Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Original Sin

  So there I was...

  Thinking about Melchior, as I often do.  I think about his little hands and feet, about the way he'll scream and cry in the beginning, and we won't understand a thing he says, yet we'll love his little heart out anyway.  We'll coo and shush and tend to his every need and want, even when we don't know what they are.  We'll love him before he can speak, and even when he decides to voice his opinions at 3 am, we'll love him then, too.

  But then I realized--because of this whole idea of original sin, we believe that he is fallen and broken, a sinner just like the rest of us.

  It's a little hard to think of Melchior as a sinner.  All he'll do for the first year is wave his little arms and feet, cry and poop.  None of those are inherently sinful, right?

  But we believe that all of creation is infected with sin.  It's inescapable.

  I'm sure our little angel will do something wrong in his life.  At some point he'll break something and pretend it wasn't him.  He'll pull the cat's tail or act like he didn't hear one of his parents admonishing him.  He'll stay out too late and lie about having done his homework.

  But it's hard to believe that he's sinful, innocent babe that he will be.

  Of course, it's hard to believe that Christ died with me on his mind, too.  It's hard to believe that I am worthy of such impressive grace.  And surely, if I am worthy of such amazing grace and love, Melchior is, too.  For there is more than enough grace, more than enough love, to cover our sins.  And he, too, is redeemed by the blood of the lamb, a child of the covenant, a child of God.  So I shall not be depressed thinking about his fallenness--rather I shall celebrate that he belongs to God.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Devotional--Love, Part V

Matthew 22.34-40

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

  Do you remember how Dr. Seuss says that the Grinch's heart is two sizes too small?

  God is the opposite--imagine a heart filled with more love than you can imagine, then double it, and you're still not even close to how loving God is.  God's love for you is so great that nothing in this world can separate you from it.

  And God's greatest wish for us is that we love God, love one another, and love ourselves.  It's that simple and that complicated.  Sometimes it is easy to love others, sometimes people make it very difficult to love them, and sometimes we do a very good job of not loving ourselves.

  But God loves you more than you can imagine, and it doesn't depend on anything you do.  So I hope that you can find some ways today to reach out to those who surround you and remind them of your love for them, whether or not they deserve it.  The more love we share with others, the more readily we accept love that is returned.  May we try and emulate God in all we do.


Romans 8:38-39

38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Of Gods and Men

  It's hard to believe that a movie watched at twice the normal speed can still seem slow, and that despite the slowness of the movie it can still be well worth watching, but both facts are true.  We'd had Of Gods and Men sitting on the mantle for weeks--I had selected it when Rachel was away and had never gotten around to watching it, and a movie about Algerian Trappist monks was not exactly her ball of wax to help her relax after a long day of work.  So I invested an hour (rather than 2) into watching it this afternoon.

  It's quite a story--it's the story of French Trappist monks in an Algerian town who have invested themselves in sharing Christ's love with their brothers and sisters.  They are a part of the community, and when the entire community is threatened by Islamic extremists, they face a difficult choice--to stay in solidarity with the community, or to flee.  They are well aware that they are risking their very lives, and yet the thought of fleeing gives each mixed emotions.

  It gives interesting food for thought, to think about what we give up when we follow Christ, about what we are willing to risk for the sake of the Gospel.  Obviously, most of us will never face the same type of choices the monks had to make.  But we each must sacrifice for Christ--we give up this life and take on the life of Christ, one that has defeated death.  But it doesn't make it easy.

  The life of discipleship is a hard choice, and we must choose daily to fight against the influence of the world to choose safety and comfort.  What does that look like in 21st century America?  How do we choose Christ in a world where our lives are not threatened because of our faith?

