Getting Close

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18 NLT

Relationships are built. Love too. But love takes a lifetime.

She worked one office over from me. Little did I know she was on the way out of a decade-long abusive relationship. When I discovered she would soon be available, I began planning how I would woo her. As it turned out, I didn’t have to do much wooing—she took care of it. She baked goodies for me—ones she was trying to sell to raise enough money for her down payment on a necessary surgery. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach—and she marched right in.

Less than two years later, we were married. That was almost twelve years ago, and I love her more today than I did then. She is my best friend, my supporter, and my greatest cheerleader. Where I go, she goes, and where she goes, I follow. We are still working on getting closer and building our love.

According to the psalmist, God is only a whisper away from those who call on Him. We must come by way of confession and repentance initially, but thereafter He wants to be involved in every detail of our lives. And will if we’ll ask.

Building a love relationship with God takes a lifetime—just as it does with my wife and any other important person in my life. If I take the relationship for granted, it will turn sour, lose its vibrancy, and eventually grow cold. As I nurture my relationship with my wife, so I must do the same with my connection to God.

Talking to God is essential. If I never talked to my wife, things would go south in short order. Pray without ceasing was the apostle Paul’s advice. God is with me all the time; I just need to be aware of His presence, ask His advice, and seek His direction.

Occasionally, I’ll write my wife a love poem. She loves them, and I always get a big hug and sloppy kiss. God also wrote a love letter He wants me to be intensely familiar with. Time in His Word is vital in building a love relationship with Him. His Word instructs, warns, encourages, and comforts. All things a love letter should accomplish.

God wants to get close to You; He’s merely waiting for the invitation.



As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. Acts 22:6 NLT

“Intimidator.” He was once proud of the name—but not anymore.

Richard and his brothers had a reputation. Brawny and bad to the bone, they didn’t take anything off of anybody. Messing with them was bad news. They would gladly take you down—for little or no reason at all. Their violent words were matched by violent behavior. Fights were their business, and they went looking for them. Richard wore his nickname well and was more than willing to show anyone why he had it—until someone more intimidating than he was showed up.

Richard discovered God wasn’t scared of him and was more than willing to fight for his soul. He couldn’t bully God . . . couldn’t even touch Him. But God could fight him in ways he couldn’t defend himself against. He could hurt his conscience and his heart. He could bring out the soft side of him that he let no one else see.

Richard still speaks about his nickname—but in the past tense. That’s who he was, but it’s not who he is now. He saw the light.

Paul saw a light too. He was also big and bad—but in the religious field. This new “Way”—Christianity—had to be stamped out. So he busied himself arresting Christians and dragging them off to jail where many of them were killed—until he saw the light. The same light Richard saw thousands of years later. The light of a greater “Intimidator.” An intimidator who informed him he was traveling the wrong path.

God doesn’t intimidate with catcalls, fights, and threats. He intimidates with the truth about me. I’m a sinner in need of help, and He’s the only One who can assist me. I can’t work to be good enough for Him to accept. Someone better than me—someone perfect—had to suffer for my sins. And in His love, God allowed His Son to take my place on a rugged cross. All He asks for in return is my love and obedience.

Relationship was why God created us in the beginning and why He allowed His Son to die for us in the end. No matter how intimidating we may try to be, we cannot out intimidate God’s truth about who we are and what we need to do.

Feeling intimidated? Accept God’s truth, love the Great Lover, and experience life at its best.


You gave me victory over my accusers. Psalm 18:43 NLT

Accusations can sting—especially the false ones.

Norris couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Didn’t you know she was ____?” “Couldn’t you smell ____ on her breath?” It was bad enough that he’d just had his wife confess unfaithfulness and tell him she didn’t love him anymore. Now the spiritual leaders of the church he pastored were accusing him of a cover-up. But he didn’t know she was ___. And he had not smelled _____ on her breath. He had his suspicions—but no solid proof. There was nothing he could do but resign.

I’ve experienced a little of what Norris tasted. I, too, remember a time when a comment I made was taken out of context, and it almost cost me my job. Being falsely accused hurts—and can bring with it a high cost.

What the psalmist was accused of, we aren’t told. The missing information isn’t important though. He trusted God to give him victory over his accusers.

Jesus was familiar with false accusations too. When He cast out demons, the religious authorities said He was empowered by the prince of demons. False accusations eventually led Him to the cross.

Early Christians also knew about false accusations. Ironically, they were accused of being atheists. Not because they didn’t worship or believe in any god but because they would not acknowledge the Roman Caesar as a god nor believe in the Roman pantheon of gods.

