Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rebellious Children

I suppose you might expect me to start in on what one of my children was doing in vague terms, or maybe, alternatively, to wax eloquent about how to raise children that don't rebel. If you are looking for either of those sort of posts, you will probably be in for a surprise. It's not that my children are perfect, or that there aren't some truths in the Bible that can help us deal proactively with rebellion in the hearts of our children. It solely has to do with the book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel speaks a lot about the rebellion of the people of Israel. How, despite many warnings and interventions by God, they continued to choose a path of rejecting His authority in their lives and continued to choose less than adequate substitutions for God in their lives. It is easy to sit back and shake our heads at the foolish Israelites, it is easy to agree with the judgment God was preparing to mete out in His anger - He had every right to be angry with them! Right?

But what about us? Good, Christian us. We thank the Lord for our food. We know how to look up a verse in the Bible, maybe even can recite the books of the Bible in order. We pray for other people, we give money to the church, we put in our time being Christians. Certainly we wouldn't be labeled as rebellious! Ezekiel wrote to people facing God's judgment who thought everything was OK much as Jesus spoke to people under judgment (Herod was their King) who thought everything was OK. And we are a people who live in a 'Christian' nation and think things are OK. Well, we wouldn't be as blind as the people in Ezekiel's day, right? The Jews being carried away as captives to Babylon - we'd notice judgment that severe! We'd notice the oppressive government over the people of Israel in Jesus' day as judgment and recognize our needs!

But have you ever noticed how many wrong people there are out there and it doesn't very often seem to be me? or you? When you drive, do you notice your reckless driving and the laws you break (maybe passing on the right, speeding, rolling stops, unsafe lane changes, 'beating' the red light . . .) or do you notice how many other morons are on the road? Right, me too.

It makes me wonder if the same blindness impacts us when it comes to God. I don't have to wonder long. David recognized his blindness and asked God to search him, try him, and see if there was any wickedness in him. He knew he couldn't always see it.In Ezekiel 20, God repeats 3 times that the actions He took were "for my name's sake."

"But I wrought for my name's sake that it should not be polluted
 before the heathen" (Vss. 9, 14, 20)

But Israel could only see the unfair treatment they were receiving from God. Again and again Israel was polluting God's sabbaths and going after other Gods. Easy for us to see, in their situation.

So should we see judgment in every hardship? Absolutely not! (After all, we'd far more likely apply the "everything bad is judgment of God" attitude to others long before we did it to ourselves.) We'd be just as wrong in doing that as in not being willing to see our own rebellion. Ezekiel 20 also focuses on the mercy and grace of God. It repeats again and again all that God did for the people of Israel and all that He will do for them to fix the problem of their rebellion.

As rebellious children (since maybe we ought to assume we are, rather than assume we aren't), we need to focus on God's mercy. Our need for God's mercy, God's goodness in showing us mercy, the depth of God's mercy that each of us requires. And along with that, we need to place a priority on God's name. As a Christian, we carry it. If God is jealous for His name sake, and we are polluting His name by the lives we live, the thoughts we entertain, the things we feed our minds, well, we should realize that everything isn't as OK as we think.

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 
even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with 
Christ Jesus (by grace ye are saved)" Ephesians 2:4-5

If God did that for us when we were dead, just think of the greatness of His mercy he has for his children, and the great desire he has to see us walk in truth!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What is stopping you from answering the call?

When it comes to God's call on our lives, we have a pretty stock set of excuses why we can't respond the way we know we should. "I don't think I can do that," "I don't want to do that," "I'm afraid of what it would look like if I answer God's call," and even "I'm a Christian, isn't that good enough?"

No, it isn't good enough. God's call goes out to all mankind, and the first call that every person has from God is the call for salvation. God is not willing that any should perish, and He has given the call that "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." People have lots of excuses for rejecting the call for salvation, as well, but I want to focus on what comes next. Salvation doesn't occur in a vacuum. The Bible tells us that "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." Our salvation is accomplished through the Word of God working in our hearts to bring forth faith. Easy enough.

