Wrapping Your Arms

Apr 10th 2009

Patrick Morley tells the story of three men and a boy who were going fishing in Alaska.  They were flying into a section of wilderness that could only be reached by a sea plane.  But when they landed something went wrong with one of the floats.  Before long, the plane was sinking and all four of them had to jump from the plane into the sea.  Two men, a father and his son, began to swim for shore.  The water was so cold, but even worse was the powerful rip-tide pulling everything out to sea.   The three men were strong enuf to swim against the tide, but before long they realized the boy couldn’t make it.   The father of course swam back to help his son.  He thought he could pull him along and make it to shore.  But it soon became obvious to the father that nothing he could do was going to save his son.  His son was going to die.  The other 2 men watched in wonder as the father turned to them and waved them into shore, and then turned back around and wrapped his arms around his son as the rip-tide carried them both out to sea.

When I read this story, three thoughts come to mind, a statement and two questions.  First the statement:  I am fairly certain that I would do the same.  It isn’t so much because I know how courageous I am, as it is that I know how much I love my children.  I could not let one of them die alone.  Which leads me to the first question: How much does God love us, if He was willing to let his son die alone?  Or a similar question from the other side:  How much does Jesus love us, if he was willing to wrap his arms around us and not let go, even though it led him to death?

Which leads to my final question — an Easter question of sorts: What do we have our arms wrapped around?  To what or whom are we giving our lives?  Some of us have wrapped our arms around stuff that isn’t leading us to life.  What are your arms wrapped around?

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Jan 22nd 2009

For John Sutter, it started as a normal January morning in California. He was a prosperous rancher, owner of a 50,000 acre spread. He had no idea how much his life would change when one of his employees, John Marshall, walked into the room with the news that gold had been discovered at the construction site of a sawmill.

The year was 1848 and Marshall and Sutter agreed to become partners in mining the gold, but soon the news leaked out. Sutter’s property was besieged by thousands of people – trappers, farmers, sailors, lawyers, school teachers and preachers – from nearly every corner of the country. All of them had one mission, one vision, one passion. They wanted to strike it rich. Within a year, the “49ers” flooded by the 1000s into California and the gold rush had started.

Gold rush – what is your rush? What would cause that sort of excitement, passion, and a willingness to rush away from all you had in the hopes of rushing toward something of greater value? Gold rush. It’s interesting, some very wise people have compared the word of God to gold. Proverbs 19:8-10 says that the words of God are right, making the heart rejoice, more to be desired are they than gold. Psalm 119:72 says that the words that come from God’s mouth are better than thousands of gold coins.

So I’ve been pondering the power of words.  Thinking back, some words were like gold.  I’ve held onto them for decades.  Some words were like poison. unfortunately I held onto some of those for decades as well.  Those were the words that laid bare the lie that “sticks and stone will break my bones but “just” words will never hurt me.” I wonder how many sticks and stones words are said in our homes verses gold words?

There is power in words, power for good, power for harm.  Words formed the wave that President Obama rode to the White House — not just his words, but also words like “I have a dream.”  There is power in words.  If God speaks, wouldn’t you expect that his words would hold the greatest power of all?  Wouldn’t you expect that his words would be of the greatest value?

If we believe He speaks, why do so many of us, spend a seemingly small amount of time — at least in proportion to their value — listening to His Word?  Maybe we think His Word is just words?  I’m looking forward to the next few weeks at Calvary…pondering His Word.

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Living the Dream

Oct 24th 2008

I love that picture.  It gives me a sense of freedom, potential, opportunity.  I’m not sure if you can tell or not, but it’s a sunrise, not a sunset.  The day is just beginning, full of possibilities.  That’s what our new series is about.  It starts this weekend.  I’m so looking forward to spending the next 5 weeks talking about the dreams God has for our lives.

