Thursday, April 02, 2020

Keeping Your Wits When Others Are Insane- Day 11

The Goal:

I am marching uphill to the Holy Mountain of Zion with a song in my heart and joy in my spirit because I am loved by the King of the Universe. All I need to care for is this day's walk. May I be found obedient today. I start my day with a gospel help: "I am crucified with Christ" and I will end the day with a gospel hope: "There is therefore now no condemnation in Christ Jesus."
The journey continues.......


“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”—
let Israel now say— “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
yet they have not prevailed against me

The plowers plowed upon my back;
they made long their furrows.” 

The Lord is righteous;
he has cut the cords of the wicked. 
May all who hate Zion
be put to shame and turned backward! 

Let them be like the grass on the housetops,
which withers before it grows up, with which the reaper does not fill his hand
nor the binder of sheaves his arms, nor do those who pass by say,

“The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
We bless you in the name of the Lord!”

It is so important to see this Psalm in the context and position within the Psalms of Ascent. This Psalm is NOT at the beginning of the journey- this is a song that is being sung as the pilgrims have attained some altitude. There is distance now from the valley and progress, though hard and wearying, is in clear view.

I sense a completely different tone in this Psalm than I do in the anger and hurt of Psalm 120.
The truth has not changed in the journey, but our attitude and perspective changes.

Sin is not less sinful and consequences are still a reality- but the Christian who has suffered mistreatment looks back in time and has a strength and resolve to remain patient and trust in God for his timing and process.

What are some differences that show up when we add the perspective of time and experience?

Once we realize that we live in a community of faith and have all shared in these types of situations, we see the bigger picture of this being, not about us, but about two kingdoms in conflict. Often, in reviewing these cases, we realize that our attack is nothing compared to what others have had to endure in the name of the Lord.

That is why the admonition in vs 1 "Let Israel now say"- in other words, don't react too personally when these things happen. It has less to do with you and more about rebels of the flesh and of the spirit who are at war with the Father.

Don't misunderstand me, it hurts. "The plowers have made long furrows on my back"! But we can endure the circumstance knowing what it is really about and help one another as we go in and out of these types of events.

The gospel is about our failures. It is the story of our rebellion. And sadly, we participate in the pain  by way too often ADDING to it. Though I know better.... I sometimes gossip or make a wrong assumption. I have had times in my life where others suffered under my selfishness or apathy. I have withheld good, born a grudge, or improperly rejoiced in the stumble of others.

If I truly understand the depth of God's forgiveness toward me, it helps me extend that same reach toward others. It helps me to say, "People are not the enemy". My enemies are sin, Satan, and his kingdom of twisted lies and idolatry.

Again, I have to be careful here- there will be evildoers who experience all the fury of God's wrath- but it is in His hands and I will not question Him in His decision to wait and worship Him in His decisions of mercy.

He is not fair.... If He were fair, I would be signed, sealed, and delivered to the dungeon of doom- but He is good and merciful- His justice being assuaged by the blood of His own Son.

This gospel realization allows me to endure the frustrating actions and sin of others.

Mileage on the road of discipleship allows me to understand that God operates on His own time clock- it is slow, methodical, purposeful, and inevitable.

He is NEVER late... but He is SELDOM early. He doesn't waste this opportunity to grow us up in our endurance.

I stopped wearing a wristwatch about 9 years ago. It was a reaction to a quote I read- "Westerners have wristwatches, Africans have time" meaning that we tend to be a slave to clock. Of course, I still need to know time- it is on my phone, computer, etc- but I am less frantic than I used to be.

In waiting, however, never be fooled into thinking that God will not act. The Bible is full of the enemies of God mocking Him for His delay. They get fooled into believing that no sudden punishment means they beat the rap.

There is not a statute of limitation on individual sin. The only escape is an eternal pardon in the mercy of God's grace paid in full on the cross of Jesus Christ. Without that, the sinners in hell will eternally wish that they had sinned even ONE sin less, though the violation be 200,000 years old.

There will be a day where the Lord will say, "No more delay". Faith will become sight and the door of mercy will be closed. Very few can doubt that it seems more close than far away.

Never forget what Peter said in 2 Peter 3- The Day of the Lord Will Come

[1] This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, [2] that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, [3] knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. [4] They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” [5] For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, [6] and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. [7] But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

[8] But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. [10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

[11] Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, [12] waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! [13] But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (ESV)
We need to be patient as God is patient- taking advantage of the age of grace to share God's love and forgiveness. Part of that patience is suffering the persecution of others.

By the way- the Scriptures seem to indicate that it will get worse before the final curtain falls. There will be an intense time where Satan is unleashed and it will look like we are on the losing side.

So briefly review this Psalm- I like how Peterson translated it in the message:
“They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young”    —this is how Israel tells it—“They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young,    but they never could keep me down. 

This is NOT the song of a green, soft, immature person of faith who is on the ground SHOCKED that someone was mean to them.

