“Why Doesn’t God?”

31 03 2022

This past Sunday at Gateway Church (in Kennewick, WA) we shared about how thinkSMALL (a ministry we are supporting that reaches children all over the globe) is preparing and planting a team in a country in Africa where last year over 12,000 children were trafficked, taken across the border, and killed for their organs.  Some of the people I was sitting across from, looked physically sick when they heard this news.  I too felt sick as my eyes welled up with tears.  However, many at Gateway church are putting their money where their mouth is to help thinkSMALL make a difference there.

This past Sunday I also shared a message from Mark 4:35-41 and about fear (watch here).  My point was that if you have put your trust in Jesus, then He is in your boat!  Furthermore, the reason we shouldn’t fear, even though a storm might be raging all around us, is that it’s not just Jesus the man who is in our boats.  No!  It’s Jesus the GOD-Man who is in our boats!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  John 1:1-3

That’s right, Jesus, the Creator of All, is in our boats!  The reason the winds and the waves obeyed Him is because He has authority over them, because He is their Author.

However, the point of my message on Sunday was that quieting the storm appeared to plan B.  I believe plan A was for the disciples to trust in Jesus through the storm.  After all, He had already said, “Let’s go over to the other side” (Mark 4:35).  In other words, they were going to make it to the other side (no matter how bad the storm was or got) because Jesus was taking them there.

That’s not the point of this blog though. 

After the service a connection card was turned in that read, “Some at our table were upset that Jesus/God would allow thousands of children to be trafficked and wondered, ‘Why would God allow that? He wasn’t there for their storm.’ ”

So why would God allow that?  Why doesn’t He rescue those children? It’s a very good question and an understandable one.  And I wished it had an easy answer.  It doesn’t…at least not one that satisfies most.  However, I’ll do my best.

First of all, how do we know God wasn’t there with those children through their storm.  How do we know He didn’t meet them where they were at and provide some unseen comfort and assurance to their souls?  And while this in no way makes light of the horror these children must have endured, I believe Jesus welcomed them into His eternal presence after their tents were dismantled because “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

And how do we not know that God didn’t try to intervene through people who may or may have not responded to His call?  (thinkSMALL is responding though, and so are some members of Gateway Church)

“He’s God though,” you might respond, “Surely, He is not so inept as to rely on mere human beings to do His will!”  Yet, the Creator and Lord of all does exactly that.  He calls us, equips us, empowers us, funds us, and works through us.  This is what He chooses to do.  And why He does that is above our pay grade.  However, I do know that love is behind His motive.

But why?  “Wouldn’t it be better if He just appeared and directly intervened,” you might counter.  You mean, make Earth into heaven?  Nope.  He’s not going to do that.  Why?  Because if He did that you wouldn’t long for His heaven which is all about us being with Him forever.  Furthermore, it is impossible for God to make Earth into heaven as long as all these human beings are here messing it up.

No.  He has a better plan.  And to be honest, I don’t totally understand that plan.  However, I trust Him and His goodness enough not to judge Him from this side of the tapestry no matter how messed up it might seem from my vantage point.  Remember, God is not good because He does good things.  On the contrary, He does good things because He is good.  In fact, Jesus said that “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).  And there’s the rub, we who are not good, have a tendency to judge the only One who is.  This should not be.

The question therefore is not, “Why doesn’t God?”  On the contrary, the real question as God’s vessels and instruments is this: “What don’t we?” In fact, if you are feeling passionate about this (as we all should), then that’s probably a sure sign that God is moving upon your heart to get involved in the solution.

If you’d like to give to thinkSMALL’s ministry, click here.



18 08 2021

It had to be around 1987 or shortly there after when I crept up behind a car in the Seattle area that had the following license plate: IBOKUB2.  I figured out very quickly that it must mean something but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what.



I BO KUB 2 ?


And then, just like that, the fog of confusion dissipated and the light of understanding shone through:

I   B  O  K  U  B  2

I be okay, you be too. Duh!

It’s the urban slang version of the very popular book (over 15 million copies sold!) from the 1960s and written by the late psychiatrist Dr. Thomas A. Harris: I’m OK – You’re OK. I had to read this book my freshman year as part of my psychology class, and I confess that I liked what I read (or at least the title : ).  After all, who doesn’t want to hear that they are okay? However, now my maturity in Christ, and His Spirit within me, witnesses to me that the statement “I’m OK – You’re OK” is, in reality, a half-truth. And let me remind you that a half truth is a whole lie. And lies keep us in shackles.

But Mel,” you might wonder, “How can this positive message be harmful? Aren’t we all okay? Doesn’t Jesus meet us where we’re at and accept us ‘as is’?” Not exactly. Keep reading.

By the way, I’m not necessarily attacking the book by Dr. Harris. I read it sooooo long ago, I can’t even remember what it’s all about. What I am addressing is the statement “I’m OK – You’re OK,” and whether that statement is really true. Of course, if that statement is the foundation of Dr. Harris’ book, then it all might come crumbling down.

In 1983 this was the cry of my heart: “I just wanna know I’m okay?”  And it’s been the cry of my heart for much of my life. Furthermore, as I take a good look at our culture today, it’s obvious that it is the cry of so many: “Please tell me that I’m okay.” And now that cry has evolved into this, “If you’d only agree with me, then I would know that I’m okay and that I am loved.”

