On Monday, I was driving out of my neighborhood to go to a meeting when I saw a small dog running past me going the opposite direction. Dogs in my neighborhood do not generally run around – they are walked – and I could tell this was definitely an inside dog.  I stopped and tried to get the dog, but the little one just kept on running.  I knew that I wouldn’t like myself very much if I went ahead to the meeting and came back to find the dog laying dead on the road.  So I turned around and with the help of a couple neighborhood kids and another man caught the little guy – actually a girl – named Sweetie!

Sweetie’s dog tag had an address from the other side of town and a phone number.  “How in the world did you get way over here?”  I called the number, but I just go an answering machine.  So I grabbed a dog crate from my house and headed to my meeting with Sweetie in tow.  No return call before, during, or after my meeting.  When I got home it was dark, and I’m thinking that I will just have to figure this out tomorrow.  Before taking Sweetie in for the night I grabbed a leash in hopes that the dog would use the bathroom outside and not in my house.  As I’m walking back toward the house with the dog behind me, I suddenly realize that there is no longer any tension!  I turn around, and I all I have is the leash with the entire dog collar including the identification tag!  “Oh no!”  I look around the other side of the truck and yard – no dog – I look up the road and there is Sweetie – booking it.  So I take off after her IN FLIP-FLOPS…I had already played basketball and mowed a lawn so I don’t have much in the tank and this little dog is fast.  So the rest of this is like something out of a movie – I’m yelling at a car to stop that is about to run her over.  I lose track of the dog at one point and don’t see which way it went, the dog ends up running across 5 lanes of traffic, several motorist point me in the right direction, and people are looking at me like I’m crazy because I’m at a full sprint in flip-flops.  A 1/2 mile later from when we started running, I finally catch up to Sweetie in the Wendy’s drive-thru.  She is now safe once again.  After some detective work the next day, I was able to track down the person who was in charge of watching Sweetie while the owner was on a cruise.  The son-in-law who is a local police officer called to thank me and told me that Sweetie was a “rescue dog” and that she is an escape artist…with a history of running away.  In his opinion, this cute, little, dog is very fortunate to still be alive.

I’ve been reflecting some this week about Sweetie, and how I have observed that many people are the same as Sweetie – running away from the Person or people who are trying to help.  Ever since I was old enough and spiritually mature enough to understand it I have seen people run away from Jesus.  They think they are wise and are doing what is best for them – but they run from Jesus and into the Enemy’s trap.  It is only by the grace of God that more are not utterly crushed.  I’ve also noticed over the last 15 years the tendency of people to run from the truth tellers and spiritual helpers in their lives.  In western culture it is in large part due to the drastic individuality we are taught to embrace. “Whatever makes you feel good is right for you,” and “You don’t have to listen to anyone but yourself,” are the mantras of our culture.  The extreme emphasis on the individual is a great hindrance toward healthy churches in the west today.  So, if you are being like Sweetie, STOP, and let Jesus grab you with His gentle and scarred hands and let Him embrace you deep into His love.

Please take a few minutes to read and meditate on the following verses:

Judges 17:6, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Praise Jesus for His sacrifice for us!)

I Timothy 1:1-2, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…”

Hebrews 13:17, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Thank you for taking the time to read and reflect, and may God use this for His glory and honor.


I was driving on Wednesday when I heard two back to back radio ads.  The first reminded me that I only had a short time to buy flowers for Easter.  The second wanted to let me know that I needed to buy some new clothes so I could look my best on Easter morning.  As if Jesus cares whether I bought flowers or new clothes.  Many of His followers in the world can afford neither.  Do we really think that Jesus is more pleased with the man who has new clothes than He is with the the man who has ragged clothes? Of course not!  Jesus is primarily concerned with the heart, while the hearts of men and women are often concerned about what those around them will think.

The only things in the New Testament I read about clothes are that we should be modest (I Timothy 2) and that we should not play favorites based on attire (James 2).  On a related note, if we really wanted to be symobolic in our attire for Sunday then perhaps we should wear work clothes to remind us of the cost of following Jesus.  His road was a hard road of suffering.  Are we greater than He?  In fact Jesus instructs us to take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9).

