Monday, September 5, 2011


We have been focused on Sunday mornings on Inductive Bible Study. We have been talking about ways to read and understand our Bibles. The three steps are to make observations, interpret the text, and then apply it to your life. I have also tried on Sunday mornings to get some conversation going on the text we were looking at, but most people did not seem to want to talk back.
It seems this has been happening on my blog as well. My intention for my blog was for some back and forth conversation to take place about my message on Sunday mornings or anything else, but comments have been rare. For that reason this will be my last blog, at least for a while.
My final invitation is for you to look at the connections between the book of Genesis and the beginning of the Bible and the Book of Revelation and the end of the Bible. Both books talk about rivers and trees. They talk about God's presence and his activity.
They also both talk about God's connection to humanity. I think looking at the beginning and the end of the Bible shows that God's communicated purpose to us was that we were made to be in relationship with God. That relationship is not always easy because of who God is, in his holiness, and who we are, in our brokenness. Yet, God works to repair that relationship.
In the end we are told that it will work out. We are told that fear, suffering and death will end, but God's love, grace, and mercy will last forever. I pray that we can keep this hope in front of us as we follow God.
Keep digging into God's Word and keep growing in your connection to Christ.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Now What?

The final step of reading and understanding our Bible is application. After we have made observations and interpretations, we ask the question "now what?" Now that I have read this passage and dug into its meaning, what does it mean in my life? How does this passage connect with me?
You can see that this step is fairly subjective. How you look to apply a passage depends on where you are in your faith journey. This is one of the amazing things about Scripture. It can speak to someone reading the passage for the first time or someone who has read it many times. The only rule is the application must not go against God's nature of love and grace. If you think the passage is telling you to do something that goes against God's nature, then you probably need to study it a little more.
So as we read and understand our Bibles we also need to looking for ways the Scriptures connect in our lives. It could be calling us or challenging us to do something. It might be encouraging us to stop doing something. Maybe the passage just wants to remind us of something we need to remember.
The passage we read yesterday was John 5:1-9 the passage about a paralyzed man waiting to be healed in a pool with healing powers. He can never get into the pool in time to be healed. Then Jesus comes along and asks him if he wants to get well. He kind of says he has been trying, and then Jesus heals him.
Different people mentioned applications in this passage could be to not get too focused on one way to be healed. This man only saw the pool as a place of healing, even when Jesus, The Great Healer, was standing there talking to him. Another application was to never give up hope. The passage said this man had been that way for 38 years, and now he was finally healed. An application that came to my mind compared the pool to the church building. Many times we might feel like we need to get someone there in order to help them be healed or have a relationship with God, but this passage reminded me that we don't have to bring people to the building, we take the presence of God to them wherever they are.
Let me know if you have other applications for this passage.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Read Between the Lines

The second step in reading and understanding your Bible is to interpret the text. The first step was to make observations, noticing the facts and details of what is actually written in the Scripture passage. After you have made those observations you should ask what they mean. What is the purpose or meaning of the text? I see this as reading between the lines. You are looking for the meaning that is not always on the surface.
There are times the purpose of a passage is given. Sometimes when Jesus shares a parable, he will then interpret that parable. There are also times the writers of a book of the Bible says something like, "this was written so that you will never forget." They give you the reason for the passage. However, most of the time it is up to us as readers to dig into the text and find the meaning.
The passage we looked at yesterday was Mark 10:17-31. This was the story of the Rich Young Ruler. We found several places that we wanted to read between the lines. One was where Jesus lists 5 of the Ten Commandments. We wondered why those five and why did Jesus leave off the other five? There is no apparent reason given, so we were thinking of reasons Jesus might have done this. Like maybe Jesus was pointing out that the man was having trouble keeping the five he did not list. We do not know for sure, but that sounded like a reasonable idea.
Another place we were asking for meaning was in Jesus' response that this man needed to sell everything he had, give it to the poor and follow Jesus. We wondered if everyone needs to do this? Is this a universal truth, or specific to this man? We decided it was a little bit of both. This man's wealth was holding him back from following Jesus, and we all have something doing this in our lives. It may not be wealth for all of us (it may be for some), but Jesus would be able to tell each of us what it is that we need to give away.
Finally we looked at Jesus' saying, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven." We wondered if Jesus really meant this or if we need to interpret it? I said that Jesus meant this in the sense that really it is impossible for any person to enter heaven on their own merit. Getting into heaven is not about what we can do, but about what God has done. God makes it possible for us to enter heaven. We just need to accept the invitation.
There are more questions we could ask as we interpret this passage, but those were some places we focused. If you have other questions or interpretations of this passage please comment on this blog. Keep on reading your Bible and keep making observations and interpretations.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Camp Experiences

Yesterday in our worship services we heard from many kids about their experience at Summer Games this past summer. We had around 50 kids go to either Summer Games University for junior and senior high students or the first ever Summer Games Junior for elementary school students. They were excited about many parts of camp like horseback riding, creek stomping, and the food. Many also mentioned the presence of God in worship and prayer. Overall it sounded like our kids had a great time.
I would love to hear any other stories people might have. I have had more than one grandma tell me about the experience of their grandchildren. It is wonderful when even the faces of parents and grandparents light up when talking about their child's experience. So if you have a story to share about a camping experience please comment on this post.
I have great memories of camp. I have been going since I was 14 years old to Christian camps. I missed going as a camper because I started going as a counselor. Now I go as a pastor. Soon I will get the parent experience as Jamison will be old enough for Summer Games Junior next summer.
I too have great memories of food, activities and the presence of God. I keep in contact with many of my camp friends still today. God just seems to do something special when we get out of our routine. When we leave our TVs and computers behind God can really get our attention.
Maybe that is a reminder to find more ways to get away then just camp. Even going for a walk or sitting in a park might give us a little glimpse of that camp-like experience. I pray we all can find ways to be open to God's presence and keep going to camp.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What Just Happened?

