Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Stories: Simeon - Not Just Another Baby

Focus Passage: Luke 2:21-38

Just think if every child baptized in Kentucky had to go to one church in Frankfort to have the baptism performed. Every Sunday, there would be a line of a couple hundred families. You might notice a family extremely well dressed or a family that is extremely tall or short. Most families would not get a second glance. So it would be with Jesus’ family. Every Jewish family was required to bring their child to the Jerusalem temple when the child was 40 days old to present a sacrifice. Jesus’ family was poor and brings the sacrifice of the poor – two doves or pigeons. They are hardly worth a second look. Yet, he was not just another baby. In the midst of the crowds, one man starts a commotion that others around must have wondered what the fuss is. He tells us why this is not just another baby.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Lost Sheep - The Importance of One

Focus Passage: Luke 15:1-7

Three shiny school busses pulled up at the Cincinnati zoo with a load of third and fourth graders. The teacher in charge lectured the children about staying with their chaperone Then off they went across the bridge and into the Zoo. Ted was following the group when he spotted a docent showing off an eagle feather and talon. He heard squawking behind him and went to see the eagles in their cage. After a few minutes, he realized that he wasn’t with the rest of the group. He began to panic. At the same time, Mrs. Kravitz was counting heads and realized Ted was gone. She jumped up and began to retrace her steps finally finding Ted crying in front of the eagle cage. Ted was lost like sheep in the text and like the sinners that were gathered around Jesus. There was a big difference between the Pharisees who were against Jesus and the sinners who just got lost.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Story: Christmas - The Birth of a King

Focus Passages: Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2

They must have thought that God had forgotten them. It had been 2100 years since he was promised to Abraham. Would the Messiah ever come? There are times that we often think that God has forgotten us as well. God, do you care about us? We need your help and you seem so silent. Yet, the child did come and He shows us what is different about our God and our faith. He shows why it is worth holding on until he comes and what he will bring when he gets here. It is worth hearing again because we live in a culture that thinks all religions are alike and all are worthless. He also shows us why we should share him with others so that they can have this blessing in their lives as well.

Mary – A Friend who thinks you’re special Luke 1:30 The story begins with a teenage girl who was the first to know that Jesus was coming. God called her favored for she would be the mother of Jesus. Her life would not be easy. People would think this virgin mother was a hor. She would have to run for her life to Egypt and watch her son die on a cross. Yet, God would be with her and shower his love on her. She would know God’s love in ways that you and I will never experience.

Joseph – A Savior in the battle with sin Matt. 1:21 The next one to know about the child was a man named Joseph. This descendant of David would be used by God to protect the child so that God could give them something that they didn’t realize that they needed, which is a savior. Jesus would save people from their sins. He would sacrifice himself on a cross so that our sins would be paid. He would rise so that we might have a future in heaven.

Manger – A servant who belongs to everyone Luke 2: 7 The angels said that the savior would be for all people. The baby in the manger put those words into action. He was not born in some great palace or even in the temple. Look at the dirty shepherds holding the baby and the unimportant town’s people crowding around his parents. The savior has come for everyone. No one is excluded

Magi – A God who you can approach Matt 2:11 The magi traveled for weeks just to come and touch him. He is a God that you can approach for he became one of us. No other god has ever become one of his people. We have a God who speaks to our needs in scripture and who we can share anything with in prayer. He is approachable.

Other religions are based on lists of things that you have to do to be saved. Those people go it alone in life. Even if their gods were alive, they don’t care about them. Our God is different. He loved us so much that He died for us on a cross. He wants us to succeed in life and so he walks beside us ready to help. He gives us guidance and even works miracles for his people. We are loved by the baby in the manger who we can call friend. The child makes faith personal. We worship a God whose life is contained in the scriptures. We can imagine that we are sitting on the hill and hearing the actual words that he said in the Sermon on the Mount. We can picture walking with the crowds as he healed the sick and raised the dead. It is what sets our faith apart from all the others. Our faith is different and worth holding on to. One look at the baby will tell you how different it is.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Who Was Mary?

