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May 2023

If My People


If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14

If my people

It is always difficult to take the admonitions of God to the nation of Israel and make direct application to contemporary peoples. That is because there are no God-ordained theocracies in the world today.

The world has a tragic track history with nationalism. It almost always leads to abuse and oppression.

Even modern Israel is multi-cultural, secular, and eclectic in its religious views.

Nevertheless, all nations are a part of God's purpose and promised blessing (Genesis 12:3, Psalm 22:27, Psalm 72:11&17). All nations are likewise subject to judgment (Isaiah 40:17). In Matthew 25, we are told the primary basis of that judgment - how nations respond to the poor and powerless.

God's people remain scattered throughout the globe - wherever they are called by God's name.

So, for nations and individuals, there is a blessing available - a conditional blessing.

The first requirement to which the promise is attached is humility. Humility is the first characteristic of strong leadership - among people or among nations. Humility before God and others enables us to walk under God's watchful gaze and alongside our fellow human beings. Humility precludes chauvinism. It discourages imperialism. It condemns pride.

Humble leaders do not need to justify their every deed, but can admit failures. Humble nations can strengthen their standing by doing the same.

The greater the nation, leader, or organization, the greater the need for humility.

The second requirement for the blessing is to pray. The sort of prayer that we need is not the sort that exalts us or boasts or impresses listeners with our eloquence. It is needy prayer, humble prayer, listening prayer, and loving prayer. It is honest. It is seeking. It is prayer without agenda. It is prayer that asks God what we must do. It is prayer that extends our concern to friend and enemy alike.

That leads to the third requirement - seeking the face of God. To seek the face of God implies that we have not grasped a complete vision of God already. The revealed truth we have received is sufficient to save, but not to suspend our seeking. To seek God's face is not to seek information about God, but to seek God Himself with awe, wonder, and childlike readiness to receive.

The fourth requirement is to turn from our wicked ways. It is no sign of strength, power or righteousness to assert we have no wicked ways in our lives or in our nations. Pride weakens us. Self-righteousness stifles our potential for growth. God is not looking for PR people as leaders. He is looking for people who are willing to look at their choices and change if necessary.

Those four requirements have been recited, amplified, and subjected to exegesis until we can hear them without being moved. We have heard them so many times that we have built up walls of resistance around our favorite sins and defined what other people ought to do to comply.

They are always about someone else.

Like a much maligned preacher in the news during the presidential election, our most fundamentalist preachers have all said, "God damn America." They have. I have heard them. Most white conservatives have said, "Amen" as long as it was other people's sins that were being condemned. No one accused those preachers of being anti-American.

But when a descendant of slaves dared to suggest that racism, blind nationalism, and greed were among our national sins to which we had to give account to God, the critics went wild.

The same message with a different application got different responses.

The truth is that God still dislikes all the "traditional" sins, but He also has issues with those that seldom make the list - those in which nice people participate.

We are expected by God, as individuals and as nations, to behave ethically, morally, compassionately, fairly, cooperatively, and righteously. We are expected to live by Matthew 25:31-46 as nations and the Sermon on the Mount as individuals.

Is there someone out there who wants to argue that America and American Christians have done so flawlessly in recent decades?

I would like to hear that case. The political right and the political left in America both agree that it is not true. They both agree that we have embraced wicked ways.

They just have different lists of wicked ways.

Is America good?

America is great! I love America. I love the Constitution and the people of America. I love the Republicans, the Democrats, and the independents that balance out each others' craziness.

Is America perfect, sinless, and innocent of innocent blood?

No. No nation is.

Are others worse?

Maybe some are, but we can't do their repenting for them. We are only responsible for our own repentance.

You can't point at your neighbor down the street when God calls you to turn from your wicked ways.

We cannot do so nationally either.

Nor can we frame our foreign policies simply around our own selfish interests and call that "Christian."

I am writing to Christians here. I don't expect anyone else to buy into my presuppositions blindly. This is about our consciences. It is about the stewardship of our influence.

There has not been a national party platform in this country in 30 years that should not have given Jesus' followers a great deal of heartburn.

But we pick a horse and run with it because we have not been called to isolate ourselves.

Can we have national repentance?

