Defending "Christmas"

So the people of Chicago can now celebrate the birth of Christ without fearing the usual pablum of the ACLU (and others) who are intimidated by the reason for Christmas.

The local news channels have made it official. At least Channel 7 (ABC) here in the Windy City did.

The "powers that be" here in Mayor Daley's city have decreed that Christmas can and should be celebrated. At the center of the discussion was "holiday music"--and particularly where public performances and public schools are concerned and involved.

One attorney, appearing on tonite's 5 p.m. newscast explained, "the holiday music can be used as educational tools" to explain the birth of Christ and "what Christians believe."

Of course, this is all well and good...according to the long as those teachers/educators do not insist that "you must believe this...."

The ACLU representative who appeared on the newscast said that "parents should be teaching their children" about the real meaning of the holidays.

And this one time, I couldn't agree more.

Parents should indeed be instructing their offspring about God's most wonderful gift to all humanity from the beginning of time.....His only Son.

Just as Moses told the Israelites in the Book of Deuteronomy, "tell it to your children, and your childrens' children."

Merry Christmas everyone!

When Answers Aren't enough....

We've all experienced troubles and heartaches, pain and sorrows. And most of us want "an answer..."

But I'm realizing more all the time that GOD is under no obligation to give me an answer for all that is happening:

In my life
On my job
In the world
Anywhere else....

As I heard a minister say recently, "you may never get an answer for your problems until you stand before Jesus...and then it won't matter any more."

How very true!

There are lots of things that I would like to see explained:

Why my father and mother wanted to abandon me (as a baby) when they abandoned their marriage.

Why my Grandmother Hoover was stricken with Alzheimers in her "golden years."

Why I've not accomplished all that I've dreamed of accomplishing...

Yet, I have to love, believe, and trust a FAITHFUL GOD who is under no obligation to explain anything to me or anyone else.

Not simply trusting Him for an explanation...but just TRUSTING HIM.
Knowing that He is all-wise, all-loving, and that I don't have to have "the answers."

All I really have to possess is HIM.

His Son made that possible.

Ten Signs....


10. There's a case of bottled water beside the pulpit in a cooler.

9. The pews have camper hookups.

8. You overhear the pastor telling the sound man to have a few (dozen!) extra tapes on hand to record today's sermon.

7. The preacher has brought a snack to the pulpit.

6. The preacher breaks for an intermission.

5. The bulletins have pizza delivery menus.

4. When the preacher asks the deacon to bring in his notes, he rolls in a filing cabinet.

3. The choir loft is furnished with La-Z-Boys.

2. Instead of taking off his watch and laying it on the pulpit, the preacher turns up a four-foot hour-glass.

1. The minister says, "You'll be out in time to watch the Super Bowl" but it's only July!

Of course, I don't know any churches that would fit this model...or none that I would admit knowing about ...LOL

An Election..not the end of the world...

It's hard to believe that some folks in these "nifty-fifty" United States are still fussing and fuming over our recent national elections. For heaven's was an election...not the end of the world. Surely, there are better, more relevant things to be in an uproar over...

I didn't vote for George W Bush's re-election...yet:

A) As a Christian, I have the divine privilege and sacred obligation to pray for him as he fills the nation's highest executive office (1 Timothy 2)

B) The majestic voice of democracy has spoken, even if I'm not "thrilled" with what it had to say.

C) There are multiplied millions around the globe that will never have the chance to voice their opinion concerning their political leaders. I had that opportunity, and I exercised it. Lord willing, I'll exercise that opportunity again in four years.

Republicans are claiming a "mandate" that never materialized...
Democrats are whining and blaming and fuming about this, that, and the other...

And all the hyphenated patriots in this country (Asian-American, African-American, European-American, Hispanic-American, just for example's sake) now need to get back to the business of being the most free, and greatest nation in the history of mankind.

Our churches, our local governments, our civic organizations....these will still survive, regardless of who occupies the White House in the next four years...or the four years after that....

Instead of all the "hyphenations" why don't we try being "Americans" for a change?

It was an election...not the end of the world.


Pastor Steve Wright--a preacher who is as country as cornbread, from North Carolina, obeyed the call of God, and moved his family to the West Coast--San Francisco no less, and began a ministry among the most needy in the area. It is called Providence Christian's a link:

Mitchell Tolle Studio and Gallery

My good friend Mitchell Tolle, one of the greatest artists alive today, has a website that YOU MUST see.

Mitchell and his wife, Linda, are wonderfully committed Christians--who love the Lord Jesus, and love people in His name! Here's a link to his website:

Pure Mercy

In a time when many folks want to feel really "good about themselves"--and nothing wrong with a healthy dose of long as we remember that it is the grace and mercy of God. That while we were dead in our sins that Christ came, purchased us out of our death and slavery, and that it really is all about HIM.

Here's a great song that I learned many years ago. It articulates what being a CHRISTIAN really means:

The verdict was in, all the evidence weighed
The finger of justice had declared I must pay
And I, the defendant, could not make my case
So He put His blood on it, and all was erased!

He had mercy, pure mercy,
on a prisoner condemned todie!
He had mercy, pure mercy,
I had no pardon in sight
But JESUS passed by and had mercy on a sinner such as I!

I had been apprehended, I was in custody
The whole world was wondering what would God do with me?
And all my accusers were standing in line,
But He ordered them, 'Stand back! This one is mine!'

I'm so glad I'm saved, glad to be sanctified,
So glad I'm blood-covered, doing heavenly time.
There is one thing for certain
And I'm so glad to know,
That when God goes out walking,

He had mercy, pure mercy
on a prisoner condemned to die!
He had mercy, pure mercy,
I had no pardon in sight,
but JESUS passed by
And had mercy on a sinner such as I!"

"Go Ask"

One of the finest songs written in the last twenty-five years (in my humble opinion) is this marvelous declaration by Gloria Gaither:

Don't ask me to explain to you how one could start again
How burdened hearts could soften like a child.
Don't ask me how to reason out the mysteries of life,
Or how to face its problems with a smile.

Go ask the man who's found the way
Through tangled roads back home to stay
When all communications were destroyed.
Go ask the child who's walking now
Who once was crippled, then somehow
Her useless legs were made to jump for joy.

Go ask the one whose burned-out mind
Has been restored--I think you'll find
The questions not important as before.

Don't ask me if He's good or bad;
I only know the guilt I had is gone,
And I can't tell you anymore.

Don't ask me to prove to you why I know God is there.
And how I know he could care for you.
Don't ask me why Someone so great would choose to walk with me
And trade my broken life for one that's new.

Go ask the child who's got a dad
To love away the hurt he had
Before this man called Jesus touched their lives.

Go ask the one whose fears have fled,
Whose churning heart was quieted
When someone whispered "Peace" to all her strife.
Go ask the man to tell you more
Whose life was just a raging war
Inside himself until the Savior came.

I don't pretend to be so wise:
I only know He touched my eyes
And nothing else will ever be the same!
This pretty much sums up the power of Christ to change everything and everyone that He encounters.

