Celebrating Today :-)

Two years ago my wife and I were still hurting and healing from a devastating failed adoption that took place on March 6, 2013. We were wondering if we were ever going to be parents but at the same time we were still trusting that everything was in God’s hands. It was tough; trusting God while still hurting with a heavy heart. But little did we know then that our daughter was being born on this day in 2013 and that in a few days we would be leaving for Houston, Texas to meet our beautiful little girl.

And now today, I have been enjoying a beautiful day playing outside with my little girl.

God is so good!!!

So much has changed in my life in the past two years. I am definitely a different person; a different pastor.  I have grown in my relationship with God and have grown more into my calling to be a shepherd in the two congregations I get the privilege of serving and serving with.

I have also grown as a father as I continue to commit everything to God. I want to raise a godly child that fears and loves God with all her heart. I want to raise a child that lives for the Lord as her mommy and daddy does. I want to raise a child that will not turn away from the Lord when she is older. And all of this is a daunting task; hence, committing everything to God.

And so today I celebrate my little girl but more importantly I worship God for what he is doing in our lives. I also give God thanks and praise that he kept Connie and me strong so we could see His glorious plan unfold; and unfold it did:

TWO beautiful children.

God is so very good!!!

Father God, I praise Your holy name for this wonderful little girl You have called us to raise. You have entrusted us with this precious child to teach her about Your glorious love. Grant me wisdom along the way; for this vocation of parenting is way too difficult to do without You. May I bring You glory as a father to my/Your little girl. In Jesus name I pray, Amen

The Pastor (happy, proud daddy) -|—

Touching the Word

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That is my bookshelf in my tiny church office. This used to be a badge of honor; all those books up there (many of which I haven’t read), but today I hardly notice them. It’s a rare moment that I even look at this with the intention of looking for particular book. Nowadays, I either consult my Kindle library or search Google. Part of me wonders why I even keep these books anymore.

When I attend conferences I will still browse the bookstore but rarely will I buy anything. If I find a book I like I search for the Kindle version on Amazon and then add it to my wishlist to buy later. If there is no Kindle version then I am force to discern how bad I really want/need the book. I remember not so long ago going to these conferences and coming home with tons of books, but no more.

And then there’s my Bible.

For the most part, I am reading my Bible through my YouVersion Bible app on my phone or my tablet. I do use my paper Bible in worship and in Bible study, but generally I go to the electronic version for my Bible reading, but sometimes I just need to hold a paper Bible and read. It’s not that it’s more holy or anything but in a weird sort of way I feel closer to the Word when I can actually touch the paper.

Is that strange?

And so I keep a paper Bible always close at hand. I am actually trying to recondition myself to use it more often and only use my Bible app if I absolutely need to or if I want to quickly share something on social media.

And so…

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…I’m off I go to read;

touching the Word of God;
listening to the pages
and feeling a little “old fashioned” (but that’s OK).

Technology can greatly improve many things but it can never replace the paper Bible. I’m OK with ebooks and downsizing my former badge of honor in my tiny church office but I hope our world never gets to the point where paper Bibles are obsolete; found only in museums under glass.

The Pastor -|—

Mountains

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The mountains before me, oh God, look treacherous and dangerous and daunting and overwhelming. Seeing them I almost want to pull off the road and head in the other direction.

But You, oh God, are bigger than the mountains. 

So,

help me to know You better,
teach me Your ways,
and guide me in YOUR Truth.

Grant me patience as the climb gets tough and the way becomes dangerous. Grant me strength when the mountain screams at me, “You can’t do this”.
Grant me courage when the mountain threatens my security.

You are the God of my salvation and on You I will wait all the day long.

The mountain is there, oh God, but in You may I find peace; for it is Your will that I want to follow and obey.

All honor and glory and praise and worship be to You, forever and ever. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

I S_ _ _ at Sermon Writing

One of my favorite things to write about or tweet about or Facebook about is the process of sermon writing. It’s a process that never fails to amaze me. For each time a sermon comes flowing out of my fingers it is due to the Holy Spirit taking my fingers and putting life into them. And so hopefully you are not tired of this topic. For me, I am just tooting God’s horn and give God praise through the work of the Holy Spirit.

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So today is Thursday, my sermon writing day at my favorite coffee shop. I am once again at my favorite table by the front window that looks out onto the sidewalk and the one-way main street. Vehicles line the street and there is a somewhat steady flow of activity. And in the midst of writing spurts I find myself looking out onto the world to day dream and reflect. And then after my “commercial break” ends the Holy Spirit returns me to the regularly scheduled programming (sermon writing). The characters may vary slightly, the plot is the same but the way I arrive at the message varies week to week. And despite the sameness in the “programming” I never lose interest (and hopefully those listening on Sunday don’t lose interest either).

And as I reflect on this amazing process of sermon writing I am reminded of something my wife’s uncle once asked me: How do you come up with all those sermons? Without batting an eyelash I said to him, God. To which he responded, I know that but how do you come up with a sermon each week? Me: God.

