Surprise Endings


Everybody loves a good comeback      

One of my favorite sports stories is of the former San Diego Charger kicker, Rolf Benirschke. Benirschke was diagnosed in 1979 in his 2nd season as kicker with Crohn’s Disease. Rolf shares his perspective,

“I had gone from 183 pounds to 123 pounds. I thought my playing days were over and wondered if my life was even worth living.”

Remarkably, in 1982, in what Sports Illustrated called the greatest NFL game of all time, Rolf kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime during the AFC divisional playoff game against the Miami Dolphins. Rolf went on to play for five more seasons before retiring as the all-time leading scorer for the San Diego Chargers, as well as the third most accurate kicker in NFL history.

Not what they were expecting

The greatest comeback of all time happened over two thousand years ago…Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. In fact, this is not only one of the greatest comebacks, but it is one of the best surprise endings a person could ask for. 

Mark’s gospel records that early one morning Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where Jesus had been laid. They were going to anoint His dead body with spices but were stopped in their tracks by an opened tomb.

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.’” (Mark 16:5-6) 

When it comes to your life, things may look bad (read: dead), you may be ready to give up, but because Jesus came back from the dead, you too can experience a comeback. You don’t have to settle for the way things are. Your life can have a wonderful surprise ending!

The Great Recognition

Seemed bigger

Have you ever visited somewhere, or something (or even someone) that as a kid seemed so huge and even intimidating? My wife Kathie and I were talking about this the other day. She remembered how as a kid the Log Ride at Knott’s Berry Farm and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland seemed so scary. She would hold her breath for the whole ride. But as an adult those rides seem small and almost sedate.  

It’s all about perspective and proportion. There are things in our lives that from our perspective seem to have enormous proportions.

After Jesus rose from the dead and just before he ascended, we are told that Jesus met with His disciples and that there were still some who doubted.  Jesus responded with these words,

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)


Those words Jesus are often referred to as the Great Commission. Followers of Jesus are commissioned to proclaim the good news to the world. The problem is that we often look at the world around us like we looked at things as kids: scary, intimidating, and big.  We think to ourselves…

“Whoa, the world’s a huge place! Make disciples? Baptize? Teach? How can I so this with all the nations when I can’t even get my family to listen to me?”

But those proportions are based on a perspective that is too limited. That’s why Jesus started with the words, “All authority has been given to me,” and then concluded with the words, “I am with you always”. The proportions of the challenges and obstacles before us should be put into the perspective of the fact that Satan has been totally defeated and that Jesus is with us everywhere we go.

This perspective should give the Great Commission a different proportion. Maybe it should be called, the Great Recognition.




Truth that Stirs

The greatest treasure we have is the presence of God

When you were born again God took residence inside your body, and whenever two or three gather in His name there is an increase manifestation of His presence. In worship the presence of God increases, and there is always more. There is more that remains, but you must continually yield to it. The tension is to recognize what you have, but still be hungry for more.

It takes faith to discover the manifest presence of God, but it never takes work or striving. Learning to host the presence of God comes from your heart. Your heart is the seat of faith and affection. It’s your heart that becomes the seat of His holiness, His glory, and His presence. This is why Proverbs tells us…

“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NKJV)

You are to be aware of the Holy Spirit so much so that you can tell when your heart is welcoming Him, and when it is repelling Him. You carry something that is to be stewarded well.

Heart and mind

The Book of Acts records an account of people who took a piece of cloth from the Apostle Paul to a person who was sick. The person was healed! They hadn’t heard any teaching about “prayer cloths”, and they didn’t bother explaining it after it happened. They just simply believed.

Truth that touches your mind increases knowledge, but truth that touches your heart increases your faith. Unfortunately, too many people stop short of a divine encounter because they are satisfied with just knowledge.

But you’re different! You’re waiting to have truth revealed to you that allows you to explore all the possibilities of God’s power. You’re looking for truth that stirs your heart and transforms your thinking and opens you to one of the greatest privileges ever— stewarding the wonderful and powerful Holy Spirit working in your life!


Before and After

Two amazing pictures

The before picture shows a tremendously out-of-shape chubby person. The after picture then shows the person looking trim, sculpted, and usually holding out the waistband of their old pants. The ad then tells the story about how this particular diet plan melted off the pounds in record time.

Whether or not you believe those amazing ads, there is an even more amazing before and after picture that is not only believable but available as well. It’s the picture of your life before and after Jesus.

The before picture would show how purposeless, sometimes burdened, often confused and searching your life really was. The Bible is pretty clear about our condition before we met Jesus. It describes us as being lost, broken, guilty, condemned, and even “enemies” of God.

Thanks to Jesus, our before picture now lays in pieces amidst the rubble of our past lives. We now have the privilege of stepping up to have another picture taken.

We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it! (Ephesians 2:10, TPT)

When it says, “good works,” it’s about more than just going to church. Good works are actions that reflect God’s mercy, grace, compassion, and righteousness. It’s the action of loving others, even when they aren’t all that loveable. It’s reaching out to the poor and disadvantaged. It’s being patient and tolerant with the faults and failures of others.