Jesus, please help us to keep everything in perspective of Your life, Your death, Your resurrection!  You are the glorious Lamb of God that was slain!  Help us to complain less and act in love more!

II. Timothy 2:1-3, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

I have had mentors, role models, and friends who have help shape my life to this point.  I wanted to share with you about 3 of my heroes who have inspired me, in hopes that a little bit of their lives might rub off on you as you read.

1.  My parents – I’m going to get a “two-fer” for my first one.  I admire my parents for their steadfastness in following Jesus, for taking the road less traveled, and for the sacrifices they have made. They have consistently sought to do His will regardless of the consequences.

2.  John R. – I first noticed his life when I was a young teenager.  He is seven years older than I am, and I was magnetically attracted to His passion for Jesus and life.  He has been a consistent challenge, mentor, and friend in my life for about 20 years now.  I respect him more now than ever because he is still passionate about the things of God, and he still challenges my heart to be more like Jesus.

3.  Jose B. – my friend and inspiration down south – way south as in Mexico south.  I can only pray and hope to have half the passion and drive that he does when I am his current age.  He and his wife have given their lives away so that others may know Jesus.  Spend a day with him, and you will know you have been in the presence of someone who has a BIG heart and that heart is close to God.

What do they all have in common?

Jesus is first in their lives, they pray a lot, and they take the words of their Saviour seriously.

Who are your heroes and why?


I hope you enjoyed this little break from Romans.  I know the Romans study can be tedious at times, but I believe you will be blessed if you stick with it.

I have been intrigued by this subject for a while because it is a major social trend.  Many people view cohabitation as a trial run for marriage to see if they are compatible. About 10% of couples in the USA claim to fall into the cohabitation category (a higher number have attempted cohabitation with marriage being a future option) but in many European countries the percentage of those currently cohabiting much higher – in the 15% to 30% range.  The USA is currently headed in a clear direction toward more people cohabiting as a precursor to marriage or an alternative to marriage.

Cohabitation is another issue that can be difficult to write about because many people have done this or are doing this. One of my primary reasons for writing this is to help people avoid pain.  I have approached the subject from both a Biblical and statistical perspective.  Obviously the Bible is quite clear on the issue (see Hebrews 13:4 and II Timothy 2:22 below), but I was shocked at the degree to which the statistical data backs up what the Bible teaches.

If you take 100 couples who are practicing cohabitation, 5 to 10 of them will cohabitate for longer than 10 without breaking up and without marrying, 45 of them will have a “premarital divorce” – meaning that their relationship will not make it to the marriage ceremony.  Of the 45 who do marry, 33 of them will get a divorce (almost 75%)!  This leaves 12 couples out of 100 that have survived cohabitation and will still be married after 10 years.  If you include the higher estimate of 10 for couples that maintain cohabitation for longer than 10 years without marrying, then you have 22 out of 100 couples that are still together 10 years later.*

Based on those numbers, I think all would agree that the odds do not favor cohabitation.  We can also clearly state that 40 to 50 % of all marriages end in divorce.  So just getting married is not the solution. According to Michael McManus who wrote a book on the subject, premarital sex is also a huge factor. They took 233 couples who agreed to stop having sex until their honeymoon and went through premarital counseling.  A decade later only 7 of those couples were divorced or separated.  Overall the Church has been very slack in this area and the statistics prove the consequences with the divorce rate of church service attenders being about the same as the general population.  Church leaders need to set people up to win by speaking the truth in love and setting clear expectations.

Problems with cohabitation:

1.  It does not work because you cannot practice permanence.

2.  “Pre-marital divorce” is often as painful as regular divorce.

How to put yourself in a position to win:

1.  Do not have premarital sex, or if you are sexually active then stop having premarital sex.

2.  Do not cohabitate, or if you are cohabitating then move out.

3.  Get premarital counseling that is not “fluff”.  You need to do this with someone or a couple who will tell you if they think it is a bad idea for the two of you to get married.  The counseling should be very practical and talk openly about subjects that you will face in your marriage: sex, money, communication, future plans, thoughts on kids etc…

4.  Included in the counseling have a marriage inventory taken so you can see compatibility or the lack thereof.

5.  Be involved in a Bible teaching church and in that church have REAL relationships where you have honest and serious communication.**

What if we were cohabiters and/or had pre-marital sex?  Does that mean our marriage is doomed?