But what comes next? Next, God's call on our life continues. God's call to live holy, God's call to sanctify ourselves, God's call to righteous living. This call is resisted, fought against, and misunderstood. Some fear they will have no fun if they live holy. Some fear they might have to give up something they enjoy or love if they clean the house of their life to sanctify it. Some take this call and try to accomplish it through regulating themselves into some sort of holy-looking submission. Add a bunch of "Do this's" and "Don't do that's" into your life and try to look the part of holy. Between these fears and misunderstandings, it is a wonder that people ever choose to follow Christ. The truth is that sanctification comes the same way salvation by faith comes. It comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. "How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word." "Now ye are clean through the Word I have spoken." All through Scripture, God's call to sanctification is accomplished through His Word. Get in it. Get it in you. Learn, and watch God do the work. "For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure"

And our further call? Calls to service, whether as a husband, wife, father, mother, pastor, teacher, salesman, artist, musician, etc. God's call is always to do all to the glory of God. God's call is to make disciples of all nations. God's call is to serve where He has placed us. And it is accomplished the same way - through His Word. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. . ." is not just a nice way to spend a Sunday, it is the only way to live a life that please God. If faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, and if it is impossible to please God without faith. My logic skills from math tell me that it is impossible to please God without hearing His Word. Without being in His Word. Without studying and soaking in His Word.

The long and short of it all? We can throw out our Christian to do lists "turn every conversation to the gospel," "encourage depressed people," "say this," "don't say that," "do these things," etc. All of which produce guilt in us because we can't possibly do them all. Replace these lists with one thing: dwell on God's Word. Don't read it to check off a box. Really meditate on it. Read a different passage everyday, read the same passage every day, read a prophet, read poetry, read a gospel. Just read it. You will see God for who He is, you will feel the purifying effects of His Word on your life, you will hear his unique call in your life to service.

Just a few thoughts today, keep looking up!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Can you hear him calling?

In our house, there are many noises that can affect a person's ability to hear. We have named each of our noises. We love each of our noises. And we have come to realize that sometimes our noises keep communication from being as effective as it should be. Many times, our noises will respond to a question such as "Why didn't you answer me when I called?" with "I couldn't hear you."

This past week, we started into the book of Ezekiel. It is a book I have been putting off (officially the 4th from the last book I will preach through - 61 books down, 1 in process for the last 2 years, 1 just started, and 3 'untouched' books of the Bible). I put it off because it contains quite a bit of imagery. I put it off because it is a fairly long book. I put it off knowing that it would be one of my favorites when I finally got into it. I was right.

The first 3 chapters discuss the call of God in Ezekiel's life. Starting with God calling Ezekiel from where he was, and showing Ezekiel a glimpse of God's glory, majesty, power and awe. Ezekiel's call continues with God telling him it wouldn't be easy - the people he would go to were rebellious. The message he would carry would be sweet - but would also turn bitter, much as the gospel is sweet, but a failure to respond to God's call results in the bitterness of judgment. Finally, God shows Ezekiel that following his call would be worth it.

*Confession* - I went into Ezekiel to attack the first 3 chapters in one shot, got all the way through them in one message, and managed to cover it all without getting it all covered. God tells Ezekiel that his duties were to give the message that God gave him. He was not responsible for the results. No matter how people responded, Ezekiel was to give the message, and God would count that as a success for Ezekiel.

But we like to try to control the results. We like to feel like a failure if things don't go the way we want them to. People don't respond to a message by implementing all the great suggestions we give, people don't follow our sage advice about how to do something, children learn the hard way rather than listen, and on it goes. We feel like we didn't do the best we could. We let the results impact how we view our efforts. In a very real sense, when serving God, we often hear a different call. God calls us to be godly friends, and we hear that God calls us to have all our friends respond positively to God. God calls us to be godly parents and we hear that God calls us to have godly children. God calls us to a ministry and we hear that God calls us to 'succeed' in that ministry by whatever standard we impose.

Sometimes, we just miss his call completely, sometimes we hear his calling wrongly. Either way, the problem is noise. Not the noise of precious children running around. Not the noise of construction projects. Not the noise of neighbors having a party. But noise. Noise that blocks us from "Being still" and knowing that he is God. Noise that keeps us from paying attention to a still small voice. Noises like the desire to be a success drowning out other sounds. Noises like pride, selfish ambition, greed, ungodly thoughts and thought patterns we have programmed into our minds.

