The Progress of Man and the Majesty of God

SantiagoAndes“On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wondrous works, I will meditate.”  Psalm 145:5

From the balcony of where we are staying in Santiago, Chile, I can see the beautiful snow-capped Andes mountains.  I’ve always loved the mountains.  There is something that is truly majestic and awe-inspiring about God’s creative work.  It makes sense that they would be, though, because a majestic and awe-inspiring God creates nothing less than what is reflective of His glory and greatness.

As I was reading Psalm 145, and looking at the Andes Mountains this morning, I noticed something ironic.  There were two cranes in the foreground, against the backdrop of the mountain range, and they were hoisting beams to a building being constructed.  Two stories of “creation,” yet one declares the creative majesty of God and the other of man’s progress.

Don’t get me wrong, God certainly uses the work of humanity to display the glory of His divinity.  But it seems to me, in the culture in which we live, that often the progress of mankind is seen as superior, and much more majestic, than the work of God.  It reminds me of the people of Babel in Genesis 11, who sought to construct a tower that reached the heavens so that they might make a name for themselves.  As God often does, however, He reminded them that the One who reigns in heaven is the One who reigns over all the earth as well.

It would be good for us to remember that all we do, as good as it may be, pales in comparison to the wondrous works of God.  What God has spoken into existence, man cannot even come close to constructing with his hands.  But what God has skilled us to do with our hands should always point to the majesty and glory of God.



Mister Rogers and Bob Ross: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Bob Ross and Mister RogersFair warning: you might not want to waste you’re time reading this.

The other night my sons went and saw the new movie/documentary about the life of Fred Rogers, most notably known as Mister Rogers. For about 30 minutes they proceeded to tell me about the movie and how good it was. It obviously left an impression on them, so much that one of my sons decided to order a Mister Rogers t-shirt. I may or may not have done the same.

And then we watched an episode on YouTube. It was a wild night at the Barnard household. But it didn’t end there.

Somewhere between my head hitting the pillow and my 6am alarm going off, the Trolley apparently took me to the Land of Make Believe. For those of you who were, and may still be, Mister Rogers fans, you’re tracking with me. Somehow I found myself on the simple set of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watching the filming of a show. But this was no ordinary episode. The special neighbor who came knocking on the door that day was Bob Ross, the painter who made Phthalo Blue and Titanium white common vocabulary. He was moving to the neighborhood. (On a personal side note, it doesn’t get any better than having Bob Ross and Mister Rogers in the same neighborhood. If you got tired of cardigans and canvas shoes you could just go over to Bob’s house and paint happy little trees and beat the devil out of paint brushes.)

The show focused on Bob Ross coming over, as a new neighbor in the neighborhood, to teach Mister Rogers how to paint. But something went terribly wrong. Mister Rogers kindly asked Bob not to paint without a drop cloth, which he did not have with him. Bob told Mister Rogers that he didn’t bring one with him but that he was very good at what he did and would be very careful, to which Mister Rogers insisted that he not paint. And I’m watching this unfold before my eyes.

Bob started making fun of Mister Rogers’s cardigan and canvas shoes. I gasped. You just can’t do that. To my surprise, and not to be outdone, Mister Rogers pointed out that Bob Ross had a fro that you could see through. You could’ve heard a pin drop. They locked eyes and stared at each other.

Bob took his 2-inch paint brush and threw it at Mister Rogers. Fortunately he missed Mister Rogers but did hit King Friday who had shown up after hearing all the commotion. Mister Rogers took off one of his canvas shoes and threw it at Bob Ross who was quick enough with his paint palette to block the sneaker, but ended up mixing Phthalo Blue with Van Dyke brown and Yellow Ochre, thus making a hideous new color. It was sheer madness. How in the world could two of the nicest guys, who were PBS legends, who lived in a quiet neighborhood, and who had an affinity for cardigans and happy little trees, end up at odds with one another?

And realized it was just a dream. I am hoping though, that somewhere in this dream world, there is reconciliation and a show of good will in Mister Rogers wearing a Cadmium Yellow Hue cardigan and Bob Ross wearing canvas shoes while riding in the Trolley and singing “You’ve Got A Friend In Me.” One can hope.

Some of you, after reading this post, are thinking, “What’s the point of this?” and “That’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.” And my answer is this: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) Don’t fight over paint, and cardigans, and see-through fros. And, without exception, don’t throw paintbrushes and canvas shoes because the world is watching.

You’re welcome.


child of GodIt is an act of grace that I am here on this earth. I had no say at the time I was conceived in my mother’s womb. My first breath of life was grace-induced by the goodness and sovereign grace of God, kindly revealed through my parents. I’m not here because I deserved it. I’m here because of grace.

