Author: Dale Lovelady

Are You Living Out This Spiritual Oxymoron?

The dictionary defines an oxymoron as a “figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.” Thank you for the useless help, Mr. Webster. I think that was an oxymoron. Useless help. Examples will serve us better: open secret, deafening silence, minor crisis, jumbo shrimp. I was talking with a man in Texas about oxymorons and he immediately burped out, intelligent preacher. Ouch! The Bible has some amazing oxymorons: virgin birth (Matthew 1:18), dead undertakers (Luke 9:60), blind guides (Matthew 15:14). Some of the most startling—and, perhaps, most useful—oxymorons spoken by Jesus are in the Gospel of Mark: losers who win and life-giving executions. If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. – Jesus, Mark 8:34-25, NIV We have all seen the bumper sticker: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Jesus goes cross-grain with that secular-humanist thinking by …

God’s Heart and Uncomfortable Grace For Me

I thought I knew this guy named Jonah from the Bible who was swallowed by a fish because he was disobedient to God.  I had read the story, I knew the facts, but after listening to last Sunday’s sermon twice I discovered that I am Jonah; I am good-to-go-until-the-go-is-not-so-good!  For Jonah, the “not-so-good” go was Nineveh, his people’s deadly enemies. They had no use for Jonah, and, quite frankly, he couldn’t care less for them. I imagine him thinking, “God, I don’t understand this. You know these people are bad to the bone. Why would you give them a second chance? Don’t you see their dark hearts? I am not going to Nineveh!”    We all have a Nineveh. It may not a far away country; more likely it’s a nearby, familiar circumstance. That place where no one knows you, where no one likes you, where no one wants to hear what you have to say; the place for whatever reason we don’t want to go. The man in the next cubicle who has ridiculed …

“Yes.” I Married Way Outside of My League

It happened on March 5th during one of our morning services. I was asked for my hand in marriage!  And it was not Linda who asked me; it was Jesus!  Dwayne was leading us in worship. We were about to sing “I Stand Amazed (How Marvelous)” but he stopped us and asked us to stand in Jesus’ presence; just stand there—in Jesus’ presence. And those timeless words of hope by Charles Gabriel ripped my heart wide open: I stand amazed in the presence Of Jesus the Nazarene, And wonder how He could love me, A sinner, condemned, unclean. How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Saviour’s love for me! That’s when it happened: I had this keen sensation that Jesus was kneeling in front of me. I thought, “He is getting ready to wash my feet.” And I was overwhelmed that He would do that. I should be washing His feet. But, instead, He looked me in the eye, and my spirit heard Him ask, “Dale, will you marry me?” My heart reeled. I know the Scriptures …

Are You a Bruised Reed or Smoldering Candle?

The Apostle Paul reveled in the length and width and height and depth of Christ’s love—a love that embraced his highs and lows, his past and his future. That is the beauty of the Gospel—its ability to deal with all of life, from the cradle to the grave. Is it any wonder that Paul tagged it a “love that surpasses knowledge”? (Ephesians 3:18-19) That’s a beautiful thought, but I have a hard time accepting it. Maybe you do, too. I’m growing, but I still have relapses of loading up the truck with if only’s, what ifs, and now whats—regrets. The fruit of stupid decisions. The fruit of repeated mistakes. Truckloads of regrets that I wish I could unload and then just drive away. But, that just doesn’t seem right. And then I was shown a description written by the prophet Isaiah over twenty-seven hundred years ago. It is a portrait of the Messiah. Seven hundred years later Matthew found that portrait, brushed it off, and gave it to the world. He will not crush the …

Are You Living Like You’re Free?

