Friday, December 28, 2007
Firstly, Luther points out the great divide from one end of the spectrum to the next. In other words, we see the saints during both the good times as well as in the bad times. You might say it spans both the best of times and the worst of times.
Luther adds: "Where does one find finer words of joy than in the psalms of praise and thanksgiving? On the other hand, where do you find deeper, more sorrowful, more pitiful words of sadness than in the psalms of lamentation?"
In the end, Luther suggests that the "Psalter is the book of all saints; and everyone, in whatever situation he may be, finds in that situation psalms and words that fit his case, that suit him as if they were put there just for his sake, so that he could not put it better himself, or find or wish for anything better."
And because just about everyone can find psalms and words that fit them, and that seemingly were put there for their sake, the Psalms become that much more valuable to us as we traverse the ups and downs of life.
I know they speak to me and I trust that God's Word will speak to you this day as you read one of the Psalms. Take your pick- there's plenty of them.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
I can honestly say that I've never golfed, boxed, or even bowled on Christmas - that is until this year. Thanks to some kind-hearted family members we had a chance to do all this and more this Christmas thanks to our recently acquired Nintendo Wii and the accompanying Sports Pack that includes baseball, golf, boxing, bowling, and some tennis as well.
As part of our family gift from Cara's sister Colleen and husband Mike, we were blessed with a gift that we couldn't have afforded any other way. My children (especially Mitch and Josh) will be forever grateful, I'm sure. It's been a little crazy in the house since. As the pictures show, my daughter even enjoys a chance to take out her aggression on a friendly foe and I'm telling you she's got the skills.
My mother-in-law even got in on the action (bowling) and remarked that she hasn't had so much fun on Christmas in a long time! Wow!
As we celebrate the birth of our Saviour this Christmas, it's great to be around family and friends with little or no agenda. It's great to talk, enjoy a meal together. It's even great to work off some of those Holiday pounds with a fresh dose of exercise. As I write this, I think I'm still breathing hard from all the boxing I did earlier in the day. It really is a work out- no joke!
Friday, December 21, 2007
First, people are drawn to prayer because most of us understand that the "most intimate communion with God comes only through prayer."
Secondly, people are compelled to prayer because they realize that God's power flows primarily to people who pray.
Simply put, when we work,we work; but when we pray, God works. I don't know about you but I'd much rather have God working on some of the seemingly insurmountable things in my life. I know I can't get through them without his help.
So, know that when we fail to pray and spend time in communion with God, we cut ourselves off from God's prevailing power and ability to do more than we could ever imagine. If you're overwhelmed, overrun, beaten down, and generally feeling defeated, there's one quick way to start feeling better immediately - pray and seek God's help.
Despite our inclinations to do it on our own, God never intended for us to live our lives that way. Let God work and let God begin to change your life. That's my prayer...
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Some questions to think about:
How much more impact would our prayers have if we spent more time getting to know God in this manner? How much better would we know God? How much better would we be prepared to deal with the hills and hiccups of life when our prayer life is bathed in adoration? Think on these things...
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
"Of all the spiritual disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father."
"To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us."
Foster then adds that for those early explorers of the Christian faith, prayer was "no little habit tacked onto the periphery of their lives; it was their lives."
If nothing else, may these words from Foster serve as a reminder that we too need to make prayer the main business of our lives. To pray is to change and I want to be changed and live the transformed life. How about you?
Shall we pray...
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Today, I have a couple of quotes and thoughts from Ole Hallesby (1879-1961), the Norwegian Lutheran pastor whose most famous work is Prayer and Temperament and the Christian Faith.
In answering the question, Why should we pray?, Hallesby makes this statement: "When he grants our prayers it's because He loves us. When He does not, it is also because he loves us." I think this is extremely helpful to those of us that get all bent out of shape when God is seemingly quiet and our prayers are unanswered. This reminds me of the Methodist mantra, "God is good all the time, all the time God is good."
So, regardless of what you may or may not be experiencing, know that God loves you deeply. In the words of one of my favorite all time songs, "Don't Stop Believing," but keep praying knowing that God has an intense desire to hear from you more and more.
Friday, December 14, 2007
The week before, our kids were having a fund-raiser at the local Barnes and Noble. Because of this, we bought some books to give as Christmas presents and also thought that it would be nice to purchase a book for ourselves as well. Because I'm a big fan of Rachel Ray, I had to have one of her 30 Minute Cookbooks. After all, when you have a family the size of ours, who wouldn't want to be able to put together a meal in 30 minutes.
Now understand I'm not a cook but I know I can follow directions (at least when I take the time to read them). However, making a meal completely from scratch is a bit challenging. For one, finding all the ingredients is a chore. Being someone that normally stays out of the kitchen, I had to wait until Cara made it home before I could gather all of the ingredients necessary. Then there is the language barrier. Let's just say that Rachel uses some words that I've never heard of before. Then there was the dicing, slicing, shredding, and peeling that needed to be done. Needless to say, there was no finishing this meal in the 30 minutes I had hoped for. I got started at 4:30 that afternoon and the meal was complete and ready for consumption at 6:30. So, the name for my new cookbook will be titled "How to make a 30 Minute Meal in 2 Hours."