I think that frustrated him enough as our conversation quickly ended through some “diversion” that caught his attention. I think what he wanted to hear about was some skill or resource that I drew upon. He was amazed but amazed with the wrong person. As Martin Luther says in his sacristy prayer, If this task were left up to me I would surely bring it all to ruin. And that is the case with sermon writing. Because believe me, when it comes to writing and public speaking,

I suck (sorry about the language).

And so without sounding cocky or proud or anything like that, I am glad I suck at writing and public speaking. For as the apostle Paul says, when I am weak it is then that I am strong. That strength?

God

But really, where does your strength come from?

God

That’s it.

Now it time to return to the regularly scheduled programming. Come, Holy Spirit…

And have a great day :-)

The Pastor -|—

Don’t Be a Frog (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you. [1 Timothy 6:20-21]

These verses from my morning Bible reading snacked me in the face; for this spoke volumes about what is going on in our culture and the Church. It’s a warning that desperately needs to be heeded today.

In these verses, the apostle Paul is warning his young companion and partner in the ministry to remember what he came to believe and whom he came to believe in:

guard the deposit entrusted to you.

Paul then goes on to warn Timothy to avoid the “knowledge” that some claim to be biblical and godly; for these people have swerved from the faith. People are trying to distort the Gospel for their own purposes. Some oppose the Gospel and are trying to make it something that it is not. There are many false prophets going around and some claiming to be speaking the truth.

And this is very dangerous. It’s the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing thing. It looks and sounds good but really it’s irreverent babble and contradictions. As I have preached and taught before, anyone can stand in front of a group of people; wave a Bible around and make godly sounding claims that really have no basis in scripture whatsoever. The sure defense to this, though, is to guard the deposit entrusted to you. Remember what you came to believe and know your Bible. One of the joys of theology is that it does not change. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So if a new thing about God is being taught; be very, very leery. If someone is trying to tell you what the biblical writers “really meant”, run away fast.

And this is exactly what is going on today. Thousands of years of Church teaching is changing. But the problem is that it has been changing at such a slow rate that many in the Church haven’t noticed a thing. Remember how to boil a frog? You don’t throw it into boiling water but rather into cool water and slowly increase the temperature so they don’t notice they are being boiled to death.

The Church is being boiled to death,

but very few people are taking notice. Instead they are engaging in irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,”. We need to guard that deposit and remember what we came to believe in and whom we believe. We need to remember that the Bible (ALL of the Bible) is God’s word. We need to honest with ourselves but more importantly we need to be bold and courageous in our faith.

The time to jump out of the water is now, before it is too late.
Don’t be a frog.

guard the deposit entrusted to you
Remain faithful
Cling to and proclaim THE Truth
Don’t swerve from the faith

And…

Grace be with you.

Holy God, You have entrusted the Church with the Truth of the Gospel. May we cling to that Truth and proclaim that Truth, all the while avoiding irreverent myths and false knowledge. May You be glorified. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks and Repeat

I have been writing a bit on prayer recently and committing things to the Lord. And this is not just some random topic to flush out but something that is at the heart of my ministry (especially now). And as I pray I am constantly being drawn to 1 Thessalonians 5:17 where it talks about praying without ceasing. But in addition to praying without ceasing it also says (before that) to Rejoice always. And then following the praying with ceasing part it says, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

And it makes no difference what you are praying for or who or what circumstance. This call to prayer should be a joyful one considering the God we are praying to. You could be praying in great anguish but if you are praying to God almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, then you can rest assured that God is listening and therefore all will be good; no matter the outcome.

But I still find it difficult, at times, to rejoice when I am praying or to give thanks. I want God to fix my problems or give me a clear answer. But that is not God’s will for me. God’s will for me is to enjoy the fact and take comfort in the fact that God is in control and that God is for me. God wants me to take comfort in the fact that no matter the prayer request, that it is not too big. The only thing big in praying is God almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

God’s will may be different than mine (and it often is) but God’s will is perfect. And it you believe that God’s will is perfect then rejoicing and giving thanks should flow naturally.

Wow, I’m feel much better about this praying without ceasing thing now.
Thanks for letting me talk through scripture with you.

Rejoice always
Pray without ceasing
Give thanks

for God is awesome!!!

Father God, calm my heart and help me see your awesomeness. You are faithful. You are loving. Your will is perfect. Grant me the faith to cling to that; that I may joyful commit everything to You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen

The Pastor -|—

Table prayer

Earlier today I submitted this to Twitter:
Don’t just teach your children specific prayers or how to pray; teach them to know whom they are praying to. #parenting #God #Jesus #Lord

So that is where this table prayer came from.

I started thinking about this because I want to develop a prayer habit in my kids that is genuine. I want prayer to be something that is not rote; a formula prayer that we just spout off before we eat. I want my kids to think about why we pray and what we are praying for. But even more than that, I want my kids to know this awesome God to whom we are praying. I want my kids to have a relationship with our provider God and learn to give Him genuine thanks.

So here it is. I do not claim any artistic ability in writing poetry. I’m only a father trying to teach his children:

Jesus, we invite you to this table,
to bless this food so that we are able,
to live and serve you,
to praise and give you
honor and glory,
telling your story.
So bless this food, Lord, to help us live now,
Oh Jesus we praise your holy name now.
Amen.

What do you think?

The Pastor -|—