Absolutely not!  The grace of God is sufficient and available.  In every marriage the couple should keep an eye on their relationship.  If your marriage is becoming frayed then asking a married couple you respect to be a mentor couple can be a great idea.  Marriage counseling may be necessary for some.  It is better to admit weakness now then to go through divorce later.  

* Michael McManus “Living Together: Myths, Risks, and Answers”

** In many churches these types of topics are very difficult to approach because the church is either legalistic making it almost impossible for people to be honest about their struggles.  Or the church is carnal and has no standards and expectation for behavior; therefore, sin is overlooked or even promoted. In both cases gossip often ruins the day.  Church leaders must insist on a loving, gracious, honest, and confidential environment if we are to make real progress in these areas where losing has become the norm.

Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure…”

II Timothy 2:22, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

God is not being mean when He gives us these imperatives.  He really does know what is best for us!

Regardless of whether Obama or McCain wins tonight or whether you will be happy or shed tears after the election results, please keep a few things in mind if you are a follower of Jesus.

God’s people must let nothing keep us from the priorities that God has set before us – to proclaim the Good News about Jesus.  I am encouraged that so many followers of Jesus I know really love God and love people and strive to live what they believe.  Let us endeavor more to share the love of God!  Let us endeavor more to be generous with all that God has made us stewards over!  Let us endeavor more to help the most oppressed!  Let us endeavor more to be salt and light and hope in our very dark world!

1.  We have a responsibility to pray for our leaders (I Timothy 2:1-2).

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

The Scripture does not tell us to pray for them only if we like them.  Praying for our leaders to have wisdom, discernment, justice, peace, love, and truth is commanded for us to do.  

2.  Jesus is still the only true and eternal hope!  (Luke 4:18-19, John 14:6).

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, 
      because he has anointed me 
      to preach good news to the poor. 
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners 
      and recovery of sight for the blind, 
   to release the oppressed, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Words of Jesus)

 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

3.  We must endeavor to love, live, and share the Good News about Jesus, the payment for our sins (I Timothy 2:3-7).

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.”

4.  We have a responsibility to stand up for the oppressed.  (Isaiah 1:17)

“Learn to do right! 
Seek justice, 
encourage the oppressed. 
Defend the cause of the fatherless, 
plead the case of the widow.”

5.  Regardless of who our leaders are, God is still God, and our privilege is to look forward to the day when Jesus Christ will reign (Revelation 11:15).

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.'”

I am so looking forward to the day when there will be no more tears and no more pain.  In that day, we will no longer have to wonder whether our leaders know what they are doing, or if they have good or bad intentions, or if they are wise enough for the job.  Our King Jesus will reign and all will be as it should be – finally!  What a sweet and blessed hope we have in Jesus!

Claire and I laughed and laughed when we saw this giant ladder on this little Mazda Miata as we were driving on the interstate.  When the engineers at Mazda were designing the Miata, I highly doubt they were thinking, “It can be a utility vehicle to carry around large ladders.” 

Yet many people in life find themselves in a similar predicament.  What they were created for and their current life do not match up at all.  Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  You see God has created each one of us and has given us unique places in time and history and unique gifts to use.  When we are living life according to our own rules and desires we step outside of God’s plan and go out on our own.  How foolish to think we could know better than God what is best for the future.  

So how can we make sure that we do not go through life like a Miata carrying a ladder?

1.  Make sure you truly know God through faith in His Son Jesus.  Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” 

2.  Read the Bible consistently with an open heart and mind.  II Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

3.  Pray daily seeking to grow closer to God. Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” 

4.  Repent of things in your life that you know don’t please God.  Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

5.  Be involved in a local church where you have godly fellowship and accountability. Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

6.  Seek Godly counsel.  Proverbs 15:22, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

7.  Act on what you know is right.  James 1:22-25, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”

If you know Jesus and are consistently doing 2-7, I believe you will get on and stay true to the plan God has for you.  Remember in that great exchange we get to give Jesus the unwieldy burdens that we have picked up along the way and only carry what He gives us.  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

We must come to the realization that unless we are living according to God’s plan, then we cannot fully love Him and love our neighbors as He created us to do.  If your life does not line up with what God created you for, will you give up your plan and take on His?