Focus Passage: Luke 1 and 2 

Who was Mary? Sadly, Lutherans tend to ignore her as much as Catholics venerate her. We do know from early church legend that her parents’ names were Joachim and Anna. Luke also tells us in Luke 3 that she is a direct descendant of David and thus is from the house of Judah. Yet, what should we do with her? We don’t want to pray to her like the Catholics, but I think we can learn a lot from her about what it means to live as Christians. She was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus and like Abraham, David and Paul; her life can teach us a lot about living for the Lord.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Story: Divided Kingdom - Leading People From The True God

Focus passages: 1 Kings 1-11, 2 Chron. 1-9

 Strong and weak presidents have changed the course of our nation’s history. Washington would be one of the great presidents in almost anyone’s book. Buchanan is often rated as one of the worst presidents. He sat and watched the country fall apart in the years before the civil war. As we look presidents and other leaders, we can see how they are instrumental in the shape of a country or a company. The same is true of the kings of the Jews. Solomon got the people started on the wrong path and his successors made things even worse. Yet the constant in the time of the kings was the Lord. He had made promises that the nation would continue and He worked to keep Israel as a nation. He brought the people through this time so that the Messiah could be born among them and could change the world.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What Are Your Expectations for Christmas?

Focus passage: Luke 1:5-24

If you were asked to list your expectations for the Christmas season, what would they be? Are you hoping for a great present under the tree? Maybe you are looking forward to time with family like I am at Christmas and New Year’s Day. What are your expectations for worship? Do you expect to gain an insight in worship or have a warm feeling from serving someone in Christ? Do you expect to have an encounter with God that changes your faith or are you just hoping to make to January with as little damage as possible. Realize that when you don’t expect anything, nothing is often what you get. The holiday will pass by and be as empty as ever. Sometimes God will still give you a special gift and it will be the shock of your life. That is the story of a man named Zachariah. He had the day of his life and didn’t get to enjoy it because of his low expectations.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Story: Solomon - Throwing God's Blessings Away

Focus: 1Kings 1-11, 2 Chron. 1-9

Solomon’s annual income was 25 tons of gold a year and the riches were all around him. He sat on an ivory throne overlaid with gold, received tribute from kings and merchants and drank from goblets made of gold. He was so rich that silver had almost no value in the days of Solomon. Yet it was all thrown away in a generation. The kingdom would be torn in two. The riches would disappear and the peace would never be seen again. Solomon had it all, but threw it away for lust of women and because he forgot the true God.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Angel's Birth Announcement

Focus Passage - Luke 2:10-12

The date was July 22, 2013 and citizens, reporters and photographers lined the streets for the first glimpse of the royal child. An official announcement of his birth was placed in front of the palace. The world had to be told. What many consider the world’s most successful monarchy had an heir. At Christmas, we are celebrating the birth of a royal Child! A Son has been given to us! Yet, there was no announcement of his birth at the palace in Jerusalem, and even though people had been waiting for centuries for this Child to arrive, no reporters and photographers lined up along the streets of Bethlehem for a glimpse of this royal Son. What did God want us to know about this child? The Lord had prepared a special press release shared by the angels that laid everything out for us. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Story: King David - A Humble Heart

Focus passage: 2 Samuel

Was David really a Godly man? The young David surely followed the Lord. Yet, as we follow him through life we see a man who seems more evil than the king that he replaced. Saul never committed adultery, murdered a man or allowed his children to do the evil that David did. Yet, David was honored by God and Saul was discarded. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense. What David had was not a perfect life, but a humble heart. He sinned, but was open to the Lord’s rebuke. As you follow David, you see the power of being open to the Lord. No one is without sin, but how you react to sin can make all the difference. David repented when he sinned so that the Lord might restore him.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Breakthrough Prayers

Miracles happen when people pray
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. Gen 32:24 (ESV)

He stood exposed before the emperor and the archbishop. His writings were strewn on a table in front of him as evidence of his tyranny. If he renounced them all, he might still live. If not, the state and the church would put a bounty on his head. He asked for an evening to pray. During that night, he wrestled in prayer. He was being asked to deny the truth. He was being asked to put his life over God’s scripture. He knew that it had to be about God and not about Him. He would not lie for the empire or for the church.

