Thursday, July 31, 2014

Psalm 66:1-7

Psalm 66:1-7
21st Century King James Version (KJ21) 


  Come and see!  Don't stand aside, waiting for the right moment, when everything is perfect.  Don't stand aside dispassionately, waiting to see what everyone else might do.  Come and see!  Dive right in, praising the Lord for his mighty works.  Come and see, immerse your life in his greatness and discover that God abundantly provides, that his might and power and wisdom is used for you, to gather you in and enrich your existence.  Come and see, to discover that all the good things we can say about God barely scratch the surface of his eternal goodness.
  Come and see!

May you seek God with all your heart, for you will surely find him

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Psalm 65:9-13

Psalm 65:9-13
New International Version (NIV)


  Sorry for the delay... moving hundreds of miles from Chattanooga turned out to be a bit more time consuming than expected.  If you need boxes, however, we have extra.

  Have you ever wondered why the earth is so beautiful?  Have you ever seen pictures (or the real thing) of a coral reef and wondered why such splendor exists?  Have you ever wandered through a dense forest and been amazed at the grandeur there?
  I think God likes to create beautiful things.  I think God loves beauty, and he fills the earth with beauty as a way of expressing delight.
  In taking time to appreciate the beauty God makes, I think we recognize how magnificent the God we worship is.  God isn't just about the bare basics, but about abundance and love and wonder.  God loves beauty, and calls us to enjoy that beauty and to create beauty with God.

May you revel in God's abundance

Saturday, July 19, 2014

No More Night

  The world's best scientists tell us that the earth will meet its end when the sun expands to such a point that it consumes the earth within its girth.
  But we already knew that, didn't we?  Thousands of years ago, the apostle John tells us in Revelation what the end will look like--the earth will be consumed in the light of God.  There will be no more night, he says, because God himself will be our light.  There will be no more darkness, because the light of God's grace and love will envelop every corner of the renewed and redeemed earth.  There will be no more shadowy corners where evil lurks, because evil will have been destroyed.  The light of God will be all there is.
  We will be swallowed up by grace, and of this state, there will be no end.  What science has recently learned has been lurking in the pages of Scripture for years, ready and available to all those willing to learn.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Psalm 65:1-8

Psalm 65:1-8
The Message (MSG) 

  Next week, I'll be driving a 26' moving truck (our special yellow truck, as we tell Caleb) north to a new home.  I have a hunch it will handle a little differently than my station wagon, which zips right along, not weighing much in comparison to a moving truck filled with baggage.
  Baggage.  It's that stuff we bring with us, that we accumulate over a lifetime, that often slows us down.  Imagine how free you'd feel if you didn't have all that baggage weighing you down.
  When we come to God, we come loaded with the guilt, with the sins of our past, but God takes that load off our shoulders.  God releases us from the burden of guilt we carry, and God helps us to live into our true purpose, which is perfect and holy communion with God.  We don't achieve that on this side of heaven, but God points us in that direction, giving us glimpses of the Kingdom of God--we tune our ears and begin to hear dawn and dusk calling to each other, saying 'Come and worship'.
  Step by step, we draw closer to that life God has in store for us, so that when we step through the veil and into eternal life, we'll recognize parts of it from the glimpses we had on this side of the veil.

May you trust God with your burden on this day

Thursday, July 17, 2014


  If no one lives in a house, does it still accumulate dust?

  It's strange in our house right now.  Most of the pictures are off the wall, and we boxed up the TV today.  We don't watch much TV, but for the last 5.5 years it has stood sentry over the fireplace, ready to light up the room.  My two Ansel Adams prints have followed me everywhere for the last 13 years, and they no longer frame the kitchen cutout anymore.  So many places around the house are barren, devoid of the things that have made this house our home, and each day the house looks more and more like it did on the first day we walked into it, before it was ours.

  And it gets me thinking about home.

  Houses are concrete things, very definite places with walls and windows and dust and spiders.  Home, though, is more abstract.  Home is the place where the soul rests, where the rapid pace of life slows a bit as your feet ascend onto the couch.  Home is the place where you bring your newborn for the first time, and home is the place where you watch them grow.  Home is a place where a marriage, a partnership is made.  Home has roots deep in my heart.

  It's not hard for me to leave behind this house.  I'll miss my blueberry bushes, and the basement I finished.  I'll miss the light streaming in through the windows and our great neighbors.

  The hardest part is the memories, the moments that have made this house into our home.  I'll take those with me, and we'll make a new home in Columbus, but it's just a strange thing, one I can't quite grasp, that makes it so hard to leave this home behind.  It's been home for so long, and I feel like part of me belongs here.

  It's home.

