How to Get More in 24.

How to Get More in 24.

It’s not a bad idea, you know. Taking time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, reviewing the previous year, and making plans for the new one. The meditative rhythm of reflection on the last 12 months and envisioning a path forward may be exactly what you need to get more out of this mysterious year knocking at your front door right now. I’ve been doing this for quite a long time. Once, while planting a church in Northern California, I rented a cabin in the woods for three days for this very purpose. This extended exercise can teach us lessons from the past year and clarify where we need to head in the future. (more…)

The Comfort and Challenge of Christmas!

The Comfort and Challenge of Christmas!

Well, I suppose starting December with a blog post on Christmas is not a bad idea. After all, even non-believers tend to get excited about Santa Claus, children and presents at this time of year. (Eggnog and Fruit Cake are still up for debate, though) But using an almost unheard of Old Testament Minor Prophet, Zechariah, for the subject might need more explanation. “Where’s the relevance,” you might wonder. We have been working our way through those hidden gems of the Minor Prophets in our church family, and I believe the message of Zechariah is particularly encouraging for us as we move into the Christmas season. Track with me and see for yourself. (more…)

The Essential Place of Thanksgiving!

The Essential Place of Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving? The President pardons a turkey. The Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions are always two NFL teams with a game. Celebrities recite the people and events for which they are thankful. But are these famous people truly thankful, or just listing what they are presently happy about? The reality of saying thank you implies that we owe thanks to someone because they have done something for us. So, who are we thankful to? It is good to list people and things we are grateful for. That practice, done regularly, would do well for our present selfish society. But logically, who is it that we owe our gratitude to for providing those blessings we hold dear, and does it matter? Does the divine have anything to do with this? (more…)

The Faith of Just Holding Fast!

The Faith of Just Holding Fast!

When we hear of great men and women of faith, we often think of those who have left a safe and secure life here in America to risk it all on some foreign mission field in a third world country. We can rightly call that what it is – faith! However, Sometimes, the most incredible acts of faith are simply trusting God, even when everything and everyone around you is falling apart. Or at least it appears that way. (more…)

Honor Bestowed where Honor is Owed. A Shout out for Clergy Appreciation Month.

Honor Bestowed where Honor is Owed. A Shout out for Clergy Appreciation Month.

They have been called by many names and titles. Minister, preacher, and, for an older generation, parson. For those in the High Church traditions, sometimes they go by a more ornate term, like Reverend. Pastor is the most widely used term for those in full-time vocational ministry. The problem with the word pastor in English is that it means almost everything, so it sometimes doesn’t mean anything—anything specific. Think of all the images that come to mind when you hear the word pastor. He’s the older, wise man everyone loves and is there for weddings, funerals, birthdays, and child dedications. He is always available with practical advice. He’s an expert in deciphering the Bible and maybe even reads it in the original Greek and Hebrew. He shows up for workdays and is always there to lend a helping hand, a listening ear, and a word of encouragement. (more…)

Israel, Hamas, and The Choices Before Us All!

Israel, Hamas, and The Choices Before Us All!

It’s been a week since the terrorist group Hamas launched coordinated rocket attacks into Israel, with ground incursion and, ultimately, the murder of civilians.  Almost immediately, the state of Israel declared war on Hamas, and to the moment, events on the ground have been, and are, escalating daily at lightning speed.

In addition to prayer, very few can physically do anything in this unfolding terror of events.  But we have some choices in how we respond in our small part of the world in the here and now.  Some options are unhealthy, while others are exactly what we need. There are many directions and details, but here are five basic emotions we can sit in or paths we can choose. (more…)

Fear and The Losing Team Not to be On!

Fear and The Losing Team Not to be On!

We know their names but probably would have wanted to forget them if we had lived during their time. They had an excellent opportunity to lead their people to glory. Before them was a profound moment to experience the miraculous movements of God. But that’s not what happened. To say they fumbled the ball is an understatement. This was no mere choking in the playoffs. This cost lives. They died, and so many along with them. (more…)

Faith in the Dark. (Three Lessons from the Life of Abraham.)

Faith in the Dark. (Three Lessons from the Life of Abraham.)

It’s almost impossible to talk seriously about religion without the name of Abraham coming into the discussion. Three of the world’s largest religions, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, trace their faith back to Abraham, the patriarch. Why is this ancient father such a powerhouse? It’s not because the guy was perfect. That’s seen in many ways, and none the least is that he lied about his wife, not only once, but twice, to save his skin.

Authentic faith was the root of this man’s success with God, which caused him to get up and trust God profoundly. His story picks up in Genesis chapter 12, where God first comes onto the scene of Abraham’s life, and the patriarch launches out in a tiny step of faith after the other. What would it look like if we were to dissect his faith for a moment? In short, it was risky. (more…)

Heaven on My Mind!

Heaven on My Mind!

Do you ever think about the subject?  Heaven, that is.  I’m not just talking about the times when we wind up sitting in solemnity at the funeral of a loved one.  If this whole God thing is true, then I wonder if the high hope of Heaven is something to be paid attention to a bit more.  There are divine moments when Heaven comes to mind, such as when I’m reading C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien or watching one of their great masterpieces on film. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Lord of the Rings totally set the stage for another realm beyond what we can touch today.

Heaven comes to mind when I’m scanning the dial on a road trip, and something like U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” comes on. I’m again reminded that I’m part of something so much bigger than the here and now. Sometimes, Heaven comes out of my plea for God to make things right. I see the evil and rebellion in the world, and my heart cries out for justice. Then, I know that justice will come someday. (more…)