For Abigail

About 7 weeks ago Cheryl and I were babysitting our youngest, and only granddaughter, Abigail (we have been blessed with four precious grandsons). I had been working on another soft classical tune in my mind on my German Hofner classical guitar. Abigail was fussy and did not want to take her nap. So I pulled this tune out, slightly unfinished, and played it for her while Cheryl held her. Lights Out! She literally closed her eyes and immediately fell asleep. May I say a word to you about the role of quiet, soft, melodic music.

1 Samuel 16:14-23

Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the LORD tormented him. 
And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. 
Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” 
So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.” 
One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him.” 
Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.” 
And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul. 
And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 
And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.” 
And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.


When David played upon the lyre (a close example of one below) king Saul was “refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him” (vs. 23b). Saul was a wicked and ungodly king who detested the Lord. However, the Lord’s Spirit led him to govern, out of mercy for Israel. But the Lord also sent a judgmental depressive and sorrowful spirit (emotional grievance), upon the wicked king. But yet, God was merciful. He sent David, a lowly shepherd who was skilled at playing instruments. And when David played for the wicked king in his depression, the Lord was gracious to remove the darkness of anxiety, sorrow, and gloom of hope.

Since the age of 9 I have played countless hours for my parents and sisters and family, wife, children, grandchildren, college and seminary audiences, my church family, and many others – on front porches, back yards, nursing homes, assisted living, para-church organizations, schools, chapels of sorts, and hospital rooms. It has been and still is a great blessing from the Lord to be used to bring live music into peoples lives. But where is this really coming from? Certainly not from me.

It comes from The Musical God that loves us with Music. Music is a gift given to us from a musical God. He knows music better than Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart. Every note on the treble cleff and the G cleff (bass cleff) is ordained of God to produce an infinite array of sounds that to this day speak to an arena of emotions. Our God is incredibly merciful to us to sooth our sorrows through music.

May the Lord be your source of quietness in these days as we wait upon him who offers himself to us so that we may wean our hearts from anxiety and fear as a child is weaned with its mother (Psalm 131).


Abide With Me, Fast Falls the Eventide

This past Sunday we worshiped the Lord with this beautiful hymn/prayer. Here is the history behind it. May you be encouraged!

Abide with Me” is a Christian hymn by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte (June 1, 1793 – November 20, 1847). It is most often sung to the tune Eventide by William Henry Monk. For most of his life Lyte suffered from poor health, and he would regularly travel abroad for relief, as was customary at that time.

There is some controversy as to the exact dating of the text to Abide with Me. An article in The Spectator, 3 Oct. 1925, says that Lyte composed the hymn in 1820 while visiting a dying friend. It was related that Lyte was staying with the Hore family in County Wexford and had visited an old friend, William Augustus Le Hunte, who was dying. As Lyte sat with the dying man, William kept repeating the phrase “Abide With Me…”. After leaving William’s bedside Lyte wrote the hymn and gave a copy of it to Le Hunte’s family.

The belief is that when Lyte felt his own end approaching twenty-seven years later at the age of 54, as he developed tuberculosis, he recalled the lines he had written so many years before in County Wexford, Ireland. The Biblical link for the hymn is Luke 24:29 in which the disciples asked Jesus to abide with them “for it is toward evening and the day is spent”. Using his friend’s more personal phrasing “Abide with Me”, Lyte composed the hymn. His daughter, Anna Maria Maxwell Hogg, recounts the story of how “Abide with Me” came out of that context:

The summer was passing away, and the month of September arrived, and each day seemed to have a special value as being one day nearer his departure. His family were surprised and almost alarmed at his announcing his intention of preaching once more to his people. His weakness and the possible danger attending the effort, were urged to prevent it, but in vain. “It was better”, as he used to say often playfully, when in comparative health, “to wear out than to rust out”. He felt that he should be enabled to fulfill his wish, and feared not for the result. His expectation was well founded. He did preach, and amid the breathless attention of his hearers, gave them a sermon on the Holy Communion … In the evening of the same day he placed in the hands of a near and dear relative the little hymn, “Abide with Me,” with an air of his own composing, adapted to the words.[1]

Just weeks later, on 20 November 1847 in Nice, France, then in the Kingdom of Sardinia, Lyte died. The hymn was sung for the very first time at Lyte’s funeral.

