“Do Not Be Afraid!”

Holidays, Thoughts
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, one of the first things he said to her was, "Do not be afraid."  When an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds on the outskirts of Bethlehem, his first words were, "Do not be afraid."  And God's word to you this Christmas is, "Do not be afraid." We live in a fearful world.  On a national and international scale, we are reminded everyday of who and what to fear.  I don't know if our ramped up fear is a result of the 24-hour news cycle, or if the world really is going crazy.  As believers, we know what is behind the craziness.  We know that "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (I Jn 5:19).  Fear, intimidation,…
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Thanksgiving and the New You

Holidays, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
I am a stickler for truth in advertising.  When the Bible talks about God's commands as not burdensome or His yoke as light, I want to know how this happens.  Because, quite frankly, I have felt the weight and burden of Christ's commands and it was not always pleasant.  And I do not think I am alone in that feeling. What lifted the burden for me was an understanding of all that changed at my new birth.  And one of the changes was an infusion of a new nature - an infusion of the righteousness of Christ - such that obeying Christ's commands is now my new normal.  I am not saying my new normal is always easy, but following Christ's commands has become my second nature and yours too. When…
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Merry Christmas from Franklin Tennessee

Holidays, Thoughts
Rhonda and I are wishing you the best of Christmas greetings from our new home in Franklin, Tennessee.  After nearly thirty years of living in Houston, we have relocated to the Volunteer State.  There is definitely a small town feel to Franklin with its thriving downtown square, shotgun style homes on narrow lots, and so much within walking distance.  But we also feel the proximity to Nashville, 25 miles to the north, and all that the Music City has to offer. Our Christmas prayer for you is to experience the "no condemnation" life that God promises to His children.  It is easy - as husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and workers, leaders and ministry partners - to let those around us know that they are not living up to expectations.  It is easy…
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Happy Father’s Day

Holidays, Thoughts
Just a quick shout out to all you dads out there getting the job done as fathers to your children.  Don't let all this current confusion about sexuality and gender roles in marriage and family take away from the fact that YOU ARE VERY NEEDED.  It is common sense:  KIDS NEED A FATHER.  One of the most common expressions for "orphan" in the Bible is "fatherless".  Is that because the Bible is patriarchal, out dated, or out of touch with what makes a modern family?  Not at all.  It is because KIDS NEED A FATHER. I have the utmost empathy and respect for single moms who have found themselves in situations where they have to be both parents.  But this current idea of actually trying to start families on purpose…
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The Power of the Resurrection

Holidays, Thoughts
Happy Resurrection Day to you and yours! As much as we celebrate the power of the cross, we mustn't neglect the power of the resurrection.  Many have died on a cross - though only one as the Son of God - but the spectacular coming-back-to-life is the experience of Jesus alone.  God the Father confirmed the power and sufficiency of Christ's death to forgive sin and His identity as God's Son, the sinless One, by raising Jesus from the dead (Rom 1:1-4).  The resurrection sealed the deal and confirmed our salvation won at the cross.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy had caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from…
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The Power of the Cross

Holidays, Thoughts
Blessed Good Friday to you and yours! In Luke 9:23, Jesus warns His would-be disciples, "And [Jesus] was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.' "  The concept, taken from this verse, of "bearing one's cross" is a prevalent theme in the literature of Christian discipleship.  We often take the term to mean putting up with some physical infirmity, dealing with a challenging relationship, or some other difficult situation.  But to Jesus' first century audience, the meaning of "bearing one's cross" cut much deeper and was explicitly vivid.  Being 2000 years removed from the cross as an instrument of execution has so softened the intensity of this phrase for us that we almost…
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Merry Christmas from Behind Enemy Lines

Holidays, Thoughts
At various times throughout church history, Christianity has enjoyed a "home field advantage"; a time when the broader culture was aligned with Christian principles.  Times such as the end of the pagan Roman Empire, Europe at the height of the Reformation, Latin America during the rise of Catholicism, and even the volatile Middle East where Christianity was much in the mainstream for the first 600 years after Christ.  Of course, a home field advantage can have the downside of a cultural form of Christianity rather than the real thing and abuses under all of these favorable systems are well documented.  But as a whole, a culture moving in the general direction of Christian principles and ethics is a good thing. In the United States, we have enjoyed a more prolonged…
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Despising the Shame

Holidays, Thoughts
"Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:1-2). Today we see the cross as a beautiful symbol of our Christian faith.  We wear it on necklaces, celebrate it in iconic art, and give it a prominent place in our church sanctuaries.  And this is as it should be.  The cross is a beautiful symbol of our rescue by Jesus, friend of…
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Immanuel: God with Us, God in Us

Holidays, Thoughts
Merry Christmas!!! "Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us' " (Mt 1:22-23).  And Immanuel did come and dwell among us. "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14).  "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life - and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and…
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Humility and Thanksgiving

Holidays, Thoughts
Happy Thanksgiving! I have previously written about the importance of the labels we give ourselves - and just as critical, the labels we give our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We like to think it is a sign of humility when we refer to ourselves as "sinners saved by grace who have not made much progress since."  But this is a false humility at best.  At worst, it is an outright rejection of God's gift of a new identity for those in Christ Jesus. We become what we label ourselves.  When we label ourselves as sinners, first and foremost, we are turning our backs on God's gift of a new identity, a new heart, a new nature, a new power, a new Spirit, a new purity, a new disposition, a…
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Theological Systems

Apologetics, Holidays, Thoughts
I am a big fan of systematic theology.  God's story of redemption is epic in its sweep and fitting His words and works into that epic is both intellectually satisfying as well as pertinent to how we live.  Proper theology casts a long shadow in our lives, especially as we understand all that came to us through Christ in the new covenant.  But I am not a fan of theological systems. Our work, as theologians, is to prayerfully investigate the mysteries of God and explain such in an accessible format to our readers.  Accessible does not mean diminishing the grandeur.  It is more like being a bridge.  Just as many pastors are a bridge on Sunday morning taking the Word of God, recorded primarily in Greek, and making it accessible…
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The Power of the Resurrection

Holidays, Thoughts
As much as we celebrate the power of the cross, we mustn't neglect the power of the resurrection.  Many have died on a cross -though only one as the Son of God - but the spectacular coming-back-to-life is the experience of Jesus alone.  God the Father confirmed the power and sufficiency of Christ's death to forgive sin and His identity as God's Son, the sinless One, by raising Jesus from the dead (Rom 1:1-4).  The resurrection sealed the deal and confirmed our salvation won at the cross.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy had caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (I Pet 1:3). In Philippians chapter…
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The Power of the Cross

Holidays, Thoughts
It is nice to talk about good communication in marriage, developing your family identity, and "building a cathedral," but without the power to make this part of our daily experience these are just romantic notions.  Each of us carry inside a remnant of the old nature - somehow still active even though it's dead - that seeks to thwart our godly efforts.  The Bible summarizes its manifestation as selfish ambition.  How do we find the power to overcome our nearest enemy:  ourselves? In Luke 9:23, Jesus warns His would-be disciples, "And [Jesus] was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.' "  The concept, taken from this verse, of "bearing one's cross" is a…
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