Sometimes an encounter with the God, the Holy Spirit, brings conviction of guilt (John 16:8) prompting us to repentance. It’s a good thing. Sometimes the Holy Spirit helps us be attentive to others with empathy and compassion. That too is good for others and for ourselves. Yet at times the Holy Spirit illuminates bringing a flash of light on a matter. Its a cliche’ but all of a sudden “we see the light.” Jesus said about the Holy Spirit, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16: 13a).

On the grace of illumination, where do great ideas come from? What is the source of wisdom when its needed? “From whence it cometh” (I love that old phrase) clarity of thought that we know its not from oneself? It seems increasingly clear to me that it “cometh” from God. We need not be surprised. Jesus said the Holy Spirit “will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16: 13b-15).

Notice that this last quote ties together the entire Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the work of the Holy Spirit. All grace of God comes from all three persons of the Trinity working together in perfect love and unity. What’s more, God’s grace comes to us and for us to be passed on to others. Their pure, holy love for each other is God’s essence, his very being and nature, channeled into us in human form for God’s redemptive, reconciling, and restorative mission. This is what it means to be like Jesus. The essence of God takes human form for God’s purposes to God’s glory. What a remarkable blessing of God’s holy love. God comes to us to be passed on to others. He is the Gospel. This grace is not meant to be private. Yet it is personal. Its not meant to just be personal. The Gospel passed on is social. It passed to another. That’s why John Wesley believed that there is no holiness but social holiness. God is holy, spiritually social and socially spiritual. He invites us into the social love life of the Trinity in moments of illumination.

The Bible says “In all things, give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18). The next time a great, little idea comes to mind, stop to say thanks to the Holy Spirit. The idea is yet another act of God’s amazing grace!

Divine Hospitality


bread of life 13

It may surprise many that as a Salvationist I participate in the Eucharist (The Lord’s Table) at every opportunity. That’s because The Salvation Army does not prohibit Salvationists from participating in a scriptural ordinance that John Wesley considered an effective means of grace.

                                   “Though part of everyday life, hospitality is never removed                                   from its divine connections.”    –  Christine Pohl

You may remember a line in an oldmovie – “The meal was divine!” For nearly five decades, the meals prepared with my wife (I’m the sous chef) often seem truly divine as Irene developed over the years into a world class master of the culinary arts (my opinion). What often makesour dining time together divine is not the fabulous provocation of our taste buds. Rather it is sharing of meal with others and the fellowship around the table.


Christine Pohl states –“Especially in the context of sharedmeals, the presence of God’s Kingdom is prefigured, revealed, and reflected. Jesus asgracious host feeds over five thousand people on a hillside, and later explains to the crowd that he is the bread of life, living bread for them from heaven. He offers living water to any who are thirsty (John 6-7). He is himself both host and meal – the very source of life.”

Dr. Pohl goes on to ponder the divine hospitality of the Eucharist and how closely a shared meal is to that divine act. . .

“In the last supper with his disciples, Jesus fills the basic elements of a meal with richest symbolic meaning – the bread is his body, the wine, his blood. Eating together, ritualized in the Lord’s Supper, continually reenacts the center of the gospel. As we remember the cost of our welcome, Christ’s broken body and shed blood, we also celebrate the reconciliation and relationship available to us because of his sacrifice and through his hospitality. The Eucharist most fundamentally connects hospitality with God because it anticipates and reveals the “heavenly table of the Lord.” In that sacrament, we are nourished on our journey towards God’s banquet table, even as we experience the present joy and welcome associated with sharing in that table. A shared meal is the activity most closely tied to the reality of God’s Kingdom, just as it is the most basic expression of hospitality.”

What a blessing it is to remember the last sentence of the quote above each time we sit down with others who respond to our invitation to dine together. When we do so in Jesus’ name and say that the meal was “divine” we may be confessing a “double entendre” and an absolute truth!

[1] Christine Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (Eerdmans, 1999), p 30.


Coming Along Side Others

“Were not our hearts burning within us as he walked and talked                                     with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” – Luke24:32


How many lives have been greatly changed because another person took interest and came along side to guide, support, and walk for a time along the journey? I imagine the answer is an unimaginable number down through the ages.