We will spend a few weeks looking at how to study our Bibles. I often tell people how important it is to read your Bible, but then do not spend the time to teach how to read your Bible. The Bible is an ancient text translated into English that takes some effort to understand.
The first step to understanding a Bible passage is to make observations. Look at what exactly the text says. Answer the basic questions of who, what, where, and when. Notice what is specifically mentioned in the text and also take note of what is not in there. Sometimes when we read a familiar passage we put in details that are not actually in the passage.
We tried this yesterday in our worship service. We looked at Genesis 3:1-13 the passage about the fall of man. I invite anyone to share observations about this passage and especially details that might lead to some discussion.
I mentioned that the passage says a serpent came to talk to Eve. We often say the serpent was Satan, but that is not mentioned in the passage, so that is an interpretive step taken.
A couple of people noticed that the serpent talked to Eve, not Adam. We wondered if that was intentional or if she just happen to be the one who found the serpent first.
We mentioned that the fruit that was eaten was not said to be an apple. An apple is often a symbol of temptation because of this passage, but this passage just mentions fruit.
We also saw a lot of blaming going on when God showed up in the garden. Adam blamed both God and Eve for eating the fruit. He said he was given the fruit by the woman God had made. Eve then blames the serpent for deceiving her.
What other observations do you have of this passage? What questions do these observations bring to your mind? The conversation with the text begins with observations. In the next few weeks we will look at the next steps to better understanding God's Word.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What's the Verdict

In our final look at the views young people outside of Christianity we will focus on the view that Christians are judgmental. 87% of young people outside Christianity think that Christians are judgmental. At the same time, 53% of young people inside Christianity agree. As Christians our actions and words come across as judgmental to many and it is something we need to address.
In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus addresses being judgmental. There he says we will be judged by the same standards we judge others. Jesus also warns against pointing out the speck in someone's eye while we have a plank in our own eye.
Here Jesus really wants us to look at ourselves when it comes to judging others. He wants us to turn it around and look in our own eye instead of checking on other people. We are usually quick to judge others and point out their imperfections, but often slow to do this in ourselves. We seem to offer ourselves much more grace than we will offer to others. We are quick to judge people's actions and thoughts. C.S. Lewis has a great quote reminding us of the person we overlook imperfections in the most.
“There is someone I love, even though I don’t approve of what he does. There is someone I accept, though some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There is someone I forgive, though he hurts the people I love the most. That person is me.”
We tend to give ourselves more grace than we are willing to offer to others. If we can grow in offering the grace we give ourselves to others, we would probably be viewed less as judgmental and more as caring and loving people.
One thing I want us to consider here is how this judgmental view of Christianity connects with our churches. We are called to be the body of Christ as a collective group of people. Many Christians will tell you that their church or group is not judgmental and is loving and welcoming, but if 87% of young outsides feel we are judgmental that has to have some connection to how our churches are viewed. How can we make our church more loving?
I think we can address this issue of being seen as judgmental by getting to know people different than us. Many times we tend to judge those who are different than us. We tend to gather around those who are similar. As Christians we need to be connecting and building relationships with those different than us. This is not to be done as a checklist, but as an intentional pursuit of getting to know varying points of view. When we get to know these people with different points of view we can hopefully see the real people behind the faces we often judge.
Currently the verdict is that Christians are judgmental. Christians need to learn to follow Jesus' instruction to look at ourselves first. I also hope we will be willing to learn more about others and get to know the person instead of jumping to judgment. Then maybe we can turn around this view. What do you think?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Talk About It

I am back to blogging after a few weeks off. It has been a great but busy few weeks.
We have been focused on the views young people outside the Christian faith have of us as Christians. This week the focus is on the view that 91% of young people have and that is that Christians are antihomosexual. These young people think that Christians are against homosexuals. They have heard Christians say things like "God hates gays" or 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina are judgments by God on homosexuals. Then they think that all Christians agree with that.
I want to know how Christians that disagree with these kinds of statements should respond. How do we respond to the issue of homosexuality the way Christ would? I do not believe God hates people. I believe God loves all people, and as Christians we are called to communicate that message.
One of the troubling statistics in the book unChristian by David Kinnaman is that only 1% of Christians respond to homosexuality with prayer. I believe prayer is the first place we should go and so I want to encourage more of us to be praying as a response to homosexuality. We need to be praying for God's guidance on this issue and any other issue with this kind of complexity. We need to be talking with God about the direction we take to respond. Through times of prayer God will help us to see the situation with his heart and mind.
We also need to be praying for those personally facing this issue. I need to be praying for my brother, who is gay. I know some of the struggles and difficulties he has faced and I know he needs prayers for strength and peace. I need to do better at remembering to lift him up in prayer. We also need to lift up family members of homosexuals as they wrestle with the emotions and reactions. We can lift these people up before God and this response can hopefully bring a new spirit into these situations.
I also want to encourage us after having these conversations with God to talk with people about this issue. Let's have open communications about our struggles and difficulties. Let's ask questions to get better understanding instead of making assumptions. If we will truly listen to others we can grow in our ability to respond appropriately.
Above all, we need to respond first out of God's love and grace and not out of condemnation. I think only through love and grace can we communicate God's care for all people. Let's talk about it.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I missed blogging last week because I was on a mission trip to Puerto Rico. I did not have access to the internet down there most of the time except on my phone and I am not sure I would enjoy typing something up from my phone.
Now I am back and we have been focusing on what we can learn from the David Kinnaman book UnChristian. This book shares some of the views that young people (between the ages of 16-29) outside of Christianity have of us as Christians. One view they have is that Christians just want to get converts. They have felt that Christians are just out to get bigger numbers for the membership roles or to get a notch in their belt.
This view has been propelled by evangelists who have very professional presentations. Young people see this as marketing tricks to get people to "buy" their product. This view also becomes real for young people when they are abandoned by Christians once they turn down an offer to attend church or a Bible study. They feel written off and as if the Christian did not really care about them. The main concern of young outsiders is that they want Christians to genuinely care about them and not just try to convert them.
I do not want to just give you more gimmicks or a to-do list on how to share your faith. I just want to encourage you to build relationships with people outside the Christian faith. Not in order to convert them, but because they are a child of God.
While in Puerto Rico I was reminded of this calling to build relationships. We had two projects to be done by our group in my mind. Half of the group was going to work with some kids; do crafts, sing songs, teach a lesson. That group was going to build relationships. My group was there for work projects. We repaired two church roofs, painted, moved a wall, replaced 31 shutter cranks and a few other things
A couple of days in Puerto Rico our hosts wanted to take us site seeing or to visit a ministry and inside I was frustrated. I wanted to get the work done. If we did not have those distractions we could get more work done. My mind was not on building relationships.
However, God kept calming me down until I finally realized that this trip was about building relationships and not work projects. Sure the work was nice, but I need to take my time to get to know these new friends. One night I had a chance to sit and chat with one of these new friends and I learned so much from that talk. God reminded me to slow down and take the time to ask questions and hear someone's story.
My prayer for you and for me is that this lesson will not just be for mission trips, but everyday. That every day I will take the time to slow down and get to know someone instead of just working on projects. People are not projects, they are loved children of God. They are our brothers and sisters and God wants us to get to know them and care about them. God also wants us to share our faith with them as we build that relationship. This is not to just convert them, but it is to let them know about something that has changed our lives and it could change theirs if they want.
So let's keep building what is important, relationships.

