When the World Seems to Win

50330754_2080232692023605_1616641349665161216_nOn January 22, 2018 a significant battle was lost in the war to proctect the lives of unborn children when New York legalized abortion up to the moment of birth.  All, no matter which side of the line one is on, recognize this is not merely one battle in a chronology of many. This was a momentum changer. This was the type of battle which could determine the outcome of an entire war. Inevitably, this will be the first of many such events in our nation in the days, weeks, and months to come.

So what do we as Christians do? How do we, how SHOULD we respond when the world seems to be winning, and that in a landslide?


A number of months ago I made such a statement in regards to the political climate we were living in and received a fair amount of criticism. I was accused of being trite and a acting like simpleton. There is nothing trite nor simplistic about exercising trust and faith in His Lordship, sovereignty, goodness, and omnipotence. Faith is foundational to our relationship with God. The writer of Hebrews states, “…without faith it is impossible to please Him…” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith and trust are active. It is the ignorant and simplistic who themselves believe a call to trust is a call to inactivity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Genuine faith moves the faithful to action and sustains their faithful actions even when times seem hopeless. Genuine trust looks beyond what is visible to the eyes and emotions, not allowing passion to turn to panic. Psalm 37 calls men and women of God to persevere in wicked times without sinking into the depths of fret and worry.

A couple thousand years ago a truly innocent, righteous, and holy man was executed by an angry mob, liberal and vain religious leaders, and evil politicians. Wicked injustice was celebrated with cheers of victory and His followers retreated into hopeless defeat.

Then, when all seemed lost and the darkness of despair seemed to be swallowing them whole, Jesus was raised from the dead in an unmistakable display of victorious glory. In a few short weeks those who had called for His death and cheered His demise were calling out in terror, “What shall we do?!” (Acts 2:37). THAT was the game changer as 3000 were turned to Christ in one overwhelming work of the Spirit upon the hearts of sinners.

Yes, let us trust and faithfully “…hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful…” (Hebrews 10:23).


While in the midst of challenging times it is critical to keep reminding ourselves of what our purpose is. Our calling is simple. We have been called to make disciples. Discipleship contains many elements but teaching is central. A disciple is a learner.

The victory being celebrated is based on the passing of a legal matter into law. Law though, has limited ability to bring about good in society. Laws will indeed restrain some and laws will give freedom to others regarding morality. The truth is though, law has almost zero ability to transform individuals and society.

Let’s not be ignorant. Law reflects a society’s moral world-view and the application of law will have significant impact on the lives of those living under its rule. Those truths are certain. What will bring about transformation though is not changing the laws of society, it is changing the MIND of society. To change society we must change individuals. To change individuals, we have to change their mind.

Do we want change the way people view abortion? We must return to our biblical roots. We must teach God is Creator. We must call people into submission to His sovereign lordship. We must teach our eternal accountability to our Creator. We must personally be devoted to those truths and live those truths. We must demonstrate the value of life by the way we love and care for all people, born and unborn alike. We must confess our hypocrisy of caring for the unborn child while having wicked hatred in our hearts for those pass laws allowing for their death. Let’s not forget there is a difference between hating the immorality and evil of those who celebrate the death of children and hating THEM. Remember, they were once an unborn child we fought to protect. Just because their thinking has become repugnant, they are still a “life” Christ died to save.

Yes, let continue to fight for laws which are right, good, and moral. Let us even more submit ourselves to the Lordship of Christ and be ready to make a defense of our hope (1st Peter 3:15).


Yes, talk. Talk to God. Talk to Him passionately, emotionally, consistently, and in humility. We need to cry out to God on behalf of those whose hearts are hardened and for those whose lives are most vulnerable. 

The prophet Habakkuk cried out to God. He cried out for the Lord to help. He was surrounded by violence, iniquity, wickedness, injustice, and the resulting destruction those elements will always produce (Habakkuk 1:1-4). God answered the prophet’s despairing cry. God responded with the assurance that He was about to do something “…you would not believe if you were told…” (Habakkuk 1:5). 

