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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Have A New Blog Site at - you'll need to go there.

I've stopped using as my blog site and have started a new blog over at  It's a Wordpress site that I think will give me more flexibility once I learn how to use it properly. 

There won't be any more posts from me on this site, so please go there to read my blog. I've moved all the posts from here over to that site.I hope you'll like it!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Happy Memory

Just came across this on the Internet. A few years ago Melanie and I participated in the "World's Largest Virginia Reel" that made the Guiness Book of World Records. 70 couples dancing the Virginia Reel together in a big gala weekend in Atlanta, celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Gone With The Wind. What a fun memory!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A New Book by Steve & Melanie McVey

My wife, Melanie, and I have written a book that was released today on Amazon that I believe will help many, many people. Melanie was sexually molested as a child and, as is always the case, the effect on her life was huge. In fact, she came to hate the man who molested her - her grandfather. This book describes the journey she traveled from horrible hurt to hatred to healing.

As Melanie shares her story of abuse, she and I both write about how our lives are affected by the pain we have experienced from others and how to find freedom from past hurts through grace. I believe this may book may touch people's lives at a more profound level than anything I've written since Grace Walk. 

Melanie writes: I was a little girl of about five or six when my abuse began. My grandfather was the one person in my life who gave me love and affection. I was a middle child, so I felt like I didn’t get much attention from anybody, but my grandfather would come over and let me dance on his feet. He’d set me on his big shoes, hold my hands, and walk around the room as I danced. He’d sit me on his lap, and swing me around in his arms. I remember so many times just being held and cuddled by him. That was very important to me. I didn’t get that kind of affection from anybody else.

But then the time came when that stopped being the kind of attention he gave me. Although I felt very safe with him in the beginning, I came to realize that he didn’t necessarily love me because of who I was. He wanted to be around me because of what I was–I was a little child, and he was a child molester.

From that dark place, hurt evolved into resentment and eventually turned into complete hatred for her offender. It was only when she received a call from her mother telling her that her grandfather was dying and her response was, “Good! He’ll finally get what he deserves,” that Melanie saw how crippling her pain had become to her emotional and spiritual wholeness.

Melanie and I have counseled hurting people for over forty years and have seen many experience freedom as Christ led them along the pathway you’ll discover in this book.

In these chapters, you will learn:
* How to recognize the effects of internalizing painful events that have happened to you.
* How to identify the hurts done to you that need to be resolved.
* How to take four biblical steps that will free you from the past.
* How to deal with ongoing emotions about what happened.
* How to relate to the person who hurt you.
* How to handle it when somebody continues to hurt you.

Christ alone sets us free and heals our wounds. "Getting Past The Hurt" is nothing less than a description of the pathway of grace that He walks us through to experience that healing. Many have found the healing they needed, and so can you.

You can get the book at this link:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Sample Chapter From My New Book

Chapter Fifteen
Clean Fights

            “If you had more ambition, we’d be further along by now!” Emma angrily said to Mason. “I’ve told you to send out resumes but you’d rather stay right where you are no matter what the best thing for us might be!”
            “There you go again! Blame me when we come up short because you don’t understand how to live within a budget. You never give one thought to whether or not we have the money for something. If it’s in the bank, you assume it must be there to spend. Well, Emma, we have monthly bills that have to be paid out of that money!”
            “You’re the one who didn’t pay last month’s power bill! Now we owe two months instead of one. It’s not like I’ve spent the money on something we don’t need. If you’d acted with just a little responsibility we wouldn’t be having this conversation!” Emma responded.
            “Yeah, blame it on me,” Mason continued. “That’s a lot easier than admitting that you don’t seem to be able to understand that no matter how much money a family makes, there has to be a limit on what is being spent every month!”
            Without another word, Emily turned and walked out of the room and into the kitchen. Mason stormed into his home office, slamming the door hard enough to make sure Emma heard it.
            The kind of exchange takes place in homes all over the world every day. Arguing. I’m not talking about physical conflict. Most couples don’t reach that stage in their disagreements, but many don’t realize that wrong words spoken may have irrevocable consequences.
            Disagreements in a marriage are a universal. In fact, show me a marriage where the couple never disagrees and I’ll show you a situation where one person is has become so passive that the marriage is on dangerous ground for altogether different reasons than what this chapter will discuss. Verbal disagreements are not only normal but can be healthy if they are expressed in the appropriate way. You can’t live with a person and not have differences of opinion. It’s how you handle those differences that are of utmost importance.
            Looking at the brief glimpse into the argument between Emma and Mason, several things surface that are immediate red flags about the health of their communication skills and thus, the health of their marriage. Read the description of their conversation again and note each of the mistakes you can identify in their disagreement. There are at least four or five things they did wrong. Can you see them?

