Stop Rowing Into the Wind!

Many of you are probably aware that I grew up close to the Potomac River in Woodbridge, Virginia. In all the years I lived around the Potomac, I never saw the river the same twice. I remember coming out at sunrise to ski on the glassy surface—and skiing over huge waves as evening thunderstorms hit and we tried to make it back to shore. I recall crawling out on a heaving pier to help my father-in-law get his boat into a marina during a hurricane. Roepromazperdu I remember beautiful sunrises over a placid river and floods that brought the river over its banks to baptize the surrounding land.

Some years ago, when I was younger and just as foolish as I am today, I took a rowboat out on the Potomac from the riverfront home of my wife’s family and decided to pay a visit to a small island  halfway across to the Maryland shore. It was a blustery day but the wind was with me. I moved fast and with little strain and it seemed only minutes before I covered the mile out to the island.

After a brief exploration of this lonely rock, I decided it was time to head back home. Only the same strong wind that was so helpful in taking me out to the island now conspired to keep me from getting back to Virginia. I rowed and rowed into the wind but made no headway. I grew exhausted and as the boat drifted backwards, I became afraid I’d soon end up a refugee in Maryland.

Forced to use my head (which I tend to do only under extreme circumstances), I realized it made more since to row across the wind, rather than with or against it. Eventually I made the northern point of the small bay I had set out from. I then walked the rowboat along the shallow shore all the way back to my in-law’s beach.

People who live on and along the water understand the unpredictable nature of life. They know how to enjoy the warm and peaceful days while being prepared for the storms. They know there are times God’s love will flow into our lives as easily as the river flows on a calm day; times when emotions will be placid and a steady wind will be at our backs helping us along. There will also be times when waves and winds and storms threaten and no matter how hard we row, we find our strength ebbing, diminishing, disappearing. Those are the times when God’s Spirit encourages us to stop rowing so hard, to humble ourselves, to be still and ask God to give us strength and show us the way home.

Perhaps you’ve grown discouraged rowing into life’s roughest winds – or  found yourself adrift, aimlessly meandering through life toward indeterminate shores. In His Word, God offers to preserve the life of those who trust in him; to renew their life’s purpose, and to restore their joy… even in the hardest of times. Will you trust today in Jesus, the solid rock upon which our lives can withstand the harshest of winds and rains and floods?


Follow the Leader

Do you remember playing Follow the Leader as a child? The “game” can become quite daunting and complicated if the leader goes where the followers don’t want to go – up a high ladder, through mud puddles, squeezing through a dark, tight space (remember, I’m claustrophobic) – or when it means, as in the case of Jesus and his disciples, going to Jerusalem to suffer beyond imagining, to be killed in a public, humiliating way; and to be ultimately raised.

It wasn’t until after our recent trip to Israel that I reflected on the significance of the path Jesus took on the night he was betrayed, arrested, and tried of blasphemy and treason against Caesar. After his last supper with the disciples, he walked down the Mount of Olives, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and was led as a prisoner through the Kidron Valley on the eastern side of Jerusalem.

The Kidron Valley for Jesus and his disciples was the very valley of the shadow of death. The challenge to Peter and James and John and the other disciples after the Last Supper and the subsequent intense time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was “Will I follow Jesus across this valley and into the hands of the powers that seek his death?” “Will I follow Jesus even when the way seems hopeless and there is only darkness ahead?”

During the Last Supper, Peter and his disciples had assured Jesus that they would follow him anywhere. But we know that after Jesus’ arrest, when Jesus was led by soldiers out of the Garden of Gethsemane and across the Kidron Valley to the home of the high priest to be judged, Peter vehemently denied knowing Jesus three times while the other disciples scattered and hid out of fear. Following Jesus across that valley of the shadow of death was more than they could handle.

Contemplating the challenge the disciples faced in crossing that dark, foreboding valley with Jesus, I thought of a very familiar psalm of David (a psalm I recited over and over as my claustrophobia afflicted me body and soul while touring the tunnels of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem). David had two great roles in his life. One was as a King of Israel. But the role he grew up with, the role that shaped his heart more than any other role was that of shepherd.

