If is certainly an interesting word, isn’t it? It’s a conjunction that means “on the condition that” a certain condition is met, then there will be a certain result.

In a Bible study I am currently leading I am expanding on a series I did a few years ago I called “Standing on the Promises.” Each week we are exploring and applying one of God’s promises to us in the Bible with the goal of being encouraged. Not all the promises are conditional, but the one I was considering earlier today is. And the conditional promise comes right in the middle of three if statements.

The three big ifs are in I John 1:8-10, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

The results of the first and third ifs are not promises, but powerful statements about those who meet the conditions. Claiming to be without sin, or claiming not to have sinned, is both lying to oneself as well calling God a liar. Hopefully none of us meet those conditions, and are therefore not calling God a liar or lying to ourselves. We know better as we are well aware of many of our sins and freely admit them.

That’s why I am so comforted and encouraged by the middle conditional if in this trio: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

To whom are we to confess our sins to meet this condition? Perhaps, if it is appropriate, to the person or persons we sinned against. But especially to ourselves and to the Lord. Note if we fulfill the conditions of the first and third ifs, we cannot meet the condition of the middle one. One and three are the opposite of two.

In my experience I have found that the best time to practice the second big if is in connection with the observance of the Lord’s Supper. To my embarrassment, many times in my life I have found myself saying something along the lines of “here I am again Lord confessing the very same thing I have confessed before.” And I must be careful not to allow that realization to discourage me too much.

I’m not claiming the first or third if; I’m not saying I am without sin or that I have not sinned. But I am claiming the promise of the second if, that God is faithful and just and because I have confessed he will forgive me. And not only does he forgive me, the promise continues that he will purify (cleanse) me from all unrighteousness.

I remind myself that I have still have a long way to go in becoming the person God has called me to be; but with his help I am making progress. Thank you Father for the second big if in I John 1:9 and its promise.

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I’m not sure why, but I’ve been invited to a variety of meetings, lunches, dinners, and gatherings recently. And it isn’t that I am so popular or my presence is so desired. Some invitations are because the inviter wants something, but most of the ones this month are related to Pastor’s Appreciation Month. I’ve accepted most of them.

These multiple invitations reminded me of one of my favorite invitations in the Bible that I reviewed with one of my Bible studies earlier this month. It is from Jesus and is found in Matthew 11:28-30. It’s an invitation that I have welcomed and responded to many times in my life. And it is an invitation you may too want to consider accepting again and again.

Note first to whom Jesus offers his invitation. It is to “all you who are weary and burdened.” That’s quite a description, isn’t it? And it describes all of us at times in our lives. It may describe you as you read it today. I’m fairly confident we all are carrying burdens, and that often makes us weary.

More important perhaps than to whom the invitation is offered, note next who offers the invitation. It is Jesus. And Jesus describes himself as “gentle and humble in heart.” “Gentle” (or “meek” as the word is also translated) does not mean weak, but is suggestive of one’s attitude and way of life in relation to God. It’s about being in submission to him and knowing who you are in relation to him. “Humble in heart” does not indicate a timid, joyless person; but is rather an attitude of acceptance of others. It is the Son of God who offers the invitation.

We should also highlight the content of the invitation. He invites us to do three things. The first is simply to come to him. He doesn’t force us, bribe us, or press us; he just invites us. But he also invites us “to take his yoke” and “learn from him.” At the end of the passage Jesus tells us “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” “Easy” probably doesn’t mean easy as we usually understand it, but perhaps “well-fitting.” And who doesn’t want to learn from Jesus how to live?

Most comforting to me in Jesus’ invitation is his promise to those who accept it. In verse 28 he says “I will give you rest” and in verse 29 he expands “you will find rest for your souls.” “Rest” has at least a couple of connotations. It may be understood in terms of relief—relief from our burdens because we have taken his yoke. Rest also may be understood in terms of refreshment or being revived. It reminds me of David’s declaration in the most loved passage of the Old Testament, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul: (Psalm 23:2 and 3a).

I don’t know what other invitations you have and are receiving these days, but this is one I encourage you to consider accepting again and again. Jesus says, “You’re invited.”

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i’m sure there are many reasons why, but a lot of us have a hard time saying “I was wrong.” As I have grown older, I have noted that it has become easier for me to acknowledge my mistakes. Perhaps I am giving myself too much credit, but I think a readiness to admit when we are or were wrong is a sign of maturity.

In the words of Mark Galli, one of the reasons we find it hard to say “I was wrong” is because “we remain addicted to the drug of self-justification.” We justify ourselves because the person we wronged was also wrong. (Are you familiar with the saying “two wrongs don’t make a right?”)

Or we justify ourselves because of other things that were going on in our lives at the time. We had too much to do, or were short on time, or we didn’t feel well, or had a bad day, or any number of reasons we might give to others and ourselves. Our personal situation may elicit some sympathy and understanding, but it doesn’t make doing something wrong right.