When I struggle to hear something, I don't turn up the noise that is distracting me, I minimize it. When it comes to hearing God, we have to turn down the volume on the noises that distract us.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. - Romans 12:2

What to do today? Find some of the sources of noise in your life and turn them down. Turn off the TV with its nonstop advertising, turn off the radio, stop feeding yourself noise and expecting to hear God's voice. Stop trying to conform to the world, and allow yourself to be transformed by getting in God's Word and letting God's Word get inside you.

Friday, July 25, 2014

2014 Canning and Freezing List

Just a record of our canning and freezing for 2014 and
notes on what produce we bought from the auction and when.
We will add to it as we add to our storage shelves and freezer.

Canned Green Beans - 98 quarts (July 25-August 12)
Frozen Green Beans - 7 quarts
Sun Dills - 7 gallons (July 25-August 27)
Pickled Banana Peppers (August 12-September 4) - 6 pints, 27 quarts
Blueberries (August 21) - 6 quarts
Sweet Corn (August 26-September 2) - 114 quarts
Spaghetti Sauce (August 27-September 12) - 139 quarts
Frozen Green Peppers (August 27) - 6 quarts
Bread and Butter Pickles (August 27) - 14 quarts
Frozen Banana Peppers - 21 quarts
Canned Tomatoes (September 9) - 92 quarts
Tomato Juice (September 16) - 14 quarts, 6 pints
Pickled Beets (September 24-November 7) - 26 quarts
Pear Sauce (October 1) - 52 quarts
Pears (October 1) - 2 quarts
Pear Jam (October 15) - 19 quarts, 21 pints
Pumpkin (October ?? - November 8) - 12 quarts

Running Grand Total - 7 Gallons, 649 Quarts, 33 Pints

Auction Purchases:
August 26th: 2 bushel canning tomatoes - $21
5 bushel of sweet corn - $30
2 bushel of medium pickles - $14
1 1/2 bushel green peppers - $18
September 2: 7 bushel sweet corn - $35
8 bushel banana peppers - $24
September 9 - 10 - 1/2 bushel romas (lot of 22) - $75
September 16 - 19 1/2 bushel canner tomatoes - $47.50
October ?? - 40 large pumkins - $80

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Easter Funeral

This past week, a dear lady from our church was fighting her last battle, and losing. From the moment I walked into the hospital room and saw her frailty and then as her first words to me were "I don't think I'm going to make it pastor," I knew it would take a miracle to turn things around.

We prayed, as we have over the last couple of years she has struggled with pneumonia and infections, that God would bring healing to her body. But even as Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday showed improvement  in her appearance and even her ability to communicate, it became clearer that it was her time.

On Friday, she rallied and entertained everyone who came near her with her humor and off the wall comments. On Saturday, she was still and quiet. Her breathing was slower, and a little more labored.

There is a strange joy in knowing she is ready to go. A strange peace knowing she was at peace with her maker. She had settled that account long ago, knowing that because Jesus died on the cross for her sins, knowing that she trusted in what Jesus had done, she would wake up in the presence of her savior.

There is always a sadness in death. A sadness as she told me she wasn't going to make it. But with a follower of Jesus, the sadness is overshadowed. She was still worried about her family. She was still in pain from the broken state of her body. But her humor shown through as we talked about the funeral. After all, Bernice always had a good sense of humor.

On Saturday night, after all the family had left the hospital for the evening, Bernice quietly breathed her last on this earth and went home to be with her Savior. I imagine it was pretty good day all around for her. As she lay there in the hospital bed, with her family surrounding her, to hear them talking about what 'ma' or 'Aunt Bernice' (niecey) had done for them, or said to them, about what she meant to them. And then, thinking on those thoughts, and looking forward to being reunited with her son, she slipped away from this life. And, just like that, the pain was gone, the mortal bands that held her back were gone and the joy of being surrounded by family was eclipsed by being in the presence of her Savior.

