Tuesday, June 25, 2019


                I sat looking out the window of the coffee shop as the rain intensified and the water dripped off of the front of my car. Two sparrows flitted down onto the sidewalk and began pecking at the front bumper of my car. I don’t know if they were picking at the bugs stuck to the bumper or if they were catching the drops of water that were dripping from it. Either way, they flitted about in front of my car pecking at something. One of the sparrows turned away from the car and shook vigorously, clearing the gathering water from its wings. Then it hopped under the front of the car, seeking shelter from the rain, which had intensified even more.

                We do not give much thought to sparrows. They are so common that we hardly even notice them. Their brown color does not capture our attention, like the cardinal or the blue jay. Their sheer numbers tend to make them less interesting. Yet they are an example of endurance and vitality. They are one of the birds that accompany us throughout the winter. When we had bird-feeders in our back yard, sparrows were always in attendance throughout the year. They have adapted well to living among people. Most backyards boast a fair number of sparrows.

                Although we may not give sparrows much attention, God does. Jesus used sparrows to remind us of the depth of God’s love for us. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7) Jesus reminds us that God is paying attention to even the minute details of our world. Few people concern themselves with the fate of a single sparrow, yet God watches over each one. In the same way, God is watching over the minute details of our lives, even to the state of the hair on our head!

                In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus again used sparrows, actually the birds of the air, as an illustration of trusting in God. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26) Jesus is not telling us to neglect food and clothing, but to not obsess over them. His point is, if God cares for the birds of the air, like the common sparrow, will He not care for us who are made in His image?

                The Psalmist also draws upon the example of the sparrow. In this context, he is talking about being invited into the very presence of God in worship. It is an image of safety and security, an image of total trust.
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young--
a place near your altar,
O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Psalm 84:1-4

                God allows the sparrows and swallows to live in close proximity to Him. It is an invitation for us to draw near to God and find rest, comfort, and joy in His presence.

                Sparrows are one of the most numerous bird species in North America, and around the world. Almost anywhere that you go you will encounter some variety of sparrow. So it is not without cause that Jesus chose the sparrow as a symbol of God’s loving care for us. Although we too often take it for granted, God’s love and care are constant. The sparrows that occupy our backyards and feast at our feeders are a constant reminder of just how close our loving God is watching over us.

Sunday, June 9, 2019


                It is not very long. Its gentle arch spans the deep cut of the Tongue River below. Its supports are constructed of rust colored iron, its deck of thick, weathered wood slats that have a slight spring in them as you walk across. This simple foot bridge has been a regular part of my morning routine as I make my way from home to my office.

                In many ways, the bridge not only spans the river, but for me it has spanned the seasons. In the fall, the river below was thin and shallow. From the vantage point of the bridge, it looked like no more than a narrow creek. As winter set in, the view from the bridge changed. The water below was quickly covered with a coat of ice and snow. Snow hung on the barren tree branches that hung over the bridge. More than once I was showered with snow as I knocked against a branch. As the winter progressed an array of animal tracks appeared in the snow that covered the water. It was also evident that some animals found the bridge a handy way to get across the deep ravine. The tracks would lead up to the bridge deck, disappear, and then appear again on the other side.

                The real beauty of the foot bridge has emerged in the Spring and early summer. As the snows of winter melted, the creek below became a rushing river again. The waters climbed high on the sides of the ravine. I would often pause at the middle of the bridge to gaze down at the scene below. As spring transitioned into summer, the trees began to leaf out. All winter, the foot bridge was basically open to the sky. Now a canopy of green has formed over the bridge, shielding it from the increasingly hot sun. As the temperature has climbed, the short span of the bridge has become a cool oasis on my daily walks to work.

                Our faith in Jesus is like the foot bridge. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, He has created a bridge between spiritual death and spiritual life. As Jesus said in John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

                Just as there is but one bridge over the ravine on my path to work, so there is but one bridge from earth to heaven. That bridge is Jesus Christ. In John 14, Jesus promised the disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. Thomas questioned Jesus about how they were going to get to that place. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

                But this spiritual bridge, which leads us to heaven, has a profound impact on our life today. Every time I walk across the foot bridge, I get a different perspective on the scene below. In a similar way, as we walk across our spiritual bridge, it gives us a different perspective on life. As the seasons of our life change, our vantage point from the bridge reveals new insights and new truths. Our eyes are opened to things that we would miss otherwise. Our bridge keeps us from being swept along by the torrent of worldly values and changing morality.

                I enjoy crossing the foot bridge every day. It is like stepping into the woods and for a brief moment being transported into another world. It is a vivid contrast to the paced streets and square lawns. But much more, I revel in the reality that I have stepped onto the bridge of faith that leads to eternal life.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


                It had rained during the night. As I walked to the office in the morning the ground was littered with seedpods from the trees. They covered the street like a blanket. I was struck by the sheer volume of them. It made me think about the extravagance of nature.

                Nature rarely, if ever settles for the minimum. Instead, nature usually produces things in abundance. The various seed pods from trees are just one example of such extravagance. There have been multiple springs when the little helicopter seeds of the maple tree have covered my driveway and clogged my gutters. In the fall, the leaves of the trees blanket the yard. In addition to seeds and leaves, flowering trees explode with colorful flowers each spring. For a short time, the flowers cover the entire tree obscuring even the leaves.

                We are not always pleased by nature’s extravagance. When it comes to things like mosquitoes, dandelions, and field mice, we could do with a little less abundance. Raking leaves and cleaning gutters is a chore. But it is a small price to pay for a lush, vivid, alive world.

                Some would relegate this abundance to purely a need for survival. The more that is produced the greater are the chances of the species surviving. Although this may be true, it misses the obvious excess even toward the need to survive. I believe the extravagance of nature is there to point us to something far greater; the extravagance of the Creator.

                God didn’t create this extravagance just to keep things going. He did it to produce awe and wonder in us. He did it to show His extravagance. He could have created a world with one kind of tree, one kind of flower, one kind of bird, one kind of animal, one kind of fish, but He did not. He created an extravagant world of extravagant diversity. He did it to reveal His own nature to us.

                The Bible continually points us to the extravagant love and grace of God. In a general sense, God demonstrates His extravagance to all of humanity, regardless of their attitude toward Him. In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus highlights this extravagance. “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” The extravagance of nature is God’s gift to all of humanity.

                But the extravagance of God goes even farther with those who put their faith and trust in Him. When it comes to God’s love for us, He is extremely generous. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1a) That lavish love was demonstrated through Jesus Christ as He went all the way to the cross for us, so that we might be made right with God.

                For those who put their faith in Christ, a new extravagant life is opened up to them. As Jesus said in John 10:10, He came that we might experience life to the fullest. To live in relationship with Jesus is not to settle for the minimum, but to be invited into the extravagance of God. The extravagant love, grace, and mercy of God is available for all who will open their heart to Him through faith in Jesus.

                So the next time you see those seedpods flooding down from the trees, stop and give thanks to God for His extravagant love toward you.
Ephesians 3:20-21
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.