Monday, June 13, 2011

An Accurate Stereotype

85% of young people outside of Christianity view Christians as hypocrites. I call this an accurate stereotype. I found this description in a list of oxymorons. Stereotypes are by definition not entirely true, but if it is accurate, then it is true. And this describes Christian hypocrites well. A hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does another. And it is true that Christians do this, but I think it is also true that most everyone does this.
These same young outsiders that say Christians are hypocrites also agreed that everyone else is hypocritical from time to time, so it is not that big of a deal that Christians are. It does not bother them that much because Christians are just like everyone else when it comes to saying one thing and doing another.
Their problem comes when Christians do not admit their hypocrisy. It bothers them when Christians try to act as if their actions always match their words. So I want to encourage Christians to get better at acknowledging that we miss the mark. As Christians we need to be open and honest that we make mistakes even as we try to live for God.
Not being able to live perfectly the life God has called us to is nothing new. The Apostle Paul even wrestled with this. In Romans 7:15 he says, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Paul admits here his hypocrisy of not doing what he knows God wants him to do, and then doing what he knows God does not want him to do.
I think we all wrestle with that, I know I do. It is evidence of the struggle between good and evil in all of us. It is the tension created between our natural being and the supernatural working in us. It shows that the Spirit of God is at work in us, but not yet finished.
I hope as Christians we can address this accurate stereotype by acknowledging that we do not always act perfectly. I also hope that we will not settle for just acknowledging it, but press on to match our actions with the will of God. I hope we can continue to struggle and that God's better calling will be done more often.

Monday, June 6, 2011

To Reach the Next Generation

The congregation I serve is beginning a focus on how we can reach the next generation with the message of Jesus. We will be using David Kinnaman's book UnChristian: What the Next Generation Thinks About Christianity...and Why It Matters. So over the next two months we will learn what we can from this book.
For today though I want to praise God for the man that reached me with the message of Jesus. Thursday I will go to the celebration of life service for Stan Wierson. Stan was the pastor that looked at a 14 year old scrawny awkward kid and saw something more. Even though I was not a Christian at the time (I was a church attender because Mom made me go). The summer of 1992 Stan hired me to be on the staff of Summer Games.
I was a counselor and supposed to be sharing Jesus with the kids coming to camp, but first I had to get to know him myself. I did meet Jesus my first week at camp and that began my new life in Christ and the new direction of my life. Two years later I felt a call to full-time ministry, again with Stan highly involved in encouraging me in that direction.
Stan was a man with great vision as he started Summer Games. He also had great vision in seeing the gifts and talents in people. I am one of over 200 people Stan helped hear the call to ministry. Stan also was a man of courage and trust. He would allow high school and college students to take real leadership in ministry where many are hesitant. He trusted these students to do their best with God's help, and gave us confidence in working with God's guidance.
I hope that I can grow in reaching and touching the next generation as Stan did. And I hope as a church we can support and encourage the next generations as God reaches out to them with his love and grace.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Life of a Hero

I found a definition of a hero that says a hero is someone who has given his or her life for something bigger than oneself. On Memorial Day we do celebrate the many heroes who have served our country through our armed services. The men and women who have died in wars protecting our freedoms and rights are heroes we need to remember and honor.
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 Paul reminds us of Jesus' call to remember the meaning of his death in communion. In communion we remember that Jesus lived a heroic life as well. He gave his body and blood for something bigger than himself. He gave his life for us, so that our sins could be forgiven.
Finally, I want us to remember that as Christians, we too are called to live the life of a hero. We are called to give our lives to something bigger than ourselves. Jesus has freed us from sin in order to have a relationship with God that allows us to live for something bigger. Living for ourselves is not what we are called to do, and yet too often that is how we live.
God wants us to allow Jesus to live in us and lead us to live for the bigger things in life. We had a couple of members this week head down to Kansas for a few days of helping a community recover from a tornado. That is giving your life for something bigger, that is living the life of a hero.
I hope you know what bigger thing you are living for, but if not just ask God to show you where to give your life. You could give your life to the poor. You could give your life to the elderly. You could give your life to the outcast. God's love and grace is so large that it may call us to many different things, but all will fall under building his kingdom.
Go and live the life of a hero, live for something bigger than yourself.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Saying Thank You

In the passage from Luke 17:11-19 we hear the story of ten people healed by Jesus and only one of them returned to thank Jesus. I don't want to blame the other 9 too much because Jesus told them to go to the priests and that is what they were doing. Yet Jesus still had wanted more of them to come back and say thank you.
Saying thank you is a simple thing, but we often overlook it. I know I am guilty of not saying thank you. When I get presents from my family or even friends on my birthday I do not send thank you notes. I guess I think I deserve the presents because it is my birthday, and I will thank them by giving them a present on their birthday.
The first time Helen got presents from my family on her birthday she asked for their addresses. And I questioned why she need them. She said to send thank you notes. I told her that my family did not need or expect thank you's for their gifts, but she asked for the addresses and sent them anyway.
I also believe that God does not need or expect our thanks, but I know God loves it when we do give him thanks and praise. Normally we may only thank God one out of ten times, but we can grow and improve on that. We can all grow in watching for how God is blessing us and then say thank you.
Thank God in prayer. Say to him how much it means to you for God to be working in your life. Praise him and thank him for all the little and big ways God is working.
Also, thank God publicly. Tell other people how God has blessed you. This invites the other person to join in your thanks, but it also might encourage them to give thanks as well.
We can grow in saying thank you to others, but also to God. Thank you for reading.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What are you doing next?

