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.