  I believe that it means we have to find those things that threaten our life in faith--to tirelessly root out the stumbling blocks, the greed and the comfort, the lust and the violence, and constantly die to Christ.  We have to work to choose to love our neighbor, to love our own family, those members whom we so often tune out in favor of our own personal entertainment.  We have to choose love, to choose to embrace the other, even in the face of fear and turmoil, even when we are threatened with the unknown.  We cannot stay safely within the world we know--but rather must boldly choose to serve and to love, and to remember that the old life has gone, the new has begun, in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

34.5 weeks!!!!!

  Do you know what's awesome?

  Other than a 6-4-3 double play, cold beer on hot days and finding out that Shooter is on late night tv?

  Getting ready to have a baby.

  Rachel and I have been practicing her breathing.

  She's been hard at work in the nursery.

  And I'm like a little kid at Christmas who knows he's about to get everything he asked for and can barely wait for the hours to tick by and Christmas morning to arrive.

  Genghis will be here before we know it, and I'm almost certain that there will be times when I'm half asleep at 3 AM staring at the crying baby thinking about how peaceful it was when he was in the womb, but it's just all so very exciting.

  I did want to pass along some pictures of the nursery.  Much gratitude goes to Beth, Rachel's sister, for her work on the border and the rainbow.  It looks great and brings a lot of color to the room.  We've been overwhelmed by the generosity of others in the baby showers, and feel completely humbled.  I sometimes catch myself staring at some of the things and imagining little Genghis playing with them...

  What marvelous adventures await us!


Remember to be in prayer for all those in the path of this storm.  Absolutely massive...


  Feel overwhelmed?  Guilty for not living the life of the spirituality master that you feel like you should be living?  Wondering how to cram one more thing into an already overwhelmed schedule?

  Doug Field has written a great little (it's 113 pages, and they're small pages, too!) book called Refuel that I'd recommend.  It's simple and strips away a lot of the complexity that we pastors often like to add to the spiritual life.  Rather than trying to guilt Christians into half an hour devotions each morning, noon and night, Fields has a three step process:  1) Stop, 2) Be Quiet, and 3) Connect with God.  That's it.  It can be as simple or as complicated as you like, take thirty seconds, thirty minutes or thirty hours.  It depends on the reader, but it's geared towards those who have too much to do and feel drained.  It's a way to help recognize God in our midst, a way to help us find the restorative grace that surrounds us, that we have often shut out by our own stubborn desires to do this on our own.

  Refuel is a short, cheap book (You can find it for a few bucks on Amazon) that is meant to offer guidance on living the spiritual life most of us long for.  I'd recommend you spend the hour or two it takes to read this book, and see where you can find the places to put it to use in your own life.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Interesting Thought

  Rachel and I had a doctor's appointment the other day--everything looks great, they say, and Nebuchadnezzar's head is pointed down.  I don't know if that's temporary or if he's preparing for the big launch, but it's a good sign, I suppose.  (They could tell me just about anything and I'd believe them.  Like I know anything about pregnancy!)

  A fascinating thought was just passed along to me--that Nebuchadnezzar is just as excited to meet us as we are to meet him...  I don't know why it never occurred to me that he might be thrilled to meet me (perhaps because I'm too busy focusing on the fact that he might express that excitement by peeing on me or crying all night), but I'm so wrapped up in my excitement to meet him that I never thought about the fact that there will be moments where he encircles his arms as far around me as he can and says, "I love you, dad."

8/25 E-News

No Scheduled Worship at New Hope Next Week (9/4)

Red Bucket Offering—Total collected was a touch over $300!!!

Small Groups—In the next few months you may be hearing more about the possibility of small groups at New Hope.  What I’m trying to gauge is the interest level of the congregation.  These groups (6-12 people) would meet for about an hour each week or every other week to follow Bible studies or other curriculum.  (I’ve found some options)  I’m looking for leaders, as well as others who are interested in being involved. 