Psalm 64

Psalm 64 
New International Reader's Version (NIRV) 

 God built Mt. Everest.  God carved the earth from nothing.  God set the sun in space and lit the match to start it burning.  God knows how to make a tree and an ant, and how to have them work together.  God knows all things, understanding how black holes work and what is inside an atom.  This God, this vast and all-knowing God, hears you as you tell him your problems.  This God, the all-powerful God who created the universe with a word, cares about your problems.  This God loves you deeply enough to sacrifice his own Son so that you might live with him forever, regardless of how you may have turned your back on him.  This God, the God who knows each star by name, cares about you.
  So may you recognize that your troubles cannot defeat you, because you have God on your side.  We shall not fade away, but shall shine with the light of Christ, because all of his love and power is for us!

May your problems fade in comparison to the eternal light of God

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Psalm 63

Psalm 63 
English Standard Version (ESV)

  Most of us know what it feels like to be hungry.  We know what it's like to miss a meal (or two) and find our stomachs growling with discontent.
  But deep hunger, the type that roars with desperation because we haven't eaten in days, and there is no promise of nutrition in sight?  I don't know what that's like.  I have no idea what it feels like to be starving, to eat cakes of mud because there is nothing else, like they do in Haiti.
  When we think of our desire to be with God, is it like the feeling of being hungry, the idea that it would be nice to have God with us, or is it like starvation, the feeling that we desperately need God, that we'll do anything and everything possible to have God with us?
  One of the two will drive us, motivate us, stir us to action.  The other will keep God on a shelf, from where we'll get him down when he's useful to us.  One is foolish, selfish, and wasteful.  The other is the narrow path that leads to life.

May we seek to be wise Christians, pursuing God earnestly, as our very souls thirst for God.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Psalm 62

Psalm 62 
Revised Standard Version (RSV) 


  God alone.
  I think most of us intend to worship God alone.  The problem is that other things distract us, and before long our hearts are rushing off to another God.
  Think about it like this.  Have you ever gone into the grocery store focused on buying one thing, and then, the next thing you know, you're looking at 20 items on the checkout belt, wondering how they all got there?  Plans and intentions are great, but we so easily find other things alluring enough to give ourselves over to them.
  So how do we guard ourselves to ensure that we're focused on God alone?
  It's a daily discipline of coming back to Christ, coming back to the one who gives us life, and recognizing that worshiping anything else is folly.  It's a willingness to examine your own life impartially, and to let yourself be challenged to make sure your roots are sinking deep into the water of life.  It's a lifelong process to let God alone be our rock and salvation, but it's worth the investment, worth the work, worth the discipline, because God alone leads to abundant and eternal life.

May you take the next step in discipleship, whatever that may be

Monday, July 14, 2014

Psalm 61

Psalm 61 
American Standard Version (ASV) 

  Most of the time, my strength is sufficient.  If I'm sick, my body usually is able to fend off whatever is troubling me.  If I'm in a jam, I can often figure my way out of it.  I can sort things out myself.
  But sometimes, we run up against problems bigger than ourselves.  Then, and often only then, do we realize that we require someone stronger than ourselves.  Sometimes, we look to kings or other rulers, but they are only human.  If we're wise, we look to God, and we ask him to 'lead us to the rock that is higher than I'.  We ask God to take us up into his arms, where we are truly safe.  We ask God to lead us to a refuge in him, where we understand true security.  Only God can provide this, and that is why it is wise to take our true refuge in him alone.

May you feel God's strength surround you

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Singing as we Go

  We sing to Caleb before he goes to bed, and one of the songs I sing often is 'Amazing Grace'.  Well, apparently it's stuck, because the other morning we were walking down the stairs on the way to the car and he started singing 'Amazing Grace'.  There he was, singing as he took each stair, one by one, with his teddy bear clutched in one hand and the other grasping the railing for support.

  There was something about the scene that so filled me with fatherly pride and love for him.

  And I couldn't help but think about how much more God loves us, and how proud he must be of us.

  There we go, clutching onto whatever support we can find in this world, taking each and every step with the utmost care, uncertain of whether we are big enough to make it through this life, usually trying to hold onto something or someone for dear life, because we don't think we can do it on our own, and our hearts are often singing praise songs to God as we go, uncertain yet confidant in his grace and his love, thankful for the chance to move forward and seemingly ready to tumble down the stairs all at the same time.

