Thursday, November 29, 2012

Security- Jesus!

As our country deals with the difficult and complex issues, we seek security! Social security, national budget, cooperation on our nations’ direction, all these issues will take cooperative effort over a long period of time. These are all on our minds, and rightfully so. As we seek security in the programs that we depend on, we could lose sight of how to find ultimate security. We live, work, and play in a sea of human relationships and networks. We work toward finding common ground and the best solutions possible. But if this is our only security, then we are not very secure! As we listen to the voices of scripture, we hear the prophets foretell of the coming security of a coming King. Christ came to bring us a security that we seek but do not fully find from human sources. We may ask for our Lord to give us security, but he wants us to know that he is our security. There is a difference. We find a level of security as our Lord helps us in our human relationships, but it is in realizing our security is in the person of Christ that we find the peace in trusting him. Peace can grow among our brothers and sisters, as we trust him, but on this side of heaven is perfectly found only in the person of Christ. Let us not stop seeking peace and security in our society, while realizing that Christ is the one on whom it is found!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Need Some Space?

“I need some space!” You might hear this from someone who wants you out of their personal space so that they can have some alone time. We are created as people who have both needs, social and personal. We are healthiest with some of both, a balance. In the world around us, we have relational space everywhere we go and in all we do. The time and ‘space’ can be used to relate for different purposes. Some spaces are used by habit for particular purposes. We go to public spaces with people to socialize, to relate to each other. We create space for purposes. David had the desire to create sacred space for worshipping God. The tabernacle, the temple, the synagogue, the house church, and the modern church are all examples of making space for the sacred- relating to God, and God relating to us, together, relating to each other in the presence of God. But sacred space is always in transition! The tabernacle arose out of the need to have traveling sacred space for a traveling people. The temple was a located sacred space for a more located people. The house church developed, the modern church developed, and is still developing. Anywhere we gather in the name of Christ, we create sacred space. Today we have a challenge as God’s people: will we be able to think creatively about how we create sacred space? Can we not only come away into the places that we have known as sacred, but go out and make sacred the places and spaces where the sacred can be accessible? I trust that we all can allow ourselves to ponder this, and see the opportunities around us for making space for the sacred to unfold.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Uncompromised God in Our Compromised World

In our world of compromised motives and actions, the real mystery is the uncompromised promise we have of love and faithfulness. In the Old Testament book of Ruth we see every character with flaws  and double-speak conversations. People say one thing, imply another. They misspeak what others have said for their own advantage. Basic human dignity is compromised by unjust social, religious, and relational systems. Even the motives of God come into question, even if by mere implication. For example, the story begins with Bethlehem, ‘house of bread’ that has no bread. In a world where support for family comes from the man, all three major male characters die and leave three women without the support system upon which they for the most were forced to rely. The social and religious system for dealing with support of widows shows itself to be manipulated for personal gain. The mother and daughter-in-law relationship is one of manipulating each other (not that this is totally unimaginable!) The list goes on. We can relate to the situation of compromised motives and ethics in our world today. If we truly believe that ‘all have sinned and fallen short’, then we can see that it is truly amazing that we have the unconditional love relationship of our heavenly Father! How our Lord redeems our lives and our multiple issues is enough to inspire us to have faith and hope for our future! How is it that our nation, our church, our lives can be redeemed? Only through the only one who is uncompromised: our Holy God!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


‘Derived from sustainable sources’ is a phrase we see on products. Paper from sustainable forests. Ingredients from sources that renew themselves, and won’t run out. Sustainability is a big word now. We want a Federal budget that is sustainable. We want a social security system that is sustainable. We want communities with a sustainable source of needed resources. And we are concerned that if we do not find sustainability in all these areas, we will run out, run short, or stop functioning. It’s a big deal! We have to live with an eye to the future!

In the same way, our life is sustained by our Lord. It is only by his power and hand at work in our lives that we do not just endure, but live a constantly renewed and revitalized life!  As I’ve been reading about church history, especially in the first couple of generations after Christ, I see how difficult life was as our ancestors in the faith had their lives tried and tested with persecution, social upheaval, and inter-faith strife. It is amazing that their faith endured. But, it more than endured, it thrived! I want to live like that! I want our generation(s) to know the renewed and revitalized faith that can only come as we rely on our Sustainer, Jesus Christ! May these trying times so strengthen our relationship with Christ that His church shines bright!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Global Glue
Hebrews 1:1-4

Falling apart seems to be what much of our world does best! Governments fall apart, international relations break off, politics degrade to name-calling, and we deal with the brokeness accross the entire spectrum of life! But just as 'things' seem to fall apart in our world, we are reminded in Hebrews that Christ holds everything together! His powerful words speak thruth and wisdom for us. We have the power of our maker behind us as we face the powers of our world. We are held together, and so are our lives, as we follow Christ together. The glue of life is Christ, and we find him not just on our own, but together as his body. This Sunday is World Communion Sunday. It is such a privilage to belong to this family, and be welcomed to the table of life and salvation where no one is turned away, and our lives are mended and healed! This wonderful good news is that Christ is the true global glue!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Life- We have an App for that!

