Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jesus and His Teaching Spiral (Genuine Giving)

There are times when I examine the way Jesus taught, and I am blown away.  I have noticed that Jesus often spoke to his followers moving from general issues to more specific concerns.  He would, in a sense, spiral from the outer issues into the deeper inner issues of a topic.

In the sermon series I am concluding this week, I have noticed this same method.  I noted last week that my gracious giving message of 11/17 should have preceded my generous giving sermon of 11/10, but now I see more clearly why He did that.  He was spiraling into the real issue.

In Luke 6:27, Jesus instructs his followers on how to associate with others and giving takes on a primary focus.  It's as if He is using giving to explain how we should interact.  The movement of His message goes from giving to generous giving to gracious giving to genuine giving.

Genuine giving (the warnings of Jesus in Luke 6:39ff) is what I call the necessity of having our heart pure in the act of giving.  Jesus warns that the spiritually insightful, producing tree, and able builder must have things right on the inside in order for their outer activity to amount to anything.  Giving is the same.

The discipline of giving cannot be practiced-in truth-without the right heart.  You can give.  You can give generously.  You can give graciously.  But unless your heart is right, you cannot give genuinely.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Giving Graciously

Perhaps I should have offered this message before "Giving Generously" from November 10.  One must give graciously before generous giving even matters.

Have you ever had someone give to you, but not as a gift?  I mean those times when people give to you, but it is really about their need and not yours.  I mean those times when it is more about power and control than it is about help.  I mean those times when they really didn't want to, and you wish they would not have. 

Gracious giving must precede generous giving in order to keep the gift in proper perspective.  Gifts of grace can be received in the manner in which they were given.  Generous gifts that do not come from grace are often a burden and not a relief. 

We talk about how much we give a lot.  Perhaps we should start talking about how we give first.  So, in light of that, let me back up and share a message that should have come prior to Nov. 10.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Unceasing prayer should have been my last post

God has always had a way of taking me through the sermons I would preach.  My life. often, encounters aspects of my Sunday morning messages just in time for me to learn what God really wants me to know.

On Oct. 22, 2013, my wife, Paula Lackie, was involved in a hit-and-run accident while walking our dog.  It is now almost 3 weeks later, and she has been home from the hospital for 2 and 1/2 weeks.  Physical and Occupational therapy started last week.  I am glad to say that she is progressing.

The irony of being told that your wife was found on a sidewalk in your neighborhood while you are finishing a message on unceasing prayer is not lost on me.  The sermon on Sunday, Oct. 27, was probably the most difficult single sermon of my life.  I had told many people that this series, The Vertical Church, was the most important sermon series of my ministerial career, but I would discover that I had no real idea why.

Unceasing prayer became the context of my life, not just the content of my next sermon.  Connection to the Father was my only hope.  Prayer was the only vehicle to the thrown room of the One who could heal her.  Hypotheticals, theological concepts, and cute illustrations fell by the wayside.  The reality of a Father whose ear was unceasingly listening to my prayers was the only information that mattered.

After that Sunday, I moved to another sermon series, Give and It Shall Be Given, which has humbled me even more.  My sermons are planned many months in advance.  I had no idea there would be a reason for my church family to give to my family as they have these last 3 weeks.  Their love and support have helped us get through this difficult ordeal.

My wife should have a full recover according to the doctors.  There is much work and more time needed to get her back up to speed.  Our dog, Buddy, is fine.  He was not hit.  Our family will survive because we are fighters.   I am just grateful that she was not killed.  We will overcome.  We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Unafraid Witness

Stepping on toes is a fine art.  I was told recently that people want to come to church to be encouraged and lifted up, and they don't like to feel bad about anything.  They might not even come back if you challenge them.

Am I in Bizzaro world?  When did the Word stop dealing with the thoughts and intentions of the heart?  When did repentance cease to be the herald's message for a world bent on self-destruction?  How can we deal with the reality of our lives while perfuming our stench with false "uplifting" rhetoric?

As I have savored James McDonald's Vertical Church, I have gone through a personal renaissance.  The idea of pleasing God and God alone is liberating.  We live to God, not one another.  We love and care for one another, but we must not worship at the altar of people pleasing.  Our allegiance is to the God who saves and sustains us.

