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.