Friday, December 31, 2010

Closing thoughts for the year

Closing thoughts for the year behind and direction for the year ahead,

Philippians 3:13-14 But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

On being a fool

I woke early this morning thinking about a passage of scripture that I thought I understood. As I thought about my own life and the verse I will share with you in a moment it suddenly struck me that the way I had viewed the verse was all wrong. I had missed the main point! Here's the words from Psalms,

Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

As I thought about this verse and my own life I realized I'm the fool! It's not the denial of God that's the problem, it's thinking and living like there is no God! I'm the greatest fool of all in this.

Yes, I am a Christian. I'm a pastor. I do love the Lord, BUT I often think, act and live like there is no God. The bible calls me a fool and it's right to do so. If God is really there then my thoughts and life should be different because of that.

If there really is a God who is there then that will affect what I look at on the internet and on television. For any man or woman to get involved in sin, whatever the flavor, is to say in your heart, "there is no one is one will ever know." If you've ever done that, and I have, then you're a fool. I speak from first hand experience. When you make a decision to sin, in any way, you're saying in your heart "there is no one will know." But he does. He sees. You're being a fool when you do that and so am I.

If there really is a God who is there then that will affect what you worry about. If God is there and caring for you then your worries about your life and finances are saying, "there is no God...I have to worry this myself...if I don't worry about it and fix it no one else will." If you've ever done that, and I have, then you're a fool. You're saying that the God who made the universe can't take care of you? Foolish little human, don't you know he holds you together? Can't he meet your needs as well?

As I think about this I could go on for pages with the things that declare to the world "I AM A FOOL!" but I think you have an idea of my thoughts. Clearly the fool is one who lives like God is not there even when he declares to the world he believes in him.

I had always reserved this verse for the agnostic, the atheist, but this morning it convicted me! Any time I live or think that all of this is on me, about me or for me and make choices, worry or live like God is not there....I'm a fool. Well, let me be the first to make this clear so there is no doubt. "Hi, my name is Mike and I'm a fool." But, my hearts desire is this- I want to live and think and act like God is there, part of my life and intimately involved in what is to become of me. It's either all true or none of it is!

Just a few thoughts on being a fool......from one.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Following Jesus

"I would just love to see Christians following Jesus. He was not an easy guy to follow, especially when he started talking about loving neighbors and loving enemies and going beyond tolerance to live your life with people who are nothing like you and disagree with you. I really want to hammer on some of these points, because I think they are the hallmarks of following Jesus.

I don't think that Christianity, Jesus or the Bible have failed; I think that Christians have failed to believe it and to do it. If Christians would just look at the life and the words, and pursue Jesus, I think they would suddenly find that it's incongruent with a lot of cultural Christianity and Christian practice. I would love to see Jesus lead all of us out of this ghetto of Christian subculture. Even if that happened, we'd still be diverse members of one body, so it doesn't mean we'd suddenly become homogenized. We'd all still have our particular personalities and gifts. Those differences are good. But the most primary and basic ethics that compel us as followers of Jesus should change, and it would change everything and reorient us back to what it actually means to be a Christian: to love." -Derek Webb, in an interview with Chris Stedman.

Winter of the soul

It's been a real winter this year in many parts of our country. Airports closed. People stranded. Cold, snow and short days make for difficult and sometimes depressing days. Winter is a time when nature rests. There is a quietness about winter, a silence that comes with the cold and the storm. Winter forces us to slow down and take a break.

In my own life I've found that I often have a winter of the soul. It's a time when, it seems, my heart is cold, sterile, and empty. It's a regular season of my walk with God and I think the winter of nature describes it better than I could with words. It's in these times when all is cold, quiet and often depressing that our hearts are forced to quietness and a hunger once more for God. It's a time for the soul to rest.