Perhaps to some extent - but for certain, we can repent and turn from our own wicked ways. Again, your list may differ from that of other fine believers, but you have to work on those things about which the Spirit convicts you.

The benefits are impressive.

In the first place, God says He will hear.

In the second place, He promises to forgive. Unlike humans, God does that quickly and without hesitation.

In the third place, He promises to heal our lands.

And we need healing.

These are days of sinful bickering, disrespect, incivility, disregard for life, unbridled anger, bitter divisiveness, euphoric drunkenness,  moral ambiguity, sexual manipulation, greed, lack of compassion, disregard for the poor, bigotry, bullish power grabbing, broken boundaries, coldness, hardheartedness, slander, self-centered self-promotion, stubbornness, corruption, and deep need.

Somehow, I believe that if the leaders of our nation would get off of their political platforms, forget the colors of their states, turn off their cell phones, forget about polls, stop calling each other names, quit demonizing each other, and listen to each other and to God, it would be a step in the right direction.

If they would cultivate humility, they could learn to pray. If they would pray, they would seek God's face (and be very surprised at what they found). If they would seek God's face they would want to turn from many of our nation's wicked ways.

We can wait for that ... or we can do it ourselves.

Originally published on 


Thought and prayers

I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men. – I Timothy 2:1

I am as put off as any by the empty words, “thoughts and prayers” whenever those words are empty and used to dismiss one’s own responsibility to act with justice, mercy, and resolve.

Thought, however, is a very good thing, especially compassionate thoughts about others. Likewise, prayer is good, especially when one opens one’s life to being used by God to help others.

With echoes of II Chronicles 7:13-14 in the background, Paul is not calling for extraordinary prayer, but for daily, ongoing, consistent, persistent, passionate prayer for the lives of men and women and the welfare of society.

This call to prayer is for all people first. Then Paul becomes specific in commanding us to pray for people in civil authority that the church might enjoy, with the larger community, quiet, peace, godliness, and honesty.

Furthermore, we are adjured to pray because it is God’s will to bring all men to salvation and truth. God invites our cooperation, participation, and conversation in task and mission of rescuing the world.

It is sad that we need special days to remind us that we ought to be praying all the time.

I have some pills that I must take every day by prescription. I try to minimize these with good nutrition and vitamins, but because of the wear and tear of the years, my body needs these medicines to function properly – at least for now.

If I forget to take a pill for a particular malady, I can get by with it for a few hours, but at least by the second day, I will be hurting, and the reminders will be evident.

If I forget my blood pressure pill, however, I will have no symptoms whatsoever. In fact, I might be able to take my blood pressure that day and notice extraordinarily little difference. I will have no symptoms over time, but my blood pressure will begin to creep up and I will place myself in danger of a sudden heart attack or stroke down the road.

God has prescribed prayer for our own well-being, for others, and for our society. If we live in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, we will most likely notice it if we miss a day of prayer. But the larger implications may show no symptoms at first.

We will lull ourselves into complacency and false comfort. In the meantime, our spiritual lives, and the spiritual climate around us will erode until there is some great catastrophe as the natural result of the absence of supernatural intervention. 

God’s message to us on this matter is that prayer matters.

It makes a difference.

Think. Pray. Act.

Do all three, but always, also, pray.

Then, be willing to act on your prayers.

Raw and Rugged

Raw rugged prayer
Sometimes, this is the best prayer you can muster.
It is not pious, in the vernacular, but in intrinsic reality.
It is raw.
It is self-conscious.
It is guttural.
It is real and authentic.
It is basal and honest.
It may be your prayer of the moment.
No photo description available.
Psalm 38
New Revised Standard Version
A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering.
O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.
For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.
There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.
My wounds grow foul and fester
because of my foolishness;
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all day long I go around mourning.
For my loins are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am utterly spent and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
O Lord, all my longing is known to you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs, my strength fails me;
as for the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction,
and my neighbors stand far off.
Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek to hurt me speak of ruin,
and meditate treachery all day long.
But I am like the deaf, I do not hear;
like the mute, who cannot speak.
Truly, I am like one who does not hear,
and in whose mouth is no retort.
But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
For I pray, “Only do not let them rejoice over me,
those who boast against me when my foot slips.”
For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.
Those who are my foes without cause are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
Those who render me evil for good
are my adversaries because I follow after good.
Do not forsake me, O Lord;
O my God, do not be far from me;
make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation.
No photo description available.

