Sunday, December 30, 2012


Years ago Mindy and I joined a gym in California. It was called LA Fitness. We still have some great memories of going to the gym and then coming home, making dinner and hanging out. We joined with some high level commitment and cost. We had to pay an opening fee, go through some rigorous explanation of the gym, and then agree to a continual ongoing fee that was pulled out of our account. Once our baby arrived, we decided to save money, stop going to the gym, and just use the equipment at our apartment. We had to put a freeze on our account so we could get right back in without having to re-enroll and pay all the start up fees. Crazy right? That was our culture only five years ago.
            Planet Fitness is my favorite gym right now. They just believe in getting people into the gym for regular workouts. They started out with a $10 a month fee. Then you just come and join with no real hassle. They have a pizza night where they serve pizza. They sponsor a bagel day. This may not be the gym for being the fit body builder; it is for regular people who just want to work out.
            Our culture has moved further and further away from being a membership culture. We are not joiners or members too much anymore. Ask anyone who is a part of any club that previously had tons of members. We are fast paced and much of our membership involves signing up and being connected to only the services we want. When I joined my most recent gym I did this. I signed up at Club Fitness, and wanted to be able to get in and work out when I needed to. I even passed over my free session with a trainer.
            One of the things you may have noticed is that we have an opportunity each month at Mt. Calvary to take a look at what’s going on, as well as an opportunity for new visitors to see who we are. This is a part of our ever-changing culture. We want to provide a way to change with culture, and help people see what it means to be a part of this community. We want to offer the opportunity to hear about God’s story, the LCMS story, and our story, along with hearing about the things we do in this place.
            Yet, covenant should not be lost. Membership may be taking a back seat in people’s minds, but the covenant is the important part. Jesus came into the covenant of God’s people. He was brought into that by Simeon.  Covenant is all about the promise to stay faithful. In our new discipleship model we are bringing people into that covenant to follow Jesus. What does it mean to be His disciple and to follow Him? This weekend as we prepare to begin a new year, we will talk about just that. We will talk about the Old Testament version of a covenant, and how that impacts us today. We will discuss how baptism is our new connection to that covenant. Our culture can change with its version of membership, but as people, commitment is still important. We all know that. As Christians we see that even on a deeper level as we watch how God is committed to us. We see how He kept His covenant with us, and this weekend we will learn how to respond and keep a covenant with Him.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Surprises that are Merry!

The other day someone told me they felt called to be a grandparent. I thought in my head that’s the easy work. You let the kids break things, spoil them, and send them home. Trust me, I am only quoting what my kids’ grandmas have said before. Not to mention, they look at the parents with tired eyes and say, “That’s why God gives you kids when you are young and you can handle it.” Maybe that is true but it isn’t always easy. My least favorite time is when the boys try to wake me up at 5 a.m. Mindy loves when I try and get Gavin back down at 5 a.m. by saying, “Look! Mr. Sun is still sleeping.” I am clinging to my last hour of sleep.

No matter where I am, I notice parents struggling with kids. Everyone is trying to put the best perspective on it, but it is just hard.  The days sometimes seem long, and you can’t wait for that break at the end of the day. This is the job of training young, sinful people. They still have their selfish desires, and are learning how to be responsible.

This week may seem like a weird time to talk about parenting or little kids, but the weight of the responsibility you bear caring for another person can be difficult. It doesn’t matter if it is your kid, nephew, niece, grandchild, your parents or someone else entrusted to you by God. The weight of your responsibilities, coupled with theirs, can sometimes be overwhelming.

Mary had to be feeling this as she felt the weight of everything she was experiencing. A child out of wedlock was even worse back then, than it is today.  She had a fear of her husband leaving her. She was carrying this child and felt all the responsibility. Plus, it was the child her people had waited for all these years! She had all this on her mind, along with all of the normal pregnancy feelings.

Life can be like this--all that heaviness of everything we carry, even in this season. On the outside we may be showing a happy face, but internally we are going through major struggles in our minds and in our hearts. We can’t help but feel that with the tragedies that occurred in Connecticut Friday. It was the time to hug your kids and make sure everyone was ok, no matter what shape your relationship or frustration was at the time. There are just days that are harder than others.

So how did Mary stay Merry?