This chapter, "Unafraid Witness," puts our responsibility in sharp focus.  We are to boldly proclaim the Word of Truth.  We only cheapen the message when we try to make it more palatable.  We act as if we can improve on the perfect message.  We work to make foolishness common sense.  We adapt the never-changing good news into something relevant to this always-changing age.  We do a disservice to the God who saved us when we diligently work to sell the gospel.  Our job is to boldly proclaim, not con or convince or manufacture or persuade or enfold or adapt or . . .

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An Apology for Unapologetic Preaching

Last week was crazy.  Lots to do.  I didn't even make an entry into this blog.  I had added a post two weeks ago about Unashamed Adoration as the content for my message on October 6.  Unapologetic Preaching framed the talk for October 13.

It went really well.  I believe firmly that the modern church needs to return to a position of strength when it comes to preaching the revealed truth.  In the sea of relativism, we have given the signal that we have nothing to offer that is sure.  We must return to a foundation of preaching as the instrument of presenting the truth of God's Word as a source of certainty and assurance in our shifting world.

So, let me apologize for not blogging about Unapologetic Preaching.

Now on to Unafraid Witness.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Unashamed Adoration

I attended CIY with our youth group this summer in TN.  One observation stood out among the many obvious to me.  As the week went on, the kids and adults entered a status of unashamed adoration of the son of God.

The chaperon that accompanied us for the girls was amazed at the level of attention the kids gave to worship on the first night.  I told her that this will not even compare to the level of involvement by the end of the week.

God did some amazing things during that week, and I am convinced that our unashamed adoration had a real role in that.  Our openness to the worship of Jesus opened a way to the very glory of God.  God showed up because He was welcome there.

Is God welcome at your gatherings?  Do you have a special dedicated place for Him to show up?  Do you let Him do as He pleases?  Is He assumed to be spectator or fellow participant?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Contemporary Church

How do you look at the church of today?  Do you long for the church of your childhood?  Do you desire the first century church would return?  Would you like the excitement of the Reformation era church?

In Vertical Church, James MacDonald has some harsh words for the American church of our generation.  His proposition that the church exists to demonstrate God's glory (verticality) runs opposed (in his mind) to the consumerstic approach (horizontality) of our franchise church society. (I must say that I would be shocked if the Harvest churches that are starting with the Vertical concept won't fall prey to the franchise trap as well.  We all copy better than we reproduce.)

I must tell you that I agree with him.  I am reading an article right now about the church in our era, and I agree with Russell Blanchard Smith in "Ministry in the Age of Design" that the franchise, cookie cutter model of the last 20+ years is a dying breed.  He calls our contemporary society "the age of design" calling for artisanal churches to meet the unique qualities of any context.   The skepticism created by square-peg-in-round-hole philosophies won't all such ideas to work with people who value authenticity over pragmatism or heritage.

What do you think about the church of today?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sermon poll: What fuels the fire of your church? (please read the blog)

What fuels the fire of your church?

There are countless answers, but there is only one answer for your church.  Pandora's box is open.  Is it growth, success, acclaim, accomplishment?  Or is it righteousness, glory, obedience, service?  Again, there are many answers but only one true answer for each of us.

Please no "squirrel answers."  What's that, you say?  I heard a story once about a kid's Bible school class where the teacher described to the children a brown animal, with a bushy tail, that lives in a tree, that collects nuts.  She asked the students if they knew what the animal was.  Johnny raised his hand.  The teacher called on Johnny, and he replied, "Teacher, that sure sounds a lot like a squirrel, but since we are at church the answer must be Jesus."

Squirrel answers are the bane of the modern church.  Everyone knows the "right" answer.  The question is "Is it truthful?"

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

God's Presence

Is God's presence merely a theological proposition?  God is omnipresent; therefore, He is here with us.  It is certainly true that if you go to the mountain peak, He is there.  If you go to the floor of the ocean, He is there.  If you go to the moon, He is there.

But, what about his manifest presence?  Israel knew their God was with them when His glory fell upon the tabernacle and temple.   We know that God resides within us on an individual level, but what about the corporate level?  What is it like when God shows up?

I am convinced that people need God.  They need God for salvation.  They need God for provision.  They need God for appropriate social interaction.  They need God at home, work, school, the mall, etc.  They need God.  We all need God.

For the average Joe, do they see us as a place to find God or find church?  Or, if the average Joe attends your church, will they have a chance to meet God?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

When God Shows Up

The children of Israel knew that God was with them because He was tangibly present.  He was there with them.  Not in the omnipresent sense of things; He was there.

