Monthly Archives: March 2015

Experience oriented theology

How many of us are like Linus, and base our theology on personal experience rather than on what Scripture says?

Peanuts - prayer

While we may affirm that the Scriptures are the final rule for faith and practice, we often live by our own rules and what works. If my experience and/or desires conflict with the Scriptures, then oftentimes my personal experience wins out. Hmmm.

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Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Bible Study, Prayer, Theology


Well done, Brian

11084007_10206045969729142_5783449892161546938_oWhile it is difficult to understand and accept God’s timing, you have to trust his plan and rest in his sovereignty.

On Saturday, Brian Key was called home to heaven. Brian was a numbers guy who worked in the financial sector. While numbers may have been his vocation, students were his passion. He served as a lay leader in the junior high ministry at Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA, for 20+ years. He impacted countless students, including three that lived in my house and share my name. He and his wife, Susan, always had kids over to their home. Brian went on numerous Summer Trek trips, the junior high ministry trip to Camp Bighorn in Montana where students served in various ways. One of the summer projects was building a trail up to the cross. If a student memorized a certain number of verses, Brian would reward them by taking them to a Seattle Mariners game. He took his boat out to the Columbia River for Summer Safari, the junior high summer waterskiing camp. As parents of three junior highers, Carol and I benefited from his investment into the kids. Since we helped cook for Summer Safari, we saw Brian and Susan’s service up close. Last year, Brian retired from his corporate job and he and Susan became missionaries with TEAM. They recently moved to La Paz, Mexico, to serve that community. Brian was hiking in the area on Saturday when he had a heart attack and God called him home.

Brian’s sudden departure took us all by surprise and reminded us once again that our times are in God’s hands. While we rejoice that Brian is now in heaven reunited with his son, Justin, we grieve with Susan and their other son, Aaron, who are left behind.

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Matthew 25:21, ESV


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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in Heaven, Photos, Scripture


After the Confetti Settles

fork-in-the-roadEach one of us experiences many turning points in our lives. They are events which paint a distinct before and after picture. Before the event our lives were headed one direction. After the event, we headed off in an entirely different direction. Before we thought one thing; afterwards we had an entirely different perspective.

Sometimes the turning points are joyous occasions. Graduations, weddings, the birth of a child are events that drastically change a person’s life. Sometimes the events are traumatic such as an accident or doctor’s appointment where we are told we have cancer. Sometimes our life changes because of someone else’s action or decision. Whether the turning point is good, bad, or indifferent, life is never the same again.

Triumphal entryThe day Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is one such event. Matthew 21:1-11 records his triumphal entry. On this occasion, Jesus presented his credentials as the Messiah/King, the Son of David. The crowds shouted his praise. But what happened after the confetti settled and the parade was over? How was life different for the disciples or the people of Jerusalem? In the same way, how is life different for a Christ follower after Jesus enters his or her life?

Matthew 21:12-22 gives us an answer to that question. (Mark 11:11-12 adds the perspective that these events take place the day after Palm Sunday.) These events help us understand that life is never the same after King Jesus arrives. Jesus will challenge our priorities (12-13), heal our hurts (14), confront our biases (15-16), and expect fruit in our lives (18-22).

Cleanse templeThe day after entered Jerusalem, Jesus makes his way to the temple. There he observes how the temple complex had been turned into a place of commerce. There were pens of sheep and livestock available for purchase to use as sacrifices. If you could not afford those, you could buy pigeons or doves. Before making any purchase, you had to exchange your regional coins for temple money.

Jesus begins to drive the merchants and money changers out of the temple (12-13). He declares that the temple was to be a place of prayer, not a safe house for bandits. In his actions, Jesus challenged the priorities of the prevailing culture. Instead of focusing on worship, they were more concerned about busyness. By driving the merchants out, Jesus removed the weapons of mass distraction. He called for people to refocus their attention on the purpose of the temple—a place where people of every nationality could come to pray.

Jesus heal lameIn verse 14, Jesus healed those who were blind and lame. Because of their physical disability, they were not welcome in the temple. They could not worship their creator. Beyond the physical healing, Jesus removed the barriers that kept these folks from entering the temple to worship.

After showing mercy to hurting people, Jesus confronted the bias of the religious leaders who were outraged that people were not worshipping in the proper manner (15-16). Ironically, they put up with the noise of commerce but cringed at the noise of praise. As he often did, Jesus comforted the afflicted and he afflicted the comfortable.

Outside of the city, Jesus saw a fig tree in full bloom (18-22). Normally, leaves meant the presence of figs. But that was not the case. The tree had the appearance of health and fruitfulness, but it was all a sham. Because of its hypocrisy, Jesus said the tree would never bloom again. Through his actions, Jesus taught his disciples that outward appearances are not enough. He expects to find fruit in our lives. Jesus also used the occasion to teach about prayer and faith. He explained that God can do what is humanly impossible.