"Come See This Man"

A stranger to me,
He said He knew me
Then He described the state of my life
How could it be?

He had no vessel,
how could He draw water?
But He spoke of more than I had hoped for,
"This water is yours..."

Come see this Man,
come taste the water!
He knows you thirst,
He knows you hurt,
He understands!

Look in His eyes,
see His compassion,
He's never far from where you are
...Come see this Man!

To any who will,
choose joy for sorrow
The water is free,
O Taste and see,That He is good!

Come, if you're fainting
In need of refreshing!
In your desert place,
One glimpse of His face,
You're thirsty no more!

Come see this Man!
Come taste the water!
He knows you thirst!
He knows you hurt..He understands.

Look in His eyes!
See His compassion!
He's never far from where you are,
Come see this Man!

"Come See This Man" words and music by Phil Johnson, Janet Paschal and Lari Goss...Used by permission.

Lies We Love...Lies that destroy us....

From the pulpit of The Moody Church here in Chicago, Senior Pastor, Erwin Lutzer gives this solemn counsel from the Book of Genesis:

Tell me the worst thing that can happen.”

The man who was speaking was contemplating divorce in favor of marrying a secretary he had met at work, a woman who had refreshed his spirit and invigorated his latent desires. He was willing to leave his wife and three children, believing he could not say no to this one opportunity for happiness and fulfillment.

Despite all the talk about how we are the kind of people who “think things through” the fact is that you and I are basically driven by our desires. We want to do what we want to do, regardless of whether it is right or rational. To resolve the tension between what we know is right and what we want to do, we willingly deceive ourselves. We tell ourselves lies that we want to believe, and often we actually end up believing our most cherished deceptions.

But lies are lies no matter how beneficial they might be in easing our conscience and helping us live with the decisions we intuitively know are wrong. Nowhere are we more willingly deceived than in matters of sexuality.

The New Testament writer James tells us that we cannot blame God for tempting us, “but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (1:14). Dragged away by evil desires! What a description of the human heart; what a reminder that evil desires can overtake us, and once we embark on our own path, returning to the starting point becomes well nigh impossible. How easy it is to choose what appears to be the easy path rather than the difficult but right one.

You and I must humbly admit that any one of us could make a single decision that could destroy the rest of our life. So this chapter comes as a warning.

Sexual passions refuse to listen to the demands of rationality; they insist on immediate fulfillment, blotting out thoughts about the consequences. Only the present moment counts. “I wanted to have this relationship and did not care about the cost” a man told me who had ruined his marriage. “I thought it would work out, someway, somehow.” Many who have said they never would must ruefully admit that they have fallen into sexual sin. Passions are more compelling than reason, refusing to heed the warnings along the road.

We are willingly deceived; there are lies we love to believe.

Lie #1: That We Can Control the Consequences of our Disobedience.

The first of the three lies are found in the Garden of Eden. God told Adam and Eve, they should not eat of the fruit of the tree for “when you eat of it, you will surely die.” We don’t know what Eve understood by this warning. She apparently could not grasp what death could mean, since she had nothing in her experience to compare with it. Of this much we can be sure: she had no ability to predict the consequences of her actions. Eve did not know that her sin would trip a series of dominoes that would plunge her offspring into centuries of suffering and endless pain. She did not foresee endless wars, greed and pain, and for millions, an eternal hell. Standing there with her mouth watering for a taste of that luscious fruit, she could have cared less about what tomorrow held.

She did not know that she was sacrificing the permanent on the altar of the immediate. How much better if Eve had decided to obey God’s bare word, without needing further explanations! What if she had submitted her own desires to the commands of the Almighty, convinced that He knew more than she! What if she had trusted that God actually had the best for her in mind! Whether such obedience would have been possible (given the complexities of God’s hidden purposes) is another matter.

What is clear is that you and I are wise to obey Scripture whether or not we understand all the whys and the wherefores. We must never forget that there is a vast gap between the creature and the Creator.

What was the nature of Eve’s deception? She depended on her natural perceptions that distorted reality. She took a finite estimate of the situation, not realizing that her ability to assess the consequences of disobedience was limited. Rather than looking outside herself to God’s special revelation, she looked within and chose to follow the lead of her curiosity. She set in motion a series of events that would end with devastating eternal consequences.

Here is the first lesson that Eve’s experience teaches us about deception: just because you can’t foresee any consequences does not mean there won’t be any! God will not be mocked; unforeseen consequences will boomerang, often arising out of “nowhere.” What the Bible defines as a “great sin” is now “a great act of love” an “act of becoming authentic.” Evil is a good and the good evil.

Lie #2: If it is Beautiful, It Must be Right

We visualize Eve standing before the tree, comparing the warning of God with the promise of the serpent. “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (3:6).

The tree looked good, and it was. Obviously, “in and of itself” the fruit was good, for all that God created was good. In one sense she was right when she saw that the tree was “good.” There was nothing intrinsic in this tree that made it different from other trees.

God had, however, attached a penalty for eating it. Human sight cannot perceive the ultimate realities that lie behind our perceptions. God built in consequences for eating it that were imperceptible to the human eye. To Eve, standing in the lush garden looking at a tree that looked similar to the others, it appeared that God was wrong; His instructions were not for her best interests. God called the tree the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” but Eve gave it a different label. She saw it as good for the body (food); it was good for the soul (beautiful in appearance); it was good for the mind (it would make her wise); so she felt free to eat. God called the eating of the tree evil; Eve called it good. She was a better judge of right and wrong than God. She preferred her perceptions to God’s instructions! This forbidden tree was “desirable.” Her desires were more present to her than rational considerations. The passions of the body were given precedent over the needs of the soul. If she didn’t eat of the tree, she would spend the rest of her life wondering what it would have been like to enter into the realm of “the knowledge of good an evil.”

So the serpent, in effect told Eve, “Feel, don’t think!” Eve’s has many daughters. One young woman said that accepted a man’s invitation to go to bed with him, because if she didn’t she would “always wonder what it would have been like.” Curiosity is often the lure that leads us to set aside our better judgment. Sin never comes to us properly labeled: it always appears wrapped in a different package and presented as something other than what it is. The deadly hook is camouflaged with all kinds of appealing delicacies. If we follow our fallen nature we will call evil good and good evil.

Two lesbians, both from Christian families, argued that their relationship was not only loving, but “beautiful.” In fact, they were more certain that their relationship was honoring to God than they were about anything else. They had not yet learned the second bitter lesson Eve learned at such high cost to herself and to the human race: just because something is beautiful does not mean that it is right.

Let me say it again: Even beautiful fruit, if forbidden by God, incurs judgment. There is no use arguing with an adulterer who has finally found someone who understands him, someone with whom there is communication, love and oneness—there is no use arguing about whether the relationship is as beautiful as he says it is. The issue is not whether it is beautiful, but whether it is right; the question is not whether it is fulfilling, but whether God is pleased. It’s not how we feel, but how we obey.

