Glaucoma and a Timing Belt

GlaucomaTiming belt

Recently my mechanic asked how many miles my car had. I replied, “168,000 miles.” He said I was overdue for a timing belt change. He told me to check my car’s manual for the recommended mileage to change the timing belt. It recommended 60,000 miles. I only missed it by a hundred thousand miles!

After my annual eye examination, this year, the doctor told me that my eye pressure was too high and that’s usually a sign of the early stages of Glaucoma. An eye specialist confirmed that my eyes needed immediate treatment. We tried special drops at first with minimal success. I didn’t like the drops because they burned a little. The specialist suggested a laser procedure called Lumenis SLT. The treatment was successful.

Timing belts must be replaced per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Failure to replace the belt can result in complete breakdown or catastrophic engine failure. There are no major symptoms that your timing belt is about to break. It’s a silent destroyer. Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time. It’s often linked to a buildup of pressure inside your eye. If the damage continues, glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss. Most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain. Glaucoma is often called the “sneak thief of vision.” Like a worn timing belt, it’s a silent destroyer.

The Bible warns us of another silent destroyer more devastating than a broken timing belt or glaucoma. Hebrews 12:15 NIV says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Roots are hidden below the surface. At first you can’t tell they are defiled, but bitter roots produce bitter fruit. All of us have been hurt by someone at some time in our life. If we dwell on that injustice, we will develop a bitter heart. At first, it is hidden deep within, but eventually manifests itself in anger, envy, judgmental attitudes, hate, immorality, depression and addiction. The Bible warns, bitter roots “grow up to cause trouble and defile many.”        A bitter root not only has catastrophic results to the ones who harbor that bitterness, but to everyone they come in to contact with.

The Bible tells the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi who both lost their husbands and faced danger and extreme poverty. Naomi’s wound was so deep, she changed her name to Mara, which means “bitter.” She told everyone, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter” (Ruth 1:20 NIV). Naomi had suffered great loss, but she had no idea how her life was about to change for the good, and what great blessings were in store for her and her daughter-in-law Ruth. Most of her bitterness was toward God. She said, “I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:21 NIV). The name Naomi means delightful and pleasant. She could no longer identify herself in anything other than her bitterness toward God.

Many people feel unforgiveness toward God. They ask the question, “If He loved me, why did He let that happen to me?” Their resentment toward God is because of unmet expectations. Just like Naomi, they can only see their life through the dark lenses of bitterness. And just like Naomi, they don’t realize the good things God has in store for them and how great His love is for them.

Most bitter roots in our hearts come from unforgiveness towards those who hurt us. Jesus told us, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV). Forgiveness is giving up the right to get even. Holding a grudge and harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for your enemy to die.

What’s a sure tell-tale sign that you have unforgiveness? When your mind replays the incident when you were offended over and over in your mind and it continuously stirs up hurtful emotions. Jesus said this was the work of the tormentors who harass us until we let go of unforgiveness. Forgiveness is not condoning someone’s mistreatment towards you. Nor do you need to feel forgiveness towards that person to grant forgiveness to them. I find forgiveness towards someone who has hurt me comes quicker when I say out loud to myself and to God that I forgive them. I may not feel forgiveness towards them at that initial confession (I rarely do), but eventually a release does come. I know I need to do this exercise as soon as my mind starts to replay the hurtful incident again. I’ve got to release them before the tormentors come to imprison me in unforgiveness.

It’s impossible to go through life without being hurt and offended, but we don’t have to camp there. It’s our choice to hold on to offenses or release them through forgiveness. The word “bitter” is also translated as “bitter gall.” As Jesus was hanging on the cross, the solders offered him wine mixed with bitter gall to drink. In other words, sour vinegar. Jesus tasted it but refused to drink it. Jesus’ response was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” We can’t help but taste the bitterness of injury and injustice towards us. But like Jesus, we don’t have to drink it in and allow it to become a part of us. The key to being free of bitterness is to react like Jesus, and say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT).