My wife and I are on a very impromptu vacation. We knew Claire was taking time off from her job on Thursday, Friday, and Monday, but it wasn’t until Wednesday late afternoon that we made the official decision to bolt with a last minute travel deal to the Grand Bahama Island. We are having a very nice time. I failed to bring the cord to connect the camera so I will have to post pictures when we return.

I have to write about something that happened last night – something unexpected and shocking. Claire and I were wandering around the marketplace area across the street from our hotel in search of a nice but resoanably priced meal. Now this is a challenge in a place where a box of Cheerios sells for $8. So after walking around and deciding not to drop our life’s savings on dinner, we headed to a little Greek restaraunt that is delicious and affordable. It has become our main stay. So we sat down and ordered a Greek salad and Souvlaki (gyro with chicken instead of beef).

We were not there for long when a young boy at the table behind us knocked his plate off the ground to a resounding crash. The mother starting yelling loudly at the boy and then quickly turned her anger at his younger sister. “Come over here so I can strike you!”, was the phrase that is stuck in my head. She violently picked her up and put her in the chair next to her and repeatedly called her “stupid” along with other verbal assaults. Meanwhile the father just sat quietly doing nothing.

By this point Claire was fighting back the tears and others in the restaraunt were visibly upset. I was having this great internal struggle of whether I should stand up and say something to try to get this awfulness to stop or whether I should hold my tongue. The only thing going for the latter response was the thought of what might happen to this very little girl later if her mother is publicly rebuked.

After a little while things quieted down, and the mother and daughter went to the restroom. I saw this as an opportunity to talk to the dad, but the bus boy was cleaning off their table. After he left, I went over and introduced myself and asked him if we could talk in private for a minute. I didn’t want him to be defensive in the presence of his two sons. He agreed, but then immediately his wife was back. I went to a separate table and waited for a few minutes, but he wasn’t going to be joining me. They paid their bill and left.

I sat with Claire for a minute or two and in God’s strength mustered up the courage to go after them. I caught up much sooner than I expected and from behind said, “Excuse me.” They all stopped and turned around. I said the to the man that he had agreed to listen to me for a minute and that, “Jesus loves your family; mam, Jesus loves you, and Jesus loves your children. What happened in there is not what Jesus wants to happen.” At this point the lady walked off, but the man stayed and we talked for several more minutes. I was thankful to God that the man was humble enough to listen, because he could have just as easily been aggressive. I asked him if he believed in God and Jesus and he said yes. Whether or not he has a true belief I do not know; however, a door was opened to talk to him about his responsibilities as a father in the home. I instructed him as the Scriptures do that he is responsible for his children and his wife, and told him that, “God wants you to grow some balls and raise your children with love. You had the balls to have the children now you have to raise them.” If that comes across as crass to you, I’m sorry for that, but it is what I said, believe to be true, and believe was appropriate in the context. We had a profitable discussion about the difference of discipline out of love and for correction and discipline that isn’t discipline at all – just anger and violence. We talked about the example that would set for their children and how it could affect their futures.

We ended with my promise to pray for him and his family. If you are God loving, would you say a prayer for them even now? Here is a very important point. We may take a vacation from our work, or just be having a dinner with family and friends, but we never take a vacation from being followers of Jesus. We are His, and we are to be ready to serve Him whenever He gives us a task.

II Timothy 4:2, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”

My wife and I recently got to spend a few days in Asheville, NC. In many ways it is similar to our hometown Athens, GA. We stopped in a local bookstore, and I was looking for a good book to read while sitting on the deck and looking out at the mountains. I made my way to the Religion section (which was proportionately larger than most) and then found the “Christian” section. Of the 100 or so authors to pick from C.S. Lewis was the ONLY one who’s writings were worth the paper they were printed on – and his much more than that. So I am very thankful for Lewis – because the truth of Scripture he reveals is put in bookstores even when every other book in the “Christian” section is there to fabricate history and/or present a different Jesus.