Lies used to justify various improper sexual conducts are legion. Dancers in strip clubs believe the lies of those who come to see them undress. One dancer said that her act was truly “beautiful” and “spiritual.” They tell themselves that the compliments given by men are real, refusing to admit their crude manipulation. They live in a world of pain and abuse and yet try to portray a world of seduction and sexual fulfillment. They tell themselves that because they are beautiful, they have nothing to hide, when in point of fact, they feel degraded and used. No matter how “beautiful” God has said no.

After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid in the garden. They sewed fig leaves to clothe themselves, for they were ashamed. Here in Eden we have the beginning of defense mechanisms that will be used to control what other people think of us. Fallen man will become guilty of doublethink—that is the ability to believe two contradictory conclusions. He will feel guilty and yet give learned reasons why his actions are justified; though he will not have the motivation to be good, he will give the appearance of being good. He will fight any encroachment of light, and in the process lie to himself, to others and to God.

Lie #3: I’m Entitled to My Own Happiness

Eve turned away from God’s blessings to disobey him. She committed her great sin in the face of great goodness. There were hundreds of trees that she could eat from; only one was forbidden. We’re not even told that they were prohibited from eating of the tree of life; theoretically, they could have eaten and apparently been immortalized as righteous people. There was but one tree, the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil,” from which they were not to eat, “for when you eat of it you shall surely die” (2:17,b).

Surrounded by untold privileges—this was paradise remember—she turned away to do her own thing, to gain her own sense of independence.

Just so, some people do evil within the context of many blessings. Fine homes, vibrant churches, and praying relatives—all this does not prevent the possibility of a child following his untamed desires. We do not have to be raised in bad surroundings to do bad things; we just have to choose to “gratify the cravings of our sinful nature” as Paul put it (Eph. 2:3).

The history of the human race proves this to be so.

Like Adam who was “willingly deceived” we are tempted to do a calculation: will following my passions bring a happiness that will be greater than any distress my actions can bring? Of course, once we have started down that path, our passions will demand immediate gratification, and we will be blind to the consequences. Or we will say, as one person did, “I’ll sin today and deal with the devil tomorrow.” What grieves God is that we are more comfortable with our sin in His presence than we are in the presence of others.

So, Eve did what she thought was best. Perhaps—since she was genuinely deceived—she thought that what was best was also right. If she had doubts, they were brushed aside. God, she thought, had no right to keep her from “fulfillment” but, if He cared He should affirm her every craving. There was a whole new world out there that she wanted to experience.

If you want to make a wise decision, ask: a thousand years from now, what decision will I wish I had made today? No decision can be good in time if it is not good in eternity. This explains why obedience to God is so essential today, because He alone knows tomorrow. We deceive ourselves when we think that only today really matters.

Lie #4: Because God Understands Me, He Overlooks My Indiscretions

We argue that He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust. Paul warned against self-deception numerous times, particularly about the temptation to let our passions dictate our beliefs. “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor make prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy or drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers ill inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:9,n10 italics added). Since it is true that the mind can rationalize anything that the desires dictate, we should not be surprised that many people blithely assume that they can rewrite God’s commands to satisfy their every craving. They are deceived.

The reason we are forgiven is not because God understands us; we are forgiven because Jesus died for sinners, and thus we have someone who is a substitute in our behalf.

Lie #5: I Am Locked into My Lifestyle Because My Story is Unique

We think that no one has ever been tempted like we are. Yet we read “There is no temptation, but that is common to man….” No matter what you have gone through, someone else has a similar story and has managed to get through it successfully. If you say that your experience is unique and one that you and God can’t handle, you are calling God’s faithfulness into question.
What do we need to end the deceptions?

First, we must be radically honest, willing to be kept from deception no matter the cost. This means not merely honesty in the presence of God, but also honesty in the presence of others. Listen to these words of instruction and warning, “See to it brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb.3:12, 13 italics added).

One man put it this way. He says that he had a compartment in his mind that no one—not even God—was allowed to enter. Here in this part of his being, he had room for lust, envy, fear and insecurity. As long as the latch was closed and the walls sealed, he could enter whenever he wished and no one would know. But his heart could not be healed until he admitted that there was no place to hide. God loves to enter our safe places, to pry open the closets of our lives to assess our motives and delights. “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place” (Psa.51:6).

Second, if we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, God will convict us through His Word, which is his voice to us. One woman said that when her husband developed an attraction to another woman, though he was a pastor, he left off Bible reading and prayer. It is difficult to even pretend to come into the light when we have something to hide. God wants the misery of our self-deception to be greater than the misery of self-examination and honest confession. He holds us accountable for not desiring Him above all else.

Not for a moment do I suggest that our battle with our passions will subside. The desires of our sensual nature will always conflict with our desire to please God. But we must grow a passion for Christ that is greater than our passion to sin. In fact our willingness to know the truth lies at the heart of our discovery of it. “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17). We often don’t discover the truth for the same reason a thief does not find a policeman. We are not looking for the truth with the same passion as we are looking for reasons to justify ourselves.

There is room for failure in the Christian life; there is no room for accepting failure as a lifestyle. Plenty of time must be given for healing of the soul; but there is no time for taking those small steps in the right direction.

When the "price" was too high....

Few things matter more than gracious and good friendships. After all, the very God who created us in the first place has called us to be in "relationship" with Himself, and in relationship with each other. Such a call can be rewarding and risky....

I had a another city and state...someone I felt very close to on many levels. Somehow the Lord made sure that Chris found me in cyberspace when I was "surfing" in places where I had no business...but God wanted me to come back to my senses.

This brother in Christ became my weekly conversation partner, and we laughed and cried together more than once. He came and visited me here in Chicago, and I visited him in his territory.

I thought all was going along pretty well...


Some so-called concerned friends of Chris' decided that I was "emotionally dependent" and wanted to let him know how they felt. Of course, they were not adult enough to confront me, or to talk with me....yet, they were bold enough to talk about short, GOSSIP.
I never confirmed nor denied "emotional dependency." What I did reject was the "method"--already defined as GOSSIP. (And in case you wonder what the Bible says about tale-bearing and gossiping, just read Proverbs 18, and the entire New Testament).

People whom I trusted were so "trustworthy" they would verbally stab me in the back, and then tell my friend Chris how they "didn't want to get involved." Excuse me...but when you start accusing people of anything, and particularly when you start labeling them with whatever suits your fancy at the time...YOU ARE ALREADY involved.

And sadly enough, my friend Chris bought it all--hook, line, and sinker. He consulted "experts"--who only heard his side of the story...and offered their partial analysis of me. He began treating me like a student, or worse yet, a patient....instead of the brother/friend that I had been previously.

Of course when I called the undisclosed parties to account, all hell broke loose. I was accused of everything except first-degree murder. I was accused of being suicidal, of manipulation, and all other types of ills/disorders/maladies.

All this by people who are Christians, and whom I thought were my friends. Maybe there were my friends....but only in "fair weather."

I was heartbroken. And in some ways, I still am heartbroken.

We've not spoken now in 10 months...and only God knows if we will ever speak again...I guess I'll have to leave it up to His omnipotent wisdom and grace.

I still often wonder what I could have done to repair the breach in this friendship...and yet, I'm not sure that I could have ever repaired it.