It was simple. She was carrying Christ. The weight of the world was on her shoulders.  As a new mother, even with all her responsibilities, she knew inside of her was Jesus. The Savior the world was waiting for was on His way, and God gave Mary the chance to bring Him into this world. No matter the stress that existed for her, to know that Christ was in her, gave her and all the people who waited for Him a great sense of peace.

The surprises that came on us in 2012 may be immense. Add the predictions about the end of the world again, a shooting, and tax changes, plus all the things you were feeling and worrying about, and it seems too much to bear this season. But there is a reason to be Merry. God put Jesus inside you and me. We come to celebrate:  eat,
drink and be Merry because we know Jesus lives inside of us.  As you celebrate Christmas, I encourage you to reflect on what is inside of you. There may be tons of worries this year, but Jesus came as a baby and completely altered this world.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Time for a Drink!

My small group of guys is studying a book called “Nudge,” by Leonard Sweet. If you don’t know Leonard he is one of those guys who pushes your thinking and makes you stop and say, “ I never thought of it like that.”  He has a whole chapter on eating and drinking and why God intended it. It certainly pushes the limit, but without a doubt, it comes from the beginning of time--food and drinks have built the community. Good or bad we see this throughout Scripture and in our world today. Even the first sin involved a meal, well sort of.  Regardless, food brings us together in all sorts of ways. In the Bible there are a ton of references. Think of the Passover meal, when all the Israelites were around their tables eating before the final plague. Think of Jesus and his disciples eating the Last Supper together. .Eating around a table together was something they had probably done a million times, but this night was different.  It had deep meaning.  And, of course, the times that Jesus ate with sinners and how he was ridiculed for that.

We are great at eating with our friends but throw a stranger in the mix and it can throw off our vibe and even frustrate us at times. I am absolutely an extrovert to the T. I recharge by being around people. I love people and growing in relationships with them. Pretty much I could be around people 24/7 and it would never bother me, unless I can sense that they are stressed, and that they are ready for me or us to go. This awareness changes around new people; maybe it is because I am trying to figure them out. I am often an observer for a while until I feel I get to know them. As much as I love people these are the most challenging situations for me. This is an odd thing I observe about myself. According to Strength Finders 2.0 my number one strength is Includer; with that being the case, it would seem this would be easier for me. Yet, I find in a familiar environment, I watch that strength flourish, but in a new group it is not so present.

We are people who thrive in being comfortable. Situations that push our comfort zone are sometimes avoided. Yet, without challenging this comfort level, we would never go to school, get married, get a new job, or anything else on that list that involves meeting new people. With every relationship I learn something new and watch how God uses those relationships in my life. Through time we get more practiced at it, but still, deep down, find that draw to our personal comfort and space.

God’s timing to bring His Son into the world was amazing. You watch the details align and see how He perfectly fit into time. You learned how Jesus challenged the church and its leaders. In some of the ways they were comfortable with the way they felt the church should go or who was allowed to be included in their church. Jesus came to alter that by eating and drinking with the SINNERS! I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have Jesus sitting with me and getting a drink and to have a church leader say, “Hey, don’t talk to that guy, he is a sinner.” I probably would look over my shoulder and say, “Hey listen here buddy, (church leaders love it when you call them buddy) you’re a sinner too.”

What a crazy cycle as Jesus comes into the world and sits with us in our comfortable sinful lives; and calls us to love and repentance.  Then as soon as we make our new comfort level with our church friends, Jesus challenges us again to go do what he did: grab a drink with a sinner.

Don’t miss your chance this season to grab a drink or eat with unfamiliar sinners. They may be shocked that you said yes to their party, dinner or whatever the event is. But it will position you to tell them about God’s timing in how He sent Jesus. Sure, it may start with work conversations, national affairs, sports, clothes, music, family, or something else, but God in His perfect timing uses us to be His voice box. Why? Because when we have a drink with Him we remember how much we need Him, at His altar we hear His voice that we are forgiven. We know that there is no way we could go through this life without Him. And He knows when we meet with someone who doesn’t know that, who thinks they will just die and not exist anymore, there is a peace we can share with them because we experience it. But that all starts with a drink!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Eat those Details

I wanted to start this blog by saying I do not like details, but that is not entirely true. Some details I love. I love finding some things that just fit perfectly.  A few months ago I dog sat for my friend Joe. I love how my friend and his wife have all the details arranged in the house. The perfect measuring cup was labeled and included in the container of dog food; every kitchen utensil had a neat storage place; towels were set out for me-–every detail was put in place. They left directions for the electronics. It was the easiest dog sitting I have ever done. I was jealous, and also thinking and loving it that everything had its proper place and spot. I appreciate it when similar details are in place at my house. I can hardly go to bed without leaving a straightened living room and kitchen.