Is worship a time for us to gather before our God or gather about our God?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sermon Poll-Horizontal or Vertical? (Please read the blog)

Is your church leaning toward the horizontal or the vertical?

James MacDonald in his book, Vertical Church, lays down a challenge to become more vertical (centered on God).  He does not want us to stop carrying for one another; he wants God to be the focus and not us or our care for us.

Does your church focus upon the people or our God?  Temporary things or eternal realities?   Is your worship for you to enjoy or God to enjoy?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


What is the bride of Christ supposed to look like?  What should we act like?  What are the characteristics of the lover of Christ?

Is there anything about the weekly gathering of God's people that conjures up images of a bride preparing to meet her bridegroom?  Do we long for Him or flirt with others?  Is our life about us or about Him? 

My favorite part of weddings is seeing up close and personal the response of a future husband to the beauty and radiance of his bride to be as she takes that first step down the aisle.  Cody, my most recently married groom, exclaimed, "She is so beautiful!"

What is God's response to us as we gather together?  Is He blown away by our beauty?  Does He find a waiting bride?  What is our response to God when He shows up?  Do we enjoy His company or do just pass the time until we are united in eternity? 

Help me out, isn't now a part of eternity?  If so, why don't we participate in eternity now rather than waiting until we die.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thankfulness on a Sinking Ship

I went to Henry Ford Museum a few years ago with friends to see an exhibit of the Titanic.  There was a replica staircase, pieces of the ship, hundreds of names of the deceased, and recollections of those fateful last moments.  As we perused the artifacts, I found evidence of loss, fear, disbelief, pain, agony, terror, and sorrow.  I did not see anything on that day to suggest that anyone was grateful for their demise.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 demands, " . . . give thanks in all circumstances . . ."  Whether we are rescued or whether we drown, we ought to give God thanks in all circumstances.  All and every are big words in the Scripture.

It makes a great deal of sense to thank God when you are rescued; it makes little sense to those without faith to give thanks when you are drowning.  Do you live as one of unfaith or faith?  Do you thank God for all circumstances or just the ones you appreciate?  Do you trust in His providencial hand or your own judgment?

Are you content with God's guidance on your journey of faith?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Grateful even when there is no rescue

Faith, not only helps me understand my world, it recalibrates my reality.

This past Sunday we talked about being grateful for God our deliverer.  As witnessed by the words of Scripture, this is a most common practice.  Most of us have the "good sense" to thank God when His work is obvious.  When He delivers, we give Him praise, thanks, allegiance, and service.
The challenge of our faith is allowing it to re-color our world.  Allowing God to shape the way we see things.  Allowing Him to perform LASIK surgery upon the eyes of our heart.  Allowing our faith to inform our sight, not the other way around.

The "Stand Up for a Cure" service with our testimonies, recognition of Komen 3Day walkers, special videos, creative instructional  visual aids, fervent prayer, excellent worship, and a poignant sermon pointed to a God who could deliver, but we will not all be delivered as we would like.  This is the entire point of this seven part sermon series.

We must be content in all circumstances.  Faithful to the end.  Thankful always.

There is no other way.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Stand Up for a Cure" (Cancer) Service on August 25 at 9:30 a.m. at Kenwood Church

Our worship service this Sunday, August 25 at 9:30 a.m., is a special "Stand Up for a Cure" service for cancer patients, survivors, families, and Komen 3Day walkers.  We want to lift up those who are going through cancer, celebrate with those who have survived, and cheer on those who raised money to fight breast cancer.

Our God is a deliverer!  And He can and will deliver His children from the sword.  

Join us as we seek God, pray for healing, hear testimonies, listen for God's leading, and support those in need.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sermon Poll: How have you known God as deliverer?

I am asking for personal stories that I might use in my sermon Sunday.  If you would like anonymity, I will gladly offer that.  Please let me know if that is the case.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

God's Deliverance

A continuous theme of the Bible is the deliverance of God.  God delivered Noah and his family from the flood.  God delivered Joseph from prison.  God delivered Israel time and again.  God delivered Joseph and Mary and their son, Jesus, from the hand of King Herod.  God delivered Peter and John from prison.  God delivered Paul from stoning, shipwreck, snake bite, imprisonment, etc.

