Sunday, December 31, 2017

Learners


As Matthew's gospel draws to a close Jesus gives his disciples instructions to:

"make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I commanded you."

To be a disciple is to be a student, or a learner.  It is to intentionally seek to be with someone and to learn from them, to get good at whatever it is that they are known for being good at.  While the word disciple is mostly used with churches, the idea behind it can apply to many different parts of our lives.

The gospels tell us that Jesus had many disciples while he lived and taught, more than just the twelve we often focus on.  All of them spent time with him to learn what he was good at, which was following God with heart, mind, soul and strength.  As he prepares to leave them, his final instructions are to continue doing just what he did, taking what they have learned from him and teaching it to new people who believe in him and what he did in defeating sin so that humans could know peace with God. 

One of our primary tasks as disciples - followers of, learners from - Jesus, is to make other disciples.  On the one hand it is a pretty clear-cut job assignment.  We can’t pretend that Jesus didn't say what to do.  On the other hand, it is a daunting task.  We might ask ourselves: What do I really know about faith that I can teach someone else?  Isn't making disciples someone else's job, like the pastor? 

While we can find the basic idea of teaching other people to be overwhelming, the good thing is that there are many ways it can be done.  In our home, as we teach our children habits of reading the Bible and prayer.  One-on-one as we share with someone what we have learned as God proved to be faithful during a hard time in our life.  As we help out in a program such as Dulce Community Awana.  And we will find that as we help people grow in their faith, that we continue to grow as well.

Let's make 2018 a year of intentional growth as followers of Jesus.  A year of personal growth in your own study of the Bible, prayer life and worship.  A year of growth together as a congregation, so that we can continue to be a people following Jesus, bringing more of his presence and love to the people of Dulce.






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, December 18, 2017

We're Not So Different


Robin and I are currently reading the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel.  Last night, as we read chapter 8, the word "abomination" loomed large.  According to Ezekiel's testimony, the Lord Himself takes Ezekiel into Jerusalem and to the Temple, to show him what goes on there. 

As Ezekiel witnesses the first abomination he is told something along the lines of "If you think that was bad, wait until you see what is coming up."  This happens three times, culminating in the last abomination, which verse 16 describes like this:

"And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord. And behold, at the entrance of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east."

That last image is the epitome of contempt for God.  Twenty-five men, at the singular place of worship for God, with their backs toward the Creator as they worship the creation.  These are presumably Jews, who if they know nothing else of God know the first of the Ten Commandments,

"You shall have no other gods before me."

In the face of this provocation, this open hatred of God, God's response is:

"Therefore I will act in wrath.  My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity.  And though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them."

There are a lot of things that we might say about ourselves to show how different we are from the people of Ezekiel's day.  To show how much more advanced or sophisticated we are.  I mean, sure, we don't exactly follow all of God's ways in our daily life, but who does?  Who is without error?  Who doesn’t make any mistakes?  In our efforts to rationalize our thoughts and behaviors we nearly stumble over our own feet in avoiding the word "sin."

Yet it is precisely that word that we have in common with the people of Ezekiel 8.  We sin.  We disobey God and try, again and again, to live as our own gods. And if that doesn't quite work we make our own gods and bow down to them, for their demands are exceedingly low and easy for us to meet.

And while we may want to believe that God's wrath is an old-fashioned and outdated concept, efforts to do that just add to our self-deception.  His wrath is just as much a part of God's character as is His justice, His righteousness, His holiness, His peace, His mercy. 

God's mercy.  That is where we can truly be different from the men of Ezekiel 8.  Before the day of wrath comes, and come it will, we can respond to the call found throughout both testaments of the Bible to repent of our sin and believe in God, a call made crystal clear in the New testament as we repent and believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who comes to save us from our sin.

We are not so different from the men of Ezekiel 8.  In rejecting God our peril is great, greater than we can really comprehend.  But in God's mercy, through faith in Christ alone as our Savior and Lord, our end can be as different as night is from day. Amen.





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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

...and Thankful


Thursday night, a bit after nine, and the house is quiet.  Everyone else is in bed and probably asleep.  It reminds me of last Thursday.  I wasn't at home then but about 130 miles to the west, spending the night in a community center in Beclabito, NM.  The five of us staying at the center had run either a marathon or a half marathon that day, with another one coming up the next morning, and so Thursday night we were focused on getting rested and ready for Friday morning.  We were taking part in something called the Four Corners Quad Keyah and planned on running our same event on Saturday and Sunday as well.  For me it meant four marathons in four days.  From Thursday morning until I headed for home Sunday afternoon my plan was to either be running or resting.

After finishing the fourth marathon on Sunday I stopped to get something to eat on the drive home.  I was at Lotaburger, awaiting a bacon green chile cheeseburger and posting about the event to a running group on Facebook.  One person expressed her congratulations and asked how I was feeling.  My reply was "Tired. Hungry. Happy."

Tired was to be expected, given all the running of the past four days.  My plan to rest included having one more day of vacation and running much shorter distances for a few days.  And I would seriously address the hunger issue as soon as my burger was ready. 
And happy?  The long weekend of running had ended much better than I had expected it to.  I ran very well each day.  I ran a bit faster than last year in conditions that were a bit worse.  All-in-all it was a good end to the competitive aspect of running in 2017.

And while I easily felt those three things in response to the question, over the drive home and in the following days I realized that I had left something out.  I also felt thankful.

I was thankful for my wife, who managed a complicated family schedule while I was gone.  I was also thankful for her encouragement of my running over the year, and in particular the last two months when I focused on this event.  I was thankful that my training had gone well and that this year has been relatively injury-free.  I was thankful that many years ago I came into a sport in which I was physically and temperamentally well-suited for. 

I could list a few other things related to last weekend that I am thankful for, but the point I want to make is that thankfulness requires an object.  In some of the things above the object is quite clear.  I am thankful for my wife's encouragement and I can tell her directly.  But other things, say being injury-free?  Do I thank my leg?  Do I thank my brain for advising to back off when my hamstring acted up?  Ultimately, the act of giving thanks extends outside of human existence, to God.

In February I am going to begin preaching through the Gospel of John, who begins with these words:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."