The 23rd Psalm is written by David from the perspective of a sheep following its shepherd, its leader. I’ve taken this psalm and rewritten it, imagining the perspective of one of Jesus’ disciples on that night when their Shepherd Jesus asked them to trust him even as he led them toward the cross.

Jesus is my Shepherd;
with Him I lack for nothing.
He has fed my soul with truth
among the green hills of Galilee,
He has quieted the stormy waters of the sea
and restored my soul.
He himself is the right and true path
and I will follow that path
for his name’s sake.

He prepares a table in the very presence of his enemies
and invites all of us, unworthy though we are,
to sit and feast with him.
He washes our feet.
He declares bread to be his body,
wine to be his blood.

Though we did not, could not,
understand his words and actions,
I know the One who
has the power of death and the grave
will be with me all the days of my life.

On this, the night of his betrayal,
I walk with him through
the very valley of the shadow of death.
Though the evil of that valley overwhelms me,
I will fight my fears
and the evil threats that lurk
in the shadows;
for he has promised to never leave me;
that his rod and staff will
guide and comfort me forever.

Surely his goodness and grace will follow me
wherever life may take me,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Following Jesus the Leader requires a soul anchored in God’s Word. On the night of his betrayal and trial, Jesus said that whenever we eat the bread and drink the wine of communion, we are declaring to the world our faith in his redemptive death and his promise to be with us always. Another way of putting it is:  when we share be bread and cup of communion, we are blowing our cover… revealing our faith in the madman of Galilee… letting the world know that yes, we do believe that Jesus is the Lamb of God, given for the sins of the world. We are telling the world that, for us, he is the only Leader worth following.


Surreal Israel

Well, we made it back from The Holy Land. And it was surreal.

How? Let me count the ways:

1) The trip itself. In less than 24 hours from the time our group of twelve left the church parking lot on March 5th, we were standing in our hotel rooms staring out at a stormy Sea of Galilee. During the flight we were shamelessly pampered, watching the latest movies on our individual monitors while being served meals and snacks continuously. Outside the plane at 30,000 feet the temperature dipped to minus 81 degrees Fahrenheit while we cruised along at 600 miles per hour.  Oddly, no one seemed the least bit concerned that only inches of aluminum separated us from annihilation. I tried not to point out how much danger we were in—didn’t want to start a panic six miles above the earth.

2) The tourists and pilgrims and residents. Talk about surreal diversity; The Holy Land is a jarring cacophony of races and cultures and religions. It’s both inspiring and disturbing. I spoke with agnostics from the former state of East Germany, Methodists from Malaysia, Lutherans from Michigan, Palestinians from, well, Palestine, and Anglicans from England. Everyone who lives in and visits Israel seems to be searching for something or someone. We just can’t seem to always agree on what to wear and believe and how to act while we search.

3) The land. Most of Israel is rocks. Big ones. Little ones. Ones that have been crushed and crunched and carved by civilizations combing over the land as long as humans have built cities and empires. Some have been reduced to sand. Others to fertile soil. Others are piled around the roots of grapevines to encourage nighttime condensation. The Bible talks a lot about these rocks—Abraham offers his son Isaac on an altar of rock; David defeats Goliath with smooth stones from a streambed; Peter’s faith is a rock; Jesus is a stone who makes men stumble; wise men build their houses on rocks. You can’t go to the Holy Land and ignore the rocks—you might stumble and end up flat on your face.

4) The holy shrines. The Holy Land is a place of old houses of worship built upon even older houses of worship. So much has happened there over the past five millennia that many archeological digs have two to twenty layers as cities built upon cities are uncovered. It seems that every biblical event has an awe-inspiring chapel or cathedral commemorating its importance to our faith story. And we think Virginia is history-crazy!

