"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." 1st Peter 3:13-16

Historically, the world has either sought to tame Christianity (dilution and assimilation) or hunt it to extinction (persecution). By the grace of God, His remnant continues to persevere and mature through both. Even in these parasitic and aggressive environments, Christians can and should risk good conversations.

Can a distinction be made between respecting someone’s beliefs and respecting someone’s right to hold their own beliefs?

Is it possible to respect a person and respect that person’s freedom to hold a belief, yet reject what they believe?

Is there a way to be open-eared (sincere, respectful listening) but still guard your mind (the Apostle Peter would say, “Be sober-minded”)?

A good discussion needs horsepower and lots of it, but it also needs a transmission. Just because a transmission is in neutral or reverse doesn’t reduce the horsepower available. Silence, listening, even backing up and rearticulating thoughts don’t require us to turn off the ignition to our beliefs, but without the right application of timing and gearing that a transmission offers, the horsepower of our beliefs are rendered useless, or worse, destructive. I have a 1972 Ford Crew Cab 4X4 powered by a big block 460 ARR! ARR! ARR! I had a young man borrow it once who wasn’t familiar with the concept of a transmission (at least not a manual). He turned the key, fired up them horses, and drove right over my wife’s tree and almost into my well house.

There are also specific places and times to use our transmissions in different ways. A suburban neighborhood is probably not the place to lock in both axles, drop into second at 4,000 RPMs, and power-shift into third. Ms. Mable, greeting people at the local grocery store with a sweet “Good morning” would probably not profit from a curt Socratic inquisition into the axiological implications of “good!”

It is equally inappropriate (and arguably dangerous) to idle your way through a demolition derby. Respect never calls us to compromise what we know to be true.

While it is never okay to plow over someone (especially just for the fun of it), discussions can foster a safe place to get off the road, rev up those engines, and let the mud fly a bit.


How much does our eternal relationship with God cost us?

Paul says it costs nothing – absolutely free.
“The free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many…the free gift…brought…the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. justification…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 5:15-17 & 6:23)

Jesus says it costs everything – reaching far beyond the financial and physical to include even our relationships.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost…So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:25-33)

So, which one is it? Is it free or does it cost us everything? Yes!

Our eternal relationship with God in Christ and the ensuing fellowship in the Holy Spirit is absolutely free in that there is no possible accumulation valuable enough to purchase it. Our greatest wealth, our best efforts, our impeccable theology, our faithful religion…all rubbish…all filthy rags before the Lord.

Our relationship with God in Christ and the ensuing fellowship in the Holy Spirit costs us everything in that we must empty our hands of everything to receive it. Our treasured possessions, family ties, deepest desires, even self-preservation...all relinquished…all surrendered to the Lord.

God’s gift of redemption is far too expensive to be purchased with anything we could bring, and far too large to be received holding on to anything from this world. Empty your hands before the Lord and receive His free gift of reconciliation and be filled with the abundant grace found in fellowship with Him.


In the foothills of the Northern Cascades, lush pasture land is surrounded by dark forests. In this borderland existance, a good working dog is more than just man’s best friend – he serves as sheperd to man’s livelihood. One of the saddest things to observe in this setting is the methodical slaughter of a working dog by a pack of coyotes. They rarely lead a frontal attack. Instead, they’ll send one of the pack out into the shadows to play a little back-and-forth game of tag. The working dog is initially very careful to stay close to the safety of his land, but with each chase grows decreasingly aware that this back-and-forth dance is moving incrementally farther into the forest. Eventually, the dog finds himself deep in the darkness, too far from home, and surrounded.

Lust attacks us in the same way. Lust is desiring something that we cannot have. By definition, lust can never be attained. It attaches itself to something or someone and lures us to the chase. Once we reach far enough to grasp it, lusts shifts to something else beyond our grasp. As we compromise with the lusts of the flesh, we begin a methodical and incremental escalation – a back-and-forth dance with the enemy.

I would suspect that very few Christians purposely set out to wreck their fellowship with God and destroy their witness to the world. More likely the journey begins with small lapses in their trust of God – a financial fib, a retained offense, a harbored thought, a second glance, or perhaps even a ministry void of God’s call and provision bolstered in pride and self-righteousness. Eventually, we find ourselves in the dark, far from home, and surrounded.

Lust will never deliver. The grass is not greener on the other side. Let it go. You are so valuable to God and His Kingdom. Find your value and life’s desire in Him and He will fulfill. Trust Him.