The year was 1521 and the man was Martin Luther. In the midst of the crisis of his life, he prayed with all his heart. He came back the next day and looked his accusers in the eye and told them that he would not recant unless they could prove by scripture that the words he wrote were wrong. Thus began the reformation. A crisis had led to impassioned prayer. Wrestling in prayer had led to a breakthrough that rocked the church and changed it forever.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to make good decisions

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

John paced the room like a caged animal looking at the lists he had made and pinned to the walls of his living room. For every good thing on the list, he saw a bad. Everyone told him that this job was the opportunity of a lifetime, but he was scared from head to toe that he was going to make a mistake. He found the promotion hung around his neck like a ball and chain weighing him down. He was losing sleep over it all because he felt his future and the future of his family could hinge on this decision. He wondered how he could make a good decision when his life seems to depend on it.

In such times there is

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Story: David - The Man Who Had God's Heart

Focus: 1 Samuel 16 – 2 Samuel 7

When we consider who to hire as our doctor or mechanic, we often consider their skill and knowledge. We want a doctor who has done this procedure dozens of times and was at the top of their class. We want a mechanic who has worked on this model car with years of experience. They need to get it right. When God looks at a person, he is not impressed with their skill or knowledge. He can give both to any fool. What he cares about is the heart. Is this a person who will be honest and have values? Is this a person who will follow God and believe in God? What stood out with David was his heart. He was a man of character who loved the Lord more than anything else. His early life was dedicated to the Lord.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Overcoming Problems: Planning - It Takes Time

Focus passage: Nehemiah 2:1-10

Our family motto for vacations is “We plan to be spontaneous”. It is our way of saying that we plan out the details of a vacation so that we can be impulsive if we see something that we really want to do or make changes if the weather doesn’t cooperate. We like to have reservations for our campsites and a plan of what we might do at each place we plan to stop at on any vacation. Prayer can be a great time to plan how you are going to tackle a problem or make the most of an opportunity. If you ask questions of the Lord, He will help you see details you might have missed or have everything ready if you get the right break occurs. The planning that Nehemiah prepared him to take a once in a lifetime opportunity. He needed three things if he was going to rebuild the walls.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Story: Samuel and Saul - Be weird!

Focus: 1 Samuel 1-15

A weird lesson from Dave Ramsey - Dave Ramsey has made me weird. I am not in debt and have a budget so that my wife and I manage our money instead of it controlling us. God’s people are weird, too. They aim to be married for life, are willing to make sacrifices for others, and have a set of values that make them the friend you always wanted to have. That makes them weird in an age where people justify bad behavior by saying that “everyone else is doing it”. The story of Samuel and Saul is about a time when everyone wanted to live just like the people around them and God’s battle to make them different. God wanted them to be a moral and godly people who would lead others to a better life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Overcoming Problems: Planning - Active Expectation

Focus passage: Nehemiah 2:1-10

For the want of a burger and fries, Ted missed his plane. 

He was, after all hungry, and so he decided to grab a fast lunch when the woman at the gate said that their flight would be delayed because of a minor mechanical problem. He returned 15 minutes later to see his plane pulling away from the gate. Sometimes, you have to act like you expect a solution any minute. Nehemiah believed that the Lord would rescue the Jewish people. He prayed with confidence and was ready when the opportunity for a solution presented itself.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Overcoming Problems: Compassion - Attitude

Focus passage: Nehemiah 1

With God, attitude is everything. 