5) My faith in God. As I encountered the sights and sounds and smells of the Holy Land for the second time, I couldn’t help but feel a certain amount of spiritual disorientation. Here saints stumbled and sinners found faith and sanctification; Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal, Stephen was stoned, Jesus was crucified and the Church was born.  The Holy Land is both a challenge and a comfort to your faith. It stubbornly refuses to give up its secrets without a fight. But for those who dedicate themselves to hearing the stories its rocks have to tell, the fight is well worth the sacrifice.

Grace and peace,


Peter’s Story – Our Story

In the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, we’re doing a lot of thinking about Peter and his relationship with Jesus. Peter—the poster boy for the extremes of faith and doubt. Faith enough to drop his fishing nets and follow Jesus. Doubt enough to sink into the stormy sea when Jesus invites him to walk on water. Faith enough to confess Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Doubt enough to deny he even knew Jesus when Jesus needed him the most.

Can you relate to Peter? How easy it is to sing “Trust and Obey” when standing in a sanctuary surrounded by Christians. How hard it is to live out the words of that song when surrounded at work or college or home by skeptics. We’ve all got at least a bit of Peter in us. His faith story is in many ways our faith story as we head toward the cross and the resurrection.

Peter’s relationship with Jesus (and the relationships of all the other disciples) was limited in the same way as all human relationships are limited—by time and space. Jesus often went away to pray in lonely places. He sometimes left his disciples to their fishing while he took care of other matters. Peter, (who knew that John the Baptist was beheaded for his preaching) knew deep down that there was the very real possibility that Jesus might meet a similar fate. He saw and heard the grumblings of the religious authorities. He felt the tenuous nature of his Master’s ministry.

This makes Peter’s faith in Jesus before the resurrection all the more remarkable because he knew the very human Jesus and it was this Jesus he was asked to place his faith in. Yes, Jesus was a miracle-worker. Yes, he shared God’s truth in startling ways. Yes, he confounded the teachers of the law and stood toe to toe with the religious authorities. But it must have been difficult at times for Peter to see past the humanity of Jesus and perceive the extent of his divinity— fully human while fully God.

We, however, live in a post-resurrection world. After the resurrection, Peter’s faith takes on a super-human flavor. Roepromazperdu He has seen the empty tomb; he has witnessed the risen Christ, he has been overwhelmed by the Spirit of Pentecost. Peter’s faith expands exponentially as Jesus becomes his constant companion. He lives in Peter’s heart and he need never fear again as he had on the waters of the Galilee. Rather than cowering before the taunts of others who accuse Peter of being a friend of Jesus, Peter stands before hostile councils and massive crowds of unbelievers and proclaims the gospel of his Lord.

We live in a post-resurrection world where Jesus is with us always. Where he promises to never leave us alone. Where we have been buried with him in baptism and raised to a new life, living by faith and not sight. As we approach Easter Sunday, embrace this good news—Jesus has stormed and conquered the very gates of hell and invites us to live in the reality of God’s eternal Kingdom!






Anticipation of a New Creation

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing.”  Isaiah 55:12


Anticipation is a less than hopeful word in our contemporary world. We are reminded daily that our future includes melting polar icecaps, rising sea levels, and a deteriorating ozone layer. The U. S. political system is most often described as chaotic, corrupt, and incapable of steering our nation on a clear and consistent course. Churches wring their hands as pews steadily empty. We are more likely to anticipate a future of a world on life support than the biblical vision of a restored and new creation without death or suffering.

Yet, from the psalms to the prophets to Jesus to Paul, the anticipation we encounter is not of a world spiraling out of control. In the midst of wars and suffering and cultural chaos, the Scriptures share a vision of the future where God transforms our mourning into joyful celebration.

Can we anticipate that future in our Lenten journey beginning this Wednesday and lasting through the end of March? How can we get past the daily reminders of our human situation and the decay that threatens our very existence? Some years ago I read a magazine article in which a man addressed his wife’s concerns that as her body aged he would fall out of love with her. He reminded her that every stretch mark, every wrinkle, and every grey hair were the product of a shared experience in their marriage. He would not change one cell in her body, for to do so would be a denial of trials and triumphs of their life together.

