Where Is God?

I first saw the question online last week – “where was God during Hurricane Harvey?”

I can’t take credit for the great answer I saw from someone (I don’t remember who wrote the blog, or I would give them credit) – God was present in His people, who were rescuing the stranded, bringing relief supplies to those in need, and coming in to the midst of the chaos following the hurricane to help however they could.

We are the Body of Christ in this world, and…

  • Wherever there is darkness, we go to bring the light;
  • Wherever there is pain, we go to bring healing;
  • Wherever there are captives, we go to set them free;
  • Wherever there is turmoil, we go to bring peace;
  • Wherever there is hunger and thirst, we go to bring food and drink;
  • Wherever there is spiritual hunger and thirst, we go to bring the Bread of Life and the Living Water; and
  • Wherever there is boredom and lack of purpose, we go to bring salt.

When the world asks “where was God when…” the answer must always be that God is present in His people, who do His work. God is present in His people, who are salt and light; God is present in His people, who love their neighbors and their enemies; God is present in His people, whose God-given vision can bring solutions to impossible situations; God is present in His people, whose self-sacrifice and service to others is like that of Jesus, who came not be served but to serve others.

You see, when a storm hits, it’s not an “act of God.” It’s not God’s wrath being poured out on the earth. A storm is a storm. It’s a result of weather patterns in a sinful, fallen world.

Where is God in the storm?

God is present in the refreshing rain, not in the torrential flooding.

God is present in the air we breathe, but not in the tornadic winds.

God is present in the deep blue sea, but not in the chaos of the storm surge.

God’s power is displayed in the might of a weather pattern, but God is not present in the destruction that is brought by the storm.

God is present, most of all, within us, His people.

Let us live our lives as God’s representatives in these difficult times, as Paul instructed us:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:17-20a (NIV)

It’s Time to Stand Together

Over the past few days, our nation – and the world – have watched as Charlottesville, VA has become the center of a storm of controversy and racist hatred.

It all began back in May when the city decided to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and to rename parks within the city that had been named after Confederate leaders.

That is a huge issue.  It’s an issue of heritage to many Southern followers of Jesus; it’s an issue of racism and hatred from the perspective of many African-American followers of Jesus.  I’ve seen impassioned posts by people who love Jesus, explaining why it’s so important to keep those monuments in place and why it’s so important to not re-write or hide that part of our history.

I’ve also seen impassioned posts by people who love Jesus who are grieved over the racism and subjugation of people that those symbols represent.

I cannot speak for African-American followers of Jesus.  I haven’t walked in their shoes, experienced their lives, had to deal with the issues that are part of their lives.

But I can speak as a Caucasian follower of Jesus.

I am a political conservative.  I believe in personal responsibility, the free-market system, limited government, lower taxes, and so on.

But I love my African-American brothers and sisters.  And it is my responsibility to not just love them by mouthing platitudes or offering excuses or ignoring their pain, but to speak out on their behalf, to stand with them, to fight against injustice.

It is time for us stand up as followers of Jesus.

When we have let our arguments against political positions, our excuses against accusations of white privilege, and our concern for our own rights trump our willingness to stand alongside our brothers and sisters, we have become blind to our own self-interest and lack of love.

When it takes seeing KKK members and Nazis to actually get our attention and cause us to wonder if maybe things have gone a little too far, there is a huge problem.

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We don’t have to agree on everything politically.  We can disagree agreeably, with love and honor.  We can be conservatives and liberals, and espouse different paths to different political goals.

But we cannot stand idly by and say nothing when white racists march in the streets, wearing hoods and waving swastikas.

We DO have to love one another.  It’s not an option for those of us who follow Jesus.  In fact, Jesus specifically said that others would know we belong to Him because of the way we love one another.  It’s time for us to actually do that.  It’s time for Caucasian followers of Jesus to stand up and be vocal about the fact that racism is not ok.  It’s time to sit down with our African-American brothers and sisters and actually listen to them without making excuses, without arguing, and without trying to force them to hear us.  It’s time for them to know that regardless of our political preferences or policy preferences, we prefer them as our brothers and sisters.  It’s time for them to know we have their backs as fellow followers of Jesus.