I remember how much Bernice enjoyed Easter morning in church. Handing out candies to the kids, having her grand-daughters all dressed up in beautiful dresses and by her side, rejoicing in the resurrection! I think this past Easter morning was far more grand and glorious for Bernice.

So yes, we will have a funeral this Wednesday morning. We will have visiting / viewing hours on Tuesday night. But these are just details to help those who are left behind. Bernice is already home. And while she awaits the resurrection, she is already free. I will miss her, but because I know she is free, I will celebrate with her. It is the same as when a friend moves away because of a life-changing job offer or opportunity. We celebrate through our sorrow. We will continue our new 'tradition.' In the foyer, greeting all those who come to pay their last respects, will be a cake. A bright and cheery cake that congratulates Bernice on her promotion. It won't erase the tears of sorrow left by her absence, but will remind us that she is finally home.

It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road,
And midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.

It is not death to close
The eye long dimmed by tears,
And wake, in glorious repose,
To spend eternal years.

It is not death to fling
Aside this sinful dust
And rise, on strong exulting wing
To live among the just.

Jesus, Thou Prince of Life,
Thy chosen cannot die:
Like Thee, they conquer in the strife
To reign with Thee on high.

- Henri Malan, translated by George Bethune

Because Jesus is risen, there is hope, there is promise, there is life!
Keep looking up!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Difficult Situations . . .

You know, there are times  when we are tempted to look at what God asks from us (trust and faith) and think "You know, I have faith, but in this situation I just don't see a solution."

It is times like these that God has us just where he wants us. It is times like these that God is ready to glorify His name because we have run out of options that we can see working out. It is times like these that we know our answer came from God.

Sometimes, when confronted by a difficult situation, we are tempted to think our situation is worse than anyone else has had to deal with. That our situation is graver, that no one has ever struggled as badly as we have struggled. Among other reasons, I think this is one reason that II Kings 6:24-7:20 is in our Bibles. It is rough. It is raw. And it is hopeless.

There was a famine in the land so cupboards were bare.
The Syrians had laid siege of Samaria so there was no food or supplies coming into the city.
A donkey's head was sold for 80 pieces of silver. (A year's wages in those days)
Some dove's dung was sold for 5 pieces of silver (20 day's wages)
Two women made a pact to 'share' their sons. (Eating one one day, and the other the next)

Think about the hopelessness. How bad would it have to be for someone to consider selling dove dung, much less buying it? A year's wages for a donkey head? Even at minimum wage, we're talking over $15,000 in the US economy (I guess I would call that relative dollars - what it would feel like to those of us living in the US today) It was so bad a woman thought to suggest eating children, and even worse, desperate enough that it sounded like a good idea! I am glad that I cannot imagine a situation that tough.

And in the midst of this, God provides. And his provision involves lepers, the invading army, an incredulous King, and an imaginary army (that the Syrians heard). Wouldn't exactly be my list of things to meet the need, but it was God's. He made the Syrians hear an army that wasn't there. Samaria didn't hear it, but the Syrians did, and they were convinced that the sound itself was such an immanent danger that they needed to flee. It was so terrifying that they cast off the valuables they had grabbed to take with them. They didn't even take their horses, they just ran. He used lepers that no one paid any attention to as part of his solution. Their desperation caused them to go into the camp no matter what the results were. And the king who was so far in disbelief that he knew an empty camp full of food and provision was a trick of their enemy. Add to that the lord, one of the king's trusted advisers, who didn't think God could provide food even if God made windows in heaven. Windows in heaven would be a great trick, but God doesn't need tricks. He always has many avenues available to fulfill His Word to us.

They took therefore two chariot horses; and the king sent after the host of the Syrians, saying, Go and see. And they went after them unto Jordan: and, lo, all the way was full of garments and vessels, which the Syrians had cast away in their haste. And the messengers returned, and told the king. And the people went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians. So a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord
- II Kings 7:14-16

I don't know what you are facing today. You may feel desperate. You may feel hopeless. Just be encouraged through the story of the Syrians, Elisha, some distraught mothers and some lepers that even when things look hopelessly without remedy, God is able. When we can't see it. When we are struggling to believe it. God can.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What pushes your buttons?