I wanted to share, summarize, and expand on some thoughts in his famous sermon “the Weight of Glory”. When approaching this subject of reward for how we live the Christian life, we often think of 2 possibilities on either end of a spectrum.
On the one side we have a reward (a glory) that seems to us self-centered and arrogant, and on the other side a reward that seems frivolous and all-together inconsequential. (I mean what does it matter as long as I make it to heaven.) As usual with these sort of spectrums the biblical truth is no where to be found on it. The biblical truth is distinct – not a degree between 2 falsehoods.

C.S. Lewis in his sermon “The Weight of Glory” speaks of these things and helps us see the glory that the Scriptures give us with clarity of sight. The glory that God gives us is indeed this, “Well done my good and faithful servant…” It is as Col. 3:23-24 states, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

The proper desire for this glory is healthy for all Christians to have. It is the natural desire of a child to hear her parents say, “Good job. I’m so proud of you!” and notice how she smiles and laughs and her face lights up like a jar of lightning bugs. It is this desire that is true and pure. (Lewis notes we are talking about the brats here.) It is very similar to the desire we should have to please our heavenly Father. It isn’t so that we can brag about our conquests and boast around like a peacock. It is so we can hear that strong Voice – the Voice we long for – say those precious and kind words to us… ”Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Lewis notes 5 basic promises we as followers of Jesus have been given. I will give Scripture to back each of these up and a call for how to live now in light of our future:

Future 1: we shall be with Christ (Colossians 3:1-4)
Now: don’t get stuck living for the temporary
Future 2: we shall be like Christ (I John 3:1-3)
Now: put away sin
Future 3: we shall have glory (Romans 2:6-11, 8:18)
Now: be persistent in doing good
Future 4: we shall feast with Christ (Revelation 19:6-10)
Now: be prepared to meet Jesus and rejoice
Future 5: we shall have some sort of ruling position in the universe (II Timothy 2:11-13)
Now: be faithful and endure

(Note that we have the primary promise – to be with Christ – and the other promises are descriptive promises of what that is like – so we don’t jump to our own (wrong) conclusions of what this will be like.)

Finally: Lewis concludes with such great power that we are to love God and love our neighbor. “There are no ORDINARY people…” His point is that we shouldn’t be overly concerned with our own glory, but we should be very concerned with the glory of others.  We are helping people become children of God or playing a part in moving them further away….that each person will ultimately be – eternally with Jesus or a hideous creature – eternally apart from God. We should take each other very seriously and should be burdened to help every one we can (as the Apostle paul would say) be presented complete in Christ Jesus.

If you haven’t yet, you may want to read “who is my neighbor” (below) before reading this post. The conclusion was that our neighbor is anyone we have the opportunity and resources to help. This did lead to 2 other questions; the first being, which neighbor do I help? The help we are speaking of here could be that of a physical, emotional, or spiritual nature. We find further instructions in the New Testament, which give us an order to live by.
1. Your family. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Timothy 5:8). It would be a terrible testimony to give your money away and have your own kids without enough food to eat. But it should be noted that “provide for” is very different than “be excessive”.
2. The church. (those in the family of God). “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
I believe that following the principal of #1 the needs in your local church would take precedence over those needs outside of your local church. Ideally the leadership in your local church is using the resources given to take care of the needs within the church and follow God’s lead on work outside of itself. In the U.S., in this time of wealth, an increasing percentage of local church resources should be headed outside of itself. However, if the local church you are a part of is self-centered, wasteful, and materialistic then you may need to take more initiative to encourage the leadership to do well, and if that fails then to designate what your giving is used for.
3. The poor. Throughout the Old and New Testament we see God’s heart for the poor and the responsibility he puts on us to look after their needs. It is also consistent that along with taking care of physical needs a priority is placed on the spiritual needs (Luke 4:18, Luke 12:32-34). It is best to support the work of the poor by those who are followers of Jesus, who along with taking care of the immediate are also providing hope and opportunity for their eternal well-being. Now there are organizations that do good things but not for Jesus. There are plenty of people who aren’t Christians who can give to those organizations – so let them do that.
4. Other people that God puts in your path. Again as Galatians 6:10 states “Therefore, as we have opportunity let us do good to all.” So depending on their type of need each person we are in contact with is a possible recipient of God’s love and grace working through us.

Having biblical priorities helps us use our limited resources most effectively and keeps us from giving to things that don’t have a God centered impact.