This cry, however, confuses love with agreement which are not the same. And this is a very good thing! For if it took agreement for God to truly love us, then none of us would ever truly be loved. However, God’s love is not based on who we are, what we do, or what we think. It’s based on Him and His character, and “God is love” (1 John 4:8). This means that His love never changes. It can’t get better for me if I do better, because it’s already best; it can’t increase because it’s already maxed out. This also means that it can’t lessen either (like if we really screw up). Nope, God’s love is perfect for you and there’s not a thing in the world you can do to change that.

Of course, the question we are addressing in this blog is whether or not we are okay. Also, does telling others who question us to “be quiet” or “shut up!” make us less or more okay? To help us understand what’s really true, let me pose a hypothetical situation.

Let’s suppose that you were eating a bowl of your favorite ice cream. Not any ol’ ice cream mind you…no…your favorite ice cream!  My favorite is banana ice cream from Cold Stone…with a fudge brownie mixed in. Now we don’t have a Cold Stone in the Tri-Cities, so this is a real treat for me when I do get to indulge. And, by the way, not every Cold Stone always serves banana ice cream (which stinks and is stupid!). So, when I do get the opportunity to indulge, I really take my time and savor every spoonful (well, I try to, at least : ).

Now, let’s suppose you’re eating your favorite ice cream (whatever that is…go ahead and imagine it right now). And let’s suppose that just at the moment you’re lifting your first spoonful of heavenly delight to your mouth, your best friend (who has never lied to you) cries out,

“Stop! I just discovered your ice cream is laced with deadly poison!”

What would you do in that situation? Would you tell them, “Shut up and just let me enjoy my ice cream!” Or would you question them, “Don’t you love me? Why would you stop me from enjoying my ice cream?” In that situation, wouldn’t you agree that if you ate that particular bowl of ice cream, you would not be okay?

By the way, what is more loving, for your friend to warn you and try to stop you from eating poison, or for them to just keep their mouth shut?

The truth, my friend, is this: without Jesus, we are not okay. Doing things our way is not okay when those ways take us in a direction away from God. Thankfully though God will not shut up even when we scream at Him. His love can’t be stopped. He can’t help it. He just loves us and there’s nothing that can be done to stop that love. Therefore, He tells us the truth…

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:16-21

He doesn’t tell us the truth to ruin our bowl of ice cream, but so that we might be savedbecause He loves us so much! Consequently, the real question is not “are you okay?” but “Can you handle the truth?” Because if you can’t face the truth, you can’t know the truth. And if you can’t know the truth, then the truth can’t set you free (John 8:32). Ignorance is not bliss, my friend, it can lead to death. However, Jesus died that you might live forever and to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18).

Remember, you can’t learn anything from people who always agree with you.


Why Americans Hate America

30 06 2021

Why do so many Americans absolutely hate and despise America these days? I believe it’s because so many want America to be a utopia and/or believe that it’s supposed to be. In fact, some even believe it is a utopia…except for all the people who don’t believe the way they do : ). A utopia is a perfect society. In other words, it’s heaven on earth. Unfortunately, this is impossible and not even in the realm of reality. Let me illustrate.

When I was a freshman at Concordia College in 1982 and 1983, all incoming freshmen were required to take a Humanities class. It was Monday through Friday with an extra hour of “lab” attached to it on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Furthermore, it was year-long class spread out over three quarters. In one of those quarters, we studied utopias. In fact, we read ten books about utopias (or at least failed attempts at utopias) including Utopia by Thomas More, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, Plato’s Republic, etc. Like I said, there were TEN BOOKS! Ouch!

One of the things we also did in that class was play a game called SIMSOC which stands for “Simulated Society.” We played this game for at least a week, although it might have been longer. Before we started the game, we were instructed to write out our goals. Most of my classmate’s goals were very altruistic for they wanted to prove that human beings could create a utopia if we really wanted to. I, of course, was not so naïve. In other words, I actually read those books (well, most of ‘em…thank you Cliffsnotes : ). Furthermore, while I might have been a relatively new follower of Jesus, I was “all in” and was reading His Word and believing it. Consequently, I was acutely aware that mankind was not naturally good.

Of course, I’m ornery and wanted to prove this truth to my fellow students and so the goals I wrote down were something like this: “1) “power; 2) wealth; 3) global domination.” After all, it was just a game. Sheesh! And fortune smiled on me for I was selected to be the leader of Judco. That’s right, I was the law! As the leader of Judco I made it my goal to entice the leaders of the various Subsistence agencies to share in the fruits of my diabolical plan (by the way, they weren’t all that hard to recruit).

Unfortunately, I couldn’t persuade one particular “goody two-shoe” which pretty much kept the rest of society functioning and out of the grip of my power. However, myself and the rest of my evil empire did get rich on Simbucks and I cashed them in on a lot of Snickers bars that week at the Simshack. As for the rest of the society, well, they didn’t eat as well as we did. Many of the teachers (who were also not so naïve) were amused, laughed, and even saluted me with “Heil Steinmeyer!” On the flip side, many of my fellow students were quite angry with me (seriously!). Again, it was a game. Sheesh! However, I had proved my point.