Thankfully, the story has a good ending. The meatballs we made were huge and very delicious. Despite my son Zachary's admission that they looked "disgusting," he actually tried them and promptly declared them "delicious." Hearing that made the two hours in the kitchen worth the wait. The next time we try one of Rachel's 30 Minute Meals, we'll attempt to break the 2 hour barrier. I'll keep you posted...
Friday, December 07, 2007
In doing some strategic reading for a series on prayer that I'd like to do at some point in the late spring or early summer, I was reminded how easy it is to forget about the importance of prayer in one's life. Jim Cymbala, in his book Breakthrough Prayer says that one of the major ways that Satan has his way with us is by keeping us out of God's Word on a regular basis and keeping our prayer life mostly non-existent. It's Satan that makes us feel busier than we really are and it's Satan that creates as many barriers throughout our day in order to keep us from spending time with God. However, if we truly valued prayer and it's significance for our lives, we wouldn't let Satan have his way with us.
Prayer is so powerful and reading God's Word is so beneficial to our spiritual well-being that we shouldn't take it lightly. I, like most of you, know how hard it is to get into God's Word on a regular basis. I am challenged by time constraints and a busy life. However, if we knew how powerful prayer could be in our lives, would we be so complacent? And this complacency can be directly attributed to Satan. He knows that prayer works, that it makes a difference. He knows that prayer can move mountains. This is why he makes it so difficult for us to spend quality time with him. In light of this, please take five minutes right now and pray. Pray for a desire to know God more intimately. Pray that God would remove those barriers that keep you from coming to him on a consistent basis. If an apple a day can keep the doctor away, perhaps our daily prayer walk with God can keep Satan away as well.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
David had very little that he carried into battle. He had his staff, 5 smooth stones, and a sling-shot of sorts. On the other hand, Goliath had a sword, a spear, and a javelin. I don't know about you, but if I'm betting (not that I would), I'd bet on the guy with the sword, spear, and javelin. Not to mention that he was also a "Giant Philistine Champion." Still, the story ends rather unexpectedly as David comes out the victor and ends up killing Goliath.
As we wrapped up our discussion, we talked about some of the "Goliath's" in our own lives. I think it's safe to say that we all have them. Some of us face emotional giants like depression and loneliness. Others of us have physical giants such as illnesses and handicaps. Still others of us suffer from behavioral giants such as addictions and other hard-to-break habits. And since we all have them to some degree or another (some of us more than one), how do we deal with them? What are some possible strategies for facing these giants?
May I suggest that David offers us some incredible insights, here are two:
One, he is fully confident in God. Despite the fact that Goliath looked incredibly large and scared every other Israelite to death, David knew that his God was much bigger than Goliath was (see I Sam. 17:26). We too have a God who loves to defy the odds when we allow him to be part of the battle. It sets the stage for miracles and other supernatural and unexplainable phenomena to occur. Good things happen when we put our faith, trust, and hope in God. It worked well for David and it can work well for us.
Secondly, David entered the battle "in the name of the Lord Almighty." We too should enter confidently into the battle against our giants by relying upon the Lord God Almighty to guide us and direct us along the way. Way too often, we go into battle all-alone and try to fight off these giants by ourselves and under our own power. I can tell you from experience that this won't work and that you're giant will never truly go away.
So, whatever your giant may be, face your Goliath head-on in the confidence that God will be at your side to direct you in the way that you should go.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
My beautiful wife Cara that I met nearly eighteen years ago - it was love at first site.
My son Mitchell, although strong-willed and stubborn like his mom and dad, is growing into a young man that will someday make a great lawyer or salesman but probably a basketball player.
My son Joshua, although quiet mannered, is compassionate and seeks to go out of his way to help others. A future pastor in the making - I think.
My son Zachary, who is a literal ball of energy and whose enthusiasm for life is contagious. His karate skills aren't bad either.
My daughter Joy, whose love for candy reminds us of the joy-filled days of a child. It also reminds us that we better brush her teeth really well.
My daughter Hope, whose smile can brighten even the most hopeless of days.
For all of this, I'm thankful.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The Word as Sacrament
Traditionally, Protestants have recognized only two sacraments—baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There has been some debate about this amongst the more high church Protestants, but basically the position has been the same throughout recent church history. What is interesting about this view is that it overlooks the Protestant theology of and about the Word of God. While ‘de jure’ baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the Protestant sacraments, ‘de facto’ there has always been another one, and in fact one that has been seen and believed to have a far more regular and enduring effect—namely the Word of God.
The term sacramentum in the Latin has had various definitions over the ages of church history but perhaps the most familiar one is ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’ or more simply, a means of grace. If a sacrament is a means of grace, by which is meant a means of divine influence and change in a person’s life, then surely the Word of God and its proclamation, reading, hearing learning, memorizing is a sacrament. We just don’t tend to call it that. Consider however what is said about the Word of God in the NT at various junctures. The Word of God is seen as something living which dwells richly in the believer once received, probing and changing the person inwardly.
For example, Paul referring to his preaching of the Good News in Thessalonike in one of his earliest letters says this—“And we constantly thank God because when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as it actually is—the Word of God which is at work in you who believe.” (1 Thess. 2.13). Paul is not talking about consuming communion wafers or getting wet, but he is talking about a means of grace that is at work in a person’s life.
