Showing posts from 2015

Some Biblical Wisdom for an Election Year

Hey, in case you didn't know, 2016 is a presidential election year (of course you knew that).
This means that you need to be prepared for... commercial breaks dominated by political ads (use your DVR and skip commercials and listen to your mp3 player or CD's if at all possible to avoid the ads).politicians appearing on every platform possible (comedy shows, sporting events, making a Christmas album...okay let's hope they don't make a Christmas album).bumper stickers and bumper sticker style politics, which is among the lowest forms of political discourse. disagreeing with friends and fellow Christians concerning political issues. That last one is a biggie, because when it comes to politics, Christians have often been as bad as non-Christians when it comes to attacking others.
So here is some Biblical wisdom to apply in this election year.
Don't take offense at what others post on Facebook or say about a candidate or issue.
The vexation of a fool is known at once, but …

Christmas through the eyes of Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" 
(Luke 2:8-14)

As a child and in my years as a pastor, I have always heard this account through the lens of the shepherds.  Probably because I can readily relate to the shepherds as one in need of a savior and who rejoices as the announcement of the angels …

Baby Joel, Miscarriage, and the Love of God

Below is what I wrote for the church newsletter some 6 years ago after we lost a child, Joel, to miscarriage. Maybe it can be of some comfort to others who are enduring or have endured such a tragedy. “ Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

What a blessing the people of God are!  We have been surrounded with love and support, lifted up in prayer, and embraced with loving arms during this difficult time.  You are likely aware by now that while on vacation, Christine and I lost our unborn baby.  While the tragedy of a miscarriage is terribly difficult, we give thanks to God for the loving, supportive, and prayerful people of God during this time.  We truly appreciate the cards, phone calls, hugs, tears, meals, and everything else that you have given to us during this time.

We have lost a member of our family.  Though unborn, our baby was truly already part of our family…

Married to an Unbeliever?

The image of a family, nicely (and conservatively) dressed, going to church together is a nice one, though this 1950's image certainly isn't typical even for many active Christians today (and that's okay).  Notice that the man in the image has full head of hair, the wife is a size 0, and the children are all smiling perfectly.  How realistic is that?

But there are also men and women who don't fit this picture because their spouse simply won't come to church with them because they are married to a non-Christian.

It can be incredibly difficult to be a Christian who is married to a non-Christian.

Such Christians face the following...

Instead of receiving help from your spouse in your Christian walk, your spouse is indifferent to the things of God (at best) or hostile to them.Your spouse isn't going to pray with you or do devotions with you.Holidays are challenging because Christmas and Easter are Christian festivals, but for the unbelieving spouse they are someth…

Evangelism in the Rural Setting: Part III, Getting Started

George McClellan was an impressive young man who had just been given a great deal of responsibility as general-in-chief of the Union Army during the Civil War. McClennan was only 34 years old when he took over this position, but he was an impressive individual and had the skills to be successful and make the Union Army successful.

However, when McClennan arrived, the army he was to command was in disorder. In short order McClennan changed the disorder to regular military order. The troops were regularly drilled. The training was thorough and regular. Very quickly the army that had been in disastrous disorder was put in good order. Soon they were well trained and ready to fight.

But McClennan, who had so thoroughly trained and prepared the troops for battle, simply refused to put them into battle. Again and again he had opportunities to use his now well trained army to win battles and further the cause of winning the war, but again and again he simply refused to put them into ac…

Bo on Baptism

Bo Giertz was a Lutheran Pastor and Bishop in Sweden in the mid 20th century, but more to the point, he ranks in my top 4 theologians to read.  He was pastoral, faithful, bold, caring, and winsome in his writing and preaching and I hope that I can follow his lead.

Below is a short exerpt on baptism that gives you just a taste of why I enjoy Giertz.  It comes from a tract published by The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England.  In this short section Giertz addresses the topic of those who were baptized as babies, children or adults and have walked away from faith in Christ.

That baptism truly can be the foundation for a person’s deepest personal faith—this is rarely seen when one looks out into the world. Rather, the vast majority break their baptismal covenant. It can occur through wilful defiance of God’s commandments or disregard of God himself, which most clearly manifests itself in that one never prays and never seeks His church. More or less intentionally, man has for his part en…

Evangelism in the Rural Setting: Part II, Advantages

Churches in rural areas know that evangelism can be a real challenge.

In my first post on this topic I laid out some of the obstacles we face in rural areas in regards to evangelism.  The purpose of the post was not to express hopelessness or despair, but so that we in rural settings can honestly and openly acknowledge the real obstacles that exist so that we can address them.

