Thursday, December 23, 2021

Swim For the Shore

Several years ago, my family and I were at a family reunion at a lakeside resort in central Texas. Included in the resort were all kinds of activities. One was canoeing. The six of us (my wife, four kids, and me) decided to give it a try – three in one canoe, three in another with my wife and I serving as “captains” of our respective boats. We were a little nervous. The kids were young and neither of us were canoeing experts, but the attendant assured us that this type of canoe was nearly impossible to tip over. Well, you can guess what happened.

The canoe my wife was in tipped over. The water was only waist deep and I sensed no imminent danger, so I yelled out to my drenched wife and kids, “Swim for the shore.” Maybe I should have jumped in (there was no maybe about it in my wife’s mind). But I thought there was no sense me getting all wet as well. Needless to say, it was not one of my proudest moments.

While I was shouting helpful advice I spotted out of the corner of my eye that the attendant had taken notice. He ripped off his shirt, threw off his shoes and dove into the lake, and before you knew it he was there to help my family get safely back to shore.

I shouted advice. The attendant jumped in.

A truth that separates Christianity from every other world religion is that very fact. Other religions have their teachers and prophets shouting advice but only Christianity has God jumping into the lake to save us.

And that is what Christmas is really all about. God jumped in to save us.

The Gospel of John makes the claim that God become flesh in the person of Jesus.  Matthew’s Gospel refers to Jesus as Immanuel - God with us. The distinct declaration of Christianity is that God became one of us to rescue us.

No good advice could help us.

No encouragement could get us to shore.

No effort on our part could save us.

Our only hope was that God, in His mercy and grace, would appear in flesh and blood and carry us safely to shore.

Christmas is the celebration that He did just that. Far away and long-ago God became man in a humble manger in the humble town of Bethlehem. He jumped into our messy world. And we are saved.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Same Sex Marriage by Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet - A Review

My, how things change! That is essentially how McDowell and Stonestreet begin their defense of the historic definition of marriage. The two thoughtfully take us through the unprecedented changes we have witnessed in the definition of marriage and the perception of homosexuality. For those of us on the other side of forty, we remember the days when homosexuality was talked about in hushed voices and even when it was listed as a psychological disorder by the American Psychological Association. Not so anymore. “For the high school and college students we work with today – even the most conservative, churchgoing ones - homosexuality is not a far-off issue like it was for us,” they write.

As Christians who hold to the inspiration of scripture the authors call us back to the biblical definition of marriage. While warning against discrimination or hatred to those who disagree, it is still critical to remember that words matter. “Marriage can’t mean everything, or else marriage means nothing,” they claim. They continue, “Excluding same-sex couples from marriage isn’t necessarily an act of animus or hate, any more than it would be to exclude college roommates or elderly, single sisters from marriage. They are excluded because their relationship, though sincerely loving and affectionate, just isn’t marriage. Marriage has a fixed nature, and by definition 'is something only a man and woman can form.’” (This book was written before the Supreme Court Case Obergefell v Hodges which ruled that same-sex couples do have the fundamental right to marriage. Some of the content of the book has to be understood with that in mind).

A substantial part of the book is dedicated to getting back to Scripture and reclaiming the definition of marriage that has been accepted almost unanimously by every culture in every age. They clearly communicate their conclusions using scripture and reason. In essence, we must know what biblical marriage is and understand to some extent why it is what it is and should stay that way.

The authors do a fine job of helping us understand how we got to where we are, primarily through the gay/lesbian’s strategy of presenting themselves as people just like everyone else – not any different than straight people, simply people who love differently. Through music, movies, television, and a carefully orchestrated media blitz homosexuality lost its “edginess”, so to speak, in our culture. I found this chapter in the book very enlightening.

The second part of the book (Part 1 is What Marriage Is and Why Does it Matter and Part 2 is What Can We Do for Marriage) addresses the Christian response to where we find ourselves. Real-life scenarios are discussed to help us live with wisdom in the awkward and difficult situations we may find ourselves in.  (eg., how do I respond to an invitation to a gay wedding?) These are most helpful! Included are more general helpful directions we can take as churches and individuals as we defend the historic view of marriage. Another beneficial feature of this book are the brief but helpful interviews scattered throughout the book with other influential church leaders.

