Tuesday, October 29, 2013


We are in Denver for a few days.  I am attending a seminar on discipleship, while my wife and daughter are checking out the museums.  On Monday I was free during the morning so we all went to the Denver zoo.

In packing for the trip I checked the weather forecast, which seemed like a reasonable thing to do.  I looked at the forecast for the three days we would be gone and packed appropriately.  Appropriately for running, that is. I mostly paid attention to what the early-morning weather would be and packed the right clothes for running at that time of day.  I had packed a few long-sleeved shirts to wear to the seminar and my fall jacket, figuring that would be okay for the reminder of the day.  Turned out not to be a good plan. 

On the day we went to the zoo the temperature barely made it to 40 and it was damp all day, with an occasional mist in the air.  I had the wrong clothing for the weather.  I was cold every time we were outside, and particularly so whenever a breeze kicked up.  I tried to be a good sport but whenever I had the chance I had my hands in my pockets or tried to get indoors.  The only times I felt comfortable were when we were inside the car and had the heat turned up.

I was experiencing a persistent sense of restlessness, physically, and it made me think, as so many things do, theologically. 

Last Sunday our church celebrated the Lord's Supper.  I had prepared for about 60 people and it was a surprise to find out that as we served the congregation the amount of bread and juice I had ready was not quite enough for those present.  We quickly worked out a solution and were able to serve the sacrament to all who were gathered for worship.  

The Lord's Supper is a physical reminder of God's covenant promise to hold his people firmly, in life and in death.  The act of chewing the bread and tasting the juice is, for me, a reminder that amidst all in life that makes me restless, particularly the things that pull at my emotions and spirit, God's presence and promises remain sure. 

And in his son, Christ Jesus, he has promised to hold me as his own, forever.  It is a promise I can remember in each restless moment, knowing he is bringing a rest that will never end.  And it a promise he holds out for you too.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Word of Life

Each week as we gather for worship we do a number of things.  Some of them are a part of the worship service itself, while other things are not.  We light candles.  We ring the church bell.  We visit around the coffee pot and share snacks.  We sing songs.  We share the concerns of our hearts with each other and together we lift them to God. We give of ourselves to God.  And we hear from God.

We hear from God in two ways, one of them directly and the other indirectly.  We hear from God directly through the reading of the Bible during worship.  And we hear indirectly through the preaching of the sermon.  Ideally in the sermon the person preaching has studied the words of scripture well and is able to bring to the congregation a message to help the congregation understand the Bible and what God has to say in it more clearly. 

The Bible is an old book.  The newest parts of the New Testament are nearly 2,000 years old and the oldest parts of the Old Testament were put into writing 600 years or so before that.  As fast as things change in our world we might wonder how something so old could still have any relevance for us today.  Maybe it is time to move on to something more contemporary, something that reflects our own world and culture. 

To that I would say, "No.  Absolutely not."  I wouldn't say that just because I am the pastor and am expected to.  I would say instead that, "We should hang on to the Bible more tightly than ever, because in a world that is changing so rapidly it remains the place we should continue to stand on."  The Bible provides the only truly solid ground in a world where there is much "sinking sand."

Here is a quote about the Bible I happened to read this week: "It is old without ever becoming obsolete.  It always remains young and fresh; it is the word of life. "

We can go outside and see evidence of God in the beauty of nature.  We can look at a baby, holding it on our arms and marvel that God would have created a child so precious.  But seeing evidence of God in nature, or in little children, doesn't reveal to us the nature of God, or the nature of his relationship with humans.  To rightly understand that we have to turn to the Bible.

As we read the Bible we learn of God's perfection, and our imperfection, and most importantly, about the way God poured himself out in his son, Jesus, so that we can know wholeness and healing in the truest sense of those words. 

So, with joyful anticipation, open the Bible and read.  In its pages, and nowhere else, you will find Jesus, the true Word of Life, eternal life, speaking to you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

This time...

My wife and I read from the Bible together each night.  We are currently in Genesis.  Last night we finished Genesis 29, where in the first part Jacob marries both Leah and Rachel, and in the second part Leah has children. 

We also read from the Bible with our daughter each night.  We are currently reading to her from the Gospel Story Bible and it happened that last night we read versions of the same story in each Bible.

To sum up the story, if you are unfamiliar, Jacob has traveled to his ancestral land to seek a wife.  He works for his uncle and has agreed to work for seven years in order to have the right to marry the uncle's younger daughter, Rachel.  On the wedding night he finds he has been tricked by his uncle and has married the older daughter, Leah.  In return for promising an additional seven years he is allowed to also marry Rachel.

Jacob clearly loves Rachel, but Leah...not so much. We aren't told much about Leah's feelings in all of this but do know that Leah desires for her husband to love her and she believes that by providing him with children that this will happen.

So Leah has children.  One son, Reuben.  Another son, Simeon.  Another son, Levi.  In each of these cases she gives her son a name that shows her desire to be loved by her husband.  But apparently to no avail. 

Then she has a fourth son.  And in her choosing of a name for the child we see that something has changed for Leah.  She doesn't seek the love of her husband, but seeks God, saying:

"This time I will praise the Lord."

The circumstances of Leah's marriage don't appear to have changed but a change has been worked in the orientation of Leah's heart.  As we read those words last night I was reminded that in all of the circumstances of life we are called to praise the Lord. 

It is easy to praise the Lord when things are going well.  But when things aren't going well the only thing that changed is our particular set of circumstances.  The things of the Lord, such as his majesty, his power, his beauty, his perfect love...none of that has changed in the least. 

I currently serve as the pastor of a mission church on a Native American reservation and every day our eyes are opened to the needs of those around us.  The physical, emotional and spiritual needs.  I am also a father, a husband.  And a sinner. 