False accusations are a part of life at some moment during the journey. They may or may not have anything to do with my faith, but more than likely they will. Those who accuse have ulterior motives. Perhaps they want my job. Maybe they hate the morality that comes along with my belief system.

Jesus responded to false accusations by making Himself as a sheep going to slaughter: silence. Reacting with anger, cursing, or other forms of violent behavior won’t do the trick. Nor will appealing to my legal rights. These things will only serve to damage my witness before others.

The best course of action is to turn the matter over to God. He said vengeance belonged to Him—not me. Praying over the matter and praying for the person making the false accusations will bring peace to my soul and keep me from doing something that will hinder the cause of God.

Let God handle false accusations made against you.

When the Battles Come

You have armed me with strength for the battle. Psalm 18:39 NLT

Some battles have nothing to do with wielding a weapon.

Military blood runs through my family veins. My father did a stint in the National Guard and then the Army, serving overseas in the Formosa Crisis. My father-in-law retired from the Army, doing time in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. A brother-in-law served in the Air Force, and a nephew did time in Iraq. Even both of my children did short stints.

When I entered my teenage years, the Vietnam War was nearing an end—at least America’s involvement in it. The military draft was still in force, and I feared I would end up in a war that seemed to have no end. But it did end—along with the draft.

Though I’ve never served in the military, I admire those who have and do. And although I’ve never fought in a military battle, I’ve fought a number of other battles: Are my parenting skills up to par? On what grounds do I make this decision? How will I care for my aging parents and in-laws? Should I keep this job or look for another? How will I pay for the move? Why am I depressed? Can I get through this divorce? Will I ever find someone to love me?

The psalmist was familiar with military battles, but he was also familiar with other battles that didn’t require picking up a weapon. Regardless of what type of battle he fought, God armed him with the necessary means to fight it.

God gives all the armor I need to fight my battles with the enemy of my soul—and also the battles I sometimes fight with God. He gives me the helmet of salvation. Thoughts determine actions. I have the power to think on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. I have a breastplate of righteousness, given when I placed my faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is my shield, and I take the gospel of peace wherever I go. My clothes are girded with the belt of truth—which determines everything I say and do. And I have God’s Word to guide every decision I make and action I take.

When the battles come, victory is certain if we adorn ourselves with the full armor of God. Don’t let the battles of life defeat you. Claim the victory that can be yours.

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving us the weapons we need to be victorious over every one of life’s battles.

Traveling with Firm Footing

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. Psalm 18:33 NLT

Where I walk determines how I travel.

I learned the art of careful walking when I backpacked in the mountains. Trails were littered with rocks, roots, and dead leaves, making paths uneven and slippery. If I wasn’t careful, I could twist my ankle, catch my foot on a root, or slip on wet leaves. More than once, my feet magically disappeared from under me. Having to watch my step while hiking made me wish I was like a deer.

While visiting our friends in Henderson, Colorado, we traveled to the Rocky Mountain State Park. The mountains are aptly named and peered at us through the car window as we wound around the curves. Suddenly, mountain goats appeared. We pulled to the side of the road for a better view. They were surefooted like deer and scaled the rocky surfaces—never slipping, as I would have.

I doubt the psalmist referred to God giving him the ability to climb a mountain without falling, although he was familiar with mountains. The mountains he needed help climbing were similar to mine: financial, spiritual, emotional, relational, educational, and parental. I’ve discovered life is filled with such mountains. The psalmist scaled them because God sured up his feet.

Slipping on the mountains I climb is inevitable if I don’t let God help me scale the heights. Through prayer, meditation on His Word, and wise counsel, God gives me wisdom to know the right steps to take. Even when I neglect these things and fall, He’s more than happy to pick me up, steady my feet, and nudge me along.

Although I sometimes fall out of neglect, I periodically fall because God lets me. Falls teach me important lessons. I need to pray before I make decisions. When I make decisions that take me out of God’s will, He will discipline me because He loves me. Occasionally, God leads me over rocky slippery paths to prepare me for an upcoming assignment.

While it’s my responsibility to watch the path I’m traveling, God will give me sure footing so I can travel it.

Travel your life paths with confidence. God will give you sure footing to walk down each one.

Identity: Was Versus Is

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:27 NLT

I wasn’t sure who I would become, but neither was I always positive I wanted to remain what I was.

In fifty-six years, I’ve been many things. I was a preacher’s kid from the time I was eight years old until my dad died when I was forty-nine years old. I was once a grandchild. That identity vanished when my last grandparent died. For a short period, I was an Orkin exterminator. Crawling under houses, seeing animals I didn’t care to see, hitting my head, and smelling odors convinced me I didn’t want that identity.