Ribs & UTC-- Want to support our local Presbyterian campus ministry? Need ribs for the Labor Day weekend?
The Presbyterian Campus Ministry at UT-C (Hope 808) is selling pre-cooked, ready to heat and serve pork ribs as a fund raiser. These St. Louis style ribs usually sell in high-end restaurants from $18 - $22 a plate.  And we are offering these rib racks for $16 a rack.  Each rack is one & three-quarter pounds, trimmed leaving the select portion of the rib rack. The ribs will be frozen and can be used for the holiday weekend or at any later time you may choose.
Orders may be submitted to Beth Meulenberg by Tuesday August 30. Payment can be made at the time of ordering or when you pick up. Checks should be made out to Presbyterian Campus Ministry at UT-C.
          Also regarding UTC—are you interested in being on the Board?  Contact Keith.

Open Table is a group of young adult-types (post-college age to 40-ish (we don’t check id’s)) within the area who will gather around tables (restaurant tables, dinner tables, coffee tables, pool tables, picnic tables, etc) for friendship, discipleship, service and more.

Open Table Kickoff Picnic – Saturday, September 10, 4:30 - ?, Chickamauga Dam and Recreational Area (Take the Amnicola Exit off of Hwy 153.)
Bring a dish to share, camp chairs, picnic blankets, Frisbees, etc. We will provide drinks, plates, cups, utensils.
This event is for the whole family. Come early to swim if you’d like.

Open Table Dinner at Las Margaritas – Tuesday, September 20, 6:30-8:30 p.m., (4604 Skyview Dr., Chattanooga, TN 37416 – just off Hwy 58); dutch treat.
Free child care provided at Northminster Presbyterian Church (parents can drop off at 6:15 p.m.)

New Hope News
Lynn Meyer will be taking part in the Susan Komen Race for the Cure this year on September 25.  If you’d like to offer support, you can visit her page and offer a financial support.  Wouldn’t it be pretty cool, though, if a bunch of New Hopers got together and walked with her?  The 1 mile walk is at 2:05, while a 5k race starts at 2:00.  (Just a note—if you open the link in Google’s Chrome browser, it may be in Greek.  I don’t know why, but just try the link in another browser.  The internet is a strange, strange place.)

Pray for…
Those in the path of Hurricane Irene, and those left behind in its wake

Roger & Lynn Meyer


The Mindset List for the class of 2015:  Fake Christmas Trees have always outsold real trees.

Some photos from New Hope’s garden sent to me by a visitor. 

Text for this Week 
Luke 19:28-40

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethpage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.

As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
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The Surprising Power of Family Meals

  Eating together as a family will make your children happier, smarter, taller, more flexible, more likely to succeed, stronger and more likely to be elected as prom king/queen.

  Ok, so those aren't all true.  But most of them are, according to Miriam Weinstein, the author of The Surprising Power of Family  Meals.  It's an interesting look at what is probably one of the most disregarded aspects of American family life.  The family meal is often thrown out the window like so many used fast-food cups as family life roars down the freeway at full speed, desperate to make it to the next soccer practice, violin recital or play date.  Weinstein is urging us to slow down and eat together, not just for our sanity, but for the sake of our children as well.

  In the book she explores how family meals, eaten together (With the television off!!!!!) helps kids be more confidant and gain vocabulary, among other things.  Family meals make a huge difference, not only when kids are young, but as they grow.  It's not just an opportunity to inhale needed calories--it's a chance to reconnect, to tighten our familial bonds, to talk about right and wrong and tell family stories that connect us to the past.  It's important.

  Now, I will freely admit that to this reader, the book was about twice as long as it needed to be.  Weinstein makes her point loudly and clearly, and then spends the rest of the book reinforcing that point.  I wanted to yell at the pages, "I get it!!  It's important!!"  But Weinstein doesn't back off from her main point or the evidence that proves its importance.  Eat facing together.  Talk.

  So much of the New Testament is focused around the table.  It's where Christ often met with sinners and disciples, to pull back the veil and reveal his love.  Christ gathered and taught at the table.  Christ infuriated the Pharisees because he would eat with anyone, anywhere.  Around the table is where Christ's loved was made real.