One in Seven Billion

just another face in the crowd

Every now and again I can’t help but think about how many people live in the world. When we tell someone, they are “one in a million,” we are usually complementing them. The fact is, as individuals, we are one in seven billion. There are seven billion people currently alive on earth. Our beloved planet is small potatoes in our solar system, which is small potatoes in our galaxy, and merely a tiny speck of dust in our gigantic universe. Let me put all of this into perspective; we are each an individual of seven billion people on a tiny, miniscule planet in an enormous universe. This can be a hard pill to swallow for some people who are convinced that they are the center of the universe! Contemplating how teensy we are can make you feel rather unimportant and insignificant.

The psalmist David must have been feeling rather small when he said, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” (Ps. 8:3-4 NLT). It’s amazing that the God who created the universe cares about each of us. “By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen” (Heb. 11:3 NLT). “Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble” (Ps. 138:6a NLT).

While pondering how big the universe is, and how small I am, I saw a little bird flying about. I wondered how many birds there must be in the world. Some scientists estimate four-hundred billion birds cover the earth. I thought to myself, that little bird must feel very insignificant. But he doesn’t. He knows his Heavenly Father specifically watches over him. Jesus said, “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” (Matt. 10:29 NLT). In even a greater way, God knows all about us. “The very hairs on your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Matt. 10:30-31 NLT).

The Bible tells us that God knew us before we were born (even before we were a twinkle in our father’s eye). He told the prophet Jeremiah, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart” (Jer. 1:5 NLT). If He knew Jeremiah, he surely knew us before we were born as well. In Psalm 139:13-16, David acknowledged that God knows everything about us because he formed us in our mother’s womb. “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” In a nutshell, David declared in Psalm 139 that God knows every detail about every one of us. He is not a distant deity in a remote island in the cosmos!

The old saying goes, “The devil is in the details,” but God is the one who takes great joy in the details of our lives. “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives (Ps. 37:23 NLT). Remember, Jesus said that God knows how many hairs are on our heads; or in my case, how many hairs are missing! We are special to God because we are His work of art. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” NLT. He created the universe and everything in it, but amazingly, He considers us His ultimate masterpiece. He valued us enough to send His own dear Son to redeem us back to God and restore our rightful place and relationship with God. You may be just one in seven billion, but to God who loves you, you ‘re one of a kind, baby!

Feeling a Bit Wobbly?

Zebra Foal 'Melako' At Werribee Zoo, Melbourne, Australia - 21 Nov 2012

My Mother-In-law is turning 91 years old. She is doing well for her age, but last year she started having fainting spells. She would become short of breath, dizzy, lightheaded, confused, and her legs would become wobbly. Whenever this happened, we would call the ambulance and they would take her to the hospital. She was often released the next day. After this experience repeated several times, my wife noticed that her mother would immediately start feeling better when the EMTs gave her oxygen. Finally, her doctor agreed to have an oxygen machine for her to use in our home. The results have been fantastic. She uses the machine when she sleeps at night and wakes up the next morning feeling refreshed. If she overdoes it a little during the day, we just turn on the oxygen machine and she perks up right away. The first clue that she is low on oxygen is always when she gets wobbly and her legs start to buckle.

I agree with those insurance commercials that announce, “Life comes at you fast!” Family problems, cars and appliances breaking down, new challenges at work, health concerns, the economy, scary news on TV every day, and the list is never ending of the speed balls life throws at you. It’s true; “When it rains it pours.”  Problems never come one at a time and in manageable doses. They tend to all pounce on you at the same time (just ask Job). Before long we start feeling a bit wobbly. As troubles start piling up, emotionally and even spiritually, we feel short of breath, dizzy, lightheaded, confused, and ready to faint. The Bible speaks often of people becoming faint-hearted and faint-minded. When this happens, we are in desperate need of some spiritual oxygen.

In the second chapter of the Bible we read, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7 KJV). Job declared, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4 NKJV). The Hebrew word “ruach” is used almost 400 times in the Old Testament. It means “breath of life.” The Greek word used in the New Testament is “pneuma.” It has the same meaning. Jesus used this word when he explained to Nicodemus what it meant to be born again. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit (pneuma) is spirit (pneuma). Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind (pneuma) blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit (pneuma)” (Jn 3:6-8 NKJV). The same word is used interchangeably for “Spirit” and “wind.” Later, Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22). The breath of life is the Spirit of God. I still love the worship song BREATHE written by Marie Barnett in 1995. The lyrics so beautifully describe our need for the breath of God. “This is the air I breathe, your holy presence living in me. And I’m desperate for you, I’m lost without you.” That is exactly how much we need the Holy Spirit every day.                                                                                             Wanna hear the song?

