Author: Dale Lovelady

Will You Wither or Glory Under the Heat?

These are some entries written in one man’s “journal.” They may sound like yours. I’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles… I’m not sure what to do… I’ve been spiritually terrorized… I’ve been thrown down… Even if you don’t write in a journal you’ve probably said similar things to yourself. Maybe even out loud. We’ve all felt the heat of circumstances beyond our control. Some of us wither under the heat. Some of us react in hurtful ways—towards others, towards ourselves, towards God. And some of us come through it glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. What makes the difference? The Apostle Paul wrote those “journal entries” above. You can find them in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (The Message). But he, in today’s jargon, did not put a period where God had put a comma. If you look in your Bible you will see that each of the above entries (even if worded differently) is followed by a comma. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not …

The Wedding You Don’t Want To Miss

Weddings. They come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. Some take months to plan; some are spur-of-the-moment. Some are loud and filled with laughter; others are more reserved and reflective. But there is a common factor in most weddings: tears. Bridesmaids cry (I think I understand this one). Brides cry (I don’t understand this). Grooms cry (Well, at least one that I know of, but Shannon cries at anything!). Mothers-of-the-bride cry (I’ve heard it is because daughters tend to marry a man like their father; I don’t agree.). And fathers-of-the-bride cry; sometimes visibly, often only in the soul (I totally understand this). There is a special bond between most dads and daughters. A wedding marks the day all that changes. When the pastor asks, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?,” the father of the bride says, “Her mother and I.”  He then literally an figuratively steps back to place his daughter’s hand into the hand of the groom. The father is no longer the most important man in her life, someone …

New Patches For Old Mistakes or New Creations?

Legacy: consequence, effect, by-product, result, repercussion There are a lot of men who creep Into the world to eat and sleep, And know no reason why they’re born Save only to consume the corn, Devour the cattle, bread and fish, And leave behind an empty dish; And if their tombstones, when they die, Were not to flatter or to lie, There’s nothing better can be said Than that they’ve eaten up their bread, Drunk up their drink, and gone to bed. -Author Unknown What will be the by-product of your life? What ripples will you make in the pond? When you leave this world, what will the record say about the 1.75 cubic feet of space you used up every day for 25, 50, 75 years or more? What will be the repercussion of your life? No matter what stage of life you are living out, now is the time to make mid-course corrections. Jesus, in response to the Pharisees’ criticism about not practicing religion the proper way, said, “…who would patch old clothing with …

Stop Messing Up Something New In You

God wants to do something new in me. And I want Him to! The jungle is all-too-ready to overgrow and bury me during my careless times. I desperately need a pathway through the wilderness. I have built too many cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water (see Jeremiah 2:13). I know what a dried-up heart is like. I need some rivers of living water to flow through the dry wasteland. And the good news is God has already begun draining the deadness out of me and pumping new life into my parched soul (see Isaiah 43:19). Why would He do that for me? When I am haunted by this question, God, in His grace, firmly but gently drives me back to His love demonstrated on the cross. Milton Vincent, the author of A Gospel Primer, writes: God loved me so much that He was willing to suffer the loss of His Son (see John 3:16; Romans 8:32), and even more amazingly, He was willing to allow His Son to suffer the loss of Him …

Stop the Foolish Arguments of the Enemy

J. Wallace Hamilton landed on “The Unanswerable Answer” as a title for one of his sermons in A Faith for a Nuclear Age. He used 1 Peter 2:15 as his jumping off point: It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. The ominous shadows of persecution provided the occasion for writing this letter. The fires were stoked. The accusations were loud. The arguments were unfair. And the name of Jesus was drug through the mud. Maybe word reached Peter that these Christians were unsettled. What are we supposed to do? Give us some talking points, Peter. How do we answer these heathens’ questions? Hamilton writes, “And the Apostle tells them it will do no good. There is no argument that will stop an argument. The only thing that will stop an argument is not an argument, but a demonstration. The one unanswerable answer to the enemies of Christianity is a Christian.” That’s the way you “silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” (NIV). Give …

Do You Feel Like Damaged Goods? Be Reclaimed!