I loved that magazine column. Reflecting on it through the lens of a follower of Christ, I believe it has a deeper spiritual meaning for those whose hope for the future is in God. Every one of us has scars we wish would disappear. I mourn the hair I’ve lost, the wrinkles I’ve gained through worry, the age spots on my hands that mark the advancing years.

But these are the marks of the life I’ve lived; the life I’ve accepted as a gift from God. Lent asks us to remember, not deny, our humanity and all it entails. We begin with the mark of an ashen cross on the forehead and proceed with disciplines of fasting, and prayer, and devotion so that we might discover deeper truths about ourselves and our God. Lent does not ask us to pretend we are something we are not, to erase the evidence of our humanity. Instead we are asked to focus on our human frailties in order to fully appreciate the gift of the cross and the power of the resurrection. Lent asks us to believe that the end of the human journey is not universal catastrophic annihilation. Rather, it is the unveiling of a new creation where Christ welcomes and embraces us with nail-scarred hands. Those scars we treasure as the living proof of his humanity – and of his love. They remind us that even in the midst of our suffering and angst, God has a plan for us that extends beyond the tomb.

Now, that is something to anticipate.


The Basement

My dad was a printer and our basement was his print shop for the first ten years of my life. His business and my birth coincided—we moved into a new house in Woodbridge, Virginia when I was ten days old, a cracker box house that had a basement big enough to hold his printing equipment. I grew up with the smell of ink. Our black and white television with its rabbit ears and three stations was tucked into the southeast corner of the print shop, next to the area where print jobs were collated and stapled. My little brother Allen’s playpen was set among the presses. A bit of a child prodigy, he learned to read at the age of three by observing the printing on the boxes of paper stacked by his living space.

That basement was the center of my young world. It’s where I first saw my all-time favorite movie “King Kong” and daily watched “Superman” and “Popeye.” I constantly played with my Slinky toy on the stairs leading down to the basement. Occasionally I found myself falling down those same stairs (I lacked my Slinky’s grace), only to be scooped up in my dad’s comforting arms as I cried out in pain.

If I have any rhythm, it comes from the constant percussion of the printing presses running night and day. Day after day I stood with my dad by an old letterpress as he magically slipped paper onto the moving platen without ever losing a finger. When it was time to enter first grade, I didn’t want to leave my dad’s side. Since my school was on “split shifts,” my bus didn’t pick me up until ten each morning. Many a morning I clung desperately to my dad’s legs, begging him to let me stay home.

My dad was a hard worker and for many years he seemed a prisoner of his business. But he never failed to pay attention to me and include me in his work, even when I was too young to be of much help. As I finished elementary school, my dad moved his business into downtown Woodbridge. My siblings and I became latch key kids as my mom worked with him to build the company into an even bigger enterprise.

My dad must have sensed what had been lost in that move—our constant companionship in the basement print shop. Though he could never attend my afternoon middle school football games, he took time in the evenings to throw the football with me. He became involved in my Scout troop. He began to attend Sunday worship every week and his faith grew exponentially. I know he was often “bone-tired” and his feet were “worn to the nubs” at the end of a long day, but he still made time for me.

I’ve been thinking about this because by the time you read these recollections, Christmas will be over and a new year begun. Have you ever wondered why certain childhood memories stubbornly dig into the forefront of your mind; why they can be replayed over and over without wearing out or fading while other memories disappear almost as quickly as they are recorded? Perhaps it’s because they are the memories of a parent’s love, memories that are more precious than gold.

If you are a parent or grandparent or neighbor or teacher, I hope you are creating lasting memories with the children around you. In Newtown, Connecticut, parents are longing to have one more moment with the children they lost in that unspeakable horror. Every moment we share with a child has the potential to live in that child’s heart forever. Treat those moments as holy and precious.

May God grant you His grace and peace in this new year of new hope.