For an overview of what is at stake in this matter, I highly recommend this work. McDowell and Stonestreet do not exegete the familiar passages we often turn to in defense of traditional marriage, but that is not their intent. There are other books that do a great job at that. What they do is call us back to a biblical understanding of marriage and prepare us to live out that belief faithfully, lovingly, and compassionately.  Both Stonestreet and McDowell are leading and respected evangelical voices in this and other cultural issues Christians must face and they well-deserve our attention.


Thursday, December 09, 2021

Holy Sexuality and the Gospel by Christopher Yuan - A Review

Christopher Yuan enters the discussion on same-sex relationships from a truly unique and personal perspective - a man who has same-sex attraction, has acted on that attraction, has lived as an unbeliever, and yet now holds to the historic Christian position that marriage is a one-man, one-woman, God ordained institution. His life and story add a level of credibility and sincerity that is difficult, if not impossible, to rise to. Yuan is not only an observer, he is a combatant and commands respect as both observers and combatants seek God’s truth on sexuality.

A clarion call of our generation is to understand this teaching leading with compassion. “How can anyone hold to a teaching that marginalizes people?” is a common objection to the historic view. Yuan warns us, “But compassion without wisdom can be careless, even reckless. Wisdom without compassion is useless, even pharisaical. True compassion flows from wisdom, and true wisdom results in compassion – there should be no dichotomy. The real Christian life is built on godly wisdom.” This frames the tone of his book. Where does wisdom lead us and how can we live out that wisdom with compassion?

Wisdom leads us to accept the mystery of same-sex attraction. “I never chose this. I just have to be honest and authentic and accept the truth that I’m gay. This is who I am,” he says. Wisdom leads us to resist the lure of romanticism to the exclusion of reason. “It (romanticism) revered sense over intellect, emotion over reason. (It is) the assumption that humans are inherently good, then human emotions (feelings, affection, desires, etc.) are also inherently good.” He later writes, “We let experience supersede essence – what I feel is who I am. In other words, psychology usurps biology.”

The next order of business for Yuan is to address the question, “Why are our emotions and wisdom at odds with each other?” The simple and yet complex answer to that is The Fall. Sin has infected us all. Adam’s sin has corrupted all humankind to the point that “sin in general feels normal and natural to all of us.”

To break free from sin’s curse we must pursue what Yuan calls “holy sexuality.” “Holy sexuality consists of two paths: chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage.” Yuan now moves this discussion to not only the same-sex-attracted but to all of us. The challenge is to understand sin and temptation as it presents itself in all of us.

Yuan ends his book with a challenge to Christians and to the church in particular to creatively, lovingly and compassionately live out the wisdom of scripture as we hold to “holy sexuality.”

I heartily recommend Yuan’s book and would also point to his more biographical account Out of Far Country (which I have not read). Any reservations I have of Holy Sexuality would be Yuan’s teaching of original sin and the importance he places on this doctrine to advance his argument. As presented, I have some objections and would advise the reader to give consideration to other positions on the effect of the Fall.


Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Acorns, acorns everywhere!

I love fall. I love the cooler weather. I love the changing colors. I love football. I love fall with this exception—raking leaves.

I have a big oak tree out in my front hard and it is amazing how many leaves that tree can produce. I was out raking the other day and not only was I amazed at all the leaves but also amazed at all the acorns. So not only do I bag up tons of leaves but also hundreds of acorns. Within each acorn is the potential for another oak tree and as beautiful as the tree is, the last thing I need is more oak trees in my front hard. Every year I scoop up the acorns and for the ones that don’t get scooped up in the fall I find myself pulling up the tiny saplings that begin to burst through the ground in the spring.

This fall as I was picking up all those potential oak trees I thought to myself, “That poor tree. All it wants to do is make more oak trees and here I am foiling its plan.” If trees had feelings I suppose it would be sad.

But you know what? Year after year the oak tree keeps making acorns. In spite of its failure to reproduce it doesn't give up.  Each fall there will be acorns because that is what an oak tree does, whether or not it makes more oak trees. Oak trees make acorns!

Does it sometimes seem to you that all your good deeds, all your invitations to people to come to church, all your love to others—that all of it often produces nothing? Keep on doing those things because that is what we do, regardless of the results. Christians plant seeds!

Even though that old oak tree has never made another oak tree in all these years I do know this—the squirrels love the acorns! I guess those acorns have more than one purpose. Who knows what squirrels in your life are being blessed?


