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Thursday, December 8, 2011


Jeremiah writes in the book of Lamentations: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. (Lamentaions 3:22)  It’s no surprise that if you watch the evening or late night news you tend to ask yourself often, “Is there any hope?” Today, dreams are underscored by a positive, successful outlook for the future. Hence the American dream, rags to riches, Cinderella, a dropout rising to greatness. But how does one define happiness though? It is increasingly obvious it’s not defined by money. Even those who possess “happiness” now are faced with turmoil. Pain results, a feeling of inadequacy, incompetence, degenerative self-worth. “I walk alone.” In this season of Advent we are reminded that Hope comes to us in Jesus Christ.
The wonder in the Scriptures is the hope pulsing through it, this statement in Lamentations on God a fitting example: “His mercy never fails. It is new every morning.” Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start, ripe with possibility. Smog and particulates conceal celestial glory, but the right evening provides unparalleled clarity. Take a breath. Make a wish. Dream. Hope without ceasing, and then, this holiday season, bring hope to someone.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Just do Something

There are many articles and books out there that are designed to help become a better leader. I've read many of them in full and also read snipets of some. But as I read them, one common theme stands out...Just Do Something. Too many times I believe churches fall in the pit fall of not acting. We sit around and think, but we never do. We think about a future, and we plan for a future based on past results. But can we really do that? The future isn’t predictable, and you can’t think your way into an unforeseeable future. So if you can’t predict the future, why not create it?

I truly believe our fear to act lies in our fear to fail. We have been so…what’s the word…brainwashed into thinking we can never fail. Like failure is bad. All failure means is this- try again with experience. You try new things, you fail, you learn from it, and you adjust. Craig Groeschel taught me that in his book, It, “What I learned today is that action trumps everything.” Here are just a few reasons why:

1. If you act, you will find out what works…
2. …or what doesn’t work.
3. If you act, you won’t spend the rest of your life wondering “What if?”
4. If you act, you will know what is real.

It is ok for something to not work. But if we don't try, we will never know. So why not step up Just do part of what God's doing...take that step and grow from the successes and failures. But know that It is all for the glory of God.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Formula or Connection

I read this morning from Scripture, “God is Spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and the truth” (John 4:24). It got me to thinking about worship. I been told on a number of occasions, “Sure wish church gets out in an hour or less.” I've even thought this also...many times.  It’s good thinking actually. I think people start to zone out at the one hour mark. But it also does lend itself to worship being more about a formula to make that happen, rather than worshipping in the Spirit. Now, I’ve also worshipped at a congregation that did that, and an hour and forty-five minutes later we were through. At times it didn’t feel that long, and at times it TOTALLY did. There are a lot of reasons for creating worship based on a formula. It’s easier. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. Many Lutherans follow a liturgy that one can follow to the tee. I think too, it also helps us to recapture moments in the past and try to recreate them.
But, as I was reminded in my reading, like all relationships, our relationship with God is meant to be progressive, not repetitive. Imagine doing the same thing every day, or every week with your best friend, or family for that matter. It would be dull. It would be shallow. It would be…well just plain boring. I believe we can engage with God through worship in different ways, using a range of dynamics. The most important thing about worship should be our engaging with God. It’s about our relationship with our Creator. When this happens, it matters a lot less if everyone hits the right note, or if the band hits the right solo at exactly the right time or even if the particular song is the one you want to sing. What matters is if worship is providing you a space to connect with God—it’s not a formula or a series of easy answers. I need to be reminded of this many times. What about you? What does worship look like to you?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

God-Directed Risk

I’ve been thinking a lot about living by faith these days. I was reminded recently about what it says in both the Old and New Testaments: “the righteous will live by faith.” Paul also tells us that we walk by faith and not by sight. But that’s hard for us to do, isn’t it? For me especially because I like to know what is coming down the road. I would like to know what will be happening in the future now. But God doesn't show us the plan, until He feels we need to know. Perhaps it is because it allows us to rely more on Him. The Christian life involves living in dependence upon God. But what is faith? What are we supposed to be living in?   I recently read that one way to view faith is this: “God-directed risk.” What a powerful definition of faith. Think about it, we are supposed to be living through God-directed risks in life. Living based on simple trust in God’s promises and unseen protection. Obeying the Spirit. It’s the risk of taking God at his word and finding God completely trustworthy. Now, I don’t know about you, but it’s easier for me to write that than to actually do it! But we are called to constantly live in this way. The question for us now is: are we living by that kind of biblical faith?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Just A Few Steps