  And so we, as Christians, continue to gather around the table.  I pray that the families of our congregation, of our communities, gather around the table, that we might show our love for one another, and in so doing, reveal Christ's love to our children, that they may grow confidant in the knowledge that they are loved.

Check out Miram's website:  The Power of Family Meals

Devotional--Love, Part IV

1 John 4:13-19

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us.

  Think of a bucket.  When you pour too much water into it, it overflows.  Now, if this bucket is sitting on top of other buckets, those will then fill up until they overflow, and so on.

  So it is with love.  Without God, we don't have love.  We can try, but true love originates in God.  God then pours this selfless love into us to the point that it overflows, and then we pour out that love into others.  We love as a grateful response to the love that God gives to us.

  As we read the Gospels, as we thank God for his amazing love, may we be driven to share that incredible love with the friends and strangers in our lives.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Devotional--Love, Part III

John 1:14 (The Message)

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

  When we talk about love, all of our talk begins with God's love.  So often we try to define God's love, we try to capture it in a word, in a well-crafted phrase.  We want to define it, to understand it, to contain it, to hold it.  But at the heart of it, God's love is reaching out to us--God's love made real, flesh and blood, moving into the neighborhood.  God doesn't love us from afar, distant in the heavens.  God doesn't love us in theory.  God loves us in reality, in our humanity, in flesh and blood.  God comes to us, sits down beside us, dines with us, wraps us in his arms when we are curled up in bed weeping, dances with us in the late summer sun.

  When you think about love, do you just think about the idea of love?  Or do you focus on the actual events where people have shown their love?  Like the time a friend showed up in the middle of the night to mourn with you?  Or the time someone special made a point to go out of their way to say hello?  Or the time someone listened to you, only to you, when you needed it?

  Love is real events, done by real people, showing the depth of their love.  May we endeavor to love people in such a way that they see the truth of our love.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Devotional--Love, Part II

Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

  Ever heard of a show called The Bachelorette?  It's on after Jeopardy, and every now and again Rachel and I would watch the first five or ten minutes of it, because I find it amazing.  In short, a woman falls in love with four or five guys and then decides to marry one of them.  Shockingly, the relationships don't last once the happy couple return to 'real' life.

  It's easy to love someone when life is all puppies and rainbows and butterflies.  It's easy to be in love when TV shows are paying for your vacation in Tahiti.  When real life hits, though, and bills are overdue and the kids are screaming and the A/C breaks, it's harder to be in love.  It's a test of our love--a very, very trying test, sometimes.

  God proves his love for us time and time again, and God does so by pouring out his love for us in the exact times when we may deserve it least.  While we were still sinners, Paul writes, Christ died for us.  Not when we looked great and were living right and making good choices--but in the midst of our broken, human sin, Christ came and died for us.

  God loves you, even when you are weak and broken, even though you may not feel worthy of God's love.  He proves this time and time again, setting an example for us to follow--to love at all times, especially when it isn't easy, because that's the proof of the depth of our love.  Will we still love when the going gets tough?


Monday, August 22, 2011

Found in Chattanooga

  So we had an incredible baby shower at the church on Sunday.  I was humbled by the experience.  Exhausted, as well--I had no idea baby showers were so exhausting!  Rachel and I had so much fun--it was neat to gather with friends and family and simply enjoy an afternoon, to prepare for the baby and look forward to the day when little Achilles joins our world!

  It's also humbling to be in the presence of so much parenting experience--I was in a room with a lot of people who have raised a lot of children, and it is my hope that I can be humble enough to listen to their wisdom and wise enough to know how best to raise our own child.  In some ways it will be completely unique, but there is plenty I can learn from others.

  I know there were countless hours poured into the preparation of the baby shower--I am beyond grateful to those who poured their time and their hearts into the shower.  It's been such a blessing to be a part of this church family--to see the way that love is poured out on one another, and to also be the recipient of that love.  Rachel and I have been welcomed with open arms, and we look forward to Achilles being a part of the church family, being loved and guided by so many loving friends.