Address Behavior, Not Character
            Some things that can be said in an argument have more weight than others. When we feel angry, the temptation may be there to go for the harshest statement we can make but doing that can cause long-term damage to a relationship that is very, very hard to reverse. Angry words are one thing. Words that belittle the very essence of somebody’s character are a more serious issue.
Emma’s criticism that Mason had no ambition crossed the line. Married partners usually know the vulnerabilities and insecurities of their spouse. To verbally strike in an area that diminishes your mate as a person is not only wrong, but may do lasting damage. Think of the areas in your own life where you feel most insecure. When anybody gouges you in those areas of sensitivity, the effect is exaggerated and the resulting damage isn’t overcome easily. You don’t want to do that to the man you love.
            One wife said to me, “Well, he knows how I am and that I don’t really mean it,” to which I replied, “No, he doesn’t know you don’t really mean it because he has a phantom voice inside him that already tells him it’s true. When you affirm what that voice says, it is next to impossible for him to readily believe you don’t mean it. He may know that you do love him but your love won’t soon overcome the damage done by words that fuel an insecurity that is already inside him.”
            Be careful what you say. Words can be like a shotgun blast. Once the loud noise subsides, the blast itself may be over but the damage is done. The Bible says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword” (Proverbs 12:18, NIV).
Tell him what you don’t like. Say it clearly and even firmly if you want, but make sure that what you talk about is his behavior. Wrong actions can be changed in no time but when a person is made to feel that he is inherently bad on the inside, that isn’t easy to move past.
            What are you to do if your husband speaks to you in the wrong way discussed here? First, don’t react to such a thing. Instead, respond to his words. If your husband makes it a habit to say things to you when he is angry that diminishes you as a person, it’s likely that his words “push your buttons” in a way that your reaction may not be the most helpful way to answer. In fact, your reaction may almost seem involuntary when you feel provoked.
            Instead of reacting, decide now how you will respond when he says something to you that is out of bounds because of the nature of the remark. It may be something as simple as, “I will not continue this conversation now because you have crossed the line by trying to reduce me as a person instead of talking about what I’ve done that you don’t like.” Then, every time your husband commits this infraction, say the same words to him. If you will be consistent in this, he will learn that attacking your character will do nothing toward allowing him to make his point but will only cause the conversation to end abruptly. To talk about bad behavior is acceptable, but to put somebody down crosses the line.
            When you’ve ended a conversation in this way, wait until your emotions have stabilized and then, when the time is right, approach him about agreeing on certain guidelines for how you will disagree with each other. Obviously, a big one will be that you don’t belittle each other’s character. Agree together to address actions and not go afoul by diminishing each other. Once you have agreed on the boundary lines for arguing, if your husband crosses a line in the future, stop at that moment and remind him that you’ve agreed not to go there. If he continues, end the conversation immediately and later, when you’ve both settled down, come back to the discussion about your agreement on how to disagree in a nondestructive way.
            The idea of agreeing upon established guidelines for how to disagree may seem simple but it works. You both have control over your words. In fact, one translation of James 1:26 says, “And if a man thinks that he serves God, and does not hold his tongue, but deceives his heart, this person's service is worthless” (Aramaic Bible in Plain English). Neither of you have to react. You can learn to hold your tongue and properly respond.

Avoid The Words “Never” and “Always”
            Mason made a terrible choice by what he said to Emma: “You never give one thought to whether or not we have the money for something.” When he made that statement, the discussion could no longer be about what was going on at the moment the argument began. Now it was much more than that. Mason had unwisely turned the conversation into something much bigger by using the word “never.” His decision to use that word would automatically and understandably put Emma on the defense. After all, now he wasn’t just talking about one incident but about an alleged habitual way of behaving.
            When arguments occur there are certain words that usually do nothing except increase the emotional intensity of an already charged atmosphere. To say, “you never” or “you always” is to throw gasoline on an already burning fire.  If the goal is to resolve the problem, that should be avoided at all costs.
            Other things to avoid are statements that question our mate’s intelligence.  Somebody might say, “What were you thinking?” or “That’s insane!” but what the other person may likely hear is, ‘You are stupid!” Questions and remarks like these don’t serve a useful purpose. Saying anything that is a veiled insult should be avoided.
            Making generalized accusations when arguing is harmful too. What we are feeling at this moment may seem like feelings we have all the time, but that often is not the case. It is easy to project the negative emotions of one intense situation into all of life. For example, just because your husband didn’t do the yard work he said he would do today doesn’t warrant calling him lazy. The problem with volatile emotions during an argument is that our minds tend to quickly scan the history of the other person’s behavior in an attempt to build a case that it’s always like this. That is not helpful, even it were true.
            It’s important to avoid enlarging the issue that sparked the argument by saying things that move away from the matter at hand and turn it into something much bigger. Stay focused on the details of this particular incident and speak in a rational and calm way about this. Don’t let it get out of hand and turn into something else.