I found myself in a familiar feeling situation last week. That feeling of aggravation rising, that feeling that someone was getting on my nerves and working hard to do it. I was, after all, driving in Ohio. I officially labeled it "Home of the Road Rage." Driving along 90 for about 70 or 80 miles, the speed limit changed some 20 times - 55 mph, 65 mph, 70 mph, back and forth - at least it breaks up the monotony. On one the first rises to 70 mph I was accelerating when I noticed a car was coming up on my left. Not wanting to 'fight' him to stop her from completing a pass, I took my foot of the gas and held at 60 or so to let her by. She got to just in front of my van and held steady at 60 or so, just inching forward a car length or two every minute. After several minutes, I decided I should just get up to speed and let them fall in behind me, but as I sped up, she sped up, and pulled in front of me just as I was coming up behind her. Since I was now too close, I pulled out into the left lane when she promptly sped up further. I was laughing at the lunacy of what was happening, but I was getting frustrated. And with good reason, or so I felt. (Side note: I remained relaxed and the trip was without any road rage incident)

Then came Sunday's services. The evening was covering Matthew 7:1-23 - the incident of the pharisees complaining to Jesus about his disciples eating with unwashed hands. The main lesson? Sin doesn't come from outside of you, it comes from inside you. It is your heart that makes you defiled, not anything that goes into your body. Someone's bad driving cannot make you angry - that is a choice. A pile of money left out in plain sight cannot make you a thief - that is a choice. A caring, attractive person of the opposite sex cannot make you an adulterer or fornicator - that is a choice. Someone cannot push your buttons to get you upset - that is a choice. Our reactions that come from our heart are the cause of our sin.

Some might say "But how can I change my reactions?" I'm glad they asked.

How shall a young man cleanse his way, by taking heed thereto according to thy word. - Psalm 119:9

But I'm not young! I can't change!

If any man be in Christ he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. - II Corinthians 5:17

Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee. 
- Psalm 119:11

Do not be conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. - Romans 12:2

There's probably a voice inside of you saying that it can't be that simple. That the answer in Scripture sounds too simplistic to work. That voice comes when we don't take the renewing power of God's Word seriously. That voice comes when we let God's voice to us through his word be crowded up by conflicting and competing words from the world around us, even from our own 'wisdom.' That voice comes when we are not serious about being people of the Word and letting it change us.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Let the Word of Christ Dwell in you richly . . .

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus . . .

Be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit . . .

Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth . . . 

Teach them to your children, when you sit, when you rise . . . .

Old Testament, New Testament, there seems to be a repeated theme of how to live in victory over sin. Of how to erase our 'buttons' that get pressed by people, by our surroundings, by the world system around us. It is sobering to find in Scripture that while the rest of the world says that there is always a cause outside of you making you behave badly, God says it comes from your heart. Fix your heart, fix your problems.

Several years ago, I tried an experiment. Not of heart change, but to change my reactions. (Of course, you can't change reactions, right?) And I picked one of the hard ones. I didn't want to be ticklish. I decided to become 'not ticklish.' And I learned something very interesting. I could change my reaction. I also had an uncle that liked to find that spot between the neck and shoulder where it would cause you to 'spazz' and hit it. I chose to become 'immune.' Something cold placed on your neck to surprise you and make you jump, right? I changed my 'reaction' to enjoyment. I know, I'm just a little bit stubborn. But the reason I am sharing this is that reactions can be changed by the power of our will, how much more can they be changed if we let the power of God loose in our hearts?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

I apologize if some of the verses have an error in them, due to the nature of the post, I went from memory except for checking the end of Romans 12:2 because my mind scrambled it this morning. :)

Keep looking up!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons - Personal Loss

We have all been faced with loss. Whether the loss of loved ones, the loss of a favorite possession, the loss of reputation, or any number of other types of loss. It is a difficult lemon to deal with as loss often causes us to experience the bitterness of the situation quickly, before we have a chance to add sugar and make the lemonade.