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. (Ephesians 1:4-7) Are you in hock? I was for a long time, but not anymore. One day Dad came home from work and said, “I’ve got something I want to show you.” So I went out to his truck and watched him tenderly unwrap a double barrel 20 gauge shotgun. He was so proud of it. The way he held it and treated it you would have thought there was a baby inside that blanket. It was …

Distracted by Spiritual Fat and a Host of Parasites

Florence Chadwick, according to Leadership Journal, was a brave and strong young lady. She waded into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean on a July morning in 1952, to do something no woman had ever done—swim the twenty-six mile stretch of water between Catalina Island and the California coast. She was a veteran of long-distance swimming, but that July swim in the Pacific presented come terrific challenges: sharks were trailing her and had to be driven off several times. A fog then settled on the channel. Florence swam for fifteen hours before taking her last stroke. She was tired, cold, and discouraged. And she couldn’t see the shoreline. Shortly after being dragged into the boat it was discovered that Florence was less than a mile from the shoreline. Florence failed her challenge because she lost sight of the goal. As followers of Jesus, we have a goal set before us—being made into the likeness of Jesus (see Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). All-too-often, I get distracted and lose sight of the goal. God knows this tendency is …

God and the Planet of Misfit People

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you… God chose things despised by the world,[a] things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. – 1 Corinthians 1:26, 28 Nobody wanted J.T. (not his real initials) on their team. I wasn’t chosen first when we picked teams to play softball during recess, but J.T. was always chosen last—if chosen at all. He might have been as good a ballplayer as Jimmy Byrd, but he never got the chance to prove it because he just didn’t fit in. He wore ragged, holey bib overalls to school every day. Nobody else ever wore bib overalls, not in our school. I don’t remember J.T. ever wearing a jacket, even in the middle of winter. He always brought his lunch in a paper bag. I guess he didn’t have the 25 cents needed to buy the school lunch and half-pint of milk. J.T. was a loner, probably not …

Be Thankful for the Little Things

Jim was one of the most optimistic, joy-filled, inspiring friends I have ever had. Always smiling—even when he didn’t feel well. One of the highlights of my Sunday morning was to soak up the sunshine of his greeting.  Jim had his regular spot in the back of the church where Linda and I served. If he was not there, I counted it a pleasure to visit his house on Sunday evening and, after a lengthy conversation, serve him the Lord’s Supper. He was always grateful. And I was always a better man because Jim brushed up against me. The signature above was on a letter Jim sent me after we moved to Chattanooga, TN. I cherish it, because it is the last communication I had with him before he went to be with the Lord. Hard to read his handwriting, isn’t it? That’s because Jim couldn’t hold a pen in his hand. He signed his correspondence by holding a pen in his teeth while someone held the paper up to his face. Jim could’t scratch …

Get Into Their Skin, Not Under It

Mercy. Merciful. Those words bring a touch of warmth into the cold harshness of life—like the fragrance of baked apples and cinnamon wafting from the kitchen to the fireplace on a cold winter’s day. Hark! the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the new-born King! Peace on earth, and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled. – Charles Wesley Phillips Brooks wrote of an Everlasting Light shining in the dark streets of Bethlehem, and the result was mercy: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” When Placide Chapeau de Roquemaure was asked by the parish priest to write a Christmas poem, these words gushed from his heart: O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining ’Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. That’s mercy. William Barclay says that the Greek word for mercy and its Hebrew counterparts mean much more than “feel[ing] sorry for someone in trouble… Mercy means the ability …

Reflecting on Who We Are in Christ

Words that mean a lot to me may have very little impact on you. The name “Linda Lovelady” brings a smile to my face (and makes my blood run hot). Those words may not resonate with you, but she is my wife; the one woman I chose to spend my life with. But if I say, “Nine eleven,” many of you will lean back in your chair and take pause as you reflect on an event that changed our world. We were glued to the TV, horrified at the pictures. Hours. Days. Weeks. Many of us can still see the gruesome carnage as if it happened yesterday.  We still bow our heavy hearts and heads in memory of those who lost their lives in the towers, the Pentagon, and the crashing planes. They had no choice. Work, circumstances, perhaps tourism caused them to be at the wrong place at the wrong time without any suspicion of the sinister forces that would snuff out their lives. But there were others. Firefighters, law enforcement, emergency medical personnel—all kinds …