By the same token, there are details I do not like dealing with. There are things that I’m planning when I get so involved with the creative part that I miss certain details. Sometimes as a youth pastor I got used to winging those details and running to get the tape or whatever at the last second. Luckily, during my ministry, God has surrounded me with detail people, and through the years I have learned from them. I learned to eat the details I didn’t like the most, first. I would knock out items that needed to be done that I didn’t want to do, or draw out specifics of details I might forget. It is weird that I could remember sermon after sermon, but I would forget the ping-pong balls that we needed for youth night.

This week we will center our discussion on two very different but important things in Advent: the preparation of Christmas eating and details. You may ask, “Is there anything else?” Christmas is full of making the right meals and getting every detail straight.

Yet, we see the distractions that these two things present in our preparation for Christmas, called Advent. They take away from the very emphasis on the details God created to send Jesus, His Son, into the world. We become so focused on the right meal, or on making sure everything is in place, that we lose sight of the very details God assembled to prepare us for the greatest miracle ever. This week, we will concentrate on the culminating events that prepared the people for Jesus’ coming. Some of these episodes are shocking: John the Baptist leaping in the womb, and angels that prepared people for things before they happened. Remembering these events in the story of God’s rescue of His people, will help us care less about whether the Christmas lights are in the right place, thinking about what food we are making for Christmas day, and what presents are left to purchase or make. It will redirect our focus, and remind us that the details we want to focus on first are the ones that remind us what a blessing this season is; that without Jesus, the details of Christmas preparation wouldn’t be necessary, or even mean anything.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


One of my favorite recipes that my mom makes is Cauliflower salad. The recipe is so simple and yet beautiful.

Cauliflower in little pieces
Mayo a Cup or so
Shredded cheese the amounts depends on how much you like cheese
Green Onions cut up
And a little salt

Throw that in a bowl, let it rest, and you have created a masterpiece—a masterpiece that goes with almost any summer meal that comes off the grill. It goes great with pizza. (ok, maybe Nurse Nancy, our parish nurse, wouldn’t approve, but change it to light mayo or fat free dressing, and then she would). I have so many fond memories of eating this salad--except for the one instance when I was making it for the first time. I had all the cauliflower cut, the mayo mixed in, the right amount of cheese tossed with the green onions, and then I added salt. I put in a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon--big mistake. I took a bite and the salt crystalized on my tongue. I was alone in my vicarage apartment and I was looking forward to eating this salad all day while I watched TV. So I decided to try and choke it down, refusing to go to the store and get more cauliflower.  But as you may have guessed, there was just no changing it. No matter how much mayo or extra cheese I could add, it was wrecked, and so was my stomach the next day.

It is funny how much one ingredient like salt can affect a recipe. It can be the key missing ingredient or the one that destroys it. A recipe, whether constructed for food or plays, for sports or business plans, can contain some key elements that could make or break it. In almost every plan, recipe, or play you can find someone discussing the key element of break down. This could be for the losing play, the business plan that tanked, or the recipe that just didn’t taste right. We have experts who spend hours analyzing things like this. There are plenty of jobs out there to show breakdowns in all kinds of these plans, plays or recipes.

This weekend we begin the season where we discuss the recipe that completely failed, and the recipe that is the greatest masterpiece of all time. Yes, I am talking about God wanting us to be with Him, and how we messed that up because of sin. Then God completely redeemed us by altering His plan to save us. The thing that makes God’s recipe unique is that He uses the ingredients that mess up His recipe to also be the ones that help complete His masterful formula.