Galatians 6:9 (NIV) —  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) — Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Know What You Got

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you've got till it’s gone,” are lyrics from the popular Joni Mitchell song Big Yellow Taxi. The song was released in 1970 and has been covered a few times since then. You’ve probably heard it. If not, you get the message. The sentiment is pretty straightforward – we tend to appreciate things only after they have been taken away or lost. I hear the same thought at funerals and, being a minister, I have been to more than my fair share of them. Mourners are known to remind those in attendance to make sure they hug their loved ones and live in appreciation of their relationships. As an officiant I have often expressed that very same feeling. It really is a good reminder.

But isn’t it sad that we have to be reminded? Isn’t it sad to think that we are living with joys and blessings and pleasures and we don’t even know it? Isn’t it sad to only appreciate the gift of life only when it’s gone? Shouldn’t it always seem to be that we do know what we got before it’s gone?

Thanksgiving is upon us once again and we will gather around tables and reflect on the blessings of another year. Many of us will pause to offer prayers to the God who provides it all. We may even get a little teary-eyed with joy watching the little children play or with melancholy wondering if this may be our family’s matriarch’s or patriarch’s last Thanksgiving with us. Thanksgiving really is a good day. It really is a good reminder.

But is a day enough? Is a season enough?

Thanksgiving is a theme that is woven through all of Scripture. And although there were designated thanksgiving celebrations, the prevailing thought is that believers live in a constant state of gratefulness. In the Psalms King David never qualifies the when of thanksgiving just the necessity of it. The prophet Daniel offers prayers of thanks three times a day. The apostle Paul instructs Christians to give thanks always. Thanksgiving even extends beyond this world as we see the angelic chorus of the book of Revelation offering thanks in heaven.

A day or a season is not enough. Thanksgiving needs to be at the very center of our being. Thanksgiving needs to be our first and last thought of the day and many times in between. Only then will we be able to capture all the joys and blessings all around us that are so often only inadequately celebrated in their absence, if at all.

A day or season are certainly not to be dismissed. They have their benefits. But isn’t Thanksgiving really a day to remind us that thanksgiving needs to be more than a day or a season? Isn’t it a reminder that an ever-present spirit of thanksgiving has the power to infuse us daily with hope and purpose and joy in a world where it is easy to fall into despair and hopelessness and sorrow? And isn’t that what we need?

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Radiant Virtues Bible - Interacting with the Word through art and journaling

The Bible is a book not just to read but to interact with. Some might seek out cross references. Others may look for archaeological insights. Some might research cultural implications. Some may even explore the original languages. Some may want to artistically interact with the Word, and if that’s you then
The Radiant Virtues Bible may be just for you. Saying that, I must say this is not a coloring book, but an invitation to spiritual interaction and introspection through art and journaling.

The Radiant Virtues Bible, which contains the full text of the popular NIV translation, guides the reader through a 52-week journey of the Bible with well-written and thought-provoking devotionals all 52 of which come with a coloring page related to that week’s reading. The devotionals are centered on the three virtues of 1 Corinthians 13 – Faith, Hope, and Love. These virtues are also emphasized throughout the text with passages highlighted the color that corresponds to each virtue.  In addition, there are beautiful Scripture graphics scattered throughout along with margins on each page for your notes and reflections. Included in the back of the Bible are detachable, artistic cards. Additional reading plans are provided as well as a Table of Weights and Measures (this Bible has no maps, concordance, or study notes other than the basic NIV textual notes).

If you, or someone you know, has an artistic inclination, then this Bible could provide an outlet for regular Bible reading that is not available in any other Bible that I have seen. I love that it includes the entire Biblical text allowing the reader to explore the context and overarching message of the most popular and oft-quoted verses in Scripture which can often be misinterpreted devoid of the Biblical context. A real value I see in this Bible is the opportunity it provides for the reader to return months or even years later to relive their journey and even to add to it with new insights into the Word.

Download a sample here.

I have received The Radiant Virtues Bible for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid, #BibleGatewayPartner, with the agreement that I would submit this review. The Radiant Virtues Bible can be purchased through various online stores including the FaithGateway Store.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

See. Feel. Act.

Jesus was a master teacher, and one of his most often employed teaching techniques was telling stories. These short stories utilize people, objects, and situations that we are all familiar with – things like farming, working, weddings, buildings – and then uses them to make a spiritual application. These stories are often called parables and some of them are so powerful that they are familiar even to people who have never read the Bible. Everyone has heard of the lost sheep, the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the pearl of great price.  All of these familiar phrases have their origin in one of these stories of Jesus. They are really quite remarkable and if you haven’t read them you need to!  