James 5:13-20

Apple recently came out with the iPhone 5. In a few days, over 5 million were sold! I do not have one, but have talked to some owners of iPhones, and the connection (no pun intended) they have to their phone is nearly a religious experience, as is evident in the overnight lines people waited in to be first in line for the newest model. It has a big, bright screen. It does lots of neat things. But the large number of applications available (‘Apps’) seems to be one big reason for its usefulness. There’s an app for almost everything! Apps for fun. Apps for business and accounting. But a major drawback is its application for navigation. As I understand the conversation going on about this- the GPS navigation maps are incomplete! A simple trip in which you use the phone to get you to your destination may not get you to your destination!

In life, we have many issues through which we must navigate. We have sorrows to pray through. We have joy to propel us into singing. We have sickness for which we approach our Lord for healing. We have oppression and violence in this world for which we cry out to God for justice and peace. All of this happens in our daily walk with the rest of the body of Christ, the church, the congregation. Our App for real life occurs in our spiritual family, the church. We come with our brokenness, and we find a life of healing and recovery of the joy of living. Our navigation system is not a new model, but a very old one, which can testify: this App, it works!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Live Well

How do we live well in a troubled world? This has been our human pursuit for millennia. Today 'Live Well' is a pursuit that includes a network, an app, a Facebook page, and more. Something tells us that there is a better way to fo life! So, we look to the advice of those whom we respect, and make note of the knowledge of how to live well that they have gleaned over a lifetime. We call it wisdom. We need it today as much as any time in history! In the third chapter of the New Testament book of James we hear that wisdom includes living well, living wisely, living humbly. It’s this humbly part that we need so desperately! Behind all the current violence and war, political bashing, and every kind of verbal wrangling, there is an atmosphere that is far from humble. And it is this that leads to skirmishes. That’s the situation that the letter of James addresses, and it reads like a prescription to today’s headlines! True wisdom, truly living well is shown in how much we understand that to live well we live at peace with each other. We seek mercy and blessing, and we find it if we choose to live it! We don’t find it in finger pointing, but we find it as we each, and we together, decide that as far as it depends upon us, we will live in peace. Jesus showed us this life of peace, of a Shalom that our hearts desire. Lord, give us the wisdom to live well, live wisely, live humbly! This is my prayer.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Captivity and Release

As I write this, police in bullet-proof vests are patrolling my neighborhood in hopes of apprehending, taking into custody, and eventually (it must be presumed) putting in captivity a crime suspect. It is disturbing! If this man is eventually taken captive, it is captivity by his own choice. If we break the law, we choose to put ourselves in the position of being captive for the offense.

Breaking the legal law of the land is not unlike breaking other relational agreements- a covenant between two people. We make choices on how we live- to keep or break our relational ‘law’ or relationship agreements. In 1 Kings Chapter 8 we hear Solomon address the people in terms of our needing to have God restore us from our relational trespasses. We all fall short, and are in the captivity of our poor choices. But God offers restoration. And this restoration is available to us by God’s design. In Solomon’s day, it was his request that God do this in the temple which he built to God’s glory. Much later, Jesus tells us that he will build his temple among us- we are the temple, all of us as his body, the relational space and place within which grace and redemption can happen. When we are this body of Christ, we offer a relational space where people are set free by the spirit of Christ that is dwelling among us. God is so ready to make a home among us! His spirit is so able to be the healing and restoration! As I end this blog, the authorities are still chasing our suspect, and resolution does not seem close. But just as I pray for our officers, the suspect, and a safe resolution, I pray for God’s restoration of us all. It’s a process, and as God’s people, may we all see that we all play a role in God’s redemption coming into this world!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Filling The World With A Love Song

Where were you on April Fool’s Day 1976? I remember well a song that was released that day. It was written by Linda and Paul McCartney, and performed by Wings on their album Wings at The Speed of Sound (see Wikipedia.) If you haven’t guessed by now, these lyrics will give it away:
You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs.
But I look around me and I see it isn't so.
Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs.
And what's wrong with that?
Id like to know, cause here I go again
I love you, I love you,
I love you, I love you,

it’s Silly Love Songs.  I remember the first time I heard it. It made me pause and think about how we are stuck on love songs.  According to  wiki.answers, 78% of top songs are love songs. It’s 60% according to a 2007 study by the University of Florida, as published in the May 31, 2007 article in the Gainsville news.
We crave songs about love. Being loved. Loving someone. Finding the words to say I love you. Even some silly, foolish songs about love can be very popular. Justin Beiber is expected to sell over 400,000 copies of his recent Believe album, with a style of music including lyrics such as “Baby, baby, baby; baby baby, baby.’ Not especially imaginative. But oh how we crave a love song.
We are wired to love. To give and receive love. To live with love as our emotional, physical, and spiritual atmosphere. Of all the things that our culture may get wrong, innately sensing the need for love is something that we can get right, even if our society sometimes does not express it in a particularly holy way.
But it is this holy love that will not let us go that we hear in the Psalmist as we ready Psalm 111. We hear of a love that is well deserved. As we ‘sing’ this Psalm, we remember all the good reasons to be in love with the one who loves us best. This is the atmosphere we were meant to live in. This is the kind of song we can sing over and over and never tire of.  Maybe it’s our job, or privilege, those who call on the name of Jesus, to so live in love that our life speaks like the lyrics of a beautiful love song.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