The winter of the soul also renews my thirst for God and his presence. In the sterile cold of winter I long for see the green, the new growth, the new life. Winter rekindles my longing for the life of God in my own soul. The winter of the soul makes me aware of how much I need the breath of God in my life to give me life. In the winter of the soul, when all is dead, I'm aware of what I'm missing and I long for his life to once more give me life. I long for his Spirit to bring spring to my snow-crusted soul.

These seasons of the soul are wonderful times to rest, review and renew my walk. When the cold of winter touches your soul welcome it as a season of faith and relish the season as you wait for God's spring to come and refresh you once more.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A time to reflect, a time to rest.

This is the perfect time of the year to reflect on God's grace and care throughout the year. It's the perfect time for me to step away and spend time with family and so I will. I'll be back with you in the new year. Have a great holiday.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

One of the traditions we have as a family is to make a birthday cake for Jesus as part of our Christmas celebration. Singing happy birthday to Jesus is a wonderful way to focus on the meaning of Christmas. It's simple traditions like this that keep the purpose of Christmas in focus.

For the culture around us it is a frantic time of buying gifts, putting up trees, decorating the house with lights and a hundred other distractions, but the real meaning of the day is all about God's love for us.

This day, Christmas, is a celebration of God's love for me! God loved us so much that he gave his very best gift, his son, to provide salvation for each of us.

In the busy days of these holidays make sure you celebrate the best gift....God's son given for us.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas as we remember and celebrate the birth of the Messiah of the world, Jesus Christ. Don't's his birthday we are remembering. May you know the peace that comes from knowing him.

Monday's cartoon

Friday, December 17, 2010

Quote of the day

"The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us." -A.W. Tozer

The mythology we live by

I read these words in a devotional a friend forwarded to me this morning. These few words struck me as I read his thoughts on one of the gospel stories. In the middle of his thoughts he said, "The mythology we live by...." I won't bother with the rest of the sentence. It's not important here. But I thought as I read these five words, what are the myths I live by? What do I believe and allow to direct my decisions that is simply not true? What mythology dictates my life choices?

Some would say they have none, but I would disagree. I see it in my life and I'm sure I'm not unusual. If I were to list the things that dictate the decisions of my life I'm sure many would simply be mythology that has developed over time. I'm honestly convicted by the very idea. What things do I allow to direct my life and thoughts that simply is not true?

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me." He made a profound claim in these few words. He is saying that if we fail to follow him in our lives we will allow the mythology of our time, our culture, our friends to turn us from the right way, from truth. These few words have me in self-evaluation mode. What are the myths I have allowed to change my course? Where have I wandered? What mythology do I live by?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Finding my way

It's often hard for me to see God's work in my life. I'm living moment by moment and I can't see what he is doing in my moments. The light that shows me what God is doing sometimes comes much later. Most of the time I only get a glimpse, a stream of light through the clouds, a smile from heaven as it were. Finding my way is the challenge of life. How to navigate the road ahead when I only see a little bit in front of me. I remember, years ago, while driving late at night in my 1937 Plymouth Road King that I accidentally hit the light switch and turned off the lights. What a panic! Going down the road in pitch blackness at 60 miles per hour. I quickly fumbled for the lights and the fear that overwhelmed me from the experience took hours to wane. It's that feeling we often live with...the feeling of living in the dark. How to find the way? How to know what God is doing. It's often a matter of trust when we see nothing at all. Finding my way....I'm still working on it. But what I know is that God has promised to lead me, to help me, just as a guide would lead a blind man, holding my hand and leading me around the things I can't even see. Paul wrote these words in Philippians, "My God will supply all your needs in Christ Jesus..." My greatest need is a guide to show me the way. I'm so glad he is that tender hand leading me along...even when I can't see the way to go.

Quote of the day

"The main point of our spirituality, according to the Bible, is the furthering of God's glory, not the fixing of our lives. In other words, God does not exist for us, we exist for Him." -Dwight Edwards, Revolution Within, p. 21

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Consumer or worshiper?