NO- this is a mature believer who understands that evil is real, but God is in control. He knows that though Satan may win battles, he has lost the war. He doesn't hesitate to get back up, put dirt on his wound, and keep walking upward.

This Psalm is a warrior song of a champion of the King. We are climbing as battle tested, fierce competitors for the glory of God alone!

Where are we in this journey?

Today is April 2.... the month appropriately penned by the American poet, T.S. Eliot...

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Yes, this mitigation and isolation is NOT easy... but it it what we do for those who a fiercely battling for life and franticly serving the sick.

I dare not take a gluttonous leisure in this time where so many are struggling in their finances and in their health.

I read the posts, I see the tweets.... there are many who mock this time, who sneer at the leaders, and even disobey the requests... you are not helping us. 

Those of us who proclaim Christ should be the ones who lead in following, in giving, in praying, in serving, who purposely adopt an austere approach to this time, and display a willingness to follow and not throw stones.

God is not distant, He is not slow.... let's keep being a light of faith and hope.

I am proud of your walk!

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Keeping Your Wits When Others Are Insane- Day 10

These are unprecedented days....

This is Day 10 of writings to encourage us to CLIMB out of pits of despair, worry, and hopelessness. It starts hard... but like any time of improvement, we will get better. Slow down and ponder what the Lord has for you today....

These writings are inspired by an amazing book- 
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene Peterson
You can get it on Amazon


Blessed is every person who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table

 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the Lord. 

The Lord bless you from Zion!

May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life! 
May you see your children's children!
Peace be upon Israel!

In theological circles, we spend a lot of time warning people to not be deceived by the 'prosperity gospel'- one that tells people to trust God and watch their 401-k's blossom and their homes and cars multiply. Yes, we have to be careful about that one. There have been too many wolves fleece too many sheep to the dishonor of Christ over that false reaching.

But we also have to be careful that we don't go too far the other way as well. This Psalm is LOADED with blessings....  where do we find the balance?

The greatest misconception about the road of Christian discipleship is that it is dour and sour. Too many, including Christians, see God as the COSMIC KILLJOY who works overtime to make sure his followers don't have any fun.

Many stay away from Christ with the fear that following Him means giving up the 15 things you like to do and having to start doing the 15 things you hate doing. My old friend, Pastor Keith Pugh used to say, "I thought becoming a Christian meant you had to marry a girl that doesn't kiss, go to a far away country, and die of mosquito bites."

Now, we do have to be very careful here... we do not come to Christ to get an easy life. We don't come to Him under the guise of a commercial- "Party with Jesus".

But at the same time, there is NOTHING wrong about the motivation to receive all the benefits of following God. Reward and blessing IS an incentive to carrying on when the climb seems tough.

Some followers of Christ are too monastic- they think that turning down a time of rest, leisure, or joyful experiences is a mark of their rugged commitment to the King. No doubt, my tendency is more likely to get worldly, lazy, and distracted. But there are God-ordained moments where we are encouraged to dance and celebrate and enjoy the fruit of life when it is presented under the allowance and pleasure of the King Himself.

It is so interesting the timing of this Psalm.

Psalm 120- distress
Psalm 121- crying to God for help
Psalm 122- worship
Psalm 123- cries for mercy
Psalm 124- past struggles and hope in God
Psalm 125- staying steady in the storm
Psalm 126- bring back the blessings
Psalm 127- labor in the Lord

and now- Blessed- fruit- olive oil- full table- prosperity.


There have been seasons where my family and I have been through tangible trials by fire. We have felt squeezed in every way imaginable- inward distress and outward pressures. There were times it seemed like God was distant and silent. Was He there? Did He care? It seemed like one trial on top of another. We were tired, depressed, and defeated. Our nerves were frayed and our home was filled with more conflict than comfort.

But we hung in there.

God does sustain- but rarely is it easy and, a lot of the time, victory is in doubt.

It has to feel like a fight or it really isn't a fight. Courage is only shown in the presence of fear. Strength is only gained in the strain against resistance.

In most cases, it gets darkest right before the dawn... and then we see the ray of light. I sense the winds shift. I feel the pressure lift- God has held us in the storm and we made it... albeit by a sliver.

But this Psalm shines a great truth- God's small sliver is a beautiful and bountiful blessing. The crumb of God's table is better than all of the world's best together. And one day, we will be seated at that table of His royal wedding feast and we do not have the capacity to dream large enough in anticipation of that reality.

So for now... when a time of rest from the storms come your way.... CELEBRATE.
He has called a rest break... take time to sip and soak in God's good gifts.

There have been times during our climb together where we are down to the bare bones. But even then, it is so good to share laughter and hope! It doesn't mean that the daily duties and life concerns aren't there. But the Proverbs ring true:

Better to have little, with fear for the LORD, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil. Proverbs 15:16
"Taste and see that the Lord is good". Psalm 34:8

As I look into Psalm 128 I am reminded- God defines blessing and prosperity in different terms and categories than we often do.