Another way to see it

Our after picture ought to be a duplicate picture of the good works that God has so generously showered on us. In fact, His good works in our lives are a model of how to treat and respond to others.

When I see the after pictures in diet ads, I often wonder what the person looks like now. Believe me, I know what it’s like to trim down only to lose sight of the goal and add pounds on again. So, let’s not lose sight of the goal.

You’ve been saved to be an ad for the glory of God’s goodness in your life. His good work then works through you to the lives of others. So what’s your after picture looking like today? Shed the excess fat of your past and let His glory show!

Cafeteria-Style God

God of different views

Virtually every spiritual problem can be traced back to our view of God.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” (A.W. Tozer)

Church culture has various forms that present God in different ways. Some present God as a comforter, provider, and fulfiller of dreams. While others present God as the all-powerful judge, whose anger burns against sin and who calls us to a life of self-denial. Often the problem lies in elevating a particular divine attribute at the expense of another. The danger is that in so doing, we risk creating a God of our own making.

Pastor Timothy Keller states…

“The only way to avoid the true God is to fabricate a false god that’s controllable.”

We have formulated a cafeteria concept of God, taking qualities that we choose, and rejecting those that we disdain. A church with a low view of God is also likely to have a high view of culture, and will have consciously or subconsciously absorbed its values. A church with a cold view of God will have a low view of grace, while having disdain for those in sin. The only remedy for a church that has gotten off track is to return to a more complete understanding of God.

Jesus our homeboy?

The answer to revitalizing the Church is not better music nor more fear-evoking sermons. We need to rediscover the fullness of who God is—not just the palatable parts nor the attributes that neatly align with culture—but the view of Him as the all-powerful king of the universe, who invites us to approach His throne of grace.

We assume that since Jesus is all loving and abounding in grace, and since he already died for sin, we can live and let live and tell the holy homeboy to put any slip ups on our tab. Yes, Jesus is our friend, and yes he abounds in grace, but he is also our authority—the one we answer to, the one we obey, the one we surrender before—and to abuse his grace by using it as a license to sin is to cheapen it and miss the big picture all together.

His kindness leads us to repentance, not to exploitation. He is not only our friend, He is our King!

Not A Spectator

Heaven is our model

Jesus lived by only doing what He saw His Father doing. Learning to recognize the Holy Spirit’s power and following His lead enables us to do what Jesus did. These kind of operations of God’s Spirit are not limited to church meetings. We must learn how to take this anointing to our schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods and expect similar results. Healing, deliverance, and spiritual breakthroughs become options we offer people wherever we go. Whatever the point of need a person has, God wants to move.

When you have an encounter with God, your hunger for the presence of the Lord increases and miracles are a by-product. God will meet you, change you in your encounter with Him, and as you change the impact on the world around you changes.

You are not just spectator

God’s presence is given to us that we might know Him, while His power is given that others might know him through us. The presence of God is for you, his power is for someone else through you. God’s presence stills you, God’s power stirs you.

Encounters with God are for everyone and everywhere. He is looking for those who will listen and those He can trust. God looks at the heart and reveals Himself to those who love Him. There is no need to strive anymore. Working from God’s presence is more effective than working for His presence, but looking for the move of God’s power is never passive.

Signs and wonders are a practical means to display the love and power of God. The love of God does not omit the miraculous. The most important objective of miracles is to reveal the love of God.

Evangelism can become very clinical, and unfortunately it isn’t very effective. But the person who stays open to the power of the Holy Spirit and loves people offers a different option to people, and will see a natural outflow of miracles and salvations.

Fighting Position

Get ready

Whether it’s a professional sports activity, or a friendly round of golf, or even some simple chores around the house, virtually all activities can benefit from being in what is called the “athletic position.” In this position, the weight is centered over the base of support and distributed equally on both feet. The waist is bent and the core is engaged. Legs are also slightly bent, while the hands and arms are extended from the waist. The body is ready to be put into motion with a quick shift.

Some coaches refer to it as the “ready position,” as it is indicative of what the person is preparing to do. In the ready position you are preparing yourself for some action; exactly which action is as yet, unknown. Thus, this position should prepare a person for movement in any direction.

Spiritually alert

Activity for a follower of Jesus goes beyond physical movements. It is spiritual. We live and walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). We also do warfare by the spirit (Eph. 6:12). These spiritual activities require us to be in a “ready position” also.

Be well balanced and always alert, because your enemy, the devil, roams around incessantly, like a roaring lion looking for its prey to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, TPT)

Being in a spiritually ready position makes you aware of the enemy’s whereabouts, strategies, and attacks. But even more being in a spiritually ready position puts you in a position to fight back, where you can block the fiery darts of accusation and condemnation. You can also send the forces of darkness running with the command of God’s word.