Strive For Understanding, Not A Personal Victory
            Have you been married long enough to discover that even if you win an argument, you haven’t necessarily won anything? Maturity causes us to realize that in personal relationships resolving differences isn’t about being proven right. The goal is to understand and be understood. Most arguments stem from a lack of understanding by one or both partners involved.
            Your husband may see things in a way that makes no sense to you whatsoever. Rather than immediately trying to prove that his way of seeing the matter is wrong, what might happen if you tried to understand why he sees it that way? Chances are that once you understood why he saw it the way he does, it would be much easier to move toward a mutually agreeable solution to the issue.
            Rather than immediately making assertions, determine to ask questions. Not the kind of questions that are thinly veiled points that support your view, but questions asked with the sincere intent of understanding. If your husband isn’t normally a highly irrational person who has no acquaintance with common sense and ordinary logic, why not take the time to try to understand how he has reached the opinion he has come to on the matter than has caused the disagreement?
            Begin by seeking to understand before you take the offense in an effort to be understood. Having first shown your husband the courtesy of actively listening to his perspective you will find yourself in a place where you can ask that he extend the same courtesy toward you as you share your opinion. Gaining a personal victory by proving your point isn’t the aim. Understanding is the bedrock of conflict resolution in any situation, including marriage.
            Once you have demonstrated an understanding of your husband’s viewpoint to his satisfaction, you will be in a better position to present your viewpoint. People tend to not listen if they don’t fell they have themselves been heard. That’s why it is important to demonstrate that you do understand his view. Understanding doesn’t necessitate that you agree, but only that you have understood.
            Before you begin to present your reasoning that supports your position on the controversy at hand, ask him, “Are you satisfied that I’ve heard and understand you?” If he isn’t, then ask him to say more about what he believes you haven’t gotten yet. Calmly talk it through until he acknowledges that he does feel heard and understood.
            When it is your time to speak, make the conscious choice to speak calmly, without your words carrying an emotional charge. If he interrupts, stop him and ask him if he will show you the courtesy of allowing you to complete your thoughts before interjecting his response. Remind him that you did the same for him. These guidelines for arguing could be applicable in any situation where people disagree with each other.
Dealing With Bickering
            Some couples seem to bicker with each other constantly. Sometimes the arguments are over the silliest things. Marriage is not supposed to be that way. If you find yourself repeatedly bickering with your husband over insignificant things, chances are that it’s not those things that are the real source of the problem. When it seems there’s always a short fuse between you, it’s important to discover what is causing you both to live in such an emotionally volatile relationship.
            Sometimes stress may be the cause. When couples face trying circumstances in life, it’s easier to be impatient with each other than with anybody else. After keeping emotions in check all day, it isn’t uncommon to let one’s guard down at home and release the negative feelings that may have been kept pent up all day. When we snap at each other and know that it’s because we’re inappropriately handling stress, the easiest and most direct route to resolution is a simply apology. “I’m sorry. I’m feeling uptight right now and I don’t want to take it out on you. Will you forgive me?” Those words toward each other can diffuse a potentially bleak evening for you both.
            Sometimes the reason for constant bickering is that we have fallen into a rut of misbehavior. One repeatedly does the same thing that irritates the other. The other person reacts in the same way as always. The reaction of the offender to the offended is what it always is. The ensuing results are always the same.
            As the old saying goes, “Insanity is repeatedly doing things the same way and expecting different results.” Again, the answer here is communication. Talk about it together. Change what is within your power to change. Find a way to compromise. Agree together that whatever the behavior that triggers the incident isn’t worth the fallout from it and seek out a new approach.
            Another cause for constant bickering is pride. There may be an inclination to see the fault in our mate while being blind to our own responsibility in the situation. The fact that your husband may indeed behave poorly doesn’t erase the possibility that you may be contributing to the problem.
            My wife, Melanie, and I married when we were nineteen and eighteen, respectively. Two years later we had our first child and within seven years we had four children. Needless to say, stress levels were high for such a young couple.
            As is often the case in such scenarios, we found ourselves bickering often. No matter how determined we both were to avoid it, arguments would break out over the silliest things. It was not pleasant.
            In my own blindness, I did have enough understanding from my Christian upbringing to know that praying about the problem was wise. That much wisdom I had. However, I didn’t have enough wisdom to know what to pray. So, my private prayer every day was that God would open Melanie’s eyes to her wrong thinking and actions. “You have to change her, Lord!” I would pray.
            We laugh about it now, but I was serious at the time. After praying this way for some time, I sensed my Father speaking to me one night. I will never forget it. His words arose in my consciousness so clearly that they couldn’t have been clearer if they had been audible. The words were, “Steve, I want to change you.
            I was stunned. In my pride, it hadn’t occurred to me that I might need to be changed. That simply wasn’t on my radar, but I heard Him. I knew it was His voice. So I began to pray about my attitude and my actions. I still didn’t think Melanie was without any fault, but I didn’t focus on her need for change. I focused on allowing God’s Spirit to transform me, and He did.
            I began to treat my wife in a loving way. My actions and reactions to her began to be aligned with what a husband who is following Christ will act like. I changed and she saw it and when she saw it, something amazing happened. She changed too.
            Your husband may be the one in the wrong. You may be justified in feeling the way you do, but has it helped the situation? What might happen if you were to take the initiative in bringing about change? What could take place if you laid down your pride, setting aside the issue of who is right and who is wrong and simply responded to your husband in grace – underserved grace?
            Your husband may need to learn appropriate behavior but it may be that the way your Father intends to teach him is through your actions. The Bible teaches that the behavior of a wife can have a profound effect in changing her husband. (See 1 Corinthians 7:14, 1Peter 3:1-2) While you’ve been waiting for him to change, your Father may be waiting to first change you.
            Arguing is normal in any marriage relationship. The question at hand revolves around how it will look in your marriage. Allow the Holy Spirit to teach you how to “be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). Wives who walk in grace sometimes argue but they have learned how to do it properly.

Get it at your local Christian bookstore or here, from our ministry:

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Meet Us In Atlanta!


Join us in Atlanta for our annual Grace Walk Leadership Summit. All of our team members are invited to participate in the morning sessions and the evening sessions will be open to the public.