To a much greater extent, the right to become children of God is not a right earned, it is a right given. Here’s how the gospel writer, John, speaks to this: “But to all who did receive Him (Jesus), who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12)

Each person has been created in the image of God. There is dignity and intrinsic worth, and value, in each image bearer that breathes the common grace of God. It’s common because all who have ever lived, are living, or ever will, have done nothing to give themselves the breath of life; it is an act of sovereign grace. Rosaria Butterfield, in her book The Gospel Comes With A House Key, writes, “Common grace is that kindness by God given to all of humanity—to the whole human race without distinction.” (The Gospel Comes With a House Key, p. 55)

But to become a child of God is a right that is given by God; it is an act of amazing, overwhelming, we’ve-done-nothing-to-deserve-it, incomprehensible grace that can only be received, not earned. The apostle Paul affirms this as well when he writes to the Ephesians “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

In our “rights driven” culture, there is a clear dichotomy. There are those who think everything they get must be earned (or worked for) and not received freely, and there are those who subscribe to a belief that they have a right to receive freely whatever they desire without working for it. Practically, there is high view of responsibility often expressed in an admirable work ethic (which I believe is biblical; just look at Adam’s responsibility before the Fall of mankind), but a low view of our admitting our need for community and willingly receiving with gratitude acts of grace in meeting our need. In other words, pride often gets in the way of admitting we cannot meet all our needs. With those who believe they have a right to freely receive without working for anything they desire, or even need, there is a high view of irresponsibility often manifested in laziness and entitlement, and a low view of personal responsibility. In the same way, pride gets in the way of failing to realize that we don’t deserve such grace, but rather we are entitled to all of God’s blessings with no sense of accountability for our sinfulness.

Both of these culture realities often frame a person’s view of salvation. There are some who believe that they can work for and earn their salvation, to become children of God, by simply going through the religious motions and rituals that have often been identified as being good enough to earn God’s favor. Truth is, there is nothing we can do to earn salvation or the right to be children of God. “For by grace you have been saved . . . and this is not your own doing.” Conversely, to think that salvation is automatic and your right, forfeiting any personal responsibility for your sin that separates you from a holy God, is equally false. The “God is a loving God who would not condemn anyone to Hell, therefore I’m good with God,” belief is one that denies justice. For God to be fully loving, He must be fully just. And there is nothing just about God overlooking the offense of our sins. The same is true for the hideous acts of injustice we see happening in our world. At the very core we cry for justice in this world, but expect exoneration regarding the guilt of our sin against the God who created us in His image.

So becoming a child of God is given by grace. We cannot earn our way, nor is it given apart from owning up to and confessing our sin. Only Jesus was able to do the work on the cross that could secure our salvation because only He was perfectly qualified. And only by grace do we even become aware of our fallenness due to sin, and by His grace do we respond with true repentance.

To be a child of God is a gracious gift initiated by God, and by His grace we come to receive Him and believe in Him as His adopted sons and daughters.

Hey Mom, Be Selfish

mom selfishI know, the title sounds intriguing.  Or maybe it’s just a creative hook to get you to read this post.  But the truth is, there is one thing that, as a mom, (and really as a person) you need to be selfish with and for good reason:  You need to be selfish with the time that allows you to selflessly care well for those you love most.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to travel to different states and countries.  When flying, there is always the pre-flight instructions given by the flight attendant.  For those who have flown quite a bit you probably have the speech memorized.  But just in case you’ve forgotten, let me refresh your memory.  One part of the instructions is given regarding the loss of cabin pressure:  “In the unlikely event of loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area.  To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place the mask over your nose and mouth and slip the elastic band over your head. Tighten by pulling the straps and breath normally (yeah, right).  But it’s this last line that is counterintuitive, especially for parents:  “Parents travelling with younger children should first secure their own mask, and then their child’s mask.”  That seems so selfish.  But the truth is, you can’t care for your child is you’re passed out due to a loss of cabin pressure.  The best way you can help your child is to be selfish with the time that will allow you to selflessly care for those you love most.  

Life is not much different.  You’re going to find your heart “losing cabin pressure” at times, which is why it’s not just important, but necessary, to care for your heart.  So how do you do that?  How do you care for your heart?


1. Daily get away with God.  No one cares for your heart like God does.  When you’re at your limit, or have exceeded it; when you are exhausted, overwhelmed, discouraged, or feel as though you just aren’t “mom enough,” you need to get away with God.

Think about this:  Jesus, who was fully God and yet fully human, although never sinning, still acknowledged His need to spend time with His heavenly Father.  Jesus experienced what we do as humans:  He was hungry, He wept over the loss of a friend and over the people of Jerusalem who would reject Him as their Savior.  He needed rest.  He needed time away with His Father.  “Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest a while.’  He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn’t even have time to eat.”  (Mark 6:31)  

Moms, you can relate to this, right?  As a matter of fact, we all can. We need to get away with God.  In the Psalms, David writes, ” . . . in Your presence is fulness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11b)  To spend time with God gives you a fulness of joy that often seems depleted by the demands of life.  It also gives you perspective when you find yourself in the spin-cycle of everyday living.