My daughter and son are now grown adults. When they were younger I took them to Israel, twice separately. During one trip with my son, we found ourselves in a little tourist shop in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. While browsing through all the tourist memorabilia, my eye caught an item that was not for sale, but just being used as a divider between a stock of post-cards. It is a piece of wood 1/4 inch thick, and 5 and 1/2 by 8 inches wide. But it is more than just a piece of wood. It is a very lovely ink sketch of an older rabbi with his arm around a young man. Perhaps it is a picture of a father and son. For me it spoke volumes of what my daily walk with my son and daughter could be. It captured the purpose of being in Israel together.


I remain quite fond of this ink on wood sketch. It captures the idea of one person coming along side, guiding, supporting, and encouraging another. I see it often and am reminded of its meaning. This simple ink sketch speaks to head and heart. It reflects the importance of presence. It is the rabbi and the student together exploring new vistas and passing on wisdom, knowledge, and virtue. It reminds me of Jesus the Rabbi and more:  Jesus who comes alongside and whose Great Commission to his disciples is my commission too.

                               “Go … make disciples …  teaching them to observe all that I’ve                                            commanded; and lo I am with you always,” right by your side!                           Matthew 28:19 & 20:

We have the daily privilege of coming along side others, making room for others, inviting them to walk with us for part of the journey, a journey of intimacy in holiness with God!  What a blessing! All glory to God!

                                  “And he walks with me and he talks with me . . .”

Heading for the Summit


On May 29, 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary, a New Zealander, along with Nepalese guide Tenszing Norgay, were the first men to reach the summit of Mount Everest.  As legends go, it is said that Hillary died years later climbing Mt. Everest “last seen heading for the summit.” Actually, he died in the hospital of heart failure back home in New Zealand.  The legend, while a lovely thought, is not true, but it is sometimes heard in a sermon or found in a devotional piece of writing. It is a lovely thought. We can live each day climbing Mt.Herman, Mt. Zion, or the Mount of Olives, “heading for the summit.”  Higher, higher, higher! Come Holy Spirit.  Be our Tenzing Norgay!


Acquainting Grace

Jacob 3 weeks


I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. –John 14:10

At the  humble, nativity setting, under the stars that first Christmas night, the poor shepherds became acquainted with the God the Father’s remarkable gift of his son, the baby Jesus.  From the spectacular, heralding host of angels to the cooing baby in the manger, they were the first to receive God’s acquainting grace. One can imagine the shepherds returning from their fields as often possible and getting to know the baby Jesus in his first two years in Bethlehem.

If you are over 40, you may remember the old song sung by Julie Andrews. The lyrics were “Getting to know you, getting to know more about you . . .”  The idea of “getting to know you” in social psychology is called the acquaintance process. The core idea is that complete strangers, when remaining in close proximity and frequent contact with one another, have ample opportunity to become well acquainted. Initially strangers, under conditions of opportunity and motivation various relationships among persons emerge. This is exactly true of how I met may wife, Irene, as college students at Asbury College (now Asbury University). I worked at creating multiple opportunities throughout each day to be with her (proximity and contact). Meeting her after class, walking he to her next class, eating together in the college dining hall, going to church together, and so on.

The key concepts in the acquaintance process are opportunity and motivation for proximity and frequency of contact based on attraction. So I was attracted and hoped it was reciprocal.  We were in the personal zone of each other day by day as our acquaintance deepened from friends in to marriage. Now the journey continues into a celebration in a few weeks of forty-eight years of mutual love and admiration with two beautiful children  and grandchildren. Thanks be to God!

Here’s the simple beauty of the acquaintance process.  It can be filled with God’s grace.  When applied to the social/spiritual zones of our lives, it’s about a growing intimacy with God and his “acquainting grace.” Such grace is given and received. Our social soul grows in Christ nourished by the company of others. Others become God’s means of pouring grace into our lives. In marriage and the company of close friends, the love of others may bring us into the presence of God in whom we grow in acquaintance and intimacy (holiness) with him. However, that increasing intimacy is not guaranteed, but contingent on his constant acquainting grace and our continuous response of obedient faith.

In The Company of God

“For as a belt is bound around a man’s waist, so I bound the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah to me,” declares the Lord, “to be my people for my renown, and praise, and honor.”   –Jeremiah 13:11

Question: What happens when a people overtime spiritually drift away from the presence of God and find themselves as a people in a  zone of unfaithfulness?


