Tuesday, February 23, 2016


                It seems like everyone is in a hurry these days. Recently my wife and I had the privilege of attending a Pastors & Wives’ Retreat at Trout Lake Camps. On our way home, I set my cruise control at 55 mph, which was the speed limit, and settled in for the drive. At one point I had five cars and a semi lined up behind me. One by one they passed me and raced on ahead. Two of the cars passed from the very back of the line. Some of you will contend that this happened because I went 55 mph, and no one goes 55 mph anymore. Well, I had the same experience on the freeway going 65 mph. People routinely passed me at elevated speeds.

                This experience is a symptom of something bigger. As a society, we are always in a hurry. We have a very hard time waiting for anything. We want it now! Thanks to Amazon prime, we expect everything to come express delivery. What is ironic about our bent on rushing through life is that we miss life. We hurry up to get to our destination, only to be in a hurry to leave and get to the next thing. We seem to be more focused on what’s next, rather than what’s right in front of us.

                I believe that Satan uses hurry as a weapon against us. The more he can get us to rush through life, the more disoriented we become. Have you ever heard someone say that they were in such a rush that they didn’t know if they were coming or going? Hurry adds unnecessary stress to our lives, which tears us down physically and emotionally. Hurry robs us of the details of life; the small things that add value to every experience. When we are rushing through life, everything becomes a blur. There is no time to stop and examine what is around us. There is no time to stop and contemplate the beauty, detail and intricacy of life. Life itself becomes a fuzzy picture with little clarity.

                Although the Bible does not directly speak about hurry and rushing through life, it does say much about being patient. Patience is not just passively waiting around for something to happen. Patience is the ability to wait with purpose. Patience is taking the time to let things develop properly; to give things time to grow and mature. Patience is trusting God with the outcome.

                We often get impatient with God, wanting Him to act according to our timetable. But God is not moved by our desire to rush through life. Instead, He meticulously works out His plan for the world.    The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) God wants us to trust Him. He has not lost control of our world. If we would slow down a little, we would see more clearly His hand at work. "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10)

                When we insist on living life at top speed, we reap negative consequences. We are more likely to make mistakes; often costly mistakes. As a woodworker, I have learned that it never pays to rush through a project. Too often I have ruined a piece of wood, because I was in a hurry, and had to start over again. There is an old saying that goes like this: Act in haste, repent in leisure.

                Life holds many positive delights for us, if we will take the time to discover and enjoy them. There are many people who, coming to the end of their life, wish that they had slowed down and enjoyed the journey more. God does not want us to rush past life. He wants is to truly engage life for our good and His glory.

James 5:7-8
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.


                I have a confession to make. I have become a Downton Abby fan. I know that it isn’t the most manly thing to do, but I have been captured by the power of the story. Even this morning, as I was eating my breakfast, I was wondering what is going to happen next. In all seriousness, what this illustrates is the power of a good story. Whether it is a novel, a movie, or a TV series, a well told story can capture both our attention and our heart. We actually begin to care about the people in the story, even though they may be only fictional characters.

                A number of years ago, I encountered a person from a non-Christian religious background. They had begun reading that Bible, and were having a hard time understanding it. They complained that the Bible was just a bunch of stories. They were used to religious writings that are filled with pithy, moralistic statements. They struggled with the narrative style of the Bible.

                Much of the power of the Bible is found in story. When God inspired the Bible, He did not just want to engage our intellect. He also wanted to engage our heart. He used story to get behind our intellectual defenses and to penetrate to our soul. The Bible includes some of the most powerful stories in human history. It is not an accident that Hollywood keeps making movies around the stories in the Bible. Although they often don’t understand the significance of those stories, they recognize their power and influence.

                The four Gospels are the amazing story of Jesus’ life on earth. Each Gospel author gives us a slightly different angle on Jesus. Each one enhances and fills out the story. Taken together we see a fully developed picture of Jesus in all of his complexity. Many people have been captivated by reading the story of Jesus. Whenever I feel like I am losing my perspective on my faith, I go back and reread one of the Gospels. That never fails to rekindle my love for Jesus.

                As amazing as the story of Jesus is, in many ways it has lost its power for many people. The story of Jesus has been made flat and two-dimensional by people who unwittingly have over simplified the story, in an attempt to make it more understandable. Instead of a robust, often challenging, even confrontational, story, it has been sanitized into a collection of quaint, moralistic stories for children. On the other extreme, there have been those who have intentionally sought to strip the story of Jesus of its power. They have attempted to demythologize the Gospel; to make Jesus a mere man, even a tragic hero.

                As we move toward Easter, we have a great opportunity to recapture the power of the story of Jesus. Just as we can be captivated by a story like Downton Abby, we can be captivated by the greatest story of all. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only, who has come from Father, full of grace and truth. I want to challenge you over the next month to explore again the story of Jesus. You will not be disappointed.

