Archive for April, 2012

Self-sufficiency is a myth perpetuated 

by pride and temporary success. (1)

John Wayne is The American Hero.  He is strong, compassionate, firm, gracious, and independent!

Most Americans are raised to be self-sufficient.  I was, so was my wife, and so were our sons.  My parents poured the importance of fierce independency within me.  Dependency was never reinforced at my house.

Independency works well when all goes well, but when times are difficult, we learn that if it were not for others we would have not survived.

Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41 reminded him that his years of fertility and gluttony would be followed by years of sterility and want.  With Jacob’s help he planned ahead and survived this crisis.

However, hardship can come in an instant and endure for seasons leaving no time for planning and the storing up of adequate reserves.

Most of us deplore relying upon others for help.  I do.

When I am strong and self-sufficient, I forget that I need God because I am confidant I can pull myself up by my own boot straps without Him.  This is a deadly presumption.

I once went through a 4 year struggle.  I was convinced the world was against me and that by simply enduring and plugging away, I’d reach the end of the tunnel.  Whenever I saw the light at the end of the tunnel it disappeared.

Only when I when I reach a point of desperation did I acknowledge that I was in spiritual warfare.  I was in a battle with Satan and the forces of evil and darkness.  This is a battle which none of us will ever win by ourselves no matter how strong.

It was Jesus, not John Wayne who said to me:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” (2)

I may manage meeting most of my earthly needs on my own, but the day will come when only God will be able to help me.

My success is always less than His.

+ + +

  1. Young, Sarah (2004-10-12). Jesus Calling: Seeking Peace in His Presence (p. 127). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
  2. 2 Corinthians 12:9.

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A Chosen People

1 Peter 2:9-17

Sermon – April 29, 2012


I. The Hunger Games

A. Teen sensation

Movie recently released

3 book trilogy – Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games

Catching Fire

The Mockingjay

B.  Oppressive Futuristic State

Sense US in future

Distressed and Oppressed Districts

Powerful and privilege capital

Heroine is Katniss

Struggle for survival

C. The Hunger Games

Competition to the death

Winning formula

Survival of the fittest

Dog eat dog



D. Reflective of survival in the real world

Sharp contrast to Peter’s call for how we shall live

II.  A Chosen People (vs 9-10)

A.  Royal priesthood

Purveyors of God’s grace and forgiveness

B.  Proclaim God’s excellencies

C.  Reflecting your call from darkness into light

D.  Live as claimed people who have received mercy

III.  Relationship to the world (vs 11-17)

A.  Sojourners and exiles

Jesus’ repeated concern/challenge in  John chapters 15-16

In the world, but not of the world

B.  Live differently

See your good deeds and glorify God

C.  Not rebels, rejecting authority of the world

=> source of hardship

D.  Live as people who are free from the world

IV.  Contrast of Peter’s Call to How Many Christians Live

A.  Raise children to succeed in the world

B.  Seek to succeed ourselves in the world

Our success is basis of our worth and identity

C.  To succeed and achieve identity

We adopt the success tools of the world

D.  Our failure to follow Peter’s instruction

 The source of our disobedience

Our biggest problem as churches

The source of our failure as churches

E.  We do this because we are driven by our own hungers

We go to the world for substance and to satisfy

Jesus said in John 6:35

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.




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Thank You God

When I teach leaders to pray, I start by teaching the group the Thank You God form of prayer.  It is a simple and safe form of group prayer.

Everyone prays in turn as we move around the circle.  Pray what you wish.  When you have finished your prayer, close with the words, “Thank you God”. These closing words signal the next person in the circle to pray.

The beauty of this prayer is not everyone prefers to pray out loud in groups.  They do not need to do this in this form of prayer.  They may pray quietly and then, when led by God, simply pray aloud, “Thank you God”. Thus, signaling the next person to pray.

Martin Luther wrote:

We’re showered with blessings every day, and we’re always using what God gives us. …  we accept his gifts as if they simply appeared out of nowhere or as if we earned them through our own efforts, diligence, or wisdom. We think that God somehow owes us these things, and therefore we don’t need to thank him. (1)

As I walk through my day, whether with others or alone, I pray the Thank you God prayer regularly.  

It keeps my heart and spirit grateful and humble.

As you journey through today take time to pray the Thank You God prayer.

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  1. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 117). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 

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Come to me with empty hands and an open heart, 

ready to receive abundant blessings. (1)


I have a hard time receiving gifts because either my pride or my expectations are too high.

I do not believe I am alone.

A friend wanted to say thank you to me earlier this week with a simple gift.

In gratefulness, I should have accepted it and say, “Thank you,” but I did not.  My pride was a hinderance.