I recently taught on one of these parables, the Good Samaritan. It’s a story of man traveling a treacherous road and is robbed, stripped of his clothing, and left for dead on the side of the road. Three people pass by, but only one stops to offer aid. The first two are known to be religious people, a priest and a Levite, who certainly know what they should do but, for reasons Jesus never reveals, they pass by on the other side. The third man is a Samaritan, a race of people not regarded as especially pious and, for the most part, despised by those who were (or thought they were). This is the man who stops and cares for the victim. He is the one who is good. To the original Jewish audience, the fact that the hero of the story is a Samaritan would have been utterly shocking, for Samaritans and Jews were notorious enemies. The point of the story is that the command to love our neighbor extends to everyone in need, not just to people we like or agree with.

The parable is quite simple. It destroys any boundaries we create that deem some people worthy of our love and others unworthy. We all know that we should love everyone. So why don’t we?

As I contemplated this story I noticed that there was a critical disconnect in the priest and the Levite that wasn’t present in the Samaritan. As Jesus tells the story he notes that all three saw the same thing – a man on the side of the road obviously in need, but only the Samaritan felt compassion.  And there was the critical difference. The priest and the Levite saw but didn’t feel. The Samaritan saw and felt.

Seeing people in need is not that difficult. Everyday we find ourselves walking alongside people who are hurting – at work, at school, at the store, at church. There are literally dozens of people that we encounter weekly who need something that we can help with. So why don’t we help more often, if at all?

Perhaps there is the same disconnect in our lives as well – we see but don’t feel. Either we have become so callous to pain that we no longer are moved to compassion or maybe we turn our heads so quickly and pick up our pace that we easily dismiss the hurting people around us. In any case, I think we need to work on our ability and willingness to be compassionate. For only when the Samaritan sees and feels does he act.

And isn’t that what real love is? Seeing, feeling, and acting. May God help us stop and offer help to those wounded and hurting on the treacherous road of life. Chances are, you’ll come by one today.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Stethoscope Theology

I recently attended a “White Coat Ceremony” for first year medical students. During the ceremony the incoming first year students receive a white coat symbolic of the beginning of their journey into the medical profession. Before the white coats were distributed the Dean of the college introduced the ceremony with a talk listing the merits of that particular medical school and, more importantly, the merits of the call to the medical field.

In that talk he referenced another ceremony earlier in the month where the students receive their first stethoscopes. He said the stethoscope was one of the doctor’s most valued tools as it allowed them to hear what was happening inside the body. In hearing what was going on inside the body the doctor would be better prepared to diagnose and treat the patient. He urged that that same attentive hearing would be employed in all interactions with patients. He urged them to be good listeners and in doing so truly hear their patients. A good doctor hears what others don’t.

I couldn’t help but think that this advice was not only relevant to doctors but to all of us who truly want to serve others. If we truly want to love others we must be good listeners. Only then will we be able to understand and respond appropriately.

James, the brother of Jesus, in his New Testament letter writes, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19, NIV) James seems to think that being a good Christian involves being a good listener. In fact, listening is as important, if not more important, than speaking. That’s not always how we approach relationships.

How often do we start a conversation determined to give someone a piece of our mind? How often do we go on and on expressing our opinion and our point of view while never allowing someone else to express theirs? How often do we enter a conversation already having drawn a conclusion about what someone thinks without giving them a chance to voice their thoughts? How often are we just the opposite of what James is teaching? How often are we quick to speak and slow to listen?

Perhaps many arguments could be avoided if only we took out our stethoscopes and carefully listened to others rather than pulling out our bullhorn to let them know what we think. Perhaps we would be able to better respond to others if we take the time to carefully listen to them. Maybe we don’t know people because we don’t listen. Maybe we misdiagnose because we fail to hear what is really going on inside a person, deep inside them.

So, if you want to really help people, be a good listener. Do the work to hear what may not be obvious. Only when you hear a person’s heartbeat can you really love.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Eyes Wide Open

It’s happened to me more times than I care to admit. My wife will ask me to get something out of the pantry or refrigerator and, after a quick check, I’ll report that the item she wants is not there.
  Then she looks and there it is, right where she said it would be. Right there staring me in the face. I shake my head and wonder how I could have missed it. Maybe I give up too easily.