The Moon is Always Round

Yesterday in worship we, Grace Community Church, made available to our congregation to purchase this book to read to their little ones; we previously bought a handy bulk of them so that they could be available to our church family.

I heartily encourage you to get a copy for your children or grandchildren, or for a young child that you care about this Christmas Season who has experienced great sorrow, so that they too can trust that God is Always good even when we can’t see the fullness of his beauty in the midst of sorrow. The Moon is Always Round even when we can’t see the fullness of it’s beauty in the midst of darkness – that’s the way it is with God!


Ballad of the Unborn

Image result for abortion

In 1972, the year before our government sanctioned the legal ability to put a human to death while growing inside his/her mother, Fay Clayton wrote and published this poem on November 8, seeing what was coming. Do not confuse this Fay Clayton with the Fay Clayton of 1994 who was a Chicago attorney for the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.) who successfully sued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court that abortion protesters can be sued for racketeering.

Anyway, back to Fay Clayton of 1972. Her poem deserves our prayers that abortion in America would be outlawed like it is in . . . “The Ballad of the Unborn”

My shining feet will never run
On early morning lawn;
My feet were crushed before they had
A chance to greet the dawn

My fingers will never stretch
To touch the winning tape;
My race was done before I learned
The smallest steps to take

My growing height will never be
Recorded on a wall;
My growth was stopped when I was still
Unseen and very small

My lips and tongue will never taste
The good fruits of the earth;
For I myself was judged to be
A fruit of little worth

My eyes will never scan the sky
For my high-flying kite;
For when still blind, destroyed were they
In the black womb of the night

I’ll never stand upon a hill
Spring winds in my hair;
Aborted winds of thought closed in
On motherhood’s despair

I’ll never walk the shores of life
Or know the tides of time;
For I was coming but unloved,
And that my only crime

Nameless am I, a grain of sand
One of the countless dead,
But the deed that make me ashen grey
Floats on seas of red

Beto O’Rourke knows the difference between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Image result for beto o'rourke

Islam, Orthodox Judaism, and Christianity all have one thing in common: Monotheism, the belief that there is One God. But only Christianity believes that there are three persons (Trinitarianism) within that one Godhead: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This post has very little to do with defending the teaching of the Trinity according to what Jesus said, but rather highlights a peculiar distaste and intolerance for one specific people: he who is commonly known as O’Rourke hates Christians – he is Christophobic! Proof?

He is more than ready to punish any follower of Jesus Christ for believing that sex and marriage belongs only to a man and a woman . . . but he’s not going after Muslims who believe and follow the Q’uran and Mohammad’s teaching that homosexuals should die, nor is he going after Orthodox Jews who believe it’s an abomination, but only those, as he said, within the “church” – i.e., those who love and follow Jesus Christ. Which means, O’Rourke is just peachy with Monotheism that condemns homosexuality but not with Trinitarianism that condemns homosexuality. You can believe that there is One God and reject homosexuality and you are safe from political percussion and assassination within the Democratic clubhouse, but if you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God [the Father], born of the Holy Spirit, and reject homosexuality, then you are a homophobic and you will be silenced and punished!

You see, the real issue is not what kind of sexuality is permissible, but rather, what kind of belief is permissible. You can believe that there is One God and condemn homosexuality, but you cannot believe that Jesus is both God and Man and condemn homosexuality . . . and THAT IS WHY O’Rourke and many like him despise Christianity, not because we believe that there is One God (like the Muslim and Orthodox Jew), but because we believe that Jesus is the Sovereign Lord of the Universe who was raised from the dead and will return and judge those who rejected him and his teaching about sexuality, which has to do with one groom and one bride.

