It Takes As Long As It Takes

I love this image posted by the Clergy Coaching Network. It made me pause and reflect about my growth as a Christian. It takes as long as it takes.

I’m not talking about my salvation. That is a gift graciously given to me through my faith in Jesus Christ. However, becoming more Christ-like this side of heaven is a process and often a struggle. Let me give you an example.

Sunday morning we just finished a wonderful six-week bible study on “How to Neighbor” at church. It was a great study that left me with a greater desire to reach out to my neighbors.

Less than six hours later God brought one of my neighbors to our front door. (That’s what I would call an immediate answer to prayer.) But here’s the problem – he interrupted my Sunday nap to borrow my step ladder. I wasn’t the most cheerful neighbor as I went out to our shed to hand over my ladder. I gave him what he asked for, but my attitude needed some adjusting.

 After coming inside, I quickly realized that I’ve got a lot to learn about neighboring. I repented (again) and asked the Lord to give me a better attitude.

It takes as long as it takes, my friends! Be gentle on yourself.

I’m not saying to ignore your failures and deny that they aren’t serious. They are! I’m not making light of our problems and saying they can all be put into the same category as interrupting a nap, but Jesus still understands us when we lose our witness. I’m not saying to beat yourself up whenever you fail. But when we do, confess your sins, repent, and move on. There’s no reason to hold on to guilt or live in shame after we have been forgiven by Jesus.

This “spiritual growth stuff” is a life-long process.

The Bible is not a “how to” manual on how to be a better person. It’s a book of Good News that shows us we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.

We don’t become more Christ like by trying to be like Him; it’s learning to surrender and stay attached to Him. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine” (John 15:4). Jesus is my Vine. Any Christ like fruit that flows from my life comes from staying attached to Him.

Jesus is also my Good Shepherd, and no one can snatch me out of his hand. That’s what He promised (John 10:28). We are loved and safe in His presence and don’t have to fear the devil when we are in our Shepherd’s care. A.W. Tozer says, “The only safe place for a sheep is by the side of their Shepherd, because the devil does not fear sheep; he just fears the Shepherd.” He’s got you and loves you – even when you get in the flesh.

Enjoy your Christian journey. Take it seriously, but don’t try so hard.

When you ask the Lord to be a better neighbor, He may bring you into contact with difficult people, He may stretch your faith with people you want to avoid, or He may just interrupt your nap.

Be gentle on yourself. He’s not done with you yet.

Remembering Names

Paul concludes his letter to the Romans by acknowledging thirty-five people by name in chapter 16. Imagine being part of the Church in Rome and listening to a letter written exclusively to your church from the Apostle Paul himself. Hearing this inspired letter had to be a tremendous encouragement to their faith. Most of the letter explains God’s Plan of Salvation, followed by some practical application of following Christ. And then, as his letter comes to an end, you hear your name included as someone whom Paul commended.  Wow! Imagine being Epenetus, the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia (16:5), hearing his name included in the letter. How about thanking Priscilla and Aquila (16:3) for allowing the church to meet in their house? Or how about greeting Apelles (16:10) as someone who is tested and approved in Christ? 

These were thirty-five people who were mentioned, greeted, or commended by Paul for their service! People who were not household names but important enough to mention by name.

Our name is a big part of our identity, and it is encouraging when other people remember it and acknowledge it. I have never been good with names, especially as I move into my senior years. But I know how important it is in greeting people.

When we forget someone’s name it sends a subtle message that they are forgettable or unimportant. On the other hand, when we do remember, it is a small way of telling them you are worth remembering.

God knows your name. You are not just a number on the church role; you are someone that He created with a purpose and knows your importance. When Jesus hung on the cross for the sins of mankind, Steve was on His mind.  My name is written in His Book of Life. That makes me feel good.

If He knows us by name, ask Him to help us in remembering others. Like me, you are not going to remember them all, but think of the impact I could make in the life of someone else – by just remembering their name.

Lord, thank You for knowing my name. Help me to remember the names of others – not just in my conversations with them, but also in my prayers.

The Worst

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”  I Timothy 1:15

Paul wrote these words to Timothy near the end of his life.  He had now walked with the Lord for many years and obviously had matured through his ministry.  Some people think that the longer we walk in relationship with Jesus we will feel less sinful, but follow Paul’s progression in the following verses:

AD 59 – “I am the least worthy of all the apostles.” I Cor. 15:9

AD 64 – “I am less than the least of all God’s people.” Eph. 3:8

AD 65 – “I am the worst of all sinners.”  I Tim. 1:15

What’s Paul saying?  The longer he walked with the Lord, the more sensitive he became of sin in his own life – not because he was necessarily sinning more often, but the seriousness of his sin became more obvious.

