[RadCast] Spiritual Hunger:::

God “satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” says the Psalmist (107). The question is not whether He’s got food, but rather if we’re eating/drinking the right stuff. Psalm 107:1-9

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[RadCast] Fixing Spiritual Weakness :::

All of us have experienced exhaustion beyond reason. It’s not our mind, not our bodies, but our souls that get tired. What do we do? Psalm 105:1-4 spells it out. The idea is to get our attention off of ourselves… have you experienced this

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What Your Pastor (not just me) Is Thinking

In 2002, I visited a far away Seminary to see if it was the right next educational step for me.  It wasn’t, but that’s ok (and another post). I keep recalling a slice of memory from the seminary campus tour.  We visited a preaching classroom, a rectangle shaped space with 5 or 6 rows of church pews facing a small lectern.  At the back of the room, a mounted camera (HUGE, by the way, because this was over 300 years ago) recorded sermons for students and their professors to review.  It was, at the time, a pretty big deal, since the preaching classroom was newly added and fairly innovative for the time.  I remember thinking that it must be strange to preach to a camera, and that it seemed weird to assume that every church was a small country building with that particular layout.  I asked, and the tour guide told me that most of their graduates went to churches that were laid out just like this, but, without the big TV camera at the back. A smattering of laughter, then on to the practice communion table tour.

Right now, your pastor is probably having random flashbacks to seminary and previous ministry experience. “You’re not my pastor!” you’re probably saying if you’re most people.  But, if you have a pastor, perhaps me, I can safely guess that he or she is thinking about odd things from our past training and experience, searching desperately for some point of reference to help understand what in the WORLD is happening in the church right now in the midst of COVID-19.  None of us — I repeat — none of us — were trained for this.  

When things first shut down, it was about figuring out how to carry on ministry as usual via the internet, telephone, and mail.  At some point, we realized that this wasn’t going away anytime soon.  For me, it was the moment I accepted the fact that we would not spend Easter 2020 together.  Some of my pastor friends knew sooner, some later, but all of us are in the same place now: a land of the unknown on the cusp of constant discovery.  We’re about to discover what’s next, but only one step at a time.  “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Truth.  But vision implies a set of known circumstances for the foreseeable future.  We are now in a position of casting vision without context.  That ain’t easy.  

BUT we have the Holy Spirit. We have the church, bride of Christ as she is, and we have a coming Kingdom of God.  These are realities beyond our present experience.  The church isn’t impervious to error, to dysfunction, to divisiveness.  But the church is impervious to being overwhelmed by anything — even the powers of hell.  So we don’t fret, we hang on to our hope as we minister, which is what we were supposed to be doing in the first place.  The church presses on in this day of great ministry need.  If people hurt, if people are broken, if people are oppressed, the church has a job to do. 

We have an ultimate vision to work toward in Revelation 21:1-5: 

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

That’s the goal, the vision, the endgame.  Everything is a step toward this beautiful and perfect future where everything is made right.  One step, one day, one discovery at a time, guided by the Spirit with our eyes fixed on Jesus.  

So, yeah — we’re thinking about what we know in the big picture, and scratching our heads on what it actually will look like beyond this month. Of course, fellow pastors like Andy Stanley made the call to hold no services through the rest of 2020. While it seems drastic, it sure does answer a LOT of questions, and gives them a laser-like focus on strategy. I’m sure they thought through it and decided it would work well in their setting.

Chances are, your pastor probably can’t or won’t do that. Or maybe so. Or not. See? We don’t know!

Preaching to a camera is probably the easiest part for most of us. Turns out that seminary classroom technology was ahead of its time.

Posted in Ministry, on Preaching

[RadCast] Lament as a first step toward joy :::

What if God isn’t calling us to distraction but rather lament, where we pray what we actually feel and think? What if that journey into our internal darkness, with Jesus, is the first step to genuine joy? Consider the words of Psalm 102:1-11 and pray real prayers. Then, listen, as God speaks faithfulness and love back to you.

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[RadCast] Press On :::

I’ll tell ya one thing that’s not unknown, stuck, or in frenzied panic right now — the fact that Jesus is still leading and still calling us to press on. We’ve got so many questions and unknowns, but Jesus is still at work. Seek Him, find Him, follow Him relentlessly. My friends: press on! Philippians 3:12-14

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Lexi’s Sweet 16

When I was about to turn 16, I believed with my whole heart that I would get a car for my birthday. I imagined a communal effort. If all my aunts and uncles, parents, grandparents, the neighbors, and the guy at the dry cleaner pooled their money, I was sure they could swing a used Chevy Cavalier or maybe a not-too-rusty Ford Escort. My hopes were dashed at the party as I received several traditional presents and… that was it.