God has delivered us.  We have been set free from the greatest bondage humanity has ever known . . . sin.
None of us has found freedom from sin apart from Jesus Christ.  He is our hope, our redeemer, our deliverer.

In this age of self-made Christians, who is Jesus?  Your deliverer or ultimate role model?  Your savior or your best friend?  Your Lord or your companion?

Father, deliver us from all things that pull us from your Way.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gratitude for Deliverance

Deliverance . . .  Some would have the church believe that eternal blessing while living a faithful life on this planet is the sure reward for faithful Christians.  The way I see it, God's deliverance from the evil of this world while we are here is His surest promise. 

Rich Mullins and Mike McVickers penned a song many years ago that rings with the deliverance of God.  I have included the lyrics.  Go to YouTube and search for My Deliverer.  It will be a blessing.

Joseph took his wife and her child and they went to Africa
To escape the rage of a deadly king
There along the banks of the Nile, Jesus listened to the song
That the captive children used to sing
They were singin'

My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by

Through a dry and thirsty land, water from the Kenyon heights
Pours itself out of Lake Sangra's broken heart
There in the Sahara winds Jesus heard the whole world cry
For the healing that would flow from His own scars
The world was singing

My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
He will never break His promise - He has written it upon the sky
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by

My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
I will never doubt His promise though I doubt my heart, I doubt my eyes
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by

My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
He will never break His promise though the stars should break faith with the sky
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by

My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by

My Deliverer is coming

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Answers from Ministers

I posed the question, "Is God really in control?" in a ministers forum to see what kind of responses I would get.  To confirm my thought, ministers have as difficult time as any of us in answering that question.  Perhaps we have it worse as advocates for God.

I am coming to a new position.  I no longer feel a need to be an apologist for God.  He is God, and I am not.  I rarely understand why my world plays out the way it does.  Sometimes I get a brief glimpse of clarity, but mostly my life and the ways of God are a mystery to me.  But . . . in faith, I trust that His control of my world is dictated by His divine love.

Active control, passive responsibility, total predestination, free will are all linguistic attempts to explain the mysteries of God.  I don't see them as inappropriate, just inadequate.  His ways are so far above mine that my insolent attitude that assumes that I can divine the innerworkings of His will must be offensive to our Creator and Sustainer. 

Do not misunderstand.  I believe we can know His will, but that is a function of His Holy Spirit and His special revelation.  I have a poem that I use in funerals that states, "I cannot see with my small human sight, Why God should lead this way or that for me; I only know He saith, 'Child, follow me.' But I can trust."

We can trust.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sermon poll: Is God really in control?


A.  In an overarching sense, but not all the details.
B.  In the minutest of details.
C.  In everything but areas dealing with the free will of humanity.
D.  Other-please explain.

Is God really in control?

This world spins at over 20,000 mph around our sun at just the right distance for us to have liquid water.  Our minds work well enough to discover cures for common illnesses that, though once fatal, are no longer a threat.  Our God sent His one and only son into the world to change the course of human history.

 I suppose we could debate whether God is "in control" of this world?  Does He merely know what is going to happen like a far off observer?  Does He make every detail pay attention as He calls the shots?  Does free will exist or is it just an illusion?  Are we watching from a cave dealing only with the perception of reality?  Does anyone even know what reality is?

I guess that's why God calls us to faith?  Faith, after all, is not a certainty.  Faith is hoping in the unseen and praying that what we see is not all there is.  Faith-trust- is a very different creature than its cousin, knowing.  Knowledge makes claims to reality; faith allows reality to be made known.  There is a pride in knowledge, a hope of controlling our destiny by utilizing the truth, a hubris that this world can be manipulated.  Knowledge can undermine faith.

My faith tells me that God controls our universe in a way that is far too complex for me to understand.  I don't know how God brought my wife and I together so that our son would come into the world.  We are such a chain of improbabilities that randomness does not solve the puzzle.  My calling to Kenwood has seemed strange at times but blatantly obvious at others.  There is no doubt that my family and I belong right here.

Perhaps the reason we struggle with God's providence is that we don't like the choices He has made for us.  Maybe the problem lies with our faith and not God's choices. 

What do you think?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Gratitude for God's Providence

Providence-God's guiding hand on our universe.  For some, this hand determines every action taken in our world; for others, this power only sees the actions play out.  Does God predetermine or simply observe what is happening?  Let the theological debate begin.
Either theological perspective has to ask itself what the proper response to God is when we encounter evil and pain.  Does God endorse or, worse, choose our pain?  Does He stand behind the acts of evil brought down upon the innocents?  How should we then live?

