Amazing Grace: A Story from Sierra Leone


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me… I have always loved that song. As one who has experienced so much grace in my life, no other song better captures my heart when I think of God’s love for me.

Chances are good you know the song and love it equally. Did you know it originated in Sierra Leone?

I learned during our time in Sierra Leone that the song was written in this country, actually on an island called Plantin Island. If you are familiar with Ellis Island near NewYork City, where immigrants were processed upon entry into the United States years ago, Plantin Island was apparently the equivalent in reverse. Slaves were kept there while they waited for extradition to other countries where they had been sold.

If you have heard the story of the song, Amazing Grace was written by John Newton, once a sailor working on a ship participating in the slave trade. He fell in love with Sierra Leone, was later converted and became a pastor, and wrote the familiar song, understanding personally the amazing grace of God displayed in his life.

The people of Sierra Leone are proud of this part of their history, in spite of the tragedy of slavery it represents. They recognize the importance and popularity of the song and embrace its origins in their country.

Considering the atrocities of slavery that I know from our country’s history, Amazing Grace has even a richer meaning to me than before I came to Sierra Leone. I’m praying the people of the great continent of Africa more and more understand the true meaning of the song and receive the grace of Jesus Christ, which is truly amazing.

The older i get, the more depth of understanding i have that God’s grace is amazing.

Are you still amazed at God’s grace?

Advice for Men after the Wife Says the Marriage is Over

I hope you don’t need this post. It is for a select audience.

After I have answered a question too many times to count, I figure more people have the same question. One of the issues I see frequently is what happens to men when their marriage caves in around them and their wife no longer wants the marriage to work. This could be because of simple neglect over the years or an affair, but she wants out and he wants her to stay. When this happens, a man often becomes a vulnerable puppy of a man and literally doesn’t know what to do next. (I’ve sadly seen it so many times, especially recently.) It could be his fault or her fault, but at this point, the man just wants to save his marriage.

Here are a few suggestions I gave a while ago to a man in this situation. Although this is a personal reply to one man, I believe it may have application for many man in this situation. One thing needs to be clear, however; you must own your decision. You know your situation far better than anyone else. These suggestions are based on experience with dozens of marriage situations, but they are simply my opinions and not designed as professional advice.

If you are in the immediate days and weeks after your wife has indicated she thinks the marriage is over, this is what I suggest:

1. Don’t beg. You are likely much more broken and emotional right now than normal, but women are attracted to a man’s strength, not as much his emotional side. (Even if they say they are…over time they want to see strength.) She needs to know you are hurting, but not see you as weak. That balance is hard to strike, but important to find.

2. Sometimes writing a letter works better than talking in person, because you can share your true heart, think through your words, etc, without all the emotions being involved. When the relationship is especially strained, we tend to say the wrong things, which backs the other spouse into a corner, causing defenses to rise and emotions to take over the conversation. Read THIS POST about how to write this type letter.

3. As hard as it is, after you’ve told your spouse your heart and what you want, you have to give her some space. Honestly, she’s probably feeling crowded right now. After a woman has wrestled through this as long as she has, when she’s done, she’s done. That doesn’t mean her heart can’t change later, but for now she feels smothered almost to be around you. I’m not trying to add to your hurt here. I am simply giving you the reality from what I have seen many times. That’s why she may talk about one of you moving from the house. Chances are this was a very long process for her and you just found out how severe it is for her. That’s typical.

4. Build yourself up physically, emotionally and spiritually as much as trying to save your marriage. You’ll need that in days to come regardless of what happens and it will make you more attractive. In these days, you should draw closer to the heart of God than you ever have before.

5. Seek professional help. You probably aren’t as capable right now of making wise decisions. Find someone to help you do this. Ideally this would be professional Christian counseling with you and your wife, but could be a mature friend or minister. Regardless, get personal help if your wife will not go with you.

6. Do your best not to make stupid mistakes during this time. It’s hard to do, because you are vulnerable, but you don’t want the marriage set back further than it is. Spend time in personal reflection, asking God and yourself what you did to contribute to this situation. If you already know your blame, seek God’s forgiveness, your spouse’s and anyone else you have injured.

7. Surround yourself with a few other men you can trust. Be accountable, open and honest with them. It’s especially helpful, and they are plentiful, to find men who have walked where you are walking and survived.