I think of the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18. One man came before the Lord boasting about his stature before God, the other man came with head bowed to humbly seek his Lord. I have watched people in trouble shake their fist and pray to the Lord as if He owed them answers. I have seen people come meekly before the Lord knowing that they don’t deserve His help, but that this loving God will come to their aid. Nehemiah is a man who has stood near the glory of God. He comes humbly to God, but also is confident that God’s character and promises will drive the Lord to help His people. He shows the right attitude for overcoming problems.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Story: Ruth - When You Feel Like God Gave Up On You

Focus: Book of Ruth

We have all met people like Tina. 

In her freshman year of college, she was free of her parents and free to make a lot of bad decisions. There were the parties filled with alcohol and there was the wild boyfriend. She was having the time of her life. Then suddenly she was pregnant and the boyfriend dropped her. All the promise of a great life seemed gone. Seeing no place to go but home, she packed her things and hoped they would accept her. Her parents cried, but they embraced her and welcomed her home. Life could be rebuilt with their love. Ruth is the story of a heavenly Father who embraces a lost family and gives them a future. It shows that our loving Father is always ready to help repair and renew lives.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Overcoming Problems: Compassion - Approaching God

Focus passage: Nehemiah 1

One of the most compassionate things that you can do is to pray for others. 

The question for many people is “what do I pray?” I remember talking to a member of my congregation whose best friend was in the hospital. She desperately wanted the Lord’s help for her friend, but she didn’t know where to begin. Nehemiah gives us some direction on compassionate prayer. Overwhelmed by the problems that the people of Judea were facing, he turned to the Lord. He makes the problems of the Jews his own and reaches out to a God who he knows well. His prayer gives us a pattern for turning to the Lord when problems occur.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Overcoming Problems: Compassion - A Caring Heart

Focus passage: Nehemiah 1

The worst sin is not to hate, but to be indifferent to everyone’s pain. 

In small town America, a fire at a neighbor’s home was to topic of discussion for weeks. In the big city, a murder in the next block might not even be noticed.  I do think we find it harder to be compassionate. We touch too many lives to grieve for them all. We hear of so many deaths on the television every night that we become callous. They are people we don’t know and places that we seldom visit. Yet, I know that God calls me to care about the people around me. I need to let my heart be broken by the concerns of others. Nehemiah shows me what compassion is. He shows me a caring heart.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Story: Judges - Downward Spiral

Focus – book of Judges

There are times that we are doomed to repeat failure again and again. You work out, eat better, and lose 25 pounds. Yet, little by little it came back. Now you have to work at it all over again. The same is true with other behaviors like getting up early, stopping smoking, or cutting back on television. It is easy ot commit to something drastic when there is a crisis, but when things start going well, we fall back in the old habits. Doomed to repeat our failures is the theme of the book of Judges. Over this 330 year period, the people fell away from God, were conquered by a neighboring people, and helped by God only to do it all over again. They just couldn’t remain loyal to God.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Prayer Problems: Practice - 4 Relying on God in Prayer

Focus passage: Luke 11:11-13

A child should never have to ask for a roof over their head, for food or clothing or even the chance to go to school. It is what they should know that their parents will give them gladly based on their parent’s character and love for them. The second parable in this text is about God’s character. His children don’t have to beg Him for help. They know that God wants to give His children more than they could ever ask for. They know His love for them and eagerly come to Him for help.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Prayer Problems: Practice - 3 Persistence Pays Off

Focus passage: Luke 11:1-13

When I was a music student, I found some passages had to be practiced over and over. It wasn’t good enough to come close to the music on the page, I needed to get it right. I had to be in sync with the accompanist or those I was singing with. Sometimes, we pray as if we care less what the result is. “Lord, heal John or help Sally. If you don’t, I guess that it is OK.” In the first parable, Jesus shows a man whose persistence pays off. He gets what he wants. Jesus’ point is that we should pray with persistence as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Story - Joshua- Do We Dare?