If you find yourself at the end of lust’s dance, don’t quit, don’t surrender, and don’t pretend to be a coyote. Turn and run. Bruised and chewed, run home to your Father who loves you. Contrary to the enemy’s words, you are not the sum of your bad choices. You are a holy child of God redeemed in the blood of Christ and sealed for eternity in the Holy Spirit. Do not hesitate! Turn! Do not look back! Run! Come home!


“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy… Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect… He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” Leviticus 19; Matthew 5; 1st John 2

Wow! What a command. You must be holy, perfect, righteous. Perhaps the most religiously abused command ever given from God to his children, and yet it remains the command in which all others are encompassed. Upon hearing this command from Almighty God, we have two roads on which we may travel.

The first, and most popular, route is a venture into the art of excusing the Bible of God’s commands. This way begins with self-focused questions such as, “How could God expect this of me?” or “How could I ever possibly attain such?” with tones of “surely not” and “that’s impossible.” Unfortunately so much of our modern theology seeks to explain away the reality of God’s holiness, and we are now beginning to see the destructive realities of such a route.

The second way, as glorious as it is strait, is to embrace holiness. Here is the high adventure into the life of trusting and treasuring, beginning with God-centered questions such as, “Lord, how will You do this?” and “ Where can I join You in the process?” True theology calls for the recognition and acceptation of God’s beautiful holiness along with the ensuant charge upon our life.

Though the gate is narrow, the way strait, and only a few find it, let us embark on this great adventure of taking God at His word. Let us treasure our Lord for who He truly is. Let us trust Him to light the path that leads us to holiness – that leads us in God.


“Christ in you, the hope of glory… Proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1

“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9

Christians must be defined by growth. But we err grievously when personal growth and church growth become our quest. For in such pursuits we work directly against the revealed Kingdom formula for growth. Individual Christians, as well as their corporate expression through the church, must grow according to God’s economy. It is good that we explore and apply an assortment of resources and programs for growth. But, we must implement these tools according to the pattern that represents God’s way of conducting business.

Christians multiply by dividing. Churches multiply by dividing. There is no other way; there are no shortcuts. If our focus is to build ourselves into stronger Christians or our churches into larger churches, we will fail – not for lack of resources and not for a deficiency in intentions – we will fail because we choose to work outside of God’s mathematical equation for growth. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5)

If we desire growth – true growth – we must give ourselves away. Individually we accomplish this through one-to-one discipleship as we commit to walk beside another through thick and thin striving “to present everyone perfect in Christ.” As churches, we must find creative ways to give ourselves away corporately to other churches and ministries.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." John 12

Find a way to give yourself away…find a way to grow.


I find an interesting connection between the fourth and seventh chapters of Matthew. In the former, Jesus is tempted by Satan to turn the stones that surround him amidst his wilderness fast into bread. In the latter, Jesus assures us that God will never give his children stones in the place of bread. The immediate context of chapter seven is discernment – directing us to discern the ways of God’s Kingdom. In short, our Heavenly Father promises never to give us stones. Our responsibility, then, is to trust that the stones that plague our lives are truly bread from Heaven. In chapter four, Satan tells Jesus to turn the stones to bread. He exploits Scripture hoping to lead the Son away from the Father – essentially petrifying the bread of life. Jesus in turn tells Satan that the stones are bread, for the Father is using them to draw him to feast upon the wonders of divine fellowship. Time and time again God has brought things into my life that are hard – miserably hard. I am tempted to toss them, skip them, kick them, or just walk around them, all the while complaining that God would allow such stones in my life. How great it could be to stop, trust, draw near, and worship. “Father, this sure looks like a stone, it sure feels like a stone, but I trust you, please show me how this could be bread.” I am equally tempted toward stealing the sweet bread of God, tucking it in my shirt, and scurrying off into the world, only to find that apart for the intimate presence of the Father it has turned to stone. Every warm loaf from Heaven’s breath has the potential for desolate petrifaction. Every cold stone from the world’s indifference has the potential for savory nourishment. The difference? The direction. Draw near to the Father…stay…trust…feast.


“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1

One of these natural portals, through which to view God, is the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This natural law, referred to as entropy, observes that left alone, all physical processes will decay. All chemical reactions will inevitably reach equilibrium and cease. Such a state is observable on the “dead” planets in our solar system. We can also see this on Earth. One example is the oxygen in our atmosphere. Oxygen is one of the most volatile elements of creation, in that it readily combines with virtually any other element. For Earth to foster life, its air must contain 21% free oxygen. Any more and the planet bursts into flames, any less and the air is toxic. According to entropy, free oxygen (left alone) would rapidly combine with any and all elements possible and decay into equilibrium. But it doesn’t. Why? Because the physical processes that foster life on Earth are not left alone.