Advent is a season that other denominations recognize, but we are one of the few to place so much focus on it. Recently, it seems, many of our churches have lost the true meaning of Advent, which is to prepare for the coming of Jesus. It is important, because while we may not be preparing for Jesus to come into the world as a baby to alter the broken recipe, we are waiting for Him to come back and fully complete it. This month we will spend time talking about just that. I pray it will be a powerful month for you as you prepare for Jesus. As we begin the last month of 2012, we will hear all kinds of unique ideas about the end of the world, but our job is the same every year: prepare for Jesus to come. What a wonderful thought! Advent is a gentle and beautiful reminder of what God calls us to do every day: to prepare for Jesus’ coming by using our gifts to share His wonderful recipe.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Worn out Thanksgiving

My uncle was only 11 years older than me; he was the cool one. He was the uncle we watched grow up. He was a teenager while we were young kids trying to keep up with him.  I have to admit he shaped a few things in my life. He was the one who first introduced me to R & B music back when I believed rock music was from the devil. Soon that became the music that first graced my cd player. He continued to lead me as he invited me to visit the college he attended.  During my 8th grade year I stayed with him at Concordia, River Forest.  And finally he showed me the art of dressing. Long before I ever became a pastor, he would take me shopping and teach me about clothes. I hit clearance racks and found ways to buy clothes without spending tons of money, but still getting clothes I wanted. And once I had them I would keep them. I did everything to keep them nice. I was so thankful for these blessings. I have clothes that I have had since college. I have shoes that I have had since high school. The problem is--no matter how hard I tried, and no matter how thankful I was, eventually the clothes would wear out. It was almost like a hint of sadness every time one of them had to hit the trash can.

Every year as we celebrate Thanksgiving this odd thing happens. We are reflecting on the end of the church year and preparing for the end of the world. Living in America, we are thanking God for all the blessings He has given us in this life. At the same time we are anticipating when He will come back and completely renew the earth, and change it/destroy it. It is like thanking God for something we know is going to wear out.

This hardly seems something to celebrate. It is hard to thank God for something I know will soon be gone and tossed away like my clothes. I don’t want to thank God for cool clothes or blessings, and at the same time picture them wearing out and needing to be thrown away.

Our two different passages in Scripture this week do exactly this. In our reading on Thanksgiving we will talk about being content in all things, and then turn around and hear about Isaiah talking about how the earth will wear out like a garment. The challenge will be to recognize God’s gifts in all of our lives, and yet to know that trusting in Jesus means this is just the beginning. Anything we have in this life is a blessing, but those blessings will be even better when we are in heaven. It is kind of like celebrating the wearing out of old clothes. What does it mean to be content with what you have, but not get so caught up in it that you can’t bear to see it get tossed in the trash?

This is an odd combination of things, but the truth is that God wants us to be thankful and rejoice in how He blesses us in this life. Yet, He also wants us to know that this life will wear out like an old garment, but God will provide an even better life, eternal life. It is about celebrating our seasons and yet looking forward to the next one. It is certainly a hard thing to balance, but we see these kinds of tensions all through our lives. This week is just the moment when they collide. What a blessing to celebrate Thanksgiving with our Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier and yet know that He has something even greater for us to come!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Last Sign

I had this friend in Chattanooga who rented billboards. He was amazing at getting people to see the power of using signs for advertising. In fact, he was so good that he would sell for a while in a town, and then someone would buy him out.  For awhile he would have to stay out of that town; then he would sell them in a new town until the same thing happened. His power to use and show how effective signs were was unbelievable.  He had a unique ability, because often our world seems too busy for signs.

All too often people pass by signs. We may see some that stand out here or there, but think about how many signs you pass on the road and don’t even read them. I couldn’t tell you how many signs I go by in a day and don’t read them.

A few weeks ago we experienced a miscommunication at Mt. Calvary. Somehow some wires had been crossed and so some published materials indicated that Love 1 Serve 1 started at 7pm and some said 6 pm. We realized the majority of our stuff said 7pm, so I sent out a quick Pastor Update email that clarified that the correct  time was 7 pm. But our front sign had been wrong for months saying 6pm, so I thought, “Let’s see what happens.” This is a prime time to see who reads that sign. I made sure I was here before 6pm, and as I waited only one couple showed up at 6pm. A couple which is well known at Mt. Calvary. I thought, “Well, that’s interesting. Do people read our sign? Is this just something they are not interested in? What does this mean?“

Even greater than that is how do we tell if God is giving us a sign? The danger is that we focus on our actions, and look for signs based upon our mistakes or on good things we do, but the reality is how do we recognize a sign from God? It is a hard thing to figure out. Many times in my life I have sat back and asked, “God what are you teaching me?” There were many times in my life when signs happened, and I was asking God, “What does this sign mean?” The honest truth is that for most of us it seems so hard to tell what God is saying and what sign is He giving us.