The only way we can keep from becoming faint-hearted in this crazy life is to welcome the Holy Spirit every day and allow Him to breath strength into us. “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31 NKJV). “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16 NKJV). “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Heb 12:12 NKJV).

Feeling a bit wobbly? Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you. He also wants to guide, comfort, and teach you, reveal the truth of the scriptures to you, help you pray effectively, and empower you to resist temptation. Jesus promised us, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn 14:16,18,26, 27 NKJV).



The dictionary defines disappointment as the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations. We’ve all felt it to varying degrees. Some have felt disappointment when they didn’t get the job they wanted and others have been even more disappointed when they did get the job they wanted, but found out it wasn’t what they thought it would be. One women may be disappointed because she didn’t get the man of her dreams, but the one who got him may be even more disappointed because he turned out not to be the man of her dreams but a nightmare!

Life is filled with disappointments. Wives are disappointed with their husbands and husbands are disappointed with their wives. Parents are disappointed with their children’s behavior and children are disappointed because their parents just don’t understand what they are going through. Employees are disappointed with their employer and their work environment, and employers are disappointed in their employee’s work performance. Every day something or someone has the potential to disappoint us.

Many of our disappointments are due to unrealistic hopes and expectations. We set ourselves up for disappointment by presuming we can have something because after all, “I’m a Child of the King!” That used to be a popular teaching back in the early 80’s. I subscribed to that teaching until I learned the hard way that doesn’t always apply to everything we want. I bought a brand-new minivan that came with an enormous payment that I couldn’t afford. I told myself because I am a child of the king, He will make my car payment for me regardless of my income. He didn’t. I struggled about a year to make that car payment before I finally had to sell it at a loss just to get out from under that burden.

TV evangelists tell us to “dream big,” “expect the unexpected,” and “look for the sudden blessings of God.” I certainly believe God can give us surprise blessings. I’ve seen it happen in other’s lives and I’ve experienced it myself. However, those big, unexpected and sudden blessings don’t happen every day. Most of us live ordinary, day to day lives. I’m not saying to be a pessimist and never get your hopes up for something out of the ordinary. Even though “a pessimist is never disappointed,” that’s no way to live. I’ve seen people get their hopes up for something that is ridiculously out of reach. They presume its God’s will to give them that big mansion, that new expensive car, or that high paying job they are in no way qualified for. We assume with enough faith we can have anything we want. When it doesn’t happen like we thought it would, we become disappointed, discouraged and depressed. Something that is not taught often in Christian circles is the principle of stewardship, which is wisely using the resources that God has already given us.

This question may sound harsh, but if we truly believe God is good and is in control of our lives, why should we ever feel disappointed? God tells us through the prophet Jeremiah, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’“(Jer 29:11 NIV). If we don’t get what we want or hope for, maybe God has something else in mind for us. Notice I didn’t say, “something better.” We always hear He has something better for us, and as far as God is concerned, it is something better. However, oftentimes God has something different for us that we may not consider better. When that happens, we have two options: trust that God is working everything for our good and for His purposes, or allow disappointment to spiral us down into disillusionment, discouragement, despair, and depression. Putting our hope and trust in the goodness of God alleviates a lot of disappointment. “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Rom 5:5 NLT).

Much of our disappointment is with people whom we truly love. We only want what’s best for them. We become disappointed when we don’t see positive changes in their lives as fast as we would like, or maybe not at all. One thing we must always remember; ever individual has stewardship of their own lives. Our job is to pray for those individuals, do whatever we can to encourage them, and then trust God with the results. We are not responsible for their happiness. I’ve seen God do amazing things with people who I honestly gave up all hope for any change. That’s His specialty! He can reach deep into someone’s heart and gently lead them into lasting and sometimes even dramatic change. Most of the time we need to just step back and give Him room to work!

It’s not a lack of faith to say, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” After all, that was Jesus’ prayer. James exhorted us to keep our plans flexible. “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15 NIV).

