are despite not removing the consequences of sin.

Just ask those biblical heroes about the consequences they had to face. Moses missed out on the Promised Land he led the children of Israel to. David lost the first child that came from his adultery. And we deal with consequences as well, but just like all these others God still chooses to use us and love us if we will be honest and return to Him.

And isn’t that what makes the Bible the very best story of all?

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Intention vs Intentionality

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Life gets crazy and busy. We get tired and frustrated, disappointed and upended. In the midst of all that and more, we intend to do and be so many things…often very good things…but that does not always occur. Life is like that. Things happen that we do not intend.

We hear that when Galadriel speaks a prologue in The Lord of the Rings about the famous ring of power that had upended so many and turned the world back into darkness. She tells the audience:

“But then something happened that the Ring did not intend. It was picked up by the most unlikely creature imaginable. A Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, of the Shire. For the time will soon come when Hobbits will shape the fortunes of all…”


And so it is that things happen in life that we may not intend. How often any one of us can be heard commenting, “But I didn’t intend to…”  (Fill in the blank). Many times it is true because we did not intend or plan to hurt, harm, or disappoint someone, but in our hurried thoughtlessness we did. Sometimes that comment is also a “too ready” excuse that slips from our mouths without much thought to what our words or actions were or the consequences of them.

The truth is that no matter what our intent may be or may have been, we judge others by their actions and they judge us by ours.

No matter what we may wish to be or say, our behaviors and our words come out of the store of what is inside of us.

Yes, we all have bad moments in time, but each of us also needs to consider how we move, live, and speak with a greater intentionality.


Intentionality reflects being deliberate and purposeful in how we represent ourselves, our Lord, and any and all associated with us. It also takes into account that with the best of intentions, not everyone will hear what it is we have said as we meant it to be communicated.

Trey Gowdy speaks with a great deal of insight on this topic in Unified. Here is a part of his thoughts:

“When I speak, the intention behind my words is important; but what the other person hears is even more important. The quality of my communication is always determined by the listener. Unless the other person understands and receives what we mean to say, we haven’t communicated effectively. We must speak the same language, define our terms, pursue a common understanding, and be bold and honest enough to speak up with one another…It doesn’t have to be confrontational – in fact, it’s better if it’s not – but it must be candid, truthful, and to the point. And we must be willing to listen and seek to understand the other side’s perspective.”

Few of us can claim not to have been exposed to enough truth to be clear on this. It speaks to congruency and integrity, consistency and intentionality and a clear understanding that our words matter, our actions matter, and both have consequences in this life and the next.

Each of us has the opportunity to make a difference in standing in the gap and reducing the division where we are planted and placed.

As Tim Scott notes:

“The truth is, we all need someone to model the expectation and show us the way. Leadership is caught, not taught.”


Courses on leadership abound along with more leadership training seminars than anyone can imagine and yet in every sphere and area, it is harder and harder to find true and effective leadership.

It begins with “cleaning the slate inside.”  Listen to Tim Scott’s powerful truth on this subject:

“The honest truth is that the slate that most needs cleaning is the one inside each of us – the one that has all our preconceptions, prejudices, and poisonous attitudes written on it. The one where we have recorded our pain. When I look in the mirror and see someone who has been forgiven, it’s easier for me to clean the slate with others and start fresh.”

Adding to that:

“If we want to establish friendships with people who are different from us, we simply cannot blame them for the things that others have said or done to us in the past. We cannot afford to blur the lines of responsibility. We must believe the best about each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt. In a sense, we are all living with the consequences of what others have done or not done, but let’s not attribute those things to one another. Let’s make an intentional decision to start fresh.”  Trey Gowdy

If we truly desire a better home, better neighborhood, better church, better workplace, or better nation, what is each of us demonstrating in our words and actions that show that intentionality?

I pray it will not be said of us what Ezekiel writes in Ezekiel 22:30 (NASB):

“I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.”

The wall was to keep out every ungodly thing raised up against what God had ordained and set forward.

Will each of us have the courage and intentionality to stand in the growing gap created by focusing on our differences, attributing things to one another without even knowing each other?

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Whatever Happened to Kindness?

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When I talk with my grandchildren I always discover new words that are popping up. Some are a great deal of fun, but others may leave me scratching my head. For example, one of my grandsons will often respond to something good that is being suggested as “solid.”  Another grandson is known to say something is really “bad” and that now means “good.”

It seems like just yesterday that many of us said something was “cool” at similar times. Oxford Dictionaries Online say we add about 1,000 new words per year and other words disappear or appear to shift in meaning or usage.

One word I hear far less than I once did is the word kind. I recall hearing admonitions to be kind to others not only from my parents or Sunday School teachers, but also my school teachers. I even heard it on some of the popular TV shows of the 50’s.


In the turbulent 60’s the word kind seemed to begin to fade from common usage. I specifically recall it reappearing when President George H.W. Bush called for a “kinder and gentler” nation in accepting his nomination to the presidency in 1988.

As I go about daily life I am persuaded that we need more kindness than ever before. If I ask someone what kind means, he or she will often say it means being “nice.” That is somewhat of a vague description when the dictionary states plainly that it means, “being friendly, generous, and considerate.”

Proverbs 11:17 (NLT) makes a strong case for kindness:

“Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.”

Given the state of the world, society, our neighborhoods, schools, and government that could point to why so much destruction is occurring.

I recently was reading Romans in the Message and in chapter 2 as we near the end of verse 4 Paul gives insight into the kindness of God and its use:

“God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.”

I wonder if kindness began to dim when we were deceived into believing it reflects weakness.

Andrew J. Bauman noted in Stumbling Toward Wholeness:

“Love precedes kindness. Without love we cannot be kind.”

That suggests the core issue is love or the lack of it, love that comes from One greater than us. Too often we love (or try to) based on a feeling. The Lord loves because He is love.

And here’s the deal. We need to start with accepting it from Him and appropriate his kindness toward us to be transformed into someone who is kind. Somehow we get that part mixed up and either let ourselves totally off the hook or hold ourselves hostage despite his offer of grace.

“Kindness to self is a lost art in Christendom, yet without it we become stuck in the early part of the restoration journey. Kindness is the grease of God to get our transformation moving. Kindness gives us the ability to press on even in the darkest of times.”

Andrew J. Bauman

Maybe we get mired down in that belief I mentioned earlier: kindness means niceness. It is not mere kindness.

Bauman says: “Kindness is not for the faint of heart nor the chronic people pleaser.”

If we are looking for examples of kindness in scripture, we can start with the father in the parable of the prodigal son. We can also see it in the confrontation of Nathan to David when David orders Uriah the Hittite to the front lines of battle for a certain death so David won’t be exposed for sleeping with Uriah’s wife.

Nathan loved David. His loving confrontation is an example of kindness toward David. Why?  It led to David’s repentance. There could be no greater kindness to someone Nathan loved. There you see again that love is the source of the kindness.

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If our daily life is not showing evidences of kindness, it’s time to look beyond the superficial behaviors that appear kind and look at our heart condition.

In Galatians 6:22-23 (NIV) Paul writes plainly that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit at work within us:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Whatever happened to kindness?

When our heart condition is not residing in the grace, mercy, truth, and love of the Lord, it seems unlikely we will see much evidence of kindness in our life.

And maybe that is where we need to start realizing that it starts with each one of us becoming what we say we are, so that the entire world can see the Lord’s transforming grace at work.