So, what did I prove? First of all, I proved that even virtual utopias are impossible because there’s always some self-serving knuckleheads like me to mess things up for everyone else. I also proved that communism and socialism actually do work, of course, not for regular citizens, but for those in power and for which these systems are designed – to entrench their control even more! This is why we Americans should resist the enticement towards communism and socialism at all costs. These forms of government only work in the minds of those who created them and the politicians who advocate for them…and it’s for their benefit, not yours!

So, what am I getting at as we prepare to celebrate our country’s freedom this Sunday on the Fourth of July? It’s this, that it is impossible for America to be perfect because it’s filled with imperfect people. There is only one perfect society and it’s the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God. Of course, on this side of eternity we glimpse but a reflection. However, one day, “…God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

On the other hand, I do see God’s hand in the forming of our country (and I am so thankful!). Without a doubt our founders were imperfect. However, they came together on a belief that there was something greater than even peace: it was an idea that only God Himself should have absolute power and therefore, citizens should have the freedom to decide for themselves who among them should lead. Our system of government is like no other for it checks and balances (or at least it’s supposed to) the power and control of one another. In other words, it doesn’t assume that people are naturally good, but that they are not. Furthermore, the only people who want to get rid of such controls, want the power all for themselves.

This kind of freedom is worth fighting for and dying for. This kind of freedom has a cost! As Winston Churchill put it so well, “War is horrible, but slavery is worse.” So true. With that said, isn’t it fitting that, rather than to complain about all that’s wrong with our country, we come together and celebrate our freedom instead? After all, it was very expensive. And as we celebrate, isn’t it fitting to be grateful for all those those who died in the effort to both secure and preserve our freedom?

Happy Independence Day!


The Lie Behind the Hate

22 01 2021

One of my favorite stories from John Maxwell describes a conversation his father, Melvin Maxwell, had with another person.  This other person asked Melvin what he thought of a mutual acquaintance.   Melvin responded with kind words and much respect towards this acquaintance.  However, the enquirer then countered with, “Well, you should have heard what he said about you.  Do you still feel the same way?”  At this point, Melvin responded, “Yes I do.”  This other person was perplexed by Melvin’s reaction.  However, Melvin explained to him, “You asked me what I thought of him, not what he thought of me.”

When I first heard this story, I was both challenged and convicted.  I was convicted because (especially at that time in my life) I was not made of the same stuff as Melvin (and John) Maxwell.  However, I was also challenged because I so wanted to be like that.  I wanted to have that same kind of self-confidence, integrity, courage, and, most all, that same kind of love for my fellow man no matter what he/she thinks of me.

Even though our country is more divided and more polarized than I can ever remember, I’m sure we can all agree that…uh…well, that we’re more divided and more polarized than anyone can remember.  In fact, this might be the only thing that we can all agree on.  Never have I seen such hate and vitriol as I have seen in this past year.  There’s a call for unity.  However, that call is really a demand to “come over to my side and then we can get along.”  And if you won’t come over to my side, it’s because, “You’re hater, a racist, a bigot, a communist, a socialist, a terrorist, or a Nazi, or because you’re brainwashed.”  In other words, “You’re so evil (or so deceived) that you should just shut up!”  “Why should anyone listen to you, when you’re so evil?

Is there any hope for us?  Actually, there is.  However, it means that we are going to have to change our thinking about an assumption that has been ingrained in us for a very long time now. 

The fact is many of us (if not most of us) are shackled by a lie.  And until we are set free from that lie, we are incapable of escaping the hate and choosing love.  Jesus said, “…the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).  This statement was a promise to those listening (and all those who would come after and heed Jesus’ words) that if they embraced both Jesus and His teaching – “the truth” – freedom would be the result.  Of course, the opposite is true as well.  If we don’t know the truth, believe the truth, and embrace the truth, we will remain captives to a lie(s).

So what’s the particular lie behind the hate in America and which is keeping so many of us at each other’s throats and incapable of finding any kind of unity whatsoever.  It’s this:  that love is agreement. 

In other words, if I don’t agree with you, then I don’t love you.  Is that true?  Is that what love is?  The Bible declares emphatically that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  If God is love, is that the way He is with us?  Does He withhold His love until we can agree with Him or He agrees with us?  Of course not.  It’s true that God does want us to agree with Him (which is what repentance actually is – not to feel sorry for our sins, but to “change our thinking” and align it with God’s thinking, God’s Word, and God’s will). However, before we ever did a single thing that could be described as “lovable,” God loved us lavishly, absolutely, and perfectly. 

“…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I’ve been walking with Jesus now for over forty years now and I have no delusions that God agrees with everything I do, everything I say, and everything I think (though I am trying to become more like Him every day). However, I know that He loves me perfectly.  In fact, He has always loved me this way!  “Perfect” means that His love cannot improve for me as it’s already maxed out.  There’s nothing I could ever do that could increase His love for me; it can’t get better when it’s already best.  Furthermore, His love will for me will never lessen either, no matter how badly I screw up.  This is what love truly looks like.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

You know what this means?  This means that we don’t have to agree either in order to love one another.  We can disagree with each other’s opinions, politics, conclusions, lifestyles, choices, religions, etc. and still love one another.  We can still value one another.  And we can even be friends (and without being traitors to our causes).  This is totally possible, if we truly love one another.  However, I will admit that I failed miserably at “loving my enemy” until the Holy Spirit took up residence in me.  And this makes sense to me.  After all, God is perfect at loving and He lives within me.

