Growing Kingdom People – Where’s Your Line?

Where’s Your Line?

Everyone has a line.

Or so it seems.

Our line is the conviction we won’t break.

Or the one we will.

It is the outer rim of our willingness to profess our faith.

And the place where our faith engages.

We don’t like to admit we have a line, but we do. Consider these behaviors:

Where do our “out loud” prayers become our “to ourselves” prayers with our eyes open?

When our employer tells us not to share our faith we call it persecution.  When it is our business and we censor our faith, we call it wisdom.

How do we conduct our lives when no one is looking?  When the world is watching?

Can others push us past the line?

Or do we have our own line no matter how hard the world pushes?

Why is this on my mind now?  Because the true meaning of Easter isn’t always easy to talk about.  Christmas is different.  We don’t mind talking about the Baby Jesus.  Who can’t relate to stable animals, shepherds, a star and magi on camels?  They are……cuddly.

But Easter? Easter is about a Savior who was tortured and crucified, then raised to life.  Not “risen in our hearts” mind you, but resurrected.

That means the body of Jesus that was placed in the tomb came back to life. A motionless chest started to move again.   Fingers and toes wiggled.

He sat up.

He stood up!

He walked out!

Are you comfortable talking about a Savior who died a cruel death, then rose bodily from the dead?

Not just in our hearts.

Not as a ghost or a figment of one’s imagination.

His heart was beating again.

The resurrection is a big deal, not only because it is supernatural and extraordinary but also because it is so necessary. It validates everything Jesus said about the things He had done, was doing and was going to do.

The resurrection is a line that separates followers of Jesus from casual adherents.   The Apostle Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: (Rom 1:16a)

The “gospel” is Jesus crucified for our sins and risen in glory. It is His appearances to many after His resurrection and the testimony of those who saw Him.  It is the “good news” that sin and death are defeated and we can be set free!

Why should there be a line in our lives? When Jesus came to His line on His way to Calvary He crossed it.

It is the lines in our lives that define us.

Where is yours drawn?

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Growing Kingdom People – Those Dangerous Underdogs

Those Dangerous Underdogs

There’s a reason they call it “March Madness.” The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament has not gone exactly as predicted.  It rarely does.

Enter underdogs!

The notion of an underdog emerged from an unfortunate period in the 19th Century when staged dog fights were commonplace.  The underdog was the loser.

Modern day underdogs don’t have to lose, but they must be statistically weaker than their opponents. We cheer for underdogs because they symbolize our desire to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in our own lives.  We live vicariously through their improbable victories.

The most famous biblical underdog is David, a young man who challenged a pagan giant named Goliath with a sling and five smooth stones. Goliath, sneered and jeered but in the end he was killed and decapitated by David.

Goliath was the top dog.

Doggone him.

David was the underdog.

Then Goliath took a shot to the head in the first round.

And the top dog was truly “gone.”

The David story and the NCAA Tournament both raise an interesting question. Why do underdogs win?

In sports, sometimes a unique match-up gives an underdog an unexpected advantage. So does a top dog injury, foul trouble and a three-point shooter with a hot hand.

For David, it was God who gave him the edge. He challenged Goliath with these words: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied”. (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV).

Does this mean the secrets to an underdog’s victory are chance, and on some occasions, the mighty hand of God? If chance is defined by statistical probabilities for events in which God chooses not to intervene, then perhaps that, and certainly the latter.  But there is a third component.

A distinguishing characteristic of a victorious underdog is his unwavering confidence in his ability to win. In spiritual terms, it is his faith in things that may not be clearly visible to everyone.

This is why David was able to defeat Goliath. He had faith in the unseen God.

Does this mean top dogs who lose ball games lacked faith?


On the contrary, some of the teams that have been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament are stacked with incredible testimonies of faith.

But the underdogs who defeated them were convinced they could win. And perhaps, together with other factors, this was the edge they needed.