I have to admit that this discussion confuses and perplexes me.  At times I may be too simplistic.  In my life, I have seen God work in the blessing and the curse.  I thank Him for the good, but I don't blame Him for the bad.  I trust that no matter what comes my way that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13)  I don't need to know the source of the event to know that.

Are you at the point where you trust God even when everything around you says that you should not?  Do you doubt His providential care?  Do you wonder if He has forgotten you? 

In the midst of the storm, there rarely seems to be a good reason for it?  When the storm clouds have cleared, we can often find the rainbow.  Many of us look back at the clouds long after they have gone and never see the rainbows in front of us.

Here's to finding rainbows in the storm clouds.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


One of my greatest joys as a young person was working with the Special Olympics.  Perhaps growing up in a nursing home helped me to look beyond the exterior of a person and see something more.  Maybe it was just the way my parents raised me.  I don't know for sure, but I do know that I love "special" people.

Some of the most inspirational and spiritual people I have ever known were "special."  Heidi was a dear friend at my church in Ohio who welcomed everyone with open arms.  She held nothing back and held nothing over anyone, even those who had treated her badly.  My new friend, Keith, has humbled me on a number of occasions as he has prayed sacred prayers over me.  His faith is amazing. 

I see these people as "special," not because of handicaps, but because they are special.  What are handicaps?  Are they simply ways in which we are not like the norm?  Are they things that make us different?  We all have our capabilities and our handicaps.  For some of us it is just easier to recognize them. 

The depth of Christian spirituality can only be understood when Jesus transcends our earthly view.  As long as we focus upon who we are, we can never truly see who He is.  I am what I am.  That is a simple statement, but a difficult reality to accept.  Jesus loves me this I know.  He loves me.  Capabilities and handicaps. 

I have found that when I embrace my handicaps I become free to live instead of worrying about overcoming them.  All of my handicaps and abilities must be laid at Jesus' feet.  I may not see how He can use them, but I have faith that He can.

I can tell the parents whose child was born with feet going the wrong way that it can be OK.  I can tell the parents of a child with scotopic sensitivity syndrome that it can be overcome.  I can tell the frustrated parents of a child with ADD that the child can have a productive life.  I know these statements to be true because I have overcome them all.  It is only with these handicaps that I can offer this encouragement.  It is only with this life that I can share my story.

I don't know why God chose me to be the messenger, but I trust that He knows what He is doing.  That's the point of faith, right?

God, thanks for my handicaps.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Gratitude in the light of handicaps

When I was born there was something terribly wrong with my legs.  Both of my feet went directly to the right.  Braces were the best therapy for that little boy in 1966.  My baby pictures are full of me rolling around on the floor with a metal plate between my feet.  That little boy looked quite happy.

For the past 46 years, I have fallen at least once a week.  Sometimes serious; sometimes not.  My "straightened" feet still go to the right and every now and then my left foot gets turned a little too much and timberrrrrr.  My favorite occasions were (1)  in a football game my freshman year when I was running a pass pattern and just fell in front of a few hundred of my closest friends and (2) when I was taking our new youth minister for a tour of our building and fell down a flight of stairs.  Those were wonderful times.

I was 6' 2" tall in 8th grade and looked like I might catch my father who is 6' 8".  The strange thing about me is that from the waist up my father and I are the same length.  My legs are 6" shorter than his.  I cannot be sure, but I wonder if my legs never became what they were meant to be because of my handicap.

In high school I wound up with a choice, continue playing basketball or join the Bible Bowl team at the church.  I knew my basketball playing days were numbered as other guys started shooting up past me.  Soon I was no longer the tallest guy around.  I became quite average in height over night.  My short, thick legs were more suited for the football field than the basketball court by now, and I excelled there.  So Bible Bowl it was.

I haven't mentioned yet that my dad was an all-state high school basketball player, college basketball player, professional basketball player, and basketball coach.  The choice to leave the game was tough to say the least. 

For years, I complained to God about my legs.  I couldn't find pants that fit.  I couldn't jump very well.  I was short (for my family).  I could never buy shirts that were long enough.  I  fell often.  I was cheated out of a perfect basketball body, and my dad was never given the son to follow his basketball legacy. 