 The schedule is as follows:

Growing Deeper In the Heart
October 25-26

Friday October 25
Morning: 9:00 -12:00 Team Session

            9:00 Welcome & Introductions
            9:15 Worship
            9:45 Teaching
            10:15 Break
10:30 Teaching
            11:30 Q&A/Discussion
            12:00 Lunch

Afternoon: 1:00 – 3:00
Administrative details about being a part of the GW Team

Friday October 25
Evening: 7:00 – 9:00 Public Session

7:00 Welcome
            7:15 Worship
            7:30 Grace Walk Australia Report
            7:45 Grace Walk Latin America Report
            8:00 Worship & Offering
            8:15 Teaching – The Wounded Heart

Saturday October 26  
Morning: 9:00 - 12:00 Team Session

              9:00 Welcome & Introductions
            9:15 Worship
            9:45 Report
            10:15 Break
10:30 Teaching
            11:30 Q&A/Discussion
            12:00 Lunch

Afternoon: Free Time

Saturday Evening
Evening: 7:00 – 9:00 Public Session
7:00 Welcome
            7:15 Worship
            7:30 Grace Walk Recovery Report
            8:00 Worship & Offering
            8:15 Teaching – The Warrior Heart

The meetings will be held at Grace Life Church in Woodstock, GA, a suburb in north Atlanta.
655 Molly Ln  Woodstock, GA 30189 (678) 388-8533

The following hotels are in the immediate area:

Embassy Suites Atlanta
- Kennesaw Town Center 620 Chastain Road, Kennesaw, Georgia, 30144, USA TEL: 1-770-420-2505

Marriott SpringHill Suites Atlanta Kennesaw 3399 Town Point Drive · Kennesaw, Georgia 30144 USA Phone: 1-770-218-5550

Marriott Residence Inn Atlanta Kennesaw/Town Center 3443 Busbee Drive · Kennesaw, Georgia 30144 USA Phone: 1-770-218-1018 Fax: 1-770-218-2107 Toll-Free Reservation Center: 1-800-331-3131

Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Woodstock/Atlanta North 305 Molly Lane, Woodstock, GA 30189 US Phone: 1-678-738-0001 For those with budget considerations this Microtel is almost within site of the church and has given good rates and service.

Join us for this event as we celebrate the grace of our Father revealed in Jesus!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Happy Anniversary to My Darling Wife

It was exactly 40 years ago today that I woke up beside my cousin, Eddie. We had slept in the same bed because the whole family was at our house to attend my wedding that day. I was about to marry Melanie Lee, the only girl I'd ever dated. It had been three years that we dated. My Dad had asked me to "please wait until you're at least 19 to marry." I turned 19 on July 7 and on July 28, 1973, three weeks later, we were about to be married.

At first, I had asked Melanie's parents if I could marry her after I graduated from college, three years later. I had been away to school for my freshman year while Melanie was still home finishing high school. I gave her the engagement ring on her birthday on May 10. The more we talked about it, the more we realized how hard it was going to be for me to leave her to go back to school alone. So back to her parents we went, this time asking to get married right away - in December. They weren't happy about that at all and didn't give an answer right then. (Her Dad loathed preachers.)

A few days later, we came back and said, "We want to get married in July."  Less than two months away. Her mother asked Melanie, "Is there something you need to tell me?" There wasn't. We were are pure as the fallen snow on the day we married (well, I won't promise that was true in my thoughts but it was in my actions) but I'm sure both sets of parents sighed a great sigh of relief when time passed and our chastity was verified. Our first child wasn't born until almost two years later.

Over the past forty years, our life together has been incredible. We've had heartache at times - problems with finances, church members, children, and most recently health. There's much we don't know about other people but believe me, we've shed as many tears as most, if not more. Through it all, God's grace has been sufficient.

The pleasures of life have far outweighed the pain. I was a local pastor for the first 21 years, from the age of nineteen to forty. I wrote *Grace Walk* when I was 40 and it was published the next year. I resigned the pastorate at 40 and began to travel in an itinerant ministry. Since then, Melanie and I have been amazed at the places ministry has carried us and the things we have been allowed to do.

Because of ministry trips we have walked on the Great Wall of China, stood inside the Taj Mahal in India, cruised the Fjords of Norway, seen the windmills and tulips of Holland, saw Buddhist temples in Thailand, golden temples in Japan, watched the House of Commons debate policy in Parliament in London (from the peanut gallery), petted Kangaroos and Wallaby in Australia, stood in the Coliseum at Rome and the ruins of Pompeii, gone on a safari in Africa where we slept outside and ate wild boar for breakfast. The list could continue. We've been on six continents.

The amazing thing has been that we have always had a modest income. The car I drive right now has 160,000 miles on it. Rich, we are not - at least not in money. But we are rich in grace and That Grace has *given* us these experiences.

More important than the things we've done are the relationships we have. We have four wonderful children whom we love dearly and who love us. Our fourth grandchild is due to be born on Christmas Eve.

We have dear friends with whom we love to laugh and play and vacation and share our lives.

Melanie and I have each other, and we often thank God for that. We've both agreed that this past year has been the hardest one of our lives but we have held each other in our arms and felt Divine Love and each others healing caress through it all. With health challenges, despite sincere determination to keep a positive perspective we sometimes hear nagging voices taunting our minds about a possible future that doesn't even exist in this moment. Only Grace-Filled-Agape exists in this moment and He will be with us in every moment. So, we rest and hold each other with faith in Him.

After 40 years, we are still deeply in love and that is a real gift. How are we celebrating this day? That's another miracle. Sufficient funds recently came to us unexpectedly that allowed us to plan this Anniversary Trip.