Yesterday we congratulated our Class of 2011. We have seven graduating seniors this year in our congregation. We asked each of them to introduce themselves and share what their plans are for next year. All seven of our graduates are going on to college (4 of them to Iowa!).
This got me thinking about our faith journey. As we grow in faith there are times of graduation where we move on to the next phase of our faith. When I first was a Christian I was a follower. I was learning everything I could from other people and studying the Bible myself. Then I started working alongside the people I had been following. Eventually I took the lead, first with youth and later with adults. (I never have graduated from following because I am still a follower as I lead.) There were not too many parties or celebrations for my graduations, but nevertheless I can look back see those times of moving on to my next phase of faith.
So when is the last time you graduated? Have you taken the next step in your faith recently or has it been a while? Is it time for a graduation?
Sometimes we settle into our faith and stay where it is comfortable. This is okay for a time, but God calls us forward. We need to step up to the challenge before us. It can be difficult. It can be scary facing the unknown, but it is where God calls us.
So what are you doing next? Is it time to get into a small group? Is it time to lead a small group? Is it time to find a place to serve? Whatever your next phase of faith is, go knowing God goes with you.
Congratulations to the Class of 2011, both high school and college. God has great things planned for you.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother - God

I was struck yesterday during our prayer time at our early service on Mother's Day. The prayer lifted up how we pray "Our Father," but also how like our mother God is. I even preached that God's heart is very much like the heart of a mother. The ideal mother loves her children unconditionally and this is part of who God is. Wesleyan's usually focus on God's love and grace. We believe those are the foundation of who God is. We might also say those are the foundation for the ideal mother as well.
I believe men and fathers also give love and grace, but that is often not thought of as their primary qualities. And what struck me yesterday after going on about how much like our mother God is, we then went into praying "Our Father."
It is interesting how we can get so stuck on words. For some changing the Lord's Prayer by saying, "Our Mother" would be blasphemy. I admit, even to me, it feels strange to do that, but I do not think God would be offended. Using father or mother to describe God only points to a part of who God is. God is indescribable and uncontainable in words and maybe we need to get used to being free to express how God has reached out to us.
The other piece of this is that our faith seems to more often connect with women. For some reason men often are hesitant to share about their faith and be open to what God is doing. I am still wrestling with why this is, although I think part of it is that men are generally less connected to mushy, loving God ideas that we often communicate as the church. Maybe we need to give some attention to God deserving our respect and his power. That may be more of what men are looking for.
Well, a couple of pretty early thoughts from me this morning. Let me know your thoughts. I still need dig a little deeper into these and pray through them little more. Let us pray, "Our Mother..."

Monday, May 2, 2011


Yesterday we confirmed 11 youth, with 3 more to come that were not able to be there. Confirmation is a confirming of baptism vows made by these 7th and 8th graders or made on their behalf by their parents. Most of this group had been baptized as babies, but several were baptized later by their choice. Before they were confirmed officially they were preparatory members of our church and now they are full members.
I shared yesterday about a lesson I hope they will never forget from all of the lessons they learned in confirmation. The one I pointed out was to never run with your eyes closed. One of the students after a "faith walk" activity where they were blindfolded, enjoyed it so much that he ran out of the woods with his eyes closed. He ran straight into a board and broke his nose.
There are also spiritual connections to running with your eyes closed. I think many people in the world are running with their spiritual eyes closed, which leads to brokenness. Many people run through life making poor decisions, hurting other people, and thinking there are no consequences. They are running blind to the truth of God. So we need to run with our eyes open and help others open their eyes to the true way to run through life by living God's love and grace.
Another important lesson I would want to share with these young people is to make great Christian friends. My favorite memories and the best times of my life have happened with my Christian friends. We had great fun together with late nights, deep discussions, and making a difference in the world. This does not mean not to have friends that are not Christians because non-Christians need God's love too, but we need good friends who will help us stay on the path of God.
Does anyone else have a word of advice or a lesson you have learned that might help these young people grow in their faith? If you want to comment I can pass it on to the group. What has been an important lesson you have learned and maybe you wish you had learned it earlier. So share your thoughts and also say a prayer for these newly confirmed students.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter - He Is Risen

Since Easter is a special celebration I have to share a story about how special Easter was for me this year. About 6 weeks ago my 97 year old grandma died. She lived on her own until she was 93, I think. Then the last four years her health has been up and down.
She was an amazing woman. She was adopted and raised by her grandmother, and even turned down scholarships to college to get a job and help support her family. She was hard working, dedicated to family and basically just a sweet little old lady.
She has seen a lot of change in her lifetime. One change she had to make was learning to drive at the age of 74. That is when my grandpa died of colon cancer, and he had always been the driver.
About a week before Grandma died I went to visit her in the nursing home. We were focusing on prayer in our church and I had decided I was going to ask Grandma about her prayer life. We did not often talk a lot about personal faith in our family, at least with Grandma it was a very private thing. I wanted to know what Grandma thought was important about prayer, so I was going to ask.
However, when I got to Grandma's room she was napping and I woke her up to at least say hello. She then had a hard time staying awake as I shared about what my family was up to. I knew Grandma would not be able to share about prayer with me, but I asked if I could pray with her. (This too was not a very common thing since it makes me feel like "pastor" and I don't want to be Grandma's pastor, just her grandson.)
I prayed for God to hold her in his arms. I prayed for God to give her rest. And I thanked God for the blessing she was to me and my family. And when I finished praying, Grandma looked at me and said, "I accept that." I am not positive what Grandma meant by that, but it spoke to me that Grandma knew God would soon be holding her in his arms and she was at peace with that.
This was the last time I saw Grandma alive, she died on that Tuesday morning before I could get to the hospital. But I am fine ending our time together on this earth in prayer.
So this Easter is special to me because I do celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but I also celebrate that Grandma is now participating in the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus proves that God's love for us is strong, even stronger than death. If you are unsure if you will be with God when you die, all you have to do is accept it. Just accept God's love and then learn to love God back.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Humble Ride