How will we ever love our enemies if we cannot even love our own brothers and sisters in Christ?

I am part of a denomination (the C&MA) that exists to reach those who have never heard the name of Jesus.

How sinful would it be to spend our lives, our time, our money, and our resources to cross the seas to minister to people in other cultures if we are not willing to reach across racial and culture lines in our own nation to love our own brothers and sisters in Christ?  How wrong is it to stand silently by and say nothing while white hatred groups parade in the streets, claiming to do so in the name of God?

“Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.”  (Romans 12:9-10, NIV).

Here are some questions I’m struggling with right now.  Maybe they are questions we should all struggle with right now.  Maybe they are questions we should ask Jesus to help us answer:

  • How do I sincerely love my African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, not just pay lip-service to them?
  • How do I hate what is evil in our culture right now?
  • How do I cling to what is good in our culture right now?
  • How do I actively devote myself to my African-American brothers and sisters in Christ?
  • How do I honor my African-American brothers and sisters in Christ above myself?
  • When I stand before Jesus one day, will I be proud or ashamed of how I loved those who are different from me but are part of the same Body as me?

May God move us to stand with all who are part of the same Body, baptized by the same Spirit, saved by faith in the same Lord.

The Power of Story

Warning – this is a longer-than-usual blog post, and it is no way at all devotional.

I have always loved to read, and specifically, to read stories.

Don’t get me wrong.  As an adult, I serve as a pastor, and so I read a lot of non-fiction:  the Bible; books on leadership, communication, history, attitude, planning, different aspects of theology, sociology, the Church’s role in our society, living as follower of Jesus in a post-Christian, post-modern era, soul care and spiritual formation, sermons by other pastors, politics, Western civilization, philosophy – I am a voracious reader.  I believe it is important for me as a leader to be a life-long learner.  My Dad, who has been a pastor for well over fifty years, taught me early in my ministry that for a pastor, a wide variety of books and knowledge were tools as vital to ministry as a well-stocked, even overflowing Husky Tool Chest and Rolling Tool Cabinet Set were to an auto mechanic.

But I’ve always loved to read stories.

I can remember finding an old, red-covered hardback mystery novel in my Grandpa Hunter’s den called The Ghoul.  It was a gothic mystery about a haunted house and a frightened heir and a crazed twin brother who imitated his deceased wealthy brother, trying to scare off the heir and killing several servants in the process.

I remember hearing Mr. Young, my fifth grade teacher, reading a large portion of The Bridge of Khazad-dûm – a key chapter in The Fellowship of the Ring, book 1 of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I went home from school that day determined to  learn about the rest of the story, and saved every penny I could until I could purchase a paperback set of the trilogy. I fell in love with the rich fantasy world that Tolkien created – a world of elves and dwarves and orcs and ents and hobbits, a world with both deeply flawed men and women and heroic men and women.  That amazing fantasy world led me next to Narnia, C.S. Lewis’ incredible fantasy world.  Both of these series taught me much about life, about the power of story, and about being a follower of Jesus in dark and difficult times.  I began to realize that story wasn’t just entertainment; it was also a powerful way of communicating truth.

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I remember checking out Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the school library as a high-school student.  I had to sneak that one home, because my parents didn’t want us reading sci-fi or horror or anything like that.  But I read Dracula in two nights, staying up after everyone else had gone to sleep.  And I discovered that I loved to be scared, which eventually led me to Stephen King.

You know that a lot of people would consider you to be a pretty unusual person when two of your favorite books are The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and It by Stephen King.

But I found in some horror stories a pronounced world view of good versus evil, in which good eventually triumphs over evil.  And again, I recognized that story is a powerful tool for communicating truth.  (By the way, if it bothers you that I’ve admitted to reading horror at times in my life, you might want to check out my friend Mike Duran’s book, Christian Horror: On the Compatibility of a Biblical Worldview and the Horror Genre.  It’s an in-depth theological look at the genre in light of Biblical teaching on the importance of our thought life and Paul’s call to live with a renewed mind.)