But yet, it does hurt deep down.

What really hurts is the "price" of this friendship was just too much for Chris--or at least that's the way it seems to me. He was willing to let people who barely know me, if at all, make such assessments of me...

And to treat me, not as a brother, but as an inferior. When I'm not worthy of any consideration in the relationship...when the biblical injunction to restore and repair applies to everyone...except me, of course.

Sometimes, I guess the "price" is too much...particularly when Christ calls us to lay down our lives for one another (John 15:13).

"Other Worlds to Sing In"

A friend sent this to me:

When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember the polished, old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother talked to it. Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person. Her name was "Information Please" and there was nothing she did not know.

Information Please could supply anyone's number and the correct time. My personal experience with the genie-in-a-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer, the pain was terrible, but there seemed no point in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway. The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver in the parlor and held it to my ear. "Information, please" I said into the mouthpiece just above my head.

A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear. "Information." "I hurt my finger..." I wailed into the phone, the tears came readily enough now that I had an audience. "Isn't your mother home?" came the question. "Nobody's home but me," I blubbered. "Are you bleeding?" the voice asked. "No," I replied. "I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts." "Can you open the icebox?" she asked. I said I could. "Then chip off a little bit of ice and hold it to your finger," said the voice.

After that, I called "Information Please" for everything. I asked her for help with my geography, and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math. She told me my pet chipmunk that I had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts. Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary, died. I called, Information Please," and told her the sad story. She listened, and then said things grown-ups say to soothe a child.

But I was not consoled. I asked her, "Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?" She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, "Paul always remember that there are other worlds to sing in." Somehow I felt better.

Another day I was on the telephone, "Information Please." "Information," said in the now familiar voice. "How do I spell fix?" I asked. All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest.

When I was nine years old, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much. "Information Please" belonged in that old wooden box back home and I somehow never thought of trying the shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall.

As I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me. Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about a half-hour or so between planes. I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, "Information Please." Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well.

"Information." I hadn't planned this, but I heard myself saying, "Could you please tell me how to spell fix?" There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, "I guess your finger must have healed by now." I laughed, "So it's really you," I said. "I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time?" I wonder," she said, "if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children and I used to look forward to your calls."

I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister. "Please do", she said. "Just ask for Sally."

Three months later I was back in Seattle. A different voice answered, "Information." I asked for Sally.

"Are you a friend?" she said. "Yes, a very old friend," I answered. "I'm sorry to have to tell you this," she said. "Sally had been working part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago."

Before I could hang up she said, "Wait a minute, did you say your name was Paul?"

"Yes." I answered.

"Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you."

The note said, "Tell him there are other worlds to sing in. He'll know what I mean."

I thanked her and hung up.

I knew what Sally meant.

Never underestimate the impression you may make on others. Whose life have you touched today? Lifting you on eagle's wings. May you find the joy and peace you long for.

The Paradoxical Commandments

The Paradoxical Commandments
Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

Men and their Emotions..

From Bonds of Iron: Forging Lasting Male Relationships by James Osterhaus Ph.D. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994) pgs 74-5.

Whenever two people draw together in friendship, they need to be able to handle the demands that such a relationship accords--that includes emotional demands.

Our emotions spring from responses to four human situations:

pain, danger (the anticipation of pain), pleasure, or desire (the anticipation of pleasure).

From pain comes the emotions of shame, grief, and depression. From pleasure comes happiness, and joy. From danger comes fear, both real and imagined (which we call anxiety) and sometimes anger. Those emotions can actually be experienced locally in the body: For instance, pain in the abdomen, pleasure in the pelvis, fear in the throat, anger in the chest. Indeed, much of our emotional life has to do with responses as our bodies prepare us physically and psychologically to cope with stimuli of all kinds.

It's really not so complicated. Emotions are natural responses we make to the world around us. They occur naturally over the course of our day, ebbing and flowing depending on how our minds perceive the various situations in which we find ourselves. Therefore we should expect them in relationships with others, especially friendships, for here we spend more time with an individual.

Realize that your attitudes affect your experience of emotion. Your attitudes are those core beliefs you hold deep inside, in many cases, far from your ability to rationally scrutinize. Attitudes are laid down by people close to us as we grow and soon become uninspected laws that govern our thoughts, feelings, and ultimately our behaviour.

For example, John is taught from a young age that people can't be trusted. It's hammered in over and over by his parents. This attitude relates to John's basic survival, life and death, so it's a very powerful attitude. Along with this attitude comes the feelings of fear, pain, and anger. As John comes in contact with other people, he takes a defensive stance, which keeps people off balance. As they act off balance in John's presence, he becomes more fearful, and his basic atttitude of mistrust is continually reinforced.

Six common emotions and attitudes:

Anger: I will go crazy, destroy others, be destroyed be bad.
Fear: I'll be helpless, crazy, unable to defend myself, unmanly, weak.
Sadness: I'll die, fall apart, hurt forever, disappear, go crazy, be ugly.
Shame: I'll be seen as limited and not adequate
Joy: I'll be bad, childish, irresponsible; someone will be angry,
jealous, punish me. I'll have to pay it back.

For many men, their attitudes toward these emotions are negative. In addition, many Christian circles have taken a dim view of emotions, viewing them with suspicion and outright contempt. They believe emotions should disappear, or at least be suppressed, when the Holy Spirit leads a Christian. As a result, many Christian men have developed deep-seated negative attitudes about expressing certain emotions.

The man who is able to have friends is in the process of coming to terms with his emotional life. He realizes that he has emotions that emerge at various times in response to the differing situations. He neither denies his feelings nor gives absolute sway to them. But he realizes how much feelings play in his life as a person, and he is able to discuss this aspect of himself with his friends.

Again, I'm under conviction at this point. What does this say to you? Please feel free to will be helping someone, including yourself.

How do we "speak the truth in love"?

Someone recently asked the question, "How do we speak the truth in love?" I decided to formulate an answer, incomplete as it may be. Here is how I responded:

You have certainly stepped into a territory that EVERY CHRISTIAN, regardless of their denominational affiliation, or their particular personal struggle will wrestle with: Speaking the truth in love.

The Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesian Christians to "speak the truth in love" with the desired result being that believers would "grow up" in Christ...that the 1) Body of Christ would be edified, 2) the work of ministry would be accomplished, and 3) thatChrist would be glorified(Ephesians 4: 11-16). Those are no small goals, by any stretch of the imagination.

The Apostle James also gives quite a discourse on the power of words (James 3), and how the way we use our tongues can either bless or curse...but shouldn't be doing both.

Truth is sometimes hard to swallow. I know that in my own personal life, there have been times when I've been confronted with TRUTH, and I didn't like it--not one bit.

It's all a matter of whom the messenger of that truth was at the time.

The Gospel of Matthew does give us a formula for taking offenses to our fellow believers, and eventually telling it to the church--particularly if the "offending party" is living in open, rebellious sin that has the potential of inflicting damage to the cause ofChrist.