My mother was a shopper extraordinaire. She could sniff out a bargain hidden in a concrete bunker twenty feet below ground level. That’s where she did most of her shopping. It wasn’t called a concrete bunker. It was a “bargain basement.” I spent a lot of time with Mom in bargain basements. Most of my clothes had the labels cut out of them, or were found on the “damaged goods” table, or were marked “slightly irregular.” John Ortberg would call the bargain basement the “department-of-something’s-gone-wrong.” A stain won’t come out. A zipper won’t zip. A button won’t butt. Undesired. It’s too bad that a lot of people look at the church much as I did the bargain basement—society’s department-of-something’s-gone-wrong. Damaged goods. The undesirables. At best, slightly irregular. Reality Check: God designed the church for undesirables.  Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. – 1 Corinthians 1:26 Paul reminds the church that many of them had been damaged by sexual …

First Give To God What is His

The Bible is filled with practical wisdom for life; nuggets of wisdom that can be mined from the Scripture to help us be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16, ESV). The book of Proverbs is a treasure house of “get smart” lessons about life. Jesus packed the Sermon on the Mount with such lessons: be careful about the foundation on which you build your life house—it makes the difference between prosperity and disaster (Matthew 7:24-27); you better be careful about your criticism of others—it’ll come back to bite you (7:1-2); settle your differences quickly—if it gets to court you’ll pay through the nose (5:25-26). Now that’s about as practical as you can get! And probably any kid in our 456 program can understand it. There’s another area of life about which God knows we need practical, elementary teaching: the way we deal with our treasures on this earth. So He gives us the principle of “first fruits.” In the Old Testament, God’s people offered the first fruits of the harvest as an acknowledgment that …

The Fence of Grace In Life

Wes Seeliger writes in One Inch from the Fence about an old alligator at the Houston Zoo. He nicknamed it “Scarface” because a fellow reptile had chewed a hunk out of his snout. The wound was covered with a grotesque mass of scar tissue that made this 18-foot long gator one of the ugliest most vicious-looking creatures he had ever seen. He tells about the day he and his son fed marshmallows to Scarface. Wire mesh was the only thing that separated them from jaws that could snap a horse’s leg like a twig. And the whole time his hand was just one inch from becoming Seeliger-burger! But there was a fence! And that made all the difference in the world. I love the title of our series on the book of James: the Gospel on the ground. And that’s where life is lived—on the ground; terra firma. But the terra is not always firma! Several times a week, if not every day, we feel the tremors of this adventure called life. Frustration with the kids’ schedules. …

Is Your Marriage Not Working? Work Your Marriage.

Weddings. Men hate them, especially when it’s their own; women love them, especially when it’s their own. Men watch the time at weddings, always worried they’ll miss their cue; women cry at weddings, which is another reason men don’t like weddings. Weddings are fertile ground for the unexpected. A ring is dropped and falls through the floor register, clanking its way to the furnace in the basement. In one wedding we had a “groomsman delay,” because he dropped like a fly right in the middle of the ceremony. In another, I called the bride by her sister’s name all the way through the ceremony. I know a preacher who unconsciously switches the initial sounds of words. At one ceremony, he asked the groom to place the ring on his bride’s finger and repeat what was supposed to have been: “with this ring I seal this vow.” Instead, he asked the groom to say, “with this ring I feel this sow.” I don’t know, but I imagine the mother of the bride wept while the men snickered …

Are You Making God Famous? Listen.

Heath reminded us last Sunday that good listening has four components: Receiving Appreciating Summarizing Asking questions But I believe the most difficult step in the whole process is starting at the beginning—receiving. The actual receiving is not the difficult part, but starting there is. Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish (see Proverbs 18:13). In a race, false starts are not allowed. Starting 100 meters ahead or even just a single step results in disqualification. It’s a foolish thing to do. Spouting off before listening to the facts is not only foolish, it is shameful. It says to the person looking me in the eye, pouring out their heart, whether spouse, supervisor, child, parent, teammate, or neighbor, “You are not worth my time and effort.” I’ve done a lot of foolish things in life, but some of the most foolish are those times that I talked when I should have listened. Those times never produced gardens; always fields of weeds: hurt, strained relationships, bitterness, insecurity. Now, add to that, that …