Friday, January 31- Lord, Help Me be the Person My Dog Thinks I Am!

     “Lord, help me be the person my dog thinks I am!” Have you heard that expression before? It makes me laugh every time I hear it! And, as a “dog person”, I get it…completely!
     I have been a “dog person” my whole life. Growing up in farm country, we had lots of animals. There was General, the Tennessee Walking horse. There was a BUNCH of chickens and a handful of roosters. There was the group of guinea fowl. There was the rather large Tom turkey and his mate. There was the pair of sheep who took up temporary residence in our yard. There were LOTS of cats- mostly of the barn variety but also some house cats. Charlie, who looked rather a lot like Morris from the cat food commercials, stands out in the house cat category!
     But above all the other animals, there were the dogs. Just the ones I remember include: Ginger, Hans, Snoopy, Josh, Pete, Tina, Play-Doh, Chi Sai, Bud and now…Zoey and Nessie. I remember each one of them, specifically and fondly. They came from a wide variety of places. They were an eclectic mix of breeds and sizes. Some were frighteningly smart while others, well, let’s just say they didn’t stay in the gene pool quite long enough!
     But what I remember most about each of them is their love and dedication. Dogs are like that, aren’t they? It doesn’t matter if you are gone 10 minutes or 10 days- they are SO excited to see you when you get back! It’s as if nothing else matters when you walk through the door. All they care about is…you! 
     There are very few humans who consistently act that way when you come home, right? Even the people closest to you have good days and bad days. Oh sure, they love you and are glad to see you, but they also have other inputs into their lives that impact how they greet you,
     But maybe it’s no accident that “dog” backwards is…”God”! My dog is maybe the best tangible example of how God feels about us. Regardless of what we’ve done, regardless of where we’ve been, regardless of how long we may have strayed from His presence, He is always glad to see us, always welcomes us home.
     Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go love on my dog! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus! 
     Tomorrow- We Are in Good Hands!

Thursday, January 30- What Do YOU Pray For?

     This week’s topic in the Bible Study my wife and I are currently teaching (9AM and 1:30PM on Tuesdays and 6PM on Wednesdays!) was prayer. Each week, we look at one of the parables of Jesus and see how it applies to our lives. This week’s parable was the Widow and the Judge. The widow has a beef with someone and wants the judge to provide her with a modicum of justice. He doesn’t want to, but she is VERY persistent and he finally relents…because he is tired of her hounding him and a bit worried about she might do TO him!

     The point of the lesson was about dedication and persistence. The author of the study then extrapolated those traits out to our prayer life. It was suggested that we should be as dedicated and persistent as the widow in the story when it comes to prayer.

     In the course of the class, I asked the question, “So, are we supposed to pray for what WE want…or for GOD’S will to be done?” We all chuckled and said, “Yes!” But the truth of that matter is that those two choices seem VERY different. How in the world can you do BOTH?

     The Bible seems pretty clear that we are to feel confident to ask God for anything. It also seems clear that we are to always seek God’s will for our lives. So how do those two things live together in peace and harmony?

     For me, the bottom line is this- we SHOULD pray to God for what we want- what my mother-in-law calls “the desires of our hearts”. And if those things are in keeping with God’s will for our lives…they will happen. They might not happen WHEN we want them to or exactly the WAY we want them to…but they will happen.

     “OK, Mr. Smartpastor, then why didn’t that one thing in MY life happen? I prayed for it?!” Look back at the 2nd sentence of the previous paragraph. That sentence says, “…if those things are in keeping with God’s will for our lives…” IF. The reason not everything we pray for comes to pass is that not everything we pray for is in keeping with God’s will for our lives.

     When you pray, one of two things will happen- either 1. God will answer your prayer or 2. He will help you understand that you are lifting up the wrong prayer. If #2 is the choice, then He will also reveal to you what you SHOULD be praying for. He will change your prayer.

     Does this always happen? Yep- I am convinced of it. What DOESN’T always happen is that we recognize God’s guidance and respond to it. We want SO badly to “get” the thing we are praying for that we don’t have a gear to see that God JUST MIGHT have a better idea! (Imagine that!) But I have found, through trial and error…the School of Hard Knocks, if you will…that when I am willing and able to set aside my pride, my hubris, and submit my whole self to God…AND His plans…things turn out better than when I insist on sticking to MY plans! So…what do YOU pray for?

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Let Me Be the Person My Dog Thinks I Am!

Wednesday, January 29- The Widow of Nain

     Alright, time to get back on track with Wednesdays being Bible Study Day here at Stick With Jesus! I recently used today’s passage in a Sunday evening worship setting. It is one of my favorites!

The Widow of Nain- Luke 7:11-17

11a Sometime later, Jesus went to a town called Nain.

     The name Nain in Hebrew means “Pleasant Place”. This is the only time Nain is mentioned in the Bible, and this is one of the few times Luke notes the locale of an event. The town probably sat about six miles southeast of Nazareth, at the foot of Little Hebron over the valley of Jezreel. And it is here, in this obscure, almost forgotten town, that Life would meet Death.

11b His disciples and a large crowd went along with him.

     Jesus was nearly a rock star. He not only had an entourage of disciples and followers, but the more time that passed and the more amazing things that happened- the group following Him grew as well.

12a He approached the town gate. Just then, a dead person was being carried out.

     The process of the funeral did not begin until it was certain that death had occurred. So this was a dead body. The body was anointed to prevent deterioration. It was buried quickly and was not kept overnight at home. The corpse would be wrapped in a burial cloth and put on a burial plank for all to see as they carried it out of the town.

     There are two crowds approaching the gates of the city of Nain. They are literally coming from opposite directions and they are characterized by two entirely different moods. The crowd with Jesus is joyful and jubilant. They have seen the power of God at work in a very mighty way. Not only has the Lord been glorified among the Jews, but even Gentile Centurions have also come to pay Him homage and to recognize His authority.

     The other crowd is made up of the people of Nain…the mourners. They have come for a different purpose. They are accompanying a widow and the body of her son. They are headed for a tomb. Leading the procession would be the women. Tradition had it that they would lead because Eve had led the human race into sin. Behind would come the other mourners and finally the funeral bier on which lay the deceased.

12b He was the only son of his mother. She was a widow.

     Probably this only son of a widow died earlier this same day, since Jewish tradition encouraged a quick burial in order to avoid ceremonial uncleanliness.

The widow weeps for the loss of her only child. She is now all alone in a hostile world; no family to care for her. Life was already difficult for her, being a widow. Now that her son is also gone…life is either unbearable or impossible

12c A large crowd from the town was with her.

     According to custom, the bereaved family members would rend their clothes and mourn the death. They would often even hire mourners to wail and cry during the processional.

13 When the Lord saw her, he felt sorry for her. So he said, “Don ‘t cry.”

     One trait that Jesus shows, over and over again, in the Gospels is compassion. His heart breaks for this woman whose world has been shattered. And so He offers a very heartfelt imperative.

14a Then he went up and touched the coffin. Those carrying it stood still.

     Recognizing her intense pain, Jesus approaches the corpse on the plank. He touches the plank–an act that would instantly render him ceremonially unclean. But for Jesus, that fact is more than trumped by His compassion.

14b Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”

     He tells the corpse…a CORPSE…to rise up. If there was no authority behind his words, the action would be blackly humorous or tragically misguided. But Jesus reveals the extent of His authority by confronting death.

15 The dead man sat up and began to talk. Then Jesus gave him back to his mother.

     His words are successful: the dead man sat up. This was no longer a deceased body- this was now, once again, a living, breathing human being. I wonder what he said when he began to talk!

16 The people were all filled with wonder and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”

     This miracle is reminiscent of the Old Testament resuscitations performed by Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-37). As Luke tells the story, he points to prophetic models. Such historical background explains why the crowds came to see Jesus as a great prophet. The Old Testament precedents help explain the event. Note that when the crowd fears and recognizes Jesus as a great prophet, they are not wrong; their view of Jesus is merely incomplete. 

17 This news about Jesus spread all through Judea and the whole country.

     Jesus had performed a number of miracles up to this time, but this was the first time he had ever raised the dead.

     This is a powerful, yet often overlooked, story of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Notice that, before His power is demonstrated for all who were present, it is His compassion and love that are on display. He offers that same compassion and love to us…if we will recognize and receive it!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- What Do YOU Pray For?

Tuesday, January 28- What Year IS This, Anyway?

     So my family and I were watching the Grammys on Sunday evening after church. There was so GOOD music to be had. Carole King (only one of my ALL-TIME favorites!) did a duet with Sara Bareilles (one of the best pure voices out there today!) that knocked my socks off. Pink did…something…that was a blend of singing and Circ du Soleil. She sang (lip-sinced?) while performing a pretty impressive bit of acrobatics that had her suspended high above the auditorium floor from a set of…silks…with absolutely NO harness or safety net. It was pretty amazing…and the song wasn’t bad, either!!

