Pastor Doug’s Blog

How Will I Vote?

People are beginning to align themselves with a political candidate to serve as the President of the United States. Many are passionate in their loyalty. But how should a Christian vote and for whom shall he/she vote? I cannot answer those questions for anyone other than myself.

The first question: “Should a Christian vote?”

Some followers of Christ have argued that if one cannot agree with either of the final two major candidates, then it would be better not to vote. While I understand the logic, I disagree. I believe voting is a right in our nation that people have fought to protect. I also believe it is a responsibility indicated indirectly by Jesus in Matthew 22:21. I plan on voting and I trust that you are as well. If you are eligible to vote in terms of age and citizenship, it is vital to make sure you’re registered before the deadline.

With every election, especially involving the selection of a president, there is a lot at stake from the national to the local issues. We must pay attention to it all and be informed.

The second question: “For whom shall I vote?”

I am convinced that I cannot vote without sufficient information nor can I vote with blind party loyalty. My vote is very important and with my vote I share the decisions of the candidates if they are elected – whether good or bad.

The Bible does not directly tell me how to vote, I have put together a list of biblical values that are important to me and will guide me as I prayerfully make a decision. I am indebted to Dr. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, for some points on this list that he posted prior to the 2012 election.

1. Does the candidate have character and integrity (Proverbs 10:9, 12:22)?
2. Does the candidate have a strong belief in a fair judicial system that honors all people (James 2:1-5, Proverbs 16:11, Romans 2:11)?
3. Will the candidate protect religious liberties and freedoms that were guaranteed in the Constitution (Acts 4:18-20)?
4. Does the candidate have compassion and a plan to address the needs of the poor and disadvantaged (Proverbs 14:31, 19:17)?
5. Does the candidate have a strong commitment to the value and sanctity of human life from the womb to the tomb (Psalm 139:13)?
6. Is the candidate committed to racial equality (Acts 17:26)?
7. If the candidate committed to protect our country from attacks, from terrorism and crippling debt (Nehemiah 4:8-9, Proverbs 22:7, Nehemiah 5:4-5)?
8. To what degree does the candidate embrace or respect the biblical values of marriage and the significance of the church and its mission (Genesis 2)?
9. Does the candidate understand that he/she is placed by God as a minister for good and therefore acknowledge the need to seek God for wisdom and strength (Romans 13)?

This is my list; yours may be longer or shorter. But as Christ followers we must have a starting point that will guide us in these important decisions. And of course – we must pray for our selection and then we must pray for ever is elected (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Two final thoughts. First, good Christians may disagree on political candidates, but that should not be the basis for disunity or bad behavior. We are one in Christ. Second, the real hope for our nation is not found in any political leader or party, is found in Christ, making the church and the message of the Gospel so much more transformative than any political party, person, or legislative or judicial body. Let’s be the church!

“Lord, help us to vote biblically and wisely!”

Our Actions Have Consequences

Too often the whisper of the Wicked One will convince us that there are no consequences to our actions. At times our culture will minimize the consequences. But the Bible assures us that there are always consequences or results for our decisions. “Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” This past weekend I referenced an article written in the late ’80s by Randy Alcorn (Consequences of a Moral Tumble, Leadership Journal; Winter 1988, p.46) which has been a big help to me. The article talks about the consequences of a moral tumble. I have personalized the article to my situation and I periodically review it to remind myself that there is a lot at stake if I were to fail morally.

Here are some of the consequences if I were to fail morally (some are taken directly from Randy Alcorn’s article while others have been added or adjusted):