After 21 years of pastoral ministry, I still complain about short ties and the occasional fall, but I have come to accept that God wants me just as I am.  I have learned to connect with athletes and the handicapped.  I understand what it means to play and fall down.  I have a heart for people who "can't."  I am what I am today because of the way God made me 46 years ago.  Today I wouldn't change a thing.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gratitude in the midst of betrayal

If you have ever felt the venomous burning of betrayal within your blood, you know the pain with which it runs through your veins.  It poisons your thoughts and attitudes toward the betrayer.  It can even permanently destroy the once warm thoughts about that person. 

A counselor once told me that when betrayed we need to find a way to forgive the betrayer.  As a pastor, the advice seemed simplistic and out of reach.  He reminded me of Jesus' teaching that we should forgive "70 times 7" times.  Really?  He challenged me to use his "Forgiveness Onion" which made people work through forgiveness by praying, "Father, I forgive __________ and ask you to bless _________ by ________" for 490 days.

For 1 year and 125 days (with the help of my smartphone), I asked God to forgive and bless my offender.  The act became so ingrained in my mind that I found that I continued well past day 490 and even repeat the prayer occasionally today long after the onion has been peeled. 

While it might sound crazy, I am now grateful for the offense that caused me to use the "Forgiveness Onion."  Gratitude can be found after forgiveness is discovered.  God gave me grace to see His hand in the midst of the pain.   He taught me His way.  "Love . . . does not take into account a wrong suffered." (1 Cor. 13:4-5).

I'm Back

After spending 6 days with some our teens at CIY Move in Cleveland, TN, (TN6) I have finally recovered enough to start up the blog again.  It has taken me 6 days to recover from 6 days of the wonder that is CIY (and a nasty cold caught when I returned home). 

I am grateful for Gary Hawes and his willingness to share the Word and his ministry with our congregation two Sundays ago.  It is good to know that my people are well cared for when I am gone.

I began my sermon series on gratitude last Sunday with three powerful stories.  Betsie and Corrie ten Boom taught us how we need to give thanks even in times of discomfort (or fleas in their case).  Joseph demonstrates how we should be grateful for the pits and prisons that God uses for good.  Finally, Matthew Henry showed how to find good in the midst of the bad after being robbed.

Gratitude is a discipline that leads to a state of mind.  The discipline trains us to look beyond circumstances and connect with the God that stands behind the situations of our lives.  As Corrie pointed out to her sister, Betsie, we should "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thess. 5:18).

To close: I am very grateful for the young people and Judy Kavsh (our adult sponsor) who attended the event with me last week.  We were not sure if we were going to be able to go this year, and God worked it out.  CIY was great.  The teens were super.  Judy was a blessing.  I was able to see my parents and mother-in-law.  All in all, I have a lot to be grateful for.  Not the least of which is the fact that I was able to come home to my loving wife, Paula.  Thanks for making coming home so awesome, Babe.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sunday with Gary Hawes

Dear Kenwood family,

I am so pleased that Gary Hawes from Michigan Christian Campus Ministry will be filling the pulpit while I am in TN with some of our teens.  Gary is a great man of God and a terrific communicator.  I feel good knowing that he will be leading you in the study of the Word Sunday morning.

Pray for myself and the crew (Judy, Thomas, Caleb, Brendan, Casey, Jessica and Kristina) as we are challenged to "Rise Up" to the challenge God has put before each of us.  Pray for Judy and I as we lead the young adults and be with the young adults as they move closer to God.

I will miss our family time together on Sunday morning.  I look forward to August 4th when I can be with my church family once again.  Have a great Sunday.

His servant,


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Next sermon series beginning July 28

On July 28 I will reenter the pulpit and share the first in a series of messages about gratitude.  We will stay with this theme until Labor Day.

In one of those annoying FB posts, the words appropriately said, "God has given you a gift of 86,400 seconds in your day, have you used just one to say thanks?"  I don't think I will quote FB as often as Richard Foster, but the perspective is stunning.

Are you a grateful person?  Do you demonstrate an attitude of gratitude?  Do others around you know that you are grateful? 

Say "thanks" to someone today.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Preparing for CIY

I am fortunate to be taking a group of our teens to CIY in Tennessee.  I am excited to put my youth minister hat back on.  I am also looking forward to spending the week with my son. 