In this post I want to bring to the forefront some advantages we have in the rural setting when it comes to evangelism.  The suburbs and cities get the buzz in most circles because it can be far easier to quickly gain members of a congregation in those settings, however the rural setting has some advantages that aren't present in the cities and suburbs.

Advantages 1.  Long Term Relationships In my first post I noted that "Long Term Relationships" can be an obstacle for evangelism and it is so.  However, long term relationships can be a huge advantage as well.

Those living in the suburbs might neve…

Evangelism in the Rural Setting: Part I, Obstacles

As a pastor in a rural setting, I have seen the desire of Christians to reach others with the gospel.  There is a real and genuine desire to do evangelism and many of my members do make it a practice of inviting friends and family to church.  This post should not in any way be seen as a criticism of rural congregations, but as an opportunity to truly examine some of the obstacles we face in evangelizing our communities.

Evangelism isn't easy no matter where you go and evangelism in the rural setting can be particularly challenging.

Dr. Glenn Daman writes, concerning the challenges of evangelism in the rural community;
 Home Bible Studies, which are effective in the larger communities, find only moderate success in the smaller communities. Door to door evangelism, popularized by Evangelism Explosion, not only is unappealing to the congregation, but seems an exercise in futility by those who do attempt to institute the program. Friendship evangelism seems the most promising, yet, in…

The Perfect Church Member

This was my newsletter article for April.
The Perfect Church Member
After church this past Sunday, someone jokingly asked if I’d be preaching a sermon on the perfect church member.  Well…I won’t be preaching on that topic, but since you asked… ·The perfect church member is young, married, with young children, and has 90 years of experience in living as a Christian. ·The perfect church member is an enthusiastic new Christian who has been a lifelong Christian with deeply rooted faith. ·The perfect church member is single and dedicates all free time to serving the church, while simultaneously establishing a wide net of friendships inside and outside of the church. ·The perfect church member is extremely wealthy and can give generously to the church, but doesn’t work and so is always free to help out. ·The perfect church member teaches Sunday School, while being in Bible Class, and then stays around to help count the offering. ·The perfect church member is an extroverted introvert who loves to …

Saved For What?

In my previous post I shared what the Bible says Jesus saves us from.  But Jesus doesn't just save us from those things, He also saves for a purpose.

For what does Jesus save us?

Jesus saves you for self-sacrificial love and humble service to others. (Philippians 2:3-13)Jesus saves you for serving out your vocation of wife. (Colossians 3:18)Jesus saves you for serving out your vocation of husband. (Colossians 3:19)Jesus saves you for serving out your vocation of child. (Colossians 3:20)Jesus saves you for serving out your vocation of parent. (Colossians 3:21)Jesus saves you for serving out your vocation of worker. (Colossians 3:22)Jesus saves you for serving out your vocation of employer. (Colossians 3:23)Jesus saves you for praying and praising God together with other Christians. (Colossians 3:16)Jesus saves you for doing the good works He has prepared for you. (Ephesians 2:10)Jesus saves you for the resurrection from death to life everlasting. (1 Corinthians 15) Jesus also saves …

Saved From What?

Often Christians speak of being "saved."  This is good, proper, and Biblical language, however it begs the question: saved from what?

Well the Bible tells us the answer to that and it is helpful for us to know the answer because when we do, we will love Jesus more and have a deeper appreciation for what He has done for us.

Jesus saves us from the eternal fire of hell. (Matthew 18:8-9).Jesus saves us from eternal separation from God. (Matthew 25:41)Jesus saves us from eternal punishment. (Matthew 25:46)Jesus saves us from suffering while knowing that others are enjoying the joys of heaven. (Luke 13:28)Jesus saves us from eternal destruction. (2 Thessalonians 1:9) Note that "destruction" here doesn't mean that those in hell are destroyed and cease to exist.  Think of it as more in terms of the opposite of construction.  They will be in eternal ruin. Jesus saves us from a hell that is relentless in its agony.  (Mark 9:48) These are some of the eternal things from w…