In the poetic language of John's prologue, the Word is another way of saying Jesus.  Traced back far enough, everything we can see, know or experience comes from and through Jesus. 

It is easy, and nearly second nature to see that the big things come  from Him and to give Him thanks, things such as salvation, my wife and my family.  I'm still working on the lesser things, the things I am tempted to think come from my own efforts and perseverance, such as last week's running event, or the heart that continues to beat steadily whether I'm running or blogging.

All things are made through Him, and all thanks and praise is due Him. Amen.





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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Happy Songs


Last Sunday I was doing the things I usually do before church to get things ready for worship.  Some of those things are pretty ordinary and anyone could do them, such as turning the heat up and starting the coffee.  I just happen to be at church and so I do them.  Other tasks are more particular to my role in leading worship, and I do them as part of being conscientious about my role in our congregation. 

One of the most essential of these tasks is to take a few minutes and read aloud all of the parts of the worship service that are written down.  Some parts of worship are written out and other parts I do more extemporaneously   I learned, the hard way, that reading these parts aloud before worship prevents me from being surprised at how they sound during worship.  It is one thing to read a sentence in my mind and think it sounds fine, and another thing to read it aloud and understand that it needs to be read in a certain way, or with a change to the wording.

Last Sunday I was doing just that and reading Psalm 100, which as written in the Good News Translation, was our call to worship.  It begins,

"Sing to the Lord, all the world.
Worship the Lord with joy;
come before him with happy songs!"

"Come before him with happy songs" made me quite literally laugh out loud.  Having two additional youngsters in our home for the past two months has brought a number of changes to the ways things get done each morning.  We are still sorting things out, which is particularly noticeable to me on a Sunday morning, when "going to work" means something quite different from simply walking from our bedroom downstairs to my home office. 

As I was at church preparing I knew that the three children at home were giving Robin a bit more chaos than usual, even for a Sunday.   Reading that phrase, "come before him with happy songs," reminded me that despite the chaos and the unsettled routines, our purpose that morning was to gather to worship God.  As we worship we try to set aside the cares and worries of the moment and turn our attention to God, remembering who He is and what He has done, looking forward to the future glory He has promised.  

All three of the children in our home are delightful in their own ways, and one the things they have in common are that they are each learning to love and worship God.   The chaos is but for a moment and one day the happy songs of worship we sing here will be sung for eternity.  Amen.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Offended?


When you think about Jesus, what kinds of things come to mind?  Do you think of someone who is always kind and ready to be with people?  The kind of person who is able to accept any person, no matter what they might look like or act like?  The person whose patience with others never runs out, no matter how annoying they might be?  The person who always has just the right words to say, and always says them in the right way for the maximum effect?  Words of comfort?  Words of peace?  Words of hope?  Words of love?

Those images, frankly, are ones that we would all probably agree with.  They describe the Jesus we would love to spend time with, love to talk with.  They are also images that you could also find widely scattered throughout the four Gospels.  But if you looked a bit more closely at the Gospels, to see Jesus as He describes Himself, you would also find something very different. 

You would find the Jesus who gets under peoples skin.  The Jesus who gets in your face.  The Jesus you might wish would just go away and leave you alone.

That's what I noticed when I was reading from Luke and saw these words in Luke 7:23:

 "And blessed the one who is not offended by me."

Jesus is offensive?  Can't be!

And yet it is true.  Jesus himself says that there are people who find him to be quite offensive.  People who perhaps feel insulted at the words he would say to them.  People who would turn their backs and cover their ears if Jesus were to speak to them.  They are offended because, in Jesus' own words from Luke 5:32, he says of his particular task,

"I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."

There is the problem in a nutshell.  Jesus refuses to let us set the standard for our righteousness, or our ability to come before God in peace.  He reminds us that God has set the standards for our righteousness and that when we violate those standards we need to admit, to God, our error, and to seek His forgiveness.  There is no other way. 

To hear that call to repentance, to believe it, and to act on it by seeking God's mercy, is to not be offended by Jesus.  And the blessing from God that follows as we seek Him is glorious in ways that we can barely imagine. 

May you hear the words of Jesus and see yourself as you truly are, a sinner in need of a Savior.  Of all the things that we can think of when we think of Jesus, the one that is the most precious, that is most essential, is that He, alone, is our Savior, and in that we rejoice.  Amen.





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.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Anonymous Names?


One of the places my Bible reading plan took me was to this week was the book of First Chronicles.  If a person who was generally familiar with the Bible was asked what part is the most tedious reading it is quite likely that the opening chapters of First Chronicles would be on top of the list. 

First Chronicles begins with nine chapters that are basically lists of names.  Name after name after name, literally hundreds of them.  They are not at random, for they are arranged to show various family relationships, and very occasionally there is a tidbit of other information mixed in.  But for the most part they are just names, and for a good many of them they are found nowhere else in the Bible.

I'll confess that I have never studied the early chapters of First Chronicles, and so I don’t have any kind of ready explanation for why the lists of names are there.  If you are interested in what might be gained from them I happened upon this useful article just this week.

One thing I do know is that these names matter to God.  I don’t believe that there are any extraneous words in the Bible.  While there may be many things I don’t understand, I believe that the entirety of God's word matters to God.

Last week I wrote about the complexities of praying for certain parts of my family.  I made mention of some lists of names that Robin and I pray through, although I didn't mention that those lists are memorized, and not written down.  The names of Chronicles, and something that happened when I was running this week, reminded me of another list I pray through. 

That list has the similarity with Chronicles of appearing to be simply a collection of single names.  While the lists of Chronicles are connected together by family relationship, this particular list of mine is connected differently.  It is people whom I know, or know of, in this community with substance abuse issues. 

Many of the people on that list I've met, and some I see somewhat regularly.  Others I see at random times.  I may see them often for a while, and then not see them for a long while.  And those times I see them often are as likely to be on one side of their struggle as the other. 

So I was out running and I crossed paths with one of those persons for the first time in quite a while.  He was walking in the opposite direction, I greeted him by name and wished him a good day.  He said some words of greeting in return.  And as I continued, I wondered how he has been doing.  I got a clue close to noon, as I happened to cross paths with him again.  No conversation besides "Hi," but he looked sober and that was good to see.  