  If I can be filled with pride at the sight of my son coming down the stairs with Amazing Grace on his lips, how much more must God be proud of us when we praise his name in the midst of our uncertainty and tremulous steps forward in this life?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Psalm 60

Psalm 60 
The Message (MSG)


  Parenting is tough.  Most of the time, it feels like you're rushing around trying to keep your kid from hurting themselves.  Sometimes, though, life happens and they're soon screaming at the top of their lungs, wailing about how their toe hurts and is about to fall off.
  Rachel has a tendency to sweep up Caleb into her arms and make everything better.  Me?  I'm the guy who is telling Caleb that this is what happens when he doesn't listen to Mom & Dad.  And you wonder why he runs to Mom when he gets hurt...
  But we sometimes suffer the consequences of our choices.  Sometimes, God lets us do the same.  Our sin snowballs and wreaks havoc in our lives.  Poor choices have effects on relationships.  God has promised that our sin will not condemn us if we are in Christ, but he does sometimes allow us to suffer the consequences of our poor choices, in the hopes that we will see our need for repentance and go running back to his marvelous mercy and wondrous grace.
  So when we are struggling under the weight of bad choices, may we turn to the Spirit for wisdom and give thanks that God is a loving parent who wants us to grow closer to him.

May you trust in God's wisdom

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Psalm 59:11-17

Psalm 59:11-17
English Standard Version (ESV) 

  It's always easier to focus on ourselves.  When we're hurt or suffering, we focus on our pain.  When all is well, we start to be prideful, thinking about how awesome we are.  When we're somewhere in the middle, we're often thinking about how much we have to do.
  Here, the Psalmist chooses the wiser route--he focuses on God's steadfast love and strength.  Rather than think about ourselves, we can make the choice to focus our minds on God and his great love for us, we can focus on God and his faithfulness.  When we focus on God, we have no choice but to be in awe of who God is and how richly he loves us, and then we live out of gratitude, rather than selfishness.

May you be inspired by the selfless love of God today

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Psalm 59:6-10

Psalm 59:6-10
(Click here for link to full text)

  Living as though there is no God can be easy, for a while.  After some time, people can even convince themselves they are God.  This was what made early Christians' claim that 'Jesus is Lord' so controversial--Caesar, and only Caesar, was Lord.  Believing there is no God, some people can believe that they are the ultimate power and that all authority runs through them.
  Those of us who know and believe that God alone is all-powerful can take comfort in the fact that God will one day set things right.  We can take confidence in the power of God to conquer those who oppose him or claim his place on the throne.  (The scene is almost funny--some small human trying to ascend and claim the throne where God dwells in in unapproachable light.)  In God alone, our confidence is in the right place, and he will welcome us into his glory, for God loves to share his glory, mercy and love with those who pledge their lives to him.

May you stand firm in the confidence of God

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Wasn't I supposed to have all this time?

  An interesting thing happened on the way to Columbus, Ohio.

  On the bright side, Caleb now knows how to spell Ohio, which will serve most useful this fall.  (We have football tickets!!)

  So I'm no longer an installed pastor.  I'm still a pastor--that's part of who I am, and I don't know that you can remove that any more than you can take away any other part of my identity.  I won't stop being a pastor.

  But it's going to look differently than it does now.  I won't be in an office serving as pastor for a particular group of people.  I don't know whose pastor I'll be... and it's hard to be a pastor without people to pastor, just like it's hard to be a shepherd without any sheep.  (Fortunately, my sheep didn't all flee from my presence!  It was my decision to move forward into a new stage, and it was not an easy one, but I believe that ultimately it will prove to be the right now.  Again, as a disclaimer, I also believe that navy blue and black are the same color.  I'm not always right.)

  Ministry is evolving in this country, and I think more churches are going to be forced to look at part time ministry and bi-vocational ministry as necessary options.  Church attendance and church budgets are shrinking, and the churches that were built upon and sustained by an older generation will have to evolve as we face challenges with new generations.  I do not for a moment believe the church is in trouble--Christ assures us of that.  I even am bold enough to believe that the church will thrive in this country, as it is already thriving in others.  But there may be a challenging time of adaptation as mainline churches struggle to find their footing.  I hope to be a figure able to help with the process of stabilization with a business degree and theological training.  I believe God will use it all for his glory.

  The kids, well, they're doing great.  It's been wonderful to have so much time to play with them lately, although it can be exhausting and trying.  More good than bad, though, as we've run through the aquarium and climbed through the children's museum and slid down the slip-n-slide.  We've discovered that Caleb has seemingly endless energy reserves, except when he doesn't, and even then there is always an hour of energy he holds back for when it's time to nap or go to bed at night.  On the days when he seems the most tired, those are the days when he's still singing 'Happy Birthday' to himself an hour after we've put him to bed.

  Kids... what an adventure.

  We've talked to the kids about moving, and Caleb knows the big concept of it... but I think the actual change is going to be hard.  New place to call home, new school, new church, new friends--it's a lot to take in.  Rachel and I struggle with it, so I expect he will, too.  But kids are also tougher than I tend to give them credit for, and so I have a hunch he'll fall right in line, moving ever forward, as Rachel and I watch in wonder as he and Danielle grow and change before our every eyes, and we drink in the gift that God has poured out upon us.