News We Listen To 2009
It’s been an exciting 30th Olympiad in London! To see the Fabulous 5, Mark Phelps, and Missy Franklin win has been welcome news that we love to listen to. But in recent years we haven’t been listening as much to the traditional sources of the news. Newspaper sales are down. Many news agencies have cut back considerably, and fewer reporters are being sent out now to collect the reports. People don’t believe in the accuracy of much reporting. According to people news, people are believing less of the news (see chart.) But there is more talking going on electronically now. People are less willing to listen to ‘experts’ on the news of the day, but want to listen more to people they know and choose. So what? It means that we have more opportunity now than ever in being speakers of good news. And we have the opportunity to tell the good news truthfully. Since the truth of our Lord sets us free from the darkness of life, we have more power now than ever to witness to the light of Christ, to a world that wants, needs, and longs for the healing that Christ brings. So let’s not grow weary in speaking the truth of Christ in love, the world really is listening for some good news!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


What a news story! Julie Ogden, from New Jersey, drove all the way to Hinesville, Georgia to bring a lost dog back home. Juile had seen that the dog was 2 hours from being euthanized if not adopted from a shelter, and took the dog home. Then, when she saw that the dog’s owners were looking for their dog, who had gotten out of their back yard when a storm blew away the fence, she just had to get her back home. A whole caravan of people- cars, vans, motorcycles, all took this dog back to Belinda and Terrel Stevenson’s home. Belinda’s husband, Johnny ‘Pops’ Brooks Stevenson, Jr., had lost his life serving in Afghanistan. Their dog, Savannah, was very close to Pops, and was a sweet reminder of him after his untimely death at age 51. The extent to which people would go to get this dog home, and comfort this family, was a big enough news story for the NBC nightly news. Homecomings are big news! It is just like our heavenly father, whose heart is longing for us and has made a way for our return. No barrier is too big for our God to bust through and get us home, if we will let ourselves be rescued by the one who loves us best!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Designed to be Loved

Home Design. Interior design. Designer clothes. I remember when designer jeans were the hot new rage! The idea is that special attention went into a special product. In Ephesians 1:3-14 we see that we were especially designed to be loved by God! Even before the incredible beauty of our earth was thought of, we were thought of! How awesome! It’s so inspiring to look at the way our earth was designed, how breathtaking the views that only his intelligent design could create. But to think that we were in mind before any of this, is enough to humble me, and make me pause in the wonder of it! Take time today, and pause in the wonder of the love of our heavenly father, who took great pleasure making you, to love you now and forever!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Second Leap of Faith

Choosing to believe is like opening a door to a multitude of possibilities! In Mark 6:1-13 we see Jesus in his own hometown. Though he did many miracles in other towns and cities, he did few here. Why? Because they said, ‘He’s just that little kid we watched grow up!’ (Rough translation!) Jesus had just spoken eloquently at their meeting place. They were initially impressed. But the people let their preconceived ideas about Jesus close the door to all the wonders that could have been through the Son of God! How often do we do the same?

We limit what God can do when we do not believe in him. God is ready to do more than we could think, ask, or imagine. But for those of us who have made the leap of faith to really believe in God, do we still limit God when we refuse to make the next leap of faith to see the Jesus in his children? Yes. How many things does God want to do through all his children around us? Only God knows. And if we want to know, see, and experience all these kingdom possibilities, then let us pray that the Lord opens the eyes of our hearts to see that no one is just [fill in the blank!]. May we believe in God, and his children!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Healing Adventure

Everyone wants a healing. We see it in Mark 5:21-43, and several other places in the Gospels. When news of Jesus’ power to heal spread, a crowd gathered and pressed in.  Physical healings he did, but to all he did and still does offer inner healing. We are his body. As we are healed ourselves, and gather to form his body, we offer to the world the possibility of the inner healing as only Christ can bring. It means that, just like Jesus, people may be attracted to our fellowship because they are in need of healing. Jesus must have become weary with all the ones seeking healing. But he carried out his mission. And so must we. Being his body brings with it the mission of being the healing presence in a hurting world. What an awesome adventure we have been chosen to embark upon!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Jesus Needs a Few Good Pioneers

Stories from the frontier are inspiring and mind-boggling!
The frontier culture demanded that you look at a wilderness with no roads and see a road. You saw a meadow with no shelter and saw a home. Your school, your church, and your community were the ones which you envisioned, and determined that you and your new pioneering neighbors would craft with your own hands, God being with you. That pioneering culture brought the vision of a new community to reality.
But something happens when we go from pioneer to settler. Pioneer culture assumes that we have to put our own hand with God’s hand to make the vision a reality.  But soon after we become settlers, we become accustomed to what has already been created, and we can become comfortable with what is, or, at least, begin to stop envisioning what could become reality, if we dare to dream and do.
In 2 Corinthians 4, we are reminded that in God’s kingdom, we don’t always see what is about to become. In this awesome passage, you can just hear what makes pioneering culture work! God just loves to take challenging circumstances, wilderness scenes in our life, and build a new reality where it seems impossible! But to take this and other scripture in context, this is not just our sitting and daydreaming! The context of scripture lets us know that we dream and do right along with God, who gave us brains, hearts, and muscle, because the dreaming and doing go together!