Led by the Spirit of God

“Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying, but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic?” – Lily Tomlin

When you pray, don’t forget to read God’s Word and listen for God’s Spirit, speaking to you and leading you through every gate and doorway of life. In the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel account, Simeon bases his life on God’s personal promise that he will not die without seeing the Lord’s promised one. One momentous day he is led by the Holy Spirit into the temple courts where he encounters Joseph and Mary and the infant Jesus, and prophesies of the child’s mission and destiny according to that same Spirit. It was God’s Word and the Spirit’s leading that changed the course of his life and brought him his greatest joy. Prayer is a conversation. The one who listens – as well as speaks – receives the joy-filled, grace-driven, life-changing rewards of a relationship with the Father.

The House Grandma Built

“The House Grandma Built”

A message delivered on All Saints Sunday, November 2008

            I was only seven years old when my Grandma Stone died. She lived just outside Nashville Tennessee on our old family farm; I lived 12 hours away in northern Virginia. As a result we only saw each other about once a year. The year before she died she came and stayed with our family for the best month of my life. In those four weeks she taught me what I call “The BLT lessons of Life:  Biscuits, Laughter, and Teeth.” Let me explain why those three words are the keys to unlocking the memories of my grandma that have remained in my heart for almost five decades.

First, the biscuits. In our little house’s tight galley kitchen, I’d watch Grandma Stone create the biscuit mix from scratch with flour and baking powder and butter and milk, roll it out with a rolling pin, toss a blizzard of flour over the raw dough and then take a plastic drinking cup and cut out the biscuits. Those biscuits are still the best I ever ate. We’d stab butter and jelly or honey into the biscuit’s belly and eat knowing that there was not only no better taste in the world, there was no better smell, no better texture, no better food on God’s good earth. Long before Hardee’s mass-produced breakfast biscuits, I was eating them every day for lunch at school with a slab of ham, eggs, or bacon in the middle.

After Lydia and I were married I remained a biscuit addict. Early in our marriage, before we had children, we sat at our tiny dinner table in the kitchen with our nightly ration and after a few minutes Lydia asked, “What happened to the biscuits?” I looked at the basket with a mixture of surprise and that shame peculiar to husbands who have been caught being oblivious to their wife’s needs. I had eaten nine of the ten biscuits she had baked, as easily as if I had breathed them in. Years later I’ve had to join a sort of Biscuits Anonymous. The great tragedy of my middle age is that I can no longer eat biscuits on a regular basis – each biscuit means an extra hour at the gym and I can’t spend nine hours a day working out.

So aside from their gastronomical and aesthetic value – and aside from the weight they added to my torso – what do these biscuits have to do with who I am today? The mystery of why some memories stay with us and some disappear into the vaporous recesses of our minds, is that we are most likely to remember those things that impacted us the most, that left a deep and lasting impression and somehow connected us to the larger mysteries of life. Here are two life lessons I learned from watching my grandmother prepare those country biscuits from scratch:

Number one: Nothing went to waste in the production. After the first biscuits were cut out of the flat dough, the remnants were then folded back into each other, rolled out again and more biscuits cut until there was no dough left. So grandma was teaching me that there’s value in even the smallest remnant, there’s value in the leftovers, there’s value in what may at first appear as waste. Find value in everything. Don’t throw away anything that has value, especially people.

Number two:  As a rule in life, the simplest pleasures are the best. The ingredients for the biscuits were few and common. The tools to make them were basic. They only took ten minutes to bake – even though that was the longest ten minutes of my adolescent day. You don’t need to travel to Europe and drop a couple of hundred dollars on your credit card to know the paradise of taste. Paradise was right there in our little kitchen at 149 Cardinal Drive, created by a simple country grandmother from Mt. Juliet Tennessee. Grandma’s biscuits taught me that the simplest pleasures of life are the best and they are free. I later learned that Jesus once shared that wisdom on a hillside with his disciples when he told them to look around at the simple beauty of nature and behold how its glory outshines the greatest achievements of a man.

