How good news can come out of Dallas…

I stayed up far too late last night watching the reports roll in from my home city of Dallas, Texas; my heart heavy, my eyes damp. Protesters – peaceful protesters – gave eyewitness accounts of the mayhem. News anchors gave cautious updates: Officers injured. Officers in critical condition. One officer dead. Three officers dead. Four officers dead. And, this morning, five officers dead.

Dallasites, black and white, are calling out for unity. Churches are gathering together in prayer. One social media photo pictured a multi-racial prayer meeting in Bryan/College Station, TX. The tears pooled again because this is the color of the Church.prayer for Dallas


While we are sadly still stuck in “white churches” and “black churches,” there is no white Church, black Church or rainbow Church. There is Jesus’ Church. His Bride, washed in red, “not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” (Ephesians 5:27)

The cry is to pray for peace. And we should. We have to.

But I have bad news.

It is only going to get worse.

The prophet Jeremiah said:

“We looked for peace, but there was no good;
And for the time of healing, and there was trouble.” Jeremiah 14:19

And God reprimanded false prophets who put bandaids on gaping wounds saying,

“For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’
When there is no peace.” Jeremiah 8:11, 6:14

We live in an evil, fallen world and regardless of color, creed, or nationality, as the saying goes, “Haters gonna hate.”

You see, while the wounds are far from superficial, the battle goes far deeper. And it is uglier than the ugliest of headlines, nastier than the most hateful venom spewed on social media. The battle is not fought with guns, bombs, or policies because we fight an enemy that is looking for every opportunity to poke a finger into a hornet’s nest.

Know your enemy...
Know your enemy…

Satan will not give up. It will not get better before it gets much worse.

But I have good news.

It will get better. Jesus is coming back. He will reign forever in righteousness.

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

I have more good news.

This offer is available for all who want it. (I love this part!)

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come! And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17

But we don’t have to just sit around wailing, carrying our doomsday signs while we wait for Jesus to come. This isn’t an excuse to crawl into a cave in sackcloth bemoaning the dire straits. In fact, that isn’t allowed. Because a battle means war. It means fighting back.

That’s more good news.

All this horror, all this hatred, allows the Church to be the Church.

It allows us to gather as happened today in Dallas, not in riots, but hand in hand in prayer. It allows for pastors, speakers, writers, and teachers to listen to the Holy Spirit and issue a call to action across our country. Each of us, every follower of Jesus, can choose to be a true disciple of Him. We can pray for the change He brings on the inside to reflect itself in change on the outside. It will look different in different communities, different churches, different individuals. But the goal will be the same.prayer+vigil


This is how Jesus put it.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-color in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

So love.

In ways that only God can enable us to love.

Be salt.

Add flavor to a world that only knows bitterness. Make those around thirsty for Jesus.

Be light.

Shine out in a dark and angry world.

Wherever you are. Be a city on a hill.

Think before you tweet.

Filter your Facebook comments through Truth. Not just fact.

Ask yourself, does this comment just prove my point

or does it make His Point?

And when you are asked to pray for Dallas or to pray for our nation or to pray for whatever city has been hit with senseless tragedy, I offer you the prayer of my sister Brittany Burnette of Shabby Chic Ministries and the College of Biblical Studies in Houston. Pray with us.

My heart is heavy, and I don’t know where to begin. So Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus and by Your Holy Spirit, may I begin and end with what is true.

God, You are sovereign, good, gracious, patient, and merciful. Thank You for the gift of Your Son, the Prince of Peace and the Great Reconciler. Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who indwells Your people, convicts us of sin, and molds us into the image of Your Son. Thank You for the written Word that points to the Incarnate Word. Lord, You knew that we would need that Word in order to ground us and to help us in all moments of life, particularly moments like these.