Why is it so hard to follow The Great Commission?  In reality, it really isn't that difficult.  So why do we have a hard time with this one? It was the last thing Jesus told his disciples to do before he left, “Go into the world…” and that commandment lives on in our churches today. But it is so difficult sometimes.  What if you knew that by simply walking across a room and saying hello to someone would change that person’s life forever? Would you do it? I remember as a kid going to a retreat called TEC (Teens Encounter Christ).  I thought I had a good attitude about being a Christian, but really I had a “ho-hum” attitude about church and the “Jesus thing” at that point in my growing up. But I remember this leader at TEC, seeing me sitting on the floor as we gathered for personal reflection, getting up and walking over to me and talking with me.  He even prayed with me. It changed the course of the weekend retreat, and ultimately helped lead me in my faith towards Christ. To this day I remember him and what he did. 10,000 steps. That’s roughly the distance we travel from sunrise to sunset each day. Are we using those steps wisely? If we knew those steps could change someone’s life for eternity- well we just might change the way we walk.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Psalms 31:24 says: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” As the church, God calls us to something bigger than ourselves, and there are times when we ponder: What if? But the “what ifs” we should be asking ourselves are: What if we stepped into all God has created us to be? What if we stepped into all that God has called us to be as the church? Look, risk is a given. I remember a line in the movie “Grumpy Old Men” that went, “The only regrets you have in life are the risks you don’t take.” There is a ring of truth in that. But we don’t like to take risks in church. We like to play it safe. Pursuing who God has called us to be is essential. Action is required. And here is one thing when taking risks that we can be guaranteed of, we will be tested. And it’s at that point, at the point of being tested, when we all too often begin to count the costs, decide they are too high and retreat or don’t do it. We become sidetracked by legitimate fears and our vision looses momentum. Fear overtakes faith and we give up, resisting the unknown and never knowing what we will have sacrificed on the other side. But Scripture calls us to push through and overcome our fears. Our faith must prevail over our fear if we expect kingdom change to take place. David told Solomon, his son, in 1 Chronicles 28:20, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.” We know we’ve been granted undeserved influence in our communities, and we must now lead the church forward. What if we fully embraced the life to which we’ve been called in ministry? What if we broke free from our fears and stepped into all we were created and called to be? I have no doubt that if we did, He will use us to change the world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Travel Agents or Tour Guides

Are we travel agents, or are we tour guides? I think there is a big difference between the two. Travel agents are great. They go out and they find you the best deal. They spout off intellectual information in regards to your destination, they hand you some brochures, and they have big smiling faces. At the end of the conversation, they shake your hand, pat you on the back, and say, “Enjoy your trip!” Tour guides are way different. Unlike the travel agent, the tour guide goes with you on the journey. They are the ones that say, “Nice to meet you. Get in. Let’s go!” With tour guides, they know their information, but that’s not why they are in it. They are in it because they love to take the journey with you. They aren’t off in the distance, they are right there with you. Too often, I feel as though many people act as travel agents in the church. We are perfectly ok with handing someone a brochure, bringing them in, and then letting them go, “Have fun! Enjoy your time here!” The truth is, people don’t need travel agents, people need spiritual tour guides. They need someone to go through the process with them. They need someone who is willing to walk with them on the journey. That is the way we build lives, and that is what ministry is about. It’s what you and I as the church are called to do.The apostle Paul writes, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:11-12) Ministry is done so that the body of Christ may be built up. Doesn’t matter how many ministries a congregation has, if we aren’t building up the body of Christ, if we aren’t leading people to Christ, there’s no point in what we are doing.  In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul writes, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Notice the language. The term for built up is a present-tense participle (Wow! My English teacher would be proud...really I had to look that up). This indicated continuous action. The house is always being tweaked. Building lives is active and ongoing. Let’s keep adding additions to God’s house!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Open Door

Here is a question to ponder.  When you come to a closed door, are you focused on the door or what could be behind it.  Revelation 3:8 it says, 'I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.' A lot of times we focus too much on the door that is closed instead of looking at the door that is already open in front of us. This happens a lot in churches when change occurs. It seems too often our churches get stuck focusing on  the door that has just closed instead of focusing on the door that God has opened for us.We do this in our personal life as well.  When a door closes, we feel lost and upset.  We only see what was lost and we tend to try to open the shut door.  I know that there are many times when the door has been shut and I question 'why'?  The focus doesn't go to the other opportunities, but continues to focus how I can pry that door back open.  Our God has already given us an open door to walk through to reach new people with God’s message, the only question left for us is, are we ready to receive the Holy Spirit and walk through that door?