My list, like the lists in Chronicles, can appear to be somewhat anonymous, but I believe that each are lists of names of people whom matter to God.  And so I'll continue to pray through my list, try to be helpful and encouraging when I cross paths with those people, and trust in God to bring forth a good result.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

It's Complicated


It's complicated.

"What's complicated?" you ask.

Given the era that we live and the many demands of modern life, nearly everything is complicated to some degree.  But this isn't a rant about modern life and a desire to return to simpler times, as appealing as that may some times be.

What is complicated today, in ways that I could not have conceived of at the beginning of 2017, are relationships within my family and the consequent ways that Robin I feel led to pray for our family.

Each night we read from the Bible, aloud, and then pray together.  If you divided our prayer time in two, in the first part we pray for our family and in the second we pray for a variety of other things, such as the needs of people within our congregation and our community, and people and circumstances outside of our immediate family.  If we consider the aspect of praying for our family we could divide that into four groups, being Robin and I, our children, our grandchildren, and our parents. 

Praying for ourselves and our parents is perhaps the simplest, as there are just two of us and we have two parents each.  To the parent group we also include two others in our family of that generation that are dear in particular ways.  That part is not particularly complicated.

But when we get to our children, things get a bit more tangled.  Two children each from our first marriages, plus one fiancĂ©, plus the daughter we adopted.  This is perhaps more complex, but not quite complicated.  This is, however, where "complicated" takes off, like a rocket!

Early in our marriage we also prayed for certain people connected to our children, such as spouses and significant others who were the parents of our grandchildren.  Without getting specifically into the "how's" and "why's" I'll just say that at the beginning of the summer of 2017 in the level of "our children" there were 16 additional people to the six already mentioned.  And in the group of our grandchildren there were 26 children.

Several of our grandchildren have been in foster care and we met the foster parents over the summer, adding them and their children to our lists.  And then in September we took two children in for foster care, adding them, their siblings and their parents to our lists.  And so as Thanksgiving draws near the list of our children has 27 names and the list of our grandchildren has 32 children.  The best way I can describe the connection of those relationships to someone who is hearing about it for the first time is "It's complicated!"

I suspect that it's a collection of relationships that is far from the norm by just about any conceivable standard.  At no point in my life before the age of 50 could I have possibly imagined that one day the collection of people I think of as "my family" would look like this.  But it does, and these are the people Robin and I feel led to pray for each day.

The relationships that bind our family may be complicated.  And, like any family, the distance, physically and emotionally, between us and each of them, has wide variations.  But each day we bring each of them to the Lord.  In some case we know their needs well but in many we don't.  But we know that God is good, that He answers prayer in His timing and in ways that are always for the best.  

Our family may be complicated, but in the eyes of the Lord, the needs of the various members are not, so that at day's end, in all things, family and otherwise, we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Promise


I am preaching my way through the Old Testament prophet Amos, and, quite frankly, enjoying myself.  Each week I am digging into one the much less-known books of the Bible and trying to understand it in such a way that it shapes my life and the life of my congregation.   This morning was the fourth sermon from Amos, being all of chapter 3.  I'm planning three more sermons before Advent and then setting Amos aside until after Christmas, when there will be seven sermons to get to the end of the book.

And in a surprising way, I am enjoying myself.  Amos is not exactly a prophet bringing glad tidings to God's people.  He can tend to sound pretty gloomy, and frankly harsh, from one chapter to the next.  And it takes some work to be able to make a connection from Amos to Jesus each week.  So what makes it fun?

The fun for me last week was in reaching a point where I thought I understood the meaning of the passage as it reached its original audience, and also with valid application today.  Kind of like digging something out of a hole in the ground, a hole that took a lot of work to make, and then cleaning that thing off to find something of unexpected beauty.  That metaphor works for preaching in a general sense, but it has been particularly pleasant to see it work out in Amos, at least so far.

This morning I talked about how God's chosen people had been given responsibility to live in ways that pleased Him, and how in their failure to do so they were being called to accountability.  I showed how the text made it clear that there was a cause-and-effect relationship in play, where their sinfulness was the cause of the effect of their receiving God's judgment.  I showed how God was being merciful in giving them a warning that judgment was on the way.  I talked about how the sinfulness of God's people was so evident that even their pagan neighbors could see it.  And the last part the text showed us was that everything that they might have thought would give them safety would be shown to be false, when it came to God delivering His promised judgment. 

In a nutshell, God had given His children His rules for their good and, ultimately, for His glory.  Their failure to listen to God, or to His prophets, would result in their being held accountable.  You could say that Amos is reminding the people that their deal with God is to do things His way, or else pay the price. 

The interesting thing is that while Amos is being very direct as a messenger from God, there is a gap in history between delivering the news of coming judgment and the moment when that judgment actually comes.  Unsaid is that in that time gap lies the opportunity to repent of sin and trust in God, which was the basic call of Jesus shortly after His baptism.  In Mark 1:15, He says:

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the gospel."

We live in an age where it can seem that every time we turn on the news we are greeted with something that defies our comprehension.  Sometime between the end of worship today and my beginning to write this post I learned of the tragic shooting at a church in Texas this morning.  Mass shootings and other acts of terror seem to happen with such frequency that we can become numb to them.  See the headline, skim the story, and then move onto whatever is next.  All we can know for certain in the shooting is that the world is a very fallen place, and that no place is exempt from being a place where sin will appear in all it's ugliness.  

But I read something else before beginning to write today, from the letter to the Hebrews, which includes this phrase from chapter 4, verse 1:

"…while the  promise of entering His rest still stands…"

The ring in the picture is on my wife's hand, and there is a  matching one on my hand.  Those rings represent promises that we made to each other ten years ago.  The prophetic words of Amos and the letter to the Hebrews remind us that there is a much better promise awaiting us as we turn to God and receive what He holds out in Jesus, and that there is still time right now to receive that promise and enter God's rest. 

Today is the time to embrace the promise, and to receive the unfailing, everlasting hope within it, hope that only comes through faith in Jesus. 





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.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Treasure


Do you ever just kind of stumble around randomly, kind of looking for something but without any real sense of purpose?  I occasionally do that, especially online.  I'll be looking at something and then see an ad or link that looks kind of interesting, and off I go.  Sometimes that works out really well, and sometimes you can burn up a whole lot of time, with nothing to show for it. 

