Author: Dale Lovelady

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 …

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 …