Lord, help us. You are the Author and Creator of life. For that reason, every human life has intrinsic worth, and You count that life as precious. Therefore, when we devalue life, which You have made, we give affront to You. Lord, You exist as Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each Person is distinct and fully God, yet there is only one God. That unity and diversity and diversity in unity is spectacular. So we should not be surprised that You would reflect that unity and diversity in Your image bearers. In Your love and grace, You chose to make people in Your image, who bear Your likeness. You create men and women; they are beautifully distinct, and they are fully equal. Likewise, You create people of different races, backgrounds, and cultures; they are also beautifully distinct, and they are fully equal. So when we see another human being of any race or background, may You arrest our attention and remind us that the one upon whom we look is an image bearer, and therefore that person has worth. You love diversity because it exists within You, Godhead itself. So forgive us, Lord, when we hate what You love. We repent and ask for Your forgiveness. Help Your Church to be one, as You are one. And help us to proclaim the truth of who You are, both in word and in deed, to a world that desperately needs Your help.

What we feel and how we interact with others says not only something about how we view people, but it also shows what we think of You. And when we fail to love You and others well, then Your people must call it for what it is: sin. We repent of this, and we beg You for Your help. And we need Your help because You have called us to go out and make disciples from all people. We need to represent You, Lord. So help us to represent You to the families, friends, and loved ones of Mr. Sterling, Mr. Castile, and countless others within our communities of color. Help us to proclaim relentlessly and to demonstrate fearlessly that You are Lord over all creation. You see, honor, love, and treasure all people, including people of color. Therefore, as Your ambassadors, we must do the same. We must pursue love, justice, righteousness, and peace. This cannot be done well apart from You, so help us, Lord.

And Father, You grant some of us the special honor and privilege of serving and protecting others in a distinct way. We thank you for our police officers. Day after day, these men and women put on the uniform, and they enter a hostile world and work on the civilian’s behalf. They protect us; they serve us; and yes, sometimes they die for us. To those in the Dallas Police Department and in police departments across the country: we see you; we honor you; we love you; we treasure you. Forgive us, Lord, when we fail to respect those whom You have appointed to guard us. May we minister to all, including those officers involved in police-related shootings because we are the Church, and we withhold the ministry of grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation from no one. Though we were hostile toward You, You sent Your Son to reconcile us to Yourself. So may all people of good will, especially the body of Jesus Christ, commit ourselves to your reconciling work.

Lord, we pray for Your shalom: yes, we ask for the peace, wholeness, wellness, completeness, and satisfaction that only You can bring. Mend what is fractured; repair what is broken. Reconcile us to one another as Your Son perfectly reconciles us to You. Father, bring us shalom and be our shalom; that can only come in one way, through the God-man, the Prince of Shalom, Jesus Christ.

Father, help us to be honest with You, ourselves, and one another about areas in which we need to love You and our neighbors more and better. Give us the wisdom and the strength of heart to engage others as Your Son consistently engages us. Use Your people to do Your work on this, Your earth, for our good and Your glory. And it is in the name of Jesus and by Your Spirit we pray. Amen.




Holding hands & flipping eggs

If I could only write in the shower.

It all started before I could even write, using my finger to do “cursive” on the bathtub walls. I advanced to teaching as I grew older – doing commercials extolling the virtues of my shampoo while I played in the tub.

My best sermons come in the shower and I would be quite prolific if I penned everything that comes to mind in there.

You see, if someone would invent a way to write in the shower, it wouldn’t have been an embarrassing amount of months since I’ve written anything. (There is an exciting forthcoming Bible study I’m a part of but more on that later!)

So tonight, I’m sitting down with wet hair to share.

Sometimes life comes to a screeching halt, does a U-turn and the road takes you to places you’ve never been before. That happened last September. My healthy, active 87-year-old mother went to the hospital because of pain. She left a couple of days later on hospice with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

My mom.



My mother raised five kids as a poor preacher’s wife, helped my dad start a mission board, met up with and married her high school sweetheart at age 81 after my father’s death. She’s tiny, active, and will tell anyone sitting on a park bench about Jesus. (Chances are they will walk away with a certainty of heaven and knowing Him as Savior.)

After a 45-minute telephone conversation with the doctor, it was apparent that we needed to move from Dallas, Texas to Verona, Virginia, population 4200. It says something about my husband that he didn’t bat an eye at putting everything in storage and moving into my mother’s basement apartment.