We were made by God in his image.  In Genesis 1:26 we read that God said “Let us make human beings in our image.” God’s image as the Trinity is both social and holy in perfect harmony, unity, and purity.  Social holiness is all about being “in the zone,” in close proximity to and in frequent, sustained, interpersonal contact with God.  In the Book of Jeremiah (13:1-22) we read a story about the importance of remaining in the zone, in the sphere of influence. It reminds us of something Jesus said to his disciples when he shared with them the Last Supper. He directed them to remain in him if they were to bear fruit (Jn. 15:5).

In Jeremiah’s story God likens the people of Israel and Judah to the linen belt that God directed Jeremiah to wear around his waist. The belt was not to touch water. Jeremiah obeyed, put it around his waist, and wore it. Then God told him to take off the belt and put it down in the crevice of a rock, submerging it in the damp bank of the river. Though that may have seemed strange, Jeremiah obeyed. Later God told him to retrieve the belt and he did. When Jeremiah found the belt, it was “ruined and completely useless.” Over time, in the wrong place, under the wrong conditions, it had rotted.

Like Jeremiah’s belt, God’s people put themselves in the wrong place for a long time. They turned away, distanced themselves from God, and fell into idolatry. Like the belt, they were ruined. God had bound them to himself. They were to cling to him. Intimacy as a people with God was to be their first priority. The core principle was to keep their hearts in proximity to God’s heart, but they distanced themselves from God and pursued other gods. By their disobedience, they failed to stay in the most important zone, the company of God. Instead, as a people they chose the toxic company of pseudo-gods and over time drifted from obedient faith and faithfulness into another zone of disobedience and and unfaithfulness.  Sad but true.

Jesus made it clear.  Remaining in the company of God, brings out the very best in us. “If you remain in me and I remain in you, you will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5).

Questions:  Is that where you find yourself, members of your family, or friends?  If not, then what’s to be done to get back in the zone of God’s presence?



It’s clear to me that the very essence of holiness is found in the social and moral nature of God as Trinity. The essence of God is holy love shared between and among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By divine revelation, we know the persons of the Trinitarian God to be co-equal in power and glory, and mutual in unity and love. Together, the three persons of the Trinity are a perfect circle of fellowship open to all humanity as we remain open to intimacy with God in unity and love.


In the fifteenth century (1425), a Russian monk by the name of Andrei Rublev created the Icon of the Holy Trinity.[i] Some refer to it as the icon of icons. Inspired by the Genesis 18 passage, this icon depicts the visit of three angelic persons eating the meal provided by Abram and Sarah. At the time, one visitor announced to them the future birth of their son, Isaac. The three visitors around the table may be understood to be God in three persons, the holy Trinity.

In Rublev’s work there are three primary colors. They illustrate the essence of the one God in three persons. The garb of the Father is in gold signifying perfection, fullness, and the source of life. The God in Christ, the human, is portrayed in the color blue signifying sea and sky. Christ is taking on the world and in particular humanity. His hand is holding out two fingers, together representing within both spirit and matter. Finally, Rublev uses the color green in the apparel of the Spirit to convey fertility, fecundity, blossom and bloom, divine and eternal life. The three persons are gazing at each other in intimate expressions of love, and each one’s hand is pointing at the others. It is a picture of perfect, holy love, unity, and divine fellowship.

While the symbolism of color is inspiring, what is most significant is how they are portrayed together in their positioning and fellowship. They encircle a shared space around a small table. On the front of the table is a small, empty rectangle. Art historians mention the finding of glue residue on the original icon suggesting that at one time there may have been a mirror glued to the front of the table.

A mirror in an icon is quite unusual. Catholic Franciscan mystic, Father Richard Rohr, interprets the icon as suggesting that God is not a distant, static monarch. Instead, the three persons in divine fellowship are in what early Fathers of the church called perichoresis (the root word in Greek for choreography). In other words, the persons of the divine Trinity are in a divine dance. The mirror represents our seeing ourselves in the dance with God at the table of fellowship.

The icon is an invitation to enter socially and spiritually into the divine, intimate ecology of holiness. The mirror represents seeing ourselves restored to the image of God, present at the banquet table, and participants in the divine nature. The table is not reserved for the Three, nor is the circle closed, but open to all. Rublev’s icon occasions reflection on the divine, inclusive, perfect love of God expressed in the intimate, social nature of the Trinity, opened in all its fullness as a dance, a banquet table, a social ecology of holiness, and the eternal company we may keep.