We sit here in our room now, starring in amazement out the window at the canal and St. Mark's Basilca. This evening, at 6:30, we will board a Gondola for a private tour of the canals of Venice. I will hold my sweetheart's hand as the Gondolier serenades us and I will silently wonder in amazement, "Father, why me? Why would you have chosen to give me such a woman and such a life?"  And I am sure that the answer will gently surface and lovingly whisper  . . . "Grace." 

Grace. That's right. When I wrote "Grace Walk," almost 20 years ago, the Dedication read, "To Melanie, my most precious grace gift in this world." Today, I affirm that fact and thank God for it.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Monkey See, Monkey Do

A scientific study* was done in the 1960s that demonstrates how easily any of us can find ourselves trapped in traditional thoughts and actions that make no sense but are so embedded in us that we don't even think to question them. Although the study was performed with monkeys, sadly the underlying result often manifests itself in human beliefs and behavior.

Five monkeys were placed in a cage together and a ladder was placed in the middle of the cage. On the top of the ladder was a bunch of bananas. Every time a monkey started to climb the ladder to get the bananas, the researchers would hose down the rest of the monkeys with cold water. It didn't take long until every time any monkey tried to go up the ladder, the others would beat him up. After a while, no monkey dared to try to go up the ladder.

The scientists then decided to substitute one of the monkeys. When they put the new monkey into the cage, the first thing he did was to try to climb the ladder. Of course, the others beat him up. After a few beatings, he learned not to try to climb the ladder.

Then a second monkey was placed into the cage and the same thing happened. He went straight for the ladder and the others attacked him. Interestingly, even the first monkey participated in the beating even though he had never been sprayed with the cold water. A third monkey was switched with one of the original five and the same thing happened. Then a fourth and finally the last original monkey was replaced with the fifth replacement.

So, in the end, there were five monkeys in the cage and none of them had ever been soaked with the cold water. Yet they still would beat up any monkey that tried to climb the ladder.

What was the rationale behind the action of these monkeys? Since none of them had been sprayed with water, why did they all act so illogically? The answer is "indoctrination." Each of them, when introduced to the group, had been indoctrinated to behave the way the rest did. The new monkey didn't know why. He just beat up the monkey trying to go up the ladder because that's what he had learned was the appropriate thing to do.

This same kind of indoctrination has happened in shaping the thoughts and actions of many people today who would identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ. The interesting thing is that the One they want to follow didn't fall into the "monkey see, monkey do" syndrome. To the contrary, He bucked the system so much that it ended up provoking people to kill Him.

To take a contrarian position simply for the sake of being a contrarian is wrong. There is no value in trying to go against "the system" just for the sake of being different. In fact, it's often pride that causes a person to do that.

On the other hand, it's equally as wrong to accept viewpoints and practices simply because others do. This kind of "group think" has led to great atrocities throughout history. The history of the church has not escaped the damage this kind of indoctrination can cause. I suspect that there are many sacred cows that have been embraced as sacred doctrine in the church today because of this sort of group indoctrination. They need to die.

While it is unwise and unhealthy to become a belligerent skeptic who challenges everything from a knee-jerk reaction, it is important to ask yourself why you believe what you believe. The process of maturing in any area of our lives necessitates that we change. Not change for the sake of change, but a kind of change that comes with any growing thing.

Don't be afraid to ask "why?" Truth is eternal and can withstand scrutiny. Avoid any environment where your questions are squelched by authority or peer pressure. None of us have a perfectly clear understanding of anything. We are all on a journey. Let's not beat up those who try to climb the ladder just because we've learned to do it that way. We aren't monkeys. We bear the image of our Creator. Let us refuse to become indoctrinated into a static system and instead spend our lives exploring the dynamic reality of discovering more and more of what it means to live in the Divine Life that embraces us.

*Stephenson, G. R. (1967). Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys. In: Starek, D., Schneider, R., and Kuhn, H. J. (eds.), Progress in Primatology, Stuttgart: Fischer, pp. 279-288.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Garden

It was a warm October afternoon in Hong Kong, where I sat around a table with eleven other men. All of us were wiping tears from our eyes. Some of us had our head buried in our hands and were sobbing. The reason for our tears was because of a song being sung to us by a Chinese Christian named George Chen. Friends from The Bible League had encouraged this stopover on the way to Beijing so that we could meet with George and hear his story.

George began to preach immediately when he became a Christian. Over the next few years, he was arrested numerous times for preaching. As the cultural revolution in China intensified, houses were searched and Bibles were seized and burned. Many pastors died and the lives of the rest were in constant jeopardy. However, this didn’t stop George from proclaiming the gospel.

He continued to preach until the day came when he was arrested and thrown into prison. When the iron gate slammed shut behind him, it was to be eighteen years before he would know freedom again. His notoriety as a pastor didn’t serve George well in prison. To make Pastor Chen an example, the communist guards assigned him to work in the prison sewer. Pots filled with human waste from all the prison barracks were emptied into this giant cesspool.

George’s job was to spend every day in the cesspool, shoveling the human waste onto wagons, where it was taken to fields and used as fertilizer. Yet by the divine enablement of the life of Jesus Christ within George, he didn’t mind. In fact, he came to enjoy his time in the cesspool. George explained to us:

“In prison, you’re never alone. You work beside other prisoners all day, sleep close to them at night and the guards are always watching. This is why I came to enjoy my assignment in the prison cesspool. There I could be alone. The stench of the filth on my clothing and body kept everyone away from me. Nobody wanted to come near me. Not the prisoners, not the guards. Nobody! They all kept their distance.”