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. The day we celebrate Jesus entering Jerusalem for his final celebration of Passover. (Our children did a wonderful job sharing this story in their musical. Check it out at
This story is interesting because Jesus chose to ride on a donkey. He could have chosen another animal, like a big white horse, but he chose a donkey. The scriptures say it was a colt, which is a young donkey. Luke also points out that the donkey has not been ridden. In a sense, this was a pure donkey. At least according to the sacrificial system of the Jewish people they would have asked for a pure animal for a sacrifice. One that had never been ridden. Jesus chose a simple, pure donkey, instead of magnificent and powerful horse.
So this is how Jesus chose to enter Jerusalem. And this humble ride made me think about helping to teach Jamison to ride his bike. Kind of a special moment for father and son.
We were in the high school parking lot to have some big open space. And at first I was holding onto the back of the bike seat and Jamison kept looking back to make sure I was holding on. Instead of keeping his head up, looking where he was going and focusing on pedaling, he kept turning around looking at my hand. After a while I figured out what he was doing, so instead of holding the bike seat I moved my hand up onto his back. With my hand there I could help him keep his balance, but he also began to focus on learning to ride his bike because he could feel my hand on him.
This Holy Week as we prepare for the celebration of Easter I want to remind you that God wants to put his hand on you. Sometimes we get caught looking around worried about where God is and if he is holding on. When we do that we are distracted from what God actually wants to do in us, which part of his work is to create a pure heart in us. Sometimes we also are looking for God to show up in these magnificent powerful ways instead of the humble simple ways God often works.
Instead of being distracted or looking around for God's powerful entrance, just know God’s hand is upon you. Take time to feel his presence. He will help you keep your balance. He will help you move forward in your faith. He will guide you to the cross and then the empty tomb. He will join you in this humble faith ride.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Seek to be Meek

Jesus says in Matthew 5:5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."
This is a powerful, upside-down announcement by Jesus. The people of Israel hearing this for the first time would not have normally thought the meek would inherit the earth. Their world was being concurred by the Romans, who were not very meek. The world today still seems to belong, not to the meek, but to the strong, the assertive, those willing to cut corners. But Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth.
I think his message is a reminder that his ways, the ways of God's kingdom, are what will last. And we see this message in Psalm 37 where this Beatitude seems to be taken in verse 11. The big picture of Psalm 37 is that the ways of the world, which include schemes, swords, and selfishness, will wither away like grass. However, the characteristics of the meek will last for eternity. The meek characteristics found in Psalm 37 are trust in the Lord, generosity, doing good, taking refuge in God, among others. And as we grab onto these characteristics they pull us closer to God.
I want to recommend two ways to grab onto these characteristics. The first one is to be sure you have a group of Christians you connect with. This group is not just for fellowship, but for studying God's Word together, sharing your struggles with, and supporting others in the group. Fellowship is nice, but if that is all the deeper our Christian relationships go then we are missing an important piece of Christian community.
When we openly share with other Christians our struggles, our learning, and our joys we will notice that God does work in meek ways. When we see someone who is meek being blessed by God and having God provide for them, it will become easier to trust God will do the same in your life.
My second recommendation is to get into reading God's Word for yourself. We all need to have some personal reading time to hear God's voice. Hearing someone else talk about God's Word is not bad, but we all need to hear straight from God.
And to help you with reading this week I want to invite you to read with me through Psalm 37 for the next 5 days. Each day I will invite you to look for something different. (And you can post what you find in a comment back to me.)
Day 1 (Today): Read the psalm to get the general idea.
Day 2: Read the psalm and count the number of times the "wicked" are mentioned. I highlighted each time this word appeared in my Bible, which is NIV. How many times did you find it? What does that tell you?
Day 3: Read the psalm and notice the characteristics of those who are considered "wicked." What stood out to you in these characteristics?
Day 4: Now read the psalm and notice the characteristics of the meek, those who are not wicked. Which characteristics surprised you? Which ones encouraged you?
Day 5: Read the psalm and notice how many times "inherit" is used. Who will receive an inheritance from God?
Join me as we seek to be meek.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Poor in Spirit

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3
The poor in spirit are those who consider themselves unworthy of God's love. The poor in spirit are convinced that God's blessings, love, and grace is not meant for them. But Jesus says blessed are those who feel they do not deserve to be blessed.
This is a great message for us to remember that we are called as the Body of Christ to participate in this announcement. We are called to bless those who feel unworthy of blessing.
I believe as we live out this Beatitude we are building treasure in heaven. In Matthew 6 Jesus calls us to not store up treasures on earth, but to store up treasure in heaven. The treasures of this earth will fall apart, get lost or stolen. These earthly treasures are temporary. Jesus says strive for storing up things that will last for eternity.
However, in that chapter he does not tell us how to store up treasures in heaven. So I looked in Matthew 19 and Luke 12 where Jesus does tell us how to store up treasures in heaven. In those chapters Jesus tells us that we build treasures in heaven by giving to the poor. This is not the only way to build treasure, but it is the way Jesus shares with us.
I do believe that as we serve the financially poor, the less fortunate, that our treasure is being built, but I also believe our treasure grows as we serve the poor in spirit. We are doing God's work and building the treasures of heaven as we live out this Beatitude, as we bless those who feel they do not deserve to be blessed. (Not that we only do this for the reward, but it is a nice byproduct.)
This Lent I hope you will join me in blessing the poor in spirit. We do this by expressing God's love and grace to those who feel they do not deserve it. We give the poor in spirit our time and attention. We give them invitations to join us in community. We let them know we do not deserve God's love either, yet he loves us anyway. This is the Gospel of Jesus, and the character of God. God's love and blessing is for all of us.
If you are poor in spirit, know God does want to bless you. God wants to touch all people with his love and grace. If you are not poor in spirit, then it is your task to give to the poor and the poor in spirit, so that they might know the love of God.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9) Jesus elaborates on what it means to be a peacemaker in Matthew 5:43-48. In those passages Jesus says, “you have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
When Jesus says we are to be peacemakers he is calling us to bring people together instead of divide people. And yet the world around us continues to try to divide. You are either for us or against us. You are either with us or with them. We assume everyone has to choose sides. This is not new, Jesus said in 1st century Israel they had been taught to love neighbors, hate enemies, that is choosing sides.
However, Jesus says, don’t choose sides. Love your neighbor and love your enemy. It is not much of a choice when there is only one option. Our only option is to love. It would be nice if it were that easy, but it takes focus and intentionality to really love as Christ calls us to love.
Our youth shared the message in our worship services yesterday and one suggestion they had was to not look at people as a group, but as individuals. When you see a group as Iowa fan or Iowa State fan, Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal, it can be easy to divide and label someone. However, when you get to know an individual you start to look past the labels and get to know this person who is also a Child of God.
When I was moving along the ordination process I was assigned a group to meet with. Several of the people in the group were not people I would have chosen to meet with because their theological perspective was different than mine. As we met regularly, I got to know these people and not their perspective and became good friends. We still do not agree on everything, but we love and respect each other.
Jesus says we are blessed when we are peacemakers. We are blessed when we do not divide, but instead draw people together. Pray for God's help to love all people, including our "enemies." This is the calling of all those who follow Christ.

