Showing posts from 2018

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…

Saturate Your Life in the Word of God

Words have power.They can destroy or build up.They can stir hope or breed despair.Some time ago, a ministry colleague said something to me that shook my confidence and dogged me for years.On the other hand, the words of assurance that my mother planted in my soul as a child have served to reinforce my calling throughout my adult life.Promises made by people of integrity have always steeled courage and planted hope in people who were facing troubling circumstances..
Jesus told his disciples to remain in his word.Two thousand years later, Christ’s admonition still rings true.If we want to bear fruit – make a positive impact in our world and in the lives of other people – we have to “abide” or remain in Christ.If we saturate our minds with his word, we will, indeed, abide in him and make an eternal impact in the lives of other people.Following the link below, I unpack the power of Jesus’ word and consider practical ways in which we can soak our lives in it.Words have the power to change a…

Connected to Jesus

Sunday, September 16th, marked the beginning of our sermon series on abiding in Christ.I am both excited and humbled to begin this journey with you.I’ve not preached through this topic before though I believe it will be one of the most important and transforming series of messages that I’ve prepared and delivered.Please keep me in your prayers.Before I can preach it, I have to live it…and I am such an imperfect Christian.I think more than anything, I am looking forward to my own personal transformation as I dig in, study, and reflect on what it means to be in Christ and abide in him.
Through the study, our primary text will be John 15:1-8, but we will also consult the writings of the Apostles Paul and Peter who address the same topic.Paul frequently reminds believers that we are “in Christ.”Peter has the boldness to write that we are “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4).
Along with Scripture, I am also reading two classic books on abiding in Christ:The Practice of the Presenc…

The Power of Music & Memory

Each month, I have the privilege of facilitating two devotional chapels at local senior care centers.I’m not the only one.Several of Galesburg’s local pastors volunteer and minister each month in nursing homes.One of the items in my “ministry toolbox” is a substantial knowledge of hymns and the ability to play the piano.This month, for a change, I read a psalm, prayed, and spent the rest of the time playing favorites from the special hymnal that all of the nursing homes use.It was a good time and the residents were very grateful to sing songs that mean so much to them.
Music has the unique ability to transport our memory back to a strongly impressionable moment.Couples will sometimes identify a particular tune as “our song” because it may have been the number one hit when they fell in love. Perhaps it was the song that was played the first time they danced together.That powerful dynamic of music is called its “associative power.”When we sing the song or hear it sung, it is as if we exp…

How Big is Your God?

The first words that A.W. Tozer wrote in his classic study of the attributes of God, The Knowledge of the Holy, may have been the most profound statement he ever penned: "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."If your problems are too big, then your God is too small.When you see God as he truly is – as his Word faithfully reveals - then all the concerns of your life will be put in the proper perspective and you will be at peace.And here is the paradox: the God whose glory can never be fully described by human language is seeking men and women with humble hearts to whom he will gladly reveal himself.The indescribable God of the Bible has revealed himself through the man, Jesus Christ, so that he may be known by you.
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The Glory of Work

In my life, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with a few cultures different than my own.I grew up in the Southwest and got an early taste of Mexican-American customs, food, and language.I took a mission trip to Eastern Europe in the 1990’s and on two occasions had the opportunity to minister in Kenya.Each cross-cultural engagement brought challenge, learning, and surprise.But by far, the biggest surprise I experienced was the Labor Day celebration service that I was privileged to attend at a Karen (Burmese refugee) church.Somehow, they didn’t get the memo about long-standing labor and management tensions in America.They had invited their supervisors to the service and were honoring their bosses by giving them lavish gifts!They got it all wrong.But I wasn’t going to tell them.What a delight!
According to the Bible, work is a blessing from our Creator to be embraced rather than an obligation to be shunned.God himself works and the urge in each of our souls to be creative and productive …

The Love of God

There is no greater theme in all the world than love.The church has always celebrated it in song and it will forever be our anthem throughout eternity.Love has the power to change lives – indeed to change the world.We all want to be loved.It’s not just that.We all need to be loved.And no one loves you more or better than God.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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” (Romans 8: 35-39).
Nothing can get between you and God’s limitless love.You are loved!