Or consider the famous passage in Heb. 4.12—“for the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing life breath and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” What is especially interesting about this passage is once again we are referring to oral proclamation of the Word and its reception into the inner life of the person, and notice that what is said about the Word here could just as easily be said about the role of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life (cf. e.g. what is said about the spirit in Jn. 14-17 or 1 Cor. 1-4 and elsewhere).
So much is the Word of God seen as a living and active thing in the NT, that Luke can actually speak about the ‘Word of God’ growing or increasing (Acts 6.7; 12.24) by which was meant it affected and infected many people and the church grew. Christians are exhorted in Col. 3.16 to ‘let the Word of God dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another’. In 1 Tim. 4.5 speaks of the consecration or sanctification of all things including food by means of the Word of God and prayer.
Much more could be said along these lines, but this is sufficient to establish that the Word of God is not only seen as a living thing, its proclamation is seen as something that changes things, including people, indwells them and saves, sanctifies, and illumines them. This surely makes the Word of God and its proclamation and reception a sacrament on any normal understanding of the term.
This in turn brings me to a crucial point. At least in the
I do not say this because I think we should neglect the other sacraments. I say this because we actually need a more sanctified view of the Word of God. The Word of God, when faithfully preached and openly received is far more than just preaching, or a good life lesson, or an edifying discourse. It is the unleashing of God’s transformative power in the human life. In short—the Word does things to the recipient that the recipient might well be unaware of at the time, much like taking a medicine the effects of which take time to be noticeable. There is of course a corollary to this-- the less one consumes the Word, the less grace, the less spiritual health, one is likely to have. In an age of Biblical illiteracy even within the church, it is no wonder that the church is sickly and open to all sorts of false teaching and its bad spiritual effects.
And there is more good news. Ever since Tyndale, the Word of God has been available to all and sundry English speaking persons. The Gutenberg revolution prevented it from simply remaining something chained to a pulpit. The Word of God can be self-administered as a sacrament, or it can be received from others. It is not something that can or should be controlled by clergy, dispensing it out as they deem appropriate. No, the Word of God has been unleashed from clerical control, and there is no turning back now.
This brings me to a crucial point. Every Christian needs a more sacramental, and sanctified life than they currently have, even if you are in a church that downplays the traditional sacraments. There is one thing you can do about that every day—add more Word to your diet! I promise it will be beneficial in many ways. Unlike Special K, Special W (the Word), really is special.
As I think on this, I'm reminded of God's remarkable creation out of nothing in the land before time. How awesome would it have been as an observer to God's creation over the course of those 6 days? Seeing the land being formed. Being the first to witness the animals. Having a chance to see the creation of the light that we now take for granted. Wow! If only You Tube was around back then, then we would have had a chance to have seen the Ultimate Iron Chef at work.
So, next time you find yourself looking down upon Kitchen Stadium and witnessing these great chefs at work, remember the Ultimate Iron Chef has made it all possible. After all, we wouldn't be able to witness such a thing if it wasn't for Him.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
But, then it hit me when one of our neighbor kids came to our door with the proverbial "Trick or Treat." Standing beside him was not only his mom (whom he lives with and who we know) but also his dad that we've never meet before. And in that one brief hour or two on Halloween, both of his parents were together again as a family.
It's amazing to me that Halloween could do that - unite a family if only for a time. If Halloween has that kind of power, to connect and unite people, then I'm all for it and I wish it wasn't a once of year kind of thing. I wish I spent more time walking around with my own kids and having "fun" with them and I wish other parents spent more time connecting with their kids every night. I wish every family and all of our neighbors smiled as much as they do on Halloween - the one night everyone has a chance to dress up and look crazy and forget about the pressures of everyday life. If this is what it takes, then I'm for Halloween at least on a monthly basis.
Anyone else out there want to start knocking?
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
So, this year I'm happy to say that my Lions are actually playing well. They aren't flashy and they aren't setting any records for most points scored (except for in the 4th Quarter against the Bears) but they are starting to win games that they would normally lose. They are starting to believe in themselves, their coaches, and the system that has been put in place.
I wonder how much more effective we could be as Christians if we truly "bought in" to the Christian life that we say we are following. Many Christians never learn to "win" on a regular basis because they fail to draw strength from their one true source. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:7 to "train yourself to be godly." How much time do we really spend training ourselves to live the wonderful spirit-filled life that he wants all of us to live. As a pastor, I'm not saying this is easy. Even I have a tough time placing enough solid time in my schedule for this training. However, as a pastor, I will say it is necessary. Much like the Detroit Lions, who would never be where they are today (5-2) without proper workouts, training and practice, we too need to study our playbook (The Bible). Then and only then, will we start "winning" more often. So, if your reading this blog, please start reading your Bible instead.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
After being assessed myself only five months ago, it was a bit surreal being on the other side as an assessor. As I sat there, I suddenly realized the immensity of the task that we were called to perform - in the end to tell the candidates whether or not they could be a church planter based on what we (the assessors) saw during the course of the three days. It was an awesome responsibility and it was great to hear about their life stories and how it is they made it to this point in their life where they were willing to step out in faith as potential church planters. As God's word states, the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. We need more and more people to step out in faith and follow after God's leading.