John 20:30-31
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 21:25
 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Romans 8:28
    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

                Most of us are familiar with Murphy’s Law. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible time. It seems like we have been bumping up against this axiom quite a bit lately. My Associate Pastor planned a Super Bowl party for the young adults, to be held at church on Sunday night. Friday afternoon he discovered that our TV connection was not working. Saturday afternoon I was helping to move the communion table into place for our Sunday service and my hip gave out. This past week we installed a new TV in our foyer to scroll announcements as people arrive. It was working fine at the end of the week, but decided not to work Sunday morning. Our Empty Nest Fellowship group planned a Super Bowl party for Sunday night at one of our family's home's, who happen live out in the country. The National Weather Service informed us on Saturday that we could expect a blizzard on Sunday night. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible moment.

                Satan wants to leverage these kind of events to distract us, discourage us and immobilize us. But God has promised that, even in the face of Murphy’s’ Law, He will come through for us. One of our members was able to get the TV working for our Young Adult Super Bowl party. Although I was still feeling the pain Sunday morning, God gave me relief while I was preaching. I hardly noticed my hip. The TV in the foyer connected to our announcements minutes before people began arriving. God shepherded us all home form our Super Bowl party, even though at times we could not see the road.

                In the larger economy, the things we faced this past weekend were minor glitches. There are much bigger obstacles that we face globally and locally. But the promise of God holds true. In all things He works for the good of those who love him. We know that God is not the author of evil, but He can, and does, use negative circumstances to accomplish His purposes. One of the greatest lessons that we all have to learn over and over again is that we can trust Him. God uses trials and testing to shape us and to help us to grow and mature in our faith. Like a loving Father, God uses the circumstances of our lives to discipline us and train us in the way that we should go.

                We can expect to face new challenges every day. Satan is always looking for ways to mess things up. But if we keep our focus on Christ, we can weather whatever storms Satan sends our way. Even another blizzard.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016


                As I write this, I am waiting for a promised blizzard to arrive. I can see it on the weather maps, and its arrival is inevitable, but right now it is calm. So life goes on as normal. Snowstorms and even blizzards are not uncommon for those of us who live in Minnesota. We prepare and take precautions (all the area schools are closed today), but we don’t panic. We have learned to be calm in the storm.

                Our daughter is attending college in North Carolina. They are not so casual about snow storms, because they are a more rare occurrence. When we attended orientation for our daughter, before her freshman year, the chief of police informed us that, if there is any snow, the whole community will shut down for three days. For some reason, whenever there is a threat of snow, there is a rush on bread and eggs. The store shelves will be empty, even though in a day or two, at most, all of the snow will be gone.

                These contrasting examples are a microcosm of our world. We live in a world filled with storms and threats of storms. The western world is facing the challenges of the storm that rages in Syria and surrounding areas. As refugees flood north into Europe, everything is disrupted. There are many people who are panicking in the face of this storm. There are also some who are taking a more calm approach.

                Nationally, we are facing a storm of a different kind. It is called a Presidential election. The first real winds of that storm brewed up yesterday at the Iowa caucuses. Right now, that storm is still  taking shape, as the pool of potential candidates begins to thin and become more clear. I have already heard much panicked conversation about the “what ifs” of the coming election. It is hard to be calm when such a monumental decision looms on the horizon.

                As followers of Christ, we have been called to be calm in the midst of the storm, and not give in to irrational panic. This does not mean that we sit idly by and watch what happens. We must be diligent to do what is necessary to prepare for our part in this story. But at the same time, we need to put our trust, not in political systems, but in God. This is true, not just about a Presidential election, but about the major world events we face as well.

                As followers of Christ, we can remain calm in the storm, because we know that ultimately God is in control. Jesus told us that we can find a secure place in Him, no matter what the storm. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 We will face the storms of life, but we will not be overcome by them.

                So often the negative forces in our world seem so large and powerful. We can get discouraged and disheartened. But again the Bible assures us that we have the power to overcome through Christ.    You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

                We can trust God to direct the events of our world, even a Presidential election, to accomplish His purposes. Sometimes that means that God allows us to face times of testing and trials to refine our faith, as he did for the people of Israel. At other times it means that we will prevail for His glory. In all things, we know that Christ has authority, power , and dominion.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,  which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,  far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:18-23

                It is very easy to get disoriented in the midst of a storm. That is one of the greatest dangers in a blizzard. We can lose our sense of direction and wander aimlessly. That is a very dangerous place to be. As we face the storms of life, we can, and should, remain calm, because our trust is in Christ.

Proverbs 3:5-6
    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.