The Divine Locksmith

There was a time in my life when I didn't really believe that God was all that grace-filled.  

In fact, I'd kind of given up on believing in God altogether because I couldn't believe in the angry, judgmental God I'd been taught to be believe in.  When this realization came to me, I   walked away from the Church, from God, and from my faith.  

And I was just fine without all of it.  

Until I wasn't.  

I think the moment where I realized just how much I'd been longing for something more came when I attended a church service for the first time in all the years since I'd walked away, vowing never to return. 

I can't tell you what the sermon was about that day, but all I remember was sitting there in the pew with tears streaming down my face, shocked at how emotional I'd become.   

It was the first time that I recognized the deep longing within me--a longing a longing for a new vision of God, a grace-filled God who loved me, in spite of my objections, and the …

When You Give Thanks You Get More of God

In Judaism, a berakhah is a formula of blessing or thanksgiving that is recited in anticipation of enjoyment, or of praise in response to gratitude. 

A berakah is imbued with a sense that the person praying is essentially "drawing down" spiritual energy as they pray.  

I find that absolutely awesome.  

Think through this with me.  The idea behind this prayer is that when you feel gratitude for the blessings that you are about to receive... or the blessings you have received... you should offer up that gratitude to God. 

And in return, you draw down spiritual energy that flows into you from the Giver and Sustainer of life, who continually gives without condition, without strings, without reservation.  

Or to put it another way:  We receive God through our many blessings, and when our praises and our thanksgiving flow back to God, God gives us more of God in return.  

The question then arises, "So, what should we give thanks to God for?"  And the answer is quite simple:  E…

The Incredible, Resurrecting Compassion of God

I  recently officiated at a memorial service for a woman not much older than me, who passed away suddenly.  Weeks before, her sister had given birth to a little girl, and I got to watch as she gently cared for her baby with tears of sorrow streaming down her cheeks.  

After the service, one of the family members saw the sister with the baby, and softly said to me in passing, "It's the circle of life."  

I  recently read something fascinating about how in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for "compassion" has its roots in the word rachuwm, which means "womb." 

Interestingly, in the Scriptures the word rachuwm is most often used to describe God's "emotions" toward human beings---particularly in moments when they find themselves lost, oppressed and feeling abandoned by God. 

Take Isaiah 49:15 for example: 
"Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.T…

You Were Meant For The Exceptional

As a pastor, I often have the opportunity to counsel people as they navigate some of life's challenges.  And I  would have to say that some of the saddest things I  hear begin with these words:

"If I'd only..."

So many of us live with the pain of regret.  We look back on our life, and can see with the benefit of hindsight all of the things we should have done, the decisions we could have made, the paths we ought to have taken.

But how many of us really learn from our past?  How many of us actually act differently based on our experiences?

From what I've seen, most of us will express our regrets over our past inability to leap in faith, to move forward with courage, to confidently choose a better path... but then we'll continue to make those same mistakes over and over again.

Mostly because we believe we aren't capable of doing anything exceptional.

Far too many of us will find ourselves with tremendous opportunities, moments of great decision and destiny, and w…

When You Think God Is A Jerk

I spent a lot of my life believing God was a jerk. 

It was the only logical conclusion for me---based on what I'd learned about God and the way God worked.  

God was mad at me.  That's what I believed.  And the reason I believed this was because I had been told as much by Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, pastors and the like.  

To be fair, I believed God was mad at me because I was a sinner.  And because God hates sin so much, God couldn't be anything but mad at me for being a rotten, wretch of a sinner.  

The idea of God having loving, gracious, giving and merciful attributes was kind of an afterthought in most of our conversations about God.  

The fact that everyone around me seemed to be leading with "God is mad at you" when they talked about God, lessened the possibilities I  might have had about seeing God as anything but ticked off.  

It wasn't until years later that I began to embrace new ways of seeing God.  And let's just say that the images of G…

Lessons From An Ice Covered Road

This past week, while on the homeward bound leg of a quick road-trip, we ended up driving into the aftermath of one of the worst snow storms to hit North Texas in a long time.  

The roads were covered in ice, and the few snowplows and salt trucks out working didn't seem to be making a dent in it at all. 

At one point we found ourselves stuck behind what seemed like miles of traffic, dominated by semi-trucks, which were all ground to a halt.  We sat there for over an hour before things started moving.  And even then, we could only crawl forward. 

Then it happened again several miles later.  Only this time we sat for an hour and a half before we could move forward.  

We were feeling helpless, frustrated and anxious as everything seemed so out of our control.  There was nothing we could do, no where to go, no one to appeal to for information, or help.  

There were moments when I began beating myself up, wishing I'd taken another route, gone another way.  

But in the end, we just had to…

How Do You Know You're On The Right Side?

Someone asked me a question yesterday that I've been thinking about ever since.  

I'd just finished preaching about the spiritual discipline of discernment, and how we can become more discerning and make better decisions by relying on our connection to the Holy Spirit of God within us.  

My church member referenced the recent political turmoil in our country, and asked what I thought about the following premise:  Two politicians  on both sides of an issue voting against one another, both thinking they are doing God's will. 

The essential question my church member was posing was this:  "Who's right?"

I didn't have time to give a proper response yesterday after church, but I'd like to try to address it here---mostly because I'm pretty sure there are a bunch of us who are wondering the same thing. 

How do we know what is right, good and true when it comes to the big issues we are facing as a society?  Here's what I believe:  
I believe that God is on t…