As a pastor this contrast of worshiper or consumer is often a topic of discussion and thought. We are in such a consumer driven culture that even church has become a consumer product. We change churches because we like the music better over there or the preacher is "really good" at this church, but we forget that we are not in church for us. We are there, as the family of God, to worship HIM. Church is about HIM, not us.

We are even consumers as we watch a sunset. "Isn't that beautiful?" "What amazing colors!" It's as if the sunset was meant for our entertainment. In that moment we miss the main intent of a beautiful sunset- it's meant to inspire worship of God. Yes, we are to enjoy the beauty of the site, but the goal of that amazing sight is worship. God, you are so amazing! Thank you for this beautiful sunset. Thank you for what you have made!

One of the problems with being a consumer is that we are never satisfied. We have been programed to be dissatisfied and always wanting more. A beautiful sunset for a consumer would generate this response, "Yeah, that was good, but you should have seen it yesterday...that was amazing!" Consumers see everything in light of themselves. It's all about me. If a consumer comes to church the church is less for the experience. The consumer will be focused on what he or she wants and needs. They are not there to worship God, but to be be have their needs met.

But what a different experience a worshiper has at sunset and at church. Their response is directed towards God. "Thank you, God, for your amazing creation. Thank you for letting me see this amazing thing you have made!" In church the response is similar. Whether hymns or contemporary music they are focused on God and not on what they want or like. They are there to worship God! The style of music doesn't bother's all a way for them to praise and worship God. Worshipers are as happy with hymns as they are with praise choruses.

The contrasts continue with preaching, building style, how nice the people are and a hundred other issues that define us as either consumers or worshipers. The challenge for us, in a consumer rich culture, is to live our lives as worshipers with our eyes on heaven and not on ourselves. No church can rise above who the people worship. If we worship ourselves...if it's all about us...the church is doomed. If we worship God there will be amazing things happen among us.

So which are you- a consumer or a worshiper?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Big questions

There's nothing like a really good question to make you think. I am constantly fascinated by the questions I read in the bible. I especially like the questions that God asks of man, but the one bouncing around my head...the one that won't let go of me is from the verse I posted yesterday, "Whom have I in heaven but you?"

This question has haunted me for two days. Whom have I in heaven but you? And so I ask...who do I have besides the Lord? Is there any other God? According to Isaiah 40-45 the answer is "NO! There is no other." If the God of the bible has made himself known, and he has. And if he clearly claims to be the only God, and he does. And if there is no one in the heavens besides him then what a haunting question this is. Whom have I in heaven but you? The answer is no one. If I don't run to him there is no one else. But he is there. He does love me. He does watch over me. He does care. I do have someone in the heaven who cares about me. I do have a God who is there and that reality is both an assurance and a comfort to a troubled soul. I have someone in the heavens! He loves me! He cares about me! Whom have I in heaven but you? No one. And with you I need no other.

What is a Trader? -

Verse of the day

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:25-26

Monday's cartoon

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The purpose of doors revisited

It's interesting to me what people look for on my blog. One that amazed me is the frequency of visits to this one blog post- "The purpose of doors." I'm not sure why it's so popular, but it's the frequent destination of many visiting, so I thought I would repost it. Here, once more, is the purpose of doors:

I can't help it...I have to talk about purpose. But not just any old every day purpose. I want to discuss the purpose of doors. This picture brought it to my mind, and got me thinking- what are doors supposed to do? If a door
doesn't do what it was meant to do can we still call it a door? If it's not doing what it was designed to do is it fulfilling the purpose of the maker? You see where I'm going already, don't you?
Doors are designed to make it possible for us to enter/exit a building. It's the human portal. It locks out those who are not welcome, and grants entry to those who are. It protects the inhabitants, and is only able to be opened by another. The door has no ability, on it's own, to do what it was meant to do- open and close, but must accomplish it's purpose with the help of someone else.
I'm the same way. I have a purpose- to glorify God, and I can't do it without the help of God. He is the one who must empower me to do what I was designed to do, to be what I was meant to be, to function as designed.
I don't want to end up with a sign on my life- "this life does not glorify God."

