Top of the World

"Top of the world!"

Such was the response given by one of the saints I had the privilege to pastor whenever he was asked, "How are you?"

Each time I came to visit him I'd ask, "How are you doing?" and each time he'd respond, "Top of the world!"

But one day, as I sat in his room with him, this pillar of the church made a confession.  "You know, I'm not really feeling on top of the world.  There are a lot of times when I don't feel that way, but I say it because it's what people expect.  It makes them smile."  He was honest with me and he was honest with others too in letting them know that, in truth, he wasn't really feeling on top of the world. are you today?  How are you doing?  How are you really doing?

The instant response most of us have is to say, "I'm doing okay," in some way, shape, or form.  But what if we were to answer such questions honestly? What would we say?

"I'm str…

Christ's Castle: A Story About Christ, His Church, and His Invitation

A weary wanderer slowly walked towards the entrance of a castle.  The wanderer knows the dangers of being out there…outside of the walls of protection offered by a castle.  The wanderer approaches the doors of the castle, hoping to be allowed inside, but doubting that he’ll be allowed since those inside might very well think him a threat to their own safety.
The drawbridge is down, so the wanderer approaches the gate and as he approaches, he eyes the gatekeeper, hoping to be able to discern what kind of a man the gatekeeper is and what kind of reception he can expect from him.
The gatekeeper looks at the wanderer kindly and says, “Why do you wish to enter?”
“I wish only to find safety,” the wanderer replies.  “And I won’t stay long.  I won’t be an inconvenience.”
The gatekeeper smiles gently and asks, “Why do you with to only stay a short time?  Why not find your home here?”
This caught the wanderer off guard.  In every town and castle he had stayed in previously, if they allowed h…

What's wrong with those people in the Bible?

What is wrong with those people in the Bible?
The Israelites despair, fearing that they will starve to death in the wilderness after God has just brought them out of slavery to the most powerful nation on earth; after God used a series of 10 plagues and then brought them safely through the water of the Red Sea, but drowned Pharaoh and his army. 
Then, after God provides food for the Israelites (and water), they despair that there's no way they'll be able to conquer the people of Canaan.  They thing, "the Canaanites are just to big and strong and numerous for us to have a chance!"  
What is wrong with those people? 
Don't they remember what God has already done for them?  Why are they so quick to believe that the God who has provided for them again and again, in mighty and miraculous ways, would abandon them now?  
"Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?" the disciples wondered out loud.  There was a huge crowd…

Dealing with False Dichotomies: "Don't go to church, be the church"

Have you heard this one before?
It's pretty popular these days to have people say, "Don't go to church.  Be the church!"

As if the two were mutually exclusive.

As with many false dichotomies, this one comes from a place of good intentions.  Saying "be the church," is a way of pushing back against the false idea that merely going to church on Sunday is what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Now, there is absolutely a sense in which we are called to "be the church."  For instance,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

However, Scripture also speaks of church as the local assembly of believers who gather together around God's Word and sacrament…

Follow Me: The Call to Discipleship

Recently I've been re-reading a fantastic book by the late Martin Franzmann called Follow Me: Discipleship According to Saint Matthew.  This post was inspired by that book and will also be used as my newsletter article this month. 

“Follow Me.”
With those two words Jesus called individuals to be His disciples.
Note well, this was not merely a Rabi calling a student to come and learn from him.  In fact, Jesus never even permits others to admire him as a teacher.  When the rich young man (Matthew 19:17) and both Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) and the Jews in John 7 express admiration for Jesus as a great teacher (or Rabi), Jesus dismisses such talk.
Jesus is no mere teacher, but the Messiah.  And when He calls individuals to follow Him, He isn’t calling them as a teacher to come and simply learn a better way to live.  He isn’t merely calling them to follow His teachings, but to follow Him!
“Follow Me” Jesus said to Galilean fishermen.  They left their nets and followed Him. “Follow Me”…

Lessons from the Bible and Baseball

"Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer." - Ted Williams 

From spending hours playing baseball and wiffle ball in our backyard with my brothers, to little league, American Legion league, high school, and college, baseball has been a pretty significant part of my life for a long time. One of the great things about baseball is that it teaches you.  It teaches you lessons about life and how to deal with difficulty.

For instance, as a pitcher I had to learn that getting upset about things didn't help the situation.  If I jammed a hitter and he was lucky enough to have the ball fall in, even though I did my job, the batter reached base.  If a fielder booted a routine ground ball, I didn't do anything wrong, yet the batter was now on base.

It was frustrating when things like that happened, but if I let it get to me, things got worse in a hurry.  I had to learn to control my emotions, to bloc…

The Gospel in Narnia III

C.S. Lewis was a master storyteller and his Narnia books are fantastic stories.  But for those who are willing to look closer, there are layers beneath the basic story that are rich with meaning.

At the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace was as unlikable a character as you'll find in the Narnia books. He was arrogant, selfish, and lazy.  There comes a point when Eustace wanders away from the ship (to avoid having to help work on repairing it) and finds himself in a downpour.  He hides in what he discovers to be a dragon's cave and finds all kinds of gold and other treasure in the cave.  In his greed, Eustace pockets as much treasure as he can, then he lays down and falls asleep.  When he wakes up, much to his horror, Eustace discovers that he has become a dragon.

As a dragon Eustace begins to recognize just how awful he had been.  He wants to be better.

Eventually, the lion called Aslan (the Christ figure in the Narnia series), comes to Eustace and helps him.…