  We lean on one another for strength and support, and it was fun on Saturday to see so many people gathered to lend their support now, for I know that we will be able to count on their presence in the days, weeks, months and years to come.  We don't go through any of this alone--we would collapse under the weight if such a burden was to be undertaken.

  We are also amazed to see how the nursery has taken shape!  It is filled with toys for small hands and little arms, as well as clothes for a tiny body to squeeze into!  I can stare at those socks for the longest time and wonder about the little feet that will occupy them in a short time.  What a miracle of creation a baby is!  We have many, many books, which will keep us from setting up Achilles with his own account for a few months.  I hope he is soon as addicted to books as I am!

  In fact, perhaps the only thing we haven't received at a baby shower is the following, seen at a local store here in town:

Devotional--Love, Part I

Isaiah 43:1-7

  But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

  Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

  Now, I could obviously spend the rest of my days writing about God's love and I would not even have started to put a dent in the issue.  But it's worth starting somewhere--I think it's worth taking some time this morning simply to bask in God's love.  God loves you more than you can imagine--more than you can contemplate, more than you can ever hope to understand.  I believe that if we could fully understand God's love in this life it would render us unable to act, for all we would do is lie on our faces and bask in the fullness of God's love.

  God loves you.  Before you were born, God loves you.  In the midst of the worst sin of your life, God loves you.  In the darkest valley of the deepest pain of your life, God loves you.  On the highest mountain of your greatest joy, God loves you.  Today, right now, in this moment, God loves you with a love that surrounds you and holds you so fiercely it will never let you go.  No matter how great the storms of life are, they cannot pierce the protective veil of God's love.  They may hurt us, and the chaos of life may distract us, but God's love can never be pulled from us--the scripture doesn't say the fire won't hurt, only that it will not consume.

  Whatever is going on in your life today--God loves you, and will continue loving you forever.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

34 weeks

My wife, barefoot and pregnant (34 weeks!!) in the kitchen.

(I should note that this picture was her idea, not mine. And yes, we have a lot of peach jam now.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

  Life moves in phases.

 There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when I watched that commercial and seriously considered how I would look driving a Mustang.  (Who am I kidding?  I didn't care what I looked like.  I just wanted to drive it.)  I spent large amounts of time wondering about Ford Mustangs and really expensive bicycles and other toys I probably (definitely) didn't need.

  Now, life has changed a little.  That Mustang doesn't have four doors, and getting a carseat in and out of the back seems treacherous.  Those triathlon bikes probably don't work so well with trailers behind them.  Instead of wondering about horsepower, I'm purchasing items that promise to be 'odor free' and offers 'economic refills'.  Once, I was focused on stocking the house with items for a game room downstairs.  Now, my house has an item expressly designed to care for the toxic waste produced by a person who won't use a litter box.

  How quickly life changes...

  (And why is it a good thing that my diaper disposal system doesn't need batteries?  What would the batteries do--run the ejection system that pitches dirty diapers out the window into the neighbors yard?  Call the sewage system and have them send some guys out to clean this thing up?  Or does it just mean I can't put batteries in there because the stench would erode them and make battery acid leak all over the place?  Or am I not allowed to buy battery powered diapers?  What would those do--clean themselves?  Make my child crawl faster?  Light up when it needs to be changed?  Have a flashlight to help the kid find the litter box in the dark?  So many questions...)

8/18 E-News

Planning Calendar—If you’d like a Presbytery Planning Calendar, please reply and let me know. 

Potluck—There’s going to be a potluck supper THIS Sunday following worship.  Join us!

Outreach Committee—Meets tonight at 5:30 in the McMillan Building.

Small Groups—In the next few months you may be hearing more about the possibility of small groups at New Hope.  What I’m trying to gauge is the interest level of the congregation.  These groups (6-12 people) would meet for about an hour each week or every other week to follow Bible studies or other curriculum.  (I’ve found some options)  I’m looking for leaders, as well as others who are interested in being involved. 

