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Archive for June, 2012

Everywhere love turns, it finds burdens to carry. (1)

I use to have a friend who I loved, as friends love each other, but I dropped the friendship because he became too difficult to love.  Carrying his burdens became more than I could bear.

We have all had this experience, whether with a friend, a spouse, a parent, a child, or a sibling.  It became too much of a burden to love them, so we dropped them.  While we did so with regret, we did so convinced that we had to.

Love brings burdens.  

We all sin and fall short of God’s glory.  None of us are perfect.  

When my wife said, “I do” at our wedding nearly 32 years ago, she knew I was incomplete and imperfect.  Together we agreed to share each other’s burdens in the exchange of these vows:

I will you love you, comfort you, cherish, honor and keep you in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and health, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in whatever our life may bring, as long as we both shall live.

Yes, love brings burdens.  Yet, love also finds ways to carry those burdens either through a season of difficulty or until the burden has been relieved.  

This is where most love fails.  There is a weight limit to the load we are willing to carry.  When we reach the limits of the weight we can or are willing to carry, we cry out, “Loving you is killing me!”

I have wept with others who stand at this crossroads.  I understand the heaviness of the load and the pain and suffering it brings.  

Love is a heavy load.  

Love is a rose set in a bed of thorns, in this setting love is a many-splendored thing. (2)

Jesus said it best, 

“There is no greater love, than to lay down your life for your friends!” (3)

+ + +

  1. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 171). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 
  2. This phrase is from the 1955 movie, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, which is based on Han Suyin’s 1952 autobiographical novel A Many-Splendored Thing.
  3. John 15:13.

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Life is a Battle!

A friend told me recently, “I avoid conflict! I’ll do anything to get out of conflict!”

I was tempted to add to his last sentence, “… except kill yourself.”

Can you live life and avoid conflict or battles?

In my devotional reading today I read these two quotes:

Life is not victory, but battle. (1)

Combat comes before victory. (2)

The sum of the two could read: 

Life is a battle which precedes victory!

The presence of evil and the reality of sin assure us that life is a battle between good and evil.  This is the story of life … Good and Evil are in a battle to the finish.  Only one can win the battle.    

People often complain that the Bible, especially the Old Testament and The Book of Revelation, is a gruesome battlefield which does not seem befitting for the people of God. 

It’s a valid complaint because the battle of Good and Evil is the story of The Bible.  We often forget that the cosmic battle between Good and Evil is fought everyday on earth, as well as in the heavens.

Thus, the ultimate question of life is,

“Which will be the victor? Good or evil?”

I believe both will win.  

Evil will win the battle of the flesh and Good will win the battle of the cosmos.  

However, since the Eternal will always outlive the Temporal, I am casting my lot with the God, the Eternal Good! 

Martin Luther wrote in his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God:

Though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, 

we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.  

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; 

his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; 

one little word shall fell him.

– – –

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth; 

the Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru him who with us sideth.  

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; 

the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; 

his kingdom is forever.

Yes, life is a battle!  This is the bad news.

The Good News is: Jesus wins!

It’s good to know who will win!  

+ + +

  1. Samuel G. Hardman and Dwight Lyman Moody, Thoughts for the Quiet Hour (Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998).
  2. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 239). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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Take the Journey!

Whether considering the deep mysteries or the everyday matters of life, we have a tendency to out-think God.

  • Is this God’s plan?
  • Why does God allow this?
  • Is this exactly what scripture means?
  • Where will this lead me?
  • Is God testing me?

Some ponder while others go.  

While I enjoy reflecting, speculating, wondering, and thinking about God’s will and His ways, I recognize that at the end of the day I must act in faith.

Faith is moving forward into the unknown.  

Faith never sees the way, it only sees God.

The prophet Habakkuk teaches, The saints live by faith!” (1)

I appreciate his emphasis on LIVE!  Get on with your life!  Trust God even when you do not understand His ways. 

Let actual circumstances be what they may be.  Look to Jesus.  Trust Him and His love for you.  Live knowing that He will bring you safely to shore.  