We are called to teach and proclaim God’s word and to be a light to the world. We are called to care for those God places into our lives. We are called to live driven by conviction and purpose. We are called to be diligent, faithful, and hard-working in serving the purposes of God. Ultimately though, we are called to believe (and trust!) that only God can change the human condition as well bring about justice.

The prophet loved his people. He was despairing at what he saw and experienced. The intercession he raised to the Lord on behalf of the nation did not rescind his responibility as prophet but revealed the source of change if change was to happen.

Our greatest efforts will come to naught without the intervention of the Lord. Likewise, any success cannot be attributed to our own good efforts but to the power of God working through us; many times in spite of us.

Yes, let us trust and not despair. Let us keep working, teaching, and pleading with those whose hearts are hard. Let us keep bringing our efforts and those we seek to minister to before the Lord, the only author and perfector of faith (Hebrews 12:2).


Happy New Year or Happy for a New Year?

So, how was your year? Was it everything you hoped for and wanted it to be or was your year such that you are one of those who can’t wait for 2018 to end? I have spoken to more than a few whose thoughts are that 2019 better not be worse than 2018 as it was a year they would rather forget. Here’s hoping to a better 2019, right?

I understand the point. Nobody wants, pain, disappointment, hurt, and/or grief. We all know those experiences are normative in life but having a break from them for a year isn’t too much to ask is it? This mindset becomes a problem though when we begin to live with the view that a pain-free existence is what is owed me by God and thus what I deserve.

The hard truth of the Bible is this: Christians have been called to suffer. No, not in some masochistic, “woe is me”, martyrdom, with an Eyore complex but with the purposeful work of the Lord in our lives and following the example of Christ Himself.

Peter wrote in his first epistle,

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness… (1st Peter 2:21-24)

If we are to understand the role of suffering in our lives and embrace the will of God in the midst of it all there are a couple of points we need to consider.

1) Our suffering as Christians is tied directly to our salvation and our life in Christ.

We must first realize our suffering is purposeful. Suffering in our lives is never whimsical or meaningless. God doesn’t allow or even bring suffering into our lives simply for the sake of suffering. As it is part of the purpose of our salvation we must trust that our suffering is likewise part of God’s plan for us; both in us and through us.

This comes into focus with crystal clarity when we look past our suffering to the suffering of Jesus. He didn’t just suffer on our behalf, He suffered both as an example for us to follow as well as a path in which we are to walk.

2) Suffering is intrinsic to God’s redemptive purposes.

Jesus suffered ultimately so save us from our sin. Peter states that Jesus “bore our sins in His body on the cross”. The holy and sinless Messiah took our sin upon Himself on the cross. In taking our sin and paying our price for sin He took our guilt and God’s wrath which we alone deserved.

LIkewise, the purpose of our suffering is to be seen as redemptive; not redemptive in saving ourselves or others from their sin but yet working with Christ’s redemptive work on the cross to accomplish God’s purposes in us and through us.

If we are to follow Christ’s example in suffering, we must learn to look outside of ourselves and beyond ourselves. In 3:15 Peter encourages his readers to always be ready to make a defense to any who would ask of the hope within them. What would compel someone to ask us about our hope? How we live while suffering! As we follow the example of Christ two realities will flow out of us as we suffer.

First, we will exhibit faith. Peter reminds us in 2:23 that while suffering He “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Jesus was able to go the cross, take our sin and guilt, and suffer the Father’s wrath for sin because He had complete trust in God to judge Him rightly. In other words, He trusted God that His suffering would ultimately end well for Him.

Secondly, we will demonstrate a level of unexplainable joy. The writer of Hebrews in 12:2 wrote, “…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” Similarly, James instructs believers to “consider it all joy” when we encounter all manner of trials (James 1:2). Joy is different than happiness. God doesn’t expect us to be happy when we suffer, rather, He calls us to be joyful. What’s the difference? Happiness is solely focused on circumstances. Happiness is the absence of pain while experiencing personal pleasure. Joy, on the other hand, is the settled contentment and satisfaction of resulting good, regardless of pain or the lack thereof.

