Totally Humbled

When you’re in the position my family is in, you can’t really plan for anything.

You want to hope that God, as He says in Jeremiah 29:11, knows the plans He has for you — plans for a future and a hope.

But you can’t see them, and you don’t know what they are.

So you speculate.

That’s what I was doing a couple of days ago on my 6:00 a.m. walk with Roadie, the world’s sweetest dog.

It occurred to me that it might not necessarily be His plan for us to be stalwart heroes of unwavering faith.

He might not expect us to stoically weather these storms with perfect calm in our souls.

He might not even want us to try to be perfectly whole or holy when it seems like our lives are being shattered into tiny fragments.

It might be that He just wants my family and me to be the humble recipients of extraordinary grace at the hands of an exceptionally generous group of friends, neighbors, colleagues, and church family.

And so we are.

If you could see all the cards and gift bags, the home-delivered meals and flowers; read all the messages and emails and CaringBridge notes, you would know – in the midst of these challenges – how very, very blessed we are.

We are completely overwhelmed by your willingness to be channels of God’s blessing for us.

If that’s His plan, we can see that you are part of it.

Thank you.

The Difficult Part

Now it comes. In ten days, the movers come to start packing up what we haven’t already packed, then to load it in a truck and start for North Carolina three days after that.

Now comes the time we have to say goodbye to family, friends and church family.

We’ll be leaving behind our nineteen-year-old son so he can finish his schooling.

We’ll be parting with dear friends, colleagues and co-workers left to carry on good works we shared a passion for — but without us.

I’ll be leaving my church home for 24 out of the last 29 years for the third time to move out of state. I’ve moved back twice before. This time, there is no real prospect of that happening again.

There will be luncheons and dinners and opportunities to say our goodbyes in these next few hours. Oh, we’ll be back to visit from time to time — because we’ve left that son behind!

But it won’t be the same.

We’ll pray to be blessed with new friends and new church home, and undoubtedly will be.

But it won’t be the same.

There will even be others who’ll become valuable to the ones we leave and the works we enjoyed doing.

But it won’t be the same.

Life isn’t about things staying the same.

Faith isn’t about things staying the same, either … but about believing when you didn’t before … turning from the wrong you were convinced wasn’t that wrong before … confessing what you weren’t sure about before … becoming immersed in the life of Someone you didn’t know before.

It isn’t easy, and it isn’t just five steps, and it isn’t over when you’ve done them. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you a package deal of do-it-and-be-done when the reality is Jesus-did-it-so-you-can-too-all-your-life-long.

The difficult part is saying goodbye to your old life, when much of it really was good and nearly-perfect and comforting and comfortable.

I actually think it’s easier to face the challenge of moving on to the next part of your life and all of its discomfort and challenges that it is to leave the old life behind. The life-you-know calls to you and beckons you back, and as long as you revisit the good parts and not the bad, there’s nothing wrong with spending some time in Memoryville with familiar, cherished ones.

As long as you keep the visits short.

A lot of you folks reading this have probably moved your lives and changed your lives a lot more than I have, and you know what I’m talking about.

Whether you physically move your life or not, being transformed into the image of Christ daily involves all kinds of big and little changes to take you out of your comfort zone and deeper into the life of the One who gave His for yours. (Philippians 2)

Not everyone is called to be an Abraham and get up and leave their home country behind and go on to a new life of promise — some folks are called to that new life without budging a physical inch. I’m not sure it’s any easier.

There wasn’t, as nearly as we can tell, anything desperately wrong with Abraham’s life in Ur. It was probably a pretty good life. But he was called, and the patriarch’s example of faith is cited as prophetic of what must come for each of us:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. ~ Hebrews 11:8

(And don’t forget Romans 4 and Galatians 3 .)

“He did not know where he was going.”

Yet he knew the direction to take, and Who would lead him, and that with each step he took, he could get closer to the One who called him.

Still, even knowing this … the goodbyes are the difficult part.


This evening at sundown begins Passover, the fifteenth of the month of Nisan. By that time, all leaven / yeast is to be removed from the house of the Jewish families which will celebrate the week of the feast.