Whatever our circumstances today, may we not dream human size dreams, and live humanly explainable lives! Let us join God in dreaming and doing God-sized visions of our new Kingdom of God community!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I See Him Now!

yahoo news
850,000 people in Milan today, Sunday, June 3rd, 2012, crowed to see Pope Benedict XVI and worship. In the middle of a Vatican Scandal and a world with many troubles, people still want a glimpse of God’s kingdom! It was like that for the Old Testament Prophet, Isaiah (see chapter 6 verses 1 through 8.) A national leader had just died; there was the threat of instability in politics, society, finances, religion. But the word from God was not news of any of this, at least not yet. The big revelation of god was this: Here I Am! In all God’s glory, he made himself known. How many of our problems seem so big, until compared to our God?! Isaiah had a picture of God with which to face the challenges of the day. So do we! The wisdom, knowledge, and inspiration we need is secondary to the one we need: our Lord. Seeking him first, and then facing life with knowledge of him, our problems are cut down to size!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Golden Opportunities-More Than a Memory!

AP photo
75 years ago, May 28th, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to traffic. In 1933 the economy was horrible. Spirits were down. No wonder it was called the Great Depression. We now look back and know that those tough times were about to improve. It did not look that way at the time. But a group of determined people had a vision. It was a vision that would take wide support, hard work, resources, and sustained effort. With these values, the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed in about 5 years, opening up a vastly improved route across the San Francisco Bay. It broke records and became a lasting reason for pride in the awesome accomplishment. It is hard to believe now that it faced fierce opposition. People said it would hurt the city and area. They had fears that the bridge would open up such access to the city that it would be impossible for the military to protect the city. But the majority voted in favor of it. And with focus and undiminished determination, the vision became reality.
This is but one of many examples of the power of human agreement. But we see in Acts chapter 2 the power of human agreement coupled with agreement to the purposes of God’s kingdom.  The power that results is so great that even those who witness it are confounded.
Today we, too, face many obstacles. We find power in banding together for all kinds of causes. But when we band together for the cause of God’s kingdom, even in the toughest of times, there is so much power in His spirit! And it is the power to let Christ’s good news be known. Hard times are a ’golden’ opportunity for us to let God’s spirit inhabit our banding together for the cause of Christ! Let’s give the following generations the memory of us being one for our Lord!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

God's Favorite Number

As Jesus passed the Kingdom baton to his disciples,  (John 17:6-19) he prayed that they be one. They were an eclectic group. They were very different in background, occupation, and personality. But he clued them into the fact that if they could be one in the kingdom purpose, the resulting body of believers who were receiving this holy baton would be blessed in the mission. Jesus passed on more than just a set of skills. He gave a purpose. The purpose was timeless. But the application of the purpose would be ever unfolding in each time and place. The purpose would be hammered out in each of us as believers in an unchanging God, who is present with us as we face new circumstances.
Our personalities and opinions are a wide variety. But even in our uniqueness, our purpose and focus is on the kingdom, which Jesus described to us. As John Wesley reminded us: in essentials, unity, in all else,  charity.  Let’s practice God’s favorite number!

Monday, May 14, 2012

All in the Family

 Mother’s Day cannot help but bring back many memories of family. I remember in 1971 when our family sat down and watched another family: the #1 Neilson rated All in the Family. Millions tuned in and laughed at how Archie (played by Carroll O’Conner) embodied so many forms of blatantly bigoted behavior. As America laughed, it took a look at itself and how it treated each other.  America resonated enough with the themes to keep it at the #1 spot for 1971-1976, a record for the time.
Acts 10:44-48- takes another look at how one group has looked down upon another in our religious ‘family.’ It represents one of many ways in which we could fail to see our family resemblance and our common position as receivers of the love, blessings, and gifts from our heavenly Father.
Life is full of opportunities to see each other as brothers and sisters, with one heavenly father. And if we will all take a good, long, honest look at how we draw our lines as the family of God, we have a long way to go.
Let’s all pray for God to change our hearts. The power of his reconciling love can overcome the long-standing walls we have built. He designed us to truly be all in the family. Let it be! (It’s more than a John Lennon song!)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Are You Ready for a Miracle?!

Are You Ready for a Miracle?

IMP awards Rick Law-PJC
In the 1992 film, Leap of Faith, phony faith-healer Jonas Nightingale (Steve Martin) is stopped in his tracks when a real miracle occurs (see clip: Leap of Faith) It's a touching story about the power of faith to perform miracles, including a physical healing and an end to a natural disaster, drought. As inspiring as these miracles are, we are reminded in Acts chapter 8 of a greater miracle.
Phillip, and the rest of the believers, have come under intense persecution, and they have even seen one of their own stoned to death. Even so, people were receiving physical healings. Enter into the story an 'Etheopian Eunic' who has traveled a great distance to find answers to life, and is returning home, still not coming to any understanding of any good news for his life. How out of place would one feel if they are not even known by name, but just by ethnicity and the inability to have children by surgical procedure?! The encounter between these two, both with struggles and heartaches of their own, both outcasts of some sort, is a miracle. They are at the same place at the same time for the same purpose. The spirit of God orchestrated the meeting. The Word of God was the guiding truth that got explained. It was the working together of spirit and truth. And the healing that took place was this: a searching heart found peace with God.
This is God's plan of salvation: that we live daily by both spirit and truth, that all may know the healing that lasts forever! Are we ready for some miracles?!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Cure for Post-Pardon Depression