Recently I found a song that I really liked, one that I had never heard before and thought would be good to sing in worship.  In the course of trying to figure out how to download it so that we could play it I noticed that it had been viewed about 13,000 times.  And then, on the right side of the same page, I saw an ad that said it had been viewed 11 million times.  It was an ad called "How I make money online."   

The contrast in number of times these two different videos had been viewed struck me.  For every single time the song had been viewed, the ad had been seen about 840 times.  I know it is a kind of apples/oranges thing, as people stumble on a song, or perhaps seek it intentionally, while an ad is meant to be widely seen.  And even 11 million views in a nation of over 300 million is not really that large a segment of the population. 

But it is 11 million people with at least some measure of interest in finding an easier way of making a living, one that probably also includes not having to answer to a boss.  And on the other hand are 13 thousand people who quite likely are servants of one who can be described as the Boss of Bosses.  Thirteen thousand people whose value system is not driven by the way they support themselves, but by the One they serve as they live each day of their life. 

It isn’t quite an either/or proposition.  There is probably some crossover between the two, and if I could support my family through some sort of low time commitment online venture there might be some ways that would actually enhance the work I do in ministry. 

But there is one other way in which these two things, the song and the ad, make clear they are unequal in comparison to each other.  The one is for this age only.  Making money online is something that is designed to appeal to meeting my needs right now, and perhaps into the future until the end of this life, but certainly no farther. But the song, as it lifts up and gives praise to Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord, looks beyond this life, and into the life to come, where the blessings of having faith and serving Christ in this life will be shown to far outstrip absolutely anything else we could achieve or possess while earth is our home.   1 Peter 1:4 describes those eternal blessings this way:

"An inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you."

There are the things of the this world, and this world only, and the things promised to all who have salvation in Christ.  Enjoy the one as they come your way, but treasure the reward that is in Christ and of infinitely greater value.





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.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Not On My Timeline


"I'd ask you say a prayer for me, but you don't have time."

"What!?!?!" was the thought in my head as I heard that sentence.  I was at the gas station this morning, talking briefly with someone I hadn't seen for a while.  I noticed him walking past as I was going in to pay for my gas and so I stopped to talk.  We talked a bit and he asked me for some money, "Just a dollar."  I declined, and so he decided it was time to continue his journey, his parting words noted above.

Curiously, he reached that conclusion without asking about my timeline today, which included 20-30 minutes of margin for a trip I was making out-of-town.  I've also prayed with him a number of times over the years, and so he knows I'm not long-winded when it comes to lifting him to the Lord.  Mostly, I think, it's about him having control of the timeline.    

I first met this person in the fall when we moved to Dulce, so our relationship goes back about four years.  Over that time we talk whenever I happen to run into him, or when he stops by the parsonage.  I've given him rides, made him coffee, and Robin and I have both made him sandwiches.  We've shared a fair amount of conversation on some of those occasions, and I've prayed with him most of those times.

And there have been times when he has refused to talk with me, because of something that I asked of, or said to, him.  That is in large part because as I've gotten to know him and some of the things of his life I have at times brought those things into the conversation.  Sometimes that doesn’t bother him at all, but when it does he usually ignores me for a while.

I would gladly pray with this person whenever I see him, even if I truly am pressed for time.  And the truth is that he is someone I pray for almost every day, which included this morning, when I had no idea that our paths would cross for the first time in several months.

I don't know if he has an agenda and timeline when our paths cross.  I know that I do.  But my agenda and timeline are driven by the One I often refer to as Lord and Savior, Jesus, the One who led myself and my family to Dulce as the place to serve Him.

So I take time for this man, and many of the other people who I have crossed paths with in Dulce when the opportunity arises.  I listen, talk, occasionally counsel, and quite often pray, trusting that ultimately it will be on God's timeline when those prayers are answered.  

Not on my timeline, but on the One whose timing is always perfect.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Beauty in Plain Sight


One of the places I run in Dulce is from the parsonage down Narrow Gauge road to the river and back.  Narrow Gauge is so named because that is where the old narrow gauge railroad ran.  The road runs parallel to a small creek, down to the Navajo River, where there is a bridge and the paved road ends.  From the parsonage it is a bit less than nine miles, round trip.  I would guess that I have made that run between 80 and 100 times since we came to Dulce. 

It's a pretty place to run, and also quiet, as there is very little traffic after you get out of town.  Going downhill I can look around the canyon and appreciate the beauty of the rocks, trees, horses, cows, and the occasional glimpses of wildlife.  Coming back from the river is a little different, as it is all uphill and so I am mostly thinking about putting one foot down and then the next, until I'm back home.  I'd run there more often if not for the long hill climb home.

I ran there earlier this week and something caught my eye on the return.  There was a streak of green on a rock wall, running from top to bottom.  It was made by a band of evergreens that grow along the canyon wall.  It was striking and beautiful; something I've gone past many times without noticing before.

As I saw the green of the trees it reminded me of a very similar thing that happened the previous day.  I was doing some home visits and on one of them I opened my Bible to read Psalm 23 before praying.  As my eyes moved to Psalm 23, on the opposite page of my Bible the words of Psalm 26:8 seemed to jump off the page at me.  There David writes,

"O Lord, I love the habitation of your house
and the place where your glory dwells."

I have no idea how many times I've read Psalm 26.  I can be certain that it is more than ten times, but probably not the 80 or 100 times I've run up that hill.  But I don’t recall those beautiful words of David ever gripping me like that before.  In the midst of a Psalm where David proclaims his righteousness before God he changes course to say that he loves God and the place where God reveals His glory to him.

David just seems to be captivated by the place where God may be found, and where none of the flaws and failings of human life exist.  David is someone who was acutely aware of the fallen nature of human life, as the Bible shows both his passion for God and the ways that at times his life was consumed by sin.  And there, for one verse in Psalm 26, he casts his eyes on the future that awaits all who place their hope in God alone.   

It is quite unlikely that the next time I run up Narrow Gauge and see that band of evergreens I will be surprised at their beauty, as I was earlier this week.  But I will remember that in my mind the trees are now linked with Psalm 26, and it's look ahead to the place where God's glory dwells. 

