Though the storm rages…

  Though the fig tree should not blossom, 
  nor fruit be on the vines, 
  the produce of the olive fail 
  and the fields yield no food, 
  the flock be cut off from the fold 
  and there be no herd in the stalls, 
  yet I will rejoice in the LORD; 
  I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 
  GOD, the Lord, is my strength; 
  he makes my feet like the deer’s; 
  he makes me tread on my high places. 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Hab 3:17–19.

I was in Port Charlotte, Florida last weekend to speak at my former church, Freedom Bible Church. I was scheduled to stay until Tuesday. But, as forecasts for Hurricane Ian came in, I decided to leave on Sunday right after church, hoping to get ahead of the traffic that would certainly come when people started evacuating. This proved to be wise.

Before moving to North Carolina in 2009, we lived in southwest Florida for about 24 years. It was providential that I happened to return last weekend right before the area was hit with the devastation from Ian. For reconnecting with my friends there renewed my love for them and has given a sense of immediacy as I hear updates from so many on social media.

Again and again, the refrain is something like, “We’re safe, some damage to the roof, some trees downed; God is good.”

But what of those who lost all? What of those whose lives were not spared? Was God not good for them?

We often connect the goodness of God with our personal fortune. If things aren’t as bad as they could be, then God has been good to us.

But I don’t believe this is what my friends are saying. I think deep down what they continue to recognize is the goodness and the grace of God which is not negated by misfortune. If they had lost all possessions (and some have) or even life itself (and some have), they would still affirm that God. Is. Good.

It is as my former pastor, the late James Kibelbek, once said, “We don’t measure God’s goodness by our circumstances; we measure our circumstances by the knowledge that God is good.”

Habakkuk understood this: “Though the fig tree should not blossom. nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Hab. 3:17-19).

Some people choose in times like this to question the very existence of God, or at least his power or goodness. “How could a good and powerful God allow such suffering?” Habakkuk chose to rejoice in the Lord, to take joy in the God who saves.

I love that expression – to take joy. We must seize it, willfully grasp for it, intentionally take hold of it. For our joy is in the God who saves.

The fact is, we don’t deserve the house that got destroyed in the first place; it is a gift from God. We don’t deserve the life, however long or short, that is snuffed out; every breath is a grace.

What life we have, no matter the degree of suffering, is more than we deserve.

I take heart from all my friends who are using this time of unimaginable devastation to proclaim the goodness and faithfulness of God our Savior!

Planning on reading the Bible in 2022? Here’s help

It is a given that Christians ought to be people of the Bible. To that end, many of us embark on a new year with plans to read more in Scripture. If you are setting a goal for yourself to read the Bible this year (or parts thereof), has put together a list of various reading plans from which to choose. The links to some of them (like Horner’s plan) require a membership in order to download. It can be found elsewhere without such a link.

Here’s the link to Ligonier’s page.

Here’s the direct link to Horner’s excellent system.

From the Ligonier page, here’s a “do it yourself” site to generate your own custom plan.

Happy reading!

The world drinks to forget…we drink to remember

One of the things I miss the most with the alternative gatherings we’ve had with my church is the weekly communion. It helps me to look back on the work of Christ, to look inward at my sins and failings, to look upward at the provision God has made for my redemption, and to look forward to Jesus’ return in glory. This is a meditation I wrote many years ago as I was preparing for a communion service.

It’s another Friday night, and three young girls from the office pool are excited about hopping in the car and heading to the club for a few drinks and dancing. It’s a chance to forget about the boss and the headaches of their jobs. As the night goes on, their minds jaded by the effects of the drink and the loud music, they almost forget who they are, and who they are with.

It’s another early Monday morning, and an old man in a tattered coat slumps into a public park bench to try to get a little sleep. Years of the bottle have dulled his senses to where he can only vaguely recollect who he was so long ago, a lifetime ago.

It’s another Wednesday afternoon, and a lonely housewife pours herself a drink, her fourth already today. She tries to remember the days when life with her husband was exciting and romantic, but 14-hour days at the office have left her a widow in effect if not in fact. Her heart dimmed by the whiskey, she lies down on the couch to forget her own life and live through the ones she see on the TV screen…but only sleeps.