 How ironic is it that after the resurrection of Christ, his disciples initially were down and depressed? Just picture the disciples on the Emmaus road, so distracted by their own issues that they could not recognize Jesus walking beside them. The greatest event of all time, our pardon thru the Christ event, had just happened, and these two disciples are talking about how disappointed they are!
It’s merely being human to be disappointed, and see that the world, even post resurrection, looked, and still looks, unredeemed! Just because we begin a relationship with Christ, and accept the pardon he paid for, does not mean that the world in which we live will be an encouraging evidence of completeness! But if we can get our mind around the fact of what Christ did, and choose daily to allow the Lord to give the eyes of our heart his vision, we do not have to be depressed! We can choose to believe, and let him explain to us the way things really are, just like the two disciples in Luke 24:13-32 then we can have a kingdom perspective on life. We can see thru his eyes the reality of complete pardon, even while living in a world not yet complete in regeneration. We can walk out our faith choice on our road. This Christ-given insight into the walk of faith is the cure for our Post Pardon Depression! So, today, let’s not start with our day informing us how incomplete it is, let’s begin with letting Christ reminding us how complete is his redeeming work!  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Road to Blessing!

In the 133rd Psalm, a song on the road to the Holy City, David says how great it is when we all get along! It is a short Psalm, and has the tone of a dream to be realized, a far-off land which we long for, and seek, but do not often find. Our scripture is an honest look at our human condition! Scripture chronicles the many attempts we’ve made in trying to become one, both failures and some levels of success. In the book of Acts, high levels of unity were achieved, and sustained for a time, with phenomenal results. Unity is a lofty goal. When we realize that we really can progress toward this goal, real progress, then we will be much closer to that state of being. And, yes, it is a goal which God promises to bless! And, surely our steps of progress in this direction are blessed steps, well worth our diligent efforts!

Just Like I Said

 “Like I said…” It’s probably not been long since you’ve said this or heard this! It’s not easy convincing people of some things. Sometimes they just have to experience it for themselves. Then they are surprised that things are just as they had been told! I’m sure you could fill in several examples here!
It’s exactly the case with Easter. The disciples and other friends of Jesus were shocked to find out that Jesus was alive. It’s not that the scriptures were devoid of descriptions of the event. And Jesus himself gave a precise description of the events leading up to, and including, his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. But it still took them by ‘surprise’! We look back and wonder how anyone could be surprised, but don’t we do the same thing?
The story of life is told in detail: here’s how life works. Here’s where we came from, here’s where we are heading, here’s how redemption comes, from God through Christ. Life does get complicated, but at the core, it really is just as we are told!

The ‘just like he said’ idea in this blog may be seen (among other places) in Mark 16:1-8

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Door Buster

Damascus Gate.
 A couple of days ago my wife and I heard a loud bang at 5a.m.  It was the back door of our back porch. Our beloved dog, Lili, had just jumped on the door and burst right through it! At about 78 pounds of raw instinctive might, she had apparently just seen a squirrel or cat, and decided to save the world single handedly (paws actually.) Her instinct to get through that door was amazing!  (I caught her before she had a chance to get at any small creatures-no animal was harmed in the illustration of this blog.)
We all have times that we must wait for God to open the door to the next chapter in our life. We want to bust it open, pray it open, wish and hope it open, but really it takes an act of God!
As Jesus burst through the gates of Jerusalem to face his life’s mission, the real work was not just a happy entrance through that door. It was in his life’s work in the days to come after going through that door.
It’s the same with us. God makes a way for new chapters. But then, there is plenty of work for us to be about, as we follow (not lead) our Savior in the work of the kingdom. Jesus is the door Buster. We’re the followers and servants. It’s a great arrangement!

For the story of the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, see John 11:1-11.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Like Honey
Honey attracts. So does Jesus! He told us “as I am lifted up,…[I] will attract everyone to me…” (from John 12:20-33, The Message)  I got a chance this week to once again see a child of God profess faith in Christ! It came after years of one woman seeing Jesus in others. It came in the great personal suffering of her own, and in those in whom she saw Jesus, even as they, too, had sufferings.

The light of Christ shines bright even when, or perhaps especially when, we are in far from ideal circumstances. After all, the cross was an unspeakable suffering, yet Christ brought us new life through his own suffering, death, and resurrection. The addition of souls to God’s kingdom happens as God does a work that only he can do in hearts, while he desires to shine through us, using each of us uniquely as those whom he created us to be.