May God give you images that point ahead, towards His glory, and the eternal peace that place of dwelling will hold for all who come to Him through Christ Jesus.  Amen.


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.



( I went back to take a picture of the hill this morning, but it was  a bit too early and the trees, towards the right side, were still in the shade.)

Monday, October 16, 2017

"How you like it here?"


That was the question I heard yesterday at lunch as I sat down to eat with one of the older members of our congregation.  Given that Robin and I have been in Dulce a bit more than four years, and that yesterday's lunch was something we gave our congregation as a way of celebrating our tenth anniversary, from my vantage point the answer would be obvious.  We like it here quite a lot! 

I could give a long list of the relatively less-important things we like about Dulce, such as the milder winters than in the Midwest, and I could make another list of the inconveniences about living here, such as the physical distance from our parents as they age, but neither list would get to the heart of the matter, which is that the people whom we live and serve among have really touched our hearts. 

When Robin and I are asked to tell the story of how we found ourselves in Dulce we are confronted with the fact that this is just about the most unlikely destination we could have envisioned when our search for a congregation to serve began.  But in nearly every day since coming here we can see at least one thing about ourselves, or our family, or the needs of the people in our congregation, that says to us, "Of all possible places, this is probably the best place for us to serve the Lord."

When our friend asked me that question one of my first thoughts was that four years is a lot of time to look for other opportunities when you are in a place you're not fond of.  But we are very fond of her, and of so many of the people in our congregation.  Four years is also enough time for people to see my weaknesses as their pastor, and perhaps suggest that we move on.  But the many kind and thoughtful words we heard around the tables at lunch suggest that the feelings we have for this place and these people run both ways.

How do I like it here?  I like it quite a lot.  We like it quite a lot, and we plan on staying just as long as the Lord and His people would have us here among them.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Pray With


I like to run. I like to run every day.  And I like to run early in the morning.  If the weather and other considerations would allow I would get out and on the road just before the first light breaks into the sky. 

Sometimes it works out that way and sometimes it doesn't.  Right now, with our recently expanded family, I gladly cede the early time to Robin, so that she can get out for a walk before things get underway at home.  I do some work early, help a bit with the children, and go run mid-morning.

While not my favorite time, it is also not my least favorite time, and it does have its own set of advantages.  And among those advantages is crossing paths, so to speak, with a group of people I may not otherwise see.  The people hanging out at the park.

This morning as I was going past the park I saw a few people sitting on the picnic tables. One of them called out something along the lines of "Run a mile for me!," which I took as my invitation to stop and briefly visit.  I talked with the man, whom I knew, which surprised him, and said "Hi" to the other three, two of whom I also knew by name.

As our visit ended the first man said, "Say a prayer for me" to which I replied, "I'll pray with you."  At that he invited his friends over to join us, one of whom was clearly a bit reluctant.  I said a prayer with them and then went back on my way.  When I passed the park again on my return home, everyone had moved on.

It is pretty easy to agree with someone who asks you to pray for them.  And I think it is a good thing to pray for others.  But I also think there is something powerful in taking that very moment and praying with them.  I think it shows a willingness to be with them, before God, right now, in the moment, rather than on their behalf at a later time.  It helps them see that God cares for them, right now.  And while my motivation is not to make a public display of faith (Hey! Look at me, the pastor!) I am conscious of the fact that my being seen in prayer with one person may spark another person to come to me at their point of need.  Coming to God with one person may lead to coming before God with another.

The park in Dulce is a frequent place for people to meet before and after going to the nearby liquor store.  I already knew all four of the people I saw this morning as people who struggle with alcohol.  Two of them are among those my wife and I pray for daily.  

This morning it was a joy to not only pray for them, but with them.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Whodathunkit?


Four years into this calling to serve as a pastor I find myself in my study doing two very unlikely things.  The first is revising my "method" of sermon preparation, again, and the second is willingly editing something that I'm writing.  Whodathunkit? 

One of the requirements of the preaching class I took in seminary was to have a method for sermon preparation.  We had to write out some kind of process that we would use as we prepared to preach.  That was actually a pretty good assignment, in theory.  It was good to give a bit of thought as to how one would approach the task in an organized way, rather than, say, the alternative of opening the Bible, reading a text and then panicking when faced with the task of  trying to figure out how to bring something of meaning from that text to God's people.

I say that it was a good assignment in theory because my professor did not tell me how very impractical my own intended method was.  I don’t recall how long I was at this before I began to change things and settle into the basic process that I now use from week to week.  It couldn't have been more than two months.

And while I would just as soon have a workable process figured out for any task, when it comes to preaching I have found that as I attempt to improve my skills, I need to adjust various parts of the process.  Last week I attended an excellent workshop on preaching and therefore today I have the unavoidable task of incorporating some new learning into a revised method of preparation.  It's not as easy as I'd like it to be, but I know that it is for the better as I gain competence in bringing God's word to God's people.

Which brings me to the second unlikely thing today, the editing of my writing.  For many years, decades even, from high school in the early 70's to at least the middle of seminary thirty-five years later, I've been the kind of writer who wants to put things down on paper and be done with them.  Writing a first draft was always such a laborious process that I never wanted to go back over my words again.

But as with sermon preparation, I've learned something unexpected. I have come to find the editing process as something necessary, perhaps even something to be welcomed.  It can make the text more readable. It can bring clarity to my ideas as I share them with others.  It can help me make sure I have the right voice for the situation or circumstance at hand. 

If you are one of my more regular readers, this is when I may work in a Bible verse that has been on my mind, and then make a move towards the Gospel.  I hope I'm not disappointing you, but I don’t have anything like that today.  I'm beginning to work on preaching through Amos, and today have thought much more about the process than the content. 

I guess a last "whodathunkit?" is that I think I'm among the most unlikely of people to find themselves in the calling to preach God's word.  Of course I write that full well knowing the stories of many great preachers in history, probably most of whom were as unlikely as I am.  I don't have aspirations to achieve their acclaim, but I do share in their desire to faithfully handle God's word each week, for the strengthening of God's people, and to His eternal glory.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Prettier Than The Picture


One day late last week I looked out the window of our kitchen.  It was late in the day, with the wind blowing, some rain was falling, and bits of daylight were breaking through the clouds as the sun went down.  I took a picture and then shared it on Facebook, describing the setting and saying that the scenery south of our house at the moment was actually a lot prettier than the picture showed. 

