Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stop Bringing Me Stuff

Stop bringing me meaningless offerings
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations -
I cannot bear your evil assemblies. (Isaiah 1:13 NIV)

Is God really telling his people to stop bringing sacrifices?

Does God not want people to gather together to worship?

Not exactly.

Notice He doesn't say "stop bringing me offerings".

He qualifies it by prohibiting "meaningless" offerings.

So what does God want?

...Stop doing wrong,
learn to do right!

Like what? He goes on...

Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed,
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

And not only taking care of others. Make sure YOU are in right relationship with God:

"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1:16b-18 NIV)

God wants our sacrifice and our worship to be meaningful.

God longs for our obedience and offerings to flow out of a responsive, thankful life.

Take a moment and ask God, "Is there anything in my life that is displeasing to you?"

"What can I do to begin to make it right?"

God will respond to us as we respond to Him.

Grace & peace

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Way it is; The Way it Will be

...I will create a new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind. (Isaiah 65:17 NIV)

That verse describes a time that isn't here yet...but is coming.

Now if you are currently enjoying your life I imagine you might be a little bit bothered at the prospect of thinking all of this will one day be gone and something new will replace it.

You might be thinking,

"But I WANT to remember the way things are now."

"I don't want for change."

Fair enough. We need to give thanks for our life and the circumstances in which we find yourselves. Everyone is not so blessed.

The following is from Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. It describes horrors I can't even imagine.

Who Will Help the Over 100,000 Refugees?
"We fled with tens of thousands into the security zone. On one side was the ocean, on the other a lagoon. It got worse every day. So finally my wife and our five kids fled through the lagoon.

When we were in the middle they started shooting at us. Our twelve year old son was hit. In order to save the others we left him there, dying. Finally, government troops came to us through the water and saved us. Now we are here, in a refugee camp."

This is the story of just one family of many who is struggling to survive the intense battling between the Tamil Tiger rebel group and government forces in Sri Lanka. By now over 100,000 refugees have reached the camps; tens of thousands are probably still in the area of fighting.

Some have lost all they had, including their entire families. At the same time, they are torn emotionally by the 25 years of civil war and it will take many years to overcome this trauma.
It seems that the war will soon end "officially." Who will then help the far more than 100,000 internal refugees? Where should they go? Who will build them new homes? Who will help them rebuild their lives in the aftermath of such devastation?

The director of NCM Lanka is on his way to the refugee camps. The Sri Lankan government has asked him as well as a few other organizations to help. Thankfully, the work after the Tsunami and with the internal refugees in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka has laid a foundation of trust between the government and NCM. But what a challenge they are facing!

Local specially trained NCM workers will help the suffering to overcome their emotional scars through trauma counseling. They will also supply food, household kits, and tents if resources permit it. Crisis Care Kits are being compiled to provide some of the most basic comforts. All steps will be planned in such a way that they result in long-term change and allow the refugees to build the foundation for a new life. This has already worked after the catastrophes in the East of Sri Lanka where NCM International is still working effectively together with its local and international partners.

Through prayer and financial support you can be part of serving the refugees in Sri Lanka and helping them start new. Every gift, whether large or small, will be invested in the future of people who hardly see reason for hope.

Persons and churches wishing to make a donation can mark their checks “Sri Lanka Internally Displace People NCMPRLK09” and mail them to the Global Treasury Services, PO Box 843116 Kansas City, MO 64184.

Online giving is available at

Monday, April 27, 2009

Those Who Wait for Him

Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
(Isaiah 64:4)

Yesterday in the church service we heard testimony about how God answered prayers in our own congregation because people waited for God.

Have you set time aside today to wait for him?

The prophet tells us God acts on (their) behalf.

I wonder: do we want God to act on our behalf? Or do we simply say we want God to act on our behalf?

I encourage you to carve out a few moments, lay out your requests and petitions to God, then wait for the Spirit to act on (your) behalf.

Grace & peace

Thursday, April 23, 2009

When Leading is Tough

Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
Punish him with the rod
and save his soul from death. (Proverbs 23:13-14 NIV)

"Discipline" (the KJV reads "correction") is not always negative. We can correct or disciple (train) people in a positive manner.

You can show someone how to handle a paint brush: "Do it like this."

