Marriage as a Sacrament

I don’t know about your FaceBook feed, but mine has been filled with wedding anniversary announcements virtually every day of this month.It is June, after all, and that’s when a lot of folks tie the knot with winter in the rear-view mirror and the joys of summer living just ahead.I’ve seen ten-year, fifteen-year, up to fifty-five-year celebrations.And we should celebrate.A good marriage takes a good deal of work.
Roman Catholics call marriage a “sacrament.”I’m a Baptist and we’re not supposed to be sacramental.But general Baptist distinctives can sometimes be difficult to define because freedom of individual conscience is one of our deepest held values.I’m with the Catholics on this one.Of course, as a Protestant, I probably define sacrament a bit different than my Catholic brethren.No need to quibble.Along with the Catholics, I see God actively working smack dab in the middle of Christian marriage.
In general terms, I define a sacrament as a “physical means of God’s grace.”In the c…

Reflection for Memorial Day

This coming Monday is Memorial Day.Not that you probably needed any reminder.It traditionally marks the beginning of summer and is frequently celebrated with parties and barbecues.But its original and real meaning is much more important and sobering.Memorial Day, or “Decoration Day” as it was originally called, came into being shortly after the Civil War.More American lives were lost in that conflict than any other and veteran’s cemeteries were established in every state to remember and mourn the nation’s great loss.By the late 1860’s, towns and cities had begun annual springtime festivities to remember their fallen. In 1868, May 30th was nationally designated as “Decoration Day” to honor the veterans.
In the twentieth century, Decoration Day eventually became known as “Memorial Day” and was extended to honor all veterans who had given their lives in conflict.In 1971, Memorial Day was permanently fixed as the last Monday in May so that government employees could have a three-day weeken…

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…