The Church as Permanent Warming Center

When Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie walked through the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ classic tale, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” they entered the frozen wonderworld of Narnia.While they encountered many delightful characters there, it was a doleful world where it was “always winter and never Christmas.”
We’ve had a bit of our own Narnia experience here in Galesburg this past week.Prior to moving here, my wife and I lived in South Dakota for six years.Our frigid conditions, including the flat front tire on our car this week, brought back not-so-pleasant memories of the frozen northland.But on the upside, conditions like these can also bring out the good in people.I’m grateful for my church, First Baptist of Galesburg, because we were able to graciously open our doors Tuesday night as an emergency warming center for six people, displaced from their home by busted pipes.Fire Chief Tom Simkins made the connections and the Red Cross equipped our fellowship hall with cots, blan…

He Entered Into Our Mess

I’ve been in ministry over forty years and I have observed that this month is always the toughest time of the year.If things are going to fall apart, it often happens in December.The stress and busyness of the month is augmented by the onset of winter and illness.And all of the pressures that we feel tend to put people on edge which often brings out the worst in us.Dysfunction often rears its ugly head at family gatherings.Road rage is common as we’re trying to fulfill our crazy schedule going from place to place.We feel loneliness the most during this season when all of our expectations of warm and happy relationships are unfulfilled.As a pastor, I have prayed for and with more people in December than any other month of the year.Though we try and hide it, many of us are broken.Our lives are a mess.
That’s why Jesus came.The New Testament writer to the Hebrews explained: “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood…it was necessar…

Advent Upheaval

I wasn’t raised in a so called “liturgical” church.In my ignorance, I always thought that Advent was just a “traditional” way of celebrating the Christmas season...sort of a way of “putting Christ back into Christmas.”True.It does that.I also thought that it was a way of telling the complete story of Christmas.Yes.It does that, too.
But Advent is more than just a prelude to the celebration of Christ’s birth.Advent developed along similar lines of Lent in that it was to be a time of spiritual introspection and cleansing.Sort of a recalibrating of our lives.It couldn’t come at a better time when our culture is fixated on consumerism.It is true that we do seem to consider giving and love more easily during the Christmas season.But our capitalist system (and I’m generally a fan) is eager to leverage any situation for financial gain.It’s hard to say whether or not “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” or “profit and bottom line” is the dominant theme from October 31 to December 25.
In such a…

Christ the King Sunday 2018

Christ the King Sunday focuses our worship on the cosmic character of Christ’s rule and reign over all the world.It reinforces the theme of Ephesians 1:10, “to bring all things in heaven and earth under one head, even Christ.”
Christ’s rule and reign are universal but it must be personal as well.This Sunday is the last day of the liturgical calendar.Next Sunday is the beginning of Advent – a season of reflection and realigning of our lives to God’s purpose.Today, we’ll ask a tough question: “Are you following Jesus in obedience and doing what he has commanded you?”As we’ll see, the consequences are eternal.
This is a great day to celebrate because the Lord reigns!He has called us to be agents for his Kingdom here and now.Will you take up his charter and follow to your reward?I pray that the Spirit will move all of our hearts to say, “Yes!”
Find the audio file and sermon manuscript at

A Life that Matters

Deep within every human heart is the unquenchable urge to live a life that really matters.  Though there are many privileged people in the world, when it comes to making your life count, the playing field is level.  Everyone can live a life that impacts others.  You don’t have to be especially gifted, rich, beautiful, or a spiritual superstar.  Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:5). 
Spiritual fruit comes in many varieties: souls brought into the Kingdom, others who are positively impacted through your influence, financial generosity, godly character traits, and other actions and qualities that make an eternal impact on people around you. As followers of Jesus, we have the privilege and calling to bear much fruit.  

Brother Lawrence was a simple man.  He had no earthly ambition.  He was disabled.  He wasn’t highly educated.  And yet, he learned the secret of abiding in Christ in every thing he did in every moment of his day.  The example o…

All Saints Sunday 2018

Today is the day in which many churches celebrate All Saints Sunday. I’ve been waiting for this day all year. I didn’t grow up observing All Saints and it is new to us as a church as well.This celebration recognizes the “Communion of Saints” around the world and throughout time.After rehearsing the inspiring stories of many of the Old Testament believers in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews (the “Faith Hall of Fame”) the author encourages us with this inspiring admonition: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2a).The passage gives a description of those who have gone before us as cheering us on from heaven’s bleachers as we run the race of faith.Those who have died in the faith, after all, are alive now in Jesus’ presence.We are connected to them.What an …

Prayer for a Political Season

This is a political post.Can’t help it.We live in a highly politicized and polarized society right now and if faith can’t speak into our public angst, what good is it?Before you fold the paper and move on to something else, however, let me assure you that while this is political, it won’t be partisan.
My heart is heavy.Americans are not listening to each other.Our bullhorns are locked bell-to-bell blaring our Left and Right narratives at each other into a sickening cacophony of political poison. Public discourse is virtually dead.And the dysfunction that is on display in media and capitol buildings has spilled over into our local gathering places as well.I’ve had heated exchanges with good friends and family members that leave me deeply troubled.As Victor Davis Hanson asked in a recent article in National Review, “Are we on the verge of civil war?”I certainly hope not.But the basis for my hope is not found in our broken political process. As I have written before in this column, it is…