You Grew

Go get em

Good morning or afternoon.

It is a new day.

Whatever you worried about last night, that kept you tossing and turning ... that glitch. that stitch in time, that hitch in your get-along, that which you dread ... it's still there but something happened in the night.

It shrank.

That's right. It is not as big as you feared.

And something else happened in the night. You grew!

So now, with God's help, you can face that thing because you must and because you should and because it is still shrinking and you are still growing.

Go get 'em, Tiger!

Reflections on history

History we're told is written by the conquerors, by the victors, by those who come out on top in the historical drama.

But for history to be most helpful, it requires all sides, all perspectives. Yet history is not just about where we have been. It is the destination to which we have come and how we arrived at that place.

Then, it is where we are going.

History is also the tool we use to avoid making the mistakes of the past, to encourage us to,  reapply the principles that have been successful in building our cultures and our nations and our systems. It's about understanding why we have done the things we have done.

It is about understanding why we think the way we think it is about building a perspective and building a prospective for the future. History is a vital discipline in our lives. Sometimes it is just interesting.

Often it is neutral, but to whitewash history and to tell history only from the perspective of our own values and our own understanding, and our own heritage and our own self-interests. That is to limit the value that it can bring to our lives and to our society.

History is seldom his history or her story, but generally, my story and how I got where I am.

That is why it is so enlightening to play checkers from both sides of the table and see how it effects our perspective - not just on the past, but on the present and future.

History is most helpful when we pass through the our story moments in anticipation of the unveiling of the ultimate God's story universal story.

We are, in the long-run, bettered and refined as we look objectively at our history with all of its warts. That causes us to look in our own present mirrors and check our motives and assumptions.

Study history, reflect on history, but most of all, make history today.








Nothing clever this day-hour-moment.
I sever from clever for now.
Not forever ...
Ever waiting ...
Never forsaking the path.
But ever waiting, waiting, waiting,
Watching, each endeavor.
The lever of our thoughts-words-deed swings side to side
And up and down under the weight of truth.
There may be a role for clever under such weight for which ...
We wait.

Mercy and Truth Have Met

Mercy truth

I pray for a manifestation of the four qualities I find in Psalm 85:10 - Mercy, truth, righteousness, and peace.

"Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other."

I must start with my own circle of influence after I start with myself.
God grant that I might receive, show, and give mercy (Chesed - love, grace, and mercy all wrapped together).

God grant that I might be a man of truth who speaks truth to power, truth to the lowly, and truth to myself.

God grant that I might live a life of righteousness - doing the right thing and heading in the right direction, rightly related to You and to my neighbor.

God grant me peace, that I might be at peace with you through my relationship with Jesus and at peace with my neighbors, friends, and family. Grant that I might be a peacemaker in my community and my life.

God grant these these requests for me and for all who can join me in this prayer in their own way. I pray in the name of my Savior and Master, Jesus.


Five Activities of the Early Church



"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and
fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." - Acts 2:42


Key Points:

What do new believers do in a newly constituted congregation and continue to do as the church continues?

  1. They dig in. (continued steadfastly) 
  1. They get to know God's word. (the apostles' doctrine) 
  1. They get to know each other. (fellowship) 
  1. They begin to experience life together. (in breaking of bread) 
  1. They pray in intercession, in song, and in worship (in prayers)


They eat together. They do life together. They share. They laugh. They sing. They pray.

It must have been so exciting. Anyone who has ever been involved in church planting with new believers in a new community has experienced this.

Everything is new and it is experienced in community!

There is such love, such passion, such fire, such enthusiasm, and such a sense of purpose and mission. Everyone is in one accord. The mission is clear. The purpose is overriding.

People are willing to sacrifice their time and their resources. They are pulling together for the good of all and for the sake of the cause.

It is no wonder why there is so much growth in new groups, whether they be new churches, new classes, new fellowships, new cell groups, or new ministries. The attraction to something so positive is compelling.

These new believers in Jerusalem were following in Jesus’ steps as I Peter 2:21 says.