“The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command.” Hebrews 1

“He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17

“In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.” Job 12

If our Lord were to remove His influence from Earth, all physical systems would decay to a point of chemical equilibrium and to the point of death. How exciting to see God’s intimacy in even the most basic facets of life.

This natural law frames a revelation of God’s spiritual nature. All spiritual systems, left alone, will spiritually decay.

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered.” John 15

It is not enough to come to a savior for the creation of a relationship with God. We must also come to a sustainer of fellowship within that relationship.

“Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12

Jesus has come to give us life and to sustain that life in Him. Invite Him to stir things up in you.


Foolishness is measured in the expanse between what we learn and what we live.

The Bible is replete with description of and prescription for the fool:
“The fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet; a babbling fool will come to ruin; the mouth of a fool brings ruin; fools die for lack of sense; the way of a fool is right in his own eyes; wisdom is too high for a fool; crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle…yet his folly will not depart from him; the fool and the stupid alike must perish; the fool cannot understand; fools hate knowledge; fools get disgrace; doing wrong is like a joke to a fool; the heart of fools proclaims folly; a fool flaunts his folly; to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools; the companion of fools will suffer harm; leave the presence of a fool; the folly of fools is deceiving; a fool is reckless and careless; the folly of fools brings folly; the mouths of fools feed on folly; the mouths of fools pour out folly; a fool takes no pleasure in understanding; A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating; like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool; whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool; the fool walks in darkness; the lips of a fool consume him; the toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city; the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity; claiming to be wise, they became fools; foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them;; the fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’; O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense.”

Our level of personal foolishness is directly proportionate to the span between what we know and what we apply. When we know more than we practice, we play the fool. When we practice more than we know, we play the fool.

“Fools despise wisdom and instruction… everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man.”


Discern - to separate, distinguish between, to detect with senses other than vision, to recognize or identify as separate and distinct, right from wrong, to come to know or recognize mentally, to see or understand the difference.

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” Philippians 1

“Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5

Discernment can only grow by “reason of use,” and this use takes place in the relationship of teaching. Too many Christians today have settled for an incessant role as learner. It is not humility to assume the learner’s position – it is rebellion against God’s call on all his children. Yes, not all should presume to take on the corporate position and responsibility of Teacher, but all Christians are called to enter into the relationship of teaching through the covenant of discipleship. We occupy this planet during an unprecedented time of accessible religious and spiritual information, yet we are plagued with immaturity within Christianity. This enigma is due not to a lack of learning, but rather to the abandonment of teaching. It has been said that the teacher has not taught until the student has learned. It would seem that Scripture adds to this that the student has not learned until he or she begins to teach. We cannot sit in the pew listening to sermons or in the office reading commentaries and expect to experience maturity – the kind of true maturity that is evidenced by discernment. We must commit to the sacrificial and humble discipline of teaching.


Much of our Christian life could be described as trying. Not the “severely straining the powers of endurance” kind of trying, though there are those times. The “to make an attempt at” trying. We try to be a better Christian, try to serve more faithful, try to worship truer, try to give more, try to attend more, try to love more, try to sin less, and sometimes we just try to get by. I wonder if we’re missing the point. My oldest daughter and I took a walk together the other day to address some of these “trying” things. We had walked for quite a while trying to resolve these issues of trying when it occurred to us that God never tries. He simply is. If God never tries and we try to get closer to Him through trying, haven’t we essentially excused God from the process? I’m not questioning the validity of the desire to be a better Christian, a more faithful servant, a truer worshiper, etc. I’m questioning our means of attaining it. We need to stop trying and start being. I think God wants to be with us. I think He accomplished everything it takes in Christ. I think it is our responsibility to embrace who we are in Him and bask in being with Him in the duration of each moment. My guess is that in living this way, God will continue to shape us into that better Christian today then we were yesterday. My guess is that in doing so He won’t have to try. It was at this point in the walk that I realized that, regardless of the issues, I had just spent a significant part of my day walking hand in hand with my beautiful daughter. Oh what joy! The joy of being together. Thank You, Lord.