So here we are. It’s seven months later and she has obviously beaten the doctor’s diagnosis of “a couple of months if all goes well.”

People seem to think I’m doing something special, staying here with my mother and her husband. It is special.

For me.

I get to hear the stories that I never heard as the youngest child. I get to spend time with family that there wasn’t time for Collage

There won’t be any “if onlys” or “I should have saids.” We know she won’t be here much longer and we enjoy every minute. We hug every night. We enjoy every game of dominoes. We say thank you over and over. I watch her read, talk on the phone, laugh, hold hands with her husband and I treasure it. I absorb her strength, watch her courteousness, and hope to copy her graciousness. She is the true embodiment of Proverbs 18:24 “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Cards, phone calls and visits from all over the world – greetings, love and prayer from lives she has touched.

I was making her bed one day (Poor Mom, I did not inherit her tidiness) and it hit me. There is amazing peace in all of this – meals, beds, meds, laundry, etc. Because while I may not understand the why, I know the Who.

Two things are emphasized to me over and over.

When we serve, we do not do it on our own.

I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need.

I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.] (Philippians 4:12-13 AMP)

I love the emphasis in the Amplified version.

I know how to get along and live humbly and how to enjoy abundance. I can do all things He has called me to do. I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.

Read that over again every morning before you throw a load of dirty kids’ clothes in the washer or do a task at work waayy below your pay grade.

All things He has called me to do.

Think that through when you are so ticked off at your spouse that you could scream.

Self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.

Say that out loud when given a Herculean task like leading a small group, decorating for a retreat, or sharing Jesus over coffee.

If He called you to do it, He will make you capable.

And think about this:

When we serve, we serve Jesus.

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)

One morning I counted – breakfast was six very different smoothies; two eggs over hard, yokes broken, two sausage patties, no toast; one egg over-medium, two sausage patties, toast; two eggs over easy, toast; one egg over very light with very crunchy toast.

Would you believe that was fun? It was. And I didn’t burn a thing! To you large family mamas that’s nothing but I only have one kid. Short-order breakfasts aren’t something in my repertoire.

I’m not great at this. I get upset and feel kinda snarky sometimes. I don’t balance upstairs living and downstairs living very well at all. But here’s the thing: Every egg I flip, every rug I vacuum, every bed I make, every brow I wipe – I do it in the name of Jesus.

What a privilege.

Hold tight to what’s true…

I am part of a mid-size church nestled between one of the wealthiest areas of Dallas, Texas and the city’s poorest neighborhood. We are an eclectic picture of the Body of Christ. Rich sit beside the poor, African refugees beside African-Americans, seminary graduates beside the homeless, seekers beside long-time Christ followers. Grace is freely offered, truth is freely spoken and no name is higher than the name of Jesus.

This morning as I got ready for church, I prayed for a real thirst quenching. I came away drenched. Like a soaked sponge.

The Church is stirred up today, worried about what the future holds. God’s people are seeing the definition of marriage challenged, watching ISIS kill those who declare the name of Jesus, alert to the racism and hatred flooding fill the news and people are concerned about what will happen to religious organizations in the United States.

Fear is being allowed to invade minds that are supposed to focus on the good things of God.Phil4_RegimenswithGrace

It is creeping into our hearts when we are told that Jesus has overcome the world. Jn16_RegimenswithGrace

With all of that, I’d like to quote a small portion of the sermon I heard today:

Jesus will provide.

He can open the eyes of the blind and open the ears of the deaf but we’ve got to stop being dumb.

We really do. I’m not naïve. Just believing in Jesus isn’t going to solve any of these problems we face.

They may take away our tax-free status and stop giving people deductions for their charitable giving. The government may threaten us with fines or even imprisonment for speaking out against these things. What are we going to do?

I know what I’m going to do.

I’m going to keep preaching.

If they fine me ,then I’ll go broke.

If they send me to jail, then I’ll preach there.

And if they kill me then I will join that blessed band who “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — 38 of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” These people “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15…they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:36-38; 13-16)


One day, several years ago, I lifted my opened hands and said, “I surrender all.”