Focus – book of Joshua

For forty years, the people have followed Moses. Now Moses is gone just as they are ready to enter the Promised Land and claim the promises given to Abraham long ago. The giants are still in the land like they were forty years before. How will they go and claim the opportunity that the Lord has given them? Who will lead them into the Promised Land? Joshua is the story of God building a people so that they can go and do the impossible. He will build up leader and people so that both are ready to claim His promises. He will show them that they will succeed if they follow Him and fail when they try to move forward without Him.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Prayer Problems: Practice - 2 Let It Be Natural

Focus passage: Luke 11:1-13

The hardest part for me of playing the piano is that a good pianist seemingly plays without a lot of effort. When they want to play a “C” chord, their left hand move effortlessly to those notes. When they want to play a scale, the right hand knows exactly what fingering to use. 

They have practiced until playing becomes so natural that they don’t have to consciously think about what their hands are doing. Such a pianist gets there by practice. Prayer becomes more natural as we practice it as well. We want our prayers to just flow out of us and not be labored.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Prayer Problems: Practice - 1 Prayer Is Caught, Not Taught

Focus passage: Luke 11:1-13

I am amazed at how often Jesus can be found praying. There are eight instances that I know of in Luke alone. You would have thought that Jesus didn’t need to pray.

Yet somehow prayer seems essential in His ministry. It is as if He needs the time with the Father if He is to go on. I shouldn’t be surprised. I find that I need prayer. It calms me down helping me with my worries and fears. It brings me confidence so that I try things I might otherwise shy away from. Maybe the disciples saw that in Jesus. Maybe that was the reason that they asked Him to teach them to pray. They saw the connection that He had with the Father and they wanted that for themselves. They never asked Jesus to teach them how to preach or do miracles. They just wanted Him to teach them how to pray.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Story - Exodus Wandering - Follow the Leader

Focus Passage: Numbers and Deuteronomy

The diamondback roller coaster at Kings Island sounded like a great idea. The three high school boys laughed and joked as they waited for a half hour in line. Yet, when the tension bar came down over Ted’s shoulders, he was starting to have second thoughts. The ride started with a jolt and Ted began to wish that he was still in line. Tens of thousands of people rode this ride safely each year. Would he be on the one trip that would miss some turn and dash into the ground? As Israel wanders in the desert, the nation had to follow the Lord to the Promised Land. This story is one about their disbelief and what happens when you and I don’t trust the Lord to lead us, but rather try to tell God what to do.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Prayer Problems: Getting Started With Confidence

If you have not been active in prayer, getting started can seem like a major problem. 

Let’s face it. You are talking to a God that you can’t see and struggle to hear. You often need Him most at the times when you are struggling and your life is about to go down the drain. You throw up a prayer to heaven and wonder if any one heard you.

If that sounds like your prayer experience, take a deep breath and realize that you are not alone. The problem is that prayer is talking to God and most of us are not very good at talking to strangers. Our experience is like talking to a stranger at the Department of Motor Vehicles when you have lost your car title. You don’t know this person at all and you desperately need the stranger’s help. So let’s go through a few things that can help you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Prayer Problems: Power - 4 Do I Give Up Too Easy?

Focus passage: 1 Kings 18:41-46

I prayed for family night and none of the people I had invited came. I sat by a friend in the hospital who we had been praying about for weeks, but he only seemed to get worse. 

I began to wonder if it was not God’s will that our outreach would have success or that Jack was going to get better. How many times should I pray? How many times do I keep saying the same words toward heaven without getting the results that I so desperately want? Elijah doesn’t let go. He kept on praying even though there had not been a drop of water in three and a half years.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Prayer Problems: Power - 3 Will I Risk Myself?

Focus passage: 1 Kings 18:16-24

I wrestle with putting myself on the line. 

