Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day

I 'm not really from a military family, but both my Dad and Grandfather served the United States of America in the Army and Navy.  I respect them both for their courageous decision to enlist and serve.  My Dad and Grandfather are both strong men, who have convictions and stand by them no matter what the wind is blowing around them.  I am grateful to God for them both and the influence they have had in my life.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Church Is...

A group of people who,

fear the Father,
follow the Son,
and are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Taken and adapted from Francis Chan's talk in this video in the BASICS series.

Sustaining Faith, Surprise Emails, and Seeking to Honor

I woke up last Monday morning expecting this to be a great week.  I had a meeting Monday night I was really excited about, and I had a job interview with Walmart set-up for Thursday.  I was expecting big things!

It was hard not to worry when I received a couple emails on Monday that threatened the necessity of cancelling my meeting.  But, rather than being afraid or upset, I went to prayer and God sustained my faith.  The meeting was not cancelled.

Monday afternoon I received an unexpected email about a possible job opportunity at a church in Woodbury that I would be really excited about.  It was from a friend I haven't talked to since college.  Later, on Wednesday, I got an email from a great Christian company called Youthworks who would like to talk next week about setting up an interview!

I'm not completely sure what God is up to, but I am going to continue seeking him, following his leading, and striving to honor him in everything I say and do.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to Think About Tornadoes Biblically

There has been a tremendous amount of damage done nationwide this spring due to tornadoes.  The question that inevitably arises when natural disasters strike is, "Why would God allow this to happen."  David Platt is a pastor in Birmingham, Alabama that I respect quite a bit.  He recently preached a sermon to teach his church how to biblically think and work through the aftermath of this spring's storms.  I found the following text and outline posted on the Gospel Coalition Blog.
This sermon by David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, is a good model of how basic biblical doctrine can and should inform our response to tragedy and equip us to trust in God’s good purposes.

Specifically, he explains how the tornadoes that recently ravaged their area can remind us of biblical truth.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Having Your Eyes Opened to See

On Sunday my family and I were visiting some friends in Owatonna.  At some point in the conversation my friend talked about a building that was being built along a familiar stretch of the interstate.  I had never seen it, and I didn't even know the building was there before we talked.

As we were driving home I was looking out of the car window at a rainbow in the sky.  Then, all of a sudden, I noticed the building my friend had referenced earlier that day.  I've driven the road hundreds of time and never seen that building, and the same day I am told it exists, I see it.

Faith in Jesus is a lot like that.  You don't always know how much Jesus is working in your life until someone else comes along and opens your eyes to his presence.  It is quite easy to plod along thinking God is distant, or to feel confused about what He is doing.  Then, all of a sudden, you read a Bible verse that hits your heart, or you hear a song on the radio and you can instantly see clearly that Jesus is near.

Let me be a help to you today.  Jesus is alive and he is near to you.  Look around and you will see him everywhere!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Show People What the Bible Says (and How You Can't Measure Up)

As a pastor and preacher I've heard a lot of different opinions on how much a preacher should talk about himself and his life from the pulpit.  I've heard many times that preachers need to be 'appropriately authentic and transparent' to show the congregation they are real people experiencing Christ just like the church attenders do.

Tim Keller posted about the preaching of English preacher Dr. Martin Llyod-Jones who spoke on this very subject.  Dr. Llyod-Jones words go against much of the common practice of preaching today, but I really like what he says.
He also makes the case that, paradoxically, the preacher has greater credibility if he does not preach mainly out of his own experience, but shows that the message has come out of the Word itself. Instead of saying, "here's my experience, and this is how the Bible played a role in it," the preacher should say, "this is what the Bible says, and it actually contradicts my desires and intuitions, but I'm showing it to you because this message is from God, not from me."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Circumcision Ban?

Justin Buzzard linked to an article on his blog yesterday regarding the fight of a group in San Francisco to ban circumcision.  Why would they do that you might ask?
"Parents are really guardians, and guardians have to do what's in the best interest of the child. It's his body. It's his choice," said Lloyd Schofield, the measure's lead proponent and a longtime San Francisco resident, who said the cutting away of the foreskin from the penis is a more invasive medical procedure than many new parents or childless individuals realize.
I find this answer from Lloyd Schifield very ironic.  Admittedly, I do not know this for sure, but I assume (and I'm willing to take the risk here) that the same people who want to outlaw circumcision would have no problem supportting the idea that a mother has a right to choose an abortion.  The irony is that they are concerned about the 'pain' of a quick surgical skin removal, and yet they have a complete disregard for the pain a fetus goes through when being killed during an abortion.

My two cents.  You can read the entire article here. Circumcision Ban to Appear on San Francisco Ballet

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jesus Will Make Your Paths Straight

I've been reading a great book this week by James McDonald entitled Alway's True: God's 5 Promises for When Life is Hard.  It is a fitting book to read during this time of job seeking.  We are reaching a point when life is getting really hard.  It has been a great blessing to spend my days with Andrew and being home has made life much easier for Stephanie as she teaches and coaches, but the finances are running tight.

One of the promises James discusses in his book is from Proverbs 3:5-6.  That verse says,
"Trust in the Lord God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."  
That verse has meant a lot to me today.  I won't do it complete justice, but James breaks the verse down like this:

- Trust in God with all your heart: This means that I need to give my entire being over to God.  It is not enough to give him part of my heart.  I need to be wholly, completely sold out to God.

- Lean not on your own understanding: As I face my problems I can't try to solve them on my own ideas and strategies.  I need to confess to God that I'm unable and seek to follow his guidance.