It was the most freeing thing I have ever done.

I trusted Him then. I trust Him now. I can trust Him with my future.

You can listen to or watch Gary Brandenburg’s entire sermon at Fellowship Bible Church Dallas here: Blind, Deaf and a Little Bit Dumb

Grace for the Graceless

To speak the truth in love has been the clarion call to followers of Christ of late. Paul tells us that rather than chasing after every new teaching, we are to let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Ephesians 5:15 (AMP)

Learning to deal with situations some have not faced before, Christians are grappling with what it looks like to be Jesus to the world around them.

How do we let our lives lovingly express truth?

In this current age of more strongly emphasized grace, we as a Church are struggling harder to

accept the unacceptable,

love the unlovable,

offer grace not condemnation,

give more than we receive

and to Tweet be light in a world that pictures God as a Judge with a gavel more than a Savior with a call.

People are moving out of comfortable middle-class neighborhoods to reach others less fortunate. Families are adopting children who would otherwise not find a home. The culture of grace is demanding that we take a look at our own sin before we stick up our noses at the sins of others.

We remind ourselves to pass along God’s grace, knowing that

Rahab the harlot is in the line of Christ,

David the adulterer was a man after God’s own heart,

Mary Magdalene was one of the closest friends of Jesus,

Jesus called a tax-collector to be His follower,

Our Savior touched the untouchable

and He dined with those rejected by the religious rulers of the day.

God is a wonderful, magnificent, loving God of inexplicable grace, calling the worst of sinners to repentance, washing all who receive Him in the blood of Jesus, pure and holy in His eyes.


God so loved the world.

His grace is amazing.


As we learn to offer the grace we have been given to those we have previously ignored, we often wind up

judging the legalistic,nograce

showing bigotry to the racists,

being intolerant of the intolerant,

loving all but those who refuse to love

and offering grace to all but those who do not offer grace.

In the midst of our praise and acceptance of grace, we must remind ourselves that

one of the greatest verses of salvation was taught to a pharisee named Nicodemus.

Most of the New Testament was written by a bigoted legalist.

Jesus taught His best parables to the rule-following, judgmental pharisees and Sadducees.

And He felt great compassion for the rich young ruler who would not give.

God so loved the world.yesgrace

He loved them anyway.

His grace is offered to everyone.

Not just the tax collectors but those who look down their noses at those who don’t pay.

He showed compassion not only to the unclean woman but to the rich young ruler.

He died for the thief on the cross beside Him and for the pharisees who had Him hung there.

What does unlovable look like for you?

Is it the poor urban child who desperately needs a home. Or is it the wealthy person in the better part of town who desperately needs to know the need of a Savior?

As we follow the call to love the gay couple next door, we must also follow the call to love the people down the street who shuts the door in their faces.

When we try to become a Good Samaritan, learning to sacrifice and show love to the man in the ditch in need of help, do we love or hate the one who crossed the road to the other side?

What is it that makes us turn up our noses in arrogance? Am I in danger of being proud of my humility?

Love unfeigned

Tweet Self-righteous or confessed sinner – all are in need of a Savior.

Can I freely offer the grace for which He so dearly paid?

Tweet The more I reflect on how much He pulled me out of, the less I am able to point a finger at people where they are.

Street corner or amen corner.

Love without hypocrisy. Even the hypocrites.

“Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Romans 5:20)

For everyone.

Samson: Seriously Flawed, Used Seriously

We are amazingly reluctant to realize that our heroes have faults.

When it becomes glaringly obvious, we toss them aside, capes torn, shields tarnished, heroes no longer.

This must be why we find it so hard to realize that good people in the Bible do inexplicably bad things.

The really tough ones are the ones we never see say I’m sorry. I wrote about Lot recently (Jerk or Just) and the story has remained close to my heart since. We never see him building an altar, weeping over wrongs done, or even read any justification except what I call God’s gobstopping grace.

God called him righteous.

I just reread the story of Samson. importance of reading the bible

He’s another hero with a severely torn cape.