The second part of grandma’s BLT wisdom was Laughter. To my mom and dad and brother and sister, my real name seemed to be “Smart-Aleck.” I heard that name used so often in a derogatory fashion that I came to believe that my title of Smart-Aleck was right up there with Hitler and Satan.

So when grandma came and laughed at my juvenile attempts at being funny, for the first time in my life I had a fan. I remember her hugs, her smiles, the times she laughed so hard I thought her false teeth would fall out. I appreciated that laughter so much. Up to this point I thought that my natural tendency to want to be a clown was a huge flaw, a characteristic that would have to be purged if I was going to survive to manhood.

But grandma made me feel like a star and I began to see that humor was sometimes a good thing and not just something I’d get punished for. Grandma gave me the gift of her laughter and an appreciation for my own. She seemed to understand that I needed someone to believe in me at that time in my life, someone to say that not every impulse of my heart was bad.

A couple of years before her last visit with our family, Grandma gave me one of my first lasting memories. I was singing in the Christmas pageant at a little Baptist church. Not just singing but the soloist on “Away in a Manger.” I was only five and I had a speech impediment. I could not say my hard “L’s” so my version went like this:  “… the wittle ward Jesus way down his sweet head.” Grandma’s reaction? She laughed and hugged me and told me she had never heard anything like it in her life. She was so proud of me. And I felt that pride and the kindred spirit of my grandmother.

The third and last part of grandma’s BLT wisdom was found in her Teeth or lack thereof. Every evening before going to bed, grandma invited me to come and witness what to a seven-year-old boy seemed like the coolest thing on earth. She could take her teeth out. She’d remove her false teeth dramatically and then with a great flourish drop them into a glass of water on her nightstand. The only thing that came close to this dramatic act was watching my Uncle Clyde drop his glass eye into a cup of water on his nightstand. I’d stare at those teeth smiling back at me from that glass and then look at grandma’s now toothless smile and I became her biggest fan. Grandma was way cool.

From that nightly routine I learned that it’s alright to make fun of yourself, to be self-deprecating. Grandma didn’t care how funny she looked without her teeth. She was completely at ease with her tooth-lessness. She had her faith. She had her church. She had her Lord. She was saying with godly wisdom that it was OK for me to be comfortable with who I am – and what I look like – to be comfortable in my own skin. Because this is the person God sees and loves, the person God made for a reason. Because of her, I’m OK with me..

Sometimes we think that most of what we learn in life comes in the form of rules and verbal instructions in a classroom, of formal teachings and rational arguments. But we also learn at another level, a learning of lessons that take place in the simple act of being with others who love and care for us and set a godly example. Proverbs 3:3 has a father saying to his son to learn the wisdom of his elders: Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

I believe that if the commandments of God are to be truly written on the heart, worn around the neck, become an integral part of a child’s life, they must be reinforced by the living out of these commandments by parents and mentors. Nothing escapes the attention of a child. They can smell hypocrisy as easily as I could smell my grandma’s country biscuits. Our children are not only listening to us. They are watching us. They are interpreting our actions and judging our sincerity. They are storing up in their hearts either memories of parents and grandparents and mentors and pastors who took seriously God’s Word and Law, or bitter experiences that build a wall of distrust and suspicion of adults  – and even the God those adults purport to believe in.

The lessons my grandmother taught me remain bound around my neck, written down on the tablet of my heart. Her faith was shaped by the little clapboard church just down the rocky road from her farm, a church that couldn’t hold more than 50 people. Her heart was shaped by the love of God that surrounded her every day, the love she discovered in her grandchildren and in the simple joys of life. It was the love she shared with me – a skinny, wild, rough-housing young boy – that gave credence to the instruction she passed on. It was by the godly wisdom of her ways, and of others who loved us children in word and deed. that the house of our lives was built. It was by her biblically-honed understanding of what we children really needed that our home was established. It was through the knowledge of life I learned by the lessons she taught me that the rooms of my life have been filled with rare and beautiful treasures – the rarest and most beautiful of all being the knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

            Not long after the last time my grandmother visited us, she fell ill and passed away. I had told my second grade teacher about my grandmother’s illness. The day after my grandmother went to her heavenly reward, I went to school and was at the blackboard when Miss Drake asked me if my grandmother was doing better. I broke down and cried and Miss Drake sent me to the school infirmary to lie down and have some time to recover. It was my first experience with real grief, the first time someone close to me had died. In her dying, my grandmother taught me one last lesson – death hurts. It really hurts.