In this way, our suffering works as a platform for the gospel to be proclaimed through us to those who need to experience the saving work of Christ. There is no more powerful a witness than to trust in the midst of incredible crisis and to have a joy amid grievous circumstances because of our settled trust in God’s goodness to us no matter what we may see or feel.

Suffering is also personally redemptive. Suffering puts in the place of continually learning to trust God more and more. As Jesus “entrusted Himself to Him who judges righteously” it teaches us to trust as Jesus Himself had to trust. It also compels us to draw close to the Lord. James continued addressing trials when we wrote, “…if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…” What wisdom is needed during trials? In context it would be two specific things. We need to seek the wisdom to know how to be joyful in our trials and how to have perseverance in our trials. Joy and perseverance, two critical areas of growth we all need. Trials and suffering work to get us there, to a place of God-glorifying maturity and wisdom.

I have come face to face with a simple fact: God loves me too much to keep me comfortably free from suffering. Suffering puts me in position to be and do what He calls me to do and promises to bless me for. By suffering rightly, I am a witness for Him. By suffering rightly, I grow closer to Him. Aren’t those two actions what we all desire as Christians?

No, I don’t want pain, nor do I wish pain upon anyone. I do know though, God will use and redeem the pain He brings or allows for both my good and His glory. I pray that is good enough for all of us.

Here’s to a Joyful 2019.

A Matter of Perspective

Perspective is a funny thing. While watching the Dodgers in the postseason I noticed my opinion changed depending which side of the ball the Dodgers were on. If a Dodger whiffed on a pitch it was because they were a buffoon. If the Braves/Brewers/Red Sox whiffed it was obviously due to the amazing skill of the Dodger pitcher. The Dodgers received either all the credit or all the blame. That’s my perspective and I’m sticking to it.

The problem with that is my perspective is flawed. It is emotional, often irrational (usually), and most assuredly self-focused (always). My perspective is based on my wants, my desires, and my pleasures. If someone or some situation does not contribute in some way to the fulfillment of those things it is universally viewed as “bad” and must be “wrong”. In baseball that is mostly acceptable and appropriate. I’m a fan and a fairly passionate as well as opinionated one at that (shocking, I know)! That is how being a fan works. Viewing the events of my life through that same lens though is anything but healthy and overtly contrary to Scripture and the life of faith.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NASB)

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

Isaiah 46:9-10 (NASB)

“Remember the former things long past,

For I am God, and there is no other;

I am God, and there is no one like Me,

Declaring the end from the beginning,

And from ancient times things which have not been done,

Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,

And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;

Romans 8:28 (NASB)

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

1 Peter 5:6-7 (NASB)

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

I have been created to understand and know the significance and value of the events and workings of my life but that sacred knowledge comes only through faith in and knowledge of God. It is rooted in His proven and unassailable character which He has demonstrated through the ages. God knows me and knows what is best for me. Every move He makes in my life is based on His perfect knowledge, His perfect love, and His perfect purposes. My life simply needs to be lived in a settled and abiding trust He will make good on His promises and purposes in my life and in the world.

My focused pursuit of personal happiness will only lead me away from what is good and will always be in opposition to what is of God. Only via a resilient reliance upon Him will I realize meaning and satisfaction to the seemingly tumultuous events and circumstances of my life.

Now, if I could just get the same from the Dodgers…

A Tale of Two Bushes

06989786-EB08-414A-8F36-2BE4B5A1445EOne of my lifelong dreams has been to live somewhere I could have wild berries growing in my yard; not just a few in pots scattered around the patio mind you, but an actual berry patch. This fantasy land in my mind has begun to take root and sprout into reality since we moved to Alaska.