Jesus will do that!  While He will not keep your life free from trouble and uncertainty, He will remain at the helm with you during the storms and through the night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. 

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in 

from this time forth and forevermore. (2)

+ + +

  1. Habakkuk 2:4.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Psalm 121:7–8.

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God’s Man – Father’s Day 2012

Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and 20-25

Preaching Notes

Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and 20-25

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

When your son asks you in time to come, “What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?”

You shall say to your son, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. He brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. The Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. It will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.”

I.  The Need

A.  Conversation with a young father seeking mentor

B.  Words of a 4 year old boy

C.  The world is shaping this child

With it’s self-centered hedonism

D.  Will a Christian man step up and shape his life

If not we can see where he is headed

II.  Men as Hunters and Gathers

A.  The prevailing cultural image

Be strong providers,

Subduing the wild earth

B.  A Biblical Mandate – Genesis 1:28-30

God blessed thee man and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.  Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” 

C.  Reenforced in Psalm 8:5-8

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

D.  Men have fulfilled this role

Problem is God has an additional role for men

III.  Men as a leader, shaper, and mentor of others

A.  The stewardship of earth includes stewards of people

B.  The failure of men here is problematic

C.  God calls men to be a spiritual mentor for others in 3 areas of life

Husband

Father

Community citizen

D.  Task of Husband – Ephesians 5:25-27

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

E.  Task of shaping children – Deuteronomy 6

God calls father’s to

Teach their children about Him

Show them His way

Teach them the meaning of life

Give them wisdom => build their faith

F.  Task as community citizen – build faith in others

Matthew 28 – The Great Commission

John 20 – Feed my sheep

IV.  Filling our roles as men is in many ways a simple task

A.  I like Jed Ruebenfield’s words in NYT June 16

Fathers have a very simple job. All you’ve got to do is this: be all-powerful, so your kids feel safe when they’re little; be all-good, so your kids know the difference between right and wrong; and give your children a sense of the world’s deep magic, mystery and joy, before they’re too old to learn. If you can just do those three little things, you can hang up the spikes. 

B.  Of course Ruebenfield’s wisdom lacks the faith building component

But that’s part of the job too

C.  How do men accomplish this

Imprint comes when others see actions match words

A man’s teaching and mentoring

Is best heard and witnessed

D.  Psalm 26 describes God’s Man

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. 

Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. 

For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. 

I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. 

I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. 

I have walked in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.

E.  God’s man does:

Walks in integrity

Trust in God, not himself

Has a heart for God and love the Lord

Does the right thing

Worships God in His house

Trust Gods forgiveness and grace

F.  This is intentional living

Do not need to be a super-hero to accomplish

V.  The men who have had the greatest impact upon my life

A.  Neither one is a super-hero in the eyes of the world

Common everyday men

B.  My Father and my father-in-law

Shaped me, my wife, and also my sons

C.  Dad and Ed

Providers of home and physical need

Did the right thing

Took us to church – still involved

Challenges – Mom’s hearing, Ed’s 2 jobs

Lived with integrity

Their actions matched their words

Compassion for needy

Provided us with college education

Continuing love and support in life

D.  Blessings beyond measure and recognition by the world

Shaped 6 kids

9 grandsons

1 granddaughter

Generations to come

E.  God to Abraham – Genesis 12:1-3

His greatness was in building faith in his children

F.  Men the same is true for you

Your greatness is in shaping your children

Teaching them about God

Giving them a heart and mind for the Lord

G.  This greatness takes courage in a world

In a world which has turned from God’s pleasure

To self-centered hedonism

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Have thy tools ready; God will find thee work.  

Charles Kingsley (1)

It was the Tuesday after Labor Day, when I received a call from my bank asking me if I had made 23 purchases with my debit card at the local hardware store over the Labor Day Weekend.  I had.

That weekend I was tackling a home improvement project.  It seemed that every 20 minutes I had to run to the Hardware Store to purchase a tool, buy a bolt, or retrieve more materials.  While my heart and mind was ready to work, I was ill prepared to complete the project.