New Hope News
Saturday a team from New Hope will head to Tazewell to begin making plans for a Living Waters installation.  Please be in prayer for them, and contact Lloyd or Don Kaller if you’re interested in being a part of this.

Pray for…
The kids of the church as they get back into the rhythm of school.  (And the parents, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, etc.)

Roger & Lynn Meyer


There is more wisdom in this seven minute video than I have found in 700 page books.

Did Adam and Eve exist?  Food for thought.

Text for this Week

Luke 19:11-27
As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. 

He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’ 

When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. 

The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’

Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities.’ 

Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’

He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) ‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”
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Devotion--Work, part VI

Revelation 14:13
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”


  Someday, we shall not work.  As Adam and Eve were being evicted from the Garden of Eden, they were told about how their lives would be transformed as a result of their sin.  They were told that their work, their labor, would be hard, and life would be different.  And so it has been ever since that fateful day.

  But someday, when God restores all of creation, we will rest from our labors, and we will take up the holy rest we find in God.  Someday, all the world will be restored and redeemed, and we shall dwell forever with the Lord.

  Until then, we will work.  It will be joyous sometimes, and at other times a difficult slog.  But we will work, and it is my earnest prayer that all of our work will be directed to God as worship.  May we offer all that we are to the Lord in thanksgiving and praise, praising God through our work and letting all of life be worship.

Psalm 127

1Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


  So I realized something this evening... my standard has changed.

  When I was a kid, or otherwise academically engaged, my standard was my peers.  How am I doing in relation to my peers?  We had class rankings for that very purpose--they helped each student see where they were in relation to the whole.  As one of the kids who was academically gifted, I was usually doing pretty well according to my standard.  I didn't have to invest a lot of time or worry in whether I was living up to the standard or not.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say I didn't have to invest a lot of work in it, either.  It came naturally.

  Now, this became a problem when I arrived in college.  No longer was it easy to coast along above my peers academically.  It was a challenge, one that demanded hard work, and I will readily admit I failed in this task.  I didn't live up to the standard, and the fact that I graduated with a respectable GPA had as much to do with my switching majors as it did with my renewed focus on work.

  As long as my standard was academically relating to my peers, I did ok, with the exception of failing miserably in engineering.

  But, as my life became centered around the Gospel rather than the world of academics, my standard changed.  No longer was it enough to do better than my peers--now I was measuring up to the standard of Jesus Christ.  And, in case you haven't read the Gospels, that standard is as high as possible--Jesus Christ, though tempted just as we are, is perfect in every way, without sin or blemish.  Now that I'm seeking to live as a Christian, I'm trying to live up to his standard.

  And I'm failing.  Just like everyone else.

  The problem is, I don't hear the words of grace.  I'm so busy beating myself up for failing to live up to a standard that I will never achieve that I don't focus on the grace, forgiveness and love that Christ pours out into my life.  I'm too busy focusing on myself rather than Christ's gracious love.  I'm trying to make this life about myself, rather than letting it be about Christ.

  So it's okay that you don't live up to the standard that Christ sets.  You never will.  I never will.  Sin gets in the way.  It doesn't mean that it's ok to give up, what it means is that we need to accept Christ's forgiveness and live as a transformed, forgiven people, sharing that love with others, rather than investing energy into worrying about failure.

Devotional--Work, Part V

2 Samuel 7:4-7

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’

  Sometimes, in our work, we think we have it all figured out.  We think we know the direction we're supposed to go, the exact next step of our journey, the way God is leading us.  Sometimes we are so certain that it feels as though God has put up neon signs to direct our feet.

  And then, it turns out we're wrong.  And that's ok.  You're not the first one that has happened to.

  David was certain that he needed to build a temple for the Ark, for the glory of God.  He believed with all his heart that this was the right thing to do, the next step in his life, in his work as king.

  But God said 'no.'  God had other plans for David.

  And sometimes God has other plans for you.