They were learning to hear and follow the voice of their new Shepherd as Jesus taught in John 10. They were learning to experience the reality of John 10:10 as they had been rescued from a thief that had, for too long, stolen their life joy.

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." - John 10:10

They were, for the first time in their lives, living an abundant life.

Raw, Unedited Transcript ... with all the filler words.

Today we are investigating a little bit. We are taking a look at a description of the early church. It begins with the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 42 through 47. That's the larger context, but I'm zeroing in on one verse this morning. Acts 2 42. It says that they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship in breaking of bread and prayers. They ate together. They did life together. They shared, they laughed, they sang, they prayed. Uh, it must have been very exciting in that early church, right after the Holy Spirit, uh, came and with tongues of fire lit upon the disciples.

And then the gospel went forth from that room, and it was preached probably on the stairs that led up to the temple. It was a great place. A lot of baths there. Ritual baths, uh, that could have been the place where 3000 people were baptized in one day. Uh, it was very possible.

It was logistically possible. The church was born. Suddenly, there were all of these new believers who'd been waiting around, who'd been hearing about Jesus. And now Peter has preached to them this message about who Jesus is. And the idea of church had not really been explored a lot.

Jesus alluded to it. He talked about gathering people together. He said he would build his church on the rock, but now it's happening. It's suddenly happening, and there's no plan.

It's, let's see how we put these things together and how this presence of the Holy Spirit, not only in our midst among us, but also in our hearts and in our lives, emerges. There was such love. There was such passion. There was such fire, such enthusiasm, sense of purpose and mission.

Everyone was in one accord. The mission was clear, though the purpose was overriding, and people were willing to sacrifice their time and their resources. They were pulling together for the good of all and for the sake of the cause. And the cause of course, is the kingdom of God.

And it's no wonder there was such growth in new groups, uh, whether there were churches or new classes, new fellowships, new cell groups, new ministries. We'd have different names for them today, but they were gatherings of people wherever they were. And today, we're even gathering on the internet. At this very moment, we're gathering on the internet. It, it leaves some things to be desired, but it brings us together.

The attraction is compelling. The new believers in Jesus are doing what Peter would later say in his epistle, first Peter 2 21. Uh, they were following in Jesus steps. They were learning to hear and follow the voice of their new shepherd. Jesus as taught in, uh, John 10.

These are some of the other scriptures that are in your readings for today, including Psalm 23. They were learning to experience the reality of John 10 10, which is the thief comes to steal and to kill and to destroy. But I've come that they may have life and have it abundantly. They were for the first time in their lives, living a life of abundance and fulfillment. So what were some of the key points of this verse I read that would tell us what they did?

And in many ways, they helped to continue to define what we do in order to be church in some authentic way, whether we meet online or in person or in a coffee shop or in an open air setting, in a traditional church or a non-traditional church. And this is not a, a template, this is not a purpose statement. It's not a vision statement or a mission statement, it's a description. But the first thing they did was they dug in. They dug in, it says they continued steadfastly. And that means they, there was a, there was a time element.

They continued and there is a quality of it steadfastness. They, they really dug into this purpose of getting into this thing. Um, the curriculum is not necessarily told until the next few words, but, uh, the fact that they did it and without coffee just tells us that they were willing to go deeper than they ever had in their lives. And I think that this is something that in any generation and in any setting, the church wants to continue to do and encourage its members to do, to dig deeper. Don't be, um, an inch deep and a mile wide.

Uh, it's fine to be a mile wide, uh, thousand miles wide,10,000 miles wide. But go deeper. Don't just skim the surface of the Christian life or the experience of the presence of God. Now, number two is we do have some content.

We do have some curriculum, but it's being developed. Remember, there are no gospels written at this point. There are no epistles written. They have the Torah and they have the remembrances.

There are memories of the teachings of Jesus and the core message of the gospel. But they got to know God's word. It says they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine. Now, doctrine doesn't necessarily mean a set, uh, description of key points as much as it just means teaching just means they've teach their teaching.

Well, how do these guys get qualifications to teach? Well, they spent three years with the master teacher, and then after his resurrection and before his ascension into heaven, they had his presence to, in the quiet moments that are not recorded, I believe to summarize all of the things that he had taught them and done, and to make sense of them in the light of his death and his resurrection. And so they had a real advantage because they got to know God's word in a very intimate way. The third thing that happened was they got to know each other. We were told that they continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship.