Two summers ago we planted both raspberry bushes and blueberry bushes around our yard. While the blueberries have yet to come close to thriving or bearing fruit, the raspberries settled in and established themselves nicely to the point we could legitimately say we had a small crop last year. Furthering my excitement, several of the bushes began to send out runners and spread through the yard; my bear patch…er, I mean…my berry patch was indeed coming to fruition!

With great excitement and anticipation, I began examining each bush for signs of spring as soon as the snow had melted and weather began to warm a month or so ago. I wasn’t too concerned initially, but after several weeks of seeing nothing but brown sticks where there once were berry bushes, I began to fear my precious fledgling berry patch had become a casualty of a long winter. About the time I was giving up hope, several bushes suddenly came to life! Brown was morphing into green, stalks were turning into stems and leaves. Hope was kindled! 

As I began to diligently search each bush for life though, I once again struggled to stay encouraged as it appeared less than half of my bushes had survived the winter. I was tempted to give up on the brown and focus exclusively on the green. In reality, it wasn’t a great loss. I still had the makings of my dream berry patch. Yet, something within me said, don’t give up, keep watering. Faithfully, I continued to water and care for those lifeless plants in the same was those who by now were bursting forth with life. Then, just yesterday, I noticed something on the one bush which looked more like a bush-equivalent from The Walking Dead. There amongst the seeming deadness, was the smallest sign of life. It wasn’t much, just a tiny green sprout, but it was alive! With a renewed energy I got on my hands and knees to check each of the other moribund bushes. To my amazement each “dead” bush was showing signs of unmistakable life. In my rush to judgement and in establishing my own chronology for these plants I came close to uprooting them and casting them aside.

The discovery of life amongst my raspberries reminded me of truth carrying significantly greater consequence. People grow in different ways, at different times, and much differing contexts than I am often willing to accept. It is so easy for me to think I know what is alive, what is dead, what is worthy of casting aside, when the reality is, I don’t. It is God who sees the heart, it is God who springs up life within sinful people, it is God who causes the growth.

The Apostle Paul penned these words in 1st Corinthians 3;5-7,

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.

My calling is only to be faithful to water and care for those in my life and to do so for as long as I am able. That is my only responsibility. God loves all people more than I ever can or will. He alone sees their hearts, knows their needs, and establishes their life’s chronological narrative.

Similarly, I am also very tempted to rigidly define what life looks like and judge accordingly. I thought my plants were completely lifeless because I couldn’t see what God was doing in the unseen parts, the roots and within the stems. As I couldn’t see what I defined as life, I judged them as dead. Spiritual life though, works in just the same manner. 

Peter writes in 1st Peter 1:23,

“…you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” 

James keeps with a similar thought when we wrote in James 1:21,

“…in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”

The life Christ gives at salvation never begins externally. Rather, as with all life, it begins internally, as an implanted seed, and only then bears the evidence of life, bearing fruit externally.

Jesus, forgive me when in my arrogance I think I know what is alive and what is dead. Please continue to remind me to simply be faithful to live and proclaim the truth of your word. Please help me not to give up on people but entrust them and my ministry to them to your sovereign, loving care. Amen.

Labels, Titles, and Position

Louis_Litt_NameWe have long been taught that labeling people is at the very least unkind and in the extreme demeaning and hurtful. Labels affect responses and expectations. No matter whether the label is viewed through a “positive” or “negative” grid, labeling is almost exclusively unhealthy.

In much the same vein, titles and position are often viewed with a jaundiced eye. Titles and position routinely corrupt the sincerest of hearts while often calling into question the purest of motives. The pursuit of title and position (and the power which accompanies them) has brought about the downfall of many otherwise wonderfully good people.

Yet, in spite of this, God is not shy about labeling His people and giving them both title and position. The New Testament is replete with labels, titles, and position given by God to His people. A cursory look reveals God’s people are called…

Adopted children  (Romans 8:15)

Children of God (Romans 8:16)

Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) 

A chosen race (1 Peter 2:9) 

A royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)

The People of God (1 Peter 2:10)

Furthermore, I dare say our universal aversion to labels and titles has led believers to discount, avoid, and even to a degree, deny what God has given for our good and His glory.