Maybe you disagree with me.  Maybe you think what I’ve written is ridiculous, naïve, and/or an oversimplification.  Maybe you think I’m simply justifying my own disagreement with behaviors that the Bible labels as “sin.”  Maybe you think that, as a follower of Jesus, I’m obviously a hater, or brainwashed, or close-minded.  Maybe you even hate me for being a follower of Jesus or disagreeing with you.  I cannot agree with you if it means disagreeing with God (who are we, mere clay, to sit in judgment of the Potter and judge Him by our own, and so limited, understanding?).  I may not understand everything my Lord does (or doesn’t do).  However, I trust Him and I know He loves me. 

I know He loves you too…perfectly!  He loves you even if you disagree with Him.  He loves you even if you believe He doesn’t exist.  He loves you even if you hate Him.  And because He loves you so much and deems you worth dying for, I choose to love you too.  And if you think of me as your enemy because of my allegiance to God and what I believe, know this:  I want us to be friends.

Thank you for taking the time, my friend, to read my blog and considering what I’ve written.


Some Peace in the Chaos

7 01 2021

Right now I am at the beginning of a Sabbatical that my staff and my church has graciously given me.  It was not my idea.  However, I believe it is God’s will for me and for our church so I am trying to cooperate :  ).  On the other hand, in light of the events of yesterday and the rhetoric of today, I feel compelled to speak up, if not for the encouragement of all my friends and family members on facebook, at least for those I fellowship with and lead at Gateway Church in Kennewick.

Of course, my fear is that because of algorithms, many will never even see this blog post.  Social Media, in the effort to keep us engaged, has totally polarized us, its “users” (by the way, the same term used for addicts) so that we only see one side of the argument…the side we already agree with.  As a result, each one of us being painted into a corner that is increasing bigotry in our country at an alarming rate.  Not too long ago, I wrote another blog about bigotry (click here) which is an “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.” As I wrote in that blog, “it’s not what you believe or who you support that makes you a bigot.  It’s your intolerance to the opposing view that does.”

Which brings me to why I am breaking my Sabbath today, not to persuade you into changing your position necessarily, but to bring some sanity to the insanity.  So please set any bigotry you might have aside for a moment (and believe me, no one is immune to this) and break free from “the powers that be” that want to put every one of us into a box.  Not all of any group is exactly the same (whether that be republican or democrat, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.).  Every single person is complicated and should never be buttonholed into a single category. We all have different stories and different reasons for why we think the way we do and do what we do.

For example, there are many reasons why someone would vote for Trump or Biden.  Some voted for Trump because they liked his policies or for what he has accomplished, or because he was not a political insider, or because he can’t be controlled by the media, lobbyists (or anyone for the matter), because he wasn’t afraid to upset the apple cart, or because he is not Joe Biden, etc.  In other words, there are some (if not many) who voted for Trump who do not like Trump.  On the other hand, some voted for Biden because they like his policies, or that he picked an African-American woman as his running mate, or because he is an experienced politician, or because he is not uncontrollable (like Trump), or because he will not upset the apple cart, or because he is not Donald Trump period, etc.  In other words, there are some (if not many) who voted for Biden who do not like Biden.

Tuesday night I was praying for our nation and as I prayed, “Lord, Your will be done,” the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and reminded me of a sermon my son, Chase, spoke about Joseph called “The Good Life” (listen here and select “May 27, 2018”).  As Chase related in that message, a lot of things happened to Joseph that looked and felt awful to him at the time and that were tremendously unjust.  However, God used those evil things (not that He caused them, although He did allow them to happen) to “to save…lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).  In other words, God spoke to my heart that although things might look bad (to many) right now, He is in control working behind the scenes His purposes for His kingdom’s sake (which should never be confused with America or any nation).  In other words, God was telling me, “This is good,” (in the sense that God is going to use it for good). And as He spoke this to my heart, I smiled and my heart was filled with peace.

That was Tuesday night before we knew the results of the Senate runoffs in Georgia or before any of us had a clue about what would unfold at the Capitol.  Which, by the way, I condemn.  Furthermore, I am not, in any way, insinuating that God caused that lawlessness or even wanted it to happen (though He, obviously, did allow it to happen).  As I shared recently at Gateway in one of our services, lawlessness is not only wrong (whether it’s the riots that we witnessed this past summer, or what we witnessed yesterday) it is anti Christ (READ 2 Thessalonians 2).  As my friend, Mark Moder stated so eloquently yesterday on fb, “Jesus could have led an insurrection…He chose not to.”

Wednesday morning, before the assault on the Capitol, I was again praying for our nation and again praying, “Lord, Your will be done,” and again God spoke to my heart saying that He was ‘about to wake up many that they should never put their hope in anyone other than Jesus.’  In fact, to do so is idolatry.  So true!  By the way, that doesn’t just include putting our hope in someone whose name starts with T but also B, H, etc.  Again, to do so is idolatry.

Despite all that has happened in the last couple of days, or the last year, I am greatly encouraged by what God shared with me and I hope you will be too, and that is why I am taking the time to share it.  So be encouraged, after all Jesus said this: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Seek first the kingdom!


The Real “F” Word

23 07 2020

Once again I find myself writing and sharing about forgiveness.  Why?  Because not very many people are talking about this, and because it is vital for both the follower of Jesus and our nation if we want to get on the other side of the current strife we’re experiencing. 