     I watched Ringo Starr perform “Photograph” with the incomparable Peter Frampton on guitar. (Even without the “Leif Garrett” hair, he is amazing!) I also watched a group called Daft Punk perform. As best I could tell, they are two guys (?) in costumes that make them look like robots. Oh, and they’re…French! (I have NO idea what that means!) Their music wasn’t bad, but I DID have a sudden, powerful Milli Vanilli moment. I mean, who knows what these…people…even look like? How do we know they are even the same two people every time?

     Every year, when I watch the Grammys, I am reminded that I fall a BIT farther behind. I know fewer people who were nominees this year than I did last year. And I knew fewer last year than the year before. Of course, all I have to do is look at ,my iTunes account to understand that phenomenon- the largest percentage of music you would find there would be of the “1970’s and 80’s Classic Rock” variety!

     But then, an amazing…and somewhat surreal and more than a little frightening…thing happened- the nominees for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song were announced. Noticing the word “rock” in each title, I thought I might have a shot at actually KNOWING some of the people! And…I was right!

The nominees for Best Rock Performance included David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. (Neither of them won.) And the nominees for Best Rock Song included Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ozzie Osborne. (McCartney won.)

     I felt like I had climbed in the DeLorean, got it up to 88 MPH, avoided the Fox Photo building in the parking lot of the Twin Pines Mall and went back to…let’s say…1978! Mick Jagger. Keith Richards. Paul McCartney. Ringo Starr. Led Zeppelin. Peter Frampton. Ozzie Osborne. (Not to mention Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and some Johnny-Come-Lately named Blake Shelton!)

     Now, I am not so naïve that I failed to understand that the Nostalgia Card was being played…over and over. I mean, when they wheeled McCartney out with a walker…well…! But it was pretty awesome to see Sir Paul (Sorry about the walker crack, Mr. McCartney- I was JUST kidding!) on keyboard and vocal and Ringo behind the drums. Thanks for the memories!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Widow of Nain

Monday, January 27- I Want to be a Meteorologist!

     I think perhaps one of the hardest, most maligned…yet easiest jobs in the world must be…meteorologist. The median income for a meteorologist in this country is $92, 135. In this setting, “median” means the mid-point. So there is an equal possibility that any given meteorologist salary would fall above or below that number. So, $92,135 is the middle of the road for meteorologists.

     Now, you may have noticed that I described the job as both “hardest” and…”easiest”! “How can that be, Pastor?” Well, it seems to me that predicting the weather is MUCH less science and MUCH more art. The storm that hit the area in which I live last night would be a good example of that. They literally changed the forecast every couple of hours. “It’s a winter storm warning. No, it’s a winter storm watch! No, it’s a warning! Wait, it’s a wind chill advisory. No, it’s a wind chill warning. Wait! It’s now a wind chill alert!” And so on!

     These poor meteorologists- they are always trying to get the forecast right. And yet, the weather is a fluid, ever-changing, almost living thing. And so their ability to adequately predict it is…tough at best!

     But that very fact is what supports my “hardest/easiest” job scenario. It’s SO hard to get it right that our expectations are simply…low. And so, when they get it wrong, we shake our heads and say, “They missed THAT one!” And then we wait for the next forecast to get behind! And because our expectations are rather low, it makes the pressure for success much less, making the job…easier!

     I remember once, in the community in which we used to live, the “prognosticators” were calling for the storm of the century! (It seems, all too OFTEN, be “the storm of the century”!) In anticipation of that storm, the decision-makers cancelled school for the next day. And they pulled the string before dinner the night before, they were SO sure of the forecast. And then (Can you smell it coming?), the storm missed us…completely! So the kids got a beautiful day off, the school administrators were left to try and save face with angry parents and the meteorologists…made another prediction!

     So…what’s the point? The point is that life is unpredictable. The point is that, while we can plan all we want, stuff happened! The point is that we simply never know what tomorrow is going to bring. Shoot, we don’t REALLY know what an hour from now will bring! We just have to…live, trusting that God will make the journey with us. We have to put our faith in Him, knowing that His presence in our lives WON’T make everything simple and trouble-free. But His presence WILL give us someone to make the journey with- someone Who loves us and wants the best for us!

     So, I’m going to give this whole “ministry” thing another 20 years, and if it doesn’t work out, I’m going to become…a meteorologist!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- What Year IS This, Anyway?!

Sunday, January 26- The Blazing Shrub

     Former President George W. Bush was walking through an airport when he saw an old man with white hair and a long white beard, wearing a long white robe and holding a staff. He walked up to the man and said, “Excuse me, sir, but aren’t you Moses?” The man stood perfectly still and said nothing. Again, George W. asked, a little louder this time, “Excuse me, sir, but aren’t you Moses?” Again, the old man stood motionless without saying a word. One of George W’s aides asked him if there was a problem, and George W. said, “Either this man is deaf or extremely rude. I’ve asked him twice if he was Moses, and he just ignores me.” The man suddenly perked up and said to the aide, “I can hear him! And yes, I AM Moses. But the last time I talked to a bush, I spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness!”
     Today, we continue our current, 8-week sermon series, focusing on destiny. We are walking through the life of Old Testament giant Moses as we consider The Making of a Leader. Through HIS life, we are seeing how God is calling each of US to be a leader in our right. Two weeks ago, we looked at the difficult beginning of Moses’ life- a baby, adrift in a basket in the Nile River. Last week, we looked at the time Moses, in a fit of anger, murdered an Egyptian for mistreating one of the Hebrews and had to flee into the desert to save his own life. Today, we look at where he went when he fled and what happened out there.
     God has a history of making promises to His people that they struggle to accept and follow. Here is one such POWERFUL promise that impacts today’s story.
     Isaiah 43:5-7 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth– everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. ‘
     So Moses flees Egypt and ends up in the land of Midian, where he rescues 7 sisters from a band of shepherds. They take him to meet their father Jethro, a priest of Midian. Jethro, (also known as Reuel) takes Moses in and offers him both his daughter Zipporah’s hand in marriage and a place to live as he helps tend Jethro’s flocks. After 40 years of training in the courts of Pharaoh himself, Moses is now a lowly shepherd, tending the flock and living in a tent. My, how the mighty have fallen.
     So he is taking care of the flock and searching for new grassland as he approaches Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai. No one is sure, but the name Horeb may refer to the range of mountains, while the name Sinai refers to the particular peak. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know with certainty which mountain peak Moses is on, but tradition says the mount in question is Jebel Musa, which means “the Mount of Moses”. In fact, on that mountain today is the Monastery of St. Catherine, which claims to be built on the exact spot where today’s story took place! Tradition also says that this is the very same mountain where, later in the story, God will give Moses the Law…the 10 Commandments. Either way, this is the mountain of God. And God doesn’t disappoint. Instead…He shows UP!
     Exodus 3:1-12 One day Moses was taking care of Jethro’s flock. (Jethro was the priest of Midian and also Moses’ father-in-law.) When Moses led the flock to the west side of the desert, he came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire coming out of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. So he said, “I will go closer to this strange thing. How can a bush continue burning without burning up?” When the LORD saw Moses was coming to look at the bush, God called to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” Then God said, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.
     Moses sees this impossible sight. Is curiosity is piqued by a bush that is ablaze yet isn’t burning up- the fire is not consuming it. Just like the Hebrew people are not consumed by the furnace of affliction in which they find themselves in Egypt, so this bush on God’s mountain is not consumed. It seems obvious- God is there. This is surely a manifestation of Jehovah himself, because fire is a symbol of God’s presence.
     In the end, the burning bush has a 3-fold significance:
1) It is the very picture of God, revealing His glory and His power
2) It symbolizes the Hebrew people going through the fire of affliction and suppression
3) It points directly to Moses, a humble shepherd who, with God’s help, becomes a fire that cannot be easily extinguished!
     And then this “prince of Egypt turned lowly shepherd” hears his name uttered- “Moses! Moses!” He is stunned and nearly rendered speechless, but he manages a response- “Here I am.” This is the VERY same response uttered by Abraham, Jacob and Samuel when God showed up. God tells Moses to take off his sandals because the ground upon which he stands is holy. So Moses removes his sandals as a gesture of worship, recognizing and honoring the holy ground of God. But the ground was not holy by its nature- it was holy because of the presence of God- the God of Moses’ ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses not only removes his sandals- he also hides his face in awe and reverence. Then, once the stage is set, God casts His vision for Moses.
     The LORD said, “I have seen the troubles my people have suffered in Egypt, and I have heard their cries when the Egyptian slave masters hurt them. I am concerned about their pain, and I have come down to save them from the Egyptians. I will bring them out of that land and lead them to a good land with lots of room—a land flowing with milk and honey. I have heard the cries of the people of Israel, and I have seen the way the Egyptians have made life hard for them. So now I am sending you to the king of Egypt. Go! Bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt!” But Moses said to God, “I am not a great man! How can I go to the king and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” God said, “I will be with you. This will be the proof that I am sending you: After you lead the people out of Egypt, all of you will worship me on this mountain.”
     God makes it clear to His servant Moses that He is well aware of the plight of His people and He plans to rescue them from Egypt. God’s concern for the welfare of His people is evident- “I have COME DOWN to save them.” This is another powerful example of divine intervention. God promises to not only deliver them but to take them to a good, fertile land with lots of room- a land flowing with milk and honey. He is going to provide them with prosperity, fertility and abundance. God says, “I have seen…I have heard…I know…AND I have come down!” What a message of grace! God’s been watching over His people the whole time. And what God starts…God finishes. God will redeem them, be faithful to them and make a new, everlasting covenant with them.
     Moses hears these things and rejoices- God is about to deliver the people! But then he hears what that late, great theologian Paul Harvey would call “the res
t of the story”- MOSES is going to be the one to deliver them! God says, “I’m sending…YOU…to Pharaoh.” “I choose YOU, Pikachu!” Moses is commissioned by God to deliver the Hebrews from bondage.
     Moses, as you might imagine, is shocked! This is hard to believe! And he does what any self-respecting servant of God would do- he objects! He feels that he has a frightening lack of ability and authority, “You have GOT to be kidding, God! Who am I? I’ll tell You who I am! I’m a failure! I ran from my troubles! Besides, I have a family, God! And I’m too old!” Moses has GREAT doubts about his ability to confront Pharaoh and lead the people out.
     And how does God reply? He doesn’t say, “Watch your tongue, boy!” as my mom would have had I talked to her in that tone. Instead, He says, “I’ll be with you!” Or to quote that great theologian ET, “I’ll be right here!”
      What can we learn from Moses’ encounter with a bush that is fully engulfed in flames…yet is not consumed? Well, hopefully many things! But perhaps the greatest thing we can learn from this story is that regardless of who we are or how unimportant we may feel, God is always with us is. Without Him, we can do nothing. But WITH Him…all things are possible! Moses’ objections are answered by God’s nature and character. God responds to those objections with 2 promises: the assurance of His presence and the promise that Moses and the people will return to God’s mountain to worship Him in spirit and truth.
     Ultimately, that IS the purpose of this deliverance- so that the Hebrew people can once again worship God in freedom. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “worship” is the very SAME word that is used to describe what it means “to be a slave”. They had served as slaves to the Egyptians for centuries. Now, they would serve God.
     First, Moses tried to redeem his people on his own…and failed miserably. Why? Because at that time he knew God as a distant Ruler, not an imminent God who cares for and loves His people. Moses was brought to the point where he bowed, worshipped and adored God- the true beginning of ANY Christian service. Impulsive, headstrong Moses learned humility. And as he learned that, he also found….faith. He learned that “Who am I?” is not NEARLY important as, “Whose am I?”
     In this story, God promises the Hebrews 2 things: deliverance from the Egyptians and entrance into a new, promised land. But notice that He only commissioned Moses to accomplish the 1st of these promises. Moses was NOT destined to enter the Promised Land- the closest he would get was to gaze upon that far shore from the wilderness side  of the river. Why? Because Moses wasn’t the Redeemer- God was…and is. It was God’s time, and so Moses was called to deliver the people in God’s way and through God’s power. He was to bring them out of Egypt NOT by his own strength but by divine empowerment, divine intervention.
     2Timothy 1:8-9 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.
     Moses was standing on holy ground. God urged him to remove his sandals to acknowledge that fact. Holy ground- what IS “holy ground”? Obviously, the mountain of God was holy ground. Many would say that churches…especially sanctuaries and chapels…are holy ground. Some think that cemeteries are holy ground. And if you’ve ever been to a military cemetery…there is very much a somber, sacred feel to them. “Yeah, but which one would YOU say, Pastor?” I would have to pick…ALL of them…and a WHOLE lot more!! Holy ground is ANYWHERE God is present AND you recognize that fact. Let’s be honest- God is ALWAYS present…everywhere. But if we fail to recognize that fact…or CHOOSE not to recognize it…then there isn’t a very strong sense of the sacred present. But if we realize, acknowledge and embrace the fact that God is ALWAYS with us…guiding us, directing us, loving us…then wherever we are is holy ground! “OK Pastor- does that mean I should just never wear SHOES?!” No…the shoes are a metaphor. It means that we should treat life itself as holy ground. We should recognize God’s presence in our midst at ALL times and in ALL places. And we should live EACH moment from that perspective.
     So, to what is God calling YOU? I get lots of people who say, “I don’t have any idea what God wants me to do, Pastor!” And to that, I ever so politely say, “Horse hockey!” Seriously, I believe that most of us DO know what God is asking of us…we’re just scared to admit it…embrace it.
     Think that through- what is God asking of you? Whatever it is…WHATEVER it is…embrace it. Embrace it and pursue it, confident that you will not have to make the journey by yourself. God- the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Great I Am,
Comforter, Counselor, Author, Finisher, Divine Truth Revealer, Deliverer, Healer- is with you. He will not let us grow tired and weary. He will not let us stumble and fall. But if we hope in the Lord, He will renew our strength. We will soar on wings like eagles. We will run and not grow weary. We will walk and not be faint.
      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- I Want to be a Meteorologist!