But then again, the goal is not just discipline, but restoration......RESTORATION---one of the most prominent doctrines of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Galatians 6:1-3 tells us about restoring those who have fallen/been overtaken. And the clear warning is that we must consider ourselves, lest the same thing happen to us:

1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who arespiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, consideringyourself lest you also be tempted.

2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing,he deceives himself.

That law of Christ is the law of love. And love can be very difficult sometimes, particularly when we all so desperately need to not only show it, but experience it as well.

But, "speaking the truth in love" is also about "motive." I have to ask myself a few questions when I want to "speak the truth" to someone:

A. Will what I have to say edify this brother/sister, or will it crush them?

B. Have I earned the privilege to say what I want to say to this brother/sister in Christ?

C. What is the worst thing that could happen after I've said what I plan to say?

D. Will I be there to help pick up the pieces after I've said what I feel should be communicated to this brother/sister in Christ? Or doI just want to "get it off my chest"?

Honestly, I've had people say things in the last few years that have been very loving, very instructive, and very edifying to me...even though they have been very difficult to hear at first. But those people have always had my very best spiritual interests at heart.

I've also had some, who I thought were dear friends, that were ready to stab me at any given minute...and I was stupid enough to sharpen the knife for them. Lord help me to never be like that. If the point of "speaking the truth" is nothing more than gossip, slander, berating and belittling the other person, making them feel inferior, inadequate or degraded, then it's not "in love" regardless of how truthful it may be.

So how do YOU speak the truth in love?

Don't "weatherproof" them!

Taken from Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and it's all small stuff by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. (New York: Hyperion, 1997) pg 105-107.

The idea of weatherproofing as it pertains to peaceful living and friendships is a metaphor to explain one of our most neurotic, ungrateful tendencies.

Just as we can weatherproof a home for the winter by looking for cracks, leaks, and imperfections, we can also weatherproof our relationships, even our lives by doing the very same thing. Essentially, weatherproofing means that you are on the careful lookout for what needs to be fixed or repaired. It's finding the cracks and flaws of life, and either trying to fix them, or at least point them out to others. Not only does this tendency alienate you from other people, it makes you feel bad, too. It encourages you to think about what's wrong with everything and everyone--what you don't like.

So rather than appreciating our relationships and our lives, weatherproofing encourages us to end up thinking that life (and our relationships) isn't all it's cracked up to be. Nothing is ever good enough the way it is.

In our relationships, weatherproofing typically plays itself out like this:

You meet someone and all is well. You are aware of his/her appearance, personality, intellect, sense of humor, or some combination of these traits. Initially, you not only approve of your differences with these people, you actually appreciate your differences. Often, you have an affinity for the person because of how different you both are. You have different opinions, preferences, tastes, and priorities.

After a while, however, you begin to notice little quirks about your new friend(s) that you feel should be improved upon. You bring it to their attention. You might say, "You know, you sure have a tendency to......" Or , "I've noticed you don't ......very much." The point is, you've begun what inevitably turns into a way of life--looking for and thinking about what you don't like about someone, or something that isn't quite least not in your eyes and by your all-wise estimation. And often it's not very wise..

Obviously, an occasional comment, constructive criticism, or helpful guidance isn't cause for alarm. It's even welcome most of the time. I have to say, however, that in the course of working with thousands of people over the years, I've met very few people who didn't feel that they were being weatherproofed at times by their friends. Occasional harmless comments have an insidious tendency to become a way of looking at people...and life.

When you are weatherproofing another human being, it says nothing about them--but it does define you as someone who has an insatiable need to be critical of them.

Whether you have a tendency to weatherproof your relationships, certain aspects of your life, or both, what you need to do is write off weatherproofing as a very bad idea. As the habit creeps into your thinking, catch yourself and seal your lips. The less often you weatherproof your relationships, the more you'll notice just how super your life really is."
A very wise person once said, "Pick your friends....but not to death!"

So what do you think?

A few of my favorite places..."sites"

Changed Lives with Ben Haden

Dr Haden was the Senior Pastor of historic First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee for more than thirty years. He is a licensed attorney, and a former newspaper editor. One of the most captivating and intriguing messengers of the Gospel that I have ever heard. Check him out!

Ann Downing Ministries
Gospel singer/songwriter, speaker Ann Downing has been ministering in music for almost five decades. What a wonderful lady, what a great voice. Check out her website. Tell her that Phil in Chicago sent you.

Miss Lillie Knauls
Lillie Knauls is a "musicianary"--a musical missionary, with the living message of Jesus penetrating and permeating everything that she does. She is a featured artist in the Gaither Homecoming Videos as well as many evangelistic crusades in the USA and around the world. Her musical ministry spans more than forty years, and she has quite a story to tell. Please visit her website...tell her that Phil sent you...

DaySpring Christian Ecards
Nothing improves and lifts my day like receiving a warm greeting from those who mean the most to me. These electronic greeting cards are completely free...and they are worth a mint in the messages they will convey to those whom you send them.

Sg365 Live Radio
I grew up in the Deep South, and I love good Southern-gospel singing. This internet station has the best! Great variety, no commercials, and just all around good. Tell Chuck Peters (the owner/manager) that Phil sent you to see them.

Walk In The Word, Pastor James MacDonald
In the near northwest suburb of Rolling Meadows, IL Pastor James MacDonald shepherds a growing congregation that he founded several years ago. He is indeed a dynamic pastor, a wonderful communicator, and all around terrific man. You can listen to his messages on the Web.

Praying for a "friend" today...

Someone sent this to me several months ago. It is profound....


Hello God,

I called tonight to talk a little
whileI need a friend who'll listen
To my anxiety and my trial.

You see, I can't quite make it
through a day just on my own...
I need your love to guide me,
so I'll never feel alone.

I want to ask You please,
to keep my friends safe and sound.
Come and fill their lives
with confidence for whatever fate they're bound.

Give me faith, dear God,
to face each hour throughout the day,
and not to worry over things
I can not change in any way.

I thank You God
for being home and listening to my call,
for giving me such good advice
when I stumble and I fall.

Your number, God,
is the only one
that answers every time.
I never get a busy signal,
never have to pay a dime.

So thank You, God,
for listening to my troubles and my sorrow.

Good night, God,
I love you too,
and I'll call again tomorrow!

Many friends will walk in and out of your life but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart. Know the difference between a "friend" and a friend.

What is it about MEN and Friendships?

"Author Walter Trobisch once described men as feeling 'insecure, inadequate, helpless and fearful, unnecessary and frustrated.' This is the reality, but men are left with the image they feel they must uphold. Of course, trouble develops because no one can uphold this image consistently.

But there we are hurting down inside, with no one to ease our pain. I recently asked a counselee, Greg to write down some of the secret feelings he had inside. Greg had achieved success in both the military and business after being a star athlete. Everything he did turned to gold, and his resume reflected as much. But now he dug down inside to reveal to me what was really going on.

'I fear my life's a lie,' Greg wrote. 'I think that at any time, someone is going to come along and expose me as a fraud.'