Anticipating Christmas

Christmas is less than two weeks away! It's come so quickly this year that it has caught us unprepared. We don't have a tree up yet. Few decorations are on the walls. It feels a little like a humbug Christmas because it's not all about the trees, the lights and the's about Christ.

I know he probably wasn't born on this date. That's not important. What's important is the remembering of the birth of God on planet earth. The entrance of the king. The breach of time and space that brought God's solution to our problem into reality. That's the meaning of Christmas! And for that birth, for that King, for that invasion of humanity by God himself I'm most thankful. I do wish I better understood how amazing this event really is. God becoming man. How could we possibly understand such an amazing plan as this?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday's cartoon

Quotes of the day

"Life is hard. It's even harder if you're stupid." - John Wayne

"Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can." -Danny Kaye

"I think I've discovered the secret of life - you just hang around until you get used to it." -Charles Schulz

"Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only spend it once." -Lillian Dickson

"Life is a cement trampoline." -Howard Nordberg

"Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be." -Grandma Moses

"Life: It is about the gift not the package it comes in." -Dennis P. Costea, Jr.

"Life is just a vapor." -James, the brother of Jesus

It's funny what different perspectives we have on such a simple thing as life. Our view, value and use of our lives has a lot to do with why we are here. What is life all about? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do with these few years? Life is so short it almost seems unfair, but in these few years we make decisions that are eternal in scope. How I view life and its purpose determines how I live and the choices I make. What is life all about? Your answer to that question determines how you live and how you view your place in eternity.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Praying big prayers

John 14:13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

One of the passages of scripture that has troubled me my entire Christian life is this passage in John. These are words from the mouth of Jesus. This is a big invitation to ask. It's haunting in its scope and difficult in reality. I've read many commentaries on this passage and others that speak about prayer, but still these words challenge me. They challenge me in my faith, in my prayers, in my view of God and in my desires personally.

Can I ask for a fancy car? A lot of money? A nice home? Some would tell me yes, that's exactly what these verses talk about, but then I come to the words that follow the invitation by Jesus, "so that the Father may be glorified in the Son." My prayers and God's answers are meant to do one thing- glorify the Father through the Son. Does that limit my prayers? Not really, but it does focus them. Does what I want bring glory to God? Will it make JESUS look good rather than make me comfortable? This is an invitation to big prayers to a big God for a big reason- his glory. Honestly I don't ask for big things. I should...the invitation has been extended. God wants me to ask. He promises to respond. He even tells me why he will answer.

Could it be that my faith is so small, my prayers are so small because my God is too small? I think I need to see God right sized. I know I don't always do that. That's what big prayers and big answers will do....they will help me see God in the right it's time for some big prayers!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A mighty wind

A sand storm is an amazing thing. I've never been in one, but have seen them on video. It's intimidating as this wall of sand approaches and then overwhelms, but it's not the sand that makes this happen it's the wind. Behind this immense cloud of sand is a wind...a wind that has stirred up more grains of sand than we could possibly count and driven them across the surface of the earth. Apart from the wind the sand is unmoved, unmoving, hardly a threat....but with a mighty wind....

This evening I've been thinking about God's work. I've been thinking about my part. It suddenly struck me that like all this sand I'm but one grain and nothing happens with me or the world around me unless a wind moves us all towards a goal...towards a purpose. The wind God describes in the Bible is the Holy Spirit. Like that wind that drives a mountain of sand across the desert God's Spirit is moving his people towards a goal. By myself I'm not much, but when the Spirit of God moves, works in me and through me...when he does that in millions of other lives then something amazing happens....