I think this happens for a lot of reasons, because we see people who see signs in everything. I know people who said that God told them where to buy flowers, CDs and so on. How do they know that?

At the end I know I can rely on what God gives me. 1 John 4 talks about seeing if the spirit (sign) matches up with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and if it does, then it is from God. Hard to do when the sign we might be receiving affects this neither here nor there. So what then? I trust God’s Word, and His peace. I also trust God’s promise of being with us, along with His daily guidance.

Anyway you look at signs it’s tough whether they catch your eye or you ignore them. This week we will discuss understanding the last sign, and what that means. As the church year prepares to wrap up, it is a message that is so important; especially because we are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus, a sign that so many missed and still do today. Yet, it is the only sign we don’t want to miss, and we at Mt. Calvary will do our best to help the world see this sign, whether or not they read the signs in our front yard.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Recently I sat praying with a group of people and a prayer for healing came up. I prayed how I typically do with healing. “Lord, guide the hands of the doctors and nurses and help this person going through this time. Lord, if it be Your will, may they be healed.” I was immediately followed by someone who said, “Lord we boldly ask You for healing and we don’t hide behind words like, ‘If Your will be done.’” I drew back and was caught off guard. We don’t hide behind Your will? You have to be kidding me! First my mind was frustrated, and then it began to race. Am I really hiding behind that when I speak those words? Am I covering my tail if the person is not healed? Is it a lack of faith?

Healing is an odd thing. I know it is God’s will to do things. I know it is good to stay connected in prayer to Him, and to voice my concerns. I know that He has foreknowledge. How do I make sense of all those things and know how He heals?

There was this guy in my life who was struggling with cancer, but he believed with all of his heart that God would heal him. He told all of his family that he would be healed. One day I got to see in a letter where he wrote the top 10 reasons he believed God would heal him. On the top of his list it said, “So I can stand on a stage and proclaim what the Lord has done.” Eventually he passed and I was left to make my own assessment of why that was, with my own questions of proper reasoning.

I had a friend in college who was deeply ill with cancer. He was an amazing dude who loved Jesus. He had an awesome girlfriend who stood by his side. He had wanted to be a teacher his whole life, and he finally watched that dream become a reality. God healed him of his cancer, and in turn he started a great ministry called Phil’s Friends, which helped others who were sick with cancer. Phil and his friends have blessed thousands of people.

It would be easy from these two stories to look for my own understanding of those whom Jesus heals. Yet, I must rely on what I know from Scripture. Jesus often says, “Your faith has healed you.” I know that Jesus is the true healer. I know that I can talk and pray with Him any time I want. I believe in His healing and know His power. He has healed me from sin, death, and the devil.

This weekend we are going to talk about healing and what it means. We will also offer the opportunity to receive prayer and anointing for healing. Sometimes this subject can difficult because many of us have had experiences like the ones above. Healing in our minds seems so confusing. Yet, we know that the elders of the church are authorized to lay hands on those who need healing. (James 5:14). We also read about the disciples healing many. And we know that Jesus is the ultimate healer.

The key is to trust the things you know about Jesus, and have faith for the things that you cannot understand. While I may have wanted to figure out these healing stories in my life, I have just trusted who God is and had faith in Him.  Faith is a powerful tool in healing, and it has nothing to do with figuring it out. It has one point: to trust in the God who created you, saved you, and directs our days and our lives.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Horse bites! You know those tricks where you take two knuckles and pinch them on someone’s skin or leg or arm?  That is what I remember about Karl William Hanke.  Yes, the first Karl Hanke, from whose line I am the 4th. I remember getting pinched by him with horse bites. He was a funny man. He had come over from Germany and my favorite memory of him was how he would greet me in his native accent, “Villiam--good German name.” Since I was born I’ve used my middle name, and he chose to call me that too. Had I been older I might have said, “Great Grandpa, you realize I have your name, right? “ Nicknames for the various Karl William Hankes are a story for another day, but today is all about thinking about Grandpa’s death and the memories I have about him: every Thanksgiving eating in Big Boy, staying in pink motels, and knowing who my great grandparents were. But then when I was between 8 and10 years old, they all passed away. Grandpa was the first to go. I remember seeing him in the casket, and for the first time experiencing death. The words spoken in my ears that day were: “He is with Jesus.’’ My dad brought us each to the casket and talked about seeing Jesus.