This is one of those moments where I think.... do I want to write all of this out and might it make the devotional too long.... but I do believe God wants me to express this.


The blessings of this Psalm come from a lifestyle..... Fear the Lord which is paralleled as "the person who walks in His ways".

This has always been such a challenge to me, because I am such a Romans 8 guy.... grace, grace, grace, grace, grace....

I am not able to EARN my salvation by good works.... but sadly, my sinful and selfish nature is to act entitled and just live life by every whim of MINE.

Before long, I am NOT a Romans 8 guy.... I am actually a Judges 21:25 guy:

 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes

The two phrases go together.... Fearing God means: He is my king and I actually feel a weightiness to be found faithful and obedient... my fate is in His hands. So I bow to Him and I serve Him.

Walking in His ways: I am not living and serving at MY GOOD PLEASURE, I am walking and serving at HIS pleasure.

In other words.... that 'obedience' thing keeps popping up in there....

So in this shutdown, I was SO HELPED by a Look at the Book video by John Piper on Philippians 2:12–13

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, [13] for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (ESV)

And the THEREFORE points back to TWO important truths:

1) The mind and model of Jesus.

2) The result of the mind and model of Jesus

The mind of Jesus: in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others.

The model of Jesus: emptied Himself, let go of His rights and status, humbled Himself, obeyed even to the cross.

The result: God exalted Him and gave Him the name above every name.


I need to take on the mind and model of Christ.
That is what is meant by: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
And I too will experience great blessing.... just like right here in Psalm 128.

But don't miss the POINT here...

By obedience... it isn't really a check off of rules and regulations.

It is a lifestyle.... in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others.

But God knows that His commandments create the best circumstances to love others.
What is more loving? To steal or not steal? To lie or not lie? To be faithful or not to be faithful?

God's rules aren't there to take away our fun.... NO- they are a canopy of protection and the good soil of blessing to others first and THEN ourselves.

He is NOT A COSMIC KILLJOY- He is our source of salvation and blessing.

That is why I have to keep firing myself as King and keep seeking to bow to Him as King... He is a good King because He is my good father!

Thank you Lord for this 'shut down'... I have been too busy to see that I had started following ME and not YOU. I was living an entitled life... selfish... thank You for Your grace!

Thank you Lord!  Help me climb in joy today, because I am walking with you!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Keeping Your Wits When Others Are Insane- Day 9

Note: I would like any reader, especially my international readers to send me an email: I would like to know more about how these devotions may be helping you and how you are holding up in the crisis.

Psalm 127

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain. 

2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward. 

4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth. 

5 Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!

He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

I have always loved this Psalm, but for years had a hard time reconciling the two stanzas.

On first glance, it seems to be about two different things that don't really work together. But as you meditate on it- it makes sense in a variety of applications.

What is your primary call of discipleship? 

If you have children.... they are your primary mission field. and you labor to train them to be warriors and laborers for the kingdom of God.

And believe me.... it is an IMPOSSIBLE task... one that you will never regret working on and one where you are completely dependent on the Lord to accomplish.

If you are stuck at home with children right now... young or old.... begin praying about what you can do with them and how you can love them and help move them in a direction to love God and love others.

I think this is what the Psalm is most about.... not professional labor primarily- but the broken call we feel like we have fallen so short in... and we really want to give up many times!

Working in vain is one of the great disappointments in life. To invest time and energy in a project only to see it 'vanish' in the wind builds a flood of frustration and stinging anguish. And it doesn't matter if the project is BIG or small.

Just think back to a time where you wrote a paper, or project (or blog post) and experienced a computer crash without saving it. See what I mean?

Are there relationships you spent your life cultivating only to see them vanish like vapor?

One of the most heartbreaking conversations I ever had was with a retired basketball coach. He was thought to be one of the finest men and expert coaches to ever work locally in the sport.

He spent two decades building a quality JUCO (Jr., college) program, even taking it to national prominence. It was a showpiece of the school.

This well respected coach retired, and soon after that, the school disbanded the entire program!

It hurt him for years. He told me that it was difficult to see all the recruiting trips, sleepless nights, fund raisers, and battles end up as a handful of sand.

We have experienced this as well recently with the sudden stoppage of life. I am still hurting for seniors who had a chance to chase a championship or experience the wonderful memories of competing together as a team.

Is it possible to keep singing in the aftermath of such a circumstance?

We have an entire book in the Bible around this theme,  Solomon exclaims in Ecclesiastes that all of life under the sun is in vain.

The overall principle in today's Psalm helps us.

All endeavors connected to the Lord in acknowledgement, worship, and sacrifice are NEVER in vain.

All endeavors NOT connected to the Lord in acknowledgement, worship, and sacrifice are ALWAYS in vain.

Let's look at these two scenarios in both a negative light and a positive light.


The Psalmist says that without Him, all efforts and achievements are ultimately worth nothing. Jesus says it is like a man building a house on sand. Even if we have great talent. Even if we work to high standards of excellence. Even if we receive the acclamation of the world.