- In all your ways acknowledge him: Everything I do needs to bring glory to God.  I need to pray and invite God into every decision I make.  At each step I need to ask God to join me.

- He will make your paths straight: Life is hard and filled with twists and turns.  When I trust in God, follow him instead of my own abilities and bring him glory in all I say and do, then God will show me the way to go.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May My Words Glorify God At All Times

This morning I was reading through Colossians and I came across this little idea from Paul, "Do not let any obscene talk come from your mouth." (3:8)  I've read that verse before and every time I read it I am convicted about the language that comes out of my mouth.  Not that I have what anyone would consider a 'dirty mouth.'  I don't swear and I stay away from real crude humor and jokes, but the bar Paul sets is higher than that.  He's telling his readers to keep their speech pure.  Not 'almost pure' or 'pretty good.'

One of the pressures a Christian faces is abstaining from the defilement of the world without coming across as a total prude.  It is especially tough when your buddies are telling a joke or reliving an experience with some graphic details.  If you're like me your instant reaction is to laugh at jokes that you probably shouldn't be laughing at.  At the time it doesn't seem like a big deal, but over time you can easily become desensitized to the filth you're watching, laughing at, listening to, or even spreading to others.

I get a hard time on occasion for not watching certain movies or television shows.  I am by no means perfect, but I try to avoid things whose primary purpose is to entertainment with obscene humor or behavior.  I do this because I want to follow the Bible, and also because I know that in my flesh I will more than likely laugh and be entertained by things that I don't really want to be.  Plus I know that is the stuff I will remember and be tempted to spread to others.  I know this because I can still quote word for word song lyrics and movie quotes from a time when I was far from God.

Paul is encouraging Christians to avoid obscene talk because it makes the Christian look like the rest of the world instead of making them a light on hill.  There is nothing attractive about the man who preaches Jesus on Sunday and swears with the rest of the sailors Monday-Saturday. 

Only may my words during the week be a continuation of my words in prayer.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Don't Just Read the Word, Share it With Others

Yesterday I was listening to a sermon by James McDonald (part of a free resource gift package at attending Elephant Room) focused on growing in your faith by reading the Bible.  It was a great message, and one part that really stuck with me was the exhortation to "share something you read in the Word with someone else everyday."

Not only does that help me better remember the text, but it also can be a blessing or encouragement to someone else.  I remembered McDonald's teaching today and I was able to share two different verses with some friends at the park, as well as sending an email to my pastor with a verse perfecting speaking into a situation at our church.

Share the Word.  It is easy.  Plus, if you are reading everyday, you will have an endless supply of material.

You can purchase McDonald's message The Discipline of Personal Bible Study by clicking the link.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

3 Behaviors Which Will Significantly Improve Your Marriage

This morning I preached the sermon at 1st Congregational Church of Waseca in place of my friend Chris who serves as the pastor there.  Waseca Congregational is a very friendly church.  Many of the attenders are elderly, all though there are a handful of young families as well.  I've filled in a few times for Chris and almost every time I'm come there are homemade cookies and coffee after the service.  I love it!

The theme of my message was 3 significant behaviors that couples can implement to improve their marriages by looking at how Christ loves his Bride, the Church.  These three behaviors are: servanthood, enjoyment in the relationship, and showing forgiveness.

You can download and read the sermon here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Some Guatemala Thoughts

Had so much fun with my family.
So happy for my sister and new brother.
Loved eating new foods.
Beautiful landscape.
The golf course I played was amazing.
Had my best shot ever to hole a 2 on a par 3.
Playing golf with a caddie is sweet.
I'm not a big fan of the 'market.'
I don't like bartering and being harassed by merchants.
Guatemala, Guatemala, Guatemala.  (Call of the chicken bus drivers.)
Twisty, mountain roads are scary.
Missed flushing my toilet paper.  Especially with a stomach bug.
Church is different there. 
Enjoyed sharing the message at both of the wedding ceremonies.
I'm now an official international preacher.
Quality time with just my wife.  So nice.
I wish Henna tattoo lasted longer.
I was majorly sun-burned after only 1 hour at the pool.
The house we stayed at was really neat.  I liked the courtyards.
Watching TV in Spanish isn't the same.
Eating wings and watching NHL at a bar in Guatemala is pretty cool though.
Gallio beer is NOT tasty.
Best McDonald's I've ever visited was in Antigua.
Met some great people doing great work down there.
Running up the hill to the giant cross was fun.
I love panoramic views of volcanoes.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Another Life Experience

I can't say I am much of a traveler.  I have been to many US States, but my International travel experience in limited.  Right now I am in Guatemala right now visitng my sister who lives here and is getting married here on Friday. 

It is fun to be visiting a new place but it is definately more difficult in such a different culture.  I am dependant on my sister to make plans, communicate with locals and to help me understand the things that are unique to Guatemala.  The language, foods, customs, architecture and so many other things are new to me.  I'm having a great time and I'm excited to participate in the wedding on Friday.   

Monday, May 02, 2011

5 Reflective Questions to Sharpen Your Life & Work

My brother Jeffrey emailed me these 5 questions a couple weeks ago to encourage me and help give me some direction in my job search.  I am unsure where he got them.  I've been trying to come back to them ever so often as a way of focusing my mind.

1. What are my values? (these determine your everyday decisions)

2. What are my loads limits? (if you plug too many circuits into one outlet, it will blow)

3. What do I need to stop doing ("Those who build good to great companies and lives make as much use of 'stop doing' lists as 'to do' lists.  They display a remarkable discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk.")

4.  What are my strengths?

5. What season of life am I in? (we all go through different seasons of life)