Saturday, January 25- Forgiveness

     What would you say is the hardest thing in the world to do? Some would say play a musical instrument. Some would say speaking in front of people. Some would say raising kids. Some would say finding a consistently good cup of coffee! And while all of those…and many others…would be good choices, I would argue that the hardest thing for most of us to do…is offer forgiveness!

     “Ouch, Pastor! Did you HAVE to go and step on my toes right out of the box?” Unfortunately…yes! Forgiveness is just flat-out hard. Sometimes, it feels darn near impossible. Why is that? Why do we struggle SO much with forgiveness?

     First off, it depends on whom we need to forgive. I would argue that there are 3 primary types of people we sometimes are called to offer forgiveness to: 1. People who don’t really matter all that much to us, 2. People who matter a LOT to us and 3. Ourselves. And WHICH one of those we are forgiving has a LOT to do with how hard it is. Let’s look at the three:

     1. People who don’t really matter all that much to us. It may not seem very Christian to label someone that way…but it’s true. Some guy cuts you off in traffic and, while you may get mad…REALLY mad…for a few minutes, it passes quickly. You don’t know the guy. You will never see him again. And…he doesn’t really matter all that much to you. So you forgive him- maybe openly, maybe tacitly, but you get over it and move on.

     2. People who matter a LOT to us. These folks can be MUCH harder to forgive. They mean so much more to us, and therefore they have a much greater capacity to hurt us. And when they DO hurt us, it can be really hard to get beyond it and offer the forgiveness we know we should offer.

     3. Ourselves. This one might be THE hardest to forgive. We can easily forgive people who really don’t matter much. We have to work harder to forgive those close to us…but it’s “doable”. But when we have to forgive ourselves…Katie, bar the door!

     Why is that? Do we set higher standards for ourselves than we do for those around us? Do we think we don’t deserve it? Do we think we are too far gone to even deserve forgiveness?

     We have all heard people say, “I know God has forgiven me…I just can’t forgive myself.” Shoot, we’ve probably all said it OURSELVES! But if you think that through, what does that even mean? If God is willing to forgive us…and God is ALWAYS willing to forgive us, if we will seek it…then how in the WORLD can we say that we can’t forgive ourselves? The implication is that we are somehow better or more important than…GOD!

     Who do YOU need to forgive? It doesn’t matter which of the three possibilities we have looked at is the answer to that question- you NEED to do it. Why? Because you don’t forgive for the sake of the one receiving the forgiveness. You forgive for your OWN sake. It’s ONLY when you can forgive that you can move forward and find the peace that you so desperately seek!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Flaming Shrub