Men hurt, but they are unable to share the hurt, to reach out and connect with other men to lessen that hurt. One researcher who has studied men's friendships/relationships, has drawn four conclusions from what she observed:

1) Men do not give each other affection. Father stops hugging son somewhere before the boy reaches his teens. From then on, no other man seems to touch the boy much except to give him a firm handshake. Affection is assigned only to the emotional and sexual sphere of life, therefore reserved only for contacts with women.

2) Men do not talk to other men about intimate things. According to the researcher, men will talk with women, or if women aren't available, to bartenders or in support groups. But rarely do men share what deeply matters to them with other men.

3) Men do not nurture each other. Men actually FEAR each other. Men think that other men should just "get over it." Nurture has to do with giving help to those who may be struggling with something. Often this involves a concerned presence and/or a listening ear. Nurture means that we want to see 'the whole man' strengthened. Men don't tend to do this for each other. And they should.

4) Men do not have complete and whole friendships. Pogrebin calls these 'holistic friendships.' By this, the researcher means that male friendships/relationships tend to be very utilitarian. The friend fulfills some needed role, nothing more. I would not befriend you just to be with you, to walk alongside of you, to enjoy your person. No, I would only befriend you because I needed you for some purpose. When that purpose was fulfilled, I'd drop you as a friend. I don't really value you--just what you can do for me. I do not want to take the time and effort to nurture a complete and whole friendship with you.

Men have suffered abuse just like women have. Men have suffered much physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as they have grown up. Most recognize and discuss the abuse of women, but few think men have had much abuse. After all, men have never much spoken of that. And many people think, 'Well, even if they did suffer, the effects would be negligible, because men are so tough. Right?'

The fact is men have suffered greatly, and the consequences are equally devastating. But men have had less permission to talk about it than women. So men have packed away all of this suffering and carried with them through life, never realizing that the pain has had an effect on their thoughts, choices, behaviours, and attitudes. Many men who are victims of abuse fear relationships (even with God) and shut down their feelings in an attempt to protect themselves.

Many men look at an abusive past with one of two reactions:

1) 'It happened, but it doesn't mean anything and it doesn't matter.' This part of the old grin-and-bear-it school.

2) 'It matters a great deal. In fact, I'm a victim and can't be responsible for my actions because I've suffered so much.'

Both of these extremes get us into a lot of trouble.

Often abuse leaves inside a man much pain; something has to happen with that pain.
It doesn't just evaporate into thin air. Some men bury the pain deep inside, so deep that most observers (including the man himself) think it no longers exists. From then on, much of that man's behaviour becomes an attempt to keep the pain buried. It's like having a six-hundred pound gorilla locked in the hall closet. I don't want anyone to know it's there, because it is embarrassing. I don't even want to remember it's there myself. So I play the stereo real loud when it growls. I spray room air freshener around to quell the stench. I keep the floor outside the closet mopped up and tidy. Now, the house has pleasant sights and sounds and smells. No gorilla here! I tell myself

--From Bonds of Iron: Forging Lasting Male Relationships James Osterhaus, Ph.D
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1994) pgs-43-46, selected passages.

"the Pharisee and the child" Part Three

"In sharp contrast to the pharisaic perception of God and religion, the biblical perception of the gospel of grace is that of a child who has never experienced anything but love and who tries to do their best because they are loved. When they make mistakes, they know they have not jeopardized the love of their parents. The possiblity that the parents might stop loving this child is he/she doesn't clean their room never enters the child's mind. The parents may disapprove of the behavior, but their love is not contingent on the child's performance.

For the pharisee, the emphasis is always on personal effort and achievement. The gospel of grace emphasizes the primacy of God's love. The pharisee savors impeccable conduct; the child delights in the relentless tenderness of God.

In reponse to her sister's question of what she meant "by remaining a little child before the good God" Therese of Lisieuz said,

It is recognizing one's nothingness, expecting everything from the good God, just as a little child expects everything from its father. It is not getting anxious about anything, not trying to make one's fortune...Being little is also not attributing to oneself the virtues that one practices, as if one believed oneself capable of achieving something, but recognizing that the good God puts this treasure into the hands of His little child for it to make use of it whenever it needs to; but it is always the good God's treasure. Finally, it is never being disheartened by one's faults, because children often fall, but they are too little to do themselves much harm.

Parents love a little one before that child makes his or her mark in the world. A mother never holds up her infant to a visiting neighbor with the words, "This is my daughter. She's going to be a lawyer." Therefore, the secure child's accomplishments later in life are not the effort to gain acceptance and approval, but the abundant overflow of her sense of being loved.

If the pharisee is the religious face of the impostor, the inner child is the religious face of the true self. The child represent my authentic self and the pharisee the unauthentic. Here we find a winsome wedding of depth psychology and spirituality. Psychoanalysis aims to expose clients' neuroses, to move them away from their falseness, lack of authenticity, and pseudo-sophistication toward a childlike openness to reality, toward what Jesus enjoins us to be: "unless you become like little children."

The child spontaneously expresses emotions. The pharisee carefully represses them. The question is not whether I am an introvert or an extrovert, a sanguine or a subdued personality. The issue is whether I express or repress my genuine feelings.

John Powell once said with sadness that as an epitaph for his parents' tombstone he would have been compelled to write: Here lie two people who never knew one another.

His father could never share his feelings, so his mother never got to know him. To open yourself to another person, to stop lying about your loneliness and your fears, to be honest about your affections, and to tell others how much they mean to you---this openness is the triumph of the child over the pharisee and a sign of the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Corinthians 3:17)
From ABBA'S CHILD: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging Brennan Manning (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994) pages 88-90.

My friend, Diane Dean White

Diane has written a wonderful new book, "Carolina in the Morning" and I can tell you already...YOU HAVE GOT TO READ THIS BOOK!

Her website is

Her first book, "Beach Walks" was wonderful! I sat down and read the WHOLE thing in one sitting. Her youngest son Brian is a pastor in Michigan, and one of my best buddies. Brian and I became pals while he was in the Graduate program at the Moody Bible Institute here in Chicago. Since I'm giving out websites, visit MBI at

And make sure you visit Diane's will be very glad you did!

The Pharisee and the Child, Part Two

"The pharisee within is the religious face of the impostor. The idealistic, perfectionistic, and neurotic self is oppressed by what Alan Jones calls a terrorist spirituality. A vague uneasiness about ever being in right relationship with God haunts the pharisee's conscience. The compulsion to feel safe with God fuels this neurotic desire for perfection. This compulsive endless moralistic self-evaluation makes it impossible to feel accepted before God. His perception of personal failure leads to a precipitous loss of self-esteem and triggers anxiety, fear, and depression.

The Pharisee within usurps my true self whenever I prefer appearances to reality, whenever I am afraid of God, whenever I surrender the control of my soul to rules rather than risk living in union with Jesus, when I choose to look good and not be good, when I prefer appearances to reality. I am reminded of the words of Thomas Merton: "If I have a message to my contemporaries, it is surely this: be anything you like, be madmen, drunks....but at all costs avoid one thing: success.'" Of course Merton is referring to the cult of success, the pharisaic fascination with honor and power, the relentless drive to enhance the image of the impostor in the eyes of the admirers. Conversely, when my false humility spurns the pleasure of achievement and scorns compliments and praise, I become proud of my humility, alienated and isolated from real people, and the impostor rides again!