George continued, “Since working in the cesspool allowed me to be alone, I was able to pray, lifting up my voice loudly to the Lord. I was able to recite the Scripture verses I had memorized before they took away my Bible. Oh, I would sing! I would sing boldly to the Lord. God’s grace sustained me. The living presence and power of the Holy Spirit encouraged and blessed me.”

As we sat listening to George’s story, one of the men seated at the table asked, “George, what did you sing?”
He answered, “I’ll sing it for you now.” He closed his eyes, tilted his head toward heaven, opened his hands with palms facing upward, and with a smile on his face, George began to sing in Chinese a hymn we all recognized by the melody.

“I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me; and He talks with me; and tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

As George sang, God’s presence in the room became powerfully evident and grown men began to weep. It wasn’t difficult to imagine George in that cesspool, singing praises to God as he shoveled human excrement. George had come to know that when one has Jesus Christ, he has everything he needs. Our God can turn a cesspool into Paradise by His very presence.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I'll Apologize In Heaven

If I have overstated my Father’s love; if there is a dark side of His character of which I’ve lost sight; a Judicial Temperament that will hold me in account for a distorted proclamation of who He is and what He wants us to know; an incomplete or polluted aspect of my understanding and declaration of what I sincerely have come to believe is the true gospel . . . if I have become confused, misled, beguiled or misguided in what I wholeheartedly believe has been a revelation of the meaning of “the finished work of Jesus Christ,” then I will apologize from the bottom of my heart when I get there. I will plead that where I have been wrong, I have been sincerely wrong. Wrong after much Bible study and prayer and soul searching and agonizing with The Truth. I will humbly and earnestly ask to be forgiven for exaggerating His goodness and grace. But I do not believe that will ever happen. My Father’s grace will always exceed anything you or I can imagine. I’m gambling everything on that and it’s a gamble I am confident I will not regret…not in this life or the next. Let the critics say what they will. Let the like-minded stand with me. Eternity will render The Verdict. Let us each be fully persuaded in our own minds and act on that persuasion with boldness. Lay down your life for it, because if it's true, it's worth it.

The Power of Love

What would happen if we showed affectionate love to everybody???? If a person like this finds healing in the expression of love, what would it do if we loved the people we meet in our daily lives? "Love never fails." - The Apostle Paul
(Watch this to the end to understand the point)

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Hand Me The Scapel, I'm Going In

Many of you know that, my wife, Melanie has had serious back problems for several years now. She has had multiple operations. The last one was when she fractured vertebrae when she vomited after eating spoiled food in a restaurant. It hasn’t been easy.

Well, the good news is that I think her troubles are soon over. I’ve been reading about a surgery that I think I can do myself. I read on Wikipedia that a doctor in Switzerland developed it. I won’t try to explain it here but it involves making an incision in her back three inched wide and two inches deep. Then there’s tapping the vertebrae back in place with a small hammer, sort of like a geological tool. I read on another medical (well, actually holisitic health) site that there’s a special bone adhesive you use. I can buy the glue from that site. I don’t have every single detail figured out but I think I’ve got the idea well enough that once we’ve bought the necessary supplies, I’m going to take the scalpel and go in! We’d appreciate your prayers.

Are you okay with that? Well, relax. It’s not true. I’d be an idiot to think I can understand back surgery by reading Wikipedia and a few web sites by people who are generally opposed to surgery. Everybody would see through that it in second.

On the other hand, the same can’t be said about theology. I’m amazed by the number of blogs, Facebook posts and comments I read in which somebody professes to be solving problems and giving exact answers about theology that have been debated from the very beginning of the early church. How’d they come up with their definitive answers to age-old questions? Wikipedia. Or their favorite preacher’s blog. Or their next door neighbor’s nephew’s pastor, who reputedly told the nephew the answer before it was passed back up line to them.

And the amazing thing? People buy it. In fact, they repeat it. Like parrots in a pet store, they all start screeching the same thing. They haven’t studied the Bible to come to an answer. Why should they? They learned what Trinitarianism is from Wikipedia! They understand the whole issue of hell because they read online where (insert name) explained it. They heard a guy say that he knew a guy who saw a guy embrace that doctrine and it wrecked his family’s life!

In today’s religious climate there are two dangers, coming from opposite extremes. The first is rejecting something we hear because it is new to us. The other is embracing something we hear because it is new to us. Some people seek to preserve tradition and are threatened by ideas that contradict what they’ve always believed. Others, who’ve been burned in the religious world, impulsively jump on any new idea they believe is a slap in the face to the tradition they have heartily renounced.

Paul commended the Berean Christians by saying, “These people were more receptive than those in Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive the message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if those things were so” (Acts 17:11) Listen to those you respect. Read the blogs. Check out the Facebook posts, but at the end of the day, study the Bible for yourself. None of us are 100% right on everything we say. We’re all in process. We certainly can learn from each other but we each have the duty to study the Scripture and see what The Teacher says to us about the things we’ve heard and read.

I need to go now. Melanie’s back hurts and I have a knife, hammer and glue to purchase.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Standing On My Own Grave

Nothing bridges the imagined chasm of distance between time and eternity like standing on your own grave. I did it today. I stood on the plot I purchased for myself a few years ago and, right there, in Magnolia Cemetery, over the empty ground where I stood and gazed at my parents occupied graves, I remembered again that we were not created for this world. We truly are just sojourners – temporary visitors in a place we sense within is not our true home.

