Archive for June, 2017


Helpful Quote

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My sister shared the following quote as an introduction to a prayer she offered during worship yesterday. I liked it enough to share it with you today.

“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to make a difference that you lived at all.” — Leo Rosten

I hope it will inspire you today as it has me.

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The Patience of Jesus

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Many people I know most readily identify with Peter more than any other apostle. For me, Peter represents the ongoing struggles I have with my personal discipleship. One day I’m “up,” and the next day, well, not so much.

Paul wrote of his struggles candidly in Romans 7:14-25, stating that he could not do the things he wanted to do and sometimes did the very things he didn’t want to do. Peter didn’t write about this paradox, he lived it publicly.

Recently I spoke from Matthew 16 and was struck by something I hadn’t given much attention. In Matthew 16:16, Peter offered what is arguably one of the most foundational confessions of the New Testament. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Because of this confession Jesus “blessed” him and proclaimed that his confession would be the foundation of the emerging church.

From that point, Jesus made his first, clear prediction regarding his passion and resurrection. Peter, according to Scripture, pulled Jesus aside and reprimanded him for “saying such things” (Matthew 16:22). Jesus response? “Get away from me Satan!” (Matthew 16:23).

Wow! Within a span of six verses Peter went from “blessed” to being (basically) called Satan. I don’t know about you, but I can identify with that.

But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus was patient with Peter. Six days later he is invited to participate in an incredible experience we call the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1ff).

I’m thankful that the Bible portrays its characters complete with their flaws and character defects. More than that, I’m grateful that alongside their transparency and vulnerability comes the patience of God. Jesus was patient with Peter, and he’s still patient with Peters today.

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When to Say “No”

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Last week I was presented with two requests within two hours. Within two minutes of each one, I said the word, “no.” Let me explain.

The first request came from a man who came to my office requesting permission to rent our facility for a four day conference that would welcome between 600-800 people. “Six to eight hundred?,” I said. “Yes,” he replied. I then responded by saying, “Our sanctuary only seats 500. I’m sorry, but we cannot do that. You’ll need to find another venue.” “But your building is so tall!, he pressed. I smiled and said, “Unless you plan to stack them, you’ll need to find another venue.” We shook hands and he left. This no came from a place of inability. We could not accommodate the request, so the answer was easy. “No.”

The second request came from a missionary who was looking for financial partners for his family’s call to serve overseas. He had left a voice mail stating his desire to present his ministry to our congregation. So before I returned his call I did a bit of research. I had looked at his statement of faith on his website, and within 30 seconds realized his personal theological values were significantly inconsistent with our church’s theological values. I returned his call and quickly expressed that we were not interested in partnering with him, wishing him the best as he solicited supporters. This no came from a place of inconsistency. His ministry’s mission and values were inconsistent with our ministry’s mission and values, so again, the answer was easy. “No.”

The point is that when you know what you can and cannot do, you can easily say no. And when you know what you believe and value, you can also easily say no. But if you’re not sure of your personal ability, or what you believe and value, you’ll continue to struggle with saying the word “no.”

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Are You Forgetting Something?

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On Sunday’s I’ve been working through the Gospel of Matthew. Its been good for me and hopefully it has been beneficial to my listeners. I’m always intrigued by how I continue to learn from passages that I thought I was fairly familiar. Recently, I came across a “story within a story” in Matthew 16 that struck a nerve. With me anyway.

In Matthew 16:1-4 Jesus was embroiled in yet another controversy with the religious leaders. For the first time the Pharisees and Sadducees have teamed up and demanded a sign to authenticate Jesus’ claims. After he departed with his disciples, Jesus began to provide a warning to the twelve about the teaching of these religious leaders using the metaphor of leaven (or yeast). The warning flows fairly naturally to the reader, but to my surprise, the disciples missed it. They had forgotten to take bread for the journey and immediately assumed they were being reprimanded for their forgetfulness. Its at that point that Jesus pauses to express his concern for their spiritual amnesia.

“Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it that you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?'” (Matthew 16:8-10, NIV)

It appears that the disciples had indeed forgotten to pack bread, but even more, they had forgotten where the bread had come from in the first place. Jesus had fed two multitudes in the period of about four months by multiplying loaves and fish, yet the disciples were concerned about the source of their next meal. With Jesus, no bread is no problem!

Before I judge the disciples too quickly, I must confess that I find myself guilty of the same forgetfulness. Too often I forget what God has done in the past. I forget that he’s always been faithful. I forget that he is able to bring anything he pleases into existence from nothing. God is faithful to me, and if I pause to give thanks and praise and count my blessings I am quickly reminded that whatever it is I face today, he is able and willing.

The size of my God may very well be in the direct proportion of my memory.

Categories : Thanksgiving
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The Serenity Prayer

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Many of you are familiar with the short version of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. Recently I became familiar with the complete version, which I have found to be helpful. I hope that it will encourage you as it has me.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

Taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;

Trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to you will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy in the next.


Categories : Prayer
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