Disappointment may be the first place the bus stops after a letdown, but we don’t have to live there. God wants us to trust Him and allow him to close one door and open another. The old song cleverly said, “When God closes the door, look for a window.” There’s certainly some truth to that, but I believe it’s better to say, “Lord, I still trust you even though things didn’t go my way. If you want to open a door, a window, or even a rooftop (see Mark 2:4), I’ll follow you. Your plans and your ways are wiser than mine. My hope and confidence is in you Lord.”

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverb 3:5-6 NKJV).

What About Him?

envy 2

Jesus said to Peter, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:18-22 NIV).

Jesus informed Peter that he would suffer and die for the sake of the kingdom of God. What did Peter do when he heard this somber news? He looked at John and asked Jesus, “What about him?” In other words, “Will John suffer like me?” We’re no different. When hit with problems, trials and tribulations, we often look at other’s seemingly trouble free lives and wonder why they’re not suffering as much as we are (and deep down wishing they were). Why are they enjoying perfect health when I feel pain almost every day? Why do they have so much money when I can barely make ends meet? Why is their marriage so happy when mine is struggling to survive? Why are their kids so perfect? Why is their life so easy when mine is so hard?

First of all, we really don’t know what’s going on below the surface of other people’s lives. Have you ever been surprised to learn someone who looked like the picture of health was suffering or even dying from a disease? Ever been utterly shocked to find out the couple you thought were so perfectly happy together got a divorce? Have you ever been stunned (and secretly a little happy) to hear that someone else’s kids are not as wonderful as you thought they were? What about when the person with that great job you wished you had suddenly finds themselves unemployed? Despite all the Facebook pictures of families having wonderful vacations, it’s going to rain somewhere at some time. No one’s life is a Disneyworld adventure all the time.

Next, if we look at those less fortunate than us, our hearts become grateful for all we have. After visiting a man who could no longer move because of having a stroke, I felt extremely thankful for my health. As I later walked through Walmart, I whispered thanks to God for two working legs, arms, eyes and ears. My chronic neck pain didn’t seem so bad after seeing that man unable to move from his wheel chair. When I hear about those who have lost their job and struggling to find a new one, it makes me thankful even while sitting in traffic on a Monday morning headed to work. When I drive in the blighted areas of town where people live in severally dilapidated houses, I suddenly become thankful for my little house on my relatively quiet street. All we need to do is take a hard look around us and we will realize how truly fortunate we are.

Jesus told Peter, “Follow me!” But he no sooner said it, and Peter looked at John (known as “The Beloved”) and asked, “Lord, what about him?” Peter thought, sure I’m going to suffer but old “Mr. Beloved” is going to get off easy! John, the beloved did not get off easy. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs says that John was thrown into a large pot of boiling oil and they tried to make fried apostle stew! That didn’t work, so he was banished to the island of Patmos. During this time John wrote the book of Revelation. He was later released and died a very old man in what is now known as Turkey.  John didn’t die a violent death, but he certainly suffered for his faith in Christ.

Yes, we are collectively the body of Christ, but we all have our individual calling and spiritual walk with Jesus. We can’t allow ourselves to get caught up in comparing our lives with other’s lives who seem to have it all together. Jesus is telling us the same thing he told Peter when we ask, “Lord, what about them?” He’s replying to us, “What is that to you? You must follow me.” Let’s daily keep our focus only on Jesus. “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1b-2 NKJV).

Don’t Grow Up!


Jesus told us in Matthew 18:3 NIV, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

What’s so great about being a kid; other than no responsibilities, no mortgage, and no quarterly taxes due? They have attributes that seem to adapt well in the kingdom of heaven. Children are innocent, trusting, meek, easily contented, loving, honest, non-judgmental, not prejudice, loving, and forgiving.

One characteristic that I have observed in children is how they live in the moment. It doesn’t matter where they are, or whom they are with, they become completely immersed into their surroundings and look for whatever fun may be hidden there. That ability amazes me. Talk about “mindfulness.” I struggle with just living in the moment. My mind is always wandering off somewhere. I no sooner sit down and I’m thinking about how soon I can stand up again. Shortly after entering a room, I’m looking for the exit signs. I worry if I’m at the right place at the right time and with the right people. Those unsettled thoughts rob me of peace. I watch kids connect with others and they just accept that they are at the right place at the right time and with the right people. They look for the adventure in their current circumstances with the people they are with. Life would much more enjoyable if we could just live in the moment that we are in.