Have you ever driven a route you’ve driven a million times and one day you spot something that you’ve never seen before? You ask a friend if that’s new and they tell you it’s been there forever. You wonder how have you not noticed it before?

There are things all around us that for some reason or another we simply do not notice. For the most part these things may be insignificant, but what if we are missing out on some really beautiful things in life because we just don’t notice?

There’s a wonderful story in the Bible that may help us.* The prophet Elisha is advising the King of Israel during a military skirmish and things look bleak. The enemy’s army far outnumbers the Jewish troops leaving the people in despair when Elisha offers a simple prayer – “Lord, open our eyes that we may see.” At that moment a spiritual army is revealed. Elisha’s servant sees things that previously he was blinded to, and his attitude transforms from hopelessness to hopefulness. It’s amazing how open eyes can do that.

Seems like it’s easy to see the negative all around us. Seems like it’s easy to see the irritating qualities of other people. Seems like it’s easy to see all our own faults. No wonder we fall into despair. Maybe we need to say Elisha’s prayer. 

Lord, open my eyes to see the beauty of those I live life with – my family, my friends, my co-workers.

Lord, open my eyes to the simple beauty of life – the warmth of the sun, the cool of the breeze, the colors of the summer, the glory of the star-studded sky.

Lord, open my eyes to the beauty of myself – my sight, my taste, my hearing, my senses, my beating heart, my expanding and contracting lungs, my laughter, your image reflected in my love and compassion. Help me see in the mirror the marvelous creation you have crafted in me.

Lord, open my eyes to see you - your endless, immeasurable, immense love.

Lord, open my eyes to hope - to the reality and certainty of your plan for mankind.

There are beautiful things all around us that we just don’t see. Our lives are cluttered with pain, hurt, and doubt that blind us to beauty, but don’t give up too easily. I know it’s there, closer than you think. Maybe staring you right in the face.

Look a little closer and say the prayer, “Lord, open my eyes that I may see.”

*Read the story for yourself in 2 Kings 6:8-23





Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Spellcheck Fail

I’m a terrible typist. I’m old enough to have taken typing class in high school when that kind of thing was taught, but I never thought that I would need to be proficient on a keyboard; so I bowed out. Typing was not in my future. But here I am on a keyboard just about every workday hunting and pecking my way to letters, articles, and sermons. After even the shortest of documents I’m left staring at a screen filled with red-squiggled underlined words. And then I click on spellcheck – the savior of the keyboarding- deficient like me. Magically it corrects all my misspellings. That is for all but one word.

I nearly always mistype the word “the”.  I transpose the “h” and the “e” and almost without exception type “teh.” The problem is that somewhere down the line I told my computer that the correct spelling of “the” was indeed “teh”. I must have clicked the wrong option in my spellcheck menu and now the computer thinks “teh” is a legitimate word – even though it isn’t. So, there’s no red-squiggled line underneath “teh”. Spellcheck doesn’t find the error. I have had to go back and search my document for this misspelling and, even worse, have sent out many a document with the incorrect spelling. I told my computer “teh” was the correct spelling and the computer only does what I tell it to.

Yet, saying “teh” is correct doesn’t make it so. No matter how many times I say that “teh” is a real word that doesn’t make it a real word. It’s incorrect in spite of what I say or what my computer thinks. Some things are like that. Some things are right or wrong despite what we say or what we think.

Could what is true for words be true for other things, like morals and ethics? Could it be that we overlook incorrect behavior because we’ve been told it’s not incorrect? Are some things wrong even though someone, or for that matter everyone, says it’s right? Bringing it closer to home, are there things in my life, your life, that we regard as correct that are really wrong? Have we been misinformed? Have we convinced ourselves falsely? Has our spellcheck been messed with?

Bottom line – are things right or wrong because we say so or are things right or wrong because they are right or wrong? The answer to that makes a big difference.

There’s a book in the Old Testament portion of the Bible known as Judges. It tells stories of the tumultuous relationship between the Israelites and God. Often times God’s people find themselves in trouble and then God sends political or military heroes, aka judges, to rescue them. But most importantly, these judges would bring the people back in line with God’s expectations.  When the people do what is right, things go well. When they do what is wrong, things go poorly. One of their biggest problems was judging what was right and what was wrong.