  1. I would grieve the Lord who redeemed me.
  2. I would drag his sacred name in the mud.
  3. I would one day look Jesus, the righteous Judge, in the face and give an account for my actions.
  4. I would follow in the footsteps of a number of friends whose immorality forfeited their ministries and caused me to weep at the time.
  5. I would inflict incredible hurt on Carolyn, my best friend, loyal wife, and partner in ministry for all of these decades.
  6. I would lose Carolyn’s respect and trust.
  7. I would inflict immeasurable and lasting pain on my children Andy (his wife Katie), Christy, and Teresa (her husband Drew) along with our grandchildren Drew, Nate, Seth, Anna, Wes and Lydie.
  8. I would destroy my example and credibility with my children and grandchildren – nullifying both present and future efforts to teach them to obey God.
  9. I would potentially lose my relationship with my wife and children forever if my blindness continued or they could not forgive.
  10. I would have to step away from the ministry that God called me to and for which I have invested many years preparing.
  11. I would bring major disappointment to the men and women who faithfully invested in my life and shaped me to be a servant of God.
  12. I would bring shame to my family.
  13. I would create a form of guilt awfully hard to shake. Even though God would forgive me, would I be able to forgive myself?
  14. I would form memories and flashbacks that could plague future intimacy with my wife.
  15. I would cause pain, disappointment and perhaps setbacks for the people I have led to Christ and disciple.
  16. I would undermine the faithful example and hard work of other Christians in our community.
  17. I would bring great pleasure to Satan and provide ammunition for all those opposed to the work of God.
  18. I would bring judgment and endless difficulty on the person with whom I sinned.
  19. I would potentially bring to our home diseases and financial implications as a result.
  20. I would bring shame and hurt to our campus pastors, staff, leadership team, elders and hundreds of pastors and leaders in this region.
  21. I would potentially stop the spiritual momentum in our church.
  22. I would invite shame and life-long embarrassment upon myself.
  23. I would cause pain and hurt to the people of Woodside that I love.

I am aware that fighting temptation involves more than a list, but reminding myself of the cost is a huge “buyer beware” that I must heed before it is too late. Let me encourage you to make a personalized list as well, review it often and let’s pray for each other to remain pure and faithful to our calling as followers of Christ.

Why Do All Lives Matter?

We have heard so much about lives that matter. Do all lives matter and if so, why? The Bible clearly answers that question leaving no room for doubt.

Genesis 1:27 states: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” I am one of those who believes that image of God means that we are God’s representatives on earth and therefore have dominion over the rest of creation (Genesis 1:26). We have a special relationship with God.

The late theologian John Stott expands on the possible meaning of “Image of God”: “Firstly, we human beings are rational and self-conscious. Secondly, we are moral, having a conscience that urges us to do what we perceive to be right. Thirdly, we are creative like our Creator, able to appreciate what is beautiful to the ear and the eye. Fourthly, we are social, able to establish with one another authentic relationships of love. For God is love, and by making us in his own image, he has given us the capacity to love him and others. Fifthly, we have a spiritual faculty that makes us hunger after God. Thus we are uniquely able to think and to choose, to create, to love, and to worship.” (Through the Bible-Through the Year, p.18)

As a result of being made in the image of God, we have incredible value as human beings. It also demands equality. As a result of the fall of man through Adam that image was marred but not destroyed (Genesis 9:6, James 3:9). Fallen man has not done well to live up to the high creation calling. It is only through the cross that the image of God can begin a restoration process in a person’s life. The Apostle Paul writes that a follower of Christ having “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

All lives matter so much because we were all created in the image of God. Therefore, we must have a strong commitment to value life whether that life is in the womb, on a death bed or anything in between. We must also treat each other with deep respect regardless of our differences. May the Lord help us to do it well as human beings and especially as those who claim to know Him.

Biblically Responding to the Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court made it constitutionally legal for same sex couples to get married in every state of the Union. This vote was anticipated by many in the weeks leading up to the ruling. Now what? How does the church respond in ministry? How does the church respond emotionally? I have been reading a lot of materials on the answers to these questions and the answers are broad and varied. The following reflects my thoughts in response to this ruling.

  1. We Must be Grounded in Biblical Truth

While the ruling has essentially changed the definition of marriage in America, God’s definition has not changed. Every Christian will have to decide if his or her values will be shaped by the changing views of a culture or by an unchanging God.
For many evangelicals, the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice. That commitment is based on the self-proclamation of the Bible, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
This means that we must understand the Bible and live the Bible as it was given for our time. The truth of the Bible cannot be altered because public opinion polls change. We do not have the option of picking and choosing the portions of Scripture that we prefer. So, while a law has changed, the Bible and our commitment to it has not.