Another trait children possess is the fact that they generally don’t worry about the future or fret about the past. They are usually too busy squeezing out every drop of life from their day to have any time for worrying. They live in the land of “Que Sera, Sera. Whatever will be, will be.” Jesus told us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV). “Don’t worry” is a command from Jesus, not a suggestion. There are no exceptions; no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He simply demands, “don’t do it.” Children seem to have the whole not worrying thing under control.

A beautiful quality that especially very young children have is the genuine acceptance of people. They seem to be blind to other’s flaws. They don’t notice physical disabilities, skin color, disfigurements, old-age, hair styles or the lack of hair. Even if they do notice, they never judge you for it. Once my grandson was looking at the back of my head and noticed my bald spot. He quizzically asked, “Pap Pap, who cuts your hair?” I answered, “Aunt Deb. Why?” He rubbed my head and exclaimed concerningly, “I think she’s cutting it too short!” It always astonishes me to see a child smile and look lovingly at the face of someone we would consider just plain ugly, without any hesitation at all. My prayer is to see others as Jesus sees them, through eyes of love.

Jesus told us,” “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37 NIV). Children seem to have an easier time forgiving than adults. They don’t usually hold on to a grudge for more than a couple minutes.

Being childlike is not the same as being childish; which is the unpleasant qualities of silliness and immaturity. The apostle Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11 NKJV). The most beautiful virtue of children is their humility. They’re not inhibited by the fear of what someone may think about them. They possess the profound confidence that is only found in humility.

I want to have the simple faith of a child. The kingdom of heaven operates on it. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6 NIV). Children boldly make their requests known to their parents. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Heb. 4:16 NLT). They expect an answer. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 Jn. 5:14 NIV). They trust in their parents, even if they don’t understand, become frustrated, or confused with the answer they receive. Jesus cried out, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Walt Disney said, “That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.” When it comes to the positive childlike qualities that give unlimited access to the kingdom of heaven, I want to be a spiritual Peter Pan and declare, “I won’t grow up! I’ll never grow up! Not me. Not I. Not me!”

The B-I-B-L-E Yes, that’s the book for me


March is officially Bible Appreciation Month. I’m not sure who originates this stuff, but there you have it. I appreciate the Bible all twelve months of the year, and have been doing so for over four decades. I’ve made it a practice to read at least one chapter of the Bible every day. Now that I’m a little older, I love reading the Bible on my Kindle, so I don’t need to wear my cheater glasses. I even keep a copy of the Psalms in the bathroom to quietly read while sitting on the “can!” Like many others who have tried and failed, I tried the “read the Bible in a year” program. I did succeed in reading the entire Bible through in a year a couple times, but eventually couldn’t keep up. If a person enjoys a challenge, then reading the Bible through in a year can be a good thing. However, reading a chapter a day, or just a few verses consistently can be more beneficial in the long run.

I believe the Bible is a book like no other. In fact, it’s 66 books written by 40 authors over a 1,500-year period. As diverse as that sounds, there is an incredible unified theme from Genesis to Revelation. I firmly believe the Bible’s true author is God Himself. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).

The Bible is a powerful book because it contains the God’s words. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Heb. 4:12). Despite the allegations of doubters, the Bible has held up as an accurate book. New discoveries in science, history and archaeology have not disproved the Bible, but have continuously substantiated its claims. The Bible has proven itself reliable time after time.

I trust the Bible. I trust its promises. Its words have profoundly changed my life. I consider myself flexible and open minded about current thoughts and trends, politics, and ideas about how church should look and operate; but I won’t compromise my belief that the Bible is the Word of God. I know there are certain words in the Bible that have been translated incorrectly in some versions. I know that we need to read Bible passages in their context. We need to know the historical and cultural background associated with biblical texts as well. I’m not arguing any of that, but I trust the Bible to possess the words of eternal life. I base my beliefs and core values on what the Bible tells me is true and worth living for.