I will let you decide the role faith plays in a basketball tournament.  I believe God helps players play up to their potential, but I don’t think He plays the brackets.  Besides, that would be a conflict of interest since He can influence the outcome.

But I am certain our faith is what helps us defeat our giants.  And if any victory in our lives  serves God’s purposes, and we are willing to seek and pursue His will, we are a force to be reckoned with.  In the words of the Apostle Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

You might say God is the ultimate “bracket buster.”

Better get ready for your post game interview.

If you are open with a second on the clock, take the shot.

You can’t win if you just stand there.








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Growing Kingdom People – Heaven’s Bracketology

Heaven’s Bracketology

Do you suppose Jesus loves basketball?


Did you know He once filled 12 baskets with five loaves of bread? And this after feeding thousands of people with just five loaves?  Can you imagine what the score would be if Jesus played college ball?

Jesus once said the kingdom of heaven is like a “net” (Matthew 13:47). Ok. So He went on to say it was like a net full of all kinds of fish.  But it is still a net.

Most importantly, Jesus was a number one “seed.” The Bible says He was the “Seed” of the promise of Abraham (Galatians 3:19).  He wasn’t just one of four number one seeds.  He was “the” number one Seed (with a capital “S”).

And if all of this isn’t enough evidence of Jesus’ possible connection to basketball, turn to Revelation 5:8. Do you understand what you are reading?  The four creatures in God’s “final” revelation are with twenty-four elders, worshipping Jesus, the Lamb of God! That’s right.  They are Jesus’ “’final four.”

I know this is speculation. I just feel sure Jesus enjoys March Madness.  If nothing else, perhaps He cheers with the angels every time a player or coach praises Him for the abilities they have been given.

But I will put these important matters aside for a moment to address something that involves each and every one of us. How would you like to come in “first” in heaven?

I know. I know.  It’s a little presumptuous.  Just getting to heaven is enough.  Why would anyone entertain the possibility of being “first?”

Jesus did.

Yup. It seems His disciples were always positioning themselves to be first.  One day Peter, in his boldness, went for the gusto.  He said, “We have left everything to follow you.  What then, will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27)  In other words, “We are going to be first.  Right Jesus?”

Interestingly, Jesus didn’t say, “No, you can’t be first.” Instead, He told Peter how to be first.  He said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Mat 19:29-30)

How do you land a number one seed in Jesus’ kingdom bracket?

You don’t.

Instead, you submit your life to Jesus and become first (co-heirs) with Him in His kingdom. He is the coach, the number one scorer and the MVP all wrapped up in the “One.”  He invites us to be on His team, but not if we want His position.

“So the first will be last and the last will be first” (Matthew 20:16).

Don’t worry about making it to the big dance, or perhaps I should say “the big feast.” You are already in by faith, through grace.  You don’t have to spend the rest of your life fighting and clawing to be recognized, or to prove to anyone you deserve salvation.

Certainly not to God.

He already knows you don’t.

Deserve salvation, that is.

But He makes you first through His Son, who is His “First” born.”

This must all be “maddening” to Satan. He led us into sin to put us on permanent suspension and we ended up playing on the winning team with the number one Seed.

And you’re mad because the bracket doesn’t look the way you thought it should…

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Growing Kingdom People – When “Instant Gratification” and “Convenience” Met

When “Instant Gratification” and “Convenience” Met                              

I realize they have met before, but recently I arranged their first formal interaction in my life. It happened on a cold, windy Saturday in Virginia.

At the risk of dating myself, I must tell you I was around when big box stores started their feeding frenzy on smaller businesses, and S.S. Kresge slapped its first “K” on the front of a K-Mart. Large malls replaced shopping centers (sometimes literally) and home improvement chains lured customers away from corner hardware stores.

The bottom line was the bottom line. If we lived near a city we could find more stuff and buy it for less money.