Friday, January 24- 100-Acre Wood Theology

There’s a Peanuts cartoon where Lucy demands that Linus get up and change the channel. “What makes you think you take over?” Linus asks.  Lucy responds,“These 5 fingers. Individually…they’re nothing! But when I curl them into a single unit, they create a weapon terrible to behold.” Linus thinks for a moment, then replies, “Which channel do you want?” As he walks to the TV, he looks at his own fingers and says, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?” Cartoon characters hold a special place in the American lexicon, and perhaps none are more revered than Winnie the Pooh and his friends in the Hundred-Acre Wood. Author A.A. Milne created an amazing world populated with an incredibly diverse group of “types”. As we walk through the various characters, ask yourself- “which one am I?
     First off is the title character- Winnie the Pooh. He is a chubby little bear. He wears an old red t-shirt and is stuffed with fluff. He’s easy-going, likable, and not easily upset. He is quiet, slow moving and philosophical. He seems somewhat intellectual, but it is really simplicity in disguise. He refers to himself as a “bear of very little brain”, but he has an uncommon, clear-eyed wisdom. He loves to play games and have adventures. He likes humming, poems, songs and finding and eating honey. And what does he hold dear? His friends’ happiness is his chief concern; there is no better friend than Winnie the Pooh. Is THAT you?
     Next is Piglet. He is a small, timid pink pig with a long striped shirt. He is soft-spoken and skittish, often wringing his hands. His stuttering and ear twitching convey his nervousness and fear, but inside that small frame is a big heart. His generosity and humility far outweigh his meager size. He wants to be brave and often conquers his fears. He is eager to experience the world, and he is a good friend.  He loves adventures, bright colors and balloons. He loves to blow dandelions, and he tends to see the silver lining in the grey cloud. Is THAT you?
     Next up is Eeyore. He is an old grey donkey whose tail keeps coming off and whose house keeps falling down. He is intelligent, quiet, methodical, melancholy and gloomy…but he doesn’t see himself as gloomy! He has low expectation about anything and anybody, and when his friends help, his expectations are surpassed and he’s grateful. He pretends to help others because he has nothing better to do, but he is always there for his friends. The bright pink bow on his tail represents the kernel of joy that occasionally surfaces. Is THAT you?
     Next up is Tigger- or as he says, “T-I-Double Guh-er”! He is a very bouncy striped tiger. He is active and fun-loving. His top is made of rubber and his bottom of springs. He is cheerful, outgoing, competitive, confident and exuberant. He undertakes tasks with gusto, and is always eager to share his joy with his friends…even when they don’t want him to! He is one of a kind, he acts on every impulse, he often leap before looks, he is larger than life. But underneath that happy-go-lucky exterior beats a surprisingly sensitive, gentle heart. He never gets lost, but loves finding lost friends, and his bouncing is an expression of his zest for life. Is THAT you?
     Next is Rabbit. He’s…well…a rabbit! He is pushy, decisive and a good speller. His life is made up of Important Things. He likes to organize and take charge- he is the self-appointed leader. He is stubborn about his viewpoints, he often overreacts, and he becomes disoriented very quickly in unfamiliar surroundings. He is arguably the smartest, most responsible and most practical of the bunch, and underneath that bristly exterior is a good heart. His know-it-all attitude is tempered by an ability to admit when he’s wrong. He is loyal to friends he knows, but reluctant to welcome newcomers. Is THAT you?
     Next is Owl. He is a large bird wo speaks very eloquently. Everyone thinks he is the wisest, but sometimes he is a real bore. He is always happy to offer his opinions, advice and anecdotes, whether they are wanted or not. Is THAT you?
     Next we have Kanga. She is a mother kangaroo. She is tenderhearted, the voice of reason, a symbol of security. She takes great care of others, has a good sense of humor, is gentle with her discipline, and full of mother’s intuition. She automatically knows “the right thing to do”, without even thinking. She likes to keep things clean, she likes to count and organize things, she is kind to everyone, and she will help anyone who needs it. Oh, and she is the fastest animal in woods! Is THAT you?
     Then there is Roo. He is the joey, the baby kangaroo, but don’t let his age and size fool you. He lives life large, is extremely curious and fun-loving, and constantly gets in trouble…but learns his lesson. He is cheerful, enthusiastic, curious, fun, loving, and takes great joy in discovering the wonders of life. He is capable of expressing thoughts and feelings, and he approaches life in a loving, sympathetic manner. His biggest influence is his mom. He is wise beyond his years, and thinks he can do anything. Is THAT you?
      Last we have the American addition to the cast- Gopher. He is a builder and excavator. He is generally hard-working, but often doesn’t look where he’s going. He often falls into his own tunnels. He is smart, but lacks common sense, and has a habit of whistling when he talks. Is THAT you?
     Quick…what do Alexander the Great and Winnie the Pooh have in common? They have the same middle name! (Boo!) So…which one do you most connect with? Also, which type aggravates you the most? I know you’re wondering, so…I see myself as a cross between the ADD Tigger and the take-charge Rabbit! Why did Milne create so many types? Is there a need for each of them? Let’s look.
     There are three truths about the Hundred-Acre Wood that speak to us today:

#1- Each member is essential- they are NOT the same…but they ARE essential to the whole. Not all have a leading role, but all have a purpose and a place.

#2- Each member is interdependent- without the cooperation of each, vital tasks are impossible. Think about the act of speech- the brain, nerves, tongue, jaws, lips, larynx, lungs, diaphragm, heart, veins, arteries and capillaries all work together to make that happen- all are essential.

#3- Each member is interconnected- what affects one is felt by all. Have you ever smashed your pinkie toe? Every part of your body joins in on the response- your leg jumps up and down, your back bends, your hand massages, your mouth moans and groans. No part is untouched- all are affected, all come to the aid of the one. If we’re going to be a vital part of the body, we have to do our part and be connected with others. Winnie the Pooh says, “You can’t stay in your corner of the forest, waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” Each member is indispensable, interdependent, interconnected- we NEED each other.
     Winnie also says, “Before beginning the hunt
, it is wise to ask what you are looking for before you begin looking for it!” God is looking for people to be a part of His plans and purposes in the world. And I truly believe each of us was placed here in a strategic role for just such a time as this! You ARE an important part of that effectiveness- BE a part of it, carry out your function, use your gifts.

     At the end of the Milne book, Pooh and Piglet are walking home, and Piglet says, “Pooh, when you wake up, what’s the first thing you say?” Pooh replies, “What’s for breakfast? Why…what do YOU say?” Piglet says, “I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” Pooh responds, “Same thing!” With all due respect to Pooh, they are NOT the not same! Breakfast Dreams are dreams of survival, of burying your talents in the ground and not using them. But Excitement Dreams are dreams of flourishing, of investing your spiritual treasure for an abundant return. Dreams take substantial effort, and they carry the risk of failure…but they are NOT impossible. What kinds of dreams can YOU dream?
     Thanks for stopping by today- have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Forgiveness

Thursday, January 23- The Rhythm of Life

     What does music mean to you? What impact does it have on your life? Do you listen to music regularly, or is it just “no big thang”?! Music is INCREDIBLY important to me. I always have my phone with me. And if I am in any setting where I can listen to music…I listen to music! And although I lean pretty heavily to Classic Rock, I have a rather eclectic mix of music on my iTunes.

     Growing up, I was surrounded by music. My parents listened to Lawrence Welk, Mitch Miller, Andy Williams, Julie Andrews, Jim Nabors, Nat King Cole…the list goes on. Meanwhile, my sister and brother, who are both older than me (dig, dig!) listened to the “top 40 music” of the late 60’s and early 70’s. So I also listened to Carole King, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Crosby, Still and Nash, Iron Butterfly…again, the list goes on!

     So by the time I was in Junior High and listening to my OWN music, I had a musical taste that was deep and wide. The Jackson 5, Grand Funk Railroad, Elton John, John Denver (who is NOT country!), Paul McCartney and Wings, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot and The Carpenters were among the many that comprised my life’s soundtrack at that time. And all these many years later, my “soundtrack” has only grown much more diverse.

     I simply love music. In fact, the only genres I am not a fan of are country and rap. (Because we ALL know what you get when you mix country and rap! Think about it!) Music inspires me. Music soothes me. Music delights me. And music reveals God to me in ways that few other things can. When I listen to music, I feel God’s presence. And when I play music, I feel God’s pleasure. I have loved music for as long as I can remember and I have been playing music for 42 years. It is a part of me. It has seeped deeply into my soul. And for that…I am eternally grateful!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Forgiveness

Wednesday, January 22- The First Miracle

     Can you name the first miracle described in the New Testament? It is the turning of water into wine at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. It’s found in the Gospel of John 2:1-11:

     On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus ‘mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’ 4 ‘Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My hour has not yet come.’ 5 His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water;’ so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’ They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’ 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples put their faith in him.

     So Jesus and His buddies go to a wedding, and His mom is there. Weddings were a much longer deal back then, often lasting several days. In the midst of the festivities, the groom runs out of wine. That would have been a great embarrassment. And along comes Jesus’…mom!

     I wonder- was this a family wedding and she was there helping? Was she just “another guest?” We don’t know, but either way, she was A. there and B. aware of the “wine deficit”. So she goes to Jesus and says, “They’re out of wine, Jesus.” Notice she doesn’t say that He should DO anything about…”just sayin’”! And Jesus replies, “Woman, why Me? It’s not time yet.” The “woman” designation seems disrespectful in our context. MY mom would NOT have been happy with that! But in the Ancient Near Eastern world of Jesus’ day, it was a title of respect.

     Notice what Mary does- she completely ignores Him and tells the servants to do whatever He says! I can picture Jesus looking at Mary, almost imperceptibly shaking His head, letting out a sigh…and then getting busy. He tells the servants what to do, and before you know it…wine. And not just ANY wine- the BEST wine!

     So what is this story about? Is it an example of Jesus’ early attempts at catering? Don’t THINK so! This story is about a mother’s faith in her Son and a God/Man’s commitment to His earthly ministry. Mary KNOWS Who Jesus is- she has known it from the very beginning. And she has been patiently waiting for His time to come. And somehow, some way, she knows that THIS is that moment.

     Likewise, Jesus knows that He needs to begin the long, often painful process of building up His disciples- His inner circle. And He sees an opportunity to do just that. He “reveals His glory” and His disciples “put their faith in Him”. What miracles has Jesus shown YOU that cause you to put your faith in Him?   

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Rhythm of Life

Tuesday, January 21- Perspective is Everything

     Some years, we don’t have much of a winter. Two winters ago, I never scooped ONE shovelful of snow and the church I was serving didn’t have to spend one red cent (what IS a “red cent”?) on snow removal. And some years, we have…WINTER! A few years ago, we had a snow that quite literally qualified as a blizzard. It MIGHT have been the most snow I have ever seen in a 24-hour period!