  1. We Must Pray

Many Christians are responding in panic and anger. We are to be reminded that the Lord has not promised a perfect place to do ministry. That perfect place is yet to come. It is not like this is the first time the church has been challenged to reach the world in a hostile environment. The first century church was born into a context of persecution. Not only did it survive, through the ensuing centuries it turned a world upside down.
In this first century of hostility toward Christianity, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:1-4), “First of all then, I urge you that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
I hear people say that we have to do more than pray. And, while there is truth to that, we had better first pray and continue to pray. Our God is sovereign and in control. Ultimately, what we want to see is changed lives and a righteous nation, but only God can do this. Our church leadership has made all of the recommended changes to our statement of faith and related documents to prepare us for this day.
The ruling is not the end of a battle but perhaps just the beginning. I don’t believe the agenda was just to change the definition of marriage, but rather to silence, if not wipe out, the church and the influence of religion. I suspect more state laws will be introduced to protect religious liberty while other laws will be introduced to label all dissent to the LGBT agenda as hate speech.   All of these laws will face court challenges and will ultimately be determined by nine justices.
This is why prayer is so important. 2 Chronicles 7:14 challenges the followers of God to humble themselves, confess their sins and pray.

  1. We Must be Focused on Mission

Our mission has not changed. Christians and the church are to shine as stars in a wicked and directionless generation. The challenge to make disciples though the powerful gospel is still our first priority. All other enterprises cannot take priority or supplant our reason to exist. Like never before in our lifetime is our culture in need of the church to be the salt and light that Jesus commanded. The power and will to do so must also be the essence of our prayers.

  1. We Must Demonstrate the Love of Christ

Jesus showed us that while we are not to love the world and its ways, we are to love people. We have to love people not just the ones who agree with us or live like us. Jesus taught it and modeled it. Ed Stetzer, church leader and consultant, has stated well, “You cannot hate a people and reach a people at the same time.” Perhaps those in our world will find it hard to understand that it is possible to disagree and yet love, but that is our challenge and our prayer!

My prayer is that we at Woodside would do all four of these really well. And in doing so, we will bring honor to our God and his Word while we fulfill our responsibility to reach our world.


When Serving is Not so Good

Revivalist Duncan Campbell wrote in a Soul Survivor newsletter:

“Christianity is both the hardest and easiest religion in the world. The easiest because we come with nothing, with empty hands at the foot of the cross.  And yet the hardest for that very same reason, because our pride and selfishness does not want us to accept that we should come with open hands.  We feel that we must bring something that we should contribute to our own Salvation, to be one who says we are in control rather than God.  These are days of much activity in the field of the church and mission work, but no amount of activity in the King’s service will make up for neglect of the King himself.  The devil is not greatly concerned about getting between us and work, his great concern is getting between us and God.  Many a Christian worker has buried his spirituality in the grave of activity.”  (Quoted in Conspiracy of the Insignificant by Patrick Regan)

                “No amount of activity in the King’s service will make up for neglect of the King himself.” Those are not only words of truth but words of warning.  We are entering the busiest season of serving others.  Many from Woodside will donate time and money to make an immediate and hopefully an eternal difference in the lives of people this Christmas season.

I believe it is so honoring to God when his people have his compassion to give.  During these days we will donate thousands of coats, distribute hundreds of boxes of love (food and meals), host multiple Christmas parties for communities, and this list goes on.  And it is all good…it is great!

My prayer is that everyone who gives will receive the greater blessing.

But when is giving and serving not so good?  When we neglect the King himself.

During this Christmas season of giving, which is often active worship, let’s make sure we spend time with the Lord Jesus – the one who came to live with us.  Worship Emmanuel!!

The Power of God’s Word

The Bible is unlike any other book for many reasons.  God’s Word is the only book inspired by the Holy Spirit.  It is the only book that God has promised to use to change lives.

Recently one of our families passed on this letter from a missionary they support.  It is a powerful story of God at work.  I hope you enjoy it!

The Day Jesus Miraculously Stopped a Suicide Bomber

I wish I could divulge the location where it happened, but security is too tight.  Lives would be endangered.  Let’s just say you would be astonished!

A “JESUS” film team had taken a courageous step, going into a village in a dangerous, mountainous area.  They brought a DVD of “JESUS.”  The team gathered about 250 people into a community hall.  They plugged a small DVD player into a television already there and closed the windows for secrecy.

It was crowded and tight and the screen was relatively small, but everyone stayed and watched the entire “JESUS” film.  The film, perhaps the most biblically faithful film on the life of Christ, is part of the JESUS Film Project, a ministry of Cru.

When it came time for the team to give an invitation to receive Christ (another courageous act here that could get them killed), a man sitting on the floor stood.  He opened his shirt so all could see.

Strapped to his chest were explosives…a suicide vest.  Panic set in…

“Wait…wait! Don’t leave.  I’m not going to blow myself up.  I need to tell you what just happened.” It took several minutes to convince the people to stay, and at last they did.