I believe we see something similar when we read our Bibles.  The Bible has a lot to say about a lot of things, describing many of them in great detail, and yet also leaving us with many questions about things, questions that cannot be answered with any kind of certainty.  From beginning to end we read things that I believe will be much more beautiful, much more spectacular and glorious, then we can possibly imagine them to be from our vantage point on this side of heaven.

Heaven itself is a good place to start.  Revelation, especially chapters 21 and 22, portray heaven in some amazing ways, and yet also leaving much to the imagination.  I think that when we get there and begin to look around we will find it to be absolutely dazzling, and always exciting.  Whatever it may look like, it won’t be the kind of place where we will ever find ourselves bored.

We will be in the very presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  What will He actually be like?  We could let our imaginations run wild with the possibilities.  Like heaven itself, we can’t make any but the most general of answers while we are here on earth, but I expect that one of the feelings we might have of that first face-to-face meeting with our risen Savior and Lord will be of heart-pounding excitement. 

In that same moment I believe that we will have a greater understanding of some of the words we use somewhat casually around church.  Things like grace, mercy, forgiveness and holiness.  In the presence not just of the holiness of Jesus, but the holiness of heaven and all who live there, we will see what it means to truly be holy.  And we will understand the true power of grace, the depth of mercy, and the majesty of forgiveness.

I could go on, but I hope you are getting the picture.  The Bible portrays many wonderful things about God, about His mercy towards sinners in the forgiveness they receive when they have faith in His Son, and about the beauty of eternal life with Him as a result of that forgiveness.  So continue to read your Bible, read God's promises and know the truth they contain, and read with a sense of excitement, knowing that the truth's they point to will be even more marvelous on that glorious day when every one of them will be fulfilled.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Testimonial


I went to the dentist yesterday for an exam and to have my teeth cleaned.  After the work was done the hygienist went over a list of recommendations for the ongoing care of my teeth.  For the most part I knew what to expect, as my dentist has recommended for at least two years that I get several crowns repaired.  Last on the list was the recommendation that I wear a mouth guard at night.

To say I didn't take this recommendation well would be an understatement, as I basically told the hygienist that it was ridiculous.  (I'll confess that at this moment I was being unfair to the hygienist, who did an excellent job with my teeth, and who, for as much as I understand of her responsibilities at the dentist's office, always does excellent work.)

Anyhow, in my push-back on the mouth guard idea I "asked" for some sort of objective evidence concerning it's benefit for my teeth.  Among the responses I heard back was this: that she herself uses one.  Unconvinced, I made an appointment to get a filling taken care of and left the office.

I thought about the words we exchanged as I drove home, particularly her supporting the need for a mouth guard through her own use of one.  It occurred to me that that kind of recommendation was a testimonial from personal experience, in combination with her professional experience.  And next came the realization that in my present vocation, I would, and do, the exact same thing, all the time.

As a pastor, everything I do in the key parts of my calling has to do with the Bible.  Be it preaching, visiting in homes, hospitals and nursing homes, teaching or counseling, everything is grounded in the Bible. 

I open it and read it during worship.  I study it and explain it, hoping to apply it's truth to whomever I am with at the moment.  I read it and pray it with those I visit and counsel.  I read it and pray it for myself and with my family.  I encourage others to take up, read, ponder and apply its words for themselves. 

Last Monday evening we kicked off another year of our community youth ministry, and I'll close this post with the same words I used in teaching the children that night, as my own testimonial, if you will, although the words are the Lord's:

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man [or woman] of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."   2 Timothy 3:16-17




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.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

One Percent Of The Square Root…


I have a "gift" for collecting and recalling odd, virtually useless bits of information.  Every so often this gift shows itself around the house and Robin will ask how I can know something that would be so obscure.  "Beats me!" is my best answer. A fact caught my attention in some way and got filed away in my brain, awaiting that time when it would spring forth, perhaps in a game of Trivial Pursuit, when it may actually be useful.

One of those odd bits was a claim made, I believe, by proponents of Transcendental Meditation, that if one percent of the square root of the world's population would simultaneously meditate, then actual progress would emerge in world peace. If I had to guess I would say I heard that in the late 70's or early 80's.  I do know that I was skeptical of the claim then, and would call it outright nonsense now.

Last night we had a community prayer meeting.  The needs of our community are great and for a while I have thought it would be good to gather people together and pray for our community. A good idea, but I never got around to doing anything about it.  So three weeks ago, while making the church calendar for September, I set a date and time, and then last week I asked Robin to make some signs, which I put up around town.

And last night, eight people gathered together to pray.  In a community of 2,743 that may not be a lot of people, just under 0.3% of the population.  I was never a whiz at math but if I figured correctly we had 16 times the minimum standard of those seekers of world peace via meditation. 

Eight people sitting in chairs arranged in a circle.  One of them reading a psalm and then about 30 minutes of people praying, sometimes aloud and sometimes silently.  My primary intent in gathering was to pray for our community, but being God's people gathered in prayer other things were lifted up as well. 

The psalm, 121, begins like this:

"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
  He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
  Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep."

Are the prayers of eight people enough to make a difference?  This side of heaven that is a question without an answer.  One thing we did agree on afterwards was that we are going to do it again.  We were a small group, but we pray to a God without limits in power, in strength, in mercy, in love. 

He alone is our help, both as individuals and as a community.  And we will continue to gather and ask Him to act for the good, and for the healing, of our community.  And may He, alone, receive all our praise and glory.  Amen.



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.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Working Of The Spirit


I left the house early this afternoon to run two quick errands.  I'd be back in 10-15 minutes. 
                           
Two hours later I returned home.  One thing lead into another, as I did my errands and then some.  It was all good and I came home without regrets. 

No regrets, but certainly a measure of wondering, particularly about an unplanned encounter at the grocery store.

As I was walking into the store I ran into someone I have known from very early in our time in Dulce, but who I haven't seen for a long time.  He is among the many people I know in this community who struggle with alcohol.  Being a pastor I am aware of quite a few people who face this same struggle, but this man is one who is among the ten or so people that my wife and I pray for daily.