I felt it . . . *the desire* . . . not in a morbid sort of way, but in a way that C.S. Lewis knew:

“In speaking of this desire, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence.”  (*Surprised By Joy*, p. 16)

Have you ever felt it?  I did today. And I have no fear. None. Only the anticipation that one who recognizes his origin in The Eternal can understand. I think I’ll have a blank stone placed on that plot, for it is a sacred portal. No, better still, it is a promise.  “Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!”

Saturday, June 01, 2013

From "The Secret of Grace"

From the manuscript I just sent to Harvest House this week: The Secret of Grace - Release date: April 1, 2014 Harvest House Publishers

Our adoption in Him was the eternal purpose our Triune God had in mind all along. The coming of Jesus into this world wasn’t a reaction to what Adam did in the Garden of Eden when he sinned. The story of redemption doesn’t begin with Adam. It predates Adam all the way back to a time when there was no date! It was our God’s plan to bring us into His family before the first second existed in the human dimension we call “time” When there was no “space” there was already Grace. You were in His heart before the first molecule was spoken into being.

Before Adam sinned, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world had assured your safe delivery into His arms. As numerous theologians have said: “You were found before you were lost.” Your adoption in Jesus Christ is the result of a love set on you long before the first ray of light exploded out of the mouth of Christ and started its race across the universe. The gospel is the good news that you are included in the victory Jesus accomplished over sin and death. You were included even before you knew or believed you were included. Even when you stood in the darkness of unbelief there was a “true light that enlightens every person by his coming into the world” (John 1:9) and you blindly stood in that Light of Love. People without sight can’t see the light but it shines on them nonetheless. You may have lived all eternity with a darkened mind and never have known the Light but He knows you. The light of His love has always shone on you.

Your faith in Christ isn’t the tipping point that causes the efficacy of His finished work to be real. Your faith is a response to a Reality that existed while you didn’t even know what you didn’t know. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness,” God says to you. (See Jeremiah 31:3) Speaking of His crucifixion, Jesus promised, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself" (John 12:32, NLT). “Everyone” includes you.

In Jesus Christ you have been adopted – given the full standing of a son – by the Father Himself. “It is by His doing that you are in Christ Jesus,” Paul told the Corinthians. (See 1 Corinthians 1:30). It’s not because of anything you do. Nothing you do has caused you to be placed into Christ Jesus. That happened as a result of a divine act of grace.

With baited breath, all of heaven watched until the fullness of time came and, in the person of Jesus, the eternal plan our Triune God had held in His heart forever came bursting into time and space like bright rays of sunshine penetrating dark clouds. “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons,” Paul proclaimed in Galatians 4:5. How could such a thing happen to us? “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” Paul explains in Ephesians 1:5.

Does that include you? Jesus died once for all, according to the Scriptures. The Apostle Peter said, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Get Off The Religious Treadmill

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden,
and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

Recently I was told that a pastor I knew years ago had walked into the woods, pulled out a gun and killed himself. The man was known in his community as a busy, sincere and hard working pastor, but behind the scenes he had struggled with self-doubts, emotional and mental fatigue.
Sometimes there’s a short step between spiritual service and a religious treadmill and that short step makes all the difference. Real love motivates authentic service while religious laws power the religious treadmill. Desire leads the first but duty drives the latter. It’s the difference between a tiring sense of “ought-to” and thrilling sense of “want-to.”
Are you on the religious treadmill? Get off. You may find it gratifying in the short run but over the long haul it'll drain you. Driven religious fervor becomes a one-night stand repeated over and over and over again. There may be a shallow gratification in one-night stands, but nobody would ever mistake it for genuine intimacy.
God offers you much more than that. He wants you to experience Him as a soothing rhythm of grace. However, to know that kind of intimacy, you must stop any religious hyperventilating you’ve mistaken for a grace walk, calm down, and do what is born from the expression of Christ within you. God doesn’t need you to break the three-minute mile for Him. He just wants you to enjoy Him, knowing that everything else in your life will flow out of that.
The fact remains, however, that a religious rat race is a tick that slowly sucks the lifeblood out of our intimacy with God.  God didn’t invite you to be His maid, but His bride. Of course you will serve Him, but is to be the natural expression of your love for Him. Otherwise, it becomes a stumbling block in your grace walk.
Well meaning believers often find themselves in a place which can be compared to the man adrift at sea in a life raft. Because he is dying of thirst, he begins to drink the seawater around him. The salt water causes him to become increasingly thirsty and his thirst causes him to drink more seawater. This vicious cycle will ultimately bring death.
This will be the fate of anybody who believes that doing more is the remedy for his thirst.  Sometimes the answer to our deepest need is met when we understand that the best way to advance may be to retreat, remembering that God’s ways are not our ways.
Blaise Pascal said, “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” It isn’t frenzy, but faith that facilitates intimacy.
Don’t allow yourself to be pressured by the religious machinery so prevalent in modern Christian culture. It’s not that you are to become spiritually passive. Christ within you will see to it that no such thing happens.  On the other hand, you are free to step away from any demand to do more than His Spirit is leading you to do.
Don’t let other people manipulate you into doing what they think you need to do. That’s not their call. That matter rests between you and the Holy Spirit. To stand on this fact sometimes requires that you be willing to accept the disapproval of others who try to pressure you into doing what they think is right for you.
Jesus didn’t come to help us be religious superstars. Far from it, He came to deliver us from empty religion, even orthodox, time honored religion. Jesus came to bring us into intimacy with God through Himself. In His earthly days, as in our day, those most offended by Him have been the religionists who have built their reputation around keeping their golden idols polished to a brighter shine than anybody else in town.
The idols are their own particular rules of the religious road-race that must be observed as they speed down the highway they call “Christian living.” Their display case is filled with the specific idols that most easily fit their own personality and temperament. They judge everybody else by whether or not they live up to their own personal standards. People are incidental. What matters is how you are behaving.
The fact is that even Jesus wasn’t a good churchman by the standards of the religionists of His day. He didn’t live up to what they thought He ought to be. To them, He had no convictions. He appeared to compromise the purity and integrity of their values by doing things like healing people on the Sabbath, by eating with the crooks (Publicans) and party-animals (sinners) of His day. He was a friend of the hookers and homeless. He didn’t separate Himself far enough from the riffraff, as every good churchman knew one should do. Consequently, He lost His testimony with the Pharisees, an incidental matter which didn’t seem to bother him at all. Jesus cared more about relationships than reputation. He still does.
A legitimate grace walk gently flows like water along a riverbank, refreshing all who happen to stumble upon our banks. It isn’t a flash flood of activity that honors God. He doesn’t lead us that way, but instead He has chosen to make “[us] lie down in green pastures. He leads [us] beside the still waters [where] He restores [our] soul” (Psalm 23).
Get off the religious treadmill and just put your eyes on Him. He will do "the rest" in you.  Do the things God asks but don’t confuse His voice with the demanding voice of dead religion.