Even if it’s for 15 or 30 minutes, take time to be in His presence.  When you are physically and need rest; when your emotional tank is on empty; when you feel like you can’t make it another moment; when there is no margin in your life and you feel overwhelmed; when you feel like you can’t make another meeting, go to another game or recital, cook another meal, wash another load of clothes, deal with another parent-teacher conference; and when you feel like you’re just not enough, take time to get away with God and let Him care for your heart.

Let Him speak truth into you when the enemy is trying to deceive and discourage you.  ” . . . and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  2 Corinthians 10:5b

Let Him comfort you by His Spirit.  “Blessed be the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions . . .” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4a

Let Him quiet you with His love and sing over you.  “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17  God sings over you!  And it’s not a common song, it is His song that He sings over you.  He pulls you close and quiets you with His love when fears assail and darkness seems to hide His face.

And He says to you, “Come to Me.  Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with Me and work with Me–watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything too heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

2. Be intentional about carving out time to be renewed physically, emotionally, and mentally.  The key words are “intentional” and “carving out time.”  You can’t make time; you have to carve out time.  Listen to what the apostle Paul writes,  “So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light and momentary affliction (even the daily grind of life can seem like an affliction; sanctification; God is using to conform us to the image of His Son, in how we speak the gospel in our marriage, our parenting, and every area of our life)  is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 

God wants to renew you from the inside-out.  You find yourself in what seems anything but light and momentary afflictions.  Maybe you’ve just changed your baby’s fourth diaper within an hour; or you’ve got a middle-schooler and you’re wondering if he or she is even human anymore; or you have your youngest child graduating high school and your soon facing the empty nest.  There are different types of afflictions, but God tells us He doesn’t waste a single one and in the midst of it all He graciously renews us.

But you can’t do this on your own, mom.  You have to have help.  If you’re going to be intentional about carving out time to be renewed, you’ve got to ask.  If you’re married, you need to ask your husband; if you’re a single mom, ask your family, or close friends.  And for any husbands who are reading this, one of the most loving things you can do to serve your wife well is do the dishes, vacuum the house, attempt to make the bed.  Give your wife the opportunity to be renewed regularly.

So, mom, what recharges you physically?  Find something you enjoy doing.  What refreshes you emotionally?  Find a safe way to download and decompress emotionally.  And mentally, what renews you?  Unplug from whatever drains and stresses you mentally, and be renewed.

3. Guard against the enemy’s ambush.  “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)  “Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8)

He’s going to try and ambush you in three specific areas:

  • The comparison trap.  Nothing discourages a heart like the comparison game because you never win.  Every time you look on social media, the tendency is to compare yourself with the mom who has 4 kids on her hip, talking on the phone, and cooking dinner, while at the same time smiling.  And all the while you’re just praying that it is photoshopped.  And you think to yourself, “I’d like to be like her.”  Or maybe it’s a friend you’re comparing yourself to, or culture.  The truth is, those whom you wish you were like are wishing they were like you.  Your identity is not found in what others think about you, or even who you say you are.  You’re identity is found in who God says you are, and you are deeply loved by Him.
  • Unrealistic expectations.  It’s easy to listen to believe the lies of the enemy that you aren’t doing enough as a mom.  He will whisper in your ear and try to convince you that you need to do more and be more.  And his whispers are arrows that penetrate your heart.  But take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.  And don’t expect more of yourself than God expects of you.  So what does He expect?  For you to do what’s just, to love mercy and kindness, and to walk humbly with Him.  (Micah 6:8)  That’s it.
  • The tyranny of saying “yes” to what you should be saying “no” to.  Be intentional about where and in what you invest your time and energy.  And be very discerning of what will drain and derail you.  One of my mentors once said, “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”  It’s ok to say no.

So here’s why this matters:  Because the health of your heart will set the pace for the health of your home.  That’s why it is necessary, mom, to care for your heart.  Be selfish with the three things I mentioned earlier so that you can be cared for well, and care selflessly for those you love most.   

Expectant Hope

hopeEveryone needs hope. As a matter of fact, hope is essential for the human condition. It is as much needed for the soul as air is for the body.

There’s hope, though, and then there is expectant hope. You may be asking, “What’s the difference? Isn’t hope, hope?” When you have a sense of hope, you’re holding out that something could happen, but it may not. It reminds of the scene from “Dumb and Dumber,” where Lloyd asks Mary, “What are the chances of a guy like you and a girl like me… ending up together?” Mary’s answer is “one in a million.” To which Lloyd responds, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!” That’s hope.