Your spiritual ready position is a fighting position. You don’t have to put up with lies, guilt, shame, fear, confusion, disease, sickness, debt, hopelessness, etc. You have at your confession all the promises of God!



Death and Good Theology

When a Christian dies

This week our church family received the news that one of our dearest brothers passed away. This leads us to some important questions. Should we rejoice or weep when a brother or sister in Christ dies? Is a Christian memorial service a celebration or time for mourning? The answer is found in a right understanding of a Christian’s death.

Often people who are dying will say something like, “Don’t cry when I die, but be joyful because I’ll be with Jesus.” As a result, it’s normal to hear family members of the deceased person say, “He didn’t want us to grieve, but to joyfully remember the life he had and remind ourselves that he is truly in a better place.”

These are endearing statements, and we don’t want to belittle the love and affection that caused them. However, these responses are not complete. We should not merely rejoice when a Christian dies.

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26, NLT)

Even though there are great promises to Christians after death, death itself is an abomination. Death is an unwelcomed guest. It had no place in creation. Rather, it stormed onto the scene as the thief of life upon the entrance of sin into this world. Therefore, death itself is not to be celebrated.

We cannot merely rejoice when a Christian dies somehow forgetting that death is an enemy. The Scriptures never ask Christians to deny the feeling of grief.

However, we should not merely grieve

When a Christian dies we should also be filled with rejoicing. Truly, for the Christian, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). As a believer in Christ departs from this life they are immediately in a far better place (Philippians 1:23). They are with Christ! They have finished the race and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7); and that faith has become sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). They no longer see in a mirror dimly, but see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). The object of their love, affection, and joy is before and with them forevermore.

What amazing things wait for the Christian at death!

When a brother or sister in the Lord passes away, there should be grief and rejoicing. They both have a place. We grieve for what is lost and rejoice at what is gained. That is good theology of Christian death!

Paying Attention

A few wise men or thousands of fools?

Large numbers of people are helpful in the right context, but unless at least a few of those people are prudent, discerning, and able to lead, a powerful army may deteriorate into an angry mob.

David received the affirmation of the entire nation without exception. People were attracted to follow him.

These are the numbers of armed warriors who joined David at Hebron. They were all eager to see David become king instead of Saul, just as the Lord had promised. From the tribe of Judah, there were 6,800 warriors armed with shields and spears. From the tribe of Simeon, there were 7,100 brave warriors. From the tribe of Levi, there were 4,600 warriors. This included Jehoiada, leader of the family of Aaron, who had 3,700 under his command. This also included Zadok, a brave young warrior, with 22 members of his family who were all officers. (1 Chronicles 12:23–28, NLT)

David undoubtedly appreciated the thousands who came to his side at Hebron, but the 200 men of Issachar were especially important.

From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” (1 Chronicles 12:32, NLT)

Without the men from Issachar to provide the strategic wisdom, the David’s mighty army would’ve been merely a mindless militia. The men of Issachar were singled out as men who had an extraordinary grasp of the political context. They understood the times and knew what Israel was to do.

Knowing what to do

The men of Issachar didn’t simply know the signs of the times, but they knew what to do in light of them. Christians should also be people of understanding who are able to navigate culture effectively and wisely. Christians must be discerning people of courage, vision, and faithfulness to the Lord.

Charles Spurgeon used to say that effective ministers should hold a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. He didn’t mean that the headlines should become our text, but that to be effective we need to know our culture in order aptly to apply Scripture to the needs of the hour.

It’s more than headlines, it is knowing what is significant among the happenings of our world – events and movements, trends and ideologies, currents and worldviews. It means having a sense of what to think, how to act, and the manner in which to respond.


Seeing What Can’t Be Seen

Seeing thousands of miles, but not five miles

350 years ago a shipload of pilgrims landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness. In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward, thereby expanding the city. They exclaimed…Who needs to go there anyway? 

The same people who could see three thousand miles across the north Atlantic ocean, were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their vision.

Seeing what can’t be seen

Ever experienced the frustration of not seeing something that somebody else does? Or, the equal frustration of you being able to see something that others can’t? Either side of the equation is annoying. The Apostle Paul experienced this.

The Holy Spirit was showing Paul unbelievable things. He was shown how amazing God’s grace and justification were. He saw how God was had included the Gentiles in His great plans and purposes. But when he told people about what he was seeing, they didn’t get it. So he would say things like…

I pray that your eyes are focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers. (Ephesians 1:18, The Message)

It’s like God was yelling through Paul, “Whoa! Look at that!!!” But He doesn’t impatiently point in the general direction wondering why we’re not seeing it. Instead, He patiently and lovingly directs our attention.

Where there is no vision or prophetic insight, the people lose focus and purpose. (Proverbs 29:18, JHP)

With no spiritual insight of what we can do and/or become in Christ, even the smallest obstacle poses a serious threat to our growth and success. But when God focuses the eyes of our faith through vision and prophetic insight, and begin to see beyond circumstances. We then realize that no obstacle, no matter how big, is too big for God!