Then the Internet changed our habits once more. It was no longer necessary to go to a big box store to find a large selection.  We could browse the world!  Last fall I purchased a car space heater from China.  It took three weeks to arrive, but it was three dollars cheaper than the one I found in America (which was also from China).

This brings me to last Saturday when I was looking out the window at an area of my yard I wanted to seed. A Nor’easter was blowing over our peninsula with gusts of around 45 mph, so it was not the best day to plant anything.  But I decided to purchase some grass seed so I would be ready for better weather.  I grabbed my keys and was heading out the door when a thought hit me: “I wonder if I can order grass seed online and have it delivered to my house?”

In case you are wondering, the answer is “yes.” You can order almost anything online.  But I had a dilemma.  I could drive to the box store and have the grass seed in my arms that day, or order it online, and have it delivered to my door in two or three days.  “Instant gratification” or “convenience”: which was it going to be?  Of course, I could wait for a better day to buy the grass and stop by the store on my way home.

I know that.

But stick with me.

I ultimately decided to drive to the store, mostly because it is easier for me to visualize how much seed I need when I see the actual bag. I was “instantly gratified”, even if it wasn’t a good time to plant the seed.

Which would you have chosen?

And does it matter?


I wonder if we are in a transitional time in society’s spiritual preferences where what “feels good” is being replaced with “what’s easy.” Of course, both of these have always been a part of our observable faith.  That’s why we want the temperature to be right when we worship God and why we might feel more inspired if we are able to find a parking space close to the building.

Still, consider the implications if I am right, or even partly right. Worshipping God could become less about what moves me and more about how much effort it takes to apply His truth to my life.  We will always desire both because of our basic human nature.  But perhaps, a cultural shift will change the order of our questions.  Our first question might become, “How much effort is that going to take” instead of “How good is that going to make me feel?”

Let’s say, hypothetically, there is something to my pondering. What does it mean?  Should we focus more on how to make the Christian life more convenient?

No. Besides, we have already tried this with disastrous results.

Instead, as those charged with reaching our world for Christ, we should ask, “How can we remove the obstacles we have created that make it hard for people to find Jesus?” We start by making sure we don’t create expectations of others that cannot be found in the Bible.  Then we take a hard, honest look at ourselves and ask ourselves if we are as clear as we think we are in communicating the good news of Jesus.  Maybe, what we think is clear, sounds something like the funny noise coming from a teacher on an old Charlie Brown cartoon (“Wah wa wah wa”).

One thing is for sure. One or two new generations of people are contemplating their next spiritual move at this very moment.  I want them to move toward Jesus.

It is highly possible the next move isn’t theirs.

It could be ours.






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Growing Kingdom People – An Open Letter to Our Children

An Open Letter to our Children

Dear Children,

As we grown-ups talk about guns and school safety, I wonder what you are thinking. Are you afraid?  Are you confused?  Do you wish people would stop talking about scary things?

I want you to know, even though some of us are busy talking to each other about many things, we love you. We want a better world for you and the terrible thing that happened at the school in Florida makes us very sad.  We don’t want anyone to worry about being hurt at school, and we are working hard to come up with a plan that will make things safer for everyone.

I am writing to tell you two very important things.  You may know these things, but sometimes we forget what we know when we are scared or worried.  So I am writing to remind you.

The first thing I want you to know is that you are a precious child of God. It doesn’t matter where you are from, who takes care of you, how much money you have, what kind of clothes you wear or even how many mistakes you have made.  You are made in the image of God.  He created you and He loves you more than anyone in this world could possibly love you.

Did you know you are always popular in God’s eyes? There are a lot of things that make people popular in our world.  Sometimes people are popular because of the way they look or the things they have.  Neither of these things explain why you are popular with God.  God loves you just because you are you!

God knows, sometimes people in this world laugh at us and act like bullies to get their way. This makes God very sad because He knows how special we are, and He knows the things other people do to us can hurt us deep down inside.  But remember, God made you, inside and out, and He will always love you.

