GraceWaves Articles

It's All About Love

"God with us." Matthew 1:23 For more than 25 years I wrote Bible study materials for several publishing companies. I'm not trying to impress you. It's not glamorous-Philip-Yancey-kind-of-stuff. When you write Sunday School material you are trying to explain a passage of scripture so that a volunteer teacher can teach it to a class of adult students (in my case) who came to church that Sunday to learn about the Bible and gain some insight and encouragement for life. The goal is engaging exegesis, not exploring new theological vistas. So while it's certainly not glamorous, it's honorable, and I truly

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From the Inside

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds.” Luke 2:9 During my college days I worked as a carpenter, first learning how to frame, then exterior finish work, then interior finish, etc. I really enjoyed it, especially during the Spring. In the winter, however, during Christmas holidays, it was a different story. We would work if it was above zero. I can remember going to bed at night with the temperature hovering at zero and thinking we won’t have to go in tomorrow. The alarm would wake me about 5:00, and I would learn that it had warmed

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Peace

“And Joseph, with Mary his betrothed, went from Galilee to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem.” Luke 2:4 Peace on earth, good will to men. That’s the wild and sweet promise in one of my favorite Christmas carols, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Peace on earth. Does that sound wonderful? Or just completely implausible? Peace is the theme of the second week of Advent. Ironically, in some traditions we light the Bethlehem Candle on the Advent Wreath. Bethlehem was anything but peaceful the first Christmas. It was a crowded and cranky little village full

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Thin Places

"Set your minds, therefore, on things that are above, not on things of the earth." Colossians 3:2 Many years ago, I ran across a concept in Celtic theology called "thin places." It's the idea that certain places are sacred, and that by being in those places the distance between our physical world and the spiritual world is quite thin. The sacred places offer us the opportunity to look beyond the surrounding clamor of empty busyness, both external and internal, and "see" what is true, real, and eternal. Thin places nurture our souls. I'd like to expand the idea to include

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The Difference Between Being Healed and Being Whole

“Rise and go your way, for your faith has made you whole.” Luke 17:19 The story of the ten lepers in Samaria is a perfect Thanksgiving illustration. You may recall that when the lepers called to Jesus to have mercy on them, He replied that they were to go and show themselves to the priests. The implication was clear. A leper only went to a priest to show that his leprosy was gone. As they went, all ten were healed. Only one of the lepers, however, praised God and returned to thank Jesus. Only one. 10%. I have a feeling

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Angry about the Election?

"But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language." Colossians 3:8 I’m not a prophet but I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that about half the country is going to be angry Tuesday night. Of course, that’s the time when we learn who our next president will be. Every election cycle has its share of vitriol, and there’s always an article about “politics has always been rough.” The author, every cycle, brings up the stories of vicious insults about Lincoln’s appearance for example. Implied is the idea

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There's No Such Thing as Blind Faith

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.” Hebrews 11:8 I ran across a familiar phrase this past week: blind faith, as in “some things you just have to accept on blind faith.” I don’t buy it. I really don’t believe in blind faith. We never have to accept a situation or direction on blind faith. The closest example we have in the Bible of someone having to act on blind faith is probably Abraham.

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The Experience of this Adopted Child

Note: I was adopted at birth, and the following is a letter written about 15 years ago to my birth mother. I have never felt a deep yearning to find her, nor do I know if she still lives. I do know that writing it was meaningful to me, and that whenever I've published it I hear from a wide variety of people for whom it was meaningful to them. It still represents my feelings and beliefs about my adoption, and I hope provides a positive perspective for people who struggle with their own adoption or for those who have,

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Joy: The Laughter of the Soul

“These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11 Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love; Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee, Op’ning to the sun above. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; Drive the dark of doubt away; Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day! Doesn’t that sound absolutely wonderful? Even in reading the words you probably can “hear” that melody. Henry Van Dyke wrote the lyrics in 1907 especially for the final movement of Beethoven’s

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God Within You

“Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21 The greatest longing of the human heart is to know God. To have some sense that there is a higher power, and to believe that higher power is aware of you, has a will for you, AND has a positive regard for you is either the greatest comfort or the greatest fear. It solves everything or is the cause of endless angst. Our solution or search for this assurance often leads to religious practice. We try to do enough things to connect with God and have some sense that we

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Don't Worry

“Be anxious for nothing.” Philippians 4:6 My first church staff position was Summer Youth Director for Bluff Creek Baptist Church, a wonderful church, so rural that it’s about ten miles beyond the Great Commission. I was raised in the city, so the boys in my group loved to teach their naïve youth director about fishing, hunting, coon dogs, and the like. Leslie and I had a great summer there and still stay in touch with some of those fine folks. I saw many things there for the first and only time, one of which was a crazy dog. Seriously, the

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Are You Worn Out and Sick of Trying? Good!

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6 The prophets, both major and minor, are not always easy reading. In fact, most of the time they are very challenging and frustrating even for seasoned Bible readers. You can only take so many woes to the Edomites, Moabites, Chaldeans, etc. etc. What I do love about the prophets, in addition to their unwavering commitment to be highly unpopular in their time, is the regular grace that breaks through like a bright shaft of light. Their prophetic skies are normally thick and gray,

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Which Patience Do You Need?

“Count it all joy, my friends, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3 Patience is the topic this week. I can hear the groans. Patience is an irritating subject for most of us because we’re convinced that we’ve already been patient enough. We’re ready for resolution. To be told to stay patient is simply exasperating. What’s really irritating about patience is that the need for it never runs out. We’re all going to need patience for some issue in life. Always. So the best piece of indisputably accurate advice

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Got Trouble?

“Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:34 Jesus had more to say about trouble, anxiety, worry, etc. in the Sermon on the Mount than any other single topic. 6:25-34 focuses exclusively on this theme and 6:19-24 serves as a foundation to describe the causes and solutions. An aside here: somewhat surprisingly we do not find in the Sermon on the Mount much material that constitutes what might be thought of as "traditional theology." Jesus did not discuss God's nature and attributes,

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Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Romans 12:2 What are you thinking about right now? I’m flattered if you say you’ve devoted your full concentration to this devotional, but I want you to consider what your mind drifts to when in neutral. In other words, when you’re engaged in a task that requires no mental effort, like mowing the grass or dusting furniture, what do you think about? Honestly, my mind often gravitates to negative experiences, perhaps a personal conflict or disappointment. Without realizing it, or without consciously choosing the

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