Read Judges 13-16. On the surface, Samson was an arrogant womanizer with major co-dependency problems. You know the good-looking jock in the movies who is led around by a gorgeous, manipulative harpy? That’s him.

The story starts beautifully with an appearance by God to Samson’s parents with a promise of his birth and instructions as to his rearing. (Kind of nice to have God Himself show up to deliver your What to Expect book!)

The last two verses in chapter 13 say, “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshatol.”

That is a pretty auspicious beginning.

Then the first thing we see Samson do as an adult is to let his parents know that there’s a hot Philistine chick that he wants them to get for his bride.

“Sammy, isn’t there a nice Jewish girl you’d rather bring home?”

They weren’t being prejudiced. The Philistines were in power over Israel at the time and they were ungodly idol-worshipping oppressors out for pure destruction.

“…But his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord – that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.(Judges 14:4)

Here’s where I think some of the denial comes in.

To me, it is rather clear that Samson’s parents were doing their job as Godly people, trying to steer their son in the right direction. They were simply unaware that God, in His sovereign plan, was going to work Samson’s willfulness into the greater good.

As I read commentaries, people seem to struggle with this, certain that, since God’s spirit often moved mightily on Samson, that he prophetically wanted the Philistine woman for his wife so that God could move against their enemies.

I think Samson just wanted the girl.

We can’t be afraid to see good guys without a cape.

Tweet Our God of grace is often beyond our understanding. He uses flawed people who do stupid things.

There are some unbelievable doozies of  Samson stories I’d love to share but even a brief synopsis gets a bit lengthy. Read through Judges 14-16. You will notice that his deeds are not always accompanied by “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.”

Sometimes, as when he ate honey from the lion carcass, he was completely breaking Jewish law. (Leviticus 11:27)

His marriage was clearly an ungodly one with horrible results for his wife. (The foxes didn’t fare so well either.)

Some of his actions appear to be purely out of anger or revenge.

Still, God had a plan to move against the Philistines and, more than once, He used a strong man with weak principles to do so.

The Spirit of the Lord did fall upon Samson in chapter 15 and he killed 1000 men with a donkey’s jawbone.

Gruesome? Yes. But these were enemies of God. There is no way one person could kill 1000 people in a day with anything but an explosive.

Or the Spirit of God and a jawbone. jawbone


He followed that God-filled victory with a visit to a prostitute, then pulled up the city gate by the gateposts and carried it up the hill.

Flawed hero. Torn cape.

All of this leads up to the story of Samson and Delilah, one of the most infamous relationships in the Bible.

I’m won’t lend much space to that here. You know the story. This seductive worshiper of Ashtoreth, Dagon and Baal-Zebub manipulated him into telling her, not the Source of his strength, but how he could be robbed of it.

He paid a dear price for that dalliance. Blindness, bondage, humiliation and shame.

He eventually was able to push down the main pillars of the temple of Dagon, killing more enemies of the Lord in his death than he ever did in his life. God gave him an amazing victory.

And here’s the lesson:

While there are incredible stories in the Bible about Samson, he judged Israel for 20 years. Several times we see him destroying the enemy through the Spirit of God. Several others, we see him acting badly or questionably.

But we don’t know anything else that happened during those 20 years. We don’t know how many ways God used him. For some reason, God chooses show us Samson’s frailties. We see him succumb to seduction and give in to desires.

But God placed him in Hebrews 11:32 in the same verse as David, Samuel and Gideon.


And what about me?

Yep, you darlin’. All those failures. All that shame.

Past is past. He can use you too.

God exposes all that weakness, all that rawness, to teach us something.

Good people really mess up.

God uses really messy people.

Tweet Stay in the middle of your mess and the temple you are dallying in will come down on your head.

But He is willing to pull you out and He can still use you.

Tweet There are no chains so strong that the power of God cannot break them.

Tweet There is no blindness so dark that the light of God cannot pierce through.

Tweet There are no idols in your life on a pedestal so high that you cannot cast them at the feet of Jesus.

Samson went into the arms of the wrong person.

God gave him a glorious victory at the end of his life.

And God gave him, in all of his messiness,

gobstopping grace.