When I was a kid, my dream was to be a professional football player.  During high school, it changed.  Starting to think I might not be fast enough, big enough or strong enough for professional football, I turned my heart toward coaching.  I was going to teach math and coach football.  But then I got to college and that silly math major was requiring too much — studying.  So I dropped it.  Studying was not what I came to college for to do.  But then I’ll never forget my first theology class in college.  I loved it.  Soon after that my dream was to teach theology and coach football.  I know.  Where was I planning on putting those two things together?  Then I went to seminary; thought I was going for my phd but ended up in a church; thought being a pastor was going to be a short-term gig, but you know how that ended up.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I loved being a pastor and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with so much passion.  That’s when I knew what direction I needed to journey to live my dream.

Over the course of the last decade+ God has refined the dream.  Building a church without walls to serve the Centre Region and beyond…all the way to God.

I believe that during the next five weeks, some of us are going to take huge strides to living the dream.  Invite a friend and come to Calvary.

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Loving Being a Dad

Sep 27th 2008

Today is one of those days when I’m just loving being a dad…and I’m not even home!  Some of you might be thinking — well of course — it’s easy loving being a dad when you’re in Hawaii — with your wife — without your kids — and feasting your eyes on God’s creation of beauty (that includes Lynn!).  Well okay…that might be the case.  But let me tell you why I’m really loving being a dad today.  I’ll go in order, oldest first.

Sarah: Sarah loves her sister Katy.  So this weekend she sacrificed a little of her money (and a little of mine) and a lot of her time (none of mine) to drive to Minnesota to surprise Katy with her presence (and Lauren’s presence too).  Katy cried.  Today they are at the Mall of America.  I cried.  (Sarah has my credit card.)  Every father loves seeing his kids love each other.

Katy: Katy is the first one of our family to take the big leap and leave home.  Some of you know that’s not exactly an easy thing to do.  She moved to Minnesota to go to college at Bethel University.  Last week she got her first A on a test…psychology.  She’s learning psychology, but she’s also learning about life.  She’s experienced a little bit of homesickness but she’s doing great.  Every father loves seeing his kids gain wisdom.

Jake:  Jake went kayaking this week…on the Youghigany (I know I probably didn’t spell that right, but I’m in a hurry and it’ got a lot of vowels) in the rapids.  You gotta face your fears and be willing to take a risk to do something like that.  He rolled the kayak a few times, banged his head on the rocks a few times, but he made it.  He took the risk, pushed his capacities and came out on the other side with a deeper sense of courage.  Every  father loves seeing his kids grow in courage.

Josh: I was on the phone with Josh this morning at 1:30am (Hawaii time) wishing him well for his football game in the Assemblies of God league.  I hate missing games and this week they played the vaunted silver team.  Two weeks ago silver beat us by 28 points.  Josh called me at half-time (4am Hawaii time).  They were ahead.  Then I talked to him again at 5:30am (Hawaii time) and we had beaten silver.  Josh even threw a couple of touchdown passes.  It made my morning!  And you know what every father loves to see his kids persevere.  Get back up when you fail and go for it again.

Every father — think about this, God is our father — loves to see his kids grow in love, wisdom, courage and perseverance.  And right now, at this moment, I’m loving being a dad.  And it makes me want to give God the same kind of moment.

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Our Christian Duty

Sep 25th 2008

So this won’t be a long post, mostly just a question.  Here it is:  Could it ever be our Christian duty to NOT vote in a presidential election? I’m just asking the question, not making a statement.  I’m wrestling with this more this year than I have in the  past.  Why?  It’s NOT because I’m watching the campaigns more than ever and I’m just getting fed up.  It’s NOT because I don’t like anyone on either ticket.  It’s NOT because I don’t care about the issues.  It’s NOT because I feel that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics.

It has to do with transformation, Kingdom-of-God theology, and my hope for revival.  A few days ago I watched an interview with Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of England.  He has started a faith foundation to battle global poverty and he is teaching a class on religious globalization at Yale.  But what caught my theological imagination happened at the end of the interivew.  Mr. Blair was asked who he would prefer as the next President of the United States.  Mr. Blair declined to comment because he is not a citizen of this country.