Eventually the crash will happen- and it is swift and sudden.

Look at selected verses of another great Psalm (Psalm 37) and pay attention to what it says:
Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb. 
For the evildoers shall be cut off, In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. 

 The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him, 
 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.
I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree. 
 But he passed away,  and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found.

One of the big issues of people who live a life rejecting God is that they accept all of God's gifts without gratitude, humility, or obedience. They are actually throwing it right back into God's face. The greatest insult is a rejection of God's Son- which I believe is the 'unpardonable sin' in Mark 3 and Matthew 12.

  • Frantic work without productivity, joy, or peace. 
  • Anxiousness- it can all be taken away.
  • Selfishness- you think that you earned it and deserve it
  • Improper priorities- the sacrifice or worthwhile things for worthless pursuits.
  • Ruined relationships.
  • No impact for the kingdom of God.


PSALM 37 AGAIN.......

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act. 

 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked. For the Lord upholds the righteous.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand. 

I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread. 

He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing. those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

NOW.. Here is where the 2nd stanza of this Psalm 127 comes in.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lordthe fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

  • Work with productivity, joy, AND peace. 
  • Peace-- He gives and takes away for our good and His glory
  • UN-Selfishness- It is His and I can share
  • Proper priorities- They love people more than things
  • Restored relationships.
  • Huge impact for the kingdom of God.

Unless The Lord builds your house... you can't start some new 15 step program today to create God- loving children... You have to wait on the Lord. 

You can't 'whack a mole' and beat them to holiness.....

You can't change their heart......

The key is to seek the Lord and beg Him to change your heart.

The fear and panic we are seeing over this virus is small compared to the panic I see in parents at times that fear their kids are going to run to a life of ruin. And that is me many times as well. This is a mountain of a climb and one that we HAVE to wait on the Lord - unless God builds the house.... we are working (and worrying) in vain!

Parenting is the most heart-breaking, sleepless night- soul disturbing task in the universe!

Go back up through what I wrote: What is more true of you right now?



Which of these two do you WANT to be?

start TODAY- it is never too late- stop toiling in vain... you can't fix your kids, they have the same sin you have... NO,  love them (and yes, that means discipline) and let them see you struggling well to love God and love them. Let them see you acknowledge where you have failed.

Ask for their help to build your home in a way to honor the Lord. 

Pay attention to your marriage... when your kids see you love your spouse, it helps them! When they see you admit that you don't do that well, they appreciate the honesty!

Don't DEMAND respect.... love them well, love God, be authentic in your failures,  and you will earn that respect. Even when you discipline them, don't do it in anger- tell them that though they can't understand why you want them in your house by (time) or that you say 'NO', it is because you love them and God expects you to be the one to hold them to clear and reasonable boundaries. (Hebrews 12).

I was helped by this devotion in a weird way. I actually have time these days to watch movies!

And I watched a movie called "Blinded By the Light" based on a true story of a young Turkish muslim trying to find his way in the suburbs of London in the 1980's.

As hard as the young man fought his family, and felt ANGER toward his dad.... deep down, there was always a longing for unity. Love covers a multitude of sin!

Could it be that the Lord shut all of us down for a time to re-evaluate where our pursuits are headed?

We ALL have dysfunctional families.... unity does not mean unanimity...  you may be worried about where your son is heading , don't freak out... have an honest discussion and LOVE him. He may be really angry at you right now because you are gone all the time.... tell him you love him and that you understand his pain. It will not be an instant cure.... it is simply a seed,

Your daughter may be doubting her self worth right now, and you keep badgering her about how messy her room is. It may be time to discuss it and make sure she knows that yes, you do want to keep a clean house, but that you love her way more than a perfect house. Keep beating that drum long enough and you will have a perfect house one day and it will be all empty as well.

I'm not casting shame.... I am sounding an alarm.... my children need to see me running after God, loving their mom, and make sure they know I love them and I am proud of them.


Of course, we all know the difference in idealism and sin tarnished reality. But I have seen godly men endure life with a song BECAUSE they devoted themselves to their marriages and their children as a direct response to God's presence and grace.

May we all have the courage to forsake worthless pursuits that can disappear in a microwave moment and invest in those things that really matter.

If we do that- we have more songs to sing on our journey upward and onward!

That is why my life song is this verse....I Corinthians 15:58

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Keeping Your Wits When Others Are Insane- Day 8


When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.

2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”

3 The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!

5 Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!

6 He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him

I have an incredible blessing to have some championship rings.  Three football state championship rings, one state fishing championship, and two national fishing championship rings are in my office. They gather dust, are sometimes a conversation piece, and represent seasons where it just all fell right. It was the right mix of players, right match-up of opponents, good fortunes with injuries, weather, calls, and funny bounces of the ball, or a fish that just decided to bite.

But it is good to point back to those times- it helps. Not only were these grand memories, these were times of celebration and prosperity. Tangible victories.