What a mystery! Only our Lord can do a restoration within a soul, yet he wants to make us instruments through which people come to this awesome place in their lives! It’s awesome to know, and, awesome to witness as people come the saving knowledge of Christ! May this harvest of souls keep on coming!  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thank God for more Paperwork
As I was preparing for entering weekly statistics for my congregations, It must have been God, reminding me of the importance of the figures. I had just read Ephesians 2:1-10. But it took an ‘elbowing’ from God to refresh my memory of the meaning of it all. Besides financial figures, attendance, small group numbers, is a line with a blank to be filled in: How many professions of faith this week. In other words, because of the witness to who Jesus is, how many people have chosen to come to know Christ and his salvation? I must confess, when I learned that our churches would have not just yearly or periodically, but weekly more paperwork, thanksgiving was not an immediate response. But it is now. Accountability for being who we say we are in Christ, and loving others into the fellowship of believers is a core issue!  
I thank God for our denominations leadership, to get in our face and ask: How many people came to Christ because of you this week?
There isn’t a greater joy than knowing that a soul came to know Christ, and we have the privilege of being a bearer of this awesome story of salvation, available for the asking, and worthy of walking it out daily.
Not too long ago, I had the privilege of ‘filling in a blank.’ A lady who had been living in the small rural community surrounding one of my churches called me. She had been friends with one of our members all her 80-some years, and the decades of seeing the fruit of a life of one who consistently loved Jesus drew her to make a long-overdue decision. With more joy than I can express she professed her faith in our small church gathering, was baptized, and is now a member.  
I look forward to more ‘paperwork.’

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Difference Between Sense and Nonsense: Jesus

When Jesus tried to explain the path of his life, even the closest disciples struggled to make sense it! Through speaking of the gospel- the good news of Jesus Christ making the way for us, we can make sense of life today. And there is no other way to make sense of all the details of life! Jesus explained it many ways: the last will be first, serve instead of being served, and choose to believe in him when the world tells you to believe in all else. The mysteries of life go from cloudy to clear in the light of the cross.
Jesus showed us that it is in the person of the savior, is our way. His passionate actions at the temple courts (John 2:13-22) remind us that even the institution of the church cannot take precedence over the person of the Savior. Not just the possessions of this earth, but even our system of religion itself can become an idol, if we let it. But when we and the church are bowing our heart’s knee to the Savior, sense can come to life and our life together, a blessed and holy life as His church, an instrument for bringing salvation to the world.
But all this, the hope of the world, only comes when Jesus is #1!  

This blog is inspired by this Sunday’s lectionary passages: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; and John 2:13-22

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What's My Way?
Who can forget the line from The Princess Bride, when Andre the Giant, portraying Fezzik, wants to know how to kill Westly?

Vizzini: Finish him. Finish him, your way.
Fezzik: Oh good, my way. Thank you Vizzini... what's my way?
Vizzini: Pick up one of those rocks, get behind a boulder, in a few minutes the man in black will come running around the bend, the minute his head is in view, hit it with the rock.
Fezzik: My way's not very sportsman-like.

It’s good for one of many laughs! But it’s not so funny in the Gospel of Mark when those who have been around Jesus don’t recognize his ways! Even Peter, the one who seemed to understand best who Jesus was in the conversation just before (Mark 8:27-29, Jesus: ‘Who do people say that I am?’ Peter: ‘You are the Messiah’)  now has no clue The Ways in which Jesus wants to be this Messiah.

There are so many ways! My Way (see Sinatra,) Their Way, the Easy Way, the Hard Way, the Old-Fashioned way….and Jesus says ‘Let me teach you my way (Mark 8:34-37.) He wants us to let him let us in on the mysterious ways he works, in the present day, today. His ‘secrets’ of how he works are only secret if we are out of listening range.
Sitting at his feet and listening is still the highest place on earth.  There’s no shortcut to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. But the teacher is ready to instruct. He is ready to share. He’s ready to let us in on what in the world he’s up to.
Lord, speak! We’re listening!

This Sunday’s Gospel lectionary reading, Mark 31-38, speaks of Jesus trying to tell his disciples that they need to let him teach them his ways. Above are some of my thoughts on this.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Many of us are inspired when we see a really good race! I am when it’s on two wheels! But for the biggest races, they don’t just let anyone get out on the track! There are all kinds of rules for making sure you are qualified to be on the track! Not the least of these is passing several times of testing you and your equipment to see if you are literally up to speed! It makes perfect sense both for the integrity of the race, and the safety of all involved. (The picture at right is of Filippo Preziosi on a test ride at Spain’s Jerez MotoGP)

So, we should not think it strange that in spiritual matters, the Lord thinks that we, too, should go through times of testing and qualifying before we can be ready to go on the spiritual ‘race.’ In this season of Lent, where we prepare for life’s race, let’s remember that Jesus himself did not escape this process. (see Mark 1:9-15) The first thing that happened after Jesus was baptized into this calling was to be led right into 40 days of testing and trying in the wild. We do not have to consider the tests, trials, and wilderness of life a distraction or journey away from our race, they can be the very training ground, the testing and trying, that qualifies us for the high calling of bringing the light of Christ to the world!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Light Bulb Moment

It’s so frustrating when you’re trying to get a point across, or trying to understand the point someone else is trying to communicate, and the point is just not getting across! And, it’s such a relief when, the point dawns on you (or them!) and it’s like a light turns on! As we read the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9, it seems incredulous to us that even Jesus’ three closest disciples, Peter, James and John, just do not get it! Even when Peter correctly identifies Jesus title as Messiah, he still does not believe Jesus when he says how he’s going to be Messiah. Jesus lays it out plainly- he details his suffering as God’s plan to defeat evil. But they still can’t fathom how this Kingdom can come in such a strange, painful way.
Even when God comes in great light before them on Jesus, their minds are still in the dark!
Is it any different for us today? Unless we can see today’s suffering in light of how Jesus brought life, light, and the kingdom through suffering and overcoming, then we are still in the dark! We have so many ways in which we want to bypass pain, suffering, and persevering, that we also bypass the light and the solution. We bailout faltering banks. We pretend that as a nation we don’t have balance our ‘checkbook’ (this won’t fly for our personal bank accounts!) We want a medication for every pain.
But Jesus didn’t just give us words or political doublespeak or a pill to avoid our pain and suffering- he showed us that we can face the worst pain, suffering, and evil that the world can dish out, and come through alive and well!
As we soon begin this season of Lent, praying and listening to God in these 40 days before celebrating the Easter resurrection life; may we face our Lord and our sufferings fully expecting to overcome!