The Vine and the Branches: A Parable

There was once a little branch.  The little branch had been a branch for as long as it could remember.  Day after day the little branch produced fruit that fed people.  Day after day the little branch, being fed by the vine to which it was connected, remained strong and healthy and was able to produce an abundance of fruit.  Day after day the fruit produced fed hungry people.
“Isn’t it great that we are able to help people by the fruit that we produce?” an old, big branch said to the little branch.  “It is so wonderful,” the big branch continued “that the vine feeds us and because the vine feeds us we can feed others.”
But the little branch wasn’t so sure.  “What do you mean, it’s great?  We’re wasting our time here connected to this vine.  We are the ones producing fruit after all!  That vine is just holding us back!  I don’t need the vine to produce fruit!  Besides, I don’t see your fruit!”
The little branch, being quite small, was unable to see the abundance of fruit that the big…

Seeing the Color Blue

There were many follow ups to "the dress" intrigue that captured the internet for a day.  One of the follow ups was this piece that details something I had heard about before, but had forgotten.

Apparently ancient languages didn't have a word for blue.  There's no word for blue in ancient Hebrew, Greek, Japanese, or Chinese.  Based upon this oddity, some studies were done that seemed to show that without a word for blue, it appears that people actually do not see blue.

From the article...
A researcher named Jules Davidoff traveled to Namibia to investigate this, where he conducted an experiment with the Himba tribe, which speaks a language that has no word for blue or distinction between blue and green.  When shown a circle with 11 green squares and one blue, they could not pick out which one was different from the others — or those who could see a difference took much longer and made more mistakes than would make sense to us, who can clearly spot the blue square. In s…

"The Dress"

Out of nowhere, yesterday a dress was all over my Facebook feed.  Why?  Because it appeared black and blue to some and gold and white to other people (I'm strange I guess, because it looked light blue and gold to me...).

The science behind why some see different colors in this instance is pretty well understood, but the idea of people seeing the same thing in different ways was absolutely fascinating to many people.  My wife, being a scrapbooker and having an eye for color, found the dress interesting because how people see colors is important to how she does layouts and how she takes pictures of them.  To others, it was fascinating because they wanted to know the "why" behind it.

To me, it wasn't all that interesting.  Except...I just can't help reading things like this through a theological lens.

Some see blue and some see white.  Does that mean that both are right?  Nope.  The dress is objectively a certain color.  It isn't "whatever you see."


איכה: Where Are you?

"Where are you God?"

It's a question that has been asked and prayed countless times in the history of humanity.  It's a question we ask when things are bad.  It's a question we ask when we are struggling.

"Where are you?"

It's a question that has been the starting point for so many people in their "search for God."  Countless attempts have been made to "find" God through meditation, fasting, prayer, pilgrimages, and hard work.

But humans were not the first to speak this question; God was.  The very first words spoken by God (actually one word איכה in Hebrew) spoken by God after the fall into sin was not a word of judgment, but a calling to Adam and Eve to return to Him.

"Where are you?" God asked Adam and Eve.  Of course God knew where they were.  They question wasn't asked for His benefit, but for theirs.  He was calling them back to Him, even in their guilt.  They had sinned against Him and because of their sin, …

Love Must Be Tough

Below is what I wrote for our March 2015 newsletter.
“Love Must Be Tough” is the title of a book by Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family.  In his book, Dobson writes concerning marriage and the difficulties of marriage.

Isn’t it interesting that it is tough to love the person you chose to be with and to whom you chose to commit yourself?  It isn’t as if you were randomly assigned a spouse.  You chose your spouse!  

Yet, love must be tough, because even in this relationship in which we voluntarily choose to commit to loving another person, we struggle to love them.

That “love must be tough” is shown in our families as well.  As parents age and their children have to make decisions regarding their care, it is tough for both parents and children.  Yet, children care for parents in spite of how tough it is.

If love is tough in a marriage and if love is tough if a family, how much tougher will it be for us in the church?  

You don’t choose the church, you are called into it by …

When being a member or the church hurts...

Every pastor has experienced it.  Preparing a sermon, preparing to enter the pulpit to preach God's Word to God's people, but his thinking is clouded by hurtful words that still echo in his head.

A member...a loved and trusted member of the church...said something deeply hurtful to the pastor.  Maybe the comment was about him personally.  Maybe it was about something the he does or doesn't do.  Perhaps, worst of all, it was said about his wife or family.

Such comments are deeply hurtful.  I could give you personal examples, but I won't out of love and respect for the individuals involved and because it would be poor pastoral practice to do so.

How can a pastor deliver God's Word in a faithful way in such a situation?  The temptation is to use the pulpit to vent about the situation or to "address" the thinking that led to such comments.  Or not to preach at all, because who wants to talk to people who have hurt you so deeply?  The temptation is real, but t…