Overall, it was a great movement to be part of and I look forward to doing it again.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
The premise behind the show is that "world famous" chef Ramsey goes to a restaurant that is floundering, that is struggling to stay in business. Their glory days are gone and they are on the verge of closing the doors unless something changes. Just last night, such was the case with The Old Stone Mill, 45 minutes north of Manhattan. While the outside of the restaurant was mostly presentable, the inside was another story. Most notably, the food was really bad! After a few days of observing the restaurant, watching the staff and chef work, and even eating the food, Ramsey offers his rather startling conclusions-the need to change the menu and offer something that people will come back to. In this case, after a quick survey of the restaurants nearby, Ramsey concludes that there really are no Steakhouses. Therefore, his conclusion is that The Old Stone Mill needs to become the one Steakhouse in town that people will be drawn to. After closing the restaurant down for a few days, the makeover is done and they relaunch the place as an upscale Steakhouse. In the end, it's a hit and the steakhouse really starts to take off. A fairy tale ending you might say.
What struck me about this show is how much this has been like our experience at Wilson Ave. Wesleyan Community Church which has now been reopened or relaunched as The Voyage Church. When something is obviously not working, churches (like the Old Stone Mill) need to be willing to change what they are doing. As someone once said, we don't need more churches like the kinds of churches that people are already not going to. Churches need to be culturally relevant and what's culturally relevant in one town, one place, may not be in another. It just depends. You wouldn't want to open up a Steakhouse in every town, but in that particular instance highlighted above, it made sense. Likewise, churches can't nor should they, duplicate each other and somehow think that it will work. Each situation calls for its own unique solution.
And churches need to be constantly looking at how the culture around them is changing and be willling to change along with it. Otherwise, churches will quickly lose their relevancy and will look nothing like the community that surrounds them.
I say all of this to highlight the fact that The Voyage Church must continue to keep in step with the community we are trying to reach. While we could easily get caught up in what we like or our creature comforts, we need to we students of our culture and be in tune with what's changing. Change is inevitable-it's going to happen. The question is whether or not churches will be willing to change too. Even if it means closing our doors for a time, maybe that's not a bad thing in order to reinvent ourselves and to make church the city on a hill that will shine for all the world to see.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Our goals were met (75 or more) with 86 present for our first ever service! It's amazing what God can do if we will just believe. I can remember praying that prayer the day before-you know, the words that Thomas spoke, "Lord, help my unbelief." Even though I went out of my way to tell several people that we'd have the 75 or more, there were still doubts in the back of my mind that needed to be eased.
We have a lot of work to do, but I'm really jazzed by how God answers the prayers of his saints. I'm also wrestling with the possibility that maybe we don't ask enough of God. Perhaps praying for 75 wasn't enough of a challenge for God. As we continue pressing on, I'm praying that we hit the 100 mark sooner rather than later and that the momentum we've created can be sustained well into the future.
Friday, October 12, 2007
However, today I'm also reminded of Paul's words (but my paraphrase) - Don't be anxious about stuff, but lift up this stuff to God and he will help you. Well, right now, I have a lot of stuff to lift up to God and maybe you do to. If life is getting the best of you, don't let it! Tell God what's bothering you and let him handle it. In fact, that's what I'm going to do right now.
Monday, October 08, 2007
The gospel says, "Go," but our church buildings say, "Stay."
The gospel says, "Seek the lost," but our churches say, "Let the lost seek the church."
Or, as Neil Cole puts it:
"If you want to win the world to Christ, you are going to have to sit in the smoking section."
This is a reminder that church isn't just a once a week thing, but should make up the essence of our everyday lives which are spent "in the world." And it's in this world, in the smoking section, that we find the lost. Don't leave the world and try to shelter yourself from it. Instead, engage the world and by doing so, the power of the gospel through your witness will shine for all to see and the lost will be found.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Maybe you've had those same fears and maybe they have kept you from taking that leap of faith that you know God is calling you to take. Even though you can't see far enough ahead to know whether or not your leap will pan out, if it is God's will for you, you need to take it. Maybe it's a vocational decision. Maybe it's so big of a decision that it will completely turn your family inside out. Regardless, if God has called you to move in a different direction, don't hesitate too long lest you live a life of constant regret. I've seen that in my own family and it's painful to watch. I've even experienced it myself. Even though these HUGE decisions in life are scary, God will help you every step of the way. For he didn't give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and self discipline. May His power be with you!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I laughed so loud at this story last night when I heard it on the news that I woke my youngest daughter up from a deep sleep. I hope that you find it just as humorous.
State Sen. Ernie Chambers sued God last week. Angered by another lawsuit he considers frivolous, Chambers says he's trying to make the point that anybody can file a lawsuit against anybody.
Chambers says in his lawsuit that God has made terroristic threats against the senator and his constituents, inspired fear and caused "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants."
The Omaha senator, who skips morning prayers during the legislative session and often criticizes Christians, also says God has caused "fearsome floods ... horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes."
He's seeking a permanent injunction against the Almighty.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The ordination service on Sunday evening was a really special event and an awesome time to both celebrate and sit back and think about the immense task that God has called me to. A huge thanks goes out to all that took their Sunday evening and decided to spend it with my family and I as we celebrated the day. Aside from our youngest daughter Hope who spent the time in the nursery, our other four children sat "miraculously" for the entire time and supposedly did really well. I know the Holy Spirit was there for me and the other candidates for ordination that night, but my kids must have felt the fresh wind and fire of the Holy Spirit as well in order to sit there that well for that long. Overall, it was a great night with many great memories. I even received a brand new bible with my name printed on the cover! How awesome is that!