But these are fleeting things as well. I coached 7 years before experiencing the first one. I worked and waited 5 years before the next one. The last football state championship was 2003, coming close to two decades now. There have been a lot of close misses along the way. And some seasons where it was a grind. We waited 8 years before we had any fishing success, and then it all happened dramatically in a short time.

Psalm 126 is an interesting tool for those who walk the path of long term discipleship. Past victories soothe us and propel us to find that time of celebration again.

Every championship brought on that same idea- immediately, by the way:  this is awesome... I want to do it again! And the enjoyment makes the desire to experience it again even greater.

I think that fire burning in our belly is a secret to youth and vitality.

I am always reminded of G.K. Chesterton:

A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life.
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. 
But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.
It is possible that God says every morning, 
“Do it again” to the sun: and every evening,
“Do it again” to the moon. 

It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.
It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. 

The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

—”The Ethics of Elfland,” chapter 4 in Orthodoxy.

When we get the victory (and we still have a long journey to get there) the excitement will be uncontainable.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.

2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”

You have experienced this before, the problem is that we forget.

And it is OK to LONG for the restoration of these things... we want the water to flow like streams in the desert (Negeb).

Now let me ask a deeper question.... What if the restoration we desire seems too long ago and we cry out for dreams long past.

I want to be young again... I want to run free, I want my scars and days of tears cast away!

I have good news for you!

Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!

6 He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him

Do you dare to lay hold of this?

And yes, there are good days ahead.... but there is an even greater reality waiting on me.

I will burst forth one day like an atomic explosion and find a new body, a new world, an eternal energy, and eternal bliss.

I will see my Savior, I will see my mom totally free and beautiful, my brother has been basking in God's glory many years now. I plan to play golf with Mr. Stegall, talk football with Coach Farris, and go on a boat ride with Terry Warren singing praises to God. I will wrestle Hardy Walker, and my grandmother will wipe away my tears of joy!

I miss them all so much!

That is why Paul never flinched:

Yes, and I will rejoice, [19] for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, [20] as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. [21] For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. [22] If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. [23] I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. [24] But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:18–24 ESV)

We found out yesterday evening that our days of social distancing were going to be extended... another two weeks!

But we can do it and WE HAVE TO do it! And we will have a day to play ball again, go out and eat, travel, work..... but we don't have to ever give in to hopeless angst!

As we climb today.. never forget the past days of true victory, hope, and celebration. Days of singing and dancing! Days where the goodness of God was so good we tasted it. We smelled it!

So that in the dark days we remember that times were good.

And we know God does not change.

We know that the dry streams will flow again.


And I want to see Jesus now more than ever!

Note: I would like any reader, especially my international readers to send me an email: I would like to know more about how these devotions may be helping you and how you are holding up in the crisis.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Keeping Your Wits When Others Are Insane- Day 7

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.

2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore.

3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,

lest the righteous stretch out
their hands to do wrong.

4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts!

5 But those who turn aside to their crooked ways the Lord will lead away with evildoers!
Peace be upon Israel!

“If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs, and blaming you. . . . The world will be yours and everything in it, what's more, you'll be a man, my son.” RUDYARD KIPLING "IF"

 The opening of this Psalm is so interesting to me. If you think about the climb to Jerusalem, there were so many unknowns. For an ancient Hebrew seeking to travel that path, everything posed a life changing hazard. A sprained ankle, or robbers, or severe weather, or illness all meant that the journey might not end well.

As they are walking precipitously, with the mountains in full view, the goal also becomes a symbol. A symbol of security and strength.

How do we act when all chaos breaks out?

Notice two different Biblical dispositions:

I Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Ephesians 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.

How steady are you?

If there is a lost virtue in our culture today, it seems to be what the Fathers called 'fortitude'.

Here is how C.S. Lewis defined it:

Fortitude includes both kinds of courage—the kind that faces danger as well as the kind that ‘sticks it’ under pain. ‘Guts’ is perhaps the nearest modern English. You will notice, of course, that you cannot practice any of the other virtues very long without bringing this one into play.  
So how can we 'keep our wits', while everything else seems to be spiraling out of control?

I think it is developed, over time, as we continue to sing and continue to climb. You learn that trials fester in a hurry and flash a bright fire of panic- but they do not last.

The Psalm here says it so well- God is so committed to justice and the security of His children that He will destroy the destroyers. We just have to stay steady and patient. Justice delayed in NOT justice denied.

The more we learn to wait- the more we become strong in the waiting. The more we trust in His strength, the more we acquire His strength.

I am quick to share many of my faults- but here God has given me a strength. He has given me a calm demeanor that has served me well in the fires of life.

God had to give me that disposition. Most of my professional life has put me in the midst of conflict. Teacher, student, parent issues can create quite a spark and intense fire. I have been on the phone with people blistering me with criticism and anger and I have been in meetings where it looked like two parties may come to blows with each other.

My calm in the midst of chaos (most of the time) helps to diffuse the emotions and then begins the process to find common ground.