Charles Stanley touched on this in one of his recent devotions.  He said “When I read the biographies of godly men and women, it’s clear that they don’t ‘get better’ with age and spiritual maturity.  Instead, they become ever more sensitive to their dependence upon the Lord.”  I can identify with that. 

I am the worst.  Is that the trustworthy saying Paul wanted us to accept?  Read on.  It becomes clear when we read verse 16. 

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”

Now that’s GOOD NEWS.  I can also identify with that! 

I’d like to give you a list of my great accomplishments that show my spiritual maturity.  I’d like to, but my list just keeps getting shorter with each passing year.  In some respects I’m not getting better, but I’m getting worse.  But it’s at this stage the Gospel becomes clear – He has shown me mercy and if He can forgive me, He can forgive anyone.  Mercy is when God does NOT give us what we deserve.  I deserve His punishment, but He showed me mercy.  That’s a trustworthy saying. 

I find it amazing that “he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service” (1:12).  After 36 years of ministry, I am more dependent upon Jesus that ever.  But that is exactly where He wants me to be.  It’s when I am fully aware of my own sinfulness and weakness that I find His strength.  I’m learning that His “power is made perfect in my weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

I am so honored that Jesus chose me to display His immense patience.  He is faithful, full of mercy, and loves me unconditionally.  That is a trustworthy statement that deserves full acceptance. 


My pastor has shared the following thought a few times in recent weeks:

We are more broken and sinful than we want or care to admit, but a thousand times more loved than we dare to dream, imagine, or hope for.

That deserves FULL acceptance.

I love being a child of God!

God Moves In A Mysterious Way

Alison gave me a year-long devotional about hymns and their authors.  What a blessing!

One of the authors that captured my attention is William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”), who lived in England from 1731-1800.  His writings became very popular in his day and changed the course of English poetry and hymns.  He was someone who wrote about everyday life and the suffering we must face.  Cowper knew all about suffering because he battled mental illness and depression his entire life.  He attempted suicide three times and was hospitalized twice, in what was then called asylums.

After his mother died when he was six, William was sent off to boarding school where he was bullied.  As a young man he was prevented from marrying the love of his life and forced to study law by his dominate father.  His first breakdown came when giving his bar exam before the House of Lords.

It was during his first visit to the “asylum” that he found a bible and started reading.  Through the story of Lazarus (John 11) and Romans 3, William was converted to Christianity and placed his trust in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  After a year, he was released and allowed to live with a Christian couple.

William continued his writing but now began composing hymns in glory to God.  His pastor was John Newton, the converted slave-trader who wrote “Amazing Grace.”  Cowper composed many anti-slavery poems, which is why Abolitionist William Wilberforce called him his “favorite poet.”

Even though Cowper suffered from bouts of deep depression most of his life, God used this man in a powerful way.  Hymn writing was his therapy and these heart-felt hymns emphasized the grace and mercy of our Awesome God.  I am encouraged by two of the verses of the following hymn:


God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.


Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy, and shall break

With blessing on your head.

Ye fearful saints, take fresh courage and don’t ever doubt your calling.  Just as God used the gifts of William Cowper to minister to many people, He wants to use you to spread the Good News.  While each of us have our own limitations and infirmities, none of them can stand in the way of God’s purposes. 

Please allow me to say a big thank-you to those who battle depression and still are vessels of God’s grace.  When He plants His footsteps in the middle of our storm-ridden lives, good things happen. 

God moves in a mysterious way.

Thoughts From My Journal

The following are some thoughts I have written in my morning journal since January 1st.  A few of them were inspired by other authors, but all of them were God’s voice speaking to me. I hope there are a few thoughts that minister to you.