Those 23 trips to the Hardware Store consumed 8 hours of my time and 15 gallons of gas.  Some of the trips were to exchange items which I did not need for items I would have known I needed if I had planned ahead. 

By Monday afternoon the sales clerks and cashiers avoided me when I reentered the Hardware Store asking for help. While I eventually finished the project, it consumed a whole 4 day weekend.  

My wife offered the best summary of the experience:

“It would have been easier to ask someone else to do it!”

I wonder how often God thinks the same when He has work for us to do for Him.

God has work for us to do, but the work goes undone because we are not prepared.  We have failed to prepare our heart, mind, and hands through prayer and study.

I wonder what the world would be like if every Christian had their tools readied for God’s work.  

I bet the world would be a different place.

“Always be prepared to explain to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (2)

+ + +

  1. Samuel G. Hardman and Dwight Lyman Moody, Thoughts for the Quiet Hour (Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998).
  2. 1 Peter 3:15.

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The Pastoral Office

Colossians 1:23-2:3

Preaching Notes – June 10, 2012

Colossians 1:24-2:3

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. 

I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

All are called by God

We believe you are here because God called you here

God called you for 2 Purposes – Genesis 12:1-3

1.  To be blessed

2.  To be a blessing to us and through us

High value on God’s ministry through you, here

Members have always been the strength of every church

God speaks to and through you

God works through you

Comparison to the call on Pastors

Sisters of St. Joseph’s

Nun servings at hospital CEO

Nuns typically known for compassionate ministry

Shift of Minister’s work from Pastor to Administrator

CEO-Executive

Visionary-Leader

Customer Service-Community Relations

Degrades the role of both pastor and parishioner

Mega-churches diminished role of parishioner

bean counted, bean supplier, happy customer

Paul’s understanding of his call

Intro to his letters

Servant of Christ Jesus

Prisoner of Christ Jesus

Apostle set apart for the Gospel

  of Jesus Christ by will of God

    sent by God

Servant defines who is His Lord

Prisoner defines his loss of free will

Apostle defines his role

Paul’s call as an Apostle – from Letter to Colossians 1:24-2:3

To make the Word of God fully known (1:25)

To his saints (those who received his grace) (1:26)

1.  Warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom (1:28)

2.  Present everyone mature in Christ (1:28)

3.  That their hearts may be encouraged (2:2)

4.  Being knit together in love (2:2)

5.  To give full assurance of understanding & knowledge of God (2:3)

Paul’s fulfillment of his call as Apostle in all his letters

3 types of writings in his letters

Teaching – God and His ways

Application – how to live God’s way

Exhortation – encouragement and motivation

A Ministry of the Word – Peter in Acts 6:4

We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word

Expectations for Pastor’s in Today’s Church

CEO, Visionary, Growth, Recruiter, Customer Relations, Deacon

Paul never took on these roles

These roles filled by members of church, see Acts and Paul’s Letters

Eugene Peterson’s understanding in The Pastor

Preacher – teach the Word

Priest – pray for God to work

Pastor – care and counseling

Helping you see and find God in your life

Helping you make sense of God’s work in your life

NOT – fixing or managing you

NOT – fixing or managing ministry

==> My emphasis on

Elder’s as spiritual leaders 

Parishioners as servants doing God’s ministry

Any time a Pastor expends energy as CEO Minister

The ministry of the Word is diminished in the church 

==> our ministry is diminished

I do not want to build a “pastor-centered” ministry

Different Roles

Pastor – Bring the Word

Elders – Lead according to the Word

Members – Ministry of the Word

As members you are called here by God for a purpose

What is He calling you to do? 

This is your ministry work

Not 

I would like … this is not a question servants or prisoners answer

A call for someone else to do

To complain about ministry

Focus on 

His Word to You

His call for you

His work through you

He has placed you in this community

To do this ministry

Not alone, but as part of the body

Share His call with appropriate Ministry Team

Let Ministry Team affirm His call for you

Work within Ministry Team to fulfill this call

When we get it wrong

Visiting at VPC ==> neglect of the ministry of The Word

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