     I say all of this because we have HAD winter this year! There has been a decent amount of snow. Not the MOST snow ever…by any stretch of the imagination. But my younger son and I have shoveled enough snow to decide that, if this whole “ministry” thing doesn’t work out, we could go into the snow removal business!

     The reason this has been quite a winter has been the temperatures. We have had several days below zero- NOT the wind chill, but the actual air temperature! When you factor in the wind chill, he had DAYS of 30 below or so! I’m sorry, but no matter who you are…that’s cold!

     It reminds me that perspective is an important thing. We all think that temperature is a static thing. But I would disagree. Look at it this way. Is 40 degrees cold…or pleasant? It depends on the time of year…it depends on the perspective. If you are experiencing 40 degrees in later April, after 2 straight weeks of 65 degree weather, then 40 degrees will feel cold. But if you experience 40 degrees in mid-January, after 2 straight weeks of temperatures well below freezing, then suddenly 40 degrees feels…amazing!

     Our perspective dictates how we see, experience and respond to the world around us. If we are a “glass half empty” type of person, then we will tend to experience the world as an unfriendly place full of peril and pain. We tend to not trust people and we tend to not find much joy in life.

     On quite the other hand, if we are of the “glass half full” variety, then we are MUCH more likely to expect the best out of others. We are MUCH more likely to see the world as a beautiful place. We are much more likely to find a great deal of joy from the world around us.

     So, what’s YOUR perspective? Is the world a horrible place that we have to carefully navigate every day, trying to avoid all of the landmines and pitfalls? Or is the world a flawed but beautiful place, full of God’s creation…and His created? Believe it or not, you have control over the answer to those questions! So what sayeth thou? Life’s too short to be a crab all the time. Enjoy the day. Enjoy God’s creation. Make sure that your glass is half FULL!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The First Miracle

Monday, January 20- Prayer Vigil

     What is the longest you have every prayed at one time? 3 minutes? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? Maybe even 30 minutes? How about…24 hours?! That’s a LONG time to pray. And yet…that’s exactly what the church I currently serve did last Friday and Saturday.

     For the 2nd year in a row, we have started the New Year with a 2-week period of prayer and fasting. I encouraged the congregation to fast for two weeks, daily lifting themselves, their family and their church in prayer. I shared with them that fasting wasn’t ONLY not eating. For our purposes, fasting meant giving up something important…something that would have an impact on you. I shared that it could be cigarettes, alcohol, TV, overeating, coffee…whatever. It just needed to be something that they would definitely notice when it was gone.

      So for two weeks, several people in the congregation did just that. I gave up sweets and eating between meals. It wasn’t nearly as hard as when I have given up those things in the past. (Perhaps that means I need to choose something harder next time!)

     Then, as we neared the end of that two-week period, we had a 24-hour prayer vigil. From 5PM last Friday to 5PM last Saturday, groups of people meet for an hour at a time to pray together. We rotated back and forth between the sanctuary and the chapel, so that the next group could get in their space and get set up without interrupting the current group. Communion is offered each hour.

     One of the most fascinating things about this prayer vigil is that the middle of the night hours are easier…EASIER…to fill than that Saturday afternoon hours. There were hours in the middle of the night that had 5, 6, 7…10 people. Meanwhile, there were hours on Saturday afternoon that had…one person. Fortunately, this event is NOT about numbers. It’s instead about having constant pray being lifted up. And one person can do that just as easily as 10 can!

     We then wrapped the whole process up yesterday with Commitment Sunday. A week or so ago, the people in the church were sent a packet that included a Commitment Card. During both morning worship services yesterday, they were encouraged to come to the front of the church and place their Commitment Cards in a manger that sat in the shadow of a cross. “Why those two things, Pastor?” Without the manger, there is no Jesus. Without the cross, there is no Christ. It was a moving experience to watch everyone come forward and pledge their support for God’s ministries in our church.  

     For many, talking about money in church is heresy. “The church doesn’t care about me- they just want my money!” But the truth is that ministry costs money. The truth is that we are SO blessed by God in this country that we should WANT to give back just a portion to Him, to better fund His ministries in this world. The truth is that where our treasures are, that’s where our heart is, also. I don’t know about you, but I want my treasures to be firmly attached to God!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Perspective is Everything!

Sunday, January 19- A Checkered Past

     I was a voracious reader growing up. I LOVED when the Bookmobile came to school. Mrs. Garrison, the awesome, bejeweled Bookmobile Lady, let me check out more books than the other kids. (I was “special”! But I was NOT crazy…my mother had me tested!) In 6th Grade, Miss Arger LOVED to assigned book reports. She had a list of approved books, and if we wanted to read a book NOT on the list, we had to get special dispensation.
     I wanted to read Mysterious Island by Jules Verne, so I pitched the idea to her. She was reluctant, because it’s a long book, but relented and gave her permission. I dove into the book with great gusto. And what a book it was! Civil War-era soldiers escaping a prison camp in a hot air balloon and ending up on a…well…Mysterious Island! I worked hard to read it, but there was only some much time. The time came when I simply HAD to write the book report, but I wasn’t done yet. What to do? So I jumped to the last chapter, read the end of the book and then wrote the book report. I wrote about everything I had read. When I got to the section I DIDN’T read, I wrote, “They had many more adventures!” Then I wrote about the last chapter! I got an “A”! I think she was rewarding my creativity!
Psalm 40:11-13 Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD; may your love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me.
     Today, we continue our current, 8-week sermon series, focusing on destiny. We are walking through the life of Old Testament giant Moses as we consider The Making of a Leader. Through HIS life, we are seeing how God is calling each of US to be a leader in our right. Last week, we looked at the difficult beginning of Moses’ life. Last week, Moses was a baby, adrift in a basket in the Nile River. A lot has happened since then. He had many more adventures! And those adventures lead to today’s Scripture reading.
Exodus 2:11-15 Moses grew and became a man. One day he visited his people and saw that they were forced to work very hard. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man, one of Moses’ own people. Moses looked all around and saw that no one was watching, so he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand. The next day Moses returned and saw two Hebrew men fighting each other. He said to the one that was in the wrong, “Why are you hitting one of your own people?” The man answered, “Who made you our ruler and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Moses was afraid and thought; “Now everyone knows what I did.” When the king heard what Moses had done, he tried to kill him. But Moses ran away from the king and went to live in the land of Midian. There he sat down near a well.
     At a church I used to serve, I led a group of 52 youth and adults on a mission trip up into the “thumb” of Michigan. While we were there, the senior pastor’s daughter was part of a crew that built a wooden privacy fence around a backyard. As part of that job, they had to clear some debris piled against the back of a garage. As they pulled stuff out, they found a litter of kittens. The daughter wanted to keep one of them, but I assured her we couldn’t do that. I told her to put the kitten back with the others and the mother would come back for them after we left for the day.
     That sounded great, but the next day, ALL the kittens were gone…except the one SHE wanted! SHOOT! I’m a big softy when it comes to animals, so I let her take care of the kitten. Then, she wanted me to drive her to Wal-Mart and get a pet carrier so she could take the cat HOME with her!! I assured her that her parents wouldn’t think that was a good idea. But she convinced me that, if they said “yes”, we would bring the cat home.
     She called them last night, talking first to her dad…my boss…and then her mom. When she got off the phone, I said, “Well? What did your dad say?” “He said, ‘Absolutely NOT!’” And what did your mom say?” “She said, ‘Yes!’” I thought about it and said, “Alright then…pack the cat, he coming back to Illinois with us!”
     The last big hurdle we had to overcome to get him home was the driver of our chartered bus. If he knew we had a cat, he would have to say no. So…we snuck the cat on the bus! We went to GREAT lengths to hide him. About halfway home, we stopped at McDonald’s for a meal. We decided to leave the cat in the carrier on the bus. I was the last one off the bus and as I stepped down, the bus driver smiled and said, “Don’t you think you should get your livestock?!” “You KNEW?” He replied, “I may be an idiot…but I’m NO fool!” Even when you think that no one is looking, that you are getting away with it…someone IS watching.
     This week, Moses has grown to become a man. The New Testament Book of Acts 7:23 tells us that Moses was 40 yrs. old when this story happened. He was visiting his people when he saw an Egyptian beating one of the Hebrews.
     Notice what Moses did- he LOOKED AROUND to see if anyone was watching. When he thought the coast was clear, he killed the Egyptian and buried his body in the sand. In that one act of unimaginable violence, Moses clearly and irrevocably cast his lot with the Hebrews. His time as member of Pharaoh’s house was over.
     The next day, he is out again and sees 2 Hebrews fighting. When he confronts them, one asks, “Who are you? Who made ruler and judge?” My mom would have said it this way, Who died and put YOU in charge?” The Hebrew then looks Moses square in the face and asks,  “Are you going to kill me, too?” How did this man know? Moses looked around first- no one saw it happen. Apparently the Hebrew man that Moses was protecting told.
     Moses was stunned and afraid, “Everybody knows!” And soon…that’s exactly what happens. Pharaoh gets word of the event. It’s not so much the murder as Moses’ rebellion against him that arouses his anger. The Bible says that Pharaoh wants to kill Moses. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “kill” here is the EXACT same word that describes what Moses did to the Egyptian. It is…the same! So Moses is faced with a “fight or flight” decision. He must either flee…or die. So…he runs and ends up the land of Midian, which NOT so coincidentally means “strife”.
     That passage from the Book of Acts that I mentioned earlier goes on to tell us that Moses thought by protecting his people, they would realize that he was their deliverer. But it didn’t happen that way! He kills the Egyptian, hides the body in the sand and hopes that no one notices. He even looked around before killing him. And in doing that, he tried to run ahead of God. Moses was walking by sight, not by faith.
     In the New Testament, the soldiers come to arrest Jesus. Peter draws a sword and cuts the ear off of a soldier. Like Peter, Moses depended on the sword in this story. But the good news is that, later, he will exchange that sword for a staff. Why? Because he will eventually learn that the only true power comes from God’s hand. And through that staff, and NOT the sword, God will accomplish a great work of deliverance for His peopl
e. Ultimately, it is NOT about us. It’s not about our good works. It’s not about our effort. It’s not about what we’ve done…or not done. It’s all about redemption…God’s redemption of us.
James 2:8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.
     This story helps us understand that our choices…lead to consequences. It doesn’t mean that God loves us any less. But it DOES mean that there is a cost for our behavior, our actions, our choices. And God’s forgiveness doesn’t negate those consequences. Moses was WAY too hasty in his actions and so God set him aside for a time…for further training.
     But it is important to note that this story is ALSO about redemption. Moses has to face the consequences of his actions. But God doesn’t give up on him. Why? Because God can use anybody. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are or where you’ve been. If you are willing accept the redemption God offers, if you are willing to humble yourself and come back to Him, then He can still use you in powerful ways. George Bernard Shaw said, “If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, it is best to teach it to dance.” Moses was unable to get rid of the skeleton in his closet. But God was determined to help him learn how to dance with it! Do you have a checkered past? Do you have skeletons in your closet? Do you have things from your past that you are not proud of? Of COURSE you do…you’re human. We all have made poor choices at times in our lives. We all have checkered pasts. But the beauty of God is that you are NEVER too far from Him- you can always come back. If you retrace your steps, you will find God…exactly where you left Him. And like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, God will be waiting on the front porch, watching down the lane, hoping against hope that you will return!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- Prayer Vigil