Early in my ministry, I finally figured out just how important stories were in the Bible as a whole, and in the teaching ministry of Jesus.  At times, it seemed like Jesus went out of His way to tell a story instead of directly answering a question or addressing an issue.  For example, there’s this classic:  Peter:  “How often should I forgive my neighbor?”  Jesus:  “There was a guy who owed his king a couple of lifetimes’ worth of gold…”  And of course, there’s this one:  Religious leader:  “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus:  “A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and he was robbed…”

About a decade ago, I read John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart and discovered his amazing insight that part of the power of story is that we actually live in a story – the story of our lives.  Not only that, but we live in our Father’s larger Story.  And because God has writing eternity on our hearts, you can actually discover a representation of the gospel in many of the popular movies and stories in our culture, even though unintended by the authors or movie directors.  Gladiator, Braveheart, The Hunger Games, even Harry Potter – you can find a summary or a demonstration of gospel truths in these.  (That’s not the point of this post, but if you’d like to engage with me about that idea, I’d be happy to do so.)

So where am I going with all of this?

As I have begun to seriously pursue writing, I have recognized that I enjoy writing both non-fiction and fiction.  I set a goal this year for myself of completing both a non-fiction and a fiction book each year from now until when I retire.

But as I write non-fiction, I know that I am not a serious theologian like Tim Keller or John Piper.  Nor am I as creative or deep a communicator as Andy Stanley, Mark Batterson, or Bill Johnson.  I’m not a controversial pot-stirrer like Mark Driscoll or Brandon Hatmaker.  I am an encourager; I am a writer who tries to lift people up.  I’m not as funny as John Ortberg or as much of a wordsmith of Max Lucado, but I AM learning my own voice.

And as I learn, I am learning that while I love writing both non-fiction and fiction, fiction is my preferred niche.

And that’s the reason for this post.

I am going to be changing the format of my blog.

It seems like a natural time to do this, after having over a month-long hiatus due to surgery.

Over time, I will be transitioning more and more to fiction, perhaps even creating a separate blog for just that.

But in the meantime, this blog will change to a varied schedule.  My plan is that it will look like this:

    • Mondays:  A devotional or commentary on current events.
    • Wednesdays:  A book review or recommendation, mostly non-fiction spiritual growth books.
    • Fridays:  A short story or part of an ongoing serial story.

I’m letting you know about these changes because some of you will be excited and want more.  And some of you will decided “this isn’t what I signed up for” and will want to unsubscribe.  I will hate to see you go.  But it’s okay.  There’s no point in your reading these posts if you don’t feel they’re going to benefit you.  (However, I would ask you to consider waiting until Friday and reading the first fiction post before unsubscribing.  You might find yourself pleasantly surprised or intrigued by what you read!)

I just wanted to give you a heads-up as to what’s coming so you understand why and can decide for yourself.  I hope you decide to continue on the journey with me.

Thanks for reading!

“Don’t Judge Me!”

I don’t hear it quite as much recently, but a few years ago, it seemed like everyone was saying “don’t judge me…” for just about everything – eating ice cream, wearing pajama pants in public, eating weird combinations of things, cheering for a certain sports team, watching certain TV shows, etc.  It was usually meant as a fun way of saying “let me do my thing, even though I realize it may look weird to you!”

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The truth is, though, that none of us like to be judged.

However…even though we don’t like to be judged, and as followers of Jesus we know it’s wrong to judge others, the truth is that if we’re honest, most of us judge others fairly often.  We usually don’t express it out loud, but we can think some pretty harsh things.  (Well, I’m confessing I do that more than I should.  Probably none of you ever do that, right???!!!)

But judging people is dangerous for our souls – more dangerous than we may realize.

I was reading a devotional from Ted Dekker’s “The Forgotten Way” today when I read something that helped me understand this more clearly.  So just to be clear, this is not original with me.  But it was such a strong realization that I wanted to share it with you.

Jesus warned us against judging others in Matthew 7:1-5, where he said, “Stop judging others.  Before you point out the speck in someone else’s eye, get the telephone pole out of your own eye.”  (That’s the HP version – “Hunter Paraphrase.”)