But for those who truly put their faith in God, there is expectant hope which means that it is without a doubt, one-hundred percent, absolutely certain to be fulfilled. We can expect that the hope we have in God will never disappoint.

Read what King David said in Psalm 40:1-3: “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” There is a sense of expectant hope from David and an unwavering trust in the One in whom his hope rests. David waited patiently for the Lord, which implies that he knew that God would show up and rescue him from his place of deep need.

He is the God who bends His knee to listen with understanding the cries of His children. These aren’t selfish cries of “why me!?!,” but cries of humble dependence upon the only One who can save us from that which surrounds us on all sides. For David, it was the pit of destruction and miry bog.

While in this circumstance of life that felt like a deep pit that offered no hope of life; a place where David felt as though he was stuck with no hope of getting out; he cried and he waited because he was certain of two things: God hears and God rescues. So David cried, and God listened. David waited, and God rescued.

I’ve found that my tendency is to cry out to things that cannot hear, and wait for a rescuer who never comes. It’s as though the deep cries of my heart echo off the walls of the pit I’ve often dug, resonating with hopelessness. I become exhausted at the futile attempts to free myself from the miry bog that holds me captive. Instead of crying out to God and waiting patiently for Him to bend His knee, I just cry. Or complain. Or call out to those who have good intentions but are not God. Or I just try to figure it out myself and end up exhausted and deeper in a miry pit … Stuck.  Maybe you can relate.

What this Psalm speaks is the truth that our hope in God never disappoints. When David puts pen to papyrus he is often unfiltered and raw. But as he process his pain through the unwavering truth of who God is, he always comes to the hopeful resolve that God is a good God who hears, rescues, and if that weren’t enough, He restores.

“(God) set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:2b-3

Here is the deep grace of God that we may never fully understand this side of heaven, but with great joy can receive in humility: the God who upholds the universe by the word of His power; who has shaped us in His image and breathed His life into us; who has loved us so much that He would hear our cry and rescue us from the pit; He displays His grace by giving us security. He puts a song worth singing in our hearts that resounds His glory, and He gives us a captivating story that makes His Son, our rescuer, the focus.

This is the expectant hope for all who place their hope in Christ.

The Week of All Weeks

crossofJesusIt was a Sunday night, and I knew what awaited me on Monday.  The week ahead would be difficult to say the least.   Early on in my ministry, the church where I served faced a crossroads regarding a staff member.  There would be conversations to be had with individuals who I knew would be less than receptive, and decisions to be made that would not be popular.  To say that I wanted to walk away and not deal with the issues at hand would have been a gross understatement.  But it had to be done.  And so it was.  By the end of the week verbal spears had been thrown in my direction, private meetings were held, threats were made, and even physical intimidation was used.  I was left wounded and emotionally bruised.  It was a dark time, but never had I sensed God’s presence more, or experienced His faithfulness as I did in those days.

You’ve probably had moments like that.  The details may have been different, but the wounds weren’t.   And if you haven’t had moments like that yet, you will.  They aren’t easy to walk through, but necessary.

Jesus had a week that, without a doubt, was the week of all weeks when it comes to facing dark moments.  It would involve the joy of a last supper, the pain of betrayal, the rejection of denial, the brutality of scourging, and the suffering of crucifixion.  It would leave Him wounded and bruised.  Ultimately, He would taste the sting of death.  From eternity past He knew what He would face, yet He knew what had to be done.

To joyous applause and shouts of acclamation, the Messiah entered Jerusalem.  But by the end of the week, adulation turned to fist-pumping angst exhibited by a mob of self-seeking, “what have you done for me lately”, “you aren’t who we thought you’d be” executioners.

Nonetheless, He persevered.  Passivity didn’t flow through the veins of the second Adam as it did in the first.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam essentially said to God, “My will be done.”  In the Garden of Gethsemane, the second Adam, Jesus, said to His Father, “Your will be done.”    

He could’ve walked away when the darkness of evil began to press in, but He didn’t.  He could’ve called 10,000 angels to rescue Him from what He would experience, but He didn’t.  Scripture tells us that Jesus resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem.  He knew what awaited Him, yet He would endure for the joy set before Him.

On the night that Jesus would be arrested, knowing what was ahead, He was determined to show the full extent of His love by loving His disciples to the end.  Read how the apostle John records it, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”  John 13:1

Enduring the week of all weeks, and facing a cross that would be the instrument of His death, Jesus was committed to loving us to the end.

If there is anything you can be certain of, it is this:  Jesus has loved you to the end that you might know a love that never ends, even in your darkest moments.  That kind of love gives hope, and hope is what we all desperately need.

(An excerpt from my new book to be released Fall 2018, Final Week, Final Words:  Finding Hope in Life’s Darkest Moments)