In exasperation he told me to at least take it and give it away to someone in need.  It was only then when I accepted the gift.

He wanted to say thank you and I frustrated him with my pride.

Shame on me!

I wonder how often I have done this to God?

We expect God to bless us in specific ways. When He does not come bearing the gifts we expect, we act like He is a burden to us.

God has a specific gift for us.

The gift is Himself!

Unfortunately, we frequently reject the gift of Himself because we want a specific blessing rather than Him.

Jesus taught, 

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (2)

I wonder how many times has God come to me with a gift and I have rejected Him?

Sometimes, I am amazed God keeps blessing me.

+ + +

  1. Young, Sarah (2004-10-12). Jesus Calling: Seeking Peace in His Presence (p. 123). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
  2. Matthew 6:8

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The cross is desecrated

by the feet of forgetfulness. (1)

In the weeks after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, church pews were filled with worshippers.  Some came to mourn, some came for hope, many came for good news.

Yet it did not take long for the crowds to dissipate.  I do not know a single pastor who was surprised by this quick reversal in worship attendance.  We are use to it.

Christians rush to worship for Christmas, for Easter, for baptism, for confirmation, for marriage, and for death.  Each time they come longing for the Good News of the Gospel, which is secured for us in the cross.

With equal speed they rush home, back to the world, and fail to return to the cross until the next crisis or holy-i-day.

I wonder how frequently God must sigh at our forgetfulness of His grace and His heart’s desire that we gather around the cross for worship.

Our stampede towards the cross and our ensuing absence from worship is a desecration of the cross and all of the grace, mercy, and hope it brings. 

David said:

“I was glad when they said to me, let us go up to the house of the Lord!” (2)

Jesus said,

“Take up your cross and follow me!” (3)

Lord forgive me when I trust your grace, ignore your presence, and flee from your cross.

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  1. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).
  2. Psalm 122:1
  3. Matthew 16:24

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Oh, how slow grief is to come to understanding! 

Grief is ignorant and does not even care to learn. (1)


Grief is 100% pure emotion!

There is nothing in grief which is rational.

Grief can only be felt!

There are no words which can soothe and comfort the heart aching in grief.

Grief will not be denied!


Parents ask me, “How do I explain this to the kids?”

My answer is, “You can’t, so don’t!  Just love them.  Be with them in their grieving!”

They then ask, “Isn’t there something in the Bible I can tell them?”


In Psalm 23, David says,

“God was with me when I walked through the valley of the shadow of death … His presence comforted me!” (2)

In Matthew, Jesus says,

“Come to me all you who are overburdened …you will find rest for your souls … I am with you always!” (3)


God and Jesus are short on words, but long on presence and compassion.

They do not offer an explanation.

Instead they offer their hearts.

They know what they are doing.

Thanks be to God!

+ + +

  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 169). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. Psalm 23:4
  3. Matthew 11:28 and 29 and 20:28

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We live in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy, and 

therefore starved for meditation and true friendship. (1)


Surprisingly, the quote above does not come for a social scientist analyzing the culture of the 21st century.  The quote is from C. S. Lewis, written in before 1960, when very few people had a private telephone line, much less a television.

In a more sedate, slower paced society, finding a moment and place to reflect and to refuel was a challenge.  

In today’s world of hyper-connectivity and digital social networks most of us long to be left alone.  We never seem to have a genuine quiet moment to ourselves.  Thus we hunger for silence and solitude, both of which are foundational to being able to relate to others and to build community.

We hunger for silence, an opportunity to be alone, but we fear being disconnected.

In our busyness and fear, we separate ourselves from God.  In our frantic hyper-connectivity with the world, we drown out the voice of God and believe He is hard to find.  Thus, we neither find Him nor connect to Him.

My job requires me to be engaged with people on a regular and daily basis.  These individuals dictate the times and terms of our interaction, which is spurned by crisis in their lives.

Yet, in the expectation for me to be present and to respond to the needs of others, I must have fuel in my tank in order to provide spiritual nourishment and substance for them during their crisis.

Thus, I must carve out time in every day to be alone, to be silent, and to be unavailable to no one, except God. 

This professional necessity is also a personal blessing.

Only after I have been alone with God, am I able to truly engage with others and enjoy genuine friendship and find peace and happiness.

Smartphones, text messages, email, Facebook, and digital notifications of the score in the third inning of a Pirates-Cubs baseball game are not the source of our problem.  

We fear being disconnected, missing a piece of the action, not knowing what is going on in this temporal world.  

This fear drives us away from God, from ourselves, and from others.

Be still and know that I am God … I am with you always (2)

+ + +

  1. Lewis, C. S. (2009-03-17). A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 126). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 
  2. Psalm 46:10 and Matthew 28:20.

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