Friday, September 14, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I've been reading Neil Cole's book titled Organic Church and wanted to share a few insights from it. In particular, Cole offers us six myth-debunking truths about the church. Here they are:
One, the Church is a living organism, not a static institution. "It is time for the Church to get her hands dirty in the soil of lost people's lives."
Two, the Church is so much more than a building. "It is important to note that the early Church did not have any buildings for the first three-hundred plus years."
Three, the Church is not to be bound to a single location. "Where you worship is nothing compared to who it is you worship."
Four, the Church is much more than a one-hour service held one day a week. "It is a twenty-four-hour a day, seven-day-a-week expression of Christ's life in us."
Five, the Kingdom of God is meant to be decentralized, but people tend to centralize. "Jesus died so that those who believe can go everywhere with the power and presence of God."
Six, we are each God's temple and together we are also his temple. "Our hope of glory is not in the buildings we use but in the Master who is building His life in us."
Friday, September 07, 2007
Last Friday, there was plenty of reason to be screaming for ice cream as The Voyage Church gave away over 300 FREE ice cream cones! I never thought giving something as cheap as a $1 ice cream cone could be so fun-but it was. In just over 2 hours we were able to connect with a lot of different families and to do so face-to-face made it that much more valuable. Our goal was twofold: To create an awareness of The Voyage Church and then also to send the message to the surrounding community that we care about them. As I mentioned in a recent article written about this event, it's so easy for us as churches to get caught up on themselves and move quickly inward. Our mission, on the otherhand, is to remain intentionally focused on making a difference in the community. I think this event captured the essence of what we want to be about as it leads into some really great discussion about the FREE grace of God.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
While in the process of restarting our church this fall as The Voyage Church, I'm constantly hounded by not only the naysayers who say we shouldn't have stopped what we were doing in the first place, but also my own doubts about whether it CAN be done successfully or not. In a recent gathering of people to share the vision of The Voyage Church, I shared with them a passage that I'd come across in my devotional reading. The passage is a familiar one, one that I'd read through hundreds of times before, but one that never really got my attention. That is, until I read it in the NLT. When I read it in that version, it came alive to me for the first time (this serves as a good reminder to read from a variety of translations of the bible.)
The passage I'm talking about is Matthew 5:3 - the beginning of the famous beatitudes passage that Jesus proclaims to his disciples. In the NIV, it reads something like "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Again, nothing wrong with that translation, but it never really grabbed my attention. In the NLT, however, it reads in the following way:
"God blesses those who realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them."
What struck me was the realization that God blesses those who realize their need for Him. God shows favor to those who are at the "end of the rope," as The Message puts it. God blesses those who suddenly recognize that they can't do it on their own. It's a sudden revelation that we are nothing and God is everything. It's an awakening that enlightens us to the fact that we are the creation and He is the Creator.
You see, God wants to bring us balance in our lives. He wants to make our burdens light. He wants to give us life abundantly. Yet, so often we seek the abundant and balanced life through our own means and through our own interventions. What Jesus is saying here is that we need a Divine intervention each and everyday in order to live the life that God all wants for us to live.
By seeing this, by noticing that God blesses us when we turn back towards him, we have hope. We have direction. Better yet, the burden is gone. When we finally recognize that we are hopeless and helpless without HIM, a peace that is beyond understanding begins to overwhelm us and transform us into something new and better.
So, as I reflect again on this passage, I'm reminded that I can't make the restart of our church successful on my own. I can only be faithful and do so much, but inevitably, it's a God thing. Today, I'm more confident than ever that God will show favor upon what we are doing if we will only keep our focus upward and let God do his thing.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
When I shared this latest revelation with my wife, I gave it to her in the "Good news/bad news" sort of way. I gave her the "bad news" first - all the pictures from 2007 have been lost. But wait, I told her, "The Good news is that there not entirely lost - their out there somewhere in the great trashcan known as cyberspace." In other words, I was trying to convince her that I could find them and that I would do so ASAP.
Then I put my foot in my mouth even further and asked her why she needed Hope's pictures that bad in the first place. I mean, she was standing right there holding Hope in her hands. We saw her everyday! This didn't help matters a whole lot as my wife gave me a rather cold and chilling stare.
I share this humbling experience with you to point out how one simple push of the button can create a huge mess. One simple look, one simple decision to do this or that, can lead to all sorts of messes in life that will never be forgotten and will require a great deal of time and attention to clean it up. As I mentioned to a friend who had asked me the one thing that I would like to have on my tombstone when I die, I told him that it would be "A Man Above Reproach." If I could leave any legacy for my family, my children, my grandchildren, etc... it would be that - to live a life of such integrity that I left nothing that would shame my family or myself. This, in my view, would be a successful life.
The end of the story is a good one but a costly one. We found the pictures but we had to spend $100 for some software to do so. It was costly, and it took a lot of time. Likewise, the decisions we make each and everyday can prove costly and can take nearly our entire lives to completely (if that's possible) retrieve what was lost. So, if you've lost something (i.e. the trust of your loved ones)repent for what you've done. Then, in Jesus' own words, "Go and sin no more."