For implications for clergy and lay ministry, see Seamands, Stephen. Ministry in the Image of God: The trinitarian shape of christian service. Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2005.


You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his very own possession. This is so                    you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you                                                                        out of darkness into his wonderful light.                                     1 Peter 2:9


It is shortsighted to assume that some form of ordained ministry and authority is the be-all and end-all of what the church is all about.  While this misunderstanding may be found among many clergy (priest and pastor alike), this great bogus assumption exists more so among the laity as an excuse to dodge their critical role and responsibility in the missionary endeavor of the church. What is needed is a theology of the laity, a call and legitimization in the minds of all followers of Jesus that breaks the chains of this false assumption and a commitment by laity to participate along side clergy in the heavy lifting of mission and ministry.

This idea is not new. It’s been around for at least five hundred years and leads us back to the Apostle Peter. It is what Martin Luther called for when he wrote The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude: Preached and Explained. He wrote on the idea of “the priesthood of all believers” and said, “that the word priest should become as common a word as Christian.” He held the conviction that both the plowboy and the milkmaid fit the role of priest. Both may embrace a vocation of mission and ministry in faithfulness to love the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, and strength, and love one’s neighbor all without the assumed authority of and deference to hierarchy. This has enormous implications for us today. It is a called to all laity to move out of a passive posture into to an active one alongside the clergy with an obligation and privilege to help carry the load of mission and ministry.

Much of the laity today are nominal Christians, consumers of the Word preached on Sunday, partakers of the entertainment of worship, and otherwise unengaged in the missional calling to make disciples. In short, most laity leave the heavy lifting, or all the lifting, to the pastor and priest. What is needed is an awakening and alertness to the Holy Spirit, spokesperson of the Father and Son. In the context of God’s abundant grace each day, God is calling for our response. For laity to be responsive and faithful to such divine calling it is necessary to be up to the task. All believers are called to press on to Spiritual maturity (formation) submission to the work (infilling) of the Holy Spirit. To do so is to be equipped to contribute to the mobilization of a Great Awakening that God has in mind for all the world.

The clergy cannot do it by themselves we need a theology of the laity that is not an intellectual accent to some articulated proposition. Rather it is a true partnership in practice with brothers and sisters in Christ who are ordained and in covenant with God, faithfully maintained at whatever cost and whatever sacrifice.

                    “And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple.                                What is more, you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices                                                       that please him because of Jesus Christ.”                                                  1 Peter 2:5


                                    We give our alleluias to the church’s common chord:                                       Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise, O Praise, O Praise the Lord!

Shifting the pronouns in a conversation, message, or song from single to plural can make the world of difference in how it is received. Making the simple change from I to we in a sentence or from me to us and mine to our makes conversation communal and inclusive rather than solitary or seemingly narcissistic.

Have you ever listened to the comments of a friend in which all the personal pronouns were I, me, and mine, especially when the subject of the conversation was not about him? When a young teen, there was a fellow in our church who made an impression on me. Each Sunday he would give his testimony about his life. The problem was that it was always about his life and not a word spoken about Jesus. It sounded something like this “I did this and I thought that; this was God blessing me; it was my experience that . . .” One Sunday when the opportunity for people in the congregation to give a testimony of thanks and praise for God’s grace in their lives, this fellow once again started in with “I did this” and “I did that; I, I, I.” All of a sudden a quiet old soul in the congregation stood-up and said loudly in a Scottish brogue, “ LORRD KNOCK HIS EYE OUT!” The response of all those present was an uproar of laughter by everyone, and the collective wish that someone had said something like that earlier.

A problem in our worship today is that it is too much an individual exercise. It’s all about “me, about the music and preaching I like, and about what the worship, sermon, and experience does for me. We are the victims of our preoccupation with our selves. We’ve been socialized by a Western culture of individualism. Worship as a self-serving experience is captured in so many of the songs we sing and the prayers we raise in the act of worship. Even the experience of holiness is personal and often private pursuit for self-fulfillment. It is so often built around I rather than we, and me and mine rather than us and ours. Instead of the focus on me, myself, and I, true worship focuses on the Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in thanks and praise. Do we not too easily forget that when Jesus was asked how we might pray, he demonstrated by saying, “Our Father . . . Hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done, forgive us, lead us, deliver us, for yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory?”