There are a group of people who refer to themselves as “Red Letter Christians.” They believe only the words of Jesus are relevant to our Christian lives; basically, canceling out the rest of the New Testament (mostly written by the apostle Paul). Peter, the apostle who walked with Jesus during his three-year ministry on earth, referred to Paul’s letters as scripture. “This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction” (2 Peter 3:15 & 16 NLT). Peter admitted that even he had a hard time understanding some of Paul’s deeper teachings and hard sayings, but he elevated Pauls’ epistles (letters) to the status of holy scriptures. How would the Paul feel about people wanting to disregard what he had to say? He tells us in his own words, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you” (Philippians 3:15 NLT). I love that! Paul said (I’m paraphrasing), “Grow up and you’ll eventually agree with me.”

When I allow God’s Word to penetrate my thoughts and feelings, I change in profound ways. For me, this happens in a very practical way. Let’s say for example, I’m struggling with fear. I’ll do a quick word search on a Bible reference website, and compile a list of scriptures about fear. Then I will print a scripture reference page dealing with the specific subject of not being afraid. I’ll prayerfully read that sheet daily, and let those words sink into my mind and heart until they change my attitudes and feelings. I’ve done this simple practice for years with dozens of issues that I’ve struggled with, and it has truly been a transforming experience.

I believe the Bible is specific about sin (even the ones I’m guilty of). People would like to cut those passages out, believing that practicing their favorite sin allows them to be free. The Bible teaches just the opposite. “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living” (Romans 6:16 NLT).

Most importantly, the Bible tells us of God’s great love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God..” (Romans 5: 6, 8, 11 NLT).

The sweet, little children’s song we sung in Sunday School sums it up best for me.

“The B-I-B-L-E.

Yes, that’s the book for me.

I stand alone on the Word of God.

The B-I-B-L-E.”

No Turning Back


Back in the early 70’s, when I first became a Christian, we sang the little song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” I thought some Hippy from the Jesus movement wrote it. I had no idea people had been singing that song for a hundred years! The story of the birth of that song is fascinating. It goes back to the 1800’s when a missionary led a man and his family to Christ in the village of Garo in North East India. It was a rough neighborhood. The villagers were headhunters! The village chief was not happy about the conversions and commanded the man to deny Christ or watch his sons be shot through with arrows. The man humbly replied, “I have decided to follow Jesus and there is no turning back.” The chief gave the signal to the archers who immediately shot the man’s two sons. The chief told him to renounce his faith or his wife will die next. The man answered, “Though no one joins me, still I will follow,” and his wife was killed. The chief gave the man one final chance to save himself, but he softly declared, “The cross before me, the world behind me,” and he was shot dead. After some time, the chief could not stop thinking about how the man was willing to give his very life to follow Jesus. He too became a believer and announced his new faith to his people, which led to the entire village of headhunters converting to Christ. The Welsh missionary, who was an eyewitness to these events, told the story to Sanhu Sandar Singh, an Indian evangelist, who then put these words to an Indian tune called Assam.

As new believers, we sang this song as a declaration of our commitment to follow Jesus and leave our old lifestyles behind. Tears would flow down our faces as we passionately sang this song to the simple three chords played on someone’s guitar. The song had a deep impact on me then and now. When I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior on Monday, February, 23rd 1973, my decision to follow Him was firm. He was the one I wanted to give the rest of my life to. Many other teens made the same decision at that time as well. The cover of Time Magazine on June, 21st 1971 had a pop art picture of Jesus with the title The Jesus Revolution. Millions of young people were finding new life in Christ. What an exciting time it was!

After a few years much of the excitement faded. Thousands of teens were slowly drifting back to their old habits of unrestrained sex, drug and alcohol abuse, the occult and false religions. Many of my closest friends started to drift back into their previous lifestyles and stopped hanging around those of us who wanted to continue pursuing Jesus. I can clearly remember looking out the front door of my parent’s house thinking about my friends who no longer wanted to live a Christian life. I could hear the still small voice of Jesus from deep inside me asking, “What about you Kevin? Will you still follow me?” I answered in the same way the apostle Peter did when Jesus asked him the same question, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.” I knew there was nothing waiting for me in my old life. My only hope was Jesus.