This blog is inspired by the Gospel reading for this Sunday’s Lectionary passages, Mark 9:2-9, which tells us of Jesus ‘Transfiguration’ a miraculous, revealing appearance of God’s presence, a great light.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

More Healing

Gracyn DenBesten
Praying for healing. We had prayed for many people for healing. This is one case we will never forget. We had been praying for a young girl, Gracyn DenBesten. At age 9 her heart began to fail. She was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a genetic heart disease. As her condition worsened, the prayer chain sent out emails, calls, and tweets. When her heart finally beat its last, she was connected to a machine to keep her alive, and the search continued for a heart donor. A heart transplant was the only cure. She had a limited window of opportunity to have the surgery done in time. Each day, Gracyn would sing along with Kari Jobe’s song: Healer. We had been praying for some time when the news came: a 15 year-old boy in Miami, Fl had died tragically in an automobile accident, and his heart was being donated. On April 15, 2009, Gracyn received this young boys’ heart.  We all prayed that the surgery would be a success. In June, she returned to her church, First Baptist Church, Orlando, for the first time. We knew her presence was an answer to prayer, a miraculous healing. Gracyn was asked to come on stage and join the praise team as the song which just happened to be in the plan to be sung was her song: Healer. The normally composed congregation wept, I know, I was one of them, as we heard Gracyn sing of her faith in God, her healer, in whom she believed. You can see the video of this: Here are the lyrics: 

Healer (Kari Jobe, 2009 Gateway Create Publishing)
You hold my every moment
You calm my raging sea
You walk with me through fire
and heal all my disease
I trust in You, I trust in You
I believe You're my healer
I believe You are all I need

I believe

This was a physical healing, and it was awesome. But when Jesus reminded us in Mark 1:29-39, his purpose was to tell people the good news about a whole life healed. He wants to heal more than just ailments, though that’s a part of it. He wants us to be whole, in absolutely every way. As I remember how awesome Gracyn’s healing was, I can only try to imagine how awesome the healing is that Jesus plans for us all!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Determined To Win!
Play to win! Seems sort of obvious, but we all want to win! I’m sure the athletes for this Sunday’s Super Bowl, both the NY Giants and the New England Patriots, represent countless hours of training, being coached, practicing, all with the intent of finishing with winning the big game!
Despite all these efforts, even the most trained athlete can be disqualified! There are rules to this game! As I did just a little research, I found that there are literally pages of possible penalties! Some seem a bit obscure to me, but some are really obvious:
WTHR/Ron Stienman
-Show up on the field on time! There’s a 5 yard penalty just for not starting either half on time (so, if Madonna runs over on the half time show, can she get the 5 yard penalty?!)
-Kick the ball, NOT a player! 10 yard penalty for this, and, it applies to your own team as well as the opponents!
-Be a sport! Flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct will not only get you a 15 yard penalty, it will get you disqualified.
How shameful would it be to go to the great lengths all these professionals do to win, and then choose to play in a way that gets you disqualified? Punching the official, dragging a player by the facemask, tripping a player, or any other unsportsmanlike action is just not allowed if you want to stay in the game!
Apostle Paul in his letter to fellow Christians (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) tells them how he plans to win. He trains hard. He stays alert. He lives purposefully, so as not to get disqualified.
We, like Paul, keep our eye on the goal, mindful and respectful of our common victory, so that we will never be distracted and disqualified. We live respecting others. We live with conduct becoming of one who keeps victory in mind!
Sunday’s Super Bowl winner is yet to be determined. But we are determined, and so is our win!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Occupy US!

Yahoo/AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
While our nation grapples with all sorts of unanswered questions, including how to handle the current difficult economy, one Ohio Hardware Store, a mom-and-pop shop for 155 years, recently experienced an ‘Occupy Ohio Cash-mob.’ A friend of the Shutts Family, owners of Chagrin’s Hardware, knew that they had been through hard times, not the least of the pressures coming from the big chain stores, but also local road construction on Chagrin Falls Main Street, which hampered business. But when a friend, Jim Black, noticed their struggle, he had an idea that he and his friends could help. He emailed his friends, and asked them all to go to Chagrin’s Hardware Store on Saturday, January 21, and spend at least $20. They did. And so did a whole lot of others! They lined up before the store opened, they formed lines that would last all day, they came not necessarily needing anything, except knowing that their heart was moved to action. The store had an overwhelmingly profitable day! (see pictures)

Apostle Paul reminded us to do the same thing (1 Corinthians 8:1-13) in a very different context, but still on this same idea: act from a tender heart. It’s not enough just to be right in our thoughts and actions. We can also be thinking and acting according to a heart occupied with thoughtfulness toward the effect we have on others.
Yahoo/AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
What difference would it make to not only think rightly, but think and act out of a heart occupied with tenderness? Ask anyone from Chagrin Falls, Ohio; or, better yet, take a look at the Photo of friends Cheryl Black, Sherry Williams, and owner Jack Shutts. This Occupy Movement just might work!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Miraculas Save!