We have a toddler at our house three days a week who has recently learned how to use a spoon. Someone showed her how to use it in order to feed herself.

That's discipline that is positive.

But sometimes correction or discipline can be painful.

I looked up the word "punish" that the NIV uses in Proverbs 23:13. I wondered if "punish" was the best word choice. I thought there might be something "softer" implied.

But the KJV doesn't soften the translation at all. It goes the other direction. "Beat" is the word used there!


Why beat or strike a child?

Because your angry? Never.

Because you want to take out your frustration? No way!

The goal is stated in the last line:

save his (or her) soul from death

It's one thing to teach a child to use a paint brush correctly. It's another thing to make sure they know how to handle a chain saw or drive a car.

If you mishandle a paint brush you might end up with unwanted streaks and drips.

If you mishandle a chain saw or a vehicle weighing several thousand pounds, some one could end up maimed or someone could die.

Getting the lesson on the paintbrush is optional. Getting the lesson on the chain saw or the car is vital.

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes they are to expel a member who has been intentionally, continually misbehaving and breaking commandments.

Why hand this man over to Satan? that the flesh may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5 NIV).

The goal is not punishment.

Punishment is a tool.

THE GOAL is salvation, restoration, and God's will being able to happen in this man's life and the life of the Church.

Sometimes leadership (parenting and other forms) can be tough.

Nobody likes to have the difficult conversation or say the hard thing.

But if we keep THE GOAL in mind, God will give us wisdom and strength (and the heart that desires the best for that person) as we seek to do God's will in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Grace & peace

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Train a Child

Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Many parents want to make all the choices for their child, but this hurts him or her in the long run. When parents teach a child how to make decisions, they don't have to watch every step he or she takes. They know their children will remain on the right path because they have made the choice themselves. Train your child to choose the right way.
(From the Life Application Study Bible)

I have to confess that I have found a new, laser-like focus on this principle in the past few months. Our oldest child is getting ready to go to college. I often find myself assessing decisions I make, words I use, or attitudes I display with this criteria:

Do I want this replicated in her life?

Because if I do want her to act, speak, or think this way, my choice is probably a good one.

But if I do not want to see or hear this coming out of her life, I should probably choose a different one myself.

Would this line of questioning cause some of us to be less critical?

Would this cause us to live with integrity?

Someone once said, "Past performance is the best predictor of the future."

What I have done in the past is most likely what I will do in the future.

What my young children see and hear from my own life is most likely what they will do in their life.

May we be intentional in what we are passing onto our kid and grandkids, nieces and nephews.

Grace & peace

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Mind Opener

"Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." (Luke 24:45 NIV)

Sometimes we think the Gospel is a reasonable thing, driven by logic.

Like 2 + 2 = 4 it is an equation that leads you, naturally, to a conclusion.

Or like the fact that Lansing is the capital of Michigan, we think it is data we can memorize.

We figure people should be able to hear verses like

The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day
and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached...(Luke 24:46-47a)

and people will line the doors of the church, waiting to get in.

(Wouldn't that be GREAT!!)

But Luke reminds us that hearing does NOT automatically lead to belief. And being aware of the story does NOT automatically lead to faith.

Minds must be opened so (people can) understand.

And only the Mind Opener can bring that about.

Sometimes the realization comes suddenly, violently. (See Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus in Acts 9.)

But other times God comes more as a patient, loving, polite suitor; desiring to be invited in and welcomed into our life (See Revelation 3:20).

Take 30 seconds and ask youself these questions:

1. How would I describe the way God has opened my mind in the past? Violently or gently?

2. Who do I know that doesn't "get it"; they don't understand what God has done or is doing?

3. Am I willing to ask God to send the Spirit to open their minds so they could understand ? Do I care enough about them to take the time to ask God on their behalf?

Spend an additional few seconds and speak to God right now. Use these words below if you want:

God, thank you for opening my mind to the Good News of Who You are.
Please send your Spirit to _____________ today.
Help him/her understand how much You love him/her,
how much (s)he needs to repent
and how great Your forgivenes can be in his/her life.
Thank You for hearing my prayer.

Wouldn't it be great if resurrections will continue in the lives of those for whom our congregation is praying?!