For believers in Christ, it’s as good a time as any to remember the warning of Jesus about certain kinds of leaven, the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees and of Herod.

It is the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees that is proscribed in Matthew 16, right after He fed four thousand and both parties conspired to test Him by asking Him to show them a sign from heaven. (Were they not paying attention? He had just fed thousands of people!)

Mark 8 recalls the same incident, but remembers only the Pharisees present and the warning Jesus gave as about the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod, and it’s likely that Mark recounts what Peter told him.

In both accounts, the disciples to whom Jesus spoke were confused, thinking that He was scolding them because they forgot to bring bread across the lake on the boat after that sumptuous dinner the night before. Jesus reminds them that He had fed 5,000 and 4,000 men (plus women and children) – and they seem to understand that the nourishment came in settings of teaching – deducing that “yeast” in His metaphor meant the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:12).

So, what was the teaching of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod?

For simplicity’s sake, I tend to think of it in three words:


This would be the Pharisees’ particular brand of leaven. Luke 12 reports Jesus revealing that after pronouncing woe after woe on them in the previous chapter. They had made the law so detailed by their doctrines that it was no longer possible to follow. They bound these heavy burdens of legalism on others, unwilling to lift a finger to help them – but were unwilling to bear their own burden; to practice what they preached.


The Sadducees’ leaven was their own vaulted intellect; they had reasoned out the impossibility of miracles and angels and spiritual beings and life beyond death. Like deists of a couple centuries past, they had de-spiritualized the word of God – completely failing to understand what Jesus told a woman at a well in Samaria: that God is Spirit, and must be worshiped in spirit and truth.


I’d have to say that Herod’s leaven was taught not so much verbally as by example. He was the king and he could do whatever he wanted, and that was the law because God had seen fit for him to be anointed. Never mind how he had actually come to the throne or how he kept it; he could do as he pleased. He’d just execute anyone who was inconveniently standing against his royal privilege. Whatever he said and believed was what God wanted him to say and believe.

There’s good leaven: the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:21). And there’s bad leaven (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).

As we prepare for the week recognizing the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, it’d be a great time to snoop around and root out these kinds that start with “H.”

There should be no place for them in our houses.

What I Miss Most About Being A Sinner

Suppose I actually wrote a post on that topic.

Suppose I actually asked you to write comments about it.

Suppose we were all completely honest and candid and shameless in the way we expressed our thoughts regarding it.

Suppose we confessed our lust. Our lust for stuff. Our lust for power and influence. Our lust for flesh. Our lust for self-satisfaction. Our lust for being right all the time. Our lust for acclaim and attention. Our lust for uniqueness, distinctiveness, better-than-ness.

Would we be able to say what Paul did?

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.

I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. ~ Philippians 3:7-11

I don’t know about you, but I can’t write anything that I miss most about being a sinner.

Because I still am.

I Am Too Comfortable

I write. My degree is in journalism. So I guess there is something inherently journalistic in what I do: journaling my spiritual journey in this blog as if it were a free-distribution newspaper. More than a hundred years ago, Finley Peter Dunn said, “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

I think there is something inherently Christlike in the practice of comforting and afflicting, too – which is one of the reasons I pursue it.

And one of the areas in which the Lord and His early followers were consistent and persistent in comforting and afflicting was talking about giving to the poor – then actually doing it.

I know, I know. I’ve heard all the rationalizations: “if you give to the poor, they’ll take and never earn.” “Charity is the best way to promote poverty.” “The poor you always have with you.” (As if that’s an excuse to ignore them. Jesus’ quote here was to emphasize His shrinking longevity with His friends; not to provide an excuse not to give to those in need.)

Look how very different the view from century one was from that of century twenty-one:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” – Luke 4:18a

Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” – Luke 6:20 (not ‘poor in spirit’ here; just ‘poor.’)

“But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.” – Luke 11:41.