I may pray that someone I know comes to faith. Will I risk our friendship to actually say something about Jesus to them or am I too afraid that they will push me away? Will I stand up for what I believe when people trash God or just pray that the Holy Spirit will change their hearts? Earlier, God had told Elijah to hide himself during the famine. Now it was time to present himself and put his whole life on the line.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Story - 10 Commandments Create a Little Heaven on Earth

Focus Passage Exodus 15-40, Leviticus

 It seems like a picture out of one of those epic movies. A half million ragtag refugees come out of Egypt into the desert. They have no rules and no real leadership as they flee the land that their God has just punished with ten plagues. They have freedom, but they are not a nation. God leads them to the sacred mountain where He will plant three seeds that are needed to build a community. By the time that they get to the Promised Land, they will have the tools that they need to build a lasting society that will become a powerful people. This is the story of the transformation from exodus exiles to one nation under God.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Prayer Problems: Wednesday Discussions

I want to thank those of you who made comments or posed questions on prayer. I would like to focus on a question that Leslie posed. She wrote, “I often wonder if I am praying for the right thing.” That is a great question and it deserves an answer.

There are often times when we pray and nothing happens making us wonder if there is something wrong with our prayer. After all, we think that if the prayer is good, that God will surely give us what we are looking for because God is powerful enough to do everything and is a loving God who wants to help us. Three thoughts help me when I face that question.

Royal Gorge Bridge at Canon, Colorado

This summer, my wife and I visited the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge with some special friends from our seminary days. The bridge hangs almost 1000 feet over the Arkansas River. We were fortunate to be there on a clear day when we could enjoy the bridge, the cable car and all the other sights. If you walk across the bridge, you can see the river below between the wooden slats and feel the bridge gently sway as groups or motorized vehicles pass you by. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Prayer Problems: Power - 2 Do I Believe Enough to Pray?

Focus passage: 1 Kings 17:1-24

I want to pray with faith, but I sometimes find that hard.

The problems of our world seem so big. The pains of those I am called to minister to seem so impossible. I find that I still need to grow in my faith if my prayer is to be very powerful. What is comforting is that Elijah had to grow in his faith before he was ready to change the world with prayer. God helped him grow because you don’t send someone out against 850 false prophets unprepared.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Prayer Problems": Power - Is Prayer Worth Anything?

Focus passage: 1 Kings 18:16-38

I felt humbled and more than a little ashamed when I read this section on Elijah and prayer.
He believed so strong while I sometimes struggle believing God will work miracles with my prayers. It isn’t that I don’t pray. It is just that I don’t think that I have the confidence that Elijah has in prayer. I accept the power that prayer has, but I sometimes don’t act like I really believe it. I want to pray like Elijah. Three things strike me about Elijah’s prayer.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Story - Deliverance Pharaoh, Pharaoh, Oh, Oh, Let My People Go!

Focus Passage: Book of Exodus

We all have them. You know, those tough stretches in life. The car breaks down, the company cuts back on salaries or benefits, someone you love gets sick. You may not be having one of those times, now, but you know you will. What will it take you to cry out to the Lord? How bad does it have to get before you pray about it for five minutes or for an hour? How bad does it have to be before you ask others to really pray about it? Usually it has to be pretty bad and that is a shame. We cause ourselves a lot of pain by not crying out to the Lord. The book of Exodus is the story of a nation crying out and a God who delivered them. God was waiting to help, but it took a long time for them to call.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The St. Louis Arch

I remember riding in the five person bubble to the top of the 630 ft St. Louis Arch as a kid. You could see the courthouse, St. Louis Cardinal Stadium and Illinois countryside. I even remember seeing part of the Arch built in the 1960's when I would visit my grandparents in the St. Louis area. The underground history museum of this stainless steel monument tells of the westward expansion of the United States. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"The Life of David": 6 David's Conscience 1, Temptation 0

Focus passage: 1 Samuel 24: 1-22

Your character shows when things get tough. Lying comes naturally when you are backed into a corner desperate to save your skin. Anger erupts when someone hits you or slanders your character. It is easier to be good when things are going well. Maybe that is why the Lord sometimes throws hard times at you. He will send someone to you who needs help at a time when you are busy. He will back you into a corner and expect you to tell the truth. It is in those times of trial and temptation that character is forged and the dross flaked away. David has been hiding safely at the oasis of Engedi near the Dead Sea. Just when it seemed that David was beyond the reach of the army of Saul, his character is tried by a fateful encounter.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"Super Church": 4 Super Impact