  It doesn't mean God doesn't love you.  It doesn't mean that God doesn't want you to work as hard as you can, with passion and commitment in all your labors.  It simply means that sometimes God will close a door, sometimes very directly.  I believe that whenever God does, God will direct us elsewhere, and give us another path to wander.

  Sometimes it will feel like our work has been wasted--but God is using it all, building us, building the Kingdom of God through us.  So when God says 'no', do not be frustrated, but rather recognize that God will place something new in the world for you, and God will continue to use you for God's glory.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Devotion--Work, Part IV

Exodus 20:8-11

8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9For six days you shall labour and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

  When we talk about work, we have to remember to talk about sabbath, about balance, about rest.  If we work constantly and never rest, our vision becomes distorted, and we lost perspective.

  I suppose I should confess that I am terrible at resting.  Rather than take Friday and Saturday off, I usually end up working in some mode.  Sabbath doesn't come naturally to me.

  In today's world, I don't think it comes naturally to any of us.  We have tuned our lives so that we will work constantly, trying to 'get ahead', believing that if we stop working, if we stop moving, all the balls we have up in the air will come crashing down around us.

  When we take sabbath, when we experience holy rest, we stop and remember that only the Lord can save us, that all of life belongs to God and that He will care for us.  We don't have to do everything ourselves.  In Sabbath, we are recharged, rejuvenated, re-aligned with our perspective.  When we take holy rest, we are reminded that our primary purpose is to glorify God, not to get ahead in the world.

  Sabbath doesn't have to look the same for everyone.  Do what is gloriously enjoyable for you.  Just remember to take sabbath, to be recharged and rest in the Lord's favor.


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Dentist

  Do you know how awkward it is when you're at the dentist and they keep asking you questions, while at the same time jamming as many different and varied instruments as possible into your mouth as though it were a competition with cash prizes?  I've always wondered if it were possible for a visit to the dentist to be more awkward than the one where I'm constantly trying to elucidate complex sentences in grunts and groans.

  I've now discovered that, yes, it is possible.  What could be more awkward?

  A visit to the dentist where the hygienist spends an inordinate amount of time with her hands and various dental instruments shoved in your mouth and yet, in that time, says nothing to you.


  Perhaps it started poorly.  When I walked into the area with the dental chair, I was somewhat astonished to find a television back there showing some sort of daytime talk show.  (Are any of them different?)  The hygienist handed me the remote, telling me I could find something I liked, and then turned around to enter something into a computer.  I knew exactly what I wanted from the TV.  I lifted the remote, clicked the 'off' button, and was greeted by the blissful blank screen.  I don't need television intruding into the dental chair.  The hygienist seemed a bit surprised when I handed her back the remote and explained that I didn't like television.  Maybe that's why she didn't speak to me.  Or, perhaps I'm simply not very interesting.  (A high possibility)  Either way, it was beyond awkward to have someone spend that much time staring into my mouth and say nothing.

  I just thought I'd share that.  Who doesn't love hearing stories about other people's dental visits?

Simply Amazing

Devotional--Work, Part III

John 13.1-5, 12-14

  Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.

  And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

  This might seem to you an odd choice for a series on work, but I think it's important that we take a moment and realize what our purpose truly is.  We've talked about the importance of seeing our work as a calling, and now I'd like to discuss what it means to keep our eyes open during our work for opportunities to proclaim Christ.

  Think of all the times you're interrupted during work.  Perhaps you work in a place where co-workers or clients are constantly poking their heads into your world, for conversation or just for business.  Rather than see those as a distraction, is there a way you can recognize those small moments as chances to focus fully on that person, as a chance to serve them?  In the Scripture, Christ gets up from the table and washes the disciples' feet--he performs a loving act of service that shows them how much he cares.  We, too, are called to serve our neighbors by showing them we care.