Forgiveness has become the new “f” word.  Nobody wants to talk about it.  Fewer still want to do it.  This past Sunday, during our service I mentioned that “there can be no reconciliation without forgiveness” and immediately almost a third of us departed the live stream.  I’d like to think that it was coincidence (and I’d definitely not like to think it was because I was boring people to tears : ). However, like I said, forgiveness is the f-bomb for so many of us.  When we hear the whistle of that bomb dropping our way, we cover our ears and duck for cover.  “Please Lord, don’t make me forgive that person that hurt me.”

The media doesn’t want us to forgive, after all, there’s no money in that.  Politicians don’t want us to forgive, or we might end up voting for the other guy.  People who have an agenda don’t want us to forgive, after all, it might somehow weaken their argument and their power.  And for sure, Satan does not want us to forgive, for it will lessen his grip on us.

Miles McPherson (ex NFL defensive back for the San Diego Chargers and now pastor) explains what we’re up against this way: [Our] culture wants to pit one group against another by promoting a zero-sum-gain mentality that says, ‘You must lose in order for me to win.'” However, in his book The Third Option, Miles declares that there’s another option besides choosing us or them. The third option is that we can honor one another and focus on what we have in common. However, I believe that God’s Word shows us that in order to do that, we must forgive one another for “humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15:33 & 18:12).

It’s ‘God’s kindness that leads us to repentance’ (Romans 2:4).  God wants us to love one another. God wants us to live in harmony with each other. And God wants to set us free from offenses that have become life sentences to us.  He wants to cut the tether that’s keeping you tied to that past hurt. He wants to free you to move forward into healing, peace, joy, and fresh vision.

As long as you don’t forgive that person (or group of people) who hurt you, you’ll see everything through the filter of that wound. However, when we forgive, God gives us new eyes and a fresh start. In fact, not only do we get a clean slate, it allows us to give others a new beginning as well. It turns us into people of grace!

I’m not saying forgiveness is easy.  It’s never been easy.  In fact, when Jesus told His disciples that “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them,” his disciples immediately respond with, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:3-5).  No, forgiveness is not easy (at least not in our own strength).  However, it is necessary and much more effective than setting yourself on fire and hoping your enemy dies of smoke inhalation.

So are you ready to forgive and move forward?  Then do this…  Simply say the words, “I forgive _______________.”  Then ask God to help you truly forgive.  I promise He will.  In fact, keep saying those words and keep asking for His help until you get on the other side of this hurt.  It may take some time, but He is faithful and will help you.  In fact, Jesus, by His Spirit, lives within the true follower of Jesus and He is really good at forgiving. In other words, you can do this, because you are not doing it alone!


The Subtle Forms of Bigotry

4 06 2020

I am not a politician nor am I a political activist.  I am a minister of the Gospel of Christ.  Because of this you will not find me (or any of the staff of Gateway Church) posting or sharing political posts on social media.  If I do that, I immediately alienate half of the people I’m trying to love, reach, and help.  On the other hand, I want to and will share truth because the truth sets us free whereas lies enslave us (John 8:31-32). 

So, as a pastor, let me lead with some truth:  “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20).  Even if you’re not a follower of Jesus, I’m hoping you can see the wisdom in these verses in the Bible.  Unfortunately, a lot of America is doing the exact opposite right now; we are slow to listen, quick to speak (posting, even yelling, our point of view), and quick to become angry.  Will we ever learn that this contrary approach will never change anything?  Whoever changed their mind as a result of someone yelling at them?  You might get someone’s attention if you yell at them, but you won’t change their heart.

I believe that if we truly want peace in our country, we need to eliminate all forms of prejudicial thinking and behavior.  In principle, I bet that most people agree with that statement.  If you are one of those who does agree with me on this point, then I want to challenge you to holster your pointer and begin with the person in the mirror.  This is where we all need to start.  After all, as Jesus clearly taught us, there just might be some planks in our eyes that we are unaware of because we’re focused on a speck of dust in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

I’ve been noticing a trend (okay, maybe it’s existed forever) that I believe is at the heart of the division in our society and that’s keeping us from even being able to hear one another.  As soon as someone labels someone else as a racist or a bigot the conversation has ended.  After all, who would want to listen to such a person, or listen to someone who supports such a person, right?  However, I’m going to make an observation that I hope we will all at least consider:  when we label individuals and groups this way, this too is a form of bigotry.  Let me explain.

Often the word “bigotry” is used as a synonym for racism.  However, it’s not the same word nor does it have the same meaning.  To be racist means that I treat someone else with ‘prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism because they are a different race and because I believe that my own race is superior to theirs.’  Bigotry, on the other hand, is an “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.”  In other words, it’s entirely possible to be a bigot without being a racist.  And the truth is that probably every one of us has been guilty of bigotry at one time or another.  It’s not what you believe or who you support that makes you a bigot.  It’s your intolerance to the opposing view that does.  So let me give you some examples of how we do this.