  • May your hope for the future be greater than your disappointments of the past.
  • It’s good to pause occasionally and do a little foundation assessment.  Jesus will help us fortify the weak places.
  • Father, sometimes I get so impatient.  Help me to trust in Your perfect timing and cling to Your goodness in faith.  You are an “on-time” God.
  • Don’t let the abundance of God’s gifts cause you to forget the Giver.
  • Learn to appreciate your conscience – God’s gift of an internal warning system – and heed its admonitions.
  • There are 31, 102 verses in the Bible.  Lord, teach me to memorize a few.
  • Sometimes God sends a cavalry to help, but other times He sends me.
  • God, help me to remember that just because someone has more does not mean I ever have less.
  • If you can’t be grateful for what you receive, be grateful for what you escape.
  • Step into the harvest field and let God use you.  Your witness is needed.
  • Don’t pick and choose verses to justify our sinful habits and desires.  Don’t let interpretation of Scripture become selective.
  • We can refuse Satan’s invitation to rehash the past.
  • “So the women…ran to tell his disciples.”  Matt. 28:8.  I still got some “run” left in me to share some good news.
  • Music can give us the ability to express our feelings when words are hard to come by.
  • We aren’t free to interpret the Bible any way we want.  The goal is to discover what God meant rather than to find a meaning we like.
  • We take about 25,000 breaths a day.  As of today, I have taken about 657 million breaths.  Thank You, Lord, for all those breaths.  Each one is a gift from You.
  • Father, give us eyes to look for beauty and grace instead of judgment and cynicism.
  • The Lord will still answer our prayers after we have died.
  • In a healthy church we should be able to reveal our weaknesses to find strength – rather than conceal our faults to appear strong.
  • Bethel means “house of God.”  Is your house a Bethel?
  • Don’t let the enemy condemn you when your God has forgiven you.
  • Much of life can be routine, but it doesn’t have to be boring.  With a little creativity God can add some flair to an ordinary day.
  • The word “awesome” should be reserved only for God.
  • Lord, help me not to be envious of the workers of iniquity.
  • No matter how low we may get, God still has a future for us.
  • If your family is broken or divided, fight FOR them… not WITH them.
  • Before they are willing to hear the message, they might need to accept the messenger.
  • There will be more power in the pulpit when there is more prayer in the pew.
  • When we are misunderstood by other Christians, don’t be bitter.  Sow good seed.


As you remain home on a snowy day, allow me to bring church to you.  Here are some lessons you can learn from the snow:

POWER2 Samuel 23:20Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, killed the two sons of Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day. 

  • Benaiah was a powerful man of God.  He would become one of David’s Mighty Men.  Can you imagine jumping into a pit on a snowy day to kill a lion?  Only the Lord!  When you are anointed with the Lord’s power, you are able to jump in pits and kill some of your own “lions” – even on a snowy day.  Only the Lord!

PRAISEPsalm 148:8[Praise the Lord]  Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word.

  • As you look at all the snow covering the ground, it is nature’s way of praising the Lord.  Don’t stop praising Him.  How does snow praise the Lord?  Whenever something that God created fulfills its purpose, it brings praise to its creator.  What is snow’s purpose?  Read on…..

PURPOSEIsaiah 55:10-11For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

  • Snow has a purpose.  Just as it can water the earth, so can God’s Word water your life.  The promises of God will accomplish what He desires and succeed as they stay planted in our hearts.  After the snow melts, growth will come.  Be patient!  Spring is coming.  Are you fulfilling your purpose?

PROVERBS 31 WOMAN Proverbs 31:21She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all in her household are doubly clothed.

  • Thank God for the Proverbs 31 women that God has put in our lives.  This verse describes her as someone who is not frightened of the snow but continues to care for her family. 

PROVINDENCEJob 38:22Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,

  • With all the knowledge our modern-day meteorologists have, they cannot enter the storehouses of snow and see what God has stored up for 2021, 2022, etc.  God knows how much snow will fall in your backyard for years to come.  More importantly, He knows what blessings lie in store for you in His storehouses.

PURITYPsalm 51:7Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

  • As you look at the freshly fallen snow on a sunny day, let it remind you how the blood of Jesus cleanses us of our sins.  Hallelujah!

Remembering MLK

Someone once asked me, “If you were able to sit down and have dinner with an influential person who lived in the last 100 years, who would you choose?”

I chose Martin Luther King, Jr.  Oh, wouldn’t it be great and have a casual conversation with this great man.  So much wisdom!  Here are a few nuggets we still need to hear:

  • True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.
  • The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
  • Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.
  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
  • I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
  • Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.
  • Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.
  • Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
  • If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.
  • Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

If my father were still on this earth, today we would be celebrating his 100th birthday. In his memory, I share something that I wrote about him in 2013. God used Dad to help me understand the meaning of real worship. It was a timely reminder to me.

Praise God When Blessings Do Not Flow – May 27, 2013

Worship takes many forms, and today’s Church continues to debate which form is most scriptural. We all have our preferences, opinions, and traditions as to what is the highest form of worship; but when all is said and done, it’s not our evaluation that matters. As long as God is the reason for our worship, He can handle any style that we may use. Maybe the highest form of worship is not confined to “how” we worship God, but to “when” we worship Him. Let me explain.

Job was a godly man who lost everything: family, home, business, and assets, in one day. It’s hard to imagine the grief he must have felt as he made arrangements to bury all his sons and daughters. After hearing one bad report after another, “Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.” (Job 1:20) The tearing of one’s robe and shaving of one’s head were outward ways of expressing your intense grief. Job chose to worship God while overwhelmed with grief. That takes faith! It’s not as difficult to worship God when all His blessings are flowing, but is our passion to worship still there when all those blessings are taken from us?