Friday, January 17- The Kindness of NON-Strangers

     In the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois utters those famous words, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” A well-known sentiment that we have all experienced sometime. We have ALL had an experience where we had no choice but to depend on the kindness of some kind but unknown passerby.

     Recently, I had the extreme please of depending on the kindness of NON-strangers. I was cooking the meal for our Wednesday Night Fellowship dinner at church this week. The menu was baked chicken, baked potatoes, green beans and dessert. On the surface, it sounds like a pretty “big-deal” meal. But the truth is…it’s not that bad.

     So I just planned on cooking the meal myself. But as the day grew closer, people…NON-strangers…came out of the woodwork, unsolicited, to help. By the time the food was being served (to about 95 to 100 of my closest friends!), there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 people who were helping me make it happen! People were washing potatoes, pouring drinks, plating desserts, keeping the food coming out, washing dishes…you name it, someone was doing it!

     The amazing thing to me is that I didn’t ask a single one of them to help. I ABSOLUTELY appreciated the help, but I neither solicited it nor expected it. They just stepped and helped. And THAT is one of the most beautiful things about a church family. That phrase…church family…gets thrown about like water in many places. And it is often nothing more than lip service. Sometimes, people love to talk about their church family when, in reality, it exists in name only.

     But the church I currently serve is truly a family. Oh sure, we are NOT, for the most part, genetically linked. BUT…we are spiritually linked.

     You can’t pick your genetic family- they are who they are…period. But you CAN pick your church family. If you DON’T have a church family…go find one. Church shop until you find the right fit, then…dive in head-first. If you already have a church, but it doesn’t feel like family…search your soul and figure out why. Is there anything YOU could do differently to make it a true family? If so, do it. If there ISN’T anything you can do, then shake the dust off your feet and find that good fit that is out there…waiting!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Prayer Vigil

Thursday, January 16- Cool Water

     “All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water- cool water. Old Dan and I with throats burned dry and souls that cry for water- cool, clear, water. The nights are cool and I’m a fool. Each star’s a pool of water- cool water. And with the dawn I wake and yawn and carry on to water- cool, clear, water.”
     Do you recognize those words? If you do…I’m impressed! They are the opening lyrics to a song called…Cool Water. (Makes sense!) It was written in 1934 by a guy named Bob Nolan. It has been recorded by a veritable BOATLOAD of well-known singers- Vaughn Monroe, Hank Williams, Frankie Laine, Marty Robbins, Burl Ives, Slim Whitman, Johnnie Ray, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood mac…even the Muppets! My father-in-law used to sing the song at bedtime to my wife and her sister when they little. Of course, the second he would shut off the light and leave the room…they would have to go to the bathroom!! (And really, who wouldn’t?!)
     I have been thinking about that song recently. Not because I particularly like it. Not because it’s been so hot that it makes me want a drink of cool water. No, I have been thinking about that song recently because…our water heater went out! And for a period of time (thankfully, a pretty BRIEF period of time!), ALL we had was cool, clear water!
     A week ago today, my son came down into the kitchen and said that he couldn’t get any COLD water out of the shower. That’s a new one! So I went and checked. I managed to get the water temperature good, but in the process I felt that the hot water was a LOT…hotter than normal. 
     Then, this past Tuesday morning, my wife and I were in the kitchen when she suddenly announced, “There is NO hot water!” “Huh? Really?” I immediately did what any red-blooded American male would do- I turned on the kitchen faucet and tried it for myself! “Huh, look at that! There is NO hot water!” (Sharp as Jello, Pastor…sharp as Jello!)
     A couple of different people in the congregation recommended the same place for me to call to find a water heater repairman. So, I did! They said they could be out the same day. Awesome! Now, the truth of the matter is that there simply aren’t too many things that can go wrong with a water heater. There’s the elements and there’s the thermostat…and that’s close to it! 
     The repairman, a very nice young man, got to the house about 2:30PM. I explained that the water had been super HOT on Friday and then cool and clear on Tuesday. He said he would look at it and see what was what. I had already considered the distinct possibility that a new water heater was in our immediate future. The upside is that, since we live in the church parsonage, we wouldn’t have to pay for it. But the downside is that…the church would! 
     At 2:50PM, I had to leave to go pick up my son from school. When I left, he had not yet had time to diagnose the problem. When I got back, 27 minutes later…27 MINUTES…he had A. figured out what was wrong ( it was the thermostat), B. fixed it and C. made it back to his place of business! (I saw him in the parking lot when we drove by!) Amazing! Thank you SO much, Mr. Water Heater Repairman!
     We take SO many things for granted…until we don’t have them. What God-given gifts do YOU take for granted? Don’t wait until you no longer have them to thank God for them. Take a moment and lift up a prayer to God, thanking Him for all that He does for you…even hot water!
      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- The Kindness of NON-Strangers

Wednesday, January 15- Parables

     I was raised in the country. We lived
about 5 miles outside of town. And the town 
wasn’t all that big to begin with!
We were NOT farmers, but we lived right SMACK in the middle of farm country.
Our nearest neighbor was a ¼ of a mile away and our 2.5 acre property was surrounded
by corn on 3 sides and woods on the 4
th. I spent MANY hours of my
youth working on farms. I shudder to think how many bales of hay I have moved
in my lifetime!

     We also had a MASSIVE garden! I honestly
can’t think of a vegetable that we didn’t at least TRY to grow. In addition, we
had lots of perennial fruits- ones that come back each year. We had a grape
arbor, a cherry tree, a pear tree, a couple of apple trees, a couple of peach
trees, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries…you name it, we grew it!

     Because of that upbringing, farming- and
gardening-related images resonated well with me. I understood things through
that lens. To be honest, I have been away from that lifestyle for a LONG time
now. But I still connect well with a more rural and agrarian way of life. I’m
not necessarily in any hurry to LIVE that life any more, but I still “get” it!

     I always think about this when I read the
parables that Jesus used to teach lessons to this with whom He came in contact.
He used images that His audience would understand. Yesterday, my wife and I
started teaching a new Bible Study at the church I currently serve. It focuses
on those very same parables. For 7 weeks, we will be walking through a
smattering of these incredible stories, digging into what Jesus was getting at
and how it impacts our lives in the here and now- 2,000+ years later.

     This week’s lesson is called “the ‘lost’
parables”, and it focuses on 3 stories that are lumped together in the 15th
chapter of the Gospel of Luke. They are The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and the
Prodigal Son. They are beautiful stories that all focus on the same thing-
something that was lost and is now found. That is the most amazing thing about
God. He loves us SO much that, when we wander off and get lost, He is willing
to leave the other 99 sheep and come to find and rescue us. When we choose to
run off, He waits on the porch, watching for us to come back down the road…home.
He runs to greet us, hugging us and telling us how much we have been missed.