What have I learned from years of practicing this:

1) People vent, and in the venting there is an addition of drama that MOST people later correct when the emotion subsides.

2) If you take the venting without reacting, most people will settle down more quickly than if you bow up and fight fire with fire.

3) Really listen to the complaint and try to see their point of view.

4) In your measured response, try to communicate a sense of understanding their position and empathize with their emotions. Sometimes I say, "If I understood the situation as you see it, I would feel the same way." At that point you can begin to sort through the details.

5) Be willing to own up to mistakes and admit wrongdoing. There have been times I have looked a parent in the eye and said, 'Mr. Smith, I am sorry. I did not handle this well at all' and if I am sincere, it is amazing how quickly it disarms even the angriest of people.

Now, all of this sounds good- a list of what to do- but not much help as to how to do it.

There is an ultimate winning edge is in this Psalm. God is my refuge, my help, my strength. He is more secure and steady than even Mount Zion. And if I abide in Him, I begin to take on characteristics of the mountain itself. I become like the thing I am pursuing. And if it is God I am climbing to, I actually begin to reflect His countenance.... though it be imperfect and fleeting at times.

Because I KNOW that he is good and in control... I NEVER have to push the panic button.

There is a dark side to this Psalm. The evil doers will be destroyed. We don't wish it- we don't rejoice when it happens- but trust God's promise here... It will happen.

It may not happen for days, weeks, months, or years... but there is sudden destruction for those who continually do evil, especially those who are hostile to God's people.

And peace can reign in that quiet confidence in God's authority and power. This becomes a great fortress of security and builds fortitude within.

Walk upward today in peace and strength my friend!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Keeping Your Wits When Others Are Insane- Day 6

1 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,

let Israel now say

2 if it had not been the Lord who was on our side
when people rose up against us,

3 then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;

4 then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;

5 then over us would have gone
the raging waters.

6 Blessed be the Lord,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth!

7 We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped!

8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth

Psalm 124

Have you ever had the privilege to look back and see proof that the Lord had come to your rescue?

Psalm 124 is a look back at a terrible conflict where it looked like all hope was lost, but the Lord showed up and gave the gracious victory.


People rose up against those who had chosen to live by faith. These were angry people and the circumstances posed great peril. The images used by the Psalmist conjures up being swallowed alive, a sudden sweeping flood, facing the teeth of an enraged predator, in a snare set by a trapper- the conflict is planned and the destruction appears as if it will be swift and sure.

Have I been there? Interesting question....... I think a mistake I tend to make in my self-absorbed journey is to think of this too much as my personal journey, when the major gist of this Psalm is the rescue of a Nation or a group.

The Psalms of Ascent seem to be a story of an upward journey of a group of Pilgrims. We add to our number as we climb.

Psalm 120-  I called in my distress
Psalm 121- I lift my eyes up
Psalm 122- " I was glad when they said Let us go to the house of the Lord"- "Our feet"
Psalm 123- "Have mercy on us"

So, I ask again have I been there? Well I should be- If the attack is not on me, it is definitely on the church. When I read or see the venom that can be unleashed towards the people of God, I need to know that unless God rescues US, we have no hope to survive in a world that is hostile to all that we are about.

The blood of the martyrs still flows fresh around the globe. I do not walk this path alone, I am part of the universal Church of Christ and had the Lord not been on our side, we would have been crushed a long time ago.


This is a corporate song...."Let Israel now say"- we too belong to spiritual Israel and their enemies will hate me as well.


We think that we don't deserve to be rescued. But even if we give up on ourselves, He NEVER gives up on us.


This Psalm is distinctive in the way it says that our help is in the NAME of the Lord. It is His name on the line and it is to His glory that we survive.


This is not simply a time where the Lord came through when you were having a bad day. The metaphors here are stark and seemingly hopeless.

When the Psalmist says.... the flood and torrent... he is not exaggerating!

Because these verses were fresh on my mind, I meditated on them for awhile the last few days.

I looked very close at raging waters yesterday as I watched tons of water per second pour through the spill ways of the Logan Martin dam. I couldn't help but think and pray about the fisherman who lost their life earlier this year at Pickwick and I had read reports of another boat that went through the Lake Mitchell spillway on Thursday, and though they lost their boat, all of the members survived with but few scratches.

I also have vivid memories of the power of the raging floods in Nashville flood in 2010. The force and devastation of those floodwaters will never be forgotten.

When the crisis is raging.... nothing is more helpless. So when God rescues in those circumstances... you have to cry out in praise!


If God has done this in the past, will He not continue to do it in the future?

Why then should I ever fear?


I think some of issues in my life are magnified because of my natural inclination to shrink away from people and try to walk the path alone. The current culture helps me in this problem because it is so easy to hide in communication technology. Solitude is good for hours, but we need one another for days or weeks. That is what is the hardest part of this current practice of social distancing. When my wife was finally approved to work from home... it was a GREAT help! But I also worry about people who live alone!