In my opinion, the highest form of worship is shown by those in their lowest state. I am moved by people who can still say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” after they have lost virtually everything. People like Job, those in Oklahoma who lost families and homes to a tornado, and those who lost everything to Superstorm Sandy. I am humbled when I see grief-stricken believers lifting the name of Jesus in worship. Honest grief and true worship can not only coexist, but can be a testimony of the highest form of worship.

I had the honor and privilege of being with my father during the last two weeks of his life. Dad’s health was declining quickly, so I stayed with Mom to help her care for him. Dad had enjoyed a long and healthy life that was filled with ministry and a love for family and friends. He became my most important mentor in his later years, and it was not a burden to take care of the man who took care of me. This once active and independent man quickly lost his health, strength and ability to even get out of bed. He was obviously filled with grief over having all his freedom taken from him, but through his honest grief I got to witness an example of true worship.

On the final morning in his earthly house, I noticed that Dad had woken up early. As his weak body sat helplessly on the side of the bed, his head was lifted high. He was singing. As I quietly walked closer to his bedroom, I heard the most powerful of words coming through his weak voice, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” To this day, my eyes still tear up when I think about that awesome moment. I was able to witness one of the highest forms of worship. It didn’t happen in a congregational setting with a great choir and organ; it happened in my Dad’s bedroom – when he was in his lowest state. He would be taken to the hospital that same day, and die a few days later.

I used to enjoy debating over which style and form of worship was most biblical. While I still have my personal preference, I have become less judgmental of other worship styles and forms. I believe Jesus Christ is just as concerned with when I worship Him as with how.

It’s not hard to praise Him when all the blessings are flowing, but can we still worship Him when those same blessings are taken from us?

Answers to Quiz

Answers to the Christmas quiz. Don’t look at these answers until you have taken the quiz!!!

  2. East
  3. Myrrh
  4. Egypt
  5. Gabriel
  6. Elizabeth
  7. Mary
  8. David
  9. Isaiah
  10. 66
  11. Isaiah
  12. Joy to the World
  13. Bright
  14. Two years after His birth
  15. Elizabeth
  16. South
  17. Micah
  18. Pontius Pilate
  19. 1
  20. Syria
  21. False
  22. 24
  23. True
  24. Dreams
  25. Jerusalem
  26. We don’t know

Bonus 1.  Leviticus – Lamentations

Bonus 2.  Absolutely Yes

Christmas Quiz

Answers to appear in a few days.  This is not an open book quiz. 

No googling until you have completed the quiz.😊

Have fun!

  1. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.”  What does Immanuel mean? 
  1. After Jesus was born, Magi (or Wise Men) followed a star and came to worship Him.  From what direction did they come?


  1. The Wise Men presented gifts to Jesus:  gold, incense, and ________.  Name and spell.
  1. When King Herod gave the order to kill all the boys born in Bethlehem (2 years old and under), God warned Joseph to escape the area.  What country was he told to take his family? 


  1. What was the name of the angel who appeared to Mary and announced that she would give birth to the Son of God? 
  1. What was the name of John the Baptist’s mother?  


  1. Who said the following words: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant”?
  1. Fill in the blank:  When the angels appeared to the shepherds, one of the things they said was “Today in the town of ____________ a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”   
  1. In what book of the bible is the following verse found: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.”?
  1. How many chapters are found in the book of Isaiah? 

28   58    62    66

  1. What Old Testament prophet predicted the miraculous virgin birth of Christ? 


  1. In what Christmas Carol do we find the following words: “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove”?



  1. Fill in the blank of the following Christmas Carol:  Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is ______________.  
  1. When did the Wise Men (or Magi) visit and worship the child of Jesus? 



  1. Who said the following words: “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”? 


  1. Where is the town of Bethlehem located:  North or south of Jerusalem?   
  1. What Old Testament prophet predicted that Jesus would be born in the town of Bethlehem? 


  1. Of the following list of characters, which one is NOT traditionally associated with the Christmas story? 


  1.  The Genealogy of Jesus is found in which chapter of Matthew?  

1     3     7     9

  1. Fill in the blank.  “This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of ________________.” 
  1. True or False.   When King Herod heard of Jesus’ birth he said, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” 
  1. How many chapters are found in the book of Luke?   

24     25     26     27

  1. True or False.   Jesus existed before He was born in Bethlehem. 
  1. On numerous occasions, God gave specific instructions to Joseph as to what he should do.  How did those instructions usually come to him?                                      


  1. When Jesus was 8 days old, Mary and Joseph took him to be circumcised in what city? 
  1. How many Wise Men brought gifts of gold, incense and myrrh to Jesus?                

3     5      9      we don’t know

BONUS QUESTION 1. Luke is the only book in the New Testament that begins with the letter “L”, but there are two books in the Old Testament that begin with the letter “L”.   Name those books.

BONUS QUESTION 2.  True or False.  God always keeps His promises.