8. Realize that any change of heart in your spouse is going to take longer than you would hope it would. A woman’s heart usually changes slower than a man’s heart. Be patient. Pray that God brings the right people and influences in her life and that her heart changes towards you.

Please know I’m praying for you as I type this. My prayer is that your marriage will be saved, your wife’s heart will change, and the two of you will grow a marriage that glorifies God. Also, again, this post is not professional counsel. You didn’t pay me to receive this, so don’t hold me accountable for it’s success. I can’t stress enough that every situation is different. I would suggest, although, that these situations often have similar characteristics. Hopefully some of this will help.

Men/Women, what would you add to this?

In Africa, I’m An Old Man


I’m a senior citizen….at least for now, Seriously. It’s not a joke. I’m not trying to be funny. I’m only 46 years old, but for the next couple weeks, I’ll be considered “old as dirt”. And, it won’t be because the 20 something year olds traveling with me will be making fun of me either…even though they might. In fact, they may go through a mid-life crisis, because they’ll be considered middle-aged.

In case you missed yesterday’s post, I’m headed to Sierra Leone. The life expectancy there is only 43 years old. I couldn’t believe that when I first read it. I will literally be an old man there. It reminds me that life is relative to the context in which you live it sometimes. It also makes me sad for that country and more passionate about ministering to the people of Sierra Leone.

I know this also. Not only will I be even more intentional there; knowing that life is so short, perhaps it will shape how I view life here, because life is short in the United States too, isn’t it? Regardless of how long a person lives…

I would appreciate your prayers. It would be great to get home and see comments that you were praying for our group. I suspect that I will feel those prayers, so let me thank you for them now.

Have you ever been to Africa? Have you been on a mission trip? Did it change your life? Tell me about it…at least where you went.

Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters: Doing Good

Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. Ecclesiastes 11:1

I had an interesting situation occur last Sunday after one of our services. I was greeting people as they left the service as I do every week and a man waited to speak with me. He has been attending our church about six months, but wanted to share with me what brought him to Grace. Apparently years ago, probably close to 15 years now, I was in the insurance business and he was in real estate. He said that every time he achieved any recognition as a realtor he would get an encouraging note from me. He was so encouraged each time that he began keeping up with me in my community involvement and my online activity (I’ve been attempting ministry online since 1996). He said he decided if I ever pastored a church he would attend. He only recently learned I was at Grace.

I don’t share that story to make myself look special. Honestly it was mostly marketing driven activity at that time. I share it because it illustrates a bigger principle; the one the verse shared at the beginning of this post illustrates The principle is that when we do good things; the things that invest in people, encourage them, make their life better, we may not see the immediate results of those actions. Sometimes it may not even seem to make a difference, but after many days…well…after many days only God knows the good that you and I may see.

It reminds me of a couple other principles from God’s word:

Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Do the good you know and see to do today. “Cast your bread upon the waters.” You may get no recognition for it. No one may even seen to care that you did…oh but one day…you’ll find that bread again…and when you do...that’s some good bread. Trust me!

Have you had a stories of doing good things and not hearing of it later?

I’d loved to read your story. It may encourage others…and me.

10 Confessions I Need to Make

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16

I look good online. I appear to be all the things I’m not. Here’s the truth you need to know:

I can be greedy…
I can be prideful…
I can be arrogant…
I can be stubborn…
I can be lustful…
I can be unforgiving…
I can be judgmental…
I can be egotistical…
I can be selfish….
I can be uncaring…

There’s my list…Thankful, as always, for His grace…

I don’t want my prayers hindered in any way because I’m pretending to be someone I’m not. I feel better letting you know who I really am some days.

What do you need to confess today?

Happy Father’s Day Challenge: The Nurturing Dad

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Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 NIV

Fathers are not usually seen as the nurturing ones in a family. When my boy’s get sick, they don’t want me, they want Cheryl. The Bible, however, tends to also place the father in a nurturing position. We are told not to “exasperate” our children, which means not to wear them out with correction, but to “bring them up”. That phrase literally means that we spend time with them on a regular basis and encourage them in the development of their character.  That sounds like nurturing to me.

