Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Philippians 3:13-14
    Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

                Retirement: the cessation of work. Many people live their lives for retirement. They count the years until they can close the door on the office and walk away. They dream of leisurely days with no responsibilities or duties. When they arrive, they often find that retirement is not what they had dreamed it would be. Because people are healthier and live longer today, the retirement years can last as long as the work years. Many people, after having been retired for a short time, return to work in some way, just to fill the time. A leisurely vacation is fun. Endless days with nothing productive to do is BORING!

                Retirement is not a biblical concept. As a follower of Christ, as long as we have the strength, we are called to be active in service for Christ. The type of service and the venue will change, but the call is the same. We are to actively live our lives for the glory of God. The Bible gives us some amazing models of people who ran their race right up to the last day.

                One of those people was a man named Caleb. Caleb, along with Joshua, was one of the spies Moses sent into the Promised Land to scope it out in advance of the people entering. When the spies came back, the majority report was that the land is amazing, but the people are too strong for us. Caleb and Joshua gave the minority report. The land is amazing and our God is even more amazing. Let’s take the land! Forty years later, Caleb and Joshua finally stepped foot into the Promised Land. At a time when most people would be thinking of retirement, Caleb had different plans.

    "Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said." Joshua 14:10-12

                A second example of non-retirement is the Apostle Paul. Paul faced many challenges on his journey through life. No one would have faulted him if, near the end of his life, he put his feet up and took a much-needed rest. But that was not Paul’s style. Paul kept his eye on the goal and ran his race all the way to the finish line. When Paul penned the letter to the church in Philippi, he was in prison and could see his death on the horizon. Yet he could honestly say that he was not done with his race yet. He gave everything he had to Christ.

                I have been blessed with a very personal example of running the race well. When my parents retired from work, they went to work for the cause of Christ. They volunteered to organize humanitarian and ministry supplies for GAIN (formerly Josh McDowell ministry) at a warehouse in Lancaster PA. From there they were assigned as bus captions to go the Belarus and distribute the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. If that was enough, my Dad took the responsibility for overseeing the warehouse and all of the groups that went to Belarus when they did, and my Mom took care of the money. They did this ministry for 12 years. They stopped going to the warehouse just two years ago. Today, at 90 & 92, living in North Carolina, they are active members of a senior adult group and baby sit their great-grandchildren two to three times a week.

                As Suanne and I move into the world of retirement, we see it not as a time to stop, but as a time to refocus. Although we are leaving the pastorate after 36 years, we are entering a new kind of pastorate; interim ministry. We will be serving churches in the gap time between pastors. This will keep us very busy as we continue to serve Christ. We don’t know what the future will hold for us, but we know that the race is not over.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


1 Peter 5:8-9
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

                Lions roar for different reasons. Lions roar as a means of communicating with other lions. A primary reason for a lion to roar is to remind other lions that they are in control over an area and to warn them to stay away from their territory. A lion will roar after a kill for the same reason, to warn others to stay away. Most lions choose to roar at night because the sound travels further when the air is thinner.

                Peter tells us that Satan is like a roaring lion. There are many ways that we are hearing “the lion” roaring today.

                We hear him roaring in the general moral and spiritual decline of our society. He is making a clear statement that this world is his territory and that he is in charge. Paul refers to this in Ephesians 2:1-2. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. Satan is very jealous for his territory. Followers of Christ are a real threat to his power, so he roars all the louder to get us to back off.

                We hear the roar of the lion in the political and military turmoil in our world. There are many places where our world is engulfed in the flames of war. There are many other places where we are engulfed in political unrest. Many people’s lives are being destroyed through these conflicts. Satan is actively devouring them through whatever means he has at his disposal.

                We hear Satan’s roar in interpersonal conflicts; whether that be within marriages, or communities, or the workplace. Many people are living their daily lives in an adversarial situation. They are afraid of being attack, so they attack first. Satan is the master at stirring up relational conflict to tear people apart.

                Satan loves to roar in the dark. The dark masks reality and allows a person’s mind to envision all manner of things. Satan uses the darkness to intimidate and frighten people.

                Peter tells us how we need to respond when the lion roars. The very first thing he tells us is to not be caught unaware. Our first line of defense against Satan’s attacks is to strengthen our faith in Christ. Satan is always looking for vulnerabilities that he can exploit. The closer we walk with Christ, the harder it is for Satan to manipulate us into a vulnerable position. Paul says that the way we protect ourselves is by actively putting on the armor of God. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

                Peter also tells us to stand firm in the faith. One of Satan’s favorite tactics is to call our faith into question. He compares our faith to the current popular thinking and suggests that our faith is outdated, irrelevant, and out of touch with real life. When the lion roars, we need to hold firmly onto our faith. We need to remember that Satan is a defeated enemy who is desperate. Our faith is in the one who has already won the victory; Jesus Christ. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. (Hebrews 4:14) Satan is basically a coward who uses intimidation as his prime weapon. If we will stand firm, he will back off.

                The best way for us to stand firm is to stay together. A lion always targets the old, the weak, the young, that get separated from the rest. In nature, the best defense against a lion attack is to stay together. Spiritually, the same is true. Peter reminds us that we are not alone in our struggle against Satan. Our strength is increased when we band together and not allow Satan to pull us apart.
    And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

                There is one other thing we can do to counter the effects of the roaring lion; bring things into the light. Darkness hides the truth. Light exposes reality. Too often we allow things to stay in the shadows, where they can morph into all kinds of things. The Bible tells us that we need to bring things into the light so that we can see them for what they really are.