Even though she turns 16 today, my daughter Lexi won’t be searching for a set of wheels in the driveway or holding her hand out for a key. It’s strange to look back and remember a doctor telling us that Lexi, our then newborn and first child, would never be married, never live alone, and never drive. It was their way of introducing us two new parents to the unfamiliar and shocking concept of what it will mean to raise a child with special needs. At that same appointment, a social worker told us “She may work at the hospital, but she won’t be a doctor.”

Those words crushed me because 1) I didn’t expect things to turn out that way and 2) they were quite right and I couldn’t argue with the truth. I hated the truth, at least that one. It meant she wouldn’t enjoy the kind of freedom and independence that we assume all our expected babies will. She’ll never be a professional. I’m never going to walk her down the aisle. My dad heart still grieves over this, and every birthday is majority celebration with a tinge of sadness.

She’ll never drive.

But that’s okay, because Lexi doesn’t want to drive. She wants to hear and play music. She wants to sit with people as they sing her favorites. She’s always hungry for oatmeal and bananas and cheeseburgers and pizza and whatever you’re eating. She wants to glide in her glider and swim in her pool. She wants to wander the house and see what rattles when shaken. She wants to — for some reason — move all the dishes out of the sink and rearrange them on the counter. I still don’t get that one.

And she wants to go for rides in the car. Lexi loves to go for car rides.

Lexi also loves diapers. Well, ok, she doesn’t love diapers. She’s somewhat potty trained, but diapers are still a big part of her life. Lexi loves diapers the way I love my belt. It’s fine, and I appreciate a good fit and style, but I could go without and be fine (but you wouldn’t be fine with that).

Because Lexi “loves” diapers, friends and family brought diapers as gifts. All throughout the day, folks dropped by and delivered her favorite diaper brand (again, not her favorite but you know what I mean) as well as cards, gifts, and a few musical toys. The musical book toy that Emily got her was a huge hit and will provide many hours of entertainment. She was loved well today, and it made for a very special birthday indeed.

So, we celebrate a new milestone. My sweet daughter is Sweet 16. And I love her so.

Lexi has awoken to a bed full of balloons for many a birthday
Posted in Uncategorized

[RadCast] disappointment is built in to discipleship :::

What do we do when God has failed us? Or, put more truthfully, when God hasn’t met our expectations? We look back and remember who He is, regardless of our circumstance. (Psalm 77:1-14)

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[RadCast] Keeping the Name of God Near (Psalm 75:1) :::

Remember what He’s done, remember He’s with you, and live with the Name of God near.

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On Grant Imahara

I was sad to hear of Grant Imahara’s passing. Grant was perhaps best known for his work on Mythbusters as a master builder, brilliant engineer, and all around joyful guy. Social media is full of touching tributes and great stories about Grant, some of which I never heard. Did you know that Grant designed and built Geoff Peterson, Craig Ferguson’s robotic sidekick from The Late Late Show? Me neither.

Grant died at the young age of 49 as a result of a brain aneurism. The news brought another stark reminder of the fragility of life. We make so many assumptions about what tomorrow holds, how long we’re going to live, what old age will look like. Yet scripture confronts us with a sobering question: “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:14).

Psalm 39:5 says “You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” The older I get, the more shocking it is when someone I know –“know” in the celebrity sense, or in real life — dies. I don’t fear dying, but I do fear living my life as if I won’t.

News like this this makes me want to go and hang out with my kids. As I was writing, my daughter Lexi brought me a little stuffed monkey, one of her babies, so I could give it a hug. It was the most important thing I could do. In that moment, nothing else mattered.

Grant’s family and friends have experienced great loss, and I mourn with them from a distance.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
    so that we may grow in wisdom
. -Psalm 90:12

Posted in Family, RFtH (Ripped From the Headlines)

[RadCast] Realizing God’s Presence (Genesis 28:12-18a)

Jacob heard God in a dream. When he wakes up, Jake’s reaction isn’t excitement for the promise or peace for the future, but rather the realization that God was with him. What more do we need? He is Emmanuel. May you remember His presence today!

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