My resident pharisee is never more prominent than when I assume a stance of moral superiority over racists, bigots, and homophobics. I nod approvingly as the preacher lambastes unbelievers, liberals, New Agers, and others outside the fold. No word would be vitriolic enough for his vigorous condemnation of Hollywood, commercial television, provocative clothing, and rock'n roll.

Yet my library is filled with biblical commentaries and theology books. I attend church regularly, and pray daily. I have a crucifix in my home and cross in my pocket. My life is completely formed and permeated by religion. I abstain from meat on Friday, I give financial support to Christian organizations. I am an evangelist devoted to God and Church.

Yet I must heed Matthew 23:23, 24, 27, 28.

In the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, the Pharisee stands in the temple and prays:

I thank You God that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on all I get. (Luke 18:11, 12).

His prayer indicates two telltale flaws. First, he is very conscious of his religiosity and holiness. When he prays it is only thanks for what he has, not a request for what he has not, and is not. His fault is his belief in his faultlessness. He admires himself. The second defect is related to the first: He despises others. He judges and condemns others, because he is convinced that he stands above them. He is a self-righteous man who unrighteously condemns others.

The pharisee who pardons himself is condemned. The tax collector who condemns himself is acquitted. To deny the pharisee within is lethal. It is imperative that we befriend him, dialogue with him, inquire why he must look to sources outside the Kingdom of God for peace and happiness.

At a prayer meeting I attended, a man in his mid-sixties was the first to speak: "I just want to thank God that I have nothing to repent of today." His wife groaned. What he meant was he had not embezzled, blasphemed, fornicated, or fractured any of the Ten Commandments. He had distanced himself from idolatry, drunkenness, sexual irresponsibility, and similar things. Yet he had never broken through into what the Apostle Paul calls the inner freedom of the children of God.

If we continue to focus solely on the sinner/saint duality in our person and conduct, while ignoring the raging opposition between the pharisee and the child, spiritual growth will come to an abrupt standstill."
From ABBA'S CHILD: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging Brennan Manning (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1994) pages 86-88.

"The Pharisee and the Child"

For the next several days, I want to share some of the profound insights of Dr Brennan Manning:

"Pharisaic Judaism comprised a relatively small group of seperated ones who almost two centuries before Christ, in order to preserve the Jewish faith from foreign dilution, had given themselves to lives of vigilant observance of the Mosaic Law. Their lives were one long rehearsal, a symphony orchestra tuning up endlessly by playing tortured variations of the Law.

Before the Jewish exile, when the spirit of the covenant was vibrantly alive, the people felt safe in the shadow of God's love. In the pharisaic period, as the understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures deteriorated, the Jews felt safe in the shadow of the law. Obviously, the gospel of grace presented by the Nazarene Carpenter was an outrage.

The attitude of the pharisee is that keeping the law enamors him to God. Divine acceptance is secondary and is conditioned by the pharisee's behavior. For Jesus the circumstance is diametrically opposite. Being accepted, enamored, and loved by God comes first, motivating the disciple to live the law of love. "We are to love, then, because He loved us first" (1 John 4:19).

Suppose a child have never experienced any love from his/her parents. One day he/she meets another child whose parents show him/her with affection. The first child says to himself/herself: I want to be loved like that too. I have never experienced it, but I'm going to earn the love of my mother and father by my good behavior.

So to gain the affection of his/her parents, this child brushes their teeth, makes their bed, smiles, minds their p's and q's, never pouts or cries, never expresses a need, and conceals all negative feelings.

This is the way of the pharisees. They follow the law impeccably in order to induce God's love. The initiative is theirs. Their image of God necessarily locks them into a theology of works. If God is like the insufferable Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, eager to find fault with anybody and everybody, the pharisee must pursue a lifestyle that minimizes mistakes.

Then, on Judgment Day, he can present God with a perfect slate and the reluctant Deity will have to accept it. The psychology of the pharisee makes a religion of washing cups and dishes, fasting twice a week, and paying tithes of mint, dill, and cumin very attractive.

What an impossible burden! The struggle to make oneself presentable to a distant and perfectionistic God is exhausting. Legalists can never live up to the expectations they project on God for there will always be a new law, and with it a new interpretation, a fresh hair to be split by the keenest ecclesiastical razor.

From ABBA'S CHILD: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging Brennan Manning (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994).

A Tale of Two Joes.

I have to be either the luckiest man in the city of Chicago, or just the most available one for whenever God needs someone to "be there."

In the last two weeks, two really neat men both named Joe have entered my life for completely different reasons...but in some ways, for the same reasons.

Joe #1 showed up at my office one morning, as a walk-in client/prospective student. He came in, broke into tears, telling me how his parents had died a couple of years ago, and how he himself needs to get some training, so he can start a career. He was/is a very emotionally broken and needy man...and God sent him to me for a reason. He confessed how he is terribly lonely, and that he sees no real reason for living. He's afraid to end his own life, but can't find alot of reasons for living.

He wants to find "a family"...friends, people that he can trust. He is going to Sunday Morning Worship with me tomorrow morning. I'm asking the Lord to profoundly touch his life as only HE can touch it.

Joe #2, showed up at the Chicago Tabernacle a couple of weeks ago. It was about ten minutes before the Morning Worship service was to formally begin, and I looked back, noticing a new person sitting on the next to the last pew. I went back, introduced myself, and invited him to join me nearer the front of the sanctuary. His story in a nutshell is that he came to Christ about five years ago...was raised in a nominal religious environment, but never encountered the Saving Power of Christ until his junior year at Illinois Wesleyan University. He has been looking for a church like the "Brooklyn Tab" (our mother congregation), and someone in New York told him how to find us. He is starting to get "plugged in." I have assured him that he has "family" in this church now...and that we will always be there for matter what!

God just knows how to bring folks my way...or at least that's what I'm discerning.

I could be wrong.

But I don't think least, not this time.

Elizabeth Edwards, Cancer victim

A few hours ago, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Senator and Vice-Presidential hopeful John Edwards (D-NC) was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

After the narrow defeat of Senators Kerry and Edwards for the President and Vice President slots, respectively, this must be some shocking and upsetting news for both the Edwards and the Kerry families.

As a Christian, I am asking any and all who read this blog to remember Mrs Edwards in your prayers to the Lord.

May the grace of Christ be with her, her husband, her children, and others with whom she is closest in this time of great need.

So how do we "heal" the.....nation?

As we all sigh our collective relief for Election 2004 now being a thing of the past, it's time to do the important work.

Bringing a very divided, bitter, and wounded nation back to a place of wholeness and health.

Sounds really good, doesn't it? Of course it does....if it were not a virtual impossibility.

Now why would I make such an assumption?

Let's see if I can explain what I mean by "impossibility" where "healing the nation" is concerned.