Anyhow, this man and I talked for a bit, I prayed with him, and then I went into the store.  I put some signs up on the bulletin board and then came out, but my friend was already gone.

And I wondered.  I wondered, How many times have I prayed with him over the past four years?  How many more times will I pray with him?  How many times, and how many more times, are my wife and I going to pray for him?  At what point in all those prayers is God going to provide the answer we all long for, that of deliverance from his struggle with alcohol?

One of the things I did after getting back to work at home was to read a sermon by James S. Stewart titled, "The Wind of the Spirit."  Tucked into that sermon were these words:

"Perhaps some of us would think twice before praying for the gift of the Spirit if we knew where He was liable to lead us." 

I don't know if I've ever prayed in particular for the gift of the Spirit but I do know that Robin and I prayed quite a bit as we listened for where God was calling us in ministry.  Four years later and we continue to pray for God's providence and guidance as we serve in Dulce. 

Would we have prayed differently if we knew more clearly what lie ahead, of whom my four-year friendship above is but one example?  I don’t think so.

The Holy Spirit was at work in bringing us to Dulce.  The Holy Spirit is at work as we pray for this friend.  And I believe that one the Holy Spirit will work in this friend in such a way as to deliver him from alcohol.  And all of these workings of the Spirit are to the eternal praise and glory of God.  Amen.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Lay Of The Land


It is the last day of August, which for us means the end of another year of ministry.  We arrived in Dulce in late August of 2013 and the first Sunday was on September 1st, so by our reckoning the fourth year ends today and the fifth year begins tomorrow.

What an amazing adventure!  Changing careers for Robin and I, moving our family to a part of the country we barely knew, entering a culture that was completely new.  We probably thought that we had a vague idea of what we were getting into as we wondered about all the unknowns ahead.  What kinds of things would happen?  How would we handle the all of the things that we couldn’t even begin to anticipate?

Four years later some of those things have been figured out.  Some things are problems with solutions.  Some are problems that are more managed than solved.  And there are things that we feel there just isn’t anything we have to offer.  Four years have taught us that as long as we will live and serve here there will be many more surprises, things that just cannot be planned for, and we imagine that is the case with ministry no matter where a person may be serving.

One way to frame our perspective at this point is that in four years we have learned the lay of the land.  I took this picture while driving home from Pagosa Springs this week.  I haven’t made that trip nearly as many times as Robin, but I've made it enough times to know what lies ahead as I travel along the road.  I took the picture close to a place called Edith, a scattered collection of houses just across the Navajo River and barely inside Colorado. I was traveling the "back road," a route which saves miles, but not time, and is hard on tires.

About three and a half years ago I took that road for the first time. If my eyes had scanned the horizon everything would have looked the same.  Hills here, pastures there.  Greens, browns, and perhaps some cattle or deer.  Back then nothing stood out as particular to my untrained eye.

But now my perspective is different.  I look towards where I took the picture and I see the change in line that marks where the road crosses the river and then climbs as it bends south.  I understand the lay of the land in ways that were unknown to me four years ago.  While I'm using the physical landscape as an example I have also learned much of the landscape of the people of our congregation and the community which we call home.  

It would be disingenuous to say that the last four years have been a steady upward journey, moving from success to success, learning along the way and with every lesson being easy and nearly intuitive. 

Success? Certainly, but also failure, disappointment, and regret.  Easy lessons? Absolutely, but also the kind of learning that only comes the hard way, and those lessons are perhaps the more precious ones.

As the fourth year comes to a close I still feel as I did at the end of the first, second and third years, which is glad that this place, Dulce, New Mexico, the homeland of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, is the place where God brought us to serve in ministry.  God has given us many gifts for ministry in this particular place, and we dearly love so many of the people we have met here. 

I'm going to close with the benediction from the Letter to the Hebrews, because after four years we do feel equipped, and we pray for God to work through us according to His will, to produce what is pleasing in His sight, to His glory.  Four years to learn the lay of the land, and excited to see what is yet to come.

"Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."






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.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Distance


When we were on vacation last month we drove close to 3,000 miles over 16 days.  Most of those miles were in the two days it took us to get to the Midwest and the two days back, while the remainder happened in various shorter trips to see family and friends in the places where we stayed.  There weren't any days where we didn't go at least one or two places, and all those miles added up.  Any way you look at it, we covered a lot of distance.

One of the blessings of traveling to the Midwest was that for a few days we could enjoy a greatly decreased distance from members of our families, especially our parents.  In Minnesota we were just two miles from Robin's parents, and in Wisconsin my mother was often no farther away than the next room in her house.

The Bible also shows us something of distance, particularly in the distance separating God from humans.  On the one hand the distance between the two is impossible to measure.  God is holy and humans are sinful, and so the distance between the two is vast.  But on the other hand, under the right circumstances, the distance is virtually erased.


"The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."

As I read that verse I understand "truth" to mean a  recognition that the psalmist is a sinner, who acknowledges his sin before God and seeks God's forgiveness.  The psalmist understands this very basic notion about God.  In the New Testament we see with clarity the means of God's forgiveness, which is our having faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus as the sacrifice that removes our sin, so that we can confidently come before God and know His very presence with us each and every moment of every day.

Unlike our trip to the Midwest, which we have to save for and can only happen once a year, the closing of the distance between any human being and God costs that person nothing except surrendering their own sense of pride and living as the god of their own life, and placing their faith in Jesus.   

And once it takes place it is a permanent action.  God's promise is that He will be there with you, end of story.  Moses reminded the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 31:6,

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you."

Like the words of the psalmist, the words of Moses are made clear in the person of Jesus Christ.  

Place your faith in Him today, close the distance, and know that He will be with you, now and forever.  Amen.






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, August 22, 2017

Having a Thought Towards the Future


"Her uncleanness was in her skirts;
she took no thought of her future;
therefore her fall is terrible;
she has no comforter."           