The most obvious way we do this is when we use the word (or think in terms of) “all”:  all churches, all Christians, all whites, all blacks, all Hispanics, all republicans, all democrats, all conservatives, all liberals, all cops, all politicians, all who voted for Trump, etc.  Of course, you don’t have to use the word “all” to do this.  For example, “I hate the church,” “that’s typical of Christians,” “What do you expect for a conservative (or a liberal)?”, “Cops are racist,” “Black people (or white people) don’t understand,” etc.  By the way, if any (or all) of those above statements bother you, that’s good.  It should bother us because, while they are not all racist in nature, they are all bigotries.  They are all examples of such intolerance that rather than view each person as an individual, we lump everyone together so we don’t even have to listen to a single voice who might belong to that particular group we’ve singled out.

Another example of bigotry is when someone says, “You cannot be my friend if you voted for so and so or believe such and such” that is bigotry.  In other words, if someone has to agree with us before we can accept them, like them, or love them, that’s bigotry.  LOVE IS NOT AGREEMENT.  God doesn’t agree with everything I say, think, or do.  However, He loves me perfectly.  He loves you perfectly too.  This means that God’s love for us can never get better because it’s already best.  It can’t increase because it’s already maxed out.  Nor can God’s love decrease for us either…no matter what we’ve done or will do.  God is love (1 John 4:8)!  His perfect love is part of His perfect nature:  it’s immutable (it doesn’t change)!  In other words, His love is just like Jesus (who is God incarnate) “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 11:8).  In fact, God doesn’t stop at merely tolerating us.  Who wants to just be tolerated?  On the contrary, Jesus loves us perfectly giving us grace and mercy “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8).  Shouldn’t we follow suit for each other and especially when we don’t agree?

Still another example of bigotry is when we share something on social media without even fact checking it.  By the way, there’s another word for this:  gossip!  When we gossip (whether with our mouths or our posts) we have automatically inserted our own prejudice into the matter.  We want it to be true and so we share it as truth.  However, did we even bother to check to see if it is true, or if there’s another side to the story, another point of view, or another perspective?  People are not guilty just because they are accused of something and hearsay evidence is still not admissible in a court of law.  The reason behind this, of course, is that gossip is not accepted in a court of law.  NOTE: cites like TruthorFiction? or Snopes are not perfect (sometimes containing bias), but are often very helpful at getting at the truth or at least showing us another side of the story.

Finally, often calling someone else a “bigot” (or any name for that matter) can be a form of bigotry.  I know that sounds weird, but please hear me out.  It’s impossible to know what is in someone else’s heart.  We can only make a proper judgment from actions alone.  And even then we need to be careful for as Jesus stated so clearly, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).  It’s very easy to misinterpret someone else’s actions or misconstrue what someone else meant.  How can we call someone a bigot when we truly don’t know that person?  Is that fair?  Would it be fair if someone who doesn’t know you labeled you?  In fact, I bet you already have experienced this pain in your life and know what I’m talking about. 

When we label someone it’s often because we want to give ourselves permission not to have to even listen to them.  Even if they say something good, it doesn’t matter because they are a hypocrite, or a bigot, or a racist, or a homophobe, etc.  Furthermore, when we do this we give that other person absolutely no room (and no grace!) to change.

When I was a lot younger I had an anger problem.  In overcoming this issue (that was in danger of destroying my family, my marriage, and my very soul) I had to train myself to look for another perspective when something bothered me or offended me.  For example, if someone pulled in front of me on the freeway, instead of jumping to the conclusion that that other person was a jerk, I intentionally looked for other explanations behind the offense.  Maybe that other person was in a hurry because they were rushing to the hospital to see a loved one who was at death’s door.  Maybe they were late for work and were in danger of being fired.  Or maybe they just didn’t see me and it was an innocent mistake (which I have committed myself).  In other words, I trained myself (with God’s help, of course) to give others the benefit of the doubt…to give them grace and mercy.

What I’m getting at is this…  If we as a nation, want to get on the other side of this turmoil, violence, hate, racism, and bigotry in every form we all need to look in the mirror first.  You can’t change the whole world no matter how much you want to or how loud you yell.  However, you can change you.  So I challenge you to make a commitment that from this point on, you will be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to become angry.  Let us strive to change hearts and not just win arguments, and to truly love one another and especially when we don’t agree.  Love is not a feeling.  It’s a choice!


That’s What Love Does

28 05 2020

Here I am staring at my screen and my keyboard, trying to come up with something that makes sense of everything, trying to come up with some words that make things better in some way, yet the words are very slow in coming. The fact is, I don’t know what to say. What happened to George Floyd was horrific. It was abusive, brutal, cruel, and, in my opinion, it was murder. However, does stating the obvious do anything to make things better? Do I want to see justice done to the police officer who abused his power and George Floyd? Absolutely! Do I want to see justice done to the officers who stood idly by and watched the whole thing without lifting a finger? Absolutely! Unfortunately, the wheels of justice often turn slowly, and sometimes they do not turn at all.

But what can “I” do? What can “you” do? Is there anything at all that we can do? As I prayed about our country this morning, the Holy Spirit brought some things to mind.

It was right around the turn of the century when I found myself performing at an elementary school in Corsicana, TX. As a professional school speaker and entertainer, I would hook the kids’ attention with yo-yo tricks, storytelling, magic, balloon art, and a whole lot of humor and playful banter. In the meantime I would also be both encouraging and challenging them with an academic and character message. After the show, the kids would then be able to purchase a yo-yo if they wished, though they were never pressured to buy one. The show was generally very well received. However, on occasion there were those who impugned my motives and this created some tension.