If O’Rourke wants to remove all tax exemptions from any and everyone who prohibits any kind of sexual activity outside of a married man and woman, then I suggest he storm the gates of every Mosque and Synagogue in America and to their face condemn them for their homophobic views! But he won’t – and no one on his side of the sexual-gender-redefinition-revolution will either. Why not? Because sex is not the issue: it’s Jesus! Jesus himself said that they will come after you not because of any of your moral/sexual positions of teaching, but because of HIM! Islam, Orthodox Judaism, and Christianity have two things in common: we all believe there is One God and we all believe that sex belongs only to a married man and woman. But what we don’t have in common is that Jesus is both fully God and Man and that Jesus, the Groom, married a wife, the church, and that between Jesus and his bride is THE standard for all human marriage (Gen. 2; Matt. 19; Eph. 5). That is why Jesus said that you will be hated by every nation on the earth (Matthew 24:9), and that includes America and it’s elitist-intolerant-Voldemorts!

Image result for voldemort

Jesus himself is the most threatening person that ever lived. And by the political elites’ actions in recent years, they are proving Him right. For if Jesus is still dead, they would not be fighting so hard against Him.

He Lives! He’s the Real King! He’s Coming! And he’s bringing his vengeance upon those who rejected Him and His Father (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). But for all those who have loved him, and have suffered the world’s rejection because of him, nothing but glory and everlasting peace (vss. 5-12).


Jesus – the best Chess Player in the World!

Timeless Chess Set - Chess Set - Chess-House

Ever since 7th grade I have loved playing chess, and for many reasons. Here is one: I would rather stalemate than lose. But not Jesus: he purposely lost the game so that we would both win. Let me explain, if I can:

In the game of Chess,  a stalemate occurs when one player gets the others’ king in a position where everywhere the king tries to move he puts himself in check,  or, “line of fire” and that’s illegal.  If this happens it is because there are no other pieces for the player with the stalled king to move – they’re all taken or blocked and it’s his turn to move but he can’t.  And since the attacking opponent cannot move until his opponent does – which he can’t,  the game is stalemate.  Why?  Because neither party has the authority or power to move.  Neither party,  by rules of the game,  can overcome the stalemate.

Jesus lamented over the Jews saying,  “O Jerusalem,  Jerusalem,  the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together,  as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,  but you were not willing.  See!  Your house is left to you desolate”  (Matthew 23:37-38).  Israel is unwilling to make a move toward her Messiah and Jesus can’t move toward her to rescue her because she is unwilling.  Jesus wants to save her but he can’t because she does not want to be saved – thus, there is a stalemate!  Neither party can do anything.   Neither party is getting what they want.  Israel is not getting what she wants,  her Messiah,  because she is not willing to come to Jesus,  the only Messiah for Israel;  and Jesus is not getting what he wants,  his Jewish Remnant,  because he is not willing to do anything more than to wait and hope.   If Israel is to be saved,  someone must be willing and have the authority to break out of the stalemate.

A student of Matthew’s gospel may object to the sincerity of Jesus’ desire to save Israel since Jesus was the one who hid the truth from them by speaking in parables,  insuring that judgment would fall upon them as Isaiah foretold (Matthew 13:10-15;  Luke 8:10).  But God’s Divine initiative to judge his people with spiritual blindness because of their sin does not invalidate His desire to save them.  God can be both severe and desirous at the same time.  But this is no game!  We are not simply gazing at carved inanimate objects on a board;  we are staring with sorrow at generations of Jews,  millions and millions of them who have come under a severe blindness from God.  Our humble comfort is that it was not total and that it was not without a good purpose! (Romans 11:25).

More broadly speaking, if Jesus only offers himself and does nothing more for our unwilling hearts then everyone loses.  Someone has to be unwilling to suffer the stalemate any longer,  and this someone has to have the power and authority to break position.  The question is:  Who is this someone?  The answer is Jesus! “. . . For not all (physical) Israel belong to (spiritual) Israel”, and, “And in this way all Israel will be saved”, that is, both Jew and Gentile who have been chosen by God (Romans 9:6ff; 11:26-27).  It is true,  no one will see Jesus as the Messiah unless the Father causes you to see who Jesus is (Matthew 11:27; 16:17).  In order for anyone to see Jesus as her Messiah he must be made to see with new eyes.  This is where the stalemate ends – and it ends with God who refuses to be resisted any longer (Romans 9:19-24).  For everyone, both Jew and Gentile, our only hope is God’s sovereign initiative to give us a willing heart,  without which,  no one has any ability or desire to do what they need to do (Deut. 30:6;  Jer. 31:33-34; 33:19-26; John 6:37ff).