You see, as a Bible-believing Christian, I see the Scriptures addressing not only "national issues" but addressing those personal and Kingdom issues that so many believers want to either ignore or claim isn't "for today." Sorta a "cessationism" of it's own, I guess.

Over the last few years, I've seen many Blood-bought, Blood-washed Christians willing to divide over just about anything they can find. Just give them a reason...and shazam....we're divided.

And it certainly doesn't take much to divide God's people either...

The color of the new carpet in the sanctuary...
The style of the music: either too loud, too long, or too much.
The version of the Scriptures that is read in the worship gathering.
Any number of other things that we can be "divisive" over.

If we Christians want to see the nation "come together", we might want to try it our local our our our relationships and friendships.

Our bitter words, our non-edifying opinions, and our unrighteous prejudices really set a bad example for a watching world.

Why on earth should anyone, and particularly those "outside" the family of God, believe that we really belong to the King of Kings, when we exhibit so many qualities that are unlike Him?

I was on a national call-in Radio Talk show last night, and admitted that I voted for Senator John Kerry, and that I am a registered Republican. A few other callers confessed to the spurious treatment they had the hands of other CHRISTIANS, simply because of their political choices.

But it doesn't stop with "politics." Oh, if only it did.

Sadly, many Christians are looking for a reason to be divisive...and to strain relationships in the Kingdom of God....

Railing accusations, untruths that are widely disseminated, and unbiblical/sociological prejudices have all done their damage...

And far too many American Christians are willing to admit just how culpable we really have been--and still are.

It's time for the people of God to stand up, speak up, and then start to do what Jesus said would identify us as His followers.

Loving each other.

The entire world will notice it when we do. I'm sure we will too.

The Truth Remains: God is Faithful!

Carol Cymbala, director of the Grammy-Award winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir (and my Pastor's mother-in-law) wrote this wonderful song more than twenty years ago when her oldest child, Chrissy (my Pastor's wife) was straying far from the Lord. When her heart was breaking into a million pieces, the Lord filled her with His promise of His faithfulness.

This song has been sung around the world, and translated into many languages. God spoke this to my heart on my way to work this morning. I wanted to share it here:

In my moments of fear, through every pain, every tear,
there's a God who's been faithful to me.
When my strength was all gone,
when my heart had no song
still in love He's proved faithful to me.

Every word He's promised, is true.
What I thought was impossible, I see my God do.

He's been faithful, faithful to me.
Looking back, His love and mercy I see.
Though in my heart I have questioned, even failed to believe,
Yet, He's been faithful, faithful to me.

When my heart looked away
the many times I could not pray,
still my God He was faithful to me.
The days I spent so selfishly,
reaching out for what pleased me,
even then God was faithful to me.

Every time I come back to Him,
He is waiting with open arms and I see once again.

He's been faithful, faithful to me.
Looking back His love and mercy I see.
Though in my heart I have questioned even failed to believe,
Yet, He's been faithful, faithful to me.

--Carol Cymbala

I'm reminded of the words of the Prophet Jeremiah, as he declared in the midst of total devastation and destruction, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness.." (Lamentations 3:23,24).

I see the faithfulness of God in my life...even when I'm faithless. Even when I seek nothing more than my own hedonistic pleasures, He is faithful to me. He holds me and sustains me. He cleanses and heals me, He restores and strengthens me. He takes all the broken pieces of my life, and makes sense out of them.

He is, indeed a faithful Father.

THE DAY AFTER: What really bothers me....

Now that Election 2004 is finally coming to a much-welcomed halt, we get back to the business of daily living, and resuming some sense of normality to the already-insane pace that most of us keep.

My candidate, Senator Kerry, has decided to concede, and to move on with his future. Even though I am saddened, I'll recover no doubt.

What is more saddening for me, as a Bible-believing Christian, is how divided the United States has become in this profoundly important process for our citizenry.

But causes tremendous sadness for me is how Christians relate and react to one another during this process. I've seen families divided, local congregations upset with one another, and Christians who would even doubt another Christian's relationship with the Saviour simply because of their political differences.

That's not right....regardless of how we "slice it."

Some of these same people who ballyhoo over the "unborn" (and I'm pro-life by the way) but take no thought of the "murders" they commit with their tongues--against those with whom they disagree, or with whom they might see issues from another angle than their own. The Epistle of James, The Book of Proverbs, and even Jesus Christ Himself warned us about the destructive power of our words and our tongues when they are used unrighteously.

The bitter divisions between family members, friends, and fellow church members must be mended. How can we expect a "watching world" to believe anything that we say about the "Good News" of Jesus when we embrace such horrific strife? The "sniff test" for our marks of discipleship is not how we align ourselves politically. It's not even how we align ourselves sociologically.

I'm completely in opposition to "Gay Marriage"--I even oppose the "Civil Union" concept that both major political parties have endorsed. And I live in a city that has a very prominent and very powerful "gay lobby" on most issues.

What is more appalling than the lobbyists though, is the way many Christians have reacted to the issues regarding homosexuality, same-sex marriages, and civil unions. These people are still created in the image of God--even though the Enemy has distorted that "image" where their sexuality is concerned. There is hope, there is help, and there is freedom.

But not according to the many believers who are willing to vilify those caught in such circumstances. Maybe we believers need to remember six important words in the New Testament, "and such were some of you..." (1 Corinthians 6).

It's how we "love each other." That's the command, exhortation, and indentifying marks, according to our Lord (John 13:33-35).

Senator Kerry is doing a noble thing by conceding this Presidential Election. That shows what a strong and gracious man he really is. President Bush has already noted the Senator as being a very tough and worthy competitor. After all, they were competitors--not enemies.

Sadly, we often view those who disagree with us as our enemies. I've personally experienced this....from those with whom I would have least expected it. And that profoundly saddens me.

And I'm sure it saddens the heart of God.

May His grace and love flood all that we do, say, and believe.

Phil Hoover

Just for Today...

The mere mention of His name can calm the storm, heal the broken, raise the dead.

At the name of Jesus, I've seen sin-hardened people melt, derelicts transformed, the lights of hope put back into the eyes of a hopeless child....

At the name of Jesus, hatred and bitterness turn to love and forgiveness. Arguments cease.

I've heard a mother softly breathe His name at the bedside of a child delirious from fever, and I've watched as that little body grew quiet, and the fevered brow became cool.

I've sat beside a dying saint, her body racked with pain, who in those final fleeting seconds summoned her last ounce of ebbing strength to whisper earth's sweetest name....'Jesus, Jesus....'

Emperors have tried to destroy it. Philosophies have tried to stamp it out. Tyrants have tried to wash it from the face of the earth with the very blood of those who claimed it.

Yet His name still stands.

And there shall be the final day when every voice that has ever uttered a sound--every voice of Adam's race--shall rise in one mighty chorus to proclaim the name of Jesus...

For in that day, "every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord..."

So, you see, it was not mere chance that caused the angel one night long ago to say to a virgin maiden, "His name shall be called JESUS...."


Kings and Kingdoms shall all pass away...but there is something about that name."

Written by Gloria Gaither.

Phil Hoover