In writing on this topic in his little book on Evangelism, J. Mack Stiles states (page 101), “…we may not feel like representatives of the kingdom of God, but that is what we are. It is how we are seen in the spiritual realms, and it’s an astounding truth.”

Labels, titles, and positions given by God are astounding truths indeed! Though I believe the enemy wants believers to minimize and be dismissive of how God views and empowers us, as we embrace and believe what God tells we are, our lives will shine more brightly and more powerfully for Him.

Here are just a few principles to consider related to our labels, titles, and position before God.

1) Our position establishes our relationship with God. 

Our position as the children of God firmly establishes the uniqueness of our relationship with God. He is our Father, we are His children. As His children we are to obey and submit to Him. He is the one we answer to and defer to above all others. He is our authority.

That we are the children of God also assures us of His protection and provision.  He will hold us safe and secure beginning in this life and extending into all of eternity. We have nothing to fear with God as our Father. He will meet all of our needs in Christ and give us our daily provision of grace, mercy, and strength to live in relationship with Him.

The simple title “the People of God” is very significant as well. This designates that we belong to God. He owns us and by right of ownership He is able to use, direct, and command us for His purposes as He sees fit. Many people recoil at being “owned” by God but when we examine His ownership we see something to be wholeheartedly trusted and embraced.

God owns us because He bought us. He paid for us with the death of His only precious, beloved, sinless Son. He sacrificed what was most precious to Him so that we could be His people.

 2) Our labels assure us of our place of security before God.

Not only are we the children of God, we are the adopted and chosen children of our Heavenly Father. Our relationship with the Father was initiated and accomplished by His own volition and will. He is not stuck with us, rather, we are willfully His. He desires that we are His children and continues to pursue our relationship with Him. He makes provision for our growth and care not begrudgingly, but passionately. We have no fear of being abandoned, cast aside, or forgotten with God. We can live confidently within His amazing grace.

3) Our titles define our purpose and calling from God. 

God was not whimsical or flippant when He gives us the titles of ambassador and priest. These two titles define our calling as being one of service to God and service in His name. In simplest, general terms, the entirety of our lives is to be spent serving God to accomplish His purposes.

Specifically, as ambassadors, we are to speak His words, on His behalf, to those who are not His. We are to tell of His ways, His character, His intentions, clearly elucidating His will for the world He created.

As priests, we are called to serve our Lord by bearing the burdens of others, teaching them, and caring for them in the name of Christ. We are to extend the offer of forgiveness and grace in the name of Christ through the work of Christ.

As ambassadors, we speak on God’s behalf. As Priests we serve on His behalf. This is our calling, this is our purpose. These titles, though, also give to us the authority and right to speak and serve in such a manner. Our commission is from God. We do not need the approval of man nor the permission of society; the King and our Creator has empowered and authorized our work for Him.

It is time we put aside our insecurities and be the people God has labeled us, entitled us, and positioned us to be.

What am I to do with…ME?!


A couple weeks ago someone who was very significant in my past was charged with some very serious accusations; accusations I have no doubt are entirely true. While the depth and severity were shocking, if I’m being honest, they are not surprising. As a result, the last 10 days or so have been filled with a heaviness I have never experienced or had to process. It’s nothing new, just new to me with someone this personally significant.

I have spent much time in reflection and contemplation. I have plumbed the depths of my heart and soul in a way absent before now. I was taken back to the “me” of 30-35 years ago and the context of the life I was living. In many ways, too many ways, it is horrifying to process. I don’t like the “me” I saw and never want to be THAT guy ever again.