Pushed Into a Corner

What if I asked if you were interested in buying a luxury condo in Chernobyl?It would be very affordable.Would you be interested?Of course not!
Today’s text is nearly the equivalent of God asking the prophet Jeremiah to do the same thing.God told Jeremiah to buy a piece of real estate near Jerusalem while the city was already surrounded by a terrifying enemy destined to raze the city and carry most of the people off into captivity.Scripture doesn’t record Jeremiah’s thoughts but, reading between the lines, you know he was thinking the Lord must be crazy.Cutting a real estate deal under those circumstances made no sense at all!
Sometimes, God pushes us into a corner.It doesn’t make sense.You didn’t deserve it.There seems to be no escape except to throw yourself on the mercies of God.No one wants to be in that situation, but it is a blessed place to be.God has promised to take care of you.He assured us that he would never leave or forsake us.And it is his character that guarantees that hi…


I’m sure you know many of jokes about changing lightbulbs.For example, “How many Harvard students does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one to hold it while the world revolves around him.”There’s even one for us: “How many Baptists does it take to change a lightbulb….””
CHANGE??? (It’s not in our vocabulary.)
Most people don’t like change on some level.But the world is always changing…and that’s a good thing.If change weren’t possible we’d be stuck in our current miseries.Change, for the Christian, is normal and expected as we should becoming more and more like Christ.Change is our hope: “When Christ appears, we shall be like him…” (I John 3:2).
The only thing that doesn’t change is God himself.A wise theologian once said, ““All that God is He has always been, and all that He has been and is He will ever be.”God’s steadfastness without change is called his immutability.God will never change in his love toward you and me.
Here is the truth and good news about change:God’s immutability …

To Be Fully Known

One of the most urgent cries of the human spirit is to be fully known and understood.The love-sick pursuit of a young person for a life-partner is driven, at its core, by the drive to know and to be known.That is the cry that only true self-giving love can answer.
The trouble, however, is that no one can know and love you perfectly.The man and woman who have forged a beautiful and committed marriage for over fifty years still experience misunderstandings.The yearning to be known and understood can only be met by the One who made us.
The psalmist sang,
O Lord, you have searched me and you know me… Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
God knows.He knows everything about you and yet he loves you completely and without reservation.Like the psalmist, I know enough of myself to understand that such a thought is too wonderful, too lofty for me to grasp.I’m eternally grateful and my search to be fully known is fully satisfied in Christ.…

The Kingdom of Me

A philosopher once said, “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan: The proper study of mankind is man.”He could not have been more wrong.While the study of man and of all creation is a worthwhile endeavor, such a seeker will lie frustrated on his deathbed because he will not understand the source of his own nature.
We are unique in Creation.Only humans are made in the image of God.The greatest enterprise in any person’s life is the contemplation of God.What we think about God is the most important thing about us.But thinking about God is challenging because He is unlike any other thing in his Creation.When we begin to get a glimpse of who God is we will experience moral shock just as the prophet Isaiah did and we considered last week.
Our sinful moral bent is to avoid contemplation of God.It is too painful.It is much easier to put ourselves in place as god and master of our fate.But such personal enthronement is the source of all that ails us.  When we contemplate and truly encounter…

Who Has the Upper Hand?

I don’t recall a time in my lifetime when our country was more politically polarized than it is today.I engage political news every day but even I am growing increasingly weary.As a nation, virtues of goodness, justice, brotherhood, and love are rarely seen in our national discourse.With political sides chosen and polarized media allies cheering their team on, we seem to be able to accomplish nothing except raise the level of animus against each other.And it’s all in the name of gaining the upper hand - acquiring more and more political power to achieve the party’s end and enrich the primary players.
Psalm 2 asks “Why do the people so furiously rage together?”“God,” the psalmist writes, “laughs and scoffs at them.”
I bet.We think we’re in charge.We’re not.Only God is sovereign.
God is in charge.Not Congress. Not the President.Not the UN.Not political parties.Name your group and they only have power because God allows it for his ultimate purposes.For God’s people, this truth should great…

Soaring Prayer

Good morning church family!  That’s got a good sound.  I like that.  You have shown us great kindness in the seven months that Diane and I have been here.  We are already developing a warm and deep affection for you.  We are indeed family together.  And it is right that we should feel this way towards each other because we are partners in this enterprise together.  Last week, we looked at the opening verses of the book of Ephesians.  There we discovered all that God had done for us.  We have been invited into “The Father’s Grand Story.”  That’s what makes us family!
Some people think I’m a Luddite – you know – a person who is averse to new technology because I don’t have a smart phone.  I used to have one; or, should I say, the church used to let me use one that they purchased for me.  But I’m cheap.  I’m now back with a simple flip-phone.  Don’t feel sorry for me.  It was an exchange I gladly made. 
They say that new technology is always better.  Maybe for some, but not for me.  My fa…