Roman 12:1-2

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:1-2

Saturday, March 30, 2013

It is Finished

"I'm finished!" The little boy who is trying to hide his peas under his napkin. He's not really finished; he's just hoping Mom will overlook it this time. And it doesn't matter that this tactic hasn't worked in the past. He'll try it every time!


"Finished!" The relieved college student after the last final exam. Finished the task, but the results are still up in the air...


"Finished!" The weary mom who has put the kids to bed and done the dishes and swept the floor and picked up the toys and put away the laundry...just in time to fall into bed and get up tomorrow and do it all over, because a mother's work is never done!


"It is finished," Jesus said as He breathed His last breath, hanging on a blood-soaked cross between two thieves, the final stage in a horrific and humiliating process. Unlike the boy and his peas, Jesus isn't trying to hide anything; it is what it is -- these sinful people made in God's image are unable to save themselves, so someone has to do it for them. And unlike the college student, the results are a foregone conclusion -- God promised a Savior. Jesus is it, so when the sacrifice is made, that is the end of it. And unlike the weary mom, it is finished. It doesn't need to be done again tomorrow.

It is finished.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Wedge

A grizzled old man in a red plaid flannel shirt and work-stained trousers is at the chopping block. The tree is long since gone; only a two-foot wide stump remains, cut so as to be the perfect height to chop wood. He selects a piece of log and places it flat on the stump. He uses a wedge-shaped tool, an ax, to break through the log. The ax goes up. The ax comes down.

The log is split in two.

It is exactly what the old man wants: a log that will easily fit in his fireplace to bring warmth through the winter.

But the results of a spiritual wedge are less comforting than a fireplace full of logs, even though the concept is the same.

A wedge is a simple machine, a tool that is wider at one end. It can be made of wood or metal, although an ax is always metal, of course. The purpose: to incrementally increase the space between two things. The old man's wedge increases the space between the left side of the log and the right side.

My spiritual wedge increases the space between me and God.

What is my wedge? For me, it is entertainment. I love to read, and while I try to avoid smut, even reading innocuous drivel will separate me from God if I read too much of it. Too much TV. Reaching for comfort food instead of for God's comfort. Even relationships that are based on complaining or defeatism instead of encouragement and mutual growth can be a wedge.

Romans 12:2 talks about separation, separation from the things of the world. I must separate myself from the Wedges. But separation from the Wedge is not enough.

I must also change my thinking. "Renewing your mind" means that it gets old and needs to be made new again. Reading the Word, meditating and memorizing and studying it, will renew my mind.


And again.

So that God and I are not split in two.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


I have writtn several times about knowing, being known. Belonging is on the same wavelength and no less common to all mankind, no less a desire of every heart. We want to belong to someone, something.

I see this daily with my middle school students. Clothes and music and activities and even the words they speak are shouting out, "Where do I fit? Where do I belong?" As 12 and 13 year olds, they are beginning to see and understand that they belong to a world bigger than themselves. Younger children know they are part of a family, but in the middle years these young people are seeking friendship and acceptance outside of family.

This week we watched Newsies, a live-action Disney musical from the early nineties. I love this movie! I was explaining to my students how Jack is learning that he is part of a family that is broader than family; his mother is dead and his father is in jail, but these newsies are his family: the older ones protect and fight for the younger ones, and they all back each other up. At one point Jack says, "I'm not used to having it matter to anyone whether I stay or I go, and I'm not saying it should matter to you...but does it? Matter?" He is speaking to The Girl at that point, but it is my belief that when he decides, in the end, to stay, it is as much for the other boys as for her.

I explained to my students that modern gangs are much the same as that pack of newsies. In cities where poverty runs rampant and drugs or work -- or any number of things -- keep parents from being engaged in the lives of their children, those young people seek belonging wherever they can find it. Gangs provide that: you belong with us, and no one will mess with you as long as we're around, and you always have a place here. And just like my students will wear and listen to and watch what helps them fit in with the group, members of gangs do whatever it takes to keep that belonging. But with so little to hope for, their stakes are much higher.

God wants Christians to provide that hope, that belonging.

Galatians 3:26 - 29:
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

For several years now I have been battling a disease that causes chronic pain, fatigue, and despair. And yet I can rejoice in it because God has shown His love to me through His people. I know I belong to something bigger and greater than myself because these Christians, these friends, this family of God, bring me meals, help me get to the doctor, clean my house, and generally make me feel loved.

Like I belong.

And I am grateful.


Detroit is a city with little hope and much darkness. It is a despair that I, in my sheltered, albeit pained, existence find hard to comprehend. But it is no less dark because I can't understand it.

KLOVE and World Hope are working to turn that around. Please read about and pray for the upcoming Hope Center in Detroit!