For two years, I was a warehouse worker. Someone else decided I shouldn’t continue that identity when they laid me off and never recalled me. Then I became a textile worker for four years. I went from weaver to floor sweeper to supervisor. When I answered God’s call to enter the ministry, I went from being a textile worker to being a preacher. Along the way, I was also a teacher for eight years.

All of those things are positions I once held—things I was once labeled by—but they weren’t who I was. As a nine-year-old lad, I listened to my dad explain the plan of salvation. I chose to ask Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my heart. I pledged to follow Him as my Savior. At that moment, I became what Paul classified as a new person. Everything old passed into the past, and a new life began. From that moment, I was a Christian who might be a preacher’s kid, grandchild, textile worker, Orkin exterminator, teacher, or preacher. My real identity, however, was bound up with Christ.

Another identity I left behind when I chose Christ was sinner. I love the song, “I’m Just a Sinner Saved by Grace,” but I question the theology. Yes, I was saved by grace, but the Bible doesn’t continue to classify me as a “sinner” now that I’ve received Christ. In fact, it says I’m a saint. I’m not perfect—and won’t be this side of heaven—but I am a saint because Christ has given me His righteousness. I am God’s child, friend, and a joint heir with Christ.

Knowing who you are is crucial. It determines your actions as well as your attitudes when you face difficulties in life. What is your true identity?

Wind Grabbing

I observed everything going on under the sun,
and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.

Ecclesiastes 1:14 NLT

The parking lot symbolized what once was but would never be again.

In the early 1980s, Ryan’s Steakhouse was the most popular eating establishment in Greenwood, SC. You could choose from a bar of meats, salads, vegetables, starches, and homemade desserts, or you could order from a selection of juicy steaks. Sunday lunches—as well as Sunday nights after church—witnessed a packed restaurant.

Then other popular restaurants encroached on Ryan’s territory. Places like Chiles, O’Charley’s, and Outback Steakhouse. Ryan’s cut out their signature steaks and went solely to a food bar. Crowds thinned. And one day they closed their doors. Financial struggles—along with waning crowds—made the decision.

What’s left of Ryan’s is on my daily walking route. As I walk up and down its parking lot, I think back to what once was. Cars packed the parking lot and overflowed into a neighboring restaurant’s lot. Lines of people snaked out of the front door, waiting to pay and be seated. The smell of steaks simmering on the grill filled the air—along with conversations and laughter as people mingled.

But not now. Grass grows through cracks in the asphalt. Leaves and pine straw litter the lot. Empty pallets, pieces of rock, and other left-behind paraphernalia spoil the ground. As if someone was in a hurry to leave—or reluctant.

I long for the “good ole” days as I walk through the deserted parking lot. Yet I know they’ll never return. What once brought satisfaction to many—myself included—won’t ever again. King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, knew disappointment as well. He hadn’t sampled Ryan’s, but he had everything else. As the wealthiest man alive, he could, and did. However, nothing brought him lasting satisfaction. Pleasure was always one grasp away. Just when he thought he had found it, the wind blew it from his grasp.

Such is the nature of things, whatever they are. Restaurants, relationships, play toys, possessions, power, prestige. They’re all temporary—here for our momentary enjoyment. Perhaps that’s why Jesus said to store our treasures in heaven . . . to invest in what outlasts time. Those things that will have a lasting influence long after we’re gone.

The Ryan’s of the world lose their popularity—and maybe even close their doors. Your life, too, will one day end, but you can leave a legacy for others to remember and emulate.

Prayer: Father, guide us to invest in those things that will outlive our lives.

Life’s Best Comforter

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.

2 Corinthians 1:3 NLT

My wife and I are quickly moving toward being the patriarchs of our family.

Though I try not to think about it, I know the time is approaching when my mother and my in-laws will die. I remember the sorrow I felt when my father died, but at least I had my mother left. When she’s gone, there will be no parents left. My wife’s parents are more aged than my mother and will soon succumb to death as well. The day is coming when our children and grandchildren will have only us to look to—as we did our parents. How we’ll handle the last parent dying, I’m not sure.

According to Paul, God is the source of all comfort—and Paul needed it. Since trusting Christ as his Savior, turmoil and trials had hounded him. Beatings, stonings, jail time, he faced them all—but found his comfort in knowing God was in control and he was doing God’s will.

God hasn’t changed roles. As He comforted Paul, so He comforts me—not only when we lose a loved one but as we face life’s challenges each day. Paying attention to how God comforts us helps us be better comforters.