     In all three “lost” parables, something of
value is lost, potentially forever. But in all 3, the person in authority either
goes and finds them or welcomes them back upon their return. We ARE the lost
sheep. We ARE the lost coin. We ARE the prodigal son. And the shepherd, the
woman and the father are…God, in the person of Jesus Christ. And no matter
where we are, we are never TOO far from His care. Now THAT is a promise I can
live with!

for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back
again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

“Cool, Clear Water”

Tuesday, January 14- Science Vs. Faith

     Today, we are going to touch on what MIGHT
be THE most controversial topic among Christians- science versus faith. Even
now, some of you are saying, “Controversial? I can think of topics that are a LOT
controversial than THAT!” Meanwhile, some of you are saying, “Pastor! Shame on
you! Us Christians are NOT supposed to talk about…science!”

      My older son had a friend in high school
whose parents were very…fundamental when it came to things like the
intersection of science and faith. You know- the earth is 6,000 years old…period.
Big Bang is the name of a TV show, NOT an historic event. Etc., etc., etc. He
was having dinner at their house when the topic of Creation came up. He
mentioned the Big Bang theory, suggesting that God said it and BANG…it
happened. They countered with the suggestion that, if he felt that he needed to
keep on talking about the Big Bang theory…he could start walking home!

     So why are people so passionate about this
subject? It doesn’t seem to matter which side of the topic you are on, there
are a LOT of strong feelings. People who are staunch Christians often feel there
is no room for science. Meanwhile, those with a strong scientific bent seem to
struggle embracing the foundations of Christianity.  Two camps…neither of which seems to want to
budge an inch toward the other.

     Now I realize that I am painting with a
broad brush. I am implying that EVERYONE is one or the other. But I DO know
better. I DO understand that there is a HUGE gray area surrounding these two
groups, and a LOT of people are to be found in that gray area. But I also know
that there are MANY folks who fit squarely and easily in one of these two

     So, by know you might be wondering where I
fit in this continuum. Well, I’ll tell you! I am FIRMLY…in the gray area! (How’s
THAT for taking a stand?!) Let me explain. I am rather conservative when it
comes to Scripture. I don’t put a lot of stock or effort into all of the “how
many people ACTUALLY wrote the Book of Isaiah?” or “Paul didn’t actually write all
of the letters attributed to him.” Why? The bottom line is that you can’t absolutely
prove which letters Paul DIDN’T write and I can’t absolutely prove which ones
he DID write. Therefore…Paul wrote ALL the letters attributed to him and one
guy wrote Isaiah!

     But underlying that conservative bent is a
love of science. I have always found the subject fascinating. I love
considering how things work…where they came from. And because of all that, I
realized that I had to decide where the balance was for me. And the balance,
for me, is somewhere firmly in that gray area! I have NO problem imagining the
Big Bang theory- why couldn’t God have been the instigator of that event? I
have no problem with the notion that the earth is billions of years old- why
couldn’t the 7 days of creation from the Book of Genesis be something other
than 24-hour periods?

     I had a seminary professor who would get
nearly apoplectic when talking about the Exodus. He insisted that there was NO
way there was a million people involved. Instead, he was militant about the “fact”
that there were probably fewer than 40,000. I asked him 2 questions: 1. What are
you basing the number on? (“Logic!”) and 2. Does the number REALLY matter?

     If you’re willing to argue vehemently over
the details, you might well be missing the big picture. The Exodus isn’t about how
many people crossed the Red Sea and the prophecies of Isaiah aren’t about how
many Isaiahs write them. The Bible is the history of God and His people. It’s a
love story- capturing God’s love for His children. It is the greatest book ever
written. And, however you might choose to interpret the word, it is…the truth!

for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back
again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!


Monday, January 13- The Bells! The Bells!

     Have you read much in the way of Edgar
Allan Poe? He wrote, among other things:

Black Cat

Cask of Amontillado

Fall of the House of Usher

Tell-Tale Heart (perhaps MY favorite!)


Purloined Letter

Pit and the Pendulum

Masque of the Red Death

     And that’s just a PARTIAL list of his
works! The man might have been troubled, but he was also prolific!

     Another of his works that is NOT on the
above list is a poem called The bells. In it, he offers up a WIDE variety of
bells that we can…and perhaps should…hear. He talks about sleigh (sledge)
bells, wedding bells, alarm bells and iron bells. He paints some very powerful
images about the bells- you feel as if you could almost hear them if you strain
to listen while you read.

     The poem is written very much like a song.
There are “verses” and “choruses”. The verses talk about each of the types of
bells mentioned, while the choruses focus more specifically on the sound of the
bells. Each chorus ends with “the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells…” You can
almost picture someone holding their hands to their ears and opining the
incessant ringing of…the bells.

     I thought about that poem…at GREAT
length…last Friday night. The church I currently serve has a bell carillon that
plays at preset times throughout the day. I have to confess, even after 18
months of living right next door, I’m still not SURE what those times are…but I
THOUGHT they were lunch and dinner time. And then came Friday!

     I took the dogs out at 6PM and heard the
bells. I thought to myself that 6PM didn’t seem like the right time, but then
thought, “Oh well.” Then, I took the dogs out at 9PM (I am beginning to wonder
who is the master of whom in this dog/human relationship!) and…heard the bells.
I wondered a bit more, but it WAS the top of an hour, so I sent back in the
house. BIG mistake!

    At 11:30PM, a man from our congregation who
is a sheriff’s deputy texted me to tell me that the local police had called
him, asking if our church MEANT to have the bell carillon playing constantly
all night long! So A. the bells were playing at 11:30PM and B. they had been
playing constantly since…I don’t even KNOW when! I thanked him for letting me
know and assured him that it was my responsibility and I would take care of it.

     So I got out of bed, threw on some sweats
and walked next door. I know NOTHING about the bell carillon machine, but my
momma didn’t raise no fools! (Feel free to insert your joke here!) I went to
the machine, after some deductive reasoning found the key that opens it and
used a couple of educated guesses to figure out how to silence the bells. Then,
I went outside…to make sure I was right! (I was!)

     After I got back home and got back in bed,
I thought about what had just happened. Even after 17 years in the ministry,
there are STILL some “firsts”. I can honestly chalk this story up as another on
the list of “things they didn’t teach me in seminary”!

for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back
again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Science Vs. Faith