Worship is not merely an individual sport nor for one’s personal glory! It’s about the Other, all to glory to God the Other; not to the glory of the worship band, nor the lights and staging, nor the worship leader or preacher, nor about the great coffee in the foyer. Along the way, when worship is deeper and hearts are transformed by the Holy Spirit in likeness to God’s own heart, we will hear the pronouns change.

We need each other’s voice to sing    The song our hearts would raise          To set the whole world echoing   With one great hymn of praise.                  We blend our voices to complete   The melody that starts                                With God, who sets and keeps the beat,    That stirs our loving hearts




 Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.                                 Hebrews 12:1

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called meheavenward in Christ. Philippians 3:14

Who suits up for an NCAA ball game only to quit at half time? Millions of Americans are anticipating the annual ritual of collegiate basketball’s March Madness march to crown men and women’s national champion teams. Like this piece of writing, we can expect an escalation in basketball metaphors from the pulpit, in the media, and common conversations over coffee. Facebook posts will reflect increasing passions for alma maters and bets on potential winners. In the end the odds-makers in Las Vegas will likely do very well.

Last night I went with my brother-in-law, Chuck, to the Kentucky vs Florida basketball game. All the sports prognosticators predicted a Florida victory. Almost immediately Kentucky fell behind as Florida go off to a strong start. UK fought hard and a climbed back to tie the score at halftime. Personally, for a Kentucky alumnus, the story ended well with a win for Kentucky (70-66), but what if the UK Wildcats believed the predictions that they would loose the game and so decided to stay in the locker room at half-time rather than go back out for the second half. No way! Crazy! Absurd! Real March madness in February!

Imagine the same scenario at the next national championship game a team tied at half time the coach deciding that there was no real need to continue. Their sacrifice of time, effort, and selfless play in the first half was enough believing the second half would just be more of the same. The national recognition of having a great season would have to suffice. I apologize for the sports metaphor, but that’s what happens to millions of Christians at halftime when they don’t pursue the second half of the gospel?

Second half? There’s a spiritual second half? Right! That shouldn’t be news to you. But many may be duped by Hollywood buying into “only the first half version” of the Gospel. The first half version is Gospel presented in film after film as follows: The birth of baby Jesus, then Jesus baptized by his cousin John, his three years of doing good, the cross, and empty tomb and dawn of a new day. Done! The church picks up from there and says “Believe the story, pray this prayer and you’re good to go. You’re saved and can wait for the glory bus to take you to heaven. Now get busy in the church. That’s all there is to it! Just get saved and go to heaven, or have a little regret about sin and buy the fire insurance. Don’t worry. You’re fine. This is the sad portrayal of a half salvation, a salvation from sin. The truth is its only the first half and many who do come to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior do so without encountering conviction of sin, repentance, and asking for God’s forgiveness. For too many people being “saved” is a cognitive exercise of belief, a response to a proposition without much more than regret for past sin. Regret is not the same as repentance. It is not surprising that people fall back into and/or continue to live lives of sinfulness.

What then is the alternative? What does a second half look like? The answer is found in scripture: “Let us run with perseverance . . .” (Hebrews 12:1); “I press on toward the goal . . .”(Philippians 3:14); “Continue to workout you’re your own salvation . . .” (Philippians 2:12b); “Continue to live in him . . .” (Colossians 2”6); “Remain in me . . .” (John 15:4). One way to look at the second half of salvation is captured by paraphrasing J.R.R. Stott, Anglican pastor and author, who said that the Acts of the Apostles is not actually the acts of the Apostle’s, but rather the continuing work of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit in and through the church to the world. The second half is all about Christ’s “continuing work. . .in and through” us. The good news of the Gospel is that here is salvation from sin, the first half, and then salvation to even more good news in the second half.

This will take some additional writing yet to unpack what this means for us.  A more robust answer to the question is coming in the next post. Look for it!


  1. Are you stuck in the locker room celebrating the first half unaware there’s a second?
  2. If not in the locker room, are you merely a spectator in the stands?
  3. Are you even at the right game or outside the stadium wandering around?