Monday, March 21, 2011


(Back to blogging after a week off due to my grandma's funeral)
This Lent I am focusing on the big idea of changing our mindset from allowing our past to give us direction into the future, and instead grabbing a hold of our future and allowing that to pull us towards Christ. When we put our faith in Christ he has already made us saints of God by his sacrifice on the cross. So we need to grab a hold of that future and be pulled towards the saint God has made us to be.
We are using Jesus' Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 to learn about how Christ has called us to live out our sainthood. We will be connecting the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-12 to other passages of the Sermon on the Mount to put some flesh on what to grab a hold of in our future.
This week I want to connect Jesus' calling for us to be the "salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13) with Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." I wondered if part of Jesus' calling for us to be salt is for us to make people thirsty because if you eat a lot of salt you do get thirsty. The reason I found that we get thirsty is because our bodies need a certain balance of salt and water in our blood and cells. When we eat a lot of salt that increases the salt level in our blood, which then needs more water to get back into balance or equilibrium.
Since salt makes people thirsty, I wonder if Jesus would tell us to help people hunger and thirst for righteousness. The definition of righteousness I would use is the Hebrew idea of shalom. Shalom means peace. However this peace means more than just the absence of war or violence. This peace is about wholeness. It is about having everything as God would want it to be. It is about balance with everything in its right place. So we are called to thirst for this shalom to fill the earth.
In America, and especially in Williamsburg, it can be easy to look around and feel that we are not too far from shalom. Yet we need to become more aware of what is going on around us in the world. I went looking at some ministries that are thirsting for righteousness and found some realities that make me thirsty, and I thought they might make you thirsty also.
Looking at pictures and hearing information about the recent tsunami in Japan makes me thirsty. The lives of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, are out of shalom. Estimates are the over 18,000 people have died and the destruction is horrific. How does our thirst call us to respond? (
Another ministry is called Living Water International. They are thirsty to get clean drinking water to those who do not have access to it. They say there are 2.5 billion people who do not have clean drinking water. This is the leading cause of death in under resourced countries where 1.8 million people die each year from water born illnesses. This includes 3,900 children each day. (
I also was thirsty for righteousness when I heard that there are more slaves today then ever before. There are 12.3 million people caught in human trafficking. These people are forced into slave labor and prostitution, while those who sell them make $32 billion a year. International Justice Mission is thirsty to rescue people and prosecute the offenders. (
Of course there are many other places and lives that do not know God's shalom. I believe Jesus calls us as the salt of the earth to inform people and help them get thirsty to make a difference. As we thirst together, we can offer God's shalom to others. We can do it halfway around the world, but also in our own neighborhoods if we will just thirst for righteousness and keep our eyes and hearts open to see those who have lost shalom.
This Lent I encourage you to grab onto hungering and thirsting for righteousness as a way to be drawn towards the saint Christ has called you to be.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Answered Prayers

You may or may not know that Christianity in America seems to be declining or at least struggling. There are fewer and fewer people who attend worship in Christian churches. However, I believe there is still a spiritual hunger among people inside and outside the church. With that spiritual hunger comes many prayers lifted up to God. Some may recognize their requests to God as prayer, while others may just recognize it as hope or a desire for something more.
As people lift up those prayers we have an opportunity to reach out with the love of God. We can be the answer to those prayers. God can respond to prayers in miraculous ways, but most often God responds to prayer through ordinary people like you and me. God uses us when we respond to prayers with action.
When someone is lonely, we can be a friend. When someone is depressed, we can be an encourager. When someone is in need, we can be generous. We can respond to many of the prayers out there if we will respond to the prayers of people.
Remembering that I can be an answer to prayer for other people helps me to watch for what God is doing each and every day. There are so many people that need an answered prayer, and you never know how that answer may make all the difference in the world to that person. So I encourage you as we move from a Season of Prayer to a Season of Action to hold in your heart the prayers we have been lifting up, but also look for ways to act and respond to those prayers. God will use us to answer the prayers of those around us if we hear his voice and take action.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Answering Machine

There are some Scripture passages that kind of make God sound like an answering machine. Now I don't mean like your phone answering machine, but more like a vending machine for answers to prayer. Luke 11:9-13 is one of those passages. Jesus says there, "Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you." On the surface this seems to say that I just ask God for whatever I want, push the right buttons, and I will get what I want in my prayers.
However, in reality most, if not all, of us have prayed for something we did not get. So how do we wrestle with the difference between Jesus' teaching and what we experience? Why is it that some prayers are answered and others are not?
One scholarly response is that this teaching from Jesus was prophetic hyperbole. This means that in order to teach a message about God Jesus exaggerates his point. He did not literally mean everything you ask for you will get, but he was encouraging us to always ask. He was reminding us of the power of prayer.
A more practical response takes me to Luke 22:42 where Jesus prays, "Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me." Jesus is praying that God would not have him go to the cross and die. Of course, Jesus did go to the cross and die. So even Jesus knows what it is like to not have his prayer answered the way he wanted.
This tells me that getting the answer we want in prayer is not about how much God loves us. We may feel less loved by not getting the answer we want, but God still loves us the same just as he loved Jesus the same. It also does not mean we do not have enough faith. Jesus had plenty of faith.
I believe the "answer" to unanswered prayers is to keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. We need to continue to pray in the good times and the bad and God will be with us no matter what the answer is.
Let me know if you have other thoughts on this question or even more questions on this question.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reflection of Prayer