I said earlier that Jesus can’t do anything but hope and wait.  That would be true if Jesus was not sovereign and merciful.  It would be perfectly just of Jesus to only offer himself to people who are unwilling – but that’s the problem,  sinners will always be unwilling.  But it would be merciful if he would “break position”  and “pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication;  then they will look on Me whom they pierced.  Yes,  they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son,  and grieve for him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10).  The Stalemate Is Canceled By Sovereign Grace!  It is gracious indeed for God to offer salvation to unwilling sinners (Romans 10:21).  But it is Sovereign Grace that goes beyond the mere offer (Romans 11:27) that makes unwilling sinners willing (John 6:37ff; 10:16, 26-30; 17:1-10)!

I’m so thankful that Jesus cleverly overcame a stalemate that would have cost me my eternal soul . . . he out-maneuvered my rebellion against him and graciously won the game on my behalf by losing his life so that I could live. It’s a win-win!

Can you smell the color 9?


I have never audibly heard the voice of God.

I have never been given a vision.

I have never spoken in tongues.

I have never seen anyone healed immediately from a crippling disease or anything else for that matter.

I have never seen any visible sign that was clearly from the Lord. (However, I absolutely believe that God sent an angel to keep me safe at a particular point in my life – Heb. 13:2; I should tell you this story in an upcoming post.)

Point: I have lived my entire walk with Jesus, up to this moment (from age 11 to now), with only the witness of those who did receive public, in full view, verifiable proof of God’s amazing displays that Jesus is the Son of God, whispered throughout the Old Testament, and visibly lived out in what the world has come to know as the Life of Christ (the reason for the creation of the Anno Domini, A.D/ B.C Calendar)! BTY, read the gospel of John). 

I came across Chris Rice many years ago and have purchased most of his music – he’s solid to the core, an exceptional pianist, and is a reliable musician that will lead you to worship the living Lord Jesus Christ.

This song in particular that is posted was one that truly ministered to me many years ago because of the above intro: When I murmur and question,  “Is God Real? . . . Is Jesus, God’s Son – Real? . . . Am I Real? . . . Is this Gospel of Jesus Christ explained out by the apostles – Real? . . . “O God, sometimes finding you, is like trying to smell the color 9?”

But that is the way it is for some of us who love Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. This is why John recorded in his gospel, 21:26-29:

“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Later on, all of those disciples paid with their very lives that Jesus was raised from the dead . . .

I cannot deny what the Spirit is saying, “Jesus is the real thing . . . Believe and Follow!”


That was a first for me . . .

Image result for marriage

Today was a first for me. I had the great privilege to marry a middle-age couple on Sunday morning, in the worship service – that last last part was the “first for me.” Never once in over 23 years of pastoral ministry have we had a wedding on Sunday morning, part of the worship service. And I loved it. I’ve always imagined it but never thought that it would ever happen. Below is a portion of what I said, with a few annotated remarks.

“A Sure Foundation for Marriage”

Ephesians 2:19-22; 5:21-33

Evolution cannot explain why a man and a woman would get married . . . mate? – yes! But not marriage. If Charles Darwin was right, no man would voluntarily submit himself to live with one woman and provide for her, serve her, love her alone, and stick around to care for the children. (I interjected here 2 Cor. 5:15 that we are inescapably selfish and desire only to live for ourselves, of which, Christ came to free us). If Charles Darwin was right no woman would voluntarily submit herself to live with one man who still can’t find the laundry basket and put his dishes away. Left to ourselves, mankind would    never have invented marriage.

But being made in the image of God we instinctively know that marriage, that making a covenant to love one another and no one else till death parts us is not a cultural tradition – it’s grounded in the historic death, burial, and resurrection of Christ which was planned before the world began. God the Father created human marriage to display Christ and the Church whether or not mankind realizes that he is actually participating in a divine and sacred institution.

The mystery is that human marriage is a living drama of Christ and his bride – the church.  We learn from Christ and the church what are the roles of husband and wives.  Paul’s point is that the roles between husband and wife and not arbitrarily assigned and they are not reversible without obscuring God’s purpose for marriage.  The roles of husband and wife are rooted in the distinctive roles of Christ and his church.  God means to say something about his Son and his Church by the way husbands and wives relate to each other.