Well, why is it important to know each other? And this is where we could break down, but we, I mean by being online, but we really have the opportunity to fellowship every day. Now, I, I sort of offer my page for that, but we have another page and a group, uh, as part of the Fellowship of Joy. And you have that we study together every day. There are people that study, uh, the scriptures every day together with me and with each other.

And you can do that. We have better opportunity for close contact. We, and we have zoom. You know, people say that's a poor substitute for being in the room together.

And I agree, but right now you have my undivided attention and I have your undivided attention. If you were on the other side of the screen looking at me, I'd be, I'd be pretty much staring at you. And when you talk, I'll listen. And when I talk, you're listening. And there is kind of intimacy to that, that we're in the room together.

And in some ways we've done more to shut out distractions. But we need more just fellowship, just being together, just doing life together that makes church. That's why I love it when the church meets together in smaller groups around kitchen tables and coffee house tables and restaurant tables and park benches and places, or even old fashioned Sunday school rooms, which are getting so expensive now for churches to build. But, uh, it works.

Or, you know, at the break room where you work, they got to know each other. Why is that important? Because the church is the body of Christ. The church is the people through whom Christ expresses himself as the head. Now, the body itself is imperfect, but that's fine. That's fine. We're we're working it out. We need that level of authenticity because you know, people in the world outside of the church, they're not perfect either.

Did you ever notice that? That whether they're in the church or outside the church, that they lack that quality of perfection. But coming together, we commit ourselves to help each other get better, get closer to God, get closer to each other, get closer to the mission. We're gathered on a mission. Whenever people gather on a mission, there's something special that happens. And whereas Jesus was the living word among us during his life, life ministry here, this physical ministry, the church now takes that role in the world.

They got to know each other because we're all parts of something that's bigger than ourselves. And it takes all of us to make a whole. Then they began to experience life together at an even deeper level. And that comes from the words breaking of bread, because that is both mundane and intimate. That is very, very special and very, very ordinary. But that tells me that they did things together that were just, I, I mean, maybe they went to each other's homes and worked on projects.

Certainly in the, in subsequent years of the church finding its expression in the world, I I grew up going to the beach once a year with the entire church. Um, and it was great fellowship. And we didn't have a single Bible study, and we didn't sing a single hymn, but we rented a big pavilion and we all gathered there and we laughed and we played. And then the fifth thing is they prayed.

They continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship and breaking of bread and prayers. They prayed. They, they prayed in intercession, they prayed in song, they prayed in worship, they prayed in all that they did. They prayed in communion in the, in the breaking of bread to remember Jesus. And in the sharing of the cup, in remembrance of his blood, they were seeking God by being together. They were encouraging each other to do it individually, and they were doing it corporately. Well, that is, um, that's really all I have for today.

But I think you can do something with it. Are you gathered with anybody? Can you, can you identify a group of people that you're the church together, you're on mission in the world, you're praying together. You're, you're doing life together. You're getting no God's word together.

You're digging deep. You're fellowshipping, you're caring for each other. You're on ministry in the world. You're reaching out to other people, uh, participating in the, the Lord's Supper. In some simple way, you are acknowledging people's intention to commit their lives to Jesus and to move on in faith and to receive him as their savior and their the Lord of their lives.

It's not an institution that makes that a church. It's the intention and the commitment of a body of people to each other. I don't really say go to church anymore as much as be the church and gather as church. And we are, the pandemic required us to rethink many of us, uh, a broader definition.

And yet a very more s a very, very more specific definition of this church. This is authentic. This is real. This is alive. Let's be the church today.

And as part of being the church, let's pray the prayer that Jesus gave the church to pray all of his disciples, and let's pray it together. Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Th kingdom come by, will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For dying is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.

Amen. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and be gracious under you and give you peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I'll see you next week actually. I'll see you tomorrow if you gather with me. Uh, we'll be together. I'll, I'll see you the rest of the day. I'll be back sometime afternoon. I'm gonna go preach this message at the tri-City Chinese Baptist Church. And, uh, but I'm gonna be back today and gathering with you. God bless you.