Having talked with several parents who have lost children through the years, adult children and young children, I am told it is about the worst form of loss a person can experience. Why does it hurt so bad? Because it is unnatural, it is unexpected, it is the loss of not only something close to you, but a piece of you. These are reasons that make any loss hard to bear. The loss of anything seems unnatural to us, we have an expectation of accumulating things, not of losing the things and relationships we have. We struggle with understanding why such difficulty should visit us.

I'm guessing that you have already figured out where in the Bible we will find the answer to this lemon as Job suffered loss as greatly as any person in the Bible. So the tough part is to figure out what made Job's response a good one, and what principles can we take with us to apply to the losses that come in our lives.

The first key I think we can learn from Job is that it is OK to grieve. It is not wrong to sorrow. It is not sinful to express sadness. I get why we shy away from it. It makes me uncomfortable to be around someone who is sobbing uncontrollably. Because of that, I feel uncomfortable crying in front of someone else. If we were honest, we would probably say that we would rather that no one cried. Sometimes that feeling makes us feel like it would be wrong to sorrow. But the Bible tells us that Job tore his clothes, shaved his head and fell to the ground. He was sad. He showed his sorrow; he announced it to anyone around him that he grieved the loss of his children, animals and servants greatly. And after talking of this grieving that Job was doing, the Bible tells us that in all this Job did not sin. For us it is important to remember to allow yourself room to grieve, to allow those who have experienced loss time to grieve. Don't try to make yourself stop feeling the loss, don't tell someone else when they should stop feeling sad.

There is a key to what grief is good and what grief isn't. It's OK to grieve, as long as you still believe. In the New Testament, it talks about grieving, but not as those who have no hope. Christians are to be about hopeful grieving. In Job, it tells us in his grief he fell down and worshipped. Our belief needs to be that God is still on His throne. That God is to be exalted in all of our life's circumstances. That God i good and He cares for us. Job could do this because he did not expect to only be blessed by God.

"What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips." - Job 2:10b

Because he didn't expect only blessing, he could worship God in the trials. He expected God to be good, but not everything that happened in life to be good. Paul talks about that in the New Testament as well:

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose." 
                                                                            - Romans 8:28

Job knew that. Job kept God on his throne and understood that God had things under control. It did not lessen the pain of his loss, but it helped him see past his loss to look for what God was doing through it. To seek God's exaltation, even in the midst of his humiliation.

What do we do with loss? We remember that it is OK to grieve, as long as we still believe.

I hope you don't need this lesson any time soon personally or to help a friend, but I hope we can all respond to the losses that will come with the wisdom of Job. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"

Keep looking up!

If you would like to hear the sermon behind this post, you can listen in for the next month over here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons - Unanswered Prayer

Have you ever noticed a child who was trying to get the attention of a parent while the parent was involved in doing something else. Often, the child will be so focused on getting the attention that they will not wait to be answered. "Mom, mommy, mom, mommy, mom, MOMMY, MOMMMMMMM!" Why is this the natural reaction of a child? Because we like to get answers. We like people to pay attention to us. Especially when we have a need.

Sometimes when it comes to God, we don't keep asking when we don't get an answer. We feel the same emptiness of not getting a response, but often people will head off and search for another answer. How should we respond to unanswered prayer?

In the book of Psalms we can find several times when the Psalmist felt that God was not answering his prayer. In Psalm 77, we have a Psalm of Asaph that was written in such a situation. He was troubled by the thought of God, he felt cast off and ignored, forgotten. So what do we do?

The Psalmist did what the Psalms often portray in these circumstances. The Psalmist told God what was wrong. He complained about his circumstances. Hr knew things used to be better, he knew that it looked very unfair from where he was sitting. He wanted to have an answer to his question: Why was God not responding? You see, the Psalms are great in that you can always find one that starts with how you might be feeling right now. Whether joy or distress, or anywhere in between, there's a Psalm for that. Then what you do is follow the road map laid out in the Psalm is you want to worship God from where you are. This time, the Psalmist laid out his complaint to God. He didn't blame God, but he told God what was wrong.