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Water -- a good thing and a dangerous thing.  We need water to survive.  We drink water to hydrate ourselves.  We use water to cook and clean.  Water can be a good thing.  Watching the news, you see areas receiving large amounts of water in short periods of time. Things are underwater and vehicles get stranded. Schools and activities get cancelled all because of water. Then recently we watched as the Tsunami hit Japan.  A wave of water caused so much destruction.  Water can be a dangerous thing!
I think back to the symbol of water in our faith. Martin Luther recognized the importance of recognizing our baptism each and everyday. Remember your baptism when you wash your hands, when you take a shower, when you go swimming. But can water be a dangerous thing in baptism? When we are baptized we all become children of God. Baptism is a new birth. We are members of the body of Christ. We are freed from sin and death to righteousness. And that’s a dangerous thing. We are called to “take up our cross and follow” Christ. That’s not easy. That’s not something to take lightly. It is in a term, dangerous- but in a good way. Jesus tells us in scripture that there will be people who speak bad about you, rebuke you, and sometimes even persecute you on account of His name. Look at the life of Paul- shipwrecked, imprisoned, and almost stoned to death. That’s dangerous stuff! Yes, water can be a good thing (in baptism we are buried with him and are raised from the dead by the glory of the Father), but it call also be a dangerous thing (picking up our cross and following Christ) as well.  Let us not forget in whose name we are baptized and what that means in our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Church

The question has come up many times while I was teaching, “What is church?” This is a good question.  For some, church (or organized religion) can be very frustrating. For some, they have been hurt by the church. For many, church can be hard to stomach, and the reasons why are difficult, complex and not easy to answer. But for some, it is a place of sanctuary. A place to get away from it all.
The Church is what followers of Christ are called to be. The Church is described in Scripture as nothing less than the body of Christ on earth. It’s not a slight, optional activity. According to Scriptures like Romans 12:5 and Ephesians 3:6, it’s the one body with many members, each an important and crucial piece of the mission of Jesus Christ. In fact, the New Testament always reserves the word church (ekklesia) for the people of God. It never uses this word to refer to a building of of any sort. In fact, for the first three centuries, the Christians did not have any special buildings in which to worship. Meeting in homes was about it, and it was a conscious choice of the early Christians. In fact, many scholars have agreed that it seems that the term, “Go to church” was first said in AD 190 by Clement of Alexandria. It would have been a phrase that was foreign to the first century believers. I mean, after all, you cannot go to something you are! No the term Ekklesia, in every one of its 114 appearances in the New Testament, refers to an assembly of people. Until the year 300 we know of no buildings first built as churches.
We always say the church is a people, and yet we are so tied to our buildings. I wonder how our view of the church would change if we truly took to heart that the church, is in fact the body of Christ- people. And given that, how then would that change the view of those on the outside who are unsure or who have been hurt by “the church”? Ancient Judaism was centered on three elements: the Temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifice. When Jesus came, He ended all three for his followers, fulfilling them in Himself. He is the temple who embodies a new and living house made of living stones. He is the priest who has established a new priesthood (for us Lutherans, the priesthood of all believers). And He is the perfect and finished sacrifice.

Friday, March 25, 2011

In Love with God or In Love with What God Can Do For You?

 I have a doozie of a question. Are we in love with God or are we more in love with what God can do for us? It’s a perfectly legit question. Too often I think I find myself more in love with what God can do for me, especially when I get caught up in my own mess. I don’t think I like that very much. I want to be in love WITH GOD! Which brings me to this verse:  A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:1-5). It really looked like the people were so worried about getting their own needs met, they had their backs turned to the very one who needed him the most. I believe those in that house that day were more in love with what Jesus could do for them than in love with him. We all get this way.  We can get so focused on what we need, what we want, what we desire from God, that we fail to see how He loves and cares for us and others.  We get so caught up in our desires, that we forget just to love Him.  So what about you? Are you more in love with God or with what God can do for you?