But why is judging so bad?

Ted Dekker helped me realize something about judging that I had never seen before in Scripture.

In Genesis 2:16-17, God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 

Think about that.  The fruit of that tree was the knowledge of what was good and what was evil – in other words, the fruit of that tree was judgment.  Not just knowing the difference, but deciding what was good and evil.

Dekker puts it this way: 

“Yeshua (Jesus) made it plain:  when you judge others, a plank of offense blocks your sight.  When you begin to see, your might be surprised to discover that your whole life is full of judgment against people, things, places, nations, groups, and above all, yourself.

Why?  Because the flesh was born out of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, which is condemnation.  Thus the flesh loves grievance and is addicted to negativity, which is its food for survival.

But if you remove that plank of offense against others, you will see clearly.  Surrendering judgment frees you from its harsh judgment of you.”

Do you get that?  Our very sin nature was born out of the fruit of judgment!  So when we judge (which is, in essence, taking the position of God over others), we are feeding our sinful nature and not our nature as a new creation in Christ.  In judging, we are choosing to live as who we once were, not who we are in Christ!

When you see that clearly, you begin to understand that judging is one of the most harmful things that you can do to your own soul.

“Ahh,” but I hear some of you say, “but what about discernment?  Aren’t we supposed to discern?  Isn’t discernment even a spiritual gift???”

Quite true. 

Let me suggest an important difference.  Discernment, which is of the Spirit, is based on hearing from God, and will not result in us treating the other person with anything other than love.

Judgment, which is of the flesh, is based on condemning others, and will result in us acting out of a critical spirit or at least looking at others out of a critical spirit, rather than out of love. 

In other words, discernment reflects the Father’s heart; judgment reflects the flesh, and a pharisaical heart.

Another way to consider it:  Discernment is restorative and protective; judgment is punitive and often takes offense – or takes the offensive.  (I know; I’ve done plenty of judging.)

I know, I know.  “But what about…what does that look like…how about…”

This is a blog, not a chapter in a book.  What I’ve tried to give you this morning is food for thought about our thought lives, not a completely developed theology or a guide to how to walk this out.

Let me suggest this for today – take a few moments and ask the Spirit, “how do I judge others, and myself, without realizing it?  How badly am I hurting my own soul when I do that?”


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

I’m So Tired!

“I’m tired.”

Every day, I begin my day with my Bible, prayer, and my journal.  I start each journal with the date, the time, where I am, and how I feel.  And I’ve realized how often over the past few months the “how I feel” part begins with “I’m tired.”

It’s not just me, though.  I know a lot of tired people.  In fact, as I think about it, I’m amazed at the number of people who respond, “I’m doing okay, just tired” when I ask them how they are.

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We live in a time when it’s easy to be tired.  We’ve learned to be more and more efficient, to cram more and more into our days, to be busier and busier at all that we do.  Companies preach efficiency because it benefits the bottom line.  Our families have to be efficient because our kids are involved in so many activities at so many different places.  We live in a world full of opportunities, and we love to take advantage of all those good things.

But we may be killing our souls in the process.

We were created to need rest.  God Himself, in whose image we are created, rested for a whole day after creation:  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.  Genesis 2:2-3 (NIV)

Now I know, some people take that to an extreme.  There are some who object and say, “that’s Old Testament; in fact, it’s one of the Ten Commandments.  I don’t have to do that.”  But before the Law was given, God rested.  God, in whose image we are created.  Rest isn’t a Law or commandment issue; it’s an identity issue.  Part of learning to “be” is taking care of ourselves by resting.

Other people take it to the other extreme – a religious extreme.  They make “the Sabbath” about legalistic “rest” rather than peaceful rest, forgetting that Jesus stated that “the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  There are whole segments of Christianity in which legalistic rules govern the Sabbath – no yard work, no building a deck, no gardening, etc.  And it’s all in the name of “the Sabbath.”  Might I suggest that when you work that hard at making sure people are keeping the “Sabbath” properly that it’s not really about rest at all?????