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Up until this past year, it's been several years since I've seen the ice cream truck roll through a neighborhood. As a child, I can remember seeing the ice cream truck come by 3 or 4 times during the summer months but that was about it. Well, in our neighborhood, you might see the ice cream truck come by 3 or 4 times in a day. No kidding! I've counted 4 different ice cream vendors that drive their beat-up little vans playing the kind of music that will literally make you go stir crazy if you aren't able to tune it out. And it doesn't matter how much ice cream we have in our freezer, our kids always want ice cream from the ice cream man. After all, we don't have the Dora Fudge Pop or the Spongebob something or another in our freezer. In fact, the ice cream business in our neighborhood seems so lucrative that I joke with my wife Cara that we should turn our mini-van into an ice cream van. All it would take is some crazy music and a cooler full of ice cream in the back. Oh, and I guess we'd need to get those stickers to put all over our van to show the public exactly what we're selling. It could be done.
Anyway, back to what I was getting at. Just the other day, I saw something I hadn't seen all summer long. I saw the ice cream truck drive slowly by without one key component of their business - the music. Yes, that's right. The ice cream truck drove by but it didn't have the maddening and yet necessary music to go along with it. After all, the music (if you can call it that) is what attracts all of the kids and brings them streaming out their front doors like lemmings off a cliff. If it wasn't for the music, most people would never know the ice cream man was around.
As I sat pondering this, I knew that there was something profoundly theological about what I had just seen, but I wasn't sure what it was initially. However, as I've thought about it, my recent reading of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount comes to mind. Jesus tells us to be the salt of the earth and then he tells us to be the light for all the world to see. If we have something that we know that everyone should have, why would we keep this light hidden. Like the ice cream truck without the music, I think way too many churches today exist in an equally unattractive way. We don't let our lights shine. We don't make ourselves attractive enough so that all the world will take notice. We judge others when we have no basis of doing so. If the church wants to reach the least, last, and lost of this world, it has to offer the world something the world cannot find anywhere else. And we have that something in the gracious provision of our heavenly Saviour Jesus Christ. So start screaming!
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Unless you live in a cabin in the woods, you probably saw it! Much like the hoopla surrounding the recent release of the iphone, hundreds of thousands of people turned out in droves to make their purchase of the final installment in the much beloved and yet belittled series of Harry Potter books. Now in all fairness to the serious Potter fans, I've only read one of these books and it was the very first one to come out. Overall, I enjoyed the story and even enjoyed the movie that soon followed. However, for whatever reason, I never saw to it to read another one. So, I can't grasp camping out anywhere and waiting to purchase much of anything be it an iphone, a CD, or the recent Potter book (Read my blog on the iphone for more on this.) Most things can wait until the next day when the lines are gone and you can take pleasure in whatever you've purchased because you enjoyed a good night's sleep the night before.
The second thing I saw were the countless numbers of people turning out dressed as their favorite character. Not only would I never wait up until 12:01 AM to buy the book, I would most certainly never do it dressed in some crazy garb. Okay, so I've done something similar every year since I was 4 or 5 years old on the day known as Halloween. But I did it for one reason and one reason only - CANDY! Anyway, back to what I was getting at. People dressing up as characters they will never in fact be - after all, the book is a work of fiction.
Yet, as Christians, we can dress up and be that which we aspire to be. In the timeless classic My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers points out that we are wrong to hold Jesus as simply a great teacher. If Jesus is merely a teacher, all He can do is tease me by setting the bar to a height to high for me to ever attain. Chambers states: "What is the good of telling me to be what I never can be - to be pure of heart, to do more than my duty, to be perfectly devoted to God?"
The Good News is that when we are born again of the Spirit of God, we gain a new understanding that Jesus didn't come to only teach; he came to make me what he teaches I should be. Chambers goes on to say: "The Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man [or woman] the disposition that ruled His [Jesus'] own life..." Wow! What an awesome thought. To receive the "mind of Christ" - that's what I'd wait overnight in line for. And I might even dress up.
Friday, July 13, 2007
I Knew It! Bigfoot is real! They've even just heard his (or her) "howl" in the Upper Penisular of Michigan. Check out the link below for the full take on this ground-breaking story.
Sorry, I don't have the link but check out today's headlines in the Detroit News.
I can't wait for this same group to head to the swamps next to uncover something equally profound about the Creature From the Black Lagoon.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Still, when you have a vision from God, it's tough to just ignore the plan that God has laid upon your heart. Chambers concludes: "If you have ever had the vision of God, you may try as you like to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never let you." That's where I'm at. I'm stuck. Thankfully, one of my spiritual gifts happens to be faith, so I don't have to have it all figured out. I know and have faith that God will clear things up for me and make this vision a reality in His timing. In God's words to Isaiah referring to a future time, he said: "And the parched ground shall become a pool." While I'm excited about seeing the "pool," I know I'm also in the valley for a reason. And with God's help, I will not "faint or give way."
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
As I sat in line this past week waiting for my new iphone... (just kidding). No, I wasn't the fist pumping guy you saw on TV last Friday. And, no, I don't have an iphone as of yet. Although, to be quite honest, they do look pretty cool. Nevertheless, as I saw the countless hundreds and thousands of people on TV waiting for the latest gadget that technology has provided us, I was struck by the craziness of it all. I mean, standing in line overnight for something that you'll have to shell out over $500 bucks for... come on!