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” – Luke 12:33

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” – Luke 14:13-14

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” – Luke 19:8

“I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.” – Luke 21:3

Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. – John 13:29

“Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” – Acts 2:45

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. – Acts 9:36

Cornelius answered: “Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.’ ” – Acts 10:30-31

(Paul before Felix): “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.” – Acts 24:17

“For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” – Romans 15:26

As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” – 2 Corinthians 9:9

“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” – Galatians 2:10

“Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?” – James 2:5-6

Helping the poor in century one was so vitally important that it became a cornerstone of living worship and service among the loyal followers of Jesus. They didn’t argue about what was authorized in worship; they knew. Giving to the poor was authorized. And it was a sore-thumb-obvious sign of apostasy from that paradigm when they gobbled down a fellowship meal before the poor had arrived, or relegated them to lower-class seating when the church assembled.

It was a signal that something had gone terribly wrong when wealthy Christians were uncomfortable around the less-blessed.

I am so comfortable in my life that reading these verses and writing this post makes me extremely uncomfortable.

What did they know back then that we don’t know now?

Or, perhaps the question is, Whom?

I Was Humbled This Morning

You see, there’s this fellow I see jogging almost every morning on my way to work. I see lots of people jogging along my short commute; apparently they haven’t received the message that the eighties are over.

But this fellow is different. He’s a big, tanned, strapping Nordic- or Germanic-looking guy with bulging muscles from his neck down to his knee-high sweat socks and he has short, dark blond hair styled in an almost-military cut. He has a serious running face on when he runs.

And he runs like a girl in a tight formal and high heels.

Now, I have to confess that I have derived a bit of amusement from this – especially since I am 16 pounds overweight, get winded just going up my stairway at home, have bowed legs, and have never enjoyed running. (Although I owe quite a bit to a kind track coach in junior high school who couldn’t remember my name but took the time to help me learn to walk and run pointing my toes out slightly so it didn’t hurt so much and looked more normal.)

So for some time, I have stolen a secret smile on my way to work at the sight of Nordic Guy, arms close to his chest, plodding with tiny though powerful strides that must require twice the effort in a run because they are only half normal-length. A smug smile. A smile of judgment on those who must be addicted to their own endorphins. A smile of superior lethargy.

Until this morning.

This morning, he was not wearing the artificial leg that I have evidently never noticed before. He was just wearing the peg from the severed knee down.

A lump caught in my throat. And I thought about what Jesus said: “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.”

Tomorrow, if I am blessed to see him again, I will smile a smile of deep and humble joy at a man who runs when many others in the same circumstance would give up on walking.

And I just might run a few laps, myself.

– Toes out, of course.

I Don’t Know

Why is it so hard to say those three little words?

Why can’t I be honest with myself and others, and just say:

  • I don’t know whether God created the earth in six literal days or over several millennia, but I know He created it.
  • I don’t know how Jesus was born of a virgin, died on a cross and took up His life again, but I know it makes all the difference in the world.
  • I don’t know if the Bible is the complete and inerrant and perfect revelation of the word of God, but I trust God to give us the truth we need.
  • I don’t know how often Christians should share in the table of communion, but I want to remember Christ and discern His body there.
  • I don’t know whether God accepts worship accompanied by instruments of music, but I want my whole life to be praise to Him.
  • I don’t know if attending a church is essential to my salvation, but I do know that I glimpse a little vision of heaven every time I’m there.
  • I don’t know exactly how the Spirit moves among and within people, but I want my heart to be open to Him.
  • I don’t know if some kinds of miracles still happen today, but I know that every time someone rejects sin and self, and accepts Jesus as Christ and Lord some kind of miracle has taken place.
  • I don’t know whom God has saved, but I do know the purpose for which He has saved them.
  • I don’t know how the combination of grace, faith and works are related to how one is saved, but I want to present myself as a living sacrifice to God.
  • I don’t know the when or how of Jesus’ return, but I want to be ready to meet Him.
  • I don’t know what hell is like, but I know nothing could be worse than separation from God – and I don’t want to go there.

I’m not giving up on the things I don’t know. I’ll pursue them until I no longer can. I’ll study, pray, meditate, write, question, converse with others. I’m committed to drawing closer and closer to God’s heart as I mature.

And I want to be honest with myself and others about what I do and don’t know.

Even if it means saying those three little words.