It makes me happy to see some of the people who came to Jesus at the same time as me still pursuing Him passionately. I watch them in church still singing, still playing their instruments, still worshiping God wholeheartedly, and still serving the Kingdom of God in various ways. It thrills me even more to see those who are about ten to fifteen years older than me still head-over-heals in love with Jesus! They have experienced the best of times and the worst of times, yet they have followed their Good Shepherd faithfully for fifty or sixty years.

After forty-four years, I still want to walk as close as I possibly can with Jesus. I can’t let circumstances distract me from following Him. Jesus said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it’” (Mark 8:34-35, NKJV). It doesn’t matter what my financial situation may be, if I’m employed or unemployed, if I’m healthy or not, if I have lots of friends or no one, if I’m happy and on top of the world, or in a deep valley; my confession must be, “I have decided to follow Jesus and there is no turning back.”

There’s nothing I want more than for my spouse, children, grandchildren, friends and family to have eternal life with God, but their choices cannot have any bearing on my decision to keep following Jesus. He said, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26 NLT). I need to keep my focus on Christ and declare, “Though none go with me, still I will follow.”

Regardless of how bad or scary the world gets; my hope is in Christ alone. As I follow Him, my heart will sing, “The world behind me, the cross before me.” I can’t look back. There’s nothing back there for me. Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62 NKJV). I remember the Happy Goodmans (Yes, I’m that old) singing a Gospel song with the lyrics, “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now. I’ve got to make it to Heaven somehow…but if I could, still I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” I said, “Yes” to Jesus over forty years ago and I’ve never regretted the decision to follow Him. Now, there’s just no turning back.

Just Not Feelin’ the Love


For decades I’ve prayed asking the Lord to help me love like Jesus loved, or at least like my former pastor did. His name was Herb Sweat and he had the ability to make everyone feel like they were the most special person in the world. I loved that guy and so did everyone else. I wanted to feel great love and compassion for everyone I came in contact with. But some people are easy to love―others, not so much.

Jesus commanded us to love one another (see 1 John 15:17). It wasn’t a suggestion or just a good idea, it was a commandment. Christians know we are commanded to love one another, but it’s easy to forget when we are caught up in the day to day struggles of our busy lives.

Back in the late 70’s I heard Dr. Len Evans speak on the Theology of the Love Commandment. I was deeply moved by his message. Recently, I’ve been thinking about his message. He has passed on, and his book “Love, Love, Love” is out of print, but I was able to find some of his notes and a list of scriptures that he assembled simply titled “Love List by Len Evans.” I printed seventy-seven of those verses from the New Testament to read and meditate on. I quickly came to a surprising revelation as I read those verses. The word “love” was not used to describe a feeling. It was always used as an action word, a choice or a mindset. Emotion had very little to do with the word in the New Testament.

The realization that love is an action word and not an emotion set me free! I can obey Jesus’ command to love my neighbor, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and even my enemies without necessarily feeling deep affection towards them. As I examined those seventy-seven verses (there are many more), I noticed the New Testament is precise in its definition of love. It tells us exactly what love is, and what it is not.

A well-known portion of scripture read at a lot of weddings is 1 Corinthians 13.  It’s called “The Love Chapter.” It tells us what love is, and what love is not in verses 4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Those attributes of love are words requiring actions and/or positive mindsets, or refraining from negative actions and/or negative mindsets. I must confess the first description of love is the one I struggle with the most. Honestly, I have almost no patience. I’m tested on this one daily. I have no patience for red lights, traffic jams, long checkout lines, or being told to “hold please.” The other morning my love was tested at my favorite greasy spoon diner. I ordered my usual bowl of oatmeal and after a few minutes I saw the cook place it under the warmer light. My mouth began to water for that clumpy goodness covered with heaps of brown sugar and low-fat milk (got to cut back somewhere). I quickly scanned the restaurant looking for my waitress, so I could calculate how long it would take her to grab my oatmeal and deliver it promptly to my table. She was at the cash register ringing up a customer’s check. This isn’t good I thought to myself. Suddenly the words “love is patient, love is kind” popped into my head. I just ignored those words because I was hungry and longing for that oatmeal and now a couple more people got in line to pay for their meals! What’s going on here? Where is her priorities? Hot food first! Cold cash second! “Love is patient, love is kind.” Oh, I get it. This is a test. I began quoting “love is patient, love is kind” to myself over and over again. But I could feel the tension rising as I looked at my oatmeal, then at the waitress, then at my oatmeal and back to the waitress. I had to reach into my pocket and pull out the little index card that I had written this verse down on and read it over and over again until my waitress brought my oatmeal to my table. What was the second part of that verse? Oh yeah, “Love is kind.” I smiled and said, “thank you.”