God’s comfort never runs out nor does He ever tire of giving it. Giving comfort to others is taxing and can drain the emotions. God can handle the task, for He is all-powerful. Nothing we face is too difficult for Him to know how to comfort us.

Comforting others is often inconvenient. Jesus’ ministry was filled with interruptions from others. When we choose to comfort others, we, too, will have to deal with being inconvenienced. Death, accidents, and broken relationships never happen at a convenient time.

Comforting others takes time we could use for something else—perhaps something more enjoyable. True comfort is more than shooting someone a text or email. Or posting a “prayers” comment on their Facebook post. It involves hands-on activities when possible.

While comforting others is time-consuming, doing so brings comfort to us. God designed us to be involved in others’ lives. Doing so fulfills part of His plan for our life. We can only fully appreciate God’s comfort when we channel it to others.

Don’t soak up God’s comfort without squeezing out some for others.

Prayer: Father, use us as instruments of comfort to those who are hurting.

God Understands

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

Psalm 139:1-2 NLT

Regardless of how many times I explained the concept, some continued to misunderstand and make mistakes.

Correctly punctuating compound sentences is one of the simplest yet most difficult concepts I teach in Language Arts. The rule is simple: when two independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, a comma must precede the conjunction. In order for an independent clause to be claimed as such, it must have a subject, verb, and a complete thought—not just a verb and a few prepositional phrases.

And it was the latter that confused many students. Many of them placed a comma when the sentence was actually a simple sentence with compound verbs. Others would mistake the word “then” for a coordinating conjunction and place a comma. I spilled much red ink correcting papers that related to correctly punctuating compound sentences. Although I explained the concept in every imaginable way, the rule often didn’t sink in. Their failure to understand cost them many unnecessary mistakes.

I, too, have failed to understand concepts when I was in school. My misunderstanding was more in math than English classes though. But more worrisome is being misunderstood by others. The psalmist was confident God understood him. After all, God had created him. He knew everything about him, even his innermost thoughts.

Failing to understand a concept and being misunderstood by others aren’t pleasant. Both can lead to frustration. I’ve taught students who practically gave up, and I’ve known people who struggled with depression because others just didn’t “get” them.

Since God made us, He knows everything about us. He knows what things we struggle with—the hard subject, the unpleasant work atmosphere, the tough relationship, the co-dependent friend, the addiction. He doesn’t have to hear us voice our frustrations because He knows our thoughts. He understands us.

There will always be things we don’t understand, as well as some who don’t understand us. We can live with that as long as our Creator is by our side, guiding us along life’s journey. He’s the friend who will never leave, who will always comfort, and who will forever understand.

Take comfort in knowing God understands when no one else does.

Good Comforting

I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! Job 16:2 NLT

Regardless of where she went, she couldn’t find comfort.

Leah and her husband were never apart. They even volunteered at the same place after they retired. Both appeared to be in good health, so you can imagine Leah’s shock when her husband dropped dead. Jeff was outside cutting grass. He had no recent health concerns. But when Leah saw him stumble into the doorway and say he wasn’t feeling well, she could see something wasn’t right. Within a few minutes, he had slumped over, never to recover.

Although months had passed since Jeff’s death, Leah still mourned and suffered from anxiety and depression. She went to counselors, pastors, and friends, but nothing seemed to soothe her pain. She couldn’t focus and struggled to make it through each day. She left her old church, saying she just couldn’t stand to attend without Jeff. Leah longed for lasting comfort, but couldn’t find it anywhere.

Job didn’t find it with his fair-weather friends either. He had lost almost everything a person could lose and still survive. What’s worse, God permitted his woes to prove to Satan that Job would maintain his loyalty to God despite extreme adversity. The only comfort Job’s friends could muster was telling him he had sinned. Confess, and things would get better was their advice. Job, however, had nothing to confess. He maintained his innocence and muddled through his pain and sorrow.

Job’s friends did what is typical. They thought they had to say something to soothe his grief—and they did. But what they said didn’t do the trick nor was it biblically sound. Telling someone God needed another angel or that you know how they feel is hollow comforting. God doesn’t take life to get angels, nor do humans become angels after death. And no two people experience the same episode in the same way.

Presence in the midst of grief is better than words. Sharing truth from God’s Word can be comforting, but timing is critical. Sitting and listening and letting the person cry on your shoulder is better. When the time is right, they’ll ask, and then you can share words of wisdom they might need to hear. For the moment, silence is golden, and practical help is priceless.

Comforting those who grieve is tricky business. Before you speak or act, pray and ask God for direction and wisdom.