The old analogy is still true- take a log out of a fire and set it off by itself and it will burn out quickly. Keep it in a bundle and it will burn bright. We need to be more bundled in our struggles and in our victories.

You can't truly be bundled via twitter or facebook- you need old fashioned time together in the flesh with open, vulnerable, transparent, authentic conversations. I suggest that we make phone calls during this time and I have been more encouraged by Zoom conversations, at least there is a human there to see and interact with.

The enemy doesn't give up- God doesn't give up- so I never need to give up.

Lord, help me to sing my song in a way that others will walk with me. I need them and they need me.

HEBREWS 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Keeping Your Wits When Others Are Insane- Day 5

We have had many days of social distancing and self quarantine. We have had many days of graphs and projections. We have had many days of conflicting reports and partisan rancor.....

And I was really saddened by the news from Gov. Ivey yesterday that athletics will be finished for the year. My heart broke for our seniors!

We are in an early phase still in the Psalms of Ascent. The early mood is gone.

Psalm 123
To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!  
Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.   
Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.

Ever had burnout? Even quarantines get old quick!

All journeys reach that stretch called the 'lull'.

The beginning of the journey had such strong motivation and direction. Whether it was the draw of beauty or fleeing pain- something made me move.

But each day represents a passing of time and humans tend to forget what we felt like at the beginning.

The older I get, the more the burnout can visit and stay. Perhaps it is a little of a jadedness where I almost see young enthusiasm with a splash of contempt. "So you think you will change the world", you say to that young, excited idealist. "You'll learn." However, I miss that youthful part of me!

One of my mentors got a job in a factory when he was a college student to help with tuition and expenses. He was boxing items that had just come off of an assembly line.

He attacked his new job with a passion and boxed, and boxed, and boxed.

At the first break, he experienced the rebuke of the elder worker.

"Slow down, son, you're making us look bad. Besides that, our union contract stipulates that we only do so many an hour."

Is there a way to keep that youthful fire on our path up the hill?

Yes and no.

It would be idealistic to say that you can make that climb without ever feeling fatigue, discouragement, distraction, boredom, listlessness, or depression, or doubt.

But the hard part is not staying in that negative spin cycle.

Is there a route out?

This Psalm holds keys to the principle involved in getting off neutral and re-engaging the pursuit.

1) Eye on the prize. This is such a simple fundamental but we lose our longing for a journey when we take our eyes off the destination.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
We should fix our eyes on Him and He fixed His eyes on us. It was the prize of winning the redeemed that kept Him going!

But when he (Peter) saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Matthews 14:30
When Peter saw Christ, he fearlessly stepped out on the water. When he took his eyes off Christ, he began to sink.

So this Psalm starts off with our eyes:

To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
 Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.
Are you fighting depression? Where are your eyes?
Tired of the fight? Where are your eyes?
Feel like you are behind? Where are your eyes?

You know the gospel song: Turn your eyes upon Jesus- look FULL in His wonderful face- and the things on earth will grow strangely dim- in the light of His glorious grace.


Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt. 
 Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.

The 1st stanza said- let us look to God and keep looking until He has mercy.

There is a treasure hidden in this 2nd stanza.

If I am honest, I will say that when I get knocked down on the journey it is due to evil and sin. What are my sins that plague me on this upward climb? Selfishness, laziness, anger, greed, envy, idolatry, gluttony..etc.

And I also experience the sin and evil of others: accusations, betrayal, dishonesty, selfishness, criticism, gossip, theft, violence, persecution...etc

Even if I am knocked down by is a part of the universal curse of sin.

And there is only cure- MERCY

But mercy is an intersection. If it is to flow to me, it has to flow through me. If I expect it to come to me, it has to also come from me.

Yes- I get aggravated at the God mockers in this world who make my journey difficult. But listen to Scripture:

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. I Corinthians 6:11 

But for that very reason I (Paul) was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. I Timothy 1:16 

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34

The next time you get down in life and feel ready to chunk it all, try this.


Lord, I am burned out. Help me take my eyes off myself and look to you.

I am waiting for your mercy, so help me show some mercy.

And then pray for sinners and the downhearted

2) SEE

Look for those who need encouragement or help


Go and do something for someone else- not even to be noticed. Help someone out.

And I will guarantee that you will take another step with that song in your heart!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Keeping Your Wits When Others Are Insane- Day 4

These are a series of thoughts based on the 'Psalms of Ascent' and inspired by Eugene Peterson's devotional entitled "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction". I have especially tried to apply them in this time of unprecedented war versus the Covid-19 global crisis.

My prayer is that this would be a time of exponential revival and return to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. and that the Church would be awakened to gospel proclamation.

May this be a great time of prayer and service in love!

Psalm 122
 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!

 Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!
 Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
  to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for  Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
 There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.
 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May they be secure who love you!
  Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
  For my brothers and companions' sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
  For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
Never in my lifetime did I ever expect to see churches completely empty on the Lord's Day. And though I have been encouraged by our great efforts in streaming the services..... it has been a void in our land.