In Matthew 6:9-13 we have a major portion of what we call the Lord's Prayer. It is called the Lord's Prayer because the Lord Jesus gave us these words when asked how we should pray. As a Christian I take seriously the words and instructions Jesus gives, so I took some time to reflect on this prayer.
In my reflection time an image of a mirror came to my mind. I think this image can help us grow in our prayer time. The mirror came to my mind as I thought the words of the Lord's Prayer seem to be a prayer for earth to be a reflection of heaven. It is a prayer for God's kingdom to be on earth as it is in heaven. I believe this begins to happen through prayer.
When we pray we need to use prayer like a mirror in a couple of ways. First, most of us will look in a mirror to notice imperfections. We will check a mirror to make sure our hair is the way we want it or to make sure there is not something stuck in our teeth. When I have quality prayer time I often begin to notice my imperfections. I notice the areas of my life that God would like to adjust if I am going to be a resident of God's kingdom on earth. For instance, when I pray for someone else who I think has a hard heart, I hear God ask if I have looked in the mirror? Then I start to pray about my hard heart.
A second use of mirrors is like your rear view mirror in your car. We use mirrors to see other people that are out of our line of sight. We need to find those people that are normally out of our line of sight and pray for them. A major group we often forget to pray for are those who do not have a relationship with God or those who do not have a church they call their home. These folks need to be regularly lifted up in our prayer times. When you pray check your mirrors for those you do not always see at first and allow God to show you other people to pray for.
As God's kingdom is reflected on earth more and more people will be coming into a relationship with God. God loves all people and wants everyone to know about his love, so as we pray for others to know God, we are praying your kingdom come.
So your assignment for this week (I had someone who regularly reads this blog tell me last week that they need assignments to know they did something about the message, so I thought I would give one here) is to be sure you are checking your mirrors in your regular prayer time. I would encourage you each time you pray to spend some time reflecting on what God might want you to learn. Pray about how God might want to work in you, so that you can represent his kingdom here on earth. Then also schedule a time regularly to lift up other people you may overlook. For instance, every Monday pray for those who do not know God. Then pray every Thursday for those who are looking for a church home. Spread out those prayers so it does not get too routine. You may want to pray about other general requests about earth reflecting heaven and space those out during your week as well.
Jesus teaches us to pray for God's kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. We can pray for this to happen in our ourselves and in others.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Personal Prayer

I had the Sunday off from preaching yesterday as Helen gave the message. She reminded us that there are many different ways to pray. Prayer is personal and I do not need to pray like someone else. My prayers may look different or sound different, but they are just as effective when I lift them up to the Lord.
Although our prayers are different we still can learn from the ways prayer has worked for others. Helen said she often offers "thought prayers." These are short prayers said in her mind inviting God's presence into her thoughts.
However, she has also in the past used prayer journals and books of prayers. The book she mentioned from her childhood was "Dear Father in Heaven" by Schlesselman and Ahrens. She also mentioned "Praying With Paul" by Eugene Peterson. I might also recommend "Unless We Pray" by Maxine Dunnam to help you grow in prayer.
Growing in prayer can be frustrating, especially when we compare ourselves to others. When I first became a Christian and wanted to pray, of course I looked for someone who was a good prayer. I became intimidated by the length, depth and fancy words used by this person. I prayed with them a few times, but then found reasons not to. Eventually through personal prayer time and praying with others I found my voice in prayer.
So do not let prayer overwhelm you, just take your time finding your voice. God is listening.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Season of Prayer

Our congregation is entering a Season of Prayer with all of the churches of the Iowa Annual Conference. This season is going to be held during the month of February. In this season we are going to pray, obviously, but also focus on growing in prayer.
My first encouragement is for you to find a way to grow your prayer life. Surveys show that 9 out of 10 people pray. And most of us would say that prayer is important, but when you get to more specifics on prayer the answers reveal a difference between our ideals of prayer and our reality of prayer.
Many of those 9 of 10 that pray say they spend 5 maybe 7 minutes in prayer a day. When asked if they sense God’s presence in prayer, they say occasionally, but not often. Then if asked if they are satisfied with their prayer life they say not really. (Information from Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Phillip Yancey)
We say prayer is important and then probably the most common result of prayer in our lives is a feeling of guilt for our failures in prayer.
I don't think guilt is going to help us grow our prayer lives. I want to encourage you to find another way to grow your prayer life. We did a quick survey in worship yesterday asking people if they would be inspired to pray by contemplating the majesty and vastness of God, who wants to connect with us in prayer. Or would people think they would grow in prayer by simply praying more. As they pray it will become a habit and God would touch them in that time. The results were split almost 50/50, maybe it leaned a little towards the side of just praying.
So I have two assignments to help both sides of this question. For the contemplators, I want you to read the book of Ephesians. It is only 6 chapters long, but it often reminds us of the greatness of God. When I read those chapters and I take a moment to reflect on the fact that the creator of the universe wants to connect with me. That is a humbling thought and one that draws me into prayer. I believe it can do the same for you.
For the practitioners, find a way to be reminded to pray. I passed out green dot stickers yesterday and have more available. These 1/4" stickers can be placed somewhere so that whenever you see it you know it is time to pray. I put one on the face of my watch, so when I look for the time, I know it is time to pray. I actually only wear a watch on Sunday mornings, so I also put a sticker on my cell phone where I regularly look for the time, so I will be reminded then as well. You do not have to use stickers, but find a way to remember it is always time to pray. Then, pray any time that comes to your mind. You do not need to drop to your knees and speak in King James English, but just quiet thy heart and open thy mind to lift up a prayer. As you lift up prayers regularly God will speak to you and draw you into prayer.
Maybe you need another way to grow in your prayer life, just find what works for you. Do not do it out of frustration or guilt because prayer is not easy. Just know God wants to connect with you and a great way for that to happen is through prayer. So in my prayers this season I will be lifting up your prayer life. I will pray it will grow and blossom as we recognize how great our God is and when we know it is always time to pray.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Let's Go

This is my final blog in the Awakening series. I have been sharing about ways to wake up to all that God is doing around us. Too often we sleepwalk through our faith and just go through the motions. God wants us to wake up and be fully aware of what he is doing.
I was looking at the call of Levi from Luke 5:27-32 and I thought this was a wake up call. Levi is sitting at his tax collector's booth. All of a sudden Jesus shows up and says, "Follow me." We are not told how long Levi took to answer. But in that time, whether it was seconds or minutes, I see Levi's life flash in his mind. After reflecting on his past and catching up to the present, Levi decides what he has been doing was not what he wanted to keep doing. I wonder if he had been searching for God's call, but had not heard it until Jesus came. The passage says that Levi left everything and followed Jesus.
Maybe God is calling you to leave everything as well. Or maybe God is calling you to make some changes to be more aware of what God is calling you to do. I hope you have heard this call and I hope maybe this past month God has awakened you to a new or more meaningful call than before. I know I have felt a deeper sense of my need to listen more carefully to God's voice each day. If you have heard a call I would love to hear it either in person or in response to this blog.
Now that we know God wants us to be awake to all he is doing, let's go. Let's follow him as he leads us to love the people around us. Let's follow him as we serve those in need. And let's follow him as we transform this world through the grace of Christ. Let's go!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Ready