Now let me explain the area of Corsicana that I was in that particular morning for this particular show. It was smack dab in the middle of project housing. In other words, it was a very poor area. Also, the school was predominantly African-American. Now let me be clear, I did not think of myself as being the “odd man out” because I’m white, though I was aware that I could experience some racial tension that day. Still, kids are kids no matter what color they are, and people are people; every single one of us special to God and created in His image. I wanted to be there and I felt like I was supposed to be there.

I took the job as a speaker/entertainer because I love kids (I LOVE PEOPLE!) and I wanted to make a difference wherever I performed. While I couldn’t talk about Jesus within public schools, I knew that I could be a representative of Christ to the kids and teachers at each one. In other words, I could let Jesus love them through me. During my time as a yo-yo man I performed at around 3,500 schools for over one million kids and before every single assembly I would pray that God would give me favor at each school, that He would help me to single out (in a good and positive way) those kids that needed an extra special touch of His love and encouragement, and that He would help me bump people closer to Jesus.

As I started the show in Corsicana that morning, I spied one particular teacher near the front who was obviously not thrilled with me being there. Her body language seemed to convey, “Why is this white cracker here wasting valuable education time and exploiting our poor kids?” Of course, I don’t know what she was actually thinking. However, it was clear that she did not like me nor want me there. So there she sat with her arms crossed, frowning, and determined to not enjoy the show.

So what did I do? Did I ignore her? Nope? In fact, I focused on her. Not by addressing her, but by praying for her under my breath and in my mind as I performed. I refused to just endure this moment. Instead, I saw it as an opportunity to make a difference. I prayed that God would crack that hard shell around her heart and give me favor with her. I prayed that He would open her eyes that she might see that I too loved her kids. I prayed that God would destroy the hate and distrust that divided us. I prayed that God could even heal her heart and use me to do it. And God answered my prayer! In fact, right now it’s bringing tears to my eyes as I vividly recall the memory of her as she dropped her guard.

I had invited a child on stage with me, and as I playfully bantered back and forth with him and then presented him with a ridiculous looking balloon hat, the dam of distrust broke wide open in this teacher’s heart as she threw her arms wide open and laughed enthusiastically. Gotcha!

After the show, many of the kids thanked me for coming as was the custom. Sometimes teachers did so as well, though most were busy managing their students and trying to get them back to class in an orderly manner. On this particular day, one teacher made sure to tell me, “Thank you.” Yep, it was her, because that’s what love and prayer does! They move the immovable. In fact, I hope that one day I will get to see this wonderful lady on the other side of eternity and that we will get to laugh and reminisce together about that day we met so many years ago. I hope for this because I prayed for her soul that day too.

If we want to see change in our country (and I sure do!) it begins with the people of God, not stepping up on soapboxes, but praying, being real, and loving everyone (regardless of their color) that God puts in our path. Step one is PRAY!


Has Your Heart Grown Hard?

7 05 2020

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it. 
Proverbs 4:23

Stone Heart

Has your heart grown hard? As I write some thoughts about this question and this issue, a warning bell rings in my heart. It would be so easy to read this and think of someone else. However, I want to challenge you to examine your own heart. After all, you can’t control what others do, think, or believe. Neither are they your responsibility. You are responsible for the person in the mirror.

One of the easiest ways to know how your heart is doing is to pay attention to what’s coming out of your mouth. How do I know this? Because Jesus said so: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34). The Holy Spirit shined a light on this truth in my own life years ago while I was fishing.

I was pursuing the elusive steelhead on the Walla Walla River not too far from the church I was an associate pastor at once upon a time ago. It was one of my first casts that day. Up to that point I had been skunked. However, I don’t give up easy when I’m fishing. I enjoy fishing just for fishing sake and being alone in nature. On the other hand, I love catching fish even more than that. In order to do that, successful fisherman know that you need to go to where the fish are and not expect them to come to you. So I eased up the bank and attempted a long cast to an eddy on the other side of the river, and I sailed my lure right into an overhanging branch directly above that eddy.

Normally, it would have been simple and easy to wade through the stream and disengage my lure from the tree by hand. However, it was the fall and navigating the Walla Walla that day was difficult, and potentially dangerous (because of the recent rain storms). So the safest course of action was simply to break my line off and tie on another lure (which I hate doing!).

You know what’s worse than snagging your lure and breaking it off? Doing it two times in a row! Which I did that day, and as I did so a list of expletives rolled off my tongue. In the very next moment I was apologizing to God for my lapse in self-control (because God does care about the words we use, Ephesians 4:29 and Ephesians 5:4) at which point the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “What’s wrong with your heart?”

I answered, “I don’t know.” However, the Lord had put his finger on my problem, and it wasn’t with my tongue alone. That was the symptom. The problem was with my heart! Over the next few months that is where I focused my attention and cooperated with God in addressing the real problem. Truly it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) because God loves us and cares about the condition of our hearts!

So how’s your heart? Has it become hardened? If so, maybe you feel that you have some good reasons for this, and maybe you do. However, God loves you so much and all the people that you will negatively influence because of your hard heart, that He will not let this go. After all, His covenant with us (the New Covenant) is centered in a new command: the law of love (John 13:34-35).