  Perhaps they'll be intrigued and ask you why you care.  Maybe they'll wonder why you focus on them, why you listen.  Maybe they'll notice how you invest time and care in others.  That's your window to talk about how you seek to show the love of Christ to others.  Maybe they won't ask--all we can do is show up and continue to be a witness, a servant, and love others in the midst of our work.  We have to trust the Holy Spirit to open windows around us!


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Birth Class

  So there we were...

  Rachel and I spent seven hours learning how to have a baby yesterday.  After watching all those hours of powerpoint, I can safely say I know a lot more about having babies than I did on Friday.  I can also say that my part in this whole thing is a whole lot easier than hers.  I have been able to spend the last 33 weeks going to the gym, having a cold beer, etc.  Rachel's been watching her body change and wondering about the stress and difficulty of labor.  Not exactly fair, is it?

  After watching the videos, I have to admit that I'm not sorry to miss out on labor.  It doesn't look like a walk in the park.  The women they interviewed were all honest--it's not easy, but the ordeal is entirely worth it.  They had to struggle through labor.  They were grateful for the support, but they had to go through the physical pain, while their husbands could only do their best to cheer them on.

  I wouldn't say I feel guilty for this, but I will say that I imagine I will feel a bit helpless.  I will be there every step of the way, but yet it will be outside my ability to actually relieve her pain--I can't take that away from her.  I can assure her of my presence, and I can offer the promise that it will end soon and that she is doing great, but she alone has to endure the pain.

  I look forward to labor in utter humility--I don't know what it will bring and when it will come and how long it will take.  I pray for strength for Rachel, for wisdom for myself, and safety for little Poseidon.  We will meet him soon, on the other side of a long and painful process, but I look forward with eagerness to the time when we will hold him in our arms and know that every step of this journey was one that we would do again if we had the chance.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Devotional--Work, Part II

Ephesians 4:1-13

  I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

  But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’ (When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)

  The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.


    In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges us to lead a life worthy of our calling.  I'm intrigued by the language he uses, and think there is something that we can learn from this encouragement.  I think we can learn to look at our calling, whatever it may be, in a different light.

  Can we look at our calling, our work, as an opportunity to bring honor to it?  When we lead the life Christ calls us to lead, when we live with integrity and honor, working hard so that Christ is glorified through us, we have the ability to bring some transformation to our work.  I think about people I respect who work hard, and as a result of their hard work the respect I have for them, and for their work, is raised.  People may wonder what motivates us, what pushes us to work harder, to focus more--the light of Christ shines through us in our work, and others see that.  I trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in the hearts of workers, colleagues and friends, and that the Spirit will open up opportunities for us to proclaim the name of Christ.

  So let us bring honor to our work by living with integrity, leading a life worthy of our calling, and sharing the love of Christ with those who surround us.


Thursday, August 11, 2011


Planning Calendar—If you’d like a Presbytery Planning Calendar, please reply and let me know. 

Small Groups—In the next few months you may be hearing more about the possibility of small groups at New Hope.  What I’m trying to gauge is the interest level of the congregation.  These groups (6-12 people) would meet for about an hour each week or every other week to follow Bible studies or other curriculum.  (I’ve found some options)  I’m looking for leaders, as well as others who are interested in being involved. 

Sack Packs are Back!—On August 16 we’ll be returning to the Food Bank to pack sack packs!  Be there at 9, or here at 8:45 if you’d like to carpool.

Devotionals on your Kindle/iPad?—People have asked me, from time to time, about having copies of the old email devotionals I have done over the past 3.5 years.  Thanks to the ease of Amazon’s self-publishing, they’re now available on your electronic reading devices.

Pray for…
Roger & Lynn Meyer
Larrie Mansfield—her surgery went well, and she continues to recover.
The session meeting this Sunday.

Want to help change a life for $25?  Kiva is an organization focused on micro-loans.  I’ve helped a woman in Cambodia build a house and another woman in El Salvador make tortillas with the same $25!

A book that looks interesting:  10 Things Jesus Never Said.

Text for this Week

Luke 19:1-10
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

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