Expectations pervade our very existence. Since that fatal decision in the Garden of Eden, when everything was gambled on the expectations of being like God, we are consumed in and controlled by our expectations and their subsequent disappointments. In fact, a world without the economy of expectations is nearly inconceivable. Perhaps you too were raised in this economy, communicated by some variation of, “I’m not angry with you…I’m just disappointed!” Yet, expectations do not seem to be God’s economy. Indeed, living within and communicating from the prison of expectations is the antithesis of grace. God released us of His expectations by dieing on the cross while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:6-11). If we are to embrace the life offered in grace, we must break free from the entanglements of this fallen economy of expectations. And as in most battles, we begin with semantics. I cannot find a single Biblical reference to God saying He is disappointed in His children. Not one. Yet there are hundreds of references to God being angry. The opposite side of the coin is equally represented. Just as disappointment communicates falling short of our expectations, pride communicates attaining our expectations. Both are hopelessly engrossed in this fallen economy. I cannot find a single Biblical reference to God saying He is proud of His children. Not one. Yet there are hundreds of references to God being pleased. God releases us from His expectations, and embraces us each moment in the authenticity of anger and pleasure. As we continue to grow in the Lord, let's strive to adopt His heart and His language. Perhaps it is time to purge our vocabulary of “disappointed” and “proud” and let grace effuse daily in the simple honesty of “angry” and “pleased.”


“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Matthew 15 :8-9

In essence, God is like flowing lava. He is constantly moving, consuming, and creating. Too much of religious life is spent on the cold hardened crust. We can take ore samples and conclude that God was once here, but God only lives in the now. He has moved on. The crust is predictable, sterile, cold, and lifeless – the perfect habitat for parasitic religion. The flow is dangerous, vibrant, peaceful, and free – God’s home. All too often, in hopes of finding stable ground, we settle for a second-hand description of truth – essentially rejecting the intense reality of living truth. Historical writings, commentaries, religious creeds, and systematic theologies are great when used in the right place and for the right reasons. If we look to them for the definitive interpretation of Scripture we are subjecting them to a standard they cannot uphold. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate source for interpretation. The disciple uses these cherished tools as catalysts. Disagreeing with them, he is thrust into scripture for truth to refute. Agreeing with them, she is thrust into scripture for truth that authenticates. As they spark new thought, we are encouraged that though nothing is new under the sun, God continues to reveal Himself afresh. Use the writings of others. Use the structures of religion. Use systematic theologies. But use them to get closer to the flowing presence of God, not to secure a self-preserving stronghold on the crust. We must risk the dangerous venture of intimacy with God through His revelation. We must ride the wave of life at the brink of flow.


“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

It is so easy to read over this tiny parable of Jesus, as just one more “should” in a seemingly endless list of religious expectations. “If you really loved God, you would be willing to sell everything (spiritually, emotionally, relationally, financially, etc.) for the sake of the Kingdom.” But the context of Matthew 13 does not support this interpretation. In all the parables grouped in chapter thirteen, the “man” is God. This then is not another rule that we ought to live by, but rather the revelation of our Father’s love. God treasures us so much he is joyously willing to sell everything he has – Christ on the cross – to purchase our life. The greatest loss in our grim drudgery of self-conceived kingdom expectations is the accurate picture of God’s passionate pursuit of us. It is almost impossible for us to embrace the concept that God, who is in need for nothing, desires us with all of who he is. And yet he does. The beauty of this revelation is that as we embrace God’s passion for us, no matter what rock we feel stuffed under at the present moment, and begin to rest in that love, we cease from our work and begin to naturally desire God’s Kingdom above all else. Be still and know that God is God and that you are treasured.


I hear many adults crying out for God to answer their prayers. I don't hear many children voice this same concern. Every evening during our family worship time, my children are overflowing with places where they have seen God today and stories of answered prayers. I struggle to come up with one. After some analysis and introspection, I think my prayers are too big. Certainly not too big for God to handle, but too big for me to see their end. Our recent camping trip to the Ochoco National Forest is case in point. I prayed that God would use the trip to grow our family and me ever closer to Him -- a good prayer, no doubt, but one that is hard to bring the answer into view on a daily basis. Cayla, my 10-year-old, prayed for God to show her a wild horse -- no less a miracle but certainly observable today. God answered both our prayers with a resounding "yes!" But it took me two weeks to begin to see the answer to my request. Cayla celebrates daily. This reality can be illustrated by yet another fun-filled Walker vacation. Three summers ago we all piled in the 15-passenger Ford E-350 and headed 3000 miles to Texas. Somewhere in Kansas I begin to face the impending truth that my sanity was slipping away. We were on one of those cruel straight-stretches where I could see out on the horizon the place we would be spending the night...3 nights from then. From my perspective of the road ahead I couldn't even tell that we were moving forward. I think once, it even looked like we were losing ground. Right then, from the back seat, Cayla's excitement filled the van as she proclaimed, "Wow! We are going so fast!" I quickly looked in the rearview mirror afraid that she too had lost her grip on sanity only to discover that she was looking out the side window at the blades of grass along the highway. Most of my prayers, as an adult, are horizon prayers. Most of Cayla's prayers, as a child, are blades of grass. Perhaps in our striving to draw near to God through conversation we could find the right tension between the horizon and the grass.