The second thing I want you to know is you have no reason to worry about tomorrow.  I know some bad things have happened, and the news on TV is scary.  But God has put many strong people in our lives to protect us.

The Bible tells us people have been doing bad things for thousands of years.  But when these bad things have happened, God has used good people to make the world better.  Because of the good people God has sent into the world, children have been able to grow up strong and happy.  Grown-ups have learned to get along with each other and help their neighbors.  Every time someone has done something very bad, God has sent someone to do something very good.  I believe God is doing the same thing today.  Right now, He is working through good people to help others who have had bad things happen in their lives.  He can even use you to do something good for others.

Maybe you have heard the best news of all! God loved us so much He sent His Son Jesus to die on a cross so every bad thing any of us have ever done could be taken away.  This is one of the ways God makes our world better.  He takes away the bad things in people who believe in His Son Jesus and helps them learn how to do good things.  God is so good to us!  If you want to know more about how God’s Son Jesus takes away the bad things in our lives, ask grown-ups who know Him.  They can tell you all about this good news!

Before I finish my letter, I want to tell you about a young man who did a very brave thing when other people who loved God were scared. His name was David.  One day David heard a giant named Goliath say some terrible things about God and the people who loved God.  Sadly, the people who loved God were so frightened they couldn’t find the courage to stop the giant.  But David asked the king of God’s people, whose name was Saul, to let him fight the giant.  At first, Saul discouraged David.  Then he tried to put his armor for grown-ups on him, but it was too heavy.  Finally, David went out to meet the giant with nothing but a sling and five smooth stones he took out of a creek.  The people of God who were afraid of Goliath must have thought David was crazy!  Do you know what happened next?  God took care of David and one of the stones from his sling struck the giant in the forehead.  The mighty giant fell down with a big “crash” and David killed him.  Then the people of God celebrated because of David’s courage and his victory over the giant.

Here is the lesson we learn from David: We should never be afraid of big people, or big things.  No matter what they do, we will always be precious children of God and God will always send good people to make tomorrow better.  He will even do good things through us if we are courageous like David.

It’s ok to be scared when bad things happen. It’s also good to run away from bad people or to stop them if you can.  Just remember: no one can stop God!  And the good news is, He is on our side!

I love you and I dream about the wonderful things you are going to do in your life. God already knows what those things are because He put them in you.  I will have to wait and see.  Then I will praise God when I see what He does through you!

Be brave like David,

Mr. Larry

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Growing Kingdom People – “What Good is an Adult if it Doesn’t Do Anything?”

“What Good is an Adult if it Doesn’t Do Anything?”

A new voice has awakened the conscience of our country, and it isn’t that of a street preacher, a celebrity or a high flying politician.

It’s a child.

A teenager to be more accurate.

We have heard their voices before, but perhaps not in this way. The children are calling us out.  If I might use a familiar scene as a metaphor:  They are tired of standing on the ball field while grown-ups slug it out over a call at home.

There are certainly many unresolved issues relating to the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida. How can we stop it from happening again?

More gun-control?

More guns?

A better approach to mental health?

My goal here is not to find a sly way to lead you to the answer I support, although I think it is safe to say there is some consensus that improving our approach to mental health would help.

Rather, I wish to focus on the kids who called us out, and the quote from the one who said, “We’re children. You guys are the adults.”

I realize this statement is not intended to be absolute. After all, it was a teenager who caused the carnage at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and there were adults there who died protecting students.

Allow me to rephrase this student’s statement so we adults don’t miss the point: “We aren’t in a position to solve this problem. As adults, you are the ones who have the power to make decisions that can help.  We’re tired of hearing your arguments for and against.  Do something!  Don’t you see what we’re up against here?”

I will make one personal statement for all of us “adults”, regardless of our views on this subject. If we think the pain of this tragedy will pass and, if we get lucky, it might not happen again we are living in a fool’s world.  It will happen again.  More people will be killed.  The pain of this moment will become the scars in our future.  These kinds of scars, literal and figurative, don’t go away.