Which means, this wedding today is not founded on a perfect past, or even the hopes of compatibility. (here again I interjected that no one is truly compatible and that compatiblism is a false foundation for marriage; sooner or later, what you find in common will run its course and you will be at odds with each other – then what?). This wedding is founded on the historic fact that Christ died for our sins – a sinless Savior voluntarily submitted himself to the cross so that a sinful bride, true lovers of Jesus Christ, would be made whole.

The mutual submission to one another in vs 21 does not rule out a husbands special responsibility to lead and a wife’s special responsibility to support that leadership with her gifts.

Christ submitted himself to the church in one way: with a servant-leadership that cost him his life.  And the church submits herself to Christ in another way: by honoring his leadership and following him.

So Mutual submission in 5:21 does not rule out distinction in the rest of the chapter:  I submit to Cheryl and she submits to me – but not in the same way.  I submit to lead her with Christ-like leadership and she submits to follow me with church-like submission.  And the foundation for such a union is based upon what Christ did for sinners who have been forgiven of their sins.

(as in all weddings that I preside over, I speak directly to the couple, and back and forth with the congregation, beginning now . . . )

  1. Know yourself and know your spouse as one that Christ died for.                     Long before Paul addressed husbands and wives in particular (5:22ff), he addressed you in chapter one and two as one who was chosen for salvation before the world began, blessed you with every spiritual blessing, that you would be holy and blameless in Christ, predestined you for adoption, redeemed you in Christ before you were born, made you alive in Christ before you were born, gave his Spirit to you, a guarantee for your future inheritance, and saved you by his grace.

Here is why this is so important: if your identity is grounded in anything else you will struggle to not only to be honest with your sins but you will struggle to love one another when you have failed, feeling that you’re unworthy to love and be loved. Truth is: you already are unworthy to love and be loved (Luke 17:7-10). Knowing who you are in Christ frees you from fearing rejection and frees you from having to be the Savior of your marriage – Christ is the Savior of your marriage.

Headship then takes the lead in reconciliation.  This does not mean that wives should never say they are sorry.  But in the relationship between Christ and his Church, who took the initiative to make all things new?  Who left the comfort and security of his throne to come to Calvary? Who came back to the apostle Peter after three denials? And who has returned to you again and again? – (great is his faithfulness – it is new every morning!) Husbands your headship means – take the lead. It does not matter if it is her fault. That never stopped Christ. Who is going to break the cold silence? – You!

Many times we won’t try unless we have a full proof plan – we don’t like it when we fail – or when we look inept – or weak.  Too often this pride prevents us from starting over again. This means: Wives because you also know yourself as one that Christ died for, and not only you but your husband as well, when he fails, permit your husband to start all over again.  If a husbands’ sin is indifference, apathy, and controlling anger, a wife’s sin is shaming her husband when he fails. When a wife graciously submits to her husbands’ role of leading and serving even though he failed, she is saying in effect,  “I want you to lead me, please don’t ever stop trying.” That is all he will need to try again even at the risk of failure.

  1. Believe that you have been blessed in Christ for this Marriage.

Read Ephesians 1:1-14

Here is where I focused on: “unite all things in him” “works all things according to the counsel of his will” – because of the particular broken promises of previous marriages, I believe these passages (Matt. 19 and 1 Cor. 7), give this couple freedom to “remarry in the Lord”.) 

Every broken promise that broke your heart and every dismissive resignation that          left you empty, will not slip away from the ultimate goal – to the praise of the glory of his grace. And this is how I know: because the lies, the deception, and the murder of Jesus Christ is to the praise of the glory of his grace.

And if what was done to Jesus is the means by which God the Father will fill the universe with joy, then you can count on it: your sins and the sins that have been committed against you will not cancel out the Lord’s plan to give you joy in the beauty and display of God’s grace in your lives. You don’t deserve the joy that you are about to enter – and that’s the point: God is merciful and abounding in steadfast love. If he gave his son how will he not also freely give you all things for your enjoyment of him, not only in this life but especially in the one to come (Rom. 8).