Sunday, January 12- I’m Your Density

     I’m a big fan of the Back to the Future movie trilogy, although, like so many movie trilogies, 1 and 3are better than 2! In case you haven’t seen the movie, the 1st Back to the Future is about a high school kid, Marty McFly, who, through an odd and unplanned series of events, ends up traveling from 1985 to 1955, where he accidentally keeps his mom, Lorraine, and his dad, George, from meeting, thereby threatening his own existence. He spends much of the rest of the movie trying to get them together.
    That fact leads to a scene in the local malt shop, where Marty sends George into the malt shop to talk to Lorraine, even telling him what to say.
Marty: Alright, okay. Alright, there she is, George. Just go in there and invite her.
George: Okay, but I don’t know what to say.
Marty: Just say anything, George, say whatever’s natural, the first thing that comes to your
George: Nothing’s coming to my mind.
Marty: Geez, George, it’s a wonder I was ever born.
George: What, what?
Marty: Nothing, nothing, nothing, look tell her destiny has brought you together, tell her that
she’s the most beautiful you have ever seen. Girls like that stuff. What, what are you doing George?
George: I’m writing this down, this is good stuff.
Marty: Yeah okay.
Marty sends George into the malt shop. He walks straight up to the counter…the “bar”…and says to the guy behind the counter-
George: Lou, gimme a milk…chocolate!
He sticks his hand out as a large glass of chocolate milk comes sliding down the counter. He takes a BIG swig, wipes his mouth on his sleeve and heads over to a booth where Lorraine is sitting with 3 of her girlfriends.
George: (Looking at his “cheat sheet”) Loraine, my density has brought me to you.
Loraine: What?
George: Oh, what I meant to say was-
Loraine: Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?
George: Yes, yes, I’m George, George McFly, and I’m your density. I mean…I’m your destiny. says that destiny is “the predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events.” In other words, it is that…thing…that is just simply SUPPOSED to happen. Today, we begin a new, 8-week sermon series that will focus on destiny. We will walk through the life of Old Testament giant Moses as we consider The Making of a Leader. Through HIS life, we will see how God is calling each of US to be a leader in our right.
     Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for you, ‘declares the LORD,’ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
     Al was a rather sickly child. He always seemed to be in poor health. He didn’t play any sports. Many people labeled him as “slow”, and it had nothing to do with how fast he could run. He simply couldn’t keep up at school and when his parents asked why, his teacher- frustrated- said it was because of his large head. He was “retarded”- he couldn’t learn. Al’s mom decided that Al would be home-schooled. Years later, he would say, “That was the making of me. She was so sure of me, I had someone to live for.”
     At the age of 31, Al announced the invention of a “talking machine”. His Yale professor told him it was ridiculous. A noted French scientist labeled it nothing more than a ventriloquist trick. But when he first publicly displayed it in Washington D.C…women fainted. They had seen the first appearance of…the phonograph, invented by…Thomas Alva Edison…Al. All because someone gave him the chance to put his God-given abilities to good use. Because his mom believed in him, despite everything everybody said. She believed that God had something great in store for her son. She was determined to show the world the value she saw in her son. And she was right.
     When the Hebrews first arrived in Egypt, they were NOT slaves- they were honored guests because they were part of Joseph’s family. But later, there was a new sheriff in town- a new pharaoh. And that new Pharaoh felt threatened by these Hebrews, so he made a decision- make them enslaved. But as the Bible says, “The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.” Pharaoh’s plan was not working, so he turned up the heat. And in that instant, he stopped being just an oppressor; he became a murderer. Midwives were ordered to kill every male child. His reasoning? Those young potential workers were also young potential warriors, primed to overthrow the throne.
Exodus 2:1-4 Now a man from the family of Levi married a woman who was also from the family of Levi. 2 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw how wonderful the baby was, she hid him for three months. 3 But after three months she was not able to hide the baby any longer, so she got a basket and covered it with tar so that it would float. She put the baby in the basket. Then she put the basket among the tall stalks of grass at the edge of the Nile River. 4 The baby’s sister stood a short distance away to see what would happen to him.
     A boy was given some homework on childbirth. He went to his mother and said, ‘How was I born?’ ‘Well, honey,’ said the embarrassed mother, ‘the stork brought you to us.’ ‘Oh,’ said the boy. ‘And how did you and Daddy get born?’ ‘Oh, the stork brought us too,’ said the mother. ‘Well how were Grandpa and Grandma born?’ the boy persisted. ‘Well darling, the stork brought them too!’ said the frustrated mother. A few days later, the boy handed in his homework with the following opening sentence, ‘This report has been very difficult to write due to the fact that there hasn’t been a natural childbirth in my family for three generations.’
     The two midwives in this particular story, Shiphrah (Shiff’-rah) and Puah (Poo’-ah), were devoted to helping begin life…not end it before it even began, so they refused. They did what was right. They trusted God and engaged in “civil disobedience”. So Pharaoh became even more ruthless- all Hebrew male babies were to be thrown into the Nile. He gave everybody…EVERYBODY…authority to kill Hebrew babies.
     The two parents in this particular story are barely a blip on the Biblical radar. They are only mentioned twice in all of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, and neither of those two spots…are here. Their names were Amram and Jochebed. They were both from the tribe of Levi. They already had 2 children: Miriam and Aaron. Then, Jochebed became pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful healthy, happy baby boy. But she knew he was destined for the river, so she hid him as long as she could- 3 months. Most people would be handing out cigars, shaking hands and showing off pictures, but not her. There would be no Baby Gap, Similac, Gerber or Little Tikes for Jochebed and her baby boy.
     But after 3 months, her baby boy simply became too big to hide. The fear of what was to come was more than she bear. And so, in a last, desperate act, she took an incredible risk. She made a basket of papyrus reeds. And just as Noah had with the ark so many years before, she made the basket water tight by coating it with tar. She then did the unthinkable- she took the basket, holding her baby Moses, down to the Nile and set it afloat. It is painfully ironic that she took him to the very same river Phara
oh had ordered him thrown into. You would think she would take him as far away as possible.
     Did she receive a message from God? Was this just the desperate plan of a desperate mother? Did she have some kind of special revelation? Did she KNOW how things would turn out? The story would be more faith-filled if the answer was, “Yes”. But, for some reason, I doubt it. The truth is that most of the time, we simply don’t understand how God works.
Jochebed knew her circumstance was hopeless. And yet…she trusted God. Her baby Moses might live and then again he might die. But Jochebed would bless God either way. Jochebed had hope and she acted upon it. Her circumstances gave her no hope…but God did.
     So Moses is adrift in the Nile, a simply reed basket the only thing protecting him from all the dangers. And as he floats downstream, his sister Miriam flows, watching from a distance, waiting to see what happens. And then, THE most amazing thing possible happened. His basket floated near the palace of…the Pharaoh- the very same Pharaoh who had issued the decree that started this whole ball rolling. His daughter is bathing in the river when she hears the cries of a baby. She sees the basket, sends a servant to get it and, when she removes the cover from the basket, discovers a beautiful baby boy staring back at her.
     Meanwhile, Moses’ sister Miriam is still watching and she sees her opportunity. She goes to Pharaoh’s daughter and asks if she needs a Hebrew woman to serve as a nursemaid for this new-found baby. Pharaoh’s daughter agrees that would be a good idea and so Miriam goes and fetches…Jochebed. That’s right. This faithful woman from the tribe of Levi is reunited with her baby boy- probably just a few hours after she put him in the river. And not only were they reunited- she was paid for it by Pharaoh!
     Moses is returned to Pharaoh’s daughter and becomes a member of the royal household. He receives the best education possible, as well as military and administrative training that would prove invaluable in leading his Hebrew people. The exact details of the story are debatable, but the evidence of God’s providence is unmistakable.
     Who do you identify with in this story? Maybe it’s those supporting characters Shiphrah and Puah. They were pushed to do wrong but were willing to stand up for what was right. Can we follow their example? Maybe you identify with Jochebed- life seems out of control, you’ve done everything you could and now you feel you are out of options. The only thing that is left is to trust God and watch what happens.
     Sometimes we feel that God disappoints us, that He doesn’t care about us, that He isn’t listening. Sometimes we feel the sting of regret- we look back and see the missed opportunity.
In the midst of tough times- the loss of a child or loved one, broken relationships, heartache- we struggle to see God. But we are called to trust God, even when we don’t understand. We are encouraged to believe and not despair.
Romans 8:28-30 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
     Maybe we don’t always understand what God is doing. OK, maybe we SELDOM understand what God is doing while He’s do9ing it. And maybe sometimes we wonder if God actually doing anything at all. Maybe it’s because we don’t know the truth. Maybe it’s because we’re too busy. Maybe…maybe…maybe. But if we quite focusing on maybes and start simply trusting, we WILL see God’s faithfulness. If you don’t take ANYTHING else away with you this morning, take this-  be sure you don’t close the book until the end of the story.
          Are you familiar with the word providence? It’s the capital of Rhode Island. It’s the name of a TV show that used to air. And according to, it is foresight that helps prepare for the future. Edison’s mom was quite provident. She took him out of school, preparing him for the future. And OUR future is brighter thanks to her son. The same is true of Jochebed.
     What are you facing in your life? Whatever it is, learn from Jochebed- God can be trusted.  Don’t forget, Jochebed probably never saw her son lead the Hebrews out of bondage to form a new nation. And yet, she trusted in God’s providence. And she…and her baby…were saved. It’s NOT too late. Change CAN take place. But don’t wait…start now. God has a plan for your life! And the truth is that if you are willing to cooperate- if you will be submissive to God- you WILL see His plan fulfilled. Be faithful like Jochebed. She disobeyed A king and instead placed her confidence in THE King. It was Moses’ density…I mean…his destiny. It was the providence of God. God sustains us, then He assists us, then He encourages us.
      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- “The Bells! The Bells!”

Saturday, January 11- “Have a GREAT Time!”

     I have noticed a subtle change in my approach to ministry over the year as it regards people being gone from church. Let me explain. Before I went into the ministry, I managed photography studios- I was responsible for 20 studios in a total of 4 states. I had about 100 employees at any given time. I probably interviewed and hired AT LEAST half of them, as well as trained 100% of the photographers who were on the payroll when I left the company.

     Because of the guidelines the company had, I could only have 1 or 2 extra photographers…we called them Floats…in addition to the 20 “regular” ones- one for each of the 20 studios. What that meant was that, if the studio was open, there was…usually…the same photographer there every minute of every day. And frankly, when you have studios a LONG way away, in another state, it’s REALLY not fun to have your photographer call in sick!

     Because of that, I grew to REALLY dislike when people were gone from their regular posts. It made life that much harder. I was never happy for someone who was going on vacation and I was always suspect of anyone who called in sick!

     Fast-forward to being in the ministry. For a while, that mentality I described above continued- it was what I knew. I always saw it as a problem when someone was gone and would have been just as happy if they simply NEVER took vacation!

     But over the years, I have managed to slough off that mentality. It dawned on me, somewhere along the way, that people are simply going to be gone. They SHOULD be gone sometimes. It’s good to get away sometimes. Therefore, I had a choice- I could continue to be a jerk or I could embrace the notion that people do OTHER things AND that the sun is still going to come up if someone has to be gone!

      In the next few weeks, I have: my office manager gone for a week, our Administrative Council Chairperson/drummer (no foolin’!) gone for a week, my Worship Director/guitarist gone for two weeks AND the OTHER praise band guitarist gone for the SAME two weeks! And to THAT I say…have a GREAT time!

     Does it make it harder on YOU when others are gone? Only if you let it! If you are in a position to do so, encourage those around you to step out of the normal flow of life every now and then and do something different! Urge them to take some time for themselves. Yes, it will force you to shuffle things a bit here and there, but A. that’s probably a good thing for you and B. it is ABSOLUTELY a good thing for them!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- I’m Your Density