I wasn’t feeling the love but I was able to practice it just the same. The fact is, if I don’t show patience to someone, I’m not really loving that person. And if I’m not giving love I really don’t know God at all. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn 4:8 NIV).

Sometimes we do feel compassion towards someone in need, but we don’t have to feel it to do it. Recently, I was approached on a city street by a middle-aged woman begging for money. Even though she was painfully thin and said she was hungry, I knew what she really wanted was drugs. I gave her my last $5. She said a pizza cost $8 and asked if I could cough up a few more bucks. I showed her my empty pocket and she moved on. The man I was with was a little irritated by her tenacity. I wasn’t bothered. I went for a stroll up the street a little later that evening and she asked me for money again. I told her I already gave her my last $5. Later the man I was with and I went outside the building after dinner and sure enough, the woman asked for money again. He was agitated by her persistence, but I felt only pity towards her. God created that woman to be so much more than a drug addict begging for money from strangers. My heart broke for that poor woman. I felt genuine love (God’s kind of love) for that lost soul. Sometimes we may feel compassion that motivates us to act in love, but we don’t need to feel anything to obey Jesus’ reminder, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”


C.S.Lewis said, “Love is not affectionate feeling but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”

The New Testament describes love as patient, kind, honoring, protecting, trusting, hopeful, persevering, humble, gentle, forbearing, forgiving, generous, tender, and compassionate. Love doesn’t hold a grudge, delight in evil, harm others, become easily angered, dishonor others, or boast. It rejoices with the truth, speaks the truth, values others, covers a multitude of sins, and never fails. It is not proud, selfish, self-seeking, vain or harsh. Love causes us to look to the interests of others and even lay down our life for another.

I believe 1 John 3:16-18 (NIV) sums it up, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

It Was the Woman You Gave Me

the woman you gave me 2

After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they both hid from God in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3:11 & 12 God asked Adam, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” Adam gave the answer that married men have been repeating ever since, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

Someone once said, “Every man needs a wife, because many things go wrong that he can’t blame on the government.” For thousands of years husbands have been blaming their wives for stuff that goes wrong in their lives. Wives get the blame for everything from lost car keys to heartburn. If a man’s car isn’t running right, somehow it has to be his wife’s fault. It doesn’t seem to matter how far removed she is from her husband’s problem, somehow and someway she is going to catch blame for it.

I’m as guilty as the next guy playing the blame game. I was thinking about my ancestor Adams’ statement, “It was the woman you gave me” and came to realize he was not only blaming his wife Eve for his disobedience, but he was blaming God as well. “The woman YOU gave me” says it all.

The Bible says in Proverb 18:22 “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD.” Proverb 31:10 says “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Ephesians 5:28 tells us “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

Scriptures exhort husbands to love and honor their wife. She is God’s precious gift to him. If someone gave a beautiful fine China tea cup to a man and he thoughtlessly used that teacup as an ashtray or filled it with dirt and made it into a planter, he not only dishonored the gift but the giver as well. Husbands who don’t honor their wife as a precious gift, dishonor God.

Husbands, what if we stop playing the blame game with our wives and use our great (x 142) grandfather Adam’s words to honor the gift and the giver? When God asks us why we no longer act, live and smell like a barbarian, we should simply reply, “It was the woman you gave me.” If He asks why our bathroom smells like Lilacs and the toilet tank has sea shells on it, we can say, “It was the woman you gave me.” If He asks us why our home and our world is beautiful, we’ll have to respond, “It was the woman you gave me.” If he asks why our children are so wonderful, we need to admit, “It was the woman you gave me.” Finally, when He asks us what’s the most precious gift (with the exception of Jesus) he has ever given us, with a grateful heart let’s declare, “It was the woman you gave me.”

Let me say, “Thank you Lord for the woman you gave me.”