Grace & peace

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Give Me That Fillet of Fish

...Jesus himself stood among them and said to them,
"Peace be with you."
They were startled and frightened,
thinking they saw a ghost...
he showed them his hands and feet.
And...they still did not believe it
because of their joy and amazement...
(Luke 24:36ff NIV)

It's only been a little while since Jesus' resurrection.

He physically shows up among his disciples.

He delivers a word of comfort.

He shows them his hands and feet.

"And...they still did not believe it"



What else does Jesus have to do to get them to believe?

Shouldn't they become "superapostles" at this point, spurred on by the Resurrected Lord?

What's wrong, guys?!

And then I wonder...

Why do I still have battles in my own life.

Think about it. We've just passed through Easter, the most joyous, amazing time.

"He is risen! He is risen indeed!"

We said it to each other.

We said it. We believed it.

And yet...

...sometimes we still struggle with belief.

Sometimes we still wrestle with our will.

Sometimes we are not quite settled in our spirit.

Sometimes our obedience doesn't come so quickly or effortlessly as we think it should.

Am I alone here or can you identify with me?

But notice what Jesus does next:

He asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
and he took it and ate it in their presence. (Luke 24:41b-43 NIV)

I think he did that for several reasons.

One of those reasons was to prove that he was really alive: Ghosts don't eat!

In the midst of their unbelief, Jesus eats with them, and casually proves he is who he said he was.

I'm thankful God comes to us in our times when we're wrestling, struggling, or not quite believing.

May the Spirit patiently yet powerfully speak to you today.

He has done so again this morning in my life.

Grace & peace

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chelsea and Dexter, MI Holy Week Opportunities

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
But I have prayed for you, Simon,
that your faith may not fail.
And when you have turned back,
strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32)

We want to provide you with times to do as Jesus did:

pray that faith may not fail.

These times include:

Thursday, April 9 8AM & 7PM Service of Scripture, Prayer, & Silence

Friday, April 10 12:15 PM Community Good Friday Service
(at the United Methodist Church on Park St.)

Friday, April 10 6-8PM Come-And-Go Communion & Prayer at the Altar

Sunday, April 12 9:30 AM Easter Breakfast (bring a dish to pass)

Sunday, April 12 11AM Easter Worship: Musical & Dramatic Presentation

Who's faith is in danger of failing?

What will you do about it?

Which of these times might God have something special planned for you?

For those around you?

Please prayerfully consider joining us at any or all of these times.

Grace & peace

Maundy Thursday Prayer & Silence

We just participated in our first Service of Scripture, Silence, and Prayer this morning.

We will be offering it again this evening.

Several had asked some questions about this new opportunity so here's a little more detail.

The intent is to be silent and allow God a time to speak.

It will begin at 7PM (and last for approximately 1 hour). The format is pretty basic:

- A scripture will be read out loud.

- A devotional thought will be read to provide some direction as we prepare to pray.

- A time of silence will be given, allowing you a few moments to pray in your seat.

This process will be repeated.

Not complicated...but very powerful stuff. I found it an effective tool in my own life today.

And I'd like to invite you to join us and anticipate the Spirit's work in your life.

If you are reading this but unable to be present physically, e-mail me at and I'll send you a copy of the service we've put together.

"...for Zion's sake I will not keep silent
for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet..."
(Isaiah 62:1 NIV)

Grace & peace

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Forgotten "I AM"

Have you ever heard a sermon or series of sermons or read a book about the "I am's" of Jesus?

Famous "I am's" of Jesus include:

I am the bread from heaven (John 6:32)

I am the bread of life (John 6:53)

Much like God sustained the escaped, wandering ex-slaves through manna via Moses, God sustains us wandering, ex-slaves of sin via the body and blood of our Lord.

I am the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5)

The religious people of the day couldn't "see". They missed who he was. But the man born blind was able to "get it".

I am the door (John 10:7, 9)

We are God's sheep. (I recently heard someone say, "You've never heard of 'trained sheep' have you? No 'cause sheep are dumb!") But Jesus is the gate through which even dumb sheep are able to enter!

I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)

How appropriate for the day we anticipate this Sunday!

I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)

"Doubting" Thomas doesn't understand where Jesus is getting ready to go or how he can follow. I understand those questions, don't you?