But thanks be to God  – this isn’t the end of my grandma’s story. God’s trustworthy Word proclaims that Christ has died and risen and defeated death. My grandmother has not only inherited a place in my heart but also a mansion in glory filled with treasure beyond measure, a house built not by human hands but by the Christ who prepared it with love, who fills it with his eternal truth. This promise of glory, the promise that one day I will smell those biscuits again as I walk the heavenly roads, a smell that will lead me into her arms, I keep stored in my heart.

I rise up and call her name blessed for all she taught me about life and faith, for her wisdom, her understanding, her knowledge that came from her relationship with God. Will your children, the children of your church, the children of your community rise up and call your name blessed long after the last, fading echoes of your words have been heard on this earthly plain? Will they call you blessed because behind your words there was a wisdom and understanding and knowledge of God that strengthened and enriched their lives? May God make it so. Amen.

Flawed Heroes

A few years ago I came across the following list of Bible “heroes.” This litany of familiar biblical names is a reminder that God can use even the most flawed among us to bring about His will. If you are having doubts as to whether or not God can use you as a positive force in His Church and Kingdom, remember these heroes of the Bible. Perhaps – despite all your flaws, weaknesses, and mistakes in life – God is calling you, as he called them, to step up and step out.

  • Noah was a drunk and Abraham was too old
  • Isaac was a daydreamer
  • Jacob was a liar and Leah was ugly
  • Joseph, was abused by his brothers
  • Moses had a stuttering problem
  • Gideon was afraid
  • Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer
  • Rahab was a prostitute
  • Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
  • David had an affair and was a murderer
  • Elijah was suicidal Isaiah preached naked
  • Jonah ran from God
  • Naomi was a widow
  • Job went bankrupt
  • John the Baptist ate bugs
  • Peter denied Christ
  • The Disciples fell asleep while praying
  • Martha worried about everything
  • The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
  • Zaccheus was too small
  • Paul was too religious
  • Timothy had an ulcer
  • AND Lazarus was dead!


The Choice

Your father calls you into his room one evening, sitting down to discuss the crisis in Somalia. People are dying, victims of starvation and war and disease. He tells you that before they die, most suffer in ways you can’t imagine.

Your father reveals there is only one way to save these people, to end the suffering and genocide. You must go to Somalia personally. When you go it will not be in the manner of a quick-fix hero swooping down in a helicopter, dumping sacks of food into remote villages while thankful villagers jump for joy and sing your praises. It won’t be as a United Nations official negotiating peace between warring parties and acquiring a Nobel Peace Prize in the process.

It will be as a nobody. There will be nothing special about your appearance that will cause people to listen to you. You will have to be reborn as a tiny, vulnerable baby, trusting in two noble but fallible human beings who will fulfill the role of parents. You will be born among the goats with the stench of manure all around. You will have no official power or authority, no diplomas, no credentials that declare this is a person who matters, a person they should respect and listen to. You will be given the mission to declare to the people of Somalia that there is one way out of their misery and you are that way.

Some will listen. Most won’t. You will make enemies of the power brokers who have a vested interest in things staying the same. You will make enemies of the local religious officials who have learned the art of accommodation and compromise. Riots will break out because of you and in the end a mob will attack you, drive nails into you, howl at you, insult you, shred you of every bit of human decency. Roepromazperdu . Yet, the father who asks you to take on this mission assures you that by submitting to all of this – by giving up your family, your wealth, your power – you will ensure the salvation of the Somalian people.

Would you do it? Would you go? Would you do what Jesus did for you?