The book ends with this somber assessment of that period of Jewish history which gets to the root of the problem: “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” They failed to realize that right is right and wrong is wrong and their thoughts or opinions don’t change that truth. They messed up their spellcheck and their souls no longer recognized evil from good.

That’s a dangerous place to be. But it happens.

It was always embarrassing when I sent out an email or a document with “teh” instead of “the”.  Confusing good and evil is much worse than being embarrassed.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Solar Powered

The other day I was sitting on my back porch. On my porch is a bird bath with a small solar-powered fountain. The fountain only works when the sun is directly on it and, since that day was a clear day, the fountain was operating at full steam.  As I was sitting enjoying the day a brief passing cloud blocked the direct sunlight and the fountain came to a halt. No light, no power.

The apostle John records in his gospel several “I am” statements of Jesus – I am the bread of life; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the way, the truth, and the life; and so on.  One of those “I am” statements is, “I am the light of the world.” Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John would later write three letters to Christians that are included in our New Testament. He borrows that “light” imagery of Jesus and encourages believers to “walk in the light."

There are several nuances to this “light” imagery. Light gives direction as it illuminates our path. Light represents righteous living as opposed to the unrighteousness of darkness.  Light relieves fear when darkness creates it.  Perhaps another nuance is that light gives energy; light empowers us.

It’s not uncommon for me at times to feel spiritually lethargic. Sometimes I’m just not as loving as I should be. Sometimes I’m more susceptible to temptation. Sometimes I just don’t feel the joy of salvation like I should feel. Sometimes I’m not as patient, not as kind, not as selfless. And the list goes on. Sometimes the fountain is just not operating at full steam. Maybe sometimes you feel the same way.

Could it be that our experience is like my solar-powered fountain? Clouds of doubt. Clouds of despair. Clouds of fear. Clouds of sin. Clouds of isolation. These clouds obscure the “light of the world” and all of a sudden we are sputtering instead of bubbling.  No light, no power.

That may be why John is so concerned that we walk in the light. He knows that we will only live into the life God has created us for when we are bathed in light. The light of God’s love. The light of God’s mercy and forgiveness. The light of God’s word. The light of Christian community. The light of Jesus himself. All these sources of light empower us and energize us to bubble over with things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Because where there is light there is power.

We’re just like my fountain. We too are solar-powered.


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Esau Syndrome

There have been some really bad deals made throughout history. In 1976 Ronald Wayne sold his shares of an upstart computer company for $800. That upstart was Apple Computer. In 1803 the French sold the Louisiana territory to the United States for 4 cents an acre. In 1867 Russia sold Alaska to the United States for 2 cents an acre. In 1919 the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. All bad deals.

A biblical bad deal that rivals these is in Genesis 25. Esau sold his birthright, a priceless blessing and inheritance from his father, to his twin brother Jacob for a bowl of stew. Esau had been out hunting and came back famished when he came across his brother’s freshly prepared bowl of stew and made a deal that would haunt him and his ancestors for years to come.  

As foolish and impetuous as these bad deals may sound, it’s not beyond us to make a bad deal every now and then. We’re offended by an off-handed comment and let off some steam in uncontrollable anger and end up damaging or destroying a friendship. Bad deal. We feel neglected by our spouse, so we flirt with a co-worker and it feels so good to be affirmed. In the process we put our marriage vow in jeopardy. Bad deal. We feel underpaid at work so we help ourselves to a little of the profits. Bad deal. We feel overwhelmed at work or at home and turn to alcohol, drugs, or uncontrolled spending because we deserve it. We end up addicted or financially ruined. Bad deal. We seem like we can never get ahead so we stop by the casino and blow our check that was meant to pay rent and buy groceries.  Bad deals, all of them.

Why do we do this? When we are under some form of pressure we tend to fail to consider the long-term consequences of our actions as we seek instant relief. Granted, we get some temporary respite but in the long run we end up in a much darker and desperate place than where we started.

The Bible knows all too well that we are all vulnerable to trading for immediate pleasure while sacrificing something of enduring value. Esau is the poster child for this kind of hasty decision making. The author of the New Testament book of Hebrews uses him as an example of what not to do - Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears. (Hebrews 12:16–17, The Message).

It’s not too hard to fall into the Esau Syndrome.

So be careful, especially when you’re under pressure. Be thoughtful before you make significant decisions. Hold your tongue and think through your words before you let them fly. Remember that life is a marathon and not a sprint. Practice denying self and resist the appeal of immediate gratification.

