GraceWaves Articles

Riots in America and a Reminder from Purgatory

“Jesus came preaching the good news of God saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.’” Mark 1:14-15 I’m going to take you on a brief excursion to Dante’s Purgatory this week. Don’t be afraid. You don’t have to stay. In Purgatorio, the second of Dante’s three-part comedy, sinners don’t have to stay in Purgatory. Of course, you can’t move higher to Paradise until you learn the lessons and get rid of the sin, so let’s see if we can learn the lesson. Some background first. Dante, a poet writing

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We Don’t Need a Chronological Solution

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 In addiction recovery circles we call it “the geographical solution.” It’s the idea that moving to a new apartment or a new city will give an alcoholic a fresh start and the opportunity to leave behind their hard-drinking habits. I actually had a parent tell me the following about his daughter who had a rough freshman year: “She went to Ole Miss, but that’s just a party school. So we brought

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Good News! God Doesn't Need You!

“The Lord is in your midst…He will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in His love.” Zephaniah 3:17 God doesn’t need you. How’s that for a cheerful, encouraging, and reassuring start to a Christmas week devotional? It’s true. He doesn’t need you. That idea comes from St. Irenaeus (d. 202), Bishop of Lyon and a very important early contributor to Christian thought. Irenaeus is interesting for many reasons. He wrote extensively against heresies of those early years and helped define orthodoxy. Even more importantly, he was a disciple of Polycarp (d. 155) who in turn was a disciple

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That Is Joy

“And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.” Luke 2:7 When I visited Bethlehem a number of years ago, I experienced an argument between the two spheres of my brain. I stood in a long line in the Church of the Nativity to view and touch “the spot” identified as the exact place where Jesus was born. Philips Brooks had stood in a line like mine decades before and was so moved by the quiet reverence and awe of the people that he wrote the words to “O

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Fear Not! I Will Help You

“I am the Lord your God who has clasped you by your right hand. It is I who say to you ‘Fear not! I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13 In mood and tone, the first 39 chapters of Isaiah perfectly match 2020. They’re full of bad news. The northern kingdom of Israel will fall first to the Babylonians and later the southern kingdom of Judah. Isaiah pronounces judgment against various offenders. There’s even an apocalyptic section in this part of the prophecy. Again, a perfect fit for 2020. The tone shifts dramatically in chapter 40. Because of the beauty and

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When God Gets Angry

“Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways?” Isaiah 63:17 If your driving career began in the age of Siri, then you don’t know what it’s like to be lost. I had occasion recently to fondly reminisce about the folded maps we used to carry in the glove box. They were about the size of a fitted sheet, and if you’re driving alone you had to drape it over the steering wheel. It was necessary! In those hazy, pre-satellite days, you could genuinely get to a point where you were completely lost. And if you couldn’t figure

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God, Make Us Whole

“Rise and go your way. Your faith has made you whole.” Luke 17:19 The “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is not Christmas only. For me, it starts with Thanksgiving and extends through epiphany (Jan. 6). That’s 6+ weeks of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” And this year, we need every minute. I’ve recently vowed to stop talking about how hard this year has been with its litany of complaints and disappointments, and I’m going to stick with that here for the most part. I only want to note that we live in a marvelous time. Technologically we

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The "Awe" in This Moment

“Whatever is honorable…think on this.” Philippians 4:8 Have you ever sat in a sanctuary or chapel by yourself? Do you know that feeling? Sitting in that sacred place, surrounded by sacred objects and symbols, awakens something in your soul. I often had this opportunity when I was a pastor. I arrived at the church very early on Sunday mornings, even before the custodial staff. I might turn on a few lights, or I would sit in the darkness. I didn’t need to speak. There was no one there to listen, no pressure to present myself in a certain way. In

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Rediscovering Truth

“Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” John 18:38 When Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8 “think on these things,” the first thing he listed was truth. We are to think on things, or fix our minds on things, that are true. Paul envisioned truth as the North Star of the soul. If we fix our minds on the truth, then we make our way steadily toward a goal which Jesus described as life. We live in an age that often calls into question the very notion of truth. “That may be true for you but not for me” has been

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What Are You Thinking?

“Think on these things.” Philippians 4:8 It’s not an easy task but try thinking about what you’re thinking. What do you normally think about? What are the patterns of your thoughts? What are the habits of your mind? Occasionally when I was a pastor looking out over a congregation on a Sunday morning I would think “I wonder what they’re thinking about?” I’d guess that about half were thinking about lunch. Then it would hit me. I’m thinking about what they’re thinking. I’m thinking about what they’re thinking about me, or the anthem, or the hymn selection, etc. God gets

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Is Life a DIY Project?

“Seek first the kingdom of God.” Matthew 6:33 City Slickers came out in 1991 and provided all of us young preachers at the time a wonderful illustration about what is most important in life. Mitch (Billy Crystal), an aging yuppie, is beginning to come to grips with the fact that his increasingly busy life is increasingly meaningless. With two equally confused friends he goes on a two-week cattle drive in the hope of figuring out life. The trail boss for the cattle drive, Curly (Jack Palance, a man so craggy you’d think he was the offspring of a butte and

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You Can Draw Close to God

“For through Him we both have the right of entry in one Spirit to the Father.” Eph. 2:18 Ephesians is Paul’s most lovely and soaring letter. He touches on themes of such grand and sweeping importance that even he gets caught up in the excitement. The longest sentences in all of Paul’s writings are in Ephesians. Two of his main themes are in the verse for this week’s GraceWaves. First we see unity. Paul was formerly a dedicated schismatic. For him the world consisted of two groups: the Jews and the Gentiles. To be fair from the other side, the

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Why Do You Love Me So?

“We love because God first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 A few weeks ago, I was enjoying playing with my nearly four-year-old grandson, Beckett. He was on the tree swing, and I was pushing. It was one of those glorious, beautiful, perfect weather granddaddy days. It’s etched in my memory. One mental frame I’ll treasure forever is when Beckett was swinging toward me, smiling, with blond hair blown back by the warm breeze, enjoying his Gandy as much as his Gandy was enjoying him. He’s a talker, and we had covered a number of topics, none particularly memorable until he

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Trust Your Way Through Fearful Times

“There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18 When you turn on the television, look at a news website, even engage in some social media, what you likely feel is fear. Fear cuts across political affiliation, race, gender, religion, denomination,  or any of the other endless things that divide us. You may think it’s anger, but anger is a secondary emotion. Someone once told me, “if you want to see how fearful I am, watch how angry I get.” It’s fear. In another important book in my life, we find these words about

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The Prayer of St. Francis

More than a handful of faithful GraceWaves readers have remarked that they wish I had printed The Prayer of St. Francis I referenced in this week’s offering. I’d thought about doing exactly that but wanted to keep from adding to an already lengthy GraceWave. A further encouragement today has prompted me to send it out to you. So, the prayer is printed below, and I do encourage you to pray it regularly and even commit it to memory. It is such a comfort to me when I wake up in the middle of the night with events of the day

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