Focus passage: Luke 10:25-37

It started with a simple question about gaining entrance into to heaven and took a curve that the lawyer was not expecting. This story confronts us with God’s call for us to make an impact on our world by loving people the way that He has loved us. The zinger in this story is that the Jews would have expected the Samaritan half breed would have been the robber. He turns out to be the hero of the story. The question we must deal with is “how far should love go?”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Story - Joseph, put down that selfie stick

Focus passage: Genesis 37-50

Athletes have them. Politicians have them. Even high school graduates sometimes have them. They all have dreams. It may be to win the World Series or to make lots of money as a doctor. Yet the problem with many of those pictures is that they are all about the dreamer. Great dreams include others. It is the person who wants to find a spouse and have a family. It is the person who wants to find a cure for cancer or feed the hungry in a third world country. These require surrendering something of ourselves for the good of others. Joseph starts with a dream that is all about him like a picture taken with a selfie stick. God gives him a big picture dream that will change the history of the world. His life is a lesson in why we need to stop focusing on ourselves and look at God’s big dreams for us. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park has always been a special place for me. I love the mountain lakes and the continental divide. It is a special place that reminds me how powerful and great is our God. Something this beautiful is not by accident. It is God painting on the canvas of the earth for all to see his artistry. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"The Life of David": 5 A Friend in Need

Focus Passage: 1 Sam 20

From the beginning of time, God said that it was not good for man to be alone. Everyone needs a friend. The picture of hopelessness is a man or woman sitting by themselves with their heads in their hands and no one who cares. When life seems to fall apart, we need someone who we can come to so that they can support us. After the great triumphs in David’s life, his world seems to be falling apart. The king had made him a son in law, but now seems to want to destroy David. He had fled to the safety of being with Samuel, but he yearns to be with his friend and mentor Jonathan. Their friendship stands out as a model of what true friendship can be among the people of God. We all need a friend and Jonathan shows us what a true friend can do for you. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

"Super Church": 3 Super Abundance

Focus passage: 2 Cor. 9:6-15

There never seems to be enough. We save and save, but will there be enough for retirement? We work hard but always wonder if the kids can go to college. Suddenly, the offering plate comes around on Sunday and we feel like we have little to give. We are consumed by worry instead of being freed by a faith that believes that the Lord will provide for our needs.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Story - Abraham: God Gets Personal

Focus passage: Genesis 12-35

If I were to grow a crop, I would plant a whole tray of seeds to make sure that I got six or eight good tomato plants. I would look for the hardiest and throw out the rest. In the time of the patriarchs, God does something entirely different. He throws himself totally into one family. He calls Abraham and no one else. There is not a plan B if Abraham doesn’t work out. To me, that is just crazy and dangerous. Yet, God will throw everything He has into this one man and his family. He will nurture them, save them from themselves, and protect them against enormous odds. No other God has ever shown such love and devotion. Some of the things he does make us scratch our head and wonder why he does them. We can see how much He will do to help us thrive.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Niagara Falls

Dividing Canada from the United States, the falls are a joy to experience. You can walk on an island that divides the American Falls from Horseshoe Falls or even ride in a boat at the base of the falls. Both sides of the falls have a unique flavor to them that makes this a delight to see and experience. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"The Life of David": 4 Fear in Control

Focus Passage: 1 Samuel 18

There is a place for fear, but it should never control our lives. On a mountain highway with sheer drop offs, fear keeps us cautious and may save our life. However fear may deny us the chance to see friends or travel distances if our fear of heights prevents us from flying in airplanes. Fear can be a blessing when we keep it in check. Saul has been told that God will tear the kingdom of Israel from him and his family (1 Sam 15:28). He has pushed the Lord out of his life and has been tormented by an evil spirit (1 Sam. 16:14). He is now a man who lives in fear of everything around him and may be wondering who the Lord will give his kingdom to. In that moment of fear, a young man of amazing talent comes on the scene.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