It reminded me of some challenges Paul made like,  For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for the Savior who will transform us… (see Philippians 3:20) and then also Hebrews 11:13-15 where we find that our heroes of the faith were people who viewed themselves as strangers and pilgrims on this earth who were seeking a better country.

I read the New Testament and see our roles characterized as ambassadors for Christ, soldiers for Christ, citizens of heaven, pilgrims and strangers seeking a better country… and I am reminded…

We do need hope.  We do need to be saved.  But we do not need hope in the political process and we do not need to be saved by our country.  Ultimately we need something more than either the powerful words of Barack Obama or the heroism of John McCain.  What we need is Jesus and a single-minded focus on the Kingdom of God.  What we need is people who will live, love and give like Jesus did.  What we need is a passion revolution.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying.  We need more theologians/politicians.  We need more servant leaders.  There is not one square inch of culture that Jesus does not declare, this belongs to me.  Don’t hear what I’m not saying.  I’m not calling for a retreat to our Christian ghettos.  That goes against everything that a church-without-walls is all about.  I’m simply challenging us to ask ourselves, do we seek first the Kingdom of God? (Matthew 6:33)  And if we do not, is it fair for us to expect that all the other good things we are looking for…will be added to our lives?

Okay, so it wasn’t such a short post.  Oh well.

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Sep 23rd 2008

I haven’t written for a few days, got back home and found my time was better spent connecting with my family…now I’m preparing for my last sabbatical trip.  But the lack of writing does not equate to a lack of thinking and I’ve been thinking alot about the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is a reign not a realm, it’s a person not a place.  The Kingdom of God was Jesus’ main teaching topic.  Lately as I’ve been thinking about the Kingdom of God, two subjects have come to my mind, politics and transformation.

So I’m still crystallizing some of my thoughts on both topics, so meanwhile let me give you two blog posts that give an interesting take on politics.  One is from my friend Paul Grabill and the other is from a BGC pastor in Minnesota, Greg Boyd.

Here is Paul’s:  Patriotism

Here is Greg’s: True Believers

Enjoy… or not.   :)

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Jul 19th 2008

I know it’s probably not a word, but it is what I’m doing. It started with five days, with my wife, at a spiritual retreat in Wisconsin. (This was long before the Favre controversy so Wisconsin was still at rest — by the way, I hope he goes to the Vikings.) An organization called the Pastor’s Retreat Network, offers five day spiritual retreats at a variety of places around the country, and it’s all free! It was an incredibly way to start a sabbatical, great place on a lake, a time of prayer in the prayer chapel,reading, and hanging out with Lynn.

While I was there I read a book by Mark Buchanan, “The Rest of God.” It’s all about the concept of practicing a sabbath lifestyle. If you haven’t read the book, it’s a good read with lots of ponder material, especially if you are struggling with “hurry.” I’m still chewing on some of his sabbath thoughts and I can’t quote the whole book in this post, but let me share this one thought that was helpful.

How do we practice Sabbath? How do we do it? It’s more than time management… Read more…

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Dancing Cripples?

Jul 17th 2008

So why Dancing Cripples as a blog title? It comes from a sermon title. I like to think that every sermon I preach is memorable, but most are only meant for the moment. You may or may not remember this one, but a year or so ago, while preaching through the first nine chapters of Acts, I ran across this story in Acts 3. It was the story of a crippled man who sat outside one of the gates in Jerusalem. He had been crippled for forty years…and from an early age till the day Peter and John walked past him on their way to a prayer meeting…he had been brought to this gate to beg for help. But this day would be different, Luke writes,

Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and anklebones were healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them. All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded! They all rushed out to Solomon’s Colonnade, where he was holding tightly to Peter and John. Everyone stood there in awe of the wonderful thing that had happened. Acts 3:7-11

I love this picture. A crippled man is seen, gets healed, starts to dance, and everyone around stands in awe. Now I’m not much of a dancer, but this story made me start thinking about my crippled places. I’ve got a few, but when God’s grace combines with my crippled places, there is dancing and awe.

This story grabs me on so many different levels. Read more…

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