It’s another Saturday night, and a bunch of good ol’ boys, anxious for a good time and a chance to forget about their jobs head to the local tavern to shoot pool and swap fish stories. Later, their senses slowed by the smoke and the beers, they forget who they are, get a little rowdy and later regret the damage left on their trucks.

The world drinks to forget…

It’s another Passover in ancient Israel, and in the midst of the long-established religious tradition, a Teacher lifts the bread and the cup and gives them new meaning. “Eat this…drink this…to remember me.”

The world drinks to forget; we take the bread and the cup…to remember. Because we tend to forget and need the reminder. “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

Psalm 103 lists the many benefits of the Lord…forgiveness, healing, redemption, love and mercy, satisfaction with good things, renewed youth, righteousness and justice, revelation, steadfast love.

The world drinks to forget; we drink to remember.

“Do this in remembrance of me” – Jesus

An open letter to a skeptic friend who once professed belief…


Dear Z___,

It was good seeing you the other day and nice to catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives. I’d still like for Carolyn and me to get together with you and Y___.

Understandably, it saddened me to hear that you no longer profess faith in Christ and that you believe the biblical account to be fable – a “good fable, but a fable.” You now claim to believe that there is no God. You attribute this to your treatment by X___, saying that if that’s how Christians act, then you want nothing more to do with it.

I certainly understand the hurt you feel and the sense of betrayal you experienced. It’s difficult to have given of yourself for so long in that situation only to have your character called into question and to be accused of things you deny. I can’t speak to the validity of the claims, but the fact is, you’ve had real feelings of being treated wrongly, and you say this has led you to abandon the faith you once affirmed.

If I may, I’d like to speak to your abandonment of the faith.

Do you realize that you’ve engaged in a massive argument of circularity in declaring that the Bible and the story of Jesus is a fable and not in the least true?

You claim that if the behavior of X___ is indicative of Christianity, then this invalidates the truth of Christianity. The circularity comes because you need God, whom you now deny, to make this argument. You have invoked a “God-standard” (how Christians ought to act), observed a Christian who does not act according to that standard, and inferred from that that the standard is thus, not true.

Let’s approach this a different way. If you claim that God does not exist and the Bible is not true, then it logically proceeds that you have no basis to judge behavior; you have no foundation to call any of X‘s (or anyone else’s) actions wrong or unjust. In fact, there would be no reason for him not to treat you that way or worse.

“But,” you say, “I’m only calling into question his behavior because it is inconsistent with how he claims to live and the standards of the faith that he affirms.” Fair enough.

You professed faith in Christ and attended church long enough to know that no Christian claims to be perfect in this life. In fact, the claims of Christianity assert that only one Person ever lived in perfection – Jesus Christ. Even the redeemed people of God continue to commit sins and live lives inconsistent with commands of Scripture.

Furthermore, your treatment at the hands of X___ pales in comparison with the actions of many Christians in the course of history. Sometimes professing Christians have done far worse. Sometimes in the name of Christ great atrocities have been committed.

You, as well, when you were professing faith in Christ, never claimed to be perfect. You understood yourself to be forgiven and a work in progress who was not yet perfect. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it may own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own,” Paul says (Philippians 3:12). You once affirmed this of yourself.

You know all this. The difference is that now, it is personal. It was how you personally were treated by a believer. And this has led you, so you say, to abandon the faith you once claimed.

Whenever unbelievers experience the transformative power of the gospel, their lives are changed. But the changes are never complete until we reach heaven. There will always be a degree of disconnect between faith claims and real life.

The fact is, the behavior of believers can either enhance or belie the faith they claim, but their actions can never ultimately determine the objective truth or falsity of the faith. You yourself once lived with the inconsistency of X’s life, my life, and even your own life to affirm the truth of Christianity. How could further inconsistency now erode that truth?

I’d urge you to be honest in your skepticism. X‘s actions can be inconsistent with the faith he professes, but they do not have the power to invalidate the objective truth of Christianity. So, what is the real reason behind your abandonment?

I pray for you, that you return to Christ in repentance and faith. I pray that you will be able to get past your mistreatment that has blinded you, and that you will come again to a place of faith and trust in Christ, who is our only hope and Savior.

With love,