Taken from The Grace Walk Devotional. To get the book, click here

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rethinking What We've Believed

            I want to tell you a story – this is “a big story.” I think you agree after you’ve read it. 
           One of my adult children has a friend who, while she was in our home, broke something very valuable in my house. As much as I hated it, I had to tell her that she owed me for the cost of the thing she had broken. It wasn’t a pleasant situation for anybody but she broke the thing and it is what it is.
            Months passed and she wouldn’t pay. Finally, I took the necessary steps to recover my loss legally. Before the day came for me to recover the debt she owed me in court, my own child came to me and said, “Dad, I don’t want you to sue her over this. I know she owes you, but this is my friend, somebody I love.”
            “I know, but she owes me the money. To pay it back is only fair,” I answered.
            “Yes, but this is my friend,” my daughter answered.
            While I appreciated her compassion for her friend, the situation was what it was. In the end, my daughter paid me what her friend owed me and I forgave her friend’s debt. The odd thing is that the “friend” of my daughter never even thanked me. Can you believe that? I was that kind to her and she didn’t even appreciate it? So much for showing her mercy.
            Okay, let’s stop. I can’t continue. I'm feeling disgusted even writing about that. Here’s the truth: It never happened. I made up that story to illustrate a point.
            What kind of feelings did that story evoke in you as you began to read it? Did it affect what kind of person you perceived me to truly be? Did you think it was horrible for me to take a legal approach toward a problem in which the relationship should have been the most important thing to consider? Did you see the foolishness of me saying that “I forgave her friend the debt” when, in fact, the debt had been paid by my daughter? Did you think it was ridiculous that I would even suggest I showed her mercy?
            Why is it that we can see the absurdity of this sort of thing when it comes to people but, on the other hand, have no problem believing these very things about God? Here’s the beliefs of many, many Christians today:
1.     Mankind broke something important to God (His command not to eat from the forbidden tree) and as a result owed God something for it.  God hated that but, “it is what it is.”
2.     Humanity had to pay God for what we did. “That’s only fair.” (We’re told that somehow God’s “justice” demands payback.)
3.     Jesus steps up on behalf of the friend (mankind) and pleads our case, finally paying back God what He was owed so that we no longer owe the debt and God will be satisfied.
4.     Now, we’re supposed to thank God for His kindness and mercy for forgiving the debt that Jesus paid.
It’s insanity. Some offer their parroted response, “God’s ways are not our ways.” It the description above was correct, that response would be true. And I’d respond to it by saying, “You’re right. God is meaner than I am.” But it’s not true; not at all.
This Western World theology of retribution has created a concept of our Father that is totally demonic. Think of it: Satan has been able to cause much of the church world to believe that, although Jesus is a nice guy, His Father is one demanding deity who was so ready to fling His rage into us with a vengeance that He couldn’t rest until He could discharge (get it out of His system) that anger in some way.
There is another way to see God the Father. It’s how the early church saw Him before Anselm came along at the end of the 11th century and detonated this blasphemous bomb of penal substitution – the idea that God punished Jesus instead of us.
Jesus did take our place and was punished by sin, not His Father. As I’ve said, “there is another way to see God the Father.” It is a theology of affection. It would be a great thing if we all were willing to consider that there may be another way of seeing things – a way that is consistent with the teaching of the Bible and the understanding of the early church.
Sometimes this sort of post can trigger an instant reaction from the “Save The Sacred Cow” group, but remember this: “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish”  - Proverbs 18:13. Most people have never seriously studied or considered views that contradict what they’ve been taught and believed all their lives. Do we want to know the truth, or not? Don't take anybody's word for it. Study. Pray. Learn. You have the Teacher who will guide you into all truth. What is He saying about the Father of Love?