                In John 3, it is made clear that the darkness is the place where people try to hide. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." John 3:19-21

                Paul reminds us that we do not belong to the darkness any longer. Instead we need to live as children of the light. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Ephesians 5:8-14)

                There is another Lion who has roared in our world; the Lion of Judah. His roar was heard on the cross of Calvary and in the echo of an empty tomb. His roar continues to echo throughout our world. Jesus has already defeated Satan. He is the rightful King to sit on the throne over all of creation. Let His roar drown out the feeble roar of Satan.

Philippians 2:9-11
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
      and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
  in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

                One of the things that gets us in trouble more than anything else is impatience. There is a story in 1 Samuel 13 about the impatience of King Saul. Saul was faced with the threat of a mighty Philistine army. He had been instructed to wait for Samuel to come to him before he took any action, but he got impatient and pressed ahead on his own. His actions had long term consequences.

1 Samuel 13:5-15
    The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven. When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.
    Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul's men began to scatter. So he said, "Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings." And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
    "What have you done?" asked Samuel.
    Saul replied, "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering."
    "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command."
    Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.

                Waiting is hard. It makes us nervous. We feel unproductive. We feel compelled to do something! That is exactly how Saul felt. He had to do something, but he chose the wrong thing. There are some lessons that we can learn from Saul’s experience.

1. Impatience causes us to make rash decisions.
                One of the corollaries to impatience is frustration. The longer we have to wait for something the more frustrated we become. Our frustration can turn into motivation to do something right now. “I can’t wait any longer!” When we act out of frustration, we live to regret our actions. As the old saying goes, act in haste, repeat at leisure.

2. The wise course of action is the wait on God’s timing.
                Waiting is an act of faith. When we get impatient, we are really saying that we do not trust God. We begin to doubt that God is paying attention to our situation. That is dangerous territory. If we want our plans to succeed, we need to wait on God’s timing.

Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

3. Use our time of waiting to prepare for action.
                Saul’s focus was on his enemy instead of on the Lord. The reason (possibly) that his army was beginning to lose heart, was that their leader was losing heart. He could have spent that time preparing his men for the challenge before him. He could have strengthened their resolve by turning their eyes toward the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, he allowed the enemy to dominate their sight.
                God never wastes time. When God calls us to wait, He wants us to use that time to prepare us for what is ahead. Active waiting is a time to sharpen our skills, focus our efforts, and seek God’s direction.
                When I was in high school, I felt called by God to go into missions. I set my sights on attaining that goal. As I moved toward that goal, on several occasions, God put up a stop sign and called on me to wait. During my time in college, a dynamic speaker came to campus and challenged us to leave school and follow him into the mission field. God’s clear message to me was wait. When I finished my degree, I considered my next step toward my goal. God made it clear that I was not ready, so I was called upon to wait again. In seminary, God made it clear to me why He had called me to wait, because He was calling me in a different direction. Instead of missions, He was calling me into pastoral ministry. Even then, the call to wait was not over. Half way through my time in seminary the pastor from my home church contacted me and invited me to come home and be his associate, with the goal of stepping into his position when he retired. The clear message from God was wait. I declined and God opened the door for me to serve Him as an associate in a church in Minnesota. I could go on, but you get the picture. My point is that appropriate preparation is not a waist of time, it is essential. God is not in a hurry and we should not be as well.
                There is a group of flowers that fall under the name of impatiens. I’m not sure why they were given that name, because nothing that I could find suggests that they are impatient. But maybe they can remind us of an important truth. If we want our lives to blossom and flower for Christ, we need to be patient. If we will exercise the faith to wait on the Lord, the outcome will be productive, fruitful, and beautiful.

Psalm 40:1-3
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the Lord.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Genesis 12:1
The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

                I have always been fascinated by those brave souls who left their families on the east coast to travel west into an unknown land. They left knowing that they would not return or see their loved ones again. Yet, they were driven by a vision for a better life that spurred them forward. What they faced was not easy, in fact it was often overwhelmingly difficult. Yet, those who persevered and did not turn back were rewarded for their efforts.

                A very long time ago, God issued a call to Abram to leave his homeland and to travel to an unknown land. God promised him that, if he was faithful, God would bless him in unimaginable ways.

Genesis 12:2-3
 "I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you."

                The journey that Abram embarked upon was a journey of faith. All that he had to go on was a promise from God; a vision of a better future. He was willing to endure many hardships and trials. There were times when he wanted to give up. On several occasions he tried to take things into his own hands and make things work. But in the end, he trusted God and God fulfilled His promise to Abram.

                When Jesus called His first disciples, He called them into a journey of faith. He didn’t give them a roadmap for the journey. Instead he gave them a vision. As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:18-19

                Little did these men know what following Jesus would mean. At first, they were drawn by the excitement of following this young Rabbi. Their excitement turned into a solid commitment to the vision that Jesus had given to them.

    From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
    "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.
    Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:66-69

                The vision that Jesus had given to them carried them through many trials and hard times. Because of that vision, they were willing to persevere to the end. All but the Apostle John were martyred for their faith. None, save Judas, abandoned the journey.

                Jesus calls us into a journey of faith. He casts a vision of us being the people of God and of transforming our world. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) He doesn’t give us a roadmap for the journey, as much as we desire to have one. Instead, He points us in the right direction and then says, follow me. He warns us that there will be hard times along the way; times that will test our faith and challenge our endurance. But if we will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will overcome every obstacle in our way. It will take courage and perseverance, and above all faith.

Hebrews 12:2-3
    Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.