The Bible tends to lay responsibility on the father to help set the tone or the climate of the home. A father, who is consistently harsh or is never satisfied with his children, will tend to produce children who lack the confidence to face tough situations in life. On the other hand, a father too quiet and passive to be intimately involved in the lives of children will likely lead to adults who cannot connect well with others, either in the workplace or in their own marriages and homes.

Fathers are often one of the best determinates of a child’s future success in life. If a boy never feels he meets his father’s approval, he may become either an underachiever or an overachiever, but he will likely never feel that he “measures up” in life. A girl whose father fails to affirm her will often seek that approval from another man, often in seeking inappropriate or less than ideal relationships. She may enter marriage unrealistically expecting something from a husband that he may or may not be able to give. I haven’t even mentioned the effects of an absentee or abusive father.

The biggest impact in the life of a child whose father never nurtures is that they often have a harder time realizing the nurturing aspect found in a loving relationship with a Heavenly Father. Without the model from an earthly father, they see God more in the role of Judge than of “Abba”; which is the Hebrew term for our modern “Daddy”.

I’m thankful for the grace and mercy of God that allows so many second chances for fathers who have missed the mark, but if we desire to be Godly fathers, we will strive to nurture our children in love.

For more thoughts on parenting, click HERE.

Happy Father’s Day!

What changes do you need to make this year to be a more nurturing dad?

An Omer is One-Tenth an Ephah

Yesterday I Tweeted this verse:

(An omer is one tenth of an ephah.) Exodus 16:36 NIV

I received some great replies, such as: “Thanks a lot!” and “That really helps!”

I was simply being silly, but truthfully, this has been one of my favorite verses over the years. I wrote a devotional about it at my Mustard Seed site in 1998!

Here is that devotional to explain:

Have you ever read a word or phrase in the Bible and it kind of caused you to ask….”Say what?” Well, that’s what the word “omer” did for me the first time I read it.

I had been eagerly reading the account of Moses and the Israelites on their journey to the promised land. God had provided for them each step of the way. Each morning they had their manna (bread), and in the evening they were provided quail. Now, I know that manna is a crisp and sweet tasting flaky bread type food, because the Bible tells me so.

But, what is an omer? What type of measurement is that? Moses, the writer of Exodus, tells us that each day the people were given an “omer” of manna. Okay, now just how much is that?

So, at the end of the 16th chapter, after continuing in my confusion, I read an answer: An omer is one tenth of an ephah! Well, of course it is…thank you very much! Problem solved.

Which begs another question………WHAT’S AN EPHAH?

But, you know, the answer I think lies more in what I don’t know than it does in what I do. You see, it doesn’t really matter! What matters is that the omer was just enough! It was all they needed for the day. No more…and no less!

And, you know what the best news of the day is? God’s word promises to His children today is that He will still provide for us our “omer”!

Now, I really don’t know how much that will be for you today….or for me…but I know this……..it will be just enough!

Oh Lord, give us this day our daily bread…our omer!

Thank God for your omer today!

Personal Story: The Pastor I was Sent to Help


Years ago I was pastoring a church in a small town. I was new to the pastorate, having surrendered to full-time ministry only a short time before I came to this church. The church knew I had a master’s in counseling, so several members approached me one day and asked me if I would reach out to the pastor of another church in town. This pastor was decades older than me, but he had lost a son within the last year and was struggling with life.

I knew that this pastor frequented a local diner every morning, so I decided at least once a week that it would become my first stop each day. Over time, we formed a friendship, he began to trust me, and, most importantly, he began to share his broken heart with me. He became one of my dearest friends.

My pastor friend passed away about six months into our relationship. I still think of him and his absence with a heavy heart. I miss him. I will never forget the last months of our friendship and how he consistently told me that God had sent me to him. He was so appreciative of our time together.

He died unexpectedly and, though I had told him how much he meant to me, I never fully communicated to him what I grew to understand, perhaps because I didn’t fully process our relationship until months after he was gone. God confirmed some truths to me after his death:

I was sent to him…I believe that is true….but, equally true…he was sent to me…

My pastor friend, with his years of experience, helped me as a new pastor learn how to handle situations and deal with people in my church. He was a listening ear when things were not going as I thought they should go. He was an encourager to keep doing the things God had called me to do. He was iron sharpening my iron.

Looking back, God used him in my life perhaps far more than I was used in his.