When I get up in the morning it takes me a while to really wake up. I have to go through my routine of getting ready. Not until after my shower, brushing my teeth and getting on fresh clothes, that I am fully ready for the day.
As we are awakening to God's call in our lives one thing that can help you get ready to hear God's call is to know yourself. Not just on the surface because we all should know ourselves, but really get to know who you are and how you operate.
I think David shows us this in the passage about David and Goliath. This passage is 1 Samuel 17. You probably know the overall story. David is a shepherd boy and Goliath is a giant warrior that stands over 9 feet tall. Goliath has been challenging the warriors of Israel to a battle, but none will take the challenge. David finally says he will face Goliath.
In verses 32-40 we see the conversation David has with King Saul about accepting the challenge. First, Saul tries to talk him out of it, but then he gives David his armor. David tries it on, but it does not fit him. David is not a warrior and not used to wearing armor. Instead of facing Goliath as a warrior, he takes his shepherd's staff, 5 stones and his sling. He faces Goliath as a shepherd. And it is as a shepherd that he wins the battle.
It is a good thing that David knew he was not a warrior. If he had tried to battle Goliath with armor and a sword, he probably would have lost. But because he knew he was a good shepherd and faced the battle that way, he was victorious.
As we listen for God's calling we need to know who God has created us to be. We need to be confident in how God designed us. When we know ourselves we can know better how to work in our strengths, and we will know how to handle our weaknesses. So I encourage you to use tools that can help you get to know yourself.
In a small group on Wednesday nights we were looking at our time styles. This little test showed if you see time as scheduled or unscheduled and if you focus on the future or the present. I found out that I am unscheduled and live in the present. Then I read about the Accommodater style of person. It helped me realize why I do things the way I do.
Little surveys and tests like those can really help us know how God created us. I have also taken the Myers-Briggs test and several Spiritual Gifts Inventories that have been helpful.
I want to encourage you to keep getting to know how God put you together. When you know who God made you to be you can be confident in yourself. Then you can be confident in the plans God lays before you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Who Ya Gonna Call?

As we continue to think about Awakening to all God is doing around us I want to continue to look at Samuel's call story found in 1 Samuel 3. There seems to be three people actively working in this chapter. Of course, Samuel and God are present as God is calling out to Samuel. But if we think this passage is only about those two we are missing an important person, Eli.
Eli was the priest of the temple and Samuel's mentor. He should have been the one God was talking to, but instead God called out to Samuel. However, Samuel did not know it was God calling him. Eli then helped Samuel hear his call by instructing him to say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." If Eli had not given Samuel guidance he may not have ever responded to God's call.
So I want you to think about the people who have played Eli's role in your life. Who has helped you to hear God's voice? Who has given you spiritual guidance?
Then I also want you to think about who God has placed around you for you to guide.
The United Methodist Church of America is facing a tough time getting young people to hear a call to full time pastoral ministry. Here in Iowa I believe we have 20 pastors under the age of 35. In Iowa we have over 800 churches to be served, so you can see that we quickly will not have enough pastors if we do not get more young pastors.
Helen and I went to a conference that was geared to speak to this issue. One survey they mentioned looked at the instruments God uses to help people hear their call. Common responses were parents and pastors. However, there was a trend that they noticed as they looked at the year of a person's call. They noticed that decades ago a major influence was lay people, but that lay people were not mentioned as much by people hearing a call more recently. What they took from this survey is that fewer lay people are helping youth hear God's call to ministry.
This stuck me with two thoughts. First, we do need more lay people involved in encouraging young people with gifts and graces for ministry.
Second, it told me that the voice of lay people is important to those around them. People will listen when lay people speak about spiritual things. As a lay person, your voice needs to be heard. You need to be guiding and encouraging others around you.
So again, who can you help hear God's call? You can be an "Eli" to someone around you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hear God's Voice

As we focus on awakening to all God has for us, a good place to start is hearing God's voice. I believe God wants to speak to each of us. God has a calling in all of our lives. God has a plan and a purpose for you. However, we often miss that calling because we are not awake to the fact that God is calling us or we may not recognize God's voice when he calls.
The passage of 1 Samuel 3:1-11 tells the story of Samuel being called by God. It is the middle of the night, so Samuel is sleeping when he hears a voice calling his name. Three times he thinks it is his mentor the priest, Eli. So Samuel goes to Eli's room, but Eli says he did not call him. After this happens a couple more times, Eli realizes that it must be God calling out to Samuel. He encourages Samuel to say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." Samuel does this and God shares with Samuel his calling.
As God calls out to us we need to be able to recognize his voice. I believe a way to know God's voice is by reading his Word, that is the Bible. As we read God's Word we recognize how God works. We notice the way he calls and the instruments he uses to wake us up. So as this new year begins I recommend getting into the discipline of reading the Bible.
I have found a wonderful website that is helping me with this discipline. This free Bible website has many versions of the Bible available to read. I am currently reading the Message paraphrase. It also has daily devotions. I personally use a reading plan. You can choose from several options of reading plans which tells you each day what chapters to read. I am reading the Bible in one year through the Historical plan. That means I am reading the Old Testament in a similar order to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament in the order scholars think the books were written.
One of the best features of this website is that it has apps for your mobile devises. So I have the app on my i-pad and it can go with me wherever I go.
Samuel did not recognize God's voice as he was called and we may often miss God calling us. However, if we read God's Word we will learn to hear his voice and recognize his call. As we are awakening to more of what God is doing around us, we need to know his voice.

Monday, January 3, 2011


January is a great time of year for me. I do not like New Year's Resolutions because I am not good at following through on those. However, I do appreciate having a time that I can look back and evaluate how my life is going. I can look back over the past year and celebrate the good times and victories. I can also mourn the tough times and see what I might learn from those experiences.
As I look back there will be experiences I will say, "Let's do that again!" Other experiences will remind me to, "Never do that again." I hope you have taken time to consider what you accomplished in 2010 and what you have learned. I also want you to think about what God did in and through you in 2010.
During January this year I want us to focus on this idea of awakening. I believe that we often end up sleep walking through parts of life. We get into a routine and we go through the motions in order to get by in life. This really is not a great way to live and it is not what God intended for us. God wants us to be fully awake and aware of what is happening in our lives.
Paul calls us to this in Romans 13:11-14. He calls us to wake and not miss what God is doing. God is always working for the good in our lives, but we often sleep walk right by.
In January we will be focusing on how to wake up and join in with what God is doing around us. I also hope we will learn to pass this on to help others wake up as well.
So take time to look back and reflect on 2010, and then throw some water on your face and get ready to wake up to what God's Spirit will do in 2011.