After  the Confetti SettlesThese same lessons should be true in our lives as well. When King Jesus comes into our lives, life is never the same again. He will challenge our priorities. He wants us to pursue a relationship with him rather than settle for busyness. He will heal our hurts and remove the barriers that hinder us from approaching him in worship. He will make us uncomfortable as he confronts our biases. And he will expect us to be fruitful in serving him.

Have you given King Jesus permission to cleanse and change your life? If we’re honest, we might have given him permission to cleanse our lives. We want forgiveness and heaven. But change our lives? Many of us want to continue living by our own standards. But that is just not realistic. When King Jesus truly comes into our lives, he changes everything. Life is never the same after King Jesus takes up residence in our lives.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at the First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on Palm Sunday, March 29, 2015. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Who asks you the hard questions?

Who asks you about the condition of your heart? Who asks you about the state of your marriage? Who challenges you to remain pure in your thought life and viewing habits? Who holds you accountable?

When I became an instructor with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries in 1987, Bruce Wilkinson, WTB’s president, challenged all the new instructors to make a commitment that we would never teach a WTB event with known sin in our lives. We had to look Bruce in the eye, take his hand, and make that promise. As much as I respected Bruce, I was also fearful of disappointing him and having to confess I didn’t live up to my promise.

Yesterday, I had to reaffirm that commitment to Phil Tuttle, my long-time friend and WTB’s current president. At the end of InstructorFest 2015 at WTB’s headquarters in Atlanta, GA, Phil reaffirmed Walk Thru’s commitment to purity and accountability. He and three of WTB’s leaders stood in front of the auditorium. The 60+ instructors who were present were asked to come forward, take the hand of one of the leaders, and say, “By God’s grace and with his help, my life is pure, my marriage is strong, and it will stay that way until we meet again.”

I chose to stand in Phil’s line. Our friendship goes back to 1980 when we were students at Dallas Theological Seminary. Phil & Ellen and Carol & I were married one week apart. Carol and Ellen worked near each other in downtown Dallas and often had lunch together. I recruited Phil to become a WTB instructor in 1988. We’ve got some history together.

Rather than shake his hand, I gave Phil a hug and thanked him for keeping this tradition alive. I explained it was one of the more difficult, but meaningful parts of a WTB faculty conference. I then took his hand and repeated my affirmation of commitment, before I gave him another hug and reaffirmed our friendship.

In close to 30 years of ministry, I can count on two hands with fingers left over the number of people who have asked me the hard questions. Most of those people have been Walk Thru family. I am grateful for their commitment, accountability, positive peer pressure, and the healthy fear of not wanting to disappoint my friends that have helped me navigate the pitfalls of temptation.

Who do you have that asks you the hard questions?



Why is winter still here?

Considering the calendar says “March 28” and it is snowing outside here in western MA, I can understand Dana’s outrage.

why is winter still here

why is winter still here 2

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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Fun, Winter


WTB InstructorFest 2015

I was in Atlanta the past three days for Walk Thru the Bible’s InstructorFest 2015. It was 42 hours of refreshment and renewal, encouraging conversations with old friends, challenging insights from God’s word, and recommitment to stay faithful in the battle. It is a privilege to be part of this organization where the faculty and staff share a sense of family.



Band of Brothers

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) This verse is an apt description for a gathering of the faculty and staff of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. The men and women who serve share a sense of comradery and family.

I am in Atlanta at WTB headquarters for InstructorFest 2015. It is a gathering of veteran instructors, both adult and children’s instructors. During the opening session we were challenged by WTB President Phil Tuttle about the life of Josiah. It was encouraging to meet new friends and reconnect with old friends.

I’ve had the privilege of serving as a Walk Thru instructor since 1987. I’ve written on other occasions about what the ministry means to me and why I continue to teach the live events. I’m looking forward to the next two days.



The Death of a Conscience

The Internal Revenue Service once received a letter from a conscience-stricken taxpayer. It read, “Dear Sirs: My conscience bothered me. Here is the $175.00 I owe in back taxes.” There was a P.S. at the bottom that read, “If my conscience still bothers me, I’ll send in the rest.”

pinocchio 2If you do a Google search of the word, “conscience,” you will come up with a variety of results.

  • “A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.”
  • “A guilty conscience needs no accuser.”
  • “A clear conscience is a good pillow.” African American proverb
  • “A clear conscience is the sign of a poor memory.”
  • Benjamin Franklin said, “A good conscience is a continual Christmas.” Francis Bacon said something similar, “A good conscience is a continual feast.”
  • Vincent Van Gogh said, “Conscience is a man’s compass.”
  • Ogden Nash quipped, “There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball, and that is to have either a clear conscience or none at all.”