In all fairness, I'm not the stand in line kind of guy. The lines at amusement parks drive me crazy and I'm always in too much of a hurry to enjoy the line at any particular store. So, standing in line overnight for something makes absolutely no sense to me. I can think of a hundred (maybe a thousand) other things I'd rather be doing. Anyway, as I pondered this phenomena known as the iphonemania, I'm left wondering what sort of things I would stand in line for as a Christian? In other words, as a Christ follower, what is it that I'd be willing to camp out overnight for? The iphonemaniacs were pretty jazzed and excited about getting their new phone. What am I bursting at the seams for when it comes to being a Christian?
Friday, June 29, 2007
I've always loved the opportunity to get away and get spiritually recharged for the tasks and challenges that lie ahead. Most recently, I tried to do this with little initial success. First, I went to a place with plently of walking trails and plenty of benches along the way. The only problem is that every quiet bench I found was amidst the blazing sunlight. On this day, shade was no where to be found. Not to mention that the benches felt like sitting in the most uncomfortable church pew imaginable.
After hanging out here for an hour or so, I got in my car and began to think on some other places I could go. A lake in another suburb setting came to mind and so I made my way in that direction. When I got there, scores of people lined the shores and I quickly realized no "quiet" place would be found there. Again, I got in my car and slowly began to realize that the "old faithful" would have to do. I then made my way over to the local library where I found a "quiet" corner and studied. When in doubt, the local library is still a great place to find a quiet hour or two.
I would be curious where you've been able to get away to find some quiet time? Was it a library or somewhere even more reclusive? For those of us in the city, it's a bit of a challenge to say the least.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I say all of this because the church acts this way too. When a church is trying to attract "customers" in its early stages of growth, their all about reaching out. Their all about doing things to bring new people into the church. In fact, that is often their primary focus. However, over time, we begin to move into maintenance mode where church becomes all about "us" as opposed to "them." The newness has worn off and our focus so easily shifts from the outside to the inside. In light of this, it would seem like a good idea for the church to always operate like it's our Grand Opening. Then, perhaps, church would be gaining customers rather than losing them.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
However, there is another form of criticism that I'll call the "Biting" kind that literally tears us up inside and can linger on in our memory for years - maybe even a lifetime (I don't know yet). It's the form of criticism that makes even the most gentle of us turn defensive in a big hurry. And, this is precisely the form of criticism that we see playing out with Job and his three "friends" in the opening chapters of the book bearing his name. Upright Job has been saddled with some pretty big obstacles to overcome. At first it was simply (or not so simply) trying to overcome the loss of his children, his livestock, and some other material possessions. Even through all that, Job continues to revere God despite his own wife's comments to curse him instead. Then, Job is tested a second time, only this time he's riddled with boils from head to foot - I would imagine that this was not a pleasant condition to say the least. Yet, despite all of this, Job only curses his birth. He then goes on to ask the difficult "why" type questions that I know I would have been asking if under the same sort of conditions. No, in fact, I would have probably cursed God by that point. Anyway, getting back to Job, he didn't curse God and yet he wasn't afraid to ask God some of the tough questions.
By this point in the story, Job's three friends have arrived and it's Eliphaz that responds first to what he's just heard Job say. Interestingly enough, Eliphaz first condemns Job for needing some encouragement. Job was apparently known for offering others words of encouragement but is now wavering himself when trouble strikes a little to close to home. I'm not sure about you, but this is probably not the first thing I'd want to hear out of the mouth of one of my supposed friends. Not to mention that Job's own wife was already criticizing him for his continued worship of God despite such grave circumstances. Then, as if that wasn't enough criticism to hear, Eliphaz essentially tells Job that he's a sinner. "Things like this don't happen to the just and upright. That's not how God works," Eliphaz is saying. Job, who knows his own heart better than anyone, including his wife and his closest friends, says otherwise.
All this to say, criticism like this hurts. It "bites" down hard and is equally hard to forget. When the story ends, Job has been given back more than he's lost (with the exception of his children who were killed). Still, I'm not sure he ever forgot the criticism that came from his wife or his friend Eliphaz. For the readers of this book in it's entirety, you know that even more criticism follows in the remainder of the 42 chapters. I say all this because I'm concerned with the scars that our "bite" can have on others. It's easy to criticize - let's make no qualms about it. It's part of our propensity to gossip and wanting to talk about the speck in others while we ignore the much larger log in our own life. Nonetheless, it's not right and it's not helpful, only hurtful. If your going to criticize, do so in a loving way. By doing so, you'll be remembered in a far better light than if your criticize with a bite. Scars take years to heal if they ever fully heal on this side of heaven.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Historically, and of course after Jesus' resurrection, every Sunday was considered a mini Easter of sorts. It was only later (around 300 A.D. ) that Lent was introduced as a means of preparing solemnly for Easter Week. Subsequently, in the middle ages, Lent became the primary emphasis of the Easter season. In more recent days, the emphasis hasn't changed as we spend a lot of time focusing on the suffering and the death of Jesus (i.e Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ) and little attention on what happens three days later. The idea, (which makes perfect sense) was that if one got really sad and sorrowful during the 40 days leading up to the Resurrection, then this will make the celebration of Easter all that much more exciting and joyful. However, in my view, we've lost balance here as we spend more time on this part of Easter at the expense of what follows the Resurrection. In fact, most Christians probably don't know that the early church focused almost exclusively on what happened in the 50 days that followed Easter that culminated on Pentecost.