Sometimes we begin to think we are rather important and the kingdom of God needs us. But without the wind we simply lie there...lifeless, unmoving, not impacting anyone or anything. To see myself "right sized" I need to realize that I'm part of a vast army God is working through and that without the work of God's Spirit in my life I would make no difference in time and space...BUT, what a change a mighty wind can make in us and in the world around us.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Quote of the day

"When you’re living history, as we are, we don’t think of the big picture...we’re too busy (right or wrong) living the details. We tend to look at history as primarily secular and in reality none of it is." -Random thoughts from Rob

Monday, December 06, 2010

"Inflicting ourselves on one another"

Christopher Hitchens, a leading atheist dealing with terminal cancer, recently wrote an article in Vanity Fair. You can find the entire article here. It's sad to read the thoughts and words of a man without hope and without God as he nears the end of his life. He writes these words at the end of this article, "As the populations of Tumortown and Wellville continue to swell and to “interact,” there’s a growing need for ground rules that prevent us from inflicting ourselves upon one another."

"Inflicting ourselves upon one another" is at the very heart of compassion and care for one another. It's at the heart of being a human being. It's at the heart of caring for someone else God loves, but there is the rub. To have compassion for others in their struggles we have to know and acknowledge a loving and caring God who loves and cares for us. I'm glad to care for others because someone cares for me. My care for others in their struggle is a reflection of God's care and love for me in my struggle. Without God in the picture we each wallow in our own sad lives with no one to care or show compassion. Without God my woes are an infliction on someone else just trying to live their lives....

...But, with God as part of the story caring about me in my struggles, I suddenly understand how to care for someone else. It's no longer "Inflicting ourselves on one another" but now two people caring for each other as a reflection of a God who loves us and cares about our pain.

I'm sad for Christopher as he slowly dies without hope, without God and without a sense of the love of others who would lovingly welcome his struggle as their own. There's much more to the existence of God than we realize. It affects all of life....even how we view others...even how we view death.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Extraordinary claims...

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"

I agree! If you're going to make big claims you better have evidence to prove it.

It's funny, but atheists often give me some of my best material. For some reason they are able to dismiss history and written eye-witness evidence for the most important event of history.

Extraordinary evidence? Jesus rose from the dead and was seen by hundreds! In numerous accounts, on different occasions real people saw, talked to and ate with the risen Christ. Extraordinary evidence? Here it is:

The Resurrection of Christ

1 Cor. 15: 1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Extraordinary evidence? The Christian faith has it! What more could you ask for? Unless you don't really want to believe in the first place.....that's an entirely different discussion, but the evidence is available if you want to look.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

My wonderful girls

This morning the ladies at our church celebrated their annual Women's Christmas Brunch. My wife, daughter and eldest granddaughter attended. Here's a photo after the event. I am blessed!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Prophecy and Providence

I've been teaching through the book of Daniel this fall. We are nearing the end of the book and this week we have come to chapter 11. It's a difficult chapter because it's a chapter full of prophecy of future things. It's one of those chapters where you can easily get lost and forget the big picture.

The chapter is 45 verses long and as I read it over and over again to prepare to teach it something began to stand out in these verses. In a chapter full of prophecy God's providence began to rise from the pages. It's woven throughout the chapter, but if it's not mentioned I think most would miss it. Here's a brief portion of the chapter....tell me what you see-

2 “Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece. 3 Then a mighty king will arise, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. 4 After he has arisen, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others.

Did you see it? How could you miss it? The more I read this chapter the more this one word stood out. I was intrigued, so I counted the times this word "will" appears in these 45 verses. It is repeated 119 times in only 45 verses! It began to dawn on me....while men are doing as they will God has already told us what they will do! There is a divine plan, a plan God has told us about in advance. Only the real God could tell us hundreds, even thousands of years before things happen exactly HOW they will happen. They WILL turn out this way. All of this orchestrated so that we, as people living all over the globe, will seek Him and respond to his invitation of salvation. God's interested in the souls of men and so he orchestrates the governments and plans of history to draw all men to himself. I don't think I had ever thought about how prophecy and providence were so woven together until I really studied Daniel 11.

Wonderful days

Our wonderful grandson, George, is 4 today! We are so blessed with children and grandchildren. George is one of our great blessings.

George, I hope you have a great birthday today!