And in whichever role I happen to fill at the moment, each time I turn to the Lord in prayer I want to begin where Leah's comment points me, to the praise of the Lord.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A good man

A good man passed into glory yesterday.  Mike was someone I only had the pleasure of knowing for a short time of his long life.  For nearly six years we belonged to the same church, a church that he was a founding member of about 54 years ago.  The woman in the picture with him is his wife.  I don't know how long they were married but I am fairly certain it was more than 60 years. 

Over those six years I had the pleasure of having a number of  conversations with Mike.  I always appreciated that while he was an older member of the church, and someone who had been there since its beginning, he always treated me well, as an equal member, so-to-speak.  He was in many ways my elder but he never spoke down to me. 

I am particularly fond of his frequent encouragement over the past two years as I sought a position as a pastor.  Once, hearing that I had had a second interview with a church, he said "What's taking them so long!"  Not a question, but a statement.  My search was a slow one but Mike was affirming towards me and believed I would be called to serve God somewhere.

If I talked to those who knew Mike much longer and better than myself I am sure that I could hear many memories that would affirm my opening claim, that Mike was a good man.  And I do believe that by earthly standards Mike was a good man.  But earthly standards are transient, as are our earthly lives.

Mike was a good man not because of the various, and likely many, good things that he did during his earthly life.  Mike was a good man because he put his faith in the only person who was truly good, Jesus Christ.

The Heidelberg Catechism is a statement that explains Christian faith from a Reformed perspective, with each question-and-answer firmly rooted in the Bible.  The first one is the most well-known, and it says:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

The Heidelberg Catechism was written 450 years ago.  These words provide great comfort for believers in Jesus.  There are over 20 scripture references supporting answer number one, and you can read them here.

My friend Mike was not a good man because of what he did during his earthly life, but because of the Good Man who holds him in life, and in death.  Today is a rather ordinary day for me and Mike is spending it in eternal glory with his faithful Lord and Savior.  And that makes me glad.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 14, 2013


This month of October is turning out to be a time of marking several milestones for me.  There are some of fairly trivial significance and only of interest to me, and others involving my family and my current ministry.  Some were expected and others not.

Many of my friends know that I am a runner. On the first of the month I marked 35 years as a runner, being 35 years since I first wrote an entry into a log and kept track of my mileage and anything else about the run I felt was significant.

I run nearly every day and on the 10th I reached a milestone tangentially related to the first one, being my 1,000th consecutive day of running.  My last day off was in January, 2011 and this is the second longest streak I have had.  (There is a group for streak runners, located here.)

More importantly is the milestone arriving on the 16th, the sixth anniversary of marriage with Robin.  Speaking for myself, because this is my blog, our marriage has been a wonderful adventure.  Some parts easy, some parts delightful, some parts hard, but all done together with a sense that our marriage in not merely a joining of two, but of two who seek above all for their marriage to be pleasing to God and to serve him well in the world.

The last of the milestones I want to discuss came last Wednesday, when I conducted my first funeral.  My understanding when we came here was that I would find myself conducting more funerals than most of the other pastors in town.  For its first 50 years ours was the only church in town and despite the presence of several other churches many people still consider it "their church," whether they have been active in it or not, particularly when it becomes time to remember the passing of their loved ones.  Our churches policy is not to turn down any request for a funeral, so on Tuesday evening I learned that I would be doing a funeral on Wednesday morning.

That was fairly short notice but on reflection I think that God was good to me in the way the arrangements worked out.  I kept the things of worship fairly basic and traditional, and spent most of my prep time in working on a short sermon.  I used John 14 :1-6, where Jesus talks about preparing a place, an eternal place, for his followers, also telling them that following him is the only way to get there,

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me."

Jesus invites us to join him on a journey to a place, an eternal place, that is better than the best destination we could ever imagine.  And he provides the only way to get there. 

I have no idea what milestones I'm going to pass along the way with him but I am glad to be on the journey.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


There are lots of different ways that a person can share with other persons their passion for a particular thing.  As a sports fan I could always wear clothing from my favorite team, decorate my home with team pictures and memorabilia, and I could always make my team the subject of my conversation.  Doing those kinds of things might not exactly endear me to other people.  While some would like it, i.e. fans of a similar persuasion, others would likely flee when they saw me on the horizon!  And there would be a few people who would engage me for the purpose of strongly expressing an opposite point of view.  So it can go when you are passionate about something, particularly in the world of sports.

Sports aren't the only place where people are passionate about things and desire to share that with others.  Sports just work easily as an example.  Other examples include families, politics, and hobbies.  And religion. 

When we get passionate about things we can also be very emotional in how we express our passion.  And we can express ourselves in ways emotionally that draw people to us, or push people away from us.  Which is why is some circles there are rules, sometimes written and sometimes not, that no one in the group talks about politics or religion.  Broaching those subjects in certain settings can cause the group to suffer as differences of opinion on politics and/or  religion raise people's emotions to a point where self-control falters and hard feelings emerge.

All of this came to mind this morning when I was remembering a certain friend who uses the word "winsome" to describe the way he tries to present himself to others as a witness for Christ.  To be winsome means to be:

"sweetly or innocently charming; winning; engaging: a winsome smile."
For my friend I think the term "engaging" is the most appropriate term from that definition.  He seeks to be a person who presents himself in such a way that people will be willing to listen to him as he finds ways of sharing his faith with them.

I think that this is what Peter was getting at in his first letter, where he wrote this in chapter 3, verse 15:

"...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..."

There are many people in the world that I care deeply for and many situations that from my point-of-view, as a Christian, cry out for the Good News of Jesus to be spoken into them.  But I need to be mindful of the way I bring that Good News to light, so that God may use it well for His purposes and to His glory.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.