“You guys are the adults.”

I can’t get these words out of my head. Might I suggest they speak to more than school shootings?

Kids carry all kinds of wounds. They suffer the fallout from adults in their lives who are addicts, alcoholics, adulterers, abusers and thieves.  They experience abandonment, neglect and disillusionment.

Some have even been murdered by the adults they trusted!

I used to read stories of ancient cultures where children were depersonalized and wonder how adults could be so cruel to their offspring (2 Kings 21:6).  Now, I understand.

Please spend some time considering what it means to be the adults.

For our children’s sakes.

For all of our sakes.

One thing is for sure. If we can’t do adult things, all of our rationales for our positions on social issues will be rendered irrelevant by the generations behind us.

We will become like broken toys our children no longer care about.  After all…

…What good is an adult if it doesn’t do anything?

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Growing Kingdom People – Don’t Say “It Doesn’t Matter”

Don’t Say “It Doesn’t Matter”!

We live in a dangerous world.

We live in a polluted world.

Can things get better? Does it matter?

Not long ago I was in a lively conversation about global warming with a brother in Christ. We disagreed on a number of things, which is fine.  We are still brothers.  And I am glad he didn’t repeat a phrase I have heard from other Christians make:  “It doesn’t matter.  Everything is going to be burned up soon when Jesus comes.”

My thoughts here are not about global warming, so I will leave the subject to move on to the point I wish to make: Christians need to stop saying, “It doesn’t matter.”

Hear me out, please! I wholeheartedly believe Jesus is coming again, and we must be ready when He does.  The end will come like a “thief in the night”, and it will not go well for those who have chosen to reject the Lord’s grace.  Jesus said, “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes” (Luke 12:37).

We must be ready to meet Jesus! That matters!

Did I say being ready for Jesus matters?


But so does the earth. So do a lot of things.

I have also heard believers in Jesus lament world politics, speculate about the possibility of nuclear war, then say,  “Oh well.  It doesn’t matter.  Jesus is coming soon anyway.”

What? How do they know when Jesus is coming?  By the way, He might not just come “soon.”  He might come before I finish writing this blog.  However, this doesn’t mean world politics and nuclear war don’t matter.

I am concerned that people who don’t know Jesus, or even young people who are still trying to establish their faith, will distance themselves from believers who don’t think worldly concerns matter. Chances are, I will see Jesus long before people in their 20s. But just because I am leaving before they do doesn’t mean I should flippantly disregard the world I leave behind.

And if we care more for the earth and work for a more peaceful world in the meantime, what’s wrong with that? Would it be so bad if the earth was clean when Jesus came?  If He didn’t have to worry about burning His feet on toxic waste when He walked on water, or circumventing mushroom clouds on His way down?

He will have to dodge bullets as it is (I know they won’t hurt Him).

I’m just saying “our home here matters because it is the only home humans have until Jesus comes”.  Shouldn’t we be the ones who pick up trash, clean up the bay, pray for peace everywhere and work to reduce the suffering of marginalized people in our society?

I am aware the world is an hypocritical place and the ones who criticize others for neglecting the environment and world politics are not always what they claim to be. If you don’t believe me, ask me about a car full of out-of-town concert goers, with clean earth and world peace stickers on their car, who dumped all of their fast food garbage in our church parking lot.  I talked with them about their stickers, and they picked up the trash.  They didn’t argue.  They just did the right thing.  Everyone makes mistakes.

Which is all the more reason why followers of Jesus who understand the meaning of stewardship should care about what happens here as they wait for Jesus.

Stop saying, “It doesn’t matter.”

It does.

It matters what we do. It matters how others perceive Christians.

Most of all, people who don’t know Jesus matter.

If sharpening my focus on things that matter can make Jesus more attractive, then I am willing to give it the thought it deserves.

Otherwise, nothing else I say will matter to the people who matter to God.

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