Sometimes we won’t say we were wrong because of pride–we are simply too proud and too stubborn to admit we made a mistake. It often does require humility, but that can be very good for us.

For Christians, this matter of acknowledging we were wrong is the first step of repentance. Repentance is not a popular or particularly admired word in most circles today, but it is an important word in the Bible. We might remind ourselves that Jesus launched his public ministry with a call to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17).

To admit we were wrong is to take responsibility. We admit it to ourselves, we acknowledge it to the person or persons we wronged, and we confess it to God. But acknowledging we were wrong is just the first step.

Next, repentance involves being sorry we were wrong—feeling remorse and regret over what we did or said. It is not being sorry we were caught or found out, but being convicted or conscience stricken by it. Sometimes it includes doing what we can to make things right.

Finally, repentance leads to a resolve to do better in the future. That means we make a commitment to be more aware of our weaknesses and tendencies so that we strive not to do what we did again. But it’s even more than that. Theologian J.I. Packer presses the point when he notes repentance “is an actual abandonment of what has been wrong in order to replace it by what is right.”

When was the last time you did something wrong? When was the last time you admitted you were wrong? And when was the last time you repented? I’m hoping the frequency of needing to say those three magic words “I was wrong” lessens in my life, but I’m learning the importance and value of saying them.

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We got the call Saturday afternoon that Jan’s dad had passed away. We were not surprised because he was almost 95, had been battling pneumonia, and had lost his wife this past June. Understandably, the last four months had been difficult for him. As well as being an interesting man, in my personal experience Willard H. Kissell was a loving father, a gracious father-in-law, and a caring grandpa.

I got some real insight into his love for his daughter the night I asked him for permission to marry Jan. He asked me two questions. The first was did I think I would make enough as a pastor to support her. At that point I was a part time youth minister, but I assured him I was confident I would. His second question was did I have any thoughts about being a missionary. I don’t think he would have objected if I said yes, but after I assured him I felt no calling to be a missionary he gave me his blessing.

My respect for him was evidenced through the years as I always addressed him as Mr. Kissell. I don’t know how many times he told me to call him Bill, but for some reason I was never comfortable doing so. My respect for him was not one-sided. I know he had great respect for me as well as his son-in-law, a pastor, and the father of two of his grandchildren.

After Jan’s mom passed away Mr. Kissell married a woman who had two girls who were still in at home and in school (she also had a son who was older and on his own). Without trying to take the place of their father, he accepted them and treated them as though they were his. Those two girls and their families, as well as their brother and his family, are grieving Mr. Kissell’s passing in some respects the same as Jan and her brother.

One thing about Mr. Kissell I especially enjoyed was his competitive spirit. Downstairs at their house he had a bumper pool table and when Jan and I were dating we would play. Some evenings I spent more time playing bumper pool with him than I did with Jan. After he retired he took up golf and we played when we visited in Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Tucson. The last time I visited, we played multiple solitaire. At the age of 94 he still beat Jan and me. (The picture above is from that last visit.)

Mr. Kissell was a member of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.” He was a US Navy veteran of WWII serving in the South Pacific. We talked about that during my last visit and in answer to a question told me about seeing General MacArthur.

As with many of the greatest generation, Mr. Kissell only worked for one company his entire career. Following his graduation from Penn State he went to work for Procter & Gamble and stayed there until he retired. He also lived in the same house 52 years leaving that home just a few months ago.

A few words come to mind as I reflect on my experience with and knowledge of my father-in-law: loyal, kind, stable, respectful, patriotic, and generous.

Please join me in praying for Willard H. Kissell’s family and extended family as they grieve, and especially for my wife, Jan, and son, Rob, as they travel to Cincinnati.


Most readers are probably familiar with the 17th century French philosopher Rene Descartes’ statement: “I think: therefore I am.” I’m not sure exactly what it means, but most people think it is profound. Not too long ago I was reminded of a lesson about thinking that reminded me of Descartes’ words.

What got my attention was the report from a friend that something I had said to another friend was offensive. And it troubled me because the person I offended has done a lot for me and is someone I greatly respect. The sad part is that I was trying to be funny, but was oblivious to the fact that my words had landed with a thud.

Since then I’ve been wondering about all the people I have spoken to through the years who may have been hurt by what I said and I didn’t even know it. And my sense is that most of the time when it happened I was trying to be funny.

My friend who shared with me how my words had hurt our mutual friend challenged me to do better in the future by thinking about what I say. Borrowing from and adding to Descartes words, I want to suggest a lesson we all need to keep in mind and practice: “You think, therefore you are—therefore think about what you say—before you say it.”

And there are two additional important lessons for me not prompted by Descartes: don’t always try to be funny, and remember teasing is not always appropriate.

If the question is “What was I thinking?”, too often in my life the answer has been “I wasn’t thinking.” In the future I plan and hope to do more thinking about what I say– and before I say it.

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