The challenge of CIY is to "rise up."  It is my prayer that we all (6 teens and 2 adults) might rise to the occasion of God's calling.

Gary Hawes, from Michigan Christian Campus Ministries, will be speaking at Kenwood this weekend.  Gary will do a fabulous job.

Off to study more for the trip.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Do Not Associate with . . . 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

Do not associate with people who do not follow Paul's instructions in this letter.  That is a sharp command.  Paul says that this action might make them feel ashamed.  Shunning and shaming as tools of discipleship.  I must admit that I have never thought of those two actions in such a manner. 

Shunning has powerful sociological and psychological effects.  No one wants to be seen as outside of the crowd.  Nobody wants to feel shame.  Pressing individuals toward conformity through social and psychological manipulation sounds scary because of abuses we all know of, but . . . they are powerful tools in the hands of a craftsman.

One of the unfortunate realities of today's church is that we are more a gathering of individuals than a gathering of the family of God.  As individuals we can live lives independent of our church family.  In Paul's mind we are all part of the Body of Christ and members one with another.  Our individuality is real, but just like a newborn in a family is both an individual and a member of the family so are we in Christ.

Verse 15 says that we should not utilize these tools as if the person were an "enemy" but rather as a "brother."  We should warn our brother by our actions. 

So if we do not follow Paul's instruction to shun and shame our brother, should we be shunned?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

NO work No eat - 2 Thessalonians 3:10

There are many verses in the Bible that take a hard line and pack a big punch.  2 Thess. 3:10 is just such a verse.  Paul reminds the church of his rule that "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat."

The Puritans seemed to feel that this rule ought to be obeyed in their contemporary context.  What do you think about that rule in our context?  Should we act the same?  Should we expect people to work in order to share in the bounty?

This is a tough subject for me.  I have been without, and I have been blessed to find help in church and government assistance.  I believe we should feed the hungry.  Jesus gave to those who were hungry.  But what do you do about someone who will not work (not can't work) but won't work?

Paul takes an extreme stand against idleness.  What do you think of Paul's teaching on idleness in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15?  What is God saying to you through His Word?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Message 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Paul seems obsessed with the movement of the gospel.  His prayers are often laced with language calling for the rapid spread of the good news.  For him, the importance of communicating the story of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection cannot be overstated.  The gospel is everything, and the promotion of the message is most important.

As we learn to live as good Christians, how high on our priority list is sharing the good news?  Are our lives representative of people whose greatest value is sharing the gospel? 

We often become tangled up in Paul's moral teaching and miss his real passion-the gospel.  While we cannot remove the need for appropriate Christian living, we must not internalize the good news to such an extent that it has no externality.  The good news is not ours to own.  It's only ours to share.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Next sermon-"Final Thoughts" 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18

It never fails that most of my phone conversations begin with polite dialogue and move into desperately important issues right as we are hanging up.  There is something about the end approaching that makes us ask, "What do I need to say before this conversation is over?"

Paul is concluding his final letter to the Thessalonians.  The phone is almost hung up.  He needs to tell them just a few more things before he goes. 

Can you recall those moments in your life when you were "at the end of a conversation?"  For me, I remember speaking with my wife before her last major surgery 11 years ago just as they took her away.  I recall the conversation I had with Carl "Duke" Ellington before his passing.  I still hear my parents words to my family as we moved away from TN to come to MI twelve years ago.

Do you have some "final thoughts" you need to share with someone before things are final?

Click (that is the sound of the other phone being hung up).

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Are You Ready? 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Of all the questions in the world, there is one that is more important than any other?  It is not "Did the Tigers win last night?"  It is not "What are we having for dinner?"  It is not "When is he going to stop preaching this morning?"  The most important question is "Are you ready for the judgment day?"

Paul is very concerned for the Thessalonian church because they had been duped by a false teaching that Jesus had already returned.  He warns that as they have been fooled there will be much deception near the end.  False gods, counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders will fill the headlines in those days.

As I have contended, the information about the end times in the Bible is more about preparation than prediction.  Many people want to know the day and the hour.  Many others explain when and where.  Others use the end to manipulate people today.  Some talk so much about the end that they forget to live now.

Paul's message to the Thessalonians is simple-"stand firm and hold to the teachings" (v. 15 NIV).  Stand firm in your faith and hold on to what they had learned from Paul.  He gave them insight into the end, but most of all he gave them instructions on how to get through the day.