We were created in God’s image, and we need rest.  Scientific studies – I could quote a ton of them if I had the time – show that we need almost 8 hours of sleep to function optimally.  Think about that.  God created us to need rest for of each day – for of our lifetimes, if you think about it.

You were created in the image of the One who rested one day out of seven.  You were also created in such a way that to be healthy, you will sleep for of your life.

Rest restores our bodies and our souls.  Rest forces us to just “be.”

God knows that.  He often meets with us in our times of rest.  In fact, once He told Israel that if they would stop striving and rest in Him, they would be saved from their enemies – but instead, their frenetic fleeing meant that they would instead be conquered:  This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:  “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”  Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)

How about you?  Do you rest one day of the week?  Do you rest enough each night (or day, depending on your shift)?

If you want a simple way to grow in just learning to “be” then learn to stop and rest.

Stop and rest.

Why?

Because God did.

And He’s stronger, wiser, better, healthier, bigger, and abler than you or me.


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Learning to “Be”

“To be is to do.” – Socrates

“To do is to be.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

“Do be do be do.” – Frank Sinatra

You didn’t realize there was such a long-term discussion in the world of philosophy on being and doing, did you???!!!

Well, bad humor aside, the truth is that most of us are much better at doing than at being.  In fact, as I wrote on Wednesday, it’s what we are trained to do, it’s what our society encourages and rewards, and it’s what is most familiar to us.  So if “doing” is so deeply ingrained in our society and in each of us, then the truth is that in order for us to learn to “be” we will have to be intentional about it.  It will take a willingness to learn new skills, it will take a commitment to understanding ourselves and our identity on a deeper level, it will take a commitment of time, and it will take self-discipline to regularly “do” the things that will help us to “be.”

Yep, you read that right.  It’s counter-intuitive, but there is some “doing” involved in “being.”

So what I would like to do over the next several blogs is just share some simple, practical ways to “be.”  Some of these are things that I’ve written about and spoken about in relation to spiritual formation and hearing God’s voice.  Some of these are things that I’m great at; some are things that I’m really struggling to incorporate into my life and to make a part of my walk with Jesus.  To be honest, not everyone will connect with all of these.  I’m learning that one of the keys to making progress in our walk with Jesus is to learn how best we connect with Jesus and lean into those ways.  Don’t judge yourself against someone else, or by comparing yourself to what works for someone else.  Find what works for you, and go for it, and then if it begins to become stale, switch it up as you learn to spend time just “being” with Jesus.

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Today, I want to begin with a simple practice.  A lot of people who do this call it “soaking.”  Just as you would soak in a bathtub, so in this way of “being” you just spend time “soaking” in God’s presence – sitting with Him, being with Him.  Not doing anything.  Not reading your Bible, not journaling, not praying, not worshiping (although worship music can be helpful in this).  Just sitting with God and soaking up His presence.

Here’s how you soak:

  1. Find somewhere quiet where you will be undisturbed.
  2. Put your phone on “Airplane Mode.”  (Seriously.  And yes, you can do this.  If someone needs to get in touch with you, they will leave a message.  You can survive without being connected for 30 minutes.  We used to do it all the time before cell phones.)
  3. Put some soft worship music on.  I prefer instrumental worship music, but use whatever works best for you.  The point of the music is to cut out other distractions, to create a “space” for God’s presence (remember, He inhabits the praises of His people), and to help you focus on just being with God.  The point of the music is not to draw you into worship, although worship is good.  But this is soaking, not worship.
  4. Close your eyes.  (This helps you avoid distractions.  And if you’re afraid you’ll fall asleep, well, maybe you need some sleep.  Guess what?  God can be with you in your sleep.  He’s powerful like that.)
  5. If you want, pray a simple prayer of declaration.  Something like “Come, Holy Spirit.”  Or “Father, I just want to sit with You right now.”  Or “Jesus, I want to soak in Your presence.”
  6. Now just be with the Lord.  Just sit with Him.  Let Him love you.  If He speaks, listen and welcome His voice, but the point isn’t active listening.  The point is to sit (or recline, or whatever you’re comfortable with) and just be with Him.  Just soak up His Presence.