Psalm 122 is a reminder that a source of our joy is worship. It has been said that 'without worship, we shrink'.

The longer I try to live this daily goal of an uphill walk, the more I understand how I have missed and mis-understood worship.

I have blogged before on this fleeting topic:

Arch Bishop of Canterbury- William Temple had this definition of worship:“Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God.It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, nourishment of mind by His truth, purifying of imagination by His beauty, opening of the heart to His love, and submission of will to His purpose.And all this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of human expressions of which we are capable.”

But even this seems mechanical.

Let me write a minute on the nature of worship and then express an obvious problem.

When I catch a bass on a beautiful lake, I often don't see it for what it is- pure worship. My heart leaps at the intersection of beauty and competition, amazement and adventure.

When I am running or walking on a beautiful Fall day and feel the cool breeze and experience the splash of a columbia blue stained skyline- I experience worship.

I have been listening to some old playlists lately during this time.... music stirs worship in me as well.

I experience a worshipful joy when Bruce Springsteen sings, "come on and RISE UP" and rebuild the city of ruins. I clutch my fist and echo his sentiment. Or Bob Dylan sings "Pressing ON" or George Strait sings "What Goes Up"- another King George masterpiece.....

I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Caught a glimpse of Heaven when I couldn't catch my breath
I felt His presence in the darkest of days
I've asked for direction,
And I've been shown the way
And I believe when I pray, Somebody hears
When I fall on my knees, my words aren't fallin' on deaf ears
And He has the answers
When the answers can't be found
I know without a doubt what goes up comes down
I've been lead from temptation
Though I was standing at it's door
Delivered from evil when I could run no more
I've seen the eyes of God through the eyes of a child
I've thanked Him for my blessings
And I've felt it when he smiled
I raise my hands when my burdens are too heavy
And He lifts me up just like that cross
He didn't have to carry
My greatest prayers will be answered
When he returns to claim his crown
I know without a doubt
What goes up comes down (I believe)
What goes up must come down (I believe)

I have also experienced worship when I confess sin or sit at a sunset.

But herein lies the problem- I'm pointing largely to ascetic responses of emotion that may or may not be true worship.

John 4:24, "God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." 
Is it possible to worship in spirit and not truth? Is it possible to have truth and not spirit?

Let me complicate it further: I was glad when they said to me,
Let us go to the house of the Lord!

How many Sunday mornings have I felt that way? Why not more?

I went to Graceland one time. I walked into a time capsule back to the 1970's. Like a stopped clock, the jungle room was once a cool place to hangout, but now seemed so plastic.

I am saddened when I see what the church did to historical sites in the middle east. They would build a sanctuary on top of it. I'm sure it was a monumental architectural achievement in its day- but the covering now seems to hide the beauty of what was real and authentic.

Before I am misunderstood here, I need to make the point clearer. My joy in worship is hampered when I just keep it to the same routine I have been doing for decades. What type of heart preparation am I doing to pull off the shag carpet and trash the plastic?

What am I covering up in man made structures that God wants to let out?

And we need to challenge the corporate body to do the same. You can't control the spirit and truth never changes- but truth is also true from all angles.

Here is a truth. When I take time in my week for personal and corporate worship- I have a better pace and more endurance for the journey.

When I grow weary of worship- I quickly fade in my climb.

I worry that we skip from church to church in some nostalgic reach for the past when what we need is a new forward leaning freshness toward our worship to reclaim the passion that encompasses truth.

And maybe that is what I am climbing to. The Psalm here is a look forward to the TOP of the mountain. I AM GOING TO JERUSALEM! Glad to go- but it will be some work to get there.

This is what we are looking forward to ... literally, "I am going to be able to go back to church...soon!" and figuratively, "I am going to be in the new Jerusalem...soon!"

At the top of the mountain will be the culmination and climax of all that is lacking in my pitiful attempts to worship.

You may be familiar with C.S. Lewis "Footnote to All Prayers"- I might need to tag this on my worship as well.

 He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
      When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
      And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
      Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
      Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
      Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
      And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
      The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
      Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
      Our arrows, aimed unskilfully, beyond desert;
      And all men are idolators, crying unheard
      To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
      Take not, O Lord, our literal sense.  Lord, in thy great
      Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

Let me try to summarize this and link it back to the Psalm.

The Psalmist here is excited about the destination. He is going to his city, the Lord's city, and the great temple to worship.

The city not only is under the care of the Lord- it is said to be unified and peaceful.

All of this is a type and shadow.. of both the Savior and the heavenly Jerusalem.

So we should show that same type of excitement and anticipation of our type and shadow... private yes, but primarily corporate worship.

I should prepare myself to enjoy with gladness the worship in a place of unity and peace.

This preparation should not be hindered by style or my distractions or fatigue.

And this gives me inspiration and endurance for the climb. These are small tastes of a city which will stand forever. I wish I were there right now!