Those words come from the opening chapter of Lamentations, as the author expresses his grief over the fall of Jerusalem and the carrying off of the people of Israel into captivity.  Last week I finished reading through Jeremiah, where the prophet makes repeated calls for the people of Israel to repent of their sin and turn to the Lord.  The call for repentance is accompanied by a word of warning of the dangers of persisting in their disregard for God.  Lamentations follows Jeremiah, with grief over the fact that God's chosen people got exactly what they were warned about.

As I read Lamentations that one phrase, "she took no thought of her future," hit me hard and stuck with me.  The people of Israel are God's chosen people, called by Him and set apart by Him as His witnesses in the world.  It is they to whom He has revealed His law and it is through them that He will work out His promised plan of redemption.  When it comes to sin, or willful disobedience of the will of God, they, of all people, should know better. 

They should know better, and they probably do know better, and yet they persist in following their own will rather than Gods.  Living in the present, with whatever temporary sense of pleasure, or escape or what have you, as they disobey and disregard God, with no thought of their future.

I don’t know about you, but those words are convicting to me when I look back at my sin.  It was something I did at the moment without any care for its effects in the future.

Ongoing sin, unfortunately, is part of the Christian life.  We can understand our weakness in one area, and deal with it accordingly, and then find that as soon as we turn from that one thing we fall into another. 

While I am convicted by the words of Lamentations, I am also comforted, knowing that in Christ Jesus there is a truly merciful Savior.  The fall into sin does not have to be a free fall into a bottomless pit, or a fall to a hard landing and no possible way out. 

My sin has consequences, affecting me, and, both selfishly and unfortunately, other people as well.  May God, in His grace, make me more mindful of that truth, as well as the grace that come through Christ, the next time I consider taking a step into the pit.  May I live with a thought towards the future in terms of the effects of my sin, and also a future where one day sin will be no more.  Amen.



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.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Full Disclosure


In just 11 days a solar eclipse will pass across North America.  The "band of totality," or area that will be 100% dark as the moon blocks the sun's rays from reaching Earth, is expected to be right through the heart of the United States, reaching from Northwest to Southeast.  As a result of this area of total darkness, virtually all of the United States will be affected by the eclipse.

One of the ways in which Robin is taking notice of the eclipse comes in a humorous t-shirt she bought.  It shows various arrangements of the sun, moon and Earth, and labels them "lunar eclipse," "solar eclipse" and "apocalypse."  Kat, our inquisitive child and growing reader, saw the shirt during dinner and asked, "What does apocalypse mean?"

A pretty good question, to which Robin and I looked at each other and each said, "Hmmm."  And then I decided to get up and fetch my New Testament Greek dictionary, recalling that the Greek title for the Revelation to John is roughly Apocalypse to John.  According to that reference the primary definition is: making fully known, revelation, disclosure.  The New Testament uses it fourteen times, including just once in the book where it is also part of the title. 

It is curious that the popular definition we would have for apocalypse, that of a cataclysmic conflagration marking the end of civilization as we know it, with zombies left to run everything, is not the apocalypse per se but merely the end result.  In actuality an apocalypse is a full disclosure, a revealing of things that were not previously known.

The last book of the Bible, the Revelation to John, is most certainly a full disclosure of end times from a biblical perspective.  But taking another step back, to look at the Bible as a whole, we also see this idea of apocalypse, of revelation, at work.

It is in the Bible, and nowhere else, where humans are given insight into the mind and purposes of God as He works in the world.  Through the pages of the Bible we understand why God created the world, why He created humans, why things went awry between humans and God and God's subsequent promise to one day make things right. 

We see the fulfillment of that promise in the person and work of Jesus, and God's plan to continue drawing people to Himself until the day when He brings time and space in the creation we see and know to an end. 


In no way does the Bible provide exhaustive knowledge of the things of God.  We will always have questions that remain unanswered, no matter how long or deeply we study God's word.  But for our purposes, from God's point-of-view, His word contains the revelation, the full disclosure of all that we need to love Him, to worship Him and to serve Him.  Amen


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Life is short. God is good.


We are on vacation, arriving last night in Rochester, MN, where we used to live.  We have family here and many friends, and two of those friends from our former church very generously  invited us to stay in their home and use it as our base for our visit.

When we arrived last night we were saddened to learn that their neighbor, whom we also know from our former church, was found dead in his home last week.  Paul was in his late 50's, roughly our age, and without significant known health issues, and his death was completely unexpected by all who knew him. 

For Robin and I this news came on top of the sudden death last week of a leader in our denomination, a man who was a good friend of our congregation and had visited us three times in the past 16 months, most recently in January.  Tony was in his early 60's a two-time member of the US Olympic team, and looking as healthy as ever when I saw him last month.  Like our friend Paul, Tony had no known major health issues.

For reasons I don’t have answers for, the news of these two deaths brought to mind the passing of our granddaughter, Raelyn, in 2015.  Just past her second birthday, Rae died following an accident at home.

The thought that brings these three particular deaths together for me is a phrase that is so very familiar: Life is short.  Be its span two years or 62 years, human life is short.  Rare is the person who does not desire their life to extend a bit longer.  Even among people dealing with painful and/or prolonged illness, the desire for healing and a even just a bit more life is often present.

"Life is short" rarely stands alone.  Just saying it is a springboard to something else.  Life is short, therefore…  If you 'google' "Life is short" you'll will see an amazing number and variety of things that people are encouraged to consider once they come to the conclusion that life is indeed short.  These range everywhere from the well-meaning to the inane.

I'm going to suggest a different thought to follow "Life is short," which is that "God is good."

The truth is that whatever happens in this life, including its unexpected and seemingly premature end, God is good. 

As Christians, we grieve, but we do not grieve without having hope that is grounded in the promises of God to always hold His children.  Of the many places in the Bible that speaks to our eternal hope in God, the closing words of Romans 8 are among my favorite;

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor 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."

Nothing, not even death, separates God from the children He loves.

Rae, Paul and Tony may have desired a life that was a little bit longer.  Their families certainly grieve their passing and they may have a place in their hearts that will always hold sorrow for what never came to be.

But I believe that Rae, Paul and Tony are in the presence of Jesus, who gave His life for theirs.  Right now they delight in the visible glory of their Savior and Lord.

Human life, even to 100 years, is short when compared to eternity.  And by faith in Jesus, a Christian lives in the goodness of God today, and it is a goodness that has no end.
  




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.