“I heard that you were going to show a blasphemous film.  I went to my leaders and they agreed you should die.  I strapped on this bomb and came to kill you all.

“When the film stated I reached for the detonator and tried to push the button.  But as I watched the film, Jesus turned and pointed right at me.  He called my name and said, ‘Don’t do that …follow Me.’

“Over and over I tried.  Every time I reached for the button He pointed to me and said, ‘Don’t do that …follow Me.’  My hand froze every time.  I couldn’t move my thumb.  I gave up and just stayed to watch.

“Now I believe.  I want Jesus to be my Savior.  Can you help me know more about Him?”

The team leader said, “Yes, of course, but first you must take off that vest!”The would-be suicide bomber went out from the building, far away, took it off, disarming the explosives.  He returned and the team prayed for him – but that’s not all.

Remember that this is an extremely dangerous area, one intensely hostile to Christianity.  Anyone leaving their traditions can expect to be killed.

The Word of God contained in “JESUS” had just spoken to the people.  It was a powerful experience as they learned the truth of the gospel for the first time ever.  Further, the people were amazed by this man’s testimony.  He was a radical who would stop at nothing.  They know they had just seen a miracle.

When the film leader asked who wanted to receive Christ and pray, everyone did…all of them! The next day, the team held a service where 250 new believers were baptized in their new faith, including the man with the suicide vest!  Again, if I told you were this happened, you would be astonished.

How powerful is our God!  How loving that He claimed a would-be suicide bomber as His own along with everyone in that room the man had come to destroy.

The account comes directly from ministry leaders of high character and eyewitness teams.  They are just as amazed as we are – and they work in these areas!  May God alone receive all the glory, honor and praise “…that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever” (Joshua 4:24, NASB).



Urgent Prayer for Liberia

Ebola Update from Liberia

Friends, the situation in Liberia is desperate and our friends really need your prayers.  Please read the below email from Kim Smith and Don Riley, our partners in Liberia.  Please Pray!


Liberia 1

Sep 09, 2014 01:45 pm

Here is a letter from Kim Smith concerning Ebola.  Kim is our partnering missionary who is in Liberia.  Please pray for Liberia!

Liberia 2

“Liberia has suffered!  They just finished a 15 year civil war that killed 250,000 people.   And, even before Ebola, Liberia was rated as the most corrupt county in the world and tied with being the most miserable.

Recently, in one day there were 60 new Ebola cases in Liberia.  We also had our greatest increase of new cases, 300, in one week.  The many treatment centers have far exceeded their capacity.  They cannot accept new patients.  The unexpected influx of patients has forced them to reduce their level of care.  It is not currently possible, for example, to administer intravenous treatments. The situation in Foya, Lofa County, is chaotic, with shortages of essential protective equipment, and not enough resources to transfer patients or safely bury the Ebola victims.  There is growing number of those sick and exposed that are running away which now makes contact tracing ineffective and containment impossible.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arrived in Liberia to assess the Ebola outbreak. The situation “is overwhelming,” he said.  The outbreak “really is a crisis and is affecting most if not all the counties in Liberia already.”  He emphasized that the toll is “far larger than has been recorded, not because they are trying to hide anything but because they are really overwhelmed by these numbers.  Beyond this, he said, the cases are increasing at an extremely quick rate, and this is very alarming.” As bad as the Ebola situation is, Frieden warned that the worst is yet to come. “Unfortunately, we are definitely not at the peak. It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said. “The real question is how much worse will it get? How many more people will be infected and how much more risk to the world will there be?”

The death toll of Ebola will never be accurately known.  The workers of one hospital got scared and ran, refusing to return to work.  The hospital closed and 70 non-Ebola patients died and were buried in a mass grave.  Many hospitals and clinics have closed.  Those that are open have about 10% of their normal patient load because the sick are scared to go to the hospitals.

The president announced a State of Emergency.  All public meeting have been stopped.  All schools have been closed.  Most travel between counties has been stopped.  Most government workers have been laid off and are unpaid.  Only essential government employees are to report to work and those reporting to work are not being paid because most all government money is being used to fight Ebola.  The price of rice, the primary food of the Liberian, has doubled.  Political rivals of the president are using this crisis as an opportunity to increase the instability of the government.