That’s it!  My suggestion is that you set a time period – half an hour, or an hour.  If the thought of this is intimidating, then start with fifteen minutes.  But try it 3-4 times a week for a month and see how you are able to develop the skill of just soaking in His Presence.  It can be difficult – for some of us, it’s hard enough to slow down, let alone slow down and just “be” with God.  But soaking is an amazing, simple, practical way to just “be.”

Try it this weekend – and let me know how it goes!


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Something Happened On The Way to Jerusalem

(Note – this blog was first preached as a devotional at the Ridgway High Rise on April 9, 2017)

Yesterday was Palm Sunday.  Almost everyone who reads this, whether Christian or not, is at least vaguely familiar with the story of Palm Sunday – of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey to the praises of his disciples and the crowd, who shouted “Hosanna” and waived palm branches in worship.

Sometimes, with a popular story like Palm Sunday, we miss an event immediately preceding or following it that can also be transformative.  I think that’s the case with Palm Sunday.  In Mark’s gospel, Mark tells us the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus who encountered Jesus while Jesus was traveling towards Jerusalem in preparation for the Triumphal Entry.  Here’s the story, from Mark 10:

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Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road.  {Note:  Jericho is about 21 miles from Jerusalem.} When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.  {Blind beggars were considered not worthy of attention.  They were insignificant to most people – either an annoyance, or people to be avoided.  The blind were excluded from worship in the temple.  The name Bartimaeus means “son of Timaeus” or literally, son of impurity.  We know from an encounter that Jesus and the disciples had in John 9 that the common assumption that most Jews made was the blind were being judged by God – that either the blind person or their parents were sinners.} 

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” 

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!”  Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. 

“My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.”  Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.  As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead.  Mark 10:46-11:1 (NLT)

What I love about this story is that Bartimaeus was blind, ignored by others, judged by others, an outcast, someone who was cast aside and forgotten.  Most people either looked past him or, if they saw him, considered him to be insignificant and unworthy of their time and attention.

But not Jesus.

Jesus looked at Bartimaeus and saw a man created in God’s image – a man worth loving, a man worth noticing, a man worth investing His time in.

Have you ever felt like you were forgotten; overlooked; ignored; alone?

Here’s the good news:

Jesus has not forgotten you.

Jesus has not overlooked you.

Jesus has not ignored you.

You are not alone.  Jesus is with you.  He will never leave you and will never forsake you. 

In fact, Jesus desires to meet you in the midst of your need, as He did for Bartimaeus, and bring healing to you – physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.

“Was blind, but now I see.”

Amazing grace!


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

What WOULDN’T Jesus Do?

For a long time, “WWJD” was a major Christian cultural theme.  What Would Jesus Do?  You could find it on bracelets, T-shirts, bumper stickers, cards, stickers, necklaces, coffee mugs, Bible covers, children’s toys, stuffed animals, jewelry boxes – basically any of the little trinkets that the aisles and end-caps of Christian bookstores are always filled with.

Despite the over-commercialization of “WWJD” it’s a pretty thought-provoking slogan.  It can be a very helpful question to ask yourself in a situation – “What would Jesus do?”  (Although I think it’s probably more helpful to ask Jesus, “What do you want me to do?” and wait and listen to Him!  But that’s for another post!)

However, on the flip side of “WWJD” is an interesting question – “What WOULDN’T Jesus Do?”  Because that question can also add some layers to our understanding and to our insight.

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Here are a few examples, based on the story of Jesus dealing with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:

  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus WOULDN’T join with religious, pharisaical-type people who judge or condemn someone for his/her sin without caring for that individual as a person.  (Jesus ignored the Pharisees, until finally, he called them out on their own sins by calling for the person without sin to cast the first stone.)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T publicly shame someone for his/her sin.  (The woman was naked and ashamed.  Jesus treated her with dignity and love.  He protected her from the accusations and judgments of others.  How quick are we to jump on the bandwagon of accusations?)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T put rules above relationships.  (The Pharisees were right; but Jesus was more interested in restoring the woman’s relationship to her Father than in judging her for her sin.)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T dismiss the woman without ministering to her soul.  (She was full of shame, wounded, embarrassed, exposed, judged – and He didn’t avoid the issue.  He asked her where her accusers where, and then freed her from her guilt and shame by declaring “Neither do I condemn you.”  He was the only one who was sinless, who could have cast the first stone – and He set her free.  How often do we feel justified in casting stones when we should be setting people free?)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T ignore the hard issue of her sin.  He did tell her “go and sin no more.”  That was courageous and significant – in loving her, He didn’t ignore the fact that she needed to make changes in her life.  And loving someone means that on the one hand, we don’t judge them; but on the other hand, if we are in relationship with someone, we cannot ignore obvious sin issues in their lives – we need to be courageous and lovingly call them out on those issues.  (Here’s the issue for most of us, though – we generally tend to skip the first several things Jesus did, and we tend to go straight to the “go and sin no more.”  Based on what Jesus did and didn’t do, I don’t think we have any right to tell someone “go and sin no more” if we haven’t first loved them, entered relationship with them, protected them from shame and abuse by others, extended them grace and forgiveness, and demonstrated that we don’t condemn them.)

So when you’re faced with a person or situation that creates difficulty in knowing what to do, go ahead and ask yourself “what would Jesus do?”

But consider also asking yourself “what WOULDN’T Jesus do?”  It may just open your eyes to a different angle of response.

For the Love of the Game

I love baseball.

Not like I love Jesus, love my Jewel and my Bethany, love my family or my church family or my friends.

But I love baseball.

And Monday is Opening Day!

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The Great One

Baseball holds so many good memories for me.  Games I attended with family and friends; moments that were memorable; clutch performances; players that were full of grace and class.  As I sit here writing this, a flood of memories come back, including:

  • My first Major League game at Three Rivers Stadium with my Uncle Bob, Grandma Hunter, Dad & Mom, and my brother Dave.  Pirates against the Braves in 1975.  Got to see Willie Stargell and Manny Sanguillen, two of my favorites.
  • Meeting Hall-of-Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins and getting his autograph after seeing him at the post office in his hometown of Chatham, Ontario.  My Dad followed him all the way to his farm from town just so I could meet him and get his autograph.
  • My first American League game in Toronto at old Exhibition Stadium against the Oakland A’s in 1981.  Rickey Henderson was in the outfield for the A’s that day.
  • Getting permission from my parents to skip school and go to the Blue Jays’ home opener against the hated New York Yankees on April 9, 1983.  It started snowing in the fifth inning and never stopped.  The Jays came back to win on a homer by Jesse Barfield.
  • Going to a double-header at Three Rivers stadium in July 1979 and seeing Willie Stargell hit a double and home-run, again with my Uncle Bob and other family members.
  • Meeting Willie Stargell in 1983 in the broadcast booth at Three Rivers Stadium after a Pirates-Expos game.
  • Taking Jewel to Three Rivers Stadium to see the Pirates in the spring of 1988 – the night Bob Prince came back to announce for the Pirates.
  • Taking Bethany to her first Major League game in Atlanta in 1998.  We saw Mark McGwire hit one of his 70 home runs for the Cardinals that year – a grand slam – saw the (hated) Cards score 13 runs in that inning; saw them knock Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux out of the game; and saw a bench-clearing brawl.
  • Attending my first Pirates game at PNC Park – a home opener.  Benito Santiago was the Pirates’ catcher.  NOT a memorable game!
  • Seeing Andrew McCutchen perform magic in center field, A.J. Burnett throw smoke from the mound, Clint Hurdle get tossed from a game, Joe Beimel pitch in relief, Starling Marte unleash a throw like a cannon shot from left field, Pedro Alvarez hit a one-bouncer into the river, and getting to see Ken Griffey, Jr. take the field – all at PNC Park.

There are so many more memories.  Games at old Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, spring training games in Bradenton, watching the Pirates win the 1979 World Series after being down 3 games to 1.  Seeing players who are now legends – Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente (on TV), Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan, Dave Winfield, Dave Parker, Ozzie Smith, and so many others.