I found myself very frustrated that I was allowed to be the person I was. Sure, some of it can be written off to college-age immaturity, but not nearly enough. I was allowed, by the pastor entrusted with my care and training, to act, think, joke, and DO MINISTRY in so many ways foreign to my salvation, my life in Christ, and the Word of God. How different would my life be if this man would have been the shepherd I needed and called me into account all those years ago? Only God knows. Here is one thing I do know, he will be held accountable. I am assured of that. The writer of Hebrews (in 13:17) states plainly that leaders will give an account to those entrusted to their care.

The power of those thoughts have overwhelmed me the last number of days but in all that, a truth keeps bubbling to the surface with the subtlety of an erupting volcano: I will give an account for Dan Smouse well before this man will. I knew better and in areas I may not have, I should have. God has made this truth foundational from the opening words in the Bible. I can’t argue it, I cannot refute it.

In Genesis 3 when the serpent went to Eve, Eve went to Adam, and together Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they each had a good story, a true story, a vindicating story of blame. God’s response was simple, “because YOU have…”

Eve didn’t receive a free pass because the serpent was so cunning and sharp. Adam wasn’t allowed to take a mulligan because his wife was not the sharpest tool in the shed. Each was accountable for their decisions and actions because they knew what God had said. He had given them His Word. It was clear, it was concise, and it was obvious.

The man I followed was a superstar; charismatic, powerful, and larger than life. He may have promoted his own star, but I’m the one who kept him on the pedestal.

Many will blame him for rejecting the faith. Many will say they want nothing to do with Jesus, Christianity, church, or the Bible because of this man’s evil. Many will blame him for lives full of sin and brokenness. They do have a point. He will answer to the Lord on their behalf.  All we have to do is read 2nd Peter chapter 2 to know that is true.

When we all stand before the Lord, though (which the Bible unmistakably teaches we will), He will not say, “Oh, you served under Les? You were in his youth group? No worries, it’s all good.”

James records this instruction for us without qualification, in James 1:21-25…
21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;
for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

I’m not minimizing the evil and treachery which spanned decades. I’m not redacting a man’s accountability. I’m simply elevating my own. While I’m working through the implications on one man’s actions upon others and in my own life, I need to be scrutinizing what’s in the mirror before me.

My Precious…


“History became legend, legend became myth, and for two-and-a-half thousand years, the Ring passed out of all knowledge.

Until, when chance came, it ensnared a new bearer. The ring came to the creature Gollum, who took it deep into the tunnels of the Misty Mountains. And there, it consumed him.

The ring brought to Gollum unnatural long life. For five hundred years, it poisoned his mind. And in the gloom of Gollum’s cave, it waited.

Darkness crept back into the forests of the world. Rumor grew of a shadow in the East, whispers of a nameless fear. And the Ring of power perceived:

Its time had now come.

It abandoned Gollum…”

My precious, yes, MY precious; I have something, ok multiple things, within me that are “precious”. I crave them, long for them, and yearn for them. With all my heart I seek them believing they will fulfill me, save me, vindicate me, and validate me. When I have them, I hold them tightly and look for more.

Like Gollum, my precious has the power to consume me and when the time is right, it (they) will abandon me, leaving me to writhe in indescribable agony.

You know what is possibly most frustrating about my Precious? It isn’t a bad, evil, or ungodly thing. Neither is it good, though. Whether it is good or evil depends on one thing and one thing only: my worship. My precious makes for a great idol and my heart easily becomes its holy shrine. What do I worship? That is the question I must answer.

Is it my…






…personal fulfillment?



Jesus said, “…I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). My precious promises just such an abundant life but its end can only be death (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25). It is as I submit those things in my heart (those deeply personal things) to Christ that I will find the abundance of life I long for.

Daily I must ask myself, “Do I trust Jesus? Do I truly trust His love for me, His provision for me, and His sovereign ability to accomplish what He promises to me?” What it boils down to is this: Is Jesus more precious to me than my Precious? Is Jesus my Precious?

Will we trust our lives to Jesus or will we, like Isildur say, “I shall risk no hurt to the Ring. It is precious to me, though I buy it with a great pain.”

Dear Jesus be my Precious…