I am at a loss for the right words to express the suffering of the people of this country and it is getting worse.  Pray for Liberia!  Pray for us as we commit to reaching the lost for Christ.”


Wordsower International: Liberia Branch

August, 2014 Ministry Report

The mission of Jesus; “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9 NIV), is also our mission.

Liberia 3


Our mission is that every village of Liberia will have a healthy church.  Most of the towns and villages of Liberia have no church. We have worked in over 400 villages in 12 counties.  This month we made 107 mission trips, visiting 129 villages and other locations and we made many other local mission trips. Some of the towns we were in multiple times. We went into 32 new communities.  Our longest mission trip was 6 days the shortest a few hours. 21 were baptized and 53 completed our extensive Bible study program. We had 4 marriages. We printed and distributed approximately 122,000 pages of training material.  Several factors affect how many mission trips we can go on each month; illness, injuries, and availability of money are some.

Liberia 4


Sacrificial Soldiers of the Cross: Many of the villages are very remote.  The “bridges” are sometimes 3 small logs over a big creek.  The logs are spaced apart.  The center log is for the bike tires the two outside logs for the feet of the driver.  The logs are sometimes slick, old, and weak and they break.  Twice crossing such bridges this month the bike and driver fell.  One fall was about an 8 foot drop!  The bikes landed on the drivers in the creek trapping them, an easy death trap.  Praise God their injuries were not major.  No death.  Another driver had to put his bike in a large canoe to get to a village.  While there heavy rains sunk the canoe causing problems on his return.  This is the rainy season there were many wreaks, some of our disciples were wounded and bikes were damaged.Liberia 5

DK and Larpoo on the right

Ebola and Gbarnga, Bong County:  Delka, his wife and 2 young children are manning our new base in Bong County.  Where they live is a serious hotspot for Ebola.  Gbarnga, the capital city for the county, has several communities under isolation.  Gbarnga is in chaos and a very dangerous place to live!!  Please be in prayer for them.

Leberia 6


Panic Increases:  One morning at about 5:00 AM I was taking a man, on motorbike, to town to find him transport to the next county.  On our way in the rainy darkness we came across to 2 gangs, at different points, blocking the street, waving machetes and yelling for us to stop.  Each time I chose not to.  One grabbed the handle bars and jerked trying to cause me to wreck, but I was able to recover. After passing the gauntlet we inspected ourselves.  No injuries or damage.  I waited until daylight to return home.    Zwedru’s Ebola Isolation Camp:  Zwedru has an Ebola isolation camp.  It currently houses 9 who are under observation.  No one has shown signs of the sickness but each was with family members who had died of Ebola.  I have been allowed to enter for Bible distribution and teaching.  Of course, I have a captive interested audience!  They are eager to hear the Gospel of Christ and how to gain their salvation.  I have been going to them almost every day.

One Testimony of Many:  Mohammad, a Muslim and former high ranking rebel solider, met WSL while in prison.  He participated genocidal massacres in Serra Leon (remember Blood Diamond?). Upon his release from prison he came to us.  We have been giving him yard work and been teaching him about Christ and salvation.

Wordsower Bible Institute:  Our school has been closed.  The president has announced a State of Emergency.  All schools have been closed throughout the country to help to stop the spread of Ebola.  We do not know when the state of emergency will be lifted and schools allowed to reopen.

Prayer requests:  Pray for Liberia!  Pray that this Ebola plague will bring many to repentance and salvation.  Pray for a great revival to sweep through this country.  Pray for a healthy church in every village in our generation, that every Liberian can walk small and find a healthy church.   Please make this prayer part of your daily prayers.  Our roads have been blocked to stop the spread of the disease.  We need Bibles, paper and press supplies from Monrovia, the capital.  Pray that our Lord will give safe passage of these essential supplies.


Let’s Pray Everyday for the Persecuted Church in Iraq

All of us have heard the reports of the persecution and execution of Christians in Iraq. There has been pressure to convert to Islam, leave or die. Many have died and others have fled. Each day their lives are in danger with new threats and actions. We have people in our church whose families in Iraq are facing these challenges on a daily basis.

What can we do? PRAY. We must take the plight of our brothers and sisters in Iraq to the throne of God in prayer. Let’s pray for their protection, for the international community to respond, for God to mightily work in and through Iraqi believers, and for the church worldwide to recognize we are in a war against demonic and evil powers. We must stand together as the body of Christ.