As I think back over the memories of baseball, I can match them to seasons in my life – good and bad, ups and downs – baseball was always there.  (Except for those strike years!)

And what does any of this have to do with following Jesus?

A lot, actually. 

Because just as I can trace back to key moments in my life through baseball, just as baseball holds so many special moments with family and friends, the same is true of my walk with Jesus.

He’s always been with me.  And I can think of a ton of moments in my life when I walked with Him in the presence of family and friends.  Good moments, hard moments, stretching moments – they’re all there.  When you walk with Jesus for a while, just as when you follow a sport for a while, you build a history.  You build memories.

For 20 years – 1993 through 2012, as every true Pirates’ fan knows – the Pirates and we fans suffered through hopeless, losing seasons.  But we clung to our history – the Pirates, after all, were the team of Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, Paul Waner, Honus Wagner, and Pie Traynor.  Surely, one day, they would be a powerhouse again.

And when, as a follower of Jesus, you suffer through dark times, you cling to the memories of the good times, the gratitude for all the blessings He has shared.  You know that ultimately, He will deliver you.  He already did the work at the cross.

It may not make sense to you, but to me, it makes perfect sense.

Besides, it’s Opening Day, and I wasn’t going to miss a chance to write about baseball!  🙂

Absent But Good

As we start to work through the issue of God’s silence or absence – whichever image expresses best how you feel – we need to remind ourselves of one absolute truth that is foundational to this subject.  Why?  Jesus taught a simple parable in Matthew 7:24-27, pointing out that truth gives us a rock-solid, firm foundation for our lives that will keep us secure when the storms of life and doubts and fears come at us.  But if we have no foundation of truth, and if we are disobedient to what we do know, then it’s just like building our lives on a foundation of sand that will wash away when hard rains or floodwaters come.  So one of the ways to prepare ourselves for those times when it feels like God is absent is to build a foundation of truth – a bedrock that we can always return to and rely on, even when our lives feel out of control.

Here’s the bottom-line, absolute truth that we have to build our lives on, and that will help us through times of feeling abandoned:  God loves you, and God is always good.

Why are there times that God feels far away, and it feels like He doesn’t care?

I don’t know.  But I do know that God loves you, and God is always good.

Why is there suffering in the world?

I don’t know.  But I do know that God loves you, and God is always good.

Why are there times when I feel Jesus has left me behind and I feel I am alone, and forgotten?

I don’t know.  But I do know that God loves you, and God is always good.

Why is it in a season of trial or trying to better your future He seems absent?

I don’t know.  But I do know that God loves you, and God is always good.

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On Monday, I shared with you a part of the “dark night” season that I went through.  It was a long, hard season.   There were times I wanted to give up on God, on myself, on life, on caring, on trying, on everything and everyone.  But this one truth gave me hope, even when I felt hopeless and helpless – God loves me, and God is always good.

My circumstances weren’t good; my life didn’t feel good; my heart wasn’t happy or even joyful; a lot of times, I felt alone.  But none of that changed God’s love for me.  And I knew that He was still good, even if my life didn’t seem good.  So I had to keep trusting that eventually, His goodness would be revealed in a greater way in my life.

Some of my problems were because of my own poor choices; some of them were because of my own wounding and past experiences, things that I wasn’t even aware were causing me problems; some of them were out of my control and beyond my ability to affect or to change.  But I had to keep trusting that God’s goodness was greater than my own “stuff” – that His goodness was leading me to a place of knowing, of understanding, of receiving healing and freedom.

I know that our experiences are unique and different.  We all have problems and challenges, but we all have different problems and challenges, and we all face them differently because we all have different baggage and different wounding and different coping mechanisms and different circumstances.

But in all of our differences, God is the same.  God loves you, and God is always good.

On Friday, we’ll talk more about how God can bring good out of pain, out of our questions and our trying times.

For today and tomorrow, though, here’s something to consider:  God loves you, and God is always good.

What are some ways, despite feeling that God may have abandoned or forgotten you, in which you can still see that God loves you, and that He is good?

You may be surprised at how easy it can be to see His love and His goodness at work, even when you feel abandoned or forgotten.


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.