So here’s what I want to challenge you to do: measure your words, actions, and thoughts against the following definition of love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

So again, how’s your heart? If God has put his finger on something, don’t deny it, whitewash it, or downplay it. Instead, choose to cooperate with Him, ask for forgiveness, choose to forgive, offer restitution, make things right, and let God heal that hardened heart of yours and make it soft and pliable once again.


What Are YOU Putting YOUR Stock In?

16 04 2020

If there is a silver lining with the Coronavirus, it’s that it’s forced us to face our own mortality.  Last week just over 5,000 people died of this nasty bug.  I heard a doctor this morning say that more people died last week than any given week in modern history.  When I heard this, I said to my wife, Denise, “I don’t believe that.”  This morning when I got into the office I did some research and what I discovered blew me away!

World Mortality Rate 2020

Now please don’t misunderstand me.  Without a doubt, COVID-19 is a potentially deadly contagion (of course, 98% or MORE will recover).  In addition, it has a relatively longer incubation period (the amount of time between catching the virus and beginning to show symptoms) and a relatively longer recovery period than your basic flu bug.

Furthermore, social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates, no doubt have mitigated (at least to some extent) the spread of this disease.  These precautions have also helped both hospitals and research to catch up and bought some time so that better treatments could be found.

However, did more American citizens die last week than any other given week in modern history?  ABSOLUTELY NOT unless modern history started last week!  In fact, less died than usual.  While it was our highest Coronavirus death count in the US, the overall death count for all causes was down considerably.  On average, just a little over 54,000 people die each week in America from various causes.  However, last week 49,770 people died from all causes including COVID-19.  Now, let’s compare this to the week of February 8th of this year when 57,094 people died of all causes and ZERO people died of COVID-19In other words, last week, OVERALL, was a pretty good week in America.  Of course, you’d never know that if you just took the media’s word on it and didn’t check the facts.

The fact is, anyone of us could die in a heartbeat.  The mortality rate for everyone of is still 100%.  Furthermore, Jesus could come back and take us all home even quicker than that.  In fact, the Word of God says this:  “… in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52, emphasis mine).  With that said, what are you putting your stock in, the perishable or the imperishable?  The temporal or the eternal?

When we focus on this life, ourselves, taking care of me and mine, worrying, holding grudges…all of these things are investments of time, energy, and money into what will perish.  However, every moment we put our trust in Jesus, we love and care for others, we give faithfully, we forgive, we share the Good News, we worship Jesus, we say “no” to some things so we can “yes” to God…then we are investing in that which will last forever.

As for me, I am not even a little bit scared or nervous “…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (12 Timothy 1:12).

What are YOU putting YOUR stock in?


Bend Us, Lord…Bend ME

21 02 2018

Today my prayer changed.  Today my heart changed.  Let me explain…

As is my custom, as I was driving into work today, I was praying the Lord’s Prayer (I often use it as a tool to guide me as I pray).  As I was praying for the Lord’s will to be done in me and at Gateway Church, I had this thought and said it out loud, “Lord, I feel like we’re the Cleveland Browns.”  For those of you who aren’t football fans, please bear with me for a moment as I bring you in the know.

The football team we know as the Cleveland Browns are perennial losers.  They used to be a powerhouse once upon a time ago.  However, they havAP STEELERS BROWNS FOOTBALL S FBN USA OHen’t even had a winning season since 2007.  In fact, that was only one of two winning seasons in the last 23 years.  Because they pretty much always lose, every year they get some really good draft picks.  In fact, this last year promised to be a decent season because they had a really good draft and made a lot of really good off-season acquisitions through free agency.  Could 2017 be the year they began to turn everything around?  Nope.  They finished 0-16.

Once upon a time, Gateway Church in Kennewick, WA (formerly Tri-City Foursquare Church) used to be a growing and thriving church.  As the newest coach…uh…pastor, in the six years I’ve been at the helm, although we’ve had some wins, we definitely have not grown.  Yet each year, I feel like this could be the year we turn things around (maybe you feel the same way…or hope…about the church you attend).  Like I said, “Lord, I feel like we’re the Cleveland Browns.” 

Yet God would change both my prayer and my heart as I moved on to pray for God’s will to be done in some friends who are on the verge of a major transition in their lives.  Because I don’t have a clue about what God has in store for them, but knowing their hearts to make difference for God’s Kingdom, instead of praying just for them, I began to pray for the city in which they live “Lord, your will be done in that city.”  That’s when God changed my prayer for my own situation.  And that’s when I began to pray, instead of “Lord, please bless Gateway Church and help us to grow,” to “Lord, your will be done in the Tri-Cities and help Gateway do its part.”  And as I prayed this new prayer, such a peace washed over my soul (like God’s Spirit was giving me an “attaboy!”).

Lately I’ve been praying a prayer borrowed from the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905 where over 100,000 people came to Christ and which led to even more across the world (even to Azusa Street):  “Bend us, Lord.”  It’s a prayer they borrowed from somebody else, and now I’m borrowing it from them.  Today the Lord bent me.  He showed me my pride and self-centeredness.  Today God reminded me that Gateway Church (and myself) belong to the Church of the Tri-Cities’ Metroplex.  Today God reminded me that I belong to a larger team and I need to be a team player.

So let me challenge you to pray for your city and to do your part to help God’s Kingdom to grow there.  “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! …For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm 133:1-3).

Bend us, Lord.  Bend ME.


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