May every daily news report from Iraq be our reminder to pray.

It is All About Perspective

As many of you know, I went through knee replacement surgery a couple of weeks ago. The surgery went well and the rehab process was coming along nicely. The pain was managed and the range of motion improving; it would just be a matter of a couple more weeks and I would be back in the swing of things.

And then it hit. The pain in my lower leg spiked to a nine on a ten-point scale. Pain medication could not bring comfort as I struggled on and off for a couple of days. A Doppler test ruled out the possibility of blood clots, so the medical staff began antibiotic treatments for infection. It worked. The pain started to subside and the recovery process resumed.

Carolyn and I feel so blessed to be covered by the prayers of so many of our friends and family and the incredible Woodside family. The cards, texts, emails and calls have been so overwhelming and humbling.

Carolyn and I were sitting in the hospital food court last Friday late afternoon waiting for the blood clot test, when I received a text from my friend and fellow pastor, Kevin Ramsby. The text was simple and straightforward, “Just heard that you had surgery and wanted to let you know that I am praying for a speedy recovery. If I can serve or help in any way, please let me know. Blessings, Kevin.”

It wasn’t what was said but who said it that God used to impact me that Friday afternoon. You see Kevin’s home was broken into a few years ago and in the middle of the night the intruder stabbed him 37 times. Miraculously, he was carried from a pool of his own blood to a neighbor’s home. Except for the intervention of God, he should not have lived.

That Friday when my pain hit a nine on a ten-point scale, I was restless and had to keep moving. But that “nine” I could endure and it would not have even registered if “ten” involved stab wounds.

God’s lesson to me was not to deny my pain, but to put it in perspective. In the midst of our pain, it is so easy to lose our perspective and become self absorbed, thinking that no one has ever suffered more. It happened to Elijah in 1 Kings 19 and it still happens today.

The author of Hebrews was basically telling his suffering readers of the first century to “look at it from a different perspective.” “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or faint hearted.”

Later I found it both ironic and embarrassing that I had used the word “spiked” to describe my pain hitting a “nine.” The physical and spiritual pain that came with Jesus’s spikes could not be charted on any of my scales. Let’s look to Jesus not only for his help and his prayers, but for his perspective.

I want to thank each of you for your thoughts and prayers during this time. Every day brings improvement and I cannot wait to get reengaged in life and ministry. May The Lord bless you today!

Sticking Your Neck Out


Years ago somebody gave me a molded turtle with the following inscription: “Behold the turtle who only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.”  There is a lot of truth that little statement. This is not a Bible verse, but rather a well-known quote from the American scientist James Bryant Conant.

I thought of that turtle – safe in my office today – when I went on a long bicycle ride north on M15. I saw the remains of about one dozen turtles that stuck their necks out to cross the road, but did not make it. They did make progress, but lost their lives doing it.

While it is true we often cannot make progress without sticking our necks out, sticking our necks out alone cannot ensure progress. To be sure, I don’t expect turtles to be able to calculate the speed and distance of cars coming from both directions and compare it to his own speed and motivation to cross that two lane road before he sticks his neck out and makes the first big step. But, we humans can do what turtles cannot do.

First, we can think. The writers of Proverbs challenge us to think and live wise lives.  We are not to be foolish by ignoring obvious dangers and obstacles. We may still choose to stick our necks out and cross the road, but we are doing so with our eyes wide open to the dangers and the challenges.  Disappointment and despair are often the results of lunging forward in denial of the dangers.

Second, we can pray.  The Lord cares about our decisions and our future. “The steps of a good man are ordered by The Lord.” In Proverbs 3 we are reminded that God will direct the paths of those who will trust in Him completely and lean not on their own understanding.

Psalm 37 shares some truths that will help us with these hard decisions. “Delight yourself in The Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to The Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Be still before The Lord and wait patiently for him.”  I am so glad that we can come to The Lord in prayer and he will give us the wisdom for decision-making.

Third, we can believe. The preacher of Ecclesiastes challenges the believer to take risks. Some people are so cautious observing the wind and will not sow or gazing at the clouds and will not harvest (11:1-4). We can trust a God who loves us, knows us well and wants to see us prosper.  Our belief is in God and not our own abilities.

My life does not have to be like the remains of turtles littering the shoulders of M15. I have the God-given abilities to think through options, assess the cost and dangers, pray for wisdom and direction … and then stick my neck out to make progress.


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