"Super Church": 2 Super men and women

 Focus Passage: Rom. 12:1-8

No one is good at everything, but super men and women are great at something. Think of the 8 year old piano prodigy. He might terrible in math or science, but put him in front of a piano and it is magic. Think of the professional basketball player. He may have done poorly in school, but he flies toward the rim like a bird in flight. God’s children don’t have to be great at everything either. Some are great leaders. Others are great teachers. Others encourage and comfort. All God’s people have the opportunity to be great at something because God has made them great. They just have to discover what spiritual gift has been given to them.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Story - Creation: Congratulations, its a boy and a girl

Focus passage : Genesis 2-3

They are three of the highlights of my life. They are the days that each of my three children was born. My wife, Joan, and I had always wanted kids to share our life with and God granted that request. Three beautiful children with all their fingers and toes were given to us. Oh the joy and the heartaches! Yet, part of the bliss has been and still continues to be watching them grow. Helping them through the trials and watching their lives blossom. I may be jaded, but I picture God in the darkness before creation wanting children. I picture Him wanting to have someone to invest in and to watch grow and bloom. It is a scene in four acts.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is a beautiful city filled with history and charm. From magnificent churches and carriage rides through the city, you find yourself caught in its southern charm. Be sure to visit some of the historical homes and beautiful gardens to get a sense of Charleston's past. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"The Life of David": 3 David and Goliath

Focus Passage: 1 Samuel 17:32-51

Fear is the lion that grips our insides and tears them to shreds. It can be the fear of being laid off when the company is struggling. It can be the fear of illness when the doctor sees something on a routine x-ray. It can be the fear that grips us when God asks us to serve in a difficult ministry. Everything may work out right, but fear will make your life hell while you wait to regain life’s balance. Such was the problem for the Jews. Goliath would stand in the valley and taunt them. Their minds knew God was more powerful, but their shaking knees and cowardly hearts had not gotten the message.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

"Super Church": 1 Super Team

Focus Passage: Acts 2:42-47

It was only a week before the playoffs and the Saint Louis Cardinals were hot. When a starting pitcher had the occasional bad night, the bullpen brought the team back in the game. Injuries were no problem because players could be called up from AAA ball to fill the void. The team had a great skipper who managed his players well and left them all with smiles on their faces. What would it be like to be a member of a church that worked like that? What elements need to come together for a church to be on fire like a great baseball team? What would it take for every player to be “all in” and make their church team look like champions?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Story: Watch Jewish History Flash Before Your Eyes

The story of God and His people

The Bible is a different kind of book. Other holy books are sets of rules on life and approaching the gods. They are filled with rules that must be obeyed or a vision of how to change yourself and have some kind of inner peace. The bible is different. It is a book about a relationship between a loving God and a fickle people. There are no heroes in the book other than God. As you read the Bible, you can see yourself in the ordinary people of the Bible who struggled, but by the grace of God did extraordinary things through God’s power. Follow the sweep and see how God works in ordinary lives like yours and mine.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pike's Peak, Colorado

Our summer camping trip took us to Colorado where we drove to the top of Pike's Peak. At 14110 ft above sea level, you can see for miles in every direction. The air is clear and the world famous donuts in the gift shop and restaurant are amazing. If you don't want to drive, you can take the cog railway to the top. Here are just a few of the sights we saw. 

"The Life of David": 2 When God departs

Focus Passage: 1 Samuel 16:14-23

Human lives cannot exist as a vacuum. We are either filled with the Lord or filled with something else. People often think that if they push the Lord out of their life that they will be free. They resent the rules of faith and don’t want to belong to anyone. Sadly when we push God away, Satan often rushes in to fill the vacuum and rule over our lives and desires. He will take over our character and will guide our actions. Instead of freedom, we end up with bondage to a cruel master. Saul, the anointed of God chosen to lead God’s people Israel had rejected the Lord. As we will see in the text, he paid a high price for pushing the Lord out of his life.