Friday, November 30, 2007

Messing with Christmas

There is a saying, "Behind every successful man is a surprised woman."
Some truth there...some stretch.

I know for certain that my wife assists me and encourages me so much. We mull things over together across a wide range of subjects: kids, current issues, church life, politics, fun... She has a keen mind and a good read on things.

So we've been talking about Christmas and I shared with her a couple weeks ago that I did not have a clear direction on what to share during this season of Advent as we point toward Christmas. She reached back into her mental archive of sermons I preached in years past and over the course of the next few days began to remind and press upon me a sermon series I shared back in the Fall '04. Drawn from Dr. David Thompson's book, Holiness for Hurting People is a series of messages pointing to the holiness available for spite of our hurts.

Sunday's sermon will be from Ephesians 4:25. I'm going to talk about the Light of the World who has come to dispel our darkness and take us, using Dr. T's terms, from Delusion to Disclosure of our Pain.

A great song that goes along with this series is entitled "Peacemaker" by Greg Ferguson. It's on a CD entitled One Life. I think it is available from Willow Creek Community Church's on-line store.

Christmas may look/sound a little different at our church this year but it will still point to the Light of the World.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Musings

A former professor from Asbury Seminary, Elsworth Kalas, preached a great message in Chapel back in 1998. Speaking on Leviticus 10 he pointed out the Intimate Peril serving in ministry has with it. Serving God is intimate work--a nearness and closeness--but there is always the peril of taking the things of God for granted. Case in point: Nadab & Abihu...see text.

I shared Sunday about the peril we each face in being close to God and one another. There is a danger of taking them for granted. I tried to give a challenge to handle with care those things and people God has placed in our lives.

Chris Tomlin sings, "How can I keep from singing your praise?" I wonder if it is possible to keep from singing praise if we presume upon God and take for grant that which he has given us. Even if we are in a "worship & praise" service, but are taking it for granted, we are treading into the wrong territory.

Father God, thank you for your goodness to me. Thank you for your continual presence with me. Thank you for Jesus Christ and the gift of your Holy Spirit. Thank you for the great days and yes, thank you for the junky days too. Thank you for my wife and kids. Thank you for our extended family. Thank you for our great church and the community around us.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hunting...Jesus Style

It was a few weeks ago I approached a guy in our church with an idea. He owns an outdoor supply shop and we chatted about the "what if" of hosting some sort of event for deer hunters. All it took was one suggestion and my friend, Dave from Bowman's Outdoor Sports, ran with the idea.
(For those of you reading outside the state of Michigan, opening day of rifle hunting season is this Thursday.)

Last night was my opportunity to witness what happens when you tap into something bigger than yourself. The event was titled, The Blessing of the Hunt, and it was certainly that. His shop was absolutely FULL of hunters, their spouses and children.

Out of the 61,000 licensed deer hunters in our region of Michigan and of the 750,000 in the state of Michigan, we hung out with 200.

What'd we do?
6:30 PM...people began arriving for the 7:00 event
-people talked about hunting
-we ate
-people talked about hunting some more
-a taxidermist gave a brief presentation
-people kept talking about hunting
-I spoke to the group about the fact that although we look and see evidences of God in creation, the reality is that God is looking for us. He loves us and pursues us.
-Prayer of blessing and safety for the hunt
-a drawing for give-a-ways was held (including a sweet prize: a bobble-head deer)
-people talked about hunting
9:30 PM...headed home

I'm not a licensed deer hunter and don't plan to ever be one--much to the amazement of the men in my church. But I loved hunting last night.
-My field: Bowman's Outdoor Sports
-My target: Hunters who need Jesus
-My weapon: Love of Christ

Huge thanks to God for last night. Thanks to Dave & Shelly Bowman and all the people they connected with to help out last night!

Friday, November 9, 2007

How Do You Smell?

I’ve always had a thing with smells. Peter thinks I’m crazy. I’ve always associated people and places with smells and can go back to a specific memory just by smelling something. Kate and William both had Burt’s Bees lotion that I put on them when they were tiny. It’s one of my favorite smells. Another favorite is the smell of bread baking. It reminds me of home, growing up. Or the smell of a farm . . . the smell of my dad when he returned home from work each day. Weird, but true. What can I say? So when I saw this verse, I immediately took note:

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession,
and through us spreads in every place
the fragrance that comes from knowing
.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

A wonderful friend of mine, Sally Dunlap, is such an example to me in this verse. She is every bit the southern School teacher that you can picture. She is small and petite, with white hair and sparkling blue eyes. Though she is a senior citizen herself, one of her ministries while she and her husband Whitney winter in Florida is to visit those who can’t leave their home. One of her ladies, she told me, had severe arthritis and her hands hurt her terribly. So Sally would take her best lotion to her house and while they would visit, she would rub the lotion into her hands, working them until they would begin to loosen. That is the fragrance that comes from knowing Christ. I imagine Sally, spending time with a woman that few would take time to see. I imagine the woman, and the smell of her hands long after Sally left. What a beautiful picture.

William and I started doing devotions together about a year ago. He loves them! He had a little trouble getting the word right, though. “Lotions, Mommy! Let’s do Lotions,” he’d say. When I finally figured it out, it occurred to me that he was being profound without even knowing it. How do I get the fragrance of Christ? By spending time with Him. Have you ever hugged your Grandma and find that you smell like her for the rest of the day? When I spend time with God, truly learning and loving Him, His smell is on me. I, in turn, leave that fragrance wherever I go.

May you have the fragrance that comes from knowing your Lord and Savior and may you spread it wherever you go.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Home is Good

We returned last night from a fairly quick visit to my family in South Dakota. Aberdeen, SD has never been my "home" (my parents moved there after I graduated college) but it is home for me because my family is there. It was great visiting with my folks, my sister & brother-in-law and my grandparents. Kate turned 1 while we were with them. She's such a beauty and I am blessed to be able to be part of her life. Home is Good.

Home in Michigan is good. We were anxious to be back yesterday. There is something about familiar surroundings and your own bed. Ahhhh. Even being back in the office today is something of a welcome change. (I may feel different about it tomorrow...) But home is good.

While in South Dakota I had opportunity to hear my dad preach again. He's so good. What a great story teller! Then he pulls it all together for a great point. He keeps it clear and simple--so helpful when wanting people to understand.
-My biggest observation from being in the congregation is: There are loads of distractions when you are in the congregation. Great pastors know that the point of the message should be clear and concise so that, in spite of distractions, people will still get the main point. I want to keep it simple so people can get the point.

Home is good.