Have you ever had a similar situation? Has the one you were sent to help ended up helping you? To whom could God be sending you today? Could it be that they need your help…and you need theirs?

Are you willing to get messy with people to help them…so that they can help you?

10 Questions with Leader Michael Hyatt – Thomas Nelson Publishers


Michael Hyatt
is one of the best leaders I know.   I have had the privilege of getting to know Michael personally over the last couple of years, having met him first through Twitter.  What I have come to understand is that Michael is the same online as he is in person.  When I first published this, Michael was the C.E.O. of (Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publisher. He has since retired as C.E.O, but remains the company’s Chairman. He is extremely accessible and transparent through his online involvement, and he is a model husband and father. In addition, Michael is a true Kingdom-builder and loves Jesus passionately. When I think of a well-balanced leader, I think of Michael Hyatt.

You can follow Michael’s blog HERE and on Twitter HERE.

Here are 10 questions with leader Michael Hyatt:

When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally?  If not, what did you want to do?

When I was in elementary school, I thought I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. I was fascinated by space flight and science fiction. In the 9th grade, I started playing guitar. In fact, I majored in music for my first two years of college. I thought I would be a professional musician. However, when I become a Christian, I wanted to serve in full-time Christian ministry. In fact, I was planning to go to seminary, until I discovered the world of book publishing.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

I have worked in book publishing for my entire career, so I have to go back to high school to find a job that was really different. I sold cable television subscriptions door-to-door for a while. The challenge of making cold calls has served me well. In my job, I spend a lot of time doing things that I have never done before. Selling door-to-door taught me to overcome my fear and just step out in faith.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

I actually blogged about this recently. I would have to say Robert Wolgemuth, my former boss, business partner, and now close friend. He was such a consistent example to me. He really walked his talk in every area of his life. In particular, he modeled integrity, responsiveness, and gratitude. I find myself coming back to these character qualities again and again as the core of my own success.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

This is a tough question for a book publisher to answer. I love so many different kinds of books. If I had to pick one, it would be For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann, an Eastern Orthodox seminary professor and priest. The premise of the book is that everything is sacramental. Every person you meet, every experience you have, manifests the presence of God—if you have the eyes to see it. This book shaped my worldview more than any other.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Energetic, prolific, and polished. (It feels awkward to say this, but I am trying to be objective.)

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

My ability to make complex ideas simple. I am obsessed with making things easier to understand and communicating them in ways that people can grasp and remember.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

Boredom. I love to build things. I hate to maintain them. I’m like a shark; I have to keep moving or I drown. This means I have a short attention span. My focus drifts if projects or meetings take too long.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Meet people and be sociable. Many people are surprised to learn that I am an extreme introvert. I love being with my family and close friends. But attending social functions where I don’t know people and have to be “on” is challenging. It depletes my energy and takes a toll emotionally. I have to be intentional about building space into my schedule to recharge.

What is one misconception about your position you think people in your organization may have?

That it must be great to be the CEO and call all the shots. My position is mostly about solving very difficult problems. The easy problems get solved before they get to me. Often times, I am having to chose between two bad options. This is where the stress comes in.

If you could give one piece of advise to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

You are not as smart as you think you are. Therefore, stay humble. You have more potential than you can possibly imagine. Therefore, remain faithful. Keep growing, and be patient. Your time will come.

Have you been impacted by the online presence of Michael Hyatt? Tell me about it.

Do you understand what Michael means when he talks about his Introversion?

Your Doubts are NOT Your Problem: Unbelief Is

We are in a new series at Grace Community Church called Outsiders, looking at some characters in the Bible who aren’t as well known as other characters, yet who made huge impacts to the Kingdom.  Yesterday I spoke about the disciple Thomas. Though some know him as Doubting Thomas, I prefer the title I have also heard by which I’ve also heard him referred, Thomas the Believer.  In this message, I address the bottom line that doubts are not the major problem for a believer, unbelief is.  Ultimately we must go from doubts to a solid foundation of faith; that God is who He says He is and will do what is best in our life.

If you wish to view this message, here it is in it’s entirety.

For an audio version of this message, click HERE.

I also shared that some people are more naturally wired to doubt (some may even say worry), because of their personality.  Would that describe you? Be honest!