Then, the psalmist does a strange thing. His song (or psalm) turns from complaint to praise. In the middle of his trials he is singing a song! He remembers God's goodness, His blessings, His works in times past. He focuses on what God has done and therefore on what God might be doing in his situation.

"Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people." - Psalm 77:14

And when we remember who God is and what God does, we will remember that He does not ignore His people. We wil remember that the God of wonders is not limited by our reasoning and our ability to see. We will see God as He is: seated on His throne, in control, and merciful and gracious to His people.

What to do with unanswered prayer? Tell God what's wrong, sing to Him a song!

Monday, January 6, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons - Too Much Work

Have you ever felt like you had too large of a mountain of work in front of you? Like the expectations on you were just too much to ever accomplish? Moses was in a similar situation. The leader of over 2 million people, having organized their departure from Egypt, and now responsible for a great crowd of people in a hostile environment away from the only home they had known for over 400 years. He sat from morning to night to judge the needs of the people, to hear their disputes, to teach them God's law, to inquire of God on the difficult issues, to keep everything moving along as it should. To say Moses was in the position of just putting out fires would be an understatement. He was doing very necessary work that had no end in sight. How many times a day did he have to teach "If you steal an ox, you have to give 5 back, if you steal a sheep, you have to give 4 back?"

Fortunately for Moses, and for us, there is more to life than just survival mode. Than just putting out fire after fire in our lives, but it involves a choice. We have to choose to do what needs to be done to make lemonade with this lemon. The upside of lots of work? Lots of progress. And lots of people means lots of workers! Moses got his solution from Jethro, his father-in-law. The solution is "Don't be proud, work with a crowd!"

With responsibility often comes the temptation to pride. It sneaks in slowly and makes us think that we are important because of the work we are doing. It makes us feel that we are the only ones that can do this important work. Sometimes we hold onto tasks because we don't want the feeling of not being needed - I won't teach anyone else how to clean the paper jam out of the copier because I like being the copy machine savior for my coworkers. We don't want to let go of tasks because the tasks make us important. We all have to resist this subtle area of pride in our lives and move on to the second half - work with a crowd.

Jethro suggested choosing men who feared God, who could be trusted, who had integrity and teaching them to answer problems. Rulers over 10, 50, 100 and 1000. I imagine the rulers of ten learned the rule of stealing livestock. I imagine the rulers of 100 learned how to tell what punishment should be given for an ox that has gored (either man or beast). I imagine the rulers over 1000 learned more intricate laws than that. Each had his job to do and the cases they didn't know, or couldn't get to the bottom of they brought to Moses. He always had the option of going to the Lord if he didn't know. Working with a crowd involves trusting trustworthy people to share the load. They have to be trustworthy or we are just neglecting work. We have to trust them, or it just involves us moving arms, legs and mouths of puppets.

Do you have too much work before you? While school kids have to do their own homework, most of us have the option of following Jethro's advice "Don't be proud, work with a crowd!"

If you'd like to hear the sermon that goes along with the blog post - it will be available for the next month or so over at Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

New Year's brings reflection into most of our lives. What was the past year like? What are my hopes for the new year?

Some people decide to make resolutions. Some people set new goals for the year. Many look at the new year as a good time for a new start.

So what to do with the new year? Are you going to make things better than last year? It is a simple thought, but if you keep doing what you've been doing, you're going to keep getting what you've been getting. If you have not improved in areas over the past year, what will you change to look for improvements this year?
More discipline?
More reading?
Healthier eating?
More exercise?
More time in prayer?
More encouraging others?
God honoring attitudes?
The list could be endless of things we could improve. My encouragement would be to work on something that you have help in, that you have support in. If you are a believer, God's Word promises that "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it" which means spiritual disciplines (seeking to become more like Jesus in your life) comes with built in help. Do you have mutual goals shared with friends (exercise, Scripture reading, weight loss, Bible memory, health goals)? Then focus on encouraging them in reaching the goal. The longer they last in it, the longer you will work on building good habits. Ecclesiastes tells us of the benefit of walking together with others. "A cord of three strands is not easily broken."

However you treat the new year, I wish you and yours well, and hope that 2014 is a year of growing in grace and becoming more like Jesus.