In light of the earlier question, are you ready?  Paul tells this church to keep holding on.  Are you holding on or have you fallen away?  Either way the solution for end time preparedness is the same.  Jesus is your answer.  Stand firm in your faith and hold onto His word.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rebellion-the age old problem of humanity

Rebellion may be the common denominator of fallen humanity.  We naturally vie against the powers that be.  Teenagers rebel against parents.  Adam and Eve rebelled against God.  Protestors rebel against the governing authorities (on both sides of the aisle).       

As Paul shares that the Lord's return has not happened, he tells them that Jesus could not have returned because the rebellion has not occurred yet.  This rebellion is connected with the "man of lawlessness" who "opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship" (2 Thess. 2:4).  He even goes so far as to "claiming himself to be God." (v. 4) 

Another term for this rebellion is apostasy (a transliteration from the original Greek word and migrating into Middle English between 1350 and 1400).  Apostasy refers to a military, political, or religious rebellion.  In the church, we speak of people who commit apostasy as those who have rebelled against the true faith.  The word literally means "to stand away" or "withdraw."

While the church deals with apostasy on a general level everyday, this rebellion is a major identifiable event of mass apostasy.  The rebellion seems to demonstrate movement from God as established object of worship to the man of lawlessness as new object of worship.  People are not leaving for a multitude of reasons; they are leaving to follow "the son of destruction."

WARNING: A single act of apostasy may not be a part of the rebellion, but it is still rebellion. 

Father, forgive us when we kick against your will, when we want our own way, when we follow other gods.  Give us strength to hold onto the faith.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The End in the middle-2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

Paul has gone back to the end of it all, again.  His concern over the Thessalonians understanding of the "end of times" has made its way into these two letters for a fifth time now (1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23).  He desperately wants this congregation to understand that the "day of the Lord" has not come yet.

Apparently, someone had tried to convince the church through a "spirit, or a spoken word, or a letter" (2 Thess. 2:2) that Paul claimed the end had already come.  They were left with the notion that they had missed the Lord's appearance and were left confused by His oversight of their faithfulness. 

This is a tremendous reminder of the power of false teaching.  People want to believe.  They want to follow.  They want to be in the right group.  They want to trust.  Unfortunately, there are those who want to deceive.  There are those who want to control.  There are those who want to destroy.

Paul says that they should not be "shaken" or "alarmed" easily.  Shaken refers to an earthquake or a ship losing its moorings, and alarmed means "to cry out."  Paul instructs them further so they might continue to have faith instead of despair.  For the fifth time in these brief letters he speaks about the return of our Lord Jesus.

For the believer today, I believe Paul would tell us to be grounded in the Word of God and moored to that which cannot be moved.  How blessed we are to have God's revelation to us in the Bible.  We should steer clear of strange teachings, complicated answers, secret interpretations.  We should test all the teachings we hear by the teachings we have read in Scripture.

How would you know if my teachings were from the Father?  How do you know if I speak His truth or my truth? 

O, God, I pray that the light of your word might eclipse the dim reality of my teaching. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Second Letter-Paul's latest instructions to the Thessalonians

The first letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church read like a love letter.  He happily remembered their faith and wanted to help them maintain that faith.  The report Timothy brought back to Paul about the church was encouraging indeed.

While Paul was pleased with the report, he shared his heartfelt concern with the Thessalonians in his first letter.  This concern centered around two areas of the Christian faith: living to please God and the return of the Lord Jesus.

First, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to live a sanctified (holy) life, a life of love, and a simple life (quiet, minding your own business, hard work, and respect).  Paul often connects our faith and the need to live out that faith.  Living the Christian life, in the mind of Paul, was just an extension of the faith of any believer.

Second, Paul reminded them of the eminent return of Jesus.  His instructions on how the living and dead saints will join Him in the air is only the backdrop for his real focus.  Paul wanted the church to not forget that Jesus will come back "like a thief in the night."  This expectation bounded the need for living the Christian life by declaring Jesus' promise to take them out of this difficult life and warning them that Jesus will show up at any time to check on their labors. 

Following this letter, Paul writes his second letter to the church at Thessalonica.  Our sermon on June 30 will focus upon our faith and the justice of God.

Questions:  How do you see the mercy and justice of God realized in our world?  How would you explain how God is both merciful and just to a child?  How have you come to accept God's justice in your life?