If you follow Nash’s advice and get rid of your conscience, watch out for trouble. As Mark 6:14-29 demonstrates, when we silence our conscience, we can commit unspeakable crimes.

Mark 6:14-29 describes the clash of two contrasting figures. John the Baptizer was austere and simple; King Herod Antipas was flamboyant and ornate. John was righteous; Herod knew no taboos. John was a man of immense moral courage; Herod was a man who lives in spineless relativity. John kept his conscience but lost his head; Herod lost his conscience and his soul.

This passage describes the death of Herod’s conscience. His conscience deteriorates from sensitive (17-20) to broken (21-28) to guilty (14-16) to dead (Luke 23:6-12).

Herod placed John in prison because he had the audacity to say that adultery was sin. Herod had seduced his half-brother’s wife, Herodias, and convinced her to marry him. To do so, he had to divorce his current wife. John spoke up and declared it, “Sin!” (18). Herodias took it personally and wanted to kill John (19). Because Herod respected John, he placed him in prison (17, 20).

Herod’s family was extremely dysfunctional. Even Hollywood couldn’t make this stuff up. Herodias sent her daughter, Salome, to dance at the king’s stag birthday party (21-22). This task normally fell to professional dancers and prostitutes. Herodias was willing to sacrifice her daughter’s honor to get her own way. Salome was willing to sell her services to the highest bidder (23-25). Herod was too drunk to know the difference. He was willing to do anything to please his family and his guests (26-28).

After the deed is done, Herod starts to feel guilty (14-16). When he hears about the miraculous ministry of Jesus, he assumes John has come back to haunt him.

As we learn later in Luke 23:6-12, Herod’s conscience goes from sensitive to broken to guilty to dead. While Jesus is on trial prior to the crucifixion, he orders Jesus to be mocked and mistreated. Herod stands face to face with Christ and felt nothing at all.

When we silence our conscience, we rationalize our sin. We call adultery a choice made by consenting adults. We refer to abortion as a choice. Homosexuality becomes an alternate lifestyle. Arrogance becomes good self-esteem. Lies become “photoshopped memory.” The clear commands of Scripture become optional suggestions.

Brewster Rockit - Lying = Photoshopped Memory

Calvin & Hobbes - selective denial

When we silence our conscience, we go along with the crowd. One compromise leads to the next one. We focus on pleasing other people. We use our power to satisfy our lusts. When we silence our conscience, we can commit unspeakable crimes.

The question is, How is your conscience? Is it healthy? Or is it dying?

To develop and maintain a healthy conscience, follow a four-step process:

  • Hear God’s word. Ask the question, “What does Scripture say about ___________?”
  • Obey God’s word. Commit yourself to obey and practice whatever Scripture teaches.
  • Confess your sins. Keep short accounts with God.
  • Receive forgiveness. Enjoy the benefits of a clear conscience.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 22, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Can one person change the world?

PossibleBook Review: Possible: A Blueprint for Changing How We Change the World, by Stephan Bauman

Can one person truly change the world? Can I change the world? While we may answer “Yes” to the first question, we feel like the answer to the second question is “No.” “It may be possible for other people to bring about lasting change, but there is no way that I can do that. I’m just an ordinary person.” At least, that is what we tend to believe.

Stephan Bauman, the president of World Relief wants to change that perception. The pervading theme of his book, Possible: A Blueprint for Changing How We Change the World, is that ordinary people can effect lasting change. But they need help in doing so, starting with the understanding that they need to change themselves first.

Can we change the world? I believe people like you will do extraordinary things when given the chance, turning some of the most entrenched, seemingly intractable situations of our day into something hopeful, something …


I believe “there are no ordinary people,” only people who are bold enough to think they can save a life, or some corner of the world, and fierce enough to try.

Bauman’s book is divided into three parts. Part 1: “Recovering our call” aims to convince the reader of the need of world poverty. This section challenges the reader to refuse to accept the world as it is. Part 2: “Reframing the problem” presents the idea that change is possible. If you start small and believe, there is no telling what might be accomplished. Part 3: “Remaking the world” provides a blueprint for how and where to start in effecting change.

Far too often, relief agencies make a variety of mistakes in trying to raise awareness of the need. They may convince people that they only way to help is to give money. They may burden their audience with undue guilt and/or desensitize people to the need. In telling their stories, they may convince the reader that you have to be an extraordinary individual to have any kind of impact. Bauman does the opposite. He explains biblical principles without being preachy. He tells stories of small acts done by ordinary people. Most importantly, he gives a concrete, practical outline for how to discover your passion and where you can use your gifts to make an impact in the battle.

Change is possible. The battle can be won. A very encouraging, helpful book.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Books, Quotes


The heavens display God’s artistry

Psalm 89-5-6

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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Chicopee, Photos, Sunrise