Don’t fall into the Esau syndrome!


Friday, February 26, 2021

Preparation is key

(Written during one of the coldest spells in Texas in a long time. Millions lost power and water for extended periods of time.)

I’m writing this on Tuesday in the midst of an unprecedented cold spell here in Texoma. At our house we have lost electricity and are fighting freezing water lines. As we suffer through this cold I’m wishing I had been more prepared. Looking back there are plenty of things I could have done to have made the conditions more bearable.

A Facebook friend of mine asked what we will buy after we get through this season. Some said generators. Others indoor propane heaters. Other are longing for more firewood. But it’s too late for that. Maybe we can prepare ourselves better for the next storm, but it’s too late now.

Preparation is a key to survival and I wasn’t prepared.  The weather forecasts told me it was going to be bad, but I just shrugged it off. Certainly the predictions were more alarming than they had to be. And no disrespect to weather forecasters, but they’re not always right and, to be honest, I really didn’t want to believe them. I was told, but I failed to prepare. It’s sad to be warned and dismiss those warnings only to find yourself in a terrible mess. I start play the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” game.

Of course, we can never know everything that is going to happen, and we can’t prepare for every possibility. But what a tragedy to be warned and to not prepare.

The Bible is a lot of things. It’s the story of God. It’s the story of man. It’s the story of God’s love and mercy and grace. It’s all that, but it’s also a warning. The Bible is a forecast of what is to come. The Bible gives us a glimpse into the future. It’s kind of like watching a weather forecast.

You know when you watch those forecasts the meteorologist will normally give you some advice to weather out the storm. Like a weather forecast the Bible gives us advice to be prepared for what is coming. It’s then our choice. Shrug off the warning or take them seriously and make preparations.

The gist of the Bible’s forecast is that one day we will see another unprecedented day. The day will be a day of accounting for our lives. It’s sometimes hard to believe because it will be like no other day we’ve ever experienced. Sort of like this week.

But the Bible is pretty certain on this one. It’s calling for a 100% probability. And the good news is that we can be prepared. If you are not prepared there will be an eternity of the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” game. And what a tragedy it is to be warned and to not prepare.

So be ready. Embrace faith in Jesus Christ.

Preparation is key.


Thursday, January 07, 2021


This weekend is usually an exciting time for me. You see, I’m a Patriots' fan and for the better part of the last two decades my New England Patriots would be set to enter the NFL playoffs - most likely one of the favorites to advance to the Super Bowl. 

But not this year. For the first time since the 2000 season my team ended the schedule with a losing record. No playoffs. No hope for another title.  But they are still my team. (And by the way, I am not rooting for Tom Brady. He is not a Patriot. He’s nothing but a traitor. In fact, I hope Tampa Bay loses in the first round. But I have no hard feelings about this).

The Pats were my team long before this incredible run and they will be my team even if the next two decades bring nothing but mediocrity. I’m not like those front-runners. People who switch from team to team depending on performance. Those people really annoy me. One year they’re sporting Chief’s gear. The year before that they were Warrior fans. The year before that they were all about the Broncos.  And on and on it goes. Every year a new team.  That’s not my style. Pick a team and stick with them. It’s called loyalty.

I may be way off target with this loyalty to sports thinking, but I do think I’m onto something. Even if you are one those dreadful front runners, shouldn’t there be some things that we remain loyal to? Aren’t there some things that we should pledge our devotion to and, no matter what, maintain that devotion? Aren’t there some causes, institutions, and people that we should stick with even if they have an occasional slump, or even a bad decade or two?

Years ago, in one of my first real jobs I was offered a retirement plan. The company would match a portion of my contribution and I was promised that in time the money would grow. If I remained loyal, I would have something saved for retirement.

That sounded good. But I remember getting my first quarterly report. It was a small amount, but I had lost money. This was not what I was promised. My money was supposed to grow, not shrink. Panicking, I called the number of the agent. I can still recollect his calm and reassuring voice telling me that these things happen. Sometimes you will make money, sometimes you will lose money. But no need to jump ship. Your loyalty will pay off. In short, he said, “Give it time.”

What loyalties in your life are being challenged? Are you ready to give up on someone or something? Are you about ready to change team jerseys?

I’m not saying that we need to be loyal to everything and everyone for ever and ever. But loyalty to the right things, right causes, and right people often have a way of delivering huge dividends. Stay loyal to those things.