I am the (true) vine (John 15:1,5)

He calls us to "remain" or "abide" in him. Those who've come before us tell us that scripture, prayer, fasting, meditation, acts of mercy and gathering with others are some of the ways we stay close to Jesus.

I am he (John 18:5, 6, 8)

"I am he"?

What's that?

Not familiar with this one? Read on:

"Judas (had come) guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons."

A mob is coming for him. Jesus knows what is going on and he asks, "Who is it you want?"

"Jesus of Nazareth," they replied.

"I am he," Jesus said.

Actually, John mentions it three times. Jesus says it twice.

"I am he."

"I am the one you've come to take."

"I am the one who will let himself be taken."

"I am he."

How important is this aspect of Jesus' identity?


If he were only The Light or The Vine, his task would be incomplete.

It wasn't until he would give his life away that his calling would be fulfilled.

It wasn't until he would give his life away that he would be The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

It was through laying down his life that he would become The Door.

I wonder sometimes if we'd like to forget about this last I AM.

It's exciting to think of the Lord as being our Bread; he feeds us and sustains us.

It's a privilege to remember Jesus is our Gate or Door; he allows us access to all the Father has for us.

But it is a little discouraging to think that Jesus lays his will down, gives his power away...and then calls us to do the same!

"I am he."

May you determine to follow him.

Grace & peace

Monday, April 6, 2009

House of Prayer

Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling.
"It is written," he said to them,
" 'My house will be a house of prayer'
but you have made it a 'den of robbers.' "
(Luke 19:45-46)

This is the first scene Luke reports after Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem.

This week we would like to give you a chance to make the church a house of prayer.

Thur. at 8AM and 7PM we will offer a Service of Scripture, Prayer, and Silence.

Fri. from 6PM - 8PM I will be serving Communion and praying at the altar for any who are interested.

Hope you can join us.

Grace & peace

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Does God Do When We Hurt?

I walked into the funeral home one day before the funeral service. I went up to the casket to see the deceased. He looked like he was around 50. I found out a little bit later that he was actually nearly 20 years younger than that.

I had never met him before. He was the family member of a friend of mine.

During the visitation that day and the funeral the following day I heard the family and friends talk about this young man's life. Evidently he had a hard life. Some of the difficulty was thrust upon him. Some of it apparently came through self-inflicted choices he had made.

As part of the eulogy, his sister said something that struck me. "Hopefully he finds peace now because he was never able to find it here."

Romans 8:22 tells us that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.


The word connotes pain that can't be expressed with words.

And the Bible says the whole creation is groaning.

That's not hard to believe, is it?

Individuals. Marriages. Families. Communities. Nations. Industries. Economies. Nature.

All of it a part of our world.
All of it a part of creation.
And all of it groans.

For those two days at that funeral home "the whole creation" that was groaning had names faces and stories. It had birth dates and addresses. It had cell phone numbers and social security numbers.

And it was groaning.

The Gospel of John tells us another part of this story. In chapter 11 we have the account of Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus, who dies.

Jesus could have shown up sooner...but he didn't.

Jesus could have kept Lazarus from dying...but he didn't.

But Jesus does talk with the two, grieving sisters who remain. First he speaks with Martha. Then he speaks with Mary. Jesus sees her weeping along with (others) who had come along with her also weeping, and he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled (John 11:33).

I have a note in the margin of my Bible that I had written some time ago about this verse. I don't know where I got it from or who I quoted. But this is what it says about Jesus' being "deeply moved in spirit and troubled":

"He groaned and was troubled in spirit."

Jesus groaned.

The creation groans. And Jesus groans.

I find great comfort in this picture; a picture of a Savior who understands what it is like to groan down here. I don't know why I find such comfort in it. I'm not sure how to verbalize it. But I'm thankful that Jesus doesn't simply step into the tomb and call Lazarus back to life (which he does later in the chapter).

That would make him appear to be some type of caped, superhero who never bleeds, never weeps, never gets sick, never feels what we feel. That's not how Jesus is. He hurts. He weeps. He groans.

If you know what it is like to groan, if you are able to pinpoint places where the creation is groaning today, take heart.

You are not alone. Jesus has groaned with you. And through the Spirit, he still does (Romans 8:26).

Grace & peace