Google Image/ABC News
A miraculous save!  A mother and her two young children dangled precariously from the freeway bridge near Buellton, California, after a gravel truck hit them and the truck plunged into the creek bed below. Tragically the driver of the truck died, but what happened next is incredible! Santa Barbara firefighters attending the accident knew that what they really needed was a forklift to lift the vehicle from its position teetering on the edge of the bridge- when guess what just happened by? A forklift, with Navy Seabees trained to use it! Today the mother and two children are alive to witness to the miraculous save.

After seeing an incident like this, we find ourselves thinking: someone must really be looking out for their safety! It reminds me of the kind of heavenly father who tells his servant (see Old Testament book of Jonah) how concerned he is about some of his children, and asks Jonah to go tell them of how dangerous a road they are traveling, and they are putting their lives in danger unless they decide to change course. And the people God wants to save are not Jonah’s favorite. In fact, they are enemies!   

This little book may be the fodder for many a simple childhood story about a man swallowed by a whale (actually, a big fish, but you know how we like to embellish!) who is a reluctant messenger for God. But for us adults, we come away from the story with more questions than answers!  How could God ask us to save the enemy? How do we know they are not going turn on us and attack us? The countries had a history of attacks against each other. But still God wants Jonah to help set the people on a path other than the one to destruction.

With all the questions the story gives us, perhaps this is exactly where we need to be in our minds. Asking the right kind of questions- questions like: if God has compassion on even this group of people, why does it surprise us that he wants us to have compassion as well? Questions like this just might make us question all kinds of our assumptions about how we relate to all kinds of people, groups, and nations. It just might make us search our hearts and see if we have the same heart as God, looking for one merciful save after another.

Maybe this is exactly what Jesus had in mind when he said: ‘Ask and it shall be given unto you.’ What we could get in return is a heart like the Father, and a world on a less precarious path. That’s a miraculous save.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mr. Know It All

“Mr. Know It All” is Kelly Clarkson’s  #1 song on Billboard’s Chart of top Adult Pop Songs for the week of January 21, 2012.  It’s a clear expression of disgust at an arrogant person, along with the expression of the need to get away from the Mr. Know it all. We can relate to the feeling! Arrogance doesn’t make for close relationships!

What a contrast is the picture of our endearment to the one who really knows it all, God. God knows us completely, (see Psalm 139). Yet it is with the most  tender and loving care that God lets us give full vent to every frustration of life. We can lay our heart and mind and life before him, and let him tell us like it is, and know that the one who knows us best also treats us best.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Order: Life's Holy Punctuation

‘It matters where we begin.’ The Israeli shop-keeper told me. I thought I had asked a simple question, how to interpret the Hebrew inscription on my wedding ring. My wife and I had just been married in Tiberius, Israel, and my custom-made-to-size ring was in Hebrew, supposedly with the quote from Song of Solomon which they tell me is said in a Hebrew wedding ceremony: ‘I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me.’ That’s what the jeweler in the States told me it said, but I wanted to know from someone who actually spoke the language and had no stake in making a sale! For all I knew, I was wearing the Hebrew equivalent to ‘I’m a monkey’s uncle!’ The first person I asked looked at the ring, immediately took it to another, who took it to yet another, the shop-keeper in our Hotel, and they all looked at it with a puzzled look, until one of them pointed to a word on the ring, then they all turned to me and gave me the quote I was expecting. They also told me why it took so long to figure it out. The ring is a circle, and with no punctuation, you had to first determine where it begins. Then it’s easy.

Life is like that. It matters where we begin. The first words in our Christian (Hebrew origin) scripture remind us: we begin with God. (see Genesis 1:1-5) To begin anywhere else begins and ends in confusion. Life makes sense when we begin with God. And God begins making order and sense by beginning to literally put things into place. Light separate from dark. Day and night. Order, season, rhythm. 

Every day we begin with God. We are given the power each day to choose light over darkness. We choose to set boundaries in wise ways, which give shape to a joyful way of life. God gave us such a tremendous gift when he gave us the power to make life-giving choices.

Scripture shows us how to make life-giving choices because we have a God who is a life-giver!  Life at the beginning, life in the end, and life all along the way!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

All My Children

 How fitting it is that God would come to us on our own level. To a world that loves to see people on different levels, with some superior to others, he came simply, on our level. The idea is that we are all God’s children, and heirs to salvation, heirs to a life of freedom to live joyfully responding to his loving actions toward us. It is truly freeing to realize that we do not have to earn a relationship with God, or earn a place in God’s family!  We do not have to live as spiritual orphans, but as children with full rights to be happy in our Lord!

Galatians 4:4-7 is the inspiration for this blog, where Apostle Paul admonishes Christians not to allow their spiritual heritage in Christ to be hijacked by ‘old-school, earn-your-way-to-God’ spiritual bullies.