My proposal this Easter and in the future celebrations of this Christian season, is that we focus less on the 40 days of Lent and more on the 50 days that come after Easter. In doing so, we will be more in line with the tenor of the early church that saw this time of the year as a reason for celebration not sorrow. And by doing so, maybe we'll begin to give the Cross its just due. After all, it's what comes after the Cross that provides the impetus for the phenomena known today as Christianity. The once cowardly disciples that we find in the Gospels look a whole lot different in the book of Acts.
Amen to that!
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Nevertheless, one band that I have liked since the beginning is the band called Relient K. Perhaps the best description of their work to date is Christian Punk Rock, although even that doesn't adequately describe the entirety of their musical catalog. With their last release a couple of years ago, they acheived more mainstream success and are now able to release their recordings on both a Christian label and a mainstream label. Having said all of this, their latest release (just released yesterday) titled Fore Score and Seven years, Relient K picks up where they left off when it comes to producing good music with a wholesome message. While the sound is a little less intense than Mmmm... (their last release), the overall sound is almost as catchy. I say almost because I was blown away with Mmmm. All of the songs were of such great quality that repeated listenings of the entire CD were warranted. Each song had a uniqueness about it that warranted this repeat listening. The trouble with this release, and a problem that Relient K ran into on some of their earlier releases, was some great songs that unfortunately sound too similar. While I like the album overall, only a few tracks really stand out as exceptional and unique.
Having said this, however, I'm glad to hear something new from the boys from Ohio. The lyrics are exceptional and at times rather humerous. Even with their mainstream success, they haven't stopped talking about their need for God and their summer is filled with dates at a variety of Christian music festivals throughout the country. While not their best work to date, it is certainly a worthy listen and one that I can't wait to hear again. In fact, maybe I'll listen to it right now...
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
A simple answer to Lou Gramm's vocals would be to have a look at I Corinthians 13 - what is commonly referred to as The Love Chapter. What Paul is saying here is that while we can have all these manifestations of the Spirit, it doesn't really matter if we don't have something else; that something else of course is love. We can have all the wisdom and knowledge in the world and yet we really have nothing. In the words of Solomon, a life without love is meaningless.
As I look over the characteristics of love found in verses 4 and following, I'm honestly a little bit troubled. I'm perplexed because I too, want to know what love is and I'm afraid that I don't have it? But it's right here, in these very verses that we find out precisely what love is and isn't. First of all, what is love? It is patient, kind, and rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Secondly, what love is not? It does not envy, it doesn't boast, it isn't proud. It is not rude, nor self seeking, and it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs and it doesn't delight in evil. Last of all, it never fails or ends.
Wow! What a list and yet how do we live up to such a high calling? How often am I patient and kind; content with my life as opposed to envious of others. As opposed to some of the other loves that we find in the greek language, the type of love Paul is referencing here has nothing to do with how we might feel. For example, we might not feel like doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom, but we know that by doing so we take some of the weight off the shoulders of our spouse so that they don't have to do it. That's agape love. Maybe we're in a situation where we could be everything but kind. In other words, we don't FEEL like responding in a kind way. Well, as before, the type of love Paul is talking about here has little if nothing to do with how we feel. It's about responding in a kind way despite our feelings to do the opposite. This too is agape love. It's an act of the will.
The simple fact is there may be days, weeks, or even longer periods where we might not feel "in love" with our husbands or our wives. This might be for a variety of reasons, but know this: we can still respond in a loving way. By an act of the will and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can respond with love despite how we might feel. So, if you want to know what love is, let not your feelings be your guide. Think of love as a verb instead.
Friday, January 12, 2007
I wanted to find this person so that I could thank them, but to be honest with you, it was dark and I wasn't paying any attention to who was in front of me. The car was a dark color - that's all I remember. As I was driving away, I quickly perused the parking lot looking for this person. He or she was apparently gone.
The thing that strikes me about this is that he or she didn't expect anything back in return. I didn't get a business card or anything. There is no way, as far as I can tell, how I could ever track down this person to thank them. Maybe if I was paying attention I could have gotten their license plate, but as I mentioned, that was the last thing on my mind. This person chose to bless me with a free cup of coffee expecting nothing in return. Writing and thinking about this still sounds weird.
I don't know if this person was a Christian or not but this is precisely what one might expect from someone that professes the Christian faith. Doing something like this to a neighbor, a friend, or as in this case, a complete stranger, is a random act of kindness that speaks volumes. I'm a believer and this speaks loud and clear to me. As Christians, we should be different. We should be doing things that show others how Christ is making a difference in our lives. Matthew 5:16 comes to mind: "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." In a book that I'm reading along with the leadership of the church, titled The Church of Irresistable Influence, it talks about the need for Christians to offer compelling proof. Our lives should build bridges of proof to the outside world around us. The authors then go on to make this rather startling point:
"If we [Christians] can't outlive the world at every point - in our marriages, with our children, at work, with money, in our relationships, in the use of our time - why dare to speak of salvation and the abundant life. Incarnation of the Word must precede and empower the proclamation of the Word. "
What are you doing that is building bridges of proof? How are you living your life so as to show others that you are different? The good news is that you and I can start building bridges of proof even today. After all, with coffee spots like Starbucks and others rising in popularity, the coffee is always on!