After that, death became a natural part of life to me; not to mention something that scripture also addressed. Soon Great Grandma Hanke, Great Grandma Favory, and Grandpa Schubkegel all died. I watched so many lives pass who have meant so many things to me and my family. They each left a legacy and something to share, and at the end they showed me what death meant and the certainty we have in Jesus.

This week at Mt. Calvary we celebrate All Saints’ Day. There is nothing special about the physical date, but there is something important about taking a moment to celebrate the saints that have come and gone before us. Now is just the time of year we set aside to celebrate it. It is a great time to reflect that while we will face death someday, we also celebrate the life we have in Jesus. The saints are celebrating that life with Jesus now, while we are living in an unique tension. That tension of being sinner as well as saint reaffirms that while we are certain of the promise of eternity with Jesus, we still face sin and the prospect of death every day.

This week we also remember the love the saints have had for us, and have shown to our world, it helps us to Love 1, to love others. The saints grew in their love for Jesus, and that inspired them to love others. That love is something we get to carry on from their example and the Love we know in Jesus. It presents us with a great opportunity to think about the people we love. The saints before us didn’t realize how much their love would impact us.  The names of loved ones run through my head as I remember the blessings and beliefs they have taught me. This week, while we do not specifically mention the B1 disciple of Jesus, we do want to consider how the Love 1 person theme is projected through the message of All Saints’ Day. This continuing emphasis impacts us as we have seen God’s love in others, and helps us think of the ways we can share God’s love with people today.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pray 1

In our nightly routine we say a prayer I said as a kid, “Good job, Mom.” Then we often open it up for prayer comments or requests and the shout-outs keep coming.

Jacob   “Let’s pray for Jesus.”

Me       “Good one Jacob. Gavin, do you have any?”

Gavin  “Jesus.”

Me       “Good one Gav. Jacob, anymore?”

Jacob   “Mom.”

Me       “Sure we can pray for Mom. Gavin, anymore?”

Gavin  “Dad.”

Me       “Good one. We can pray for Dad. Jacob, anymore?”

Jacob   “Let’s pray for cars.”

Me       “We can be thankful to God for giving us cars.”

I could type page after page about what we say. Some nights we are more distracted than others. Honestly, some nights I am tired and ready to put kids to bed. Yet, I try to stay faithful in our prayers to help them focus on them. I will tell you I avoid a lot of detailed theology. Yes, when I pray with my kids, we pray for Jesus—I’m pretty sure He doesn’t need us to pray for Him. It is really all about encouraging an open communication with little correction so we don’t discourage prayer.  I am not concerned about perfect theology with them. We often end up praying for milk, heads, socks, and whatever else we think of.

One odd thing I have noticed in being a pastor, is that so many of us are afraid to pray out loud. Honestly, these are the things that keep me up at night. Why in the world would we be fearful of praying out loud? Praying is just talking to God and sharing our hearts with Him.

Yet, through time I have found out that so many of us are afraid to say the wrong thing to Him. The amazing thing is that God knows our inner thoughts. He knows everything about us. The only real thing we could say wrong would be to rebuke Him. But if we are worried about that, then we are pretty much on track with focusing on our faith. Yet, I think we are more fearful of what others will think of us. Funny, that our world which is focused on images and how we appear, has even taken over our prayer lives.  

This week we will talk about Pray 1. This is the last piece of our discipleship model. To be honest, it was one of those topics that we really wrestled with through time and prayer. We believe one of the necessary pieces of making disciples in 2012 is to help us realize why prayer is important for our lives. I believe God wants us to become a church where we can pray out loud with little worry of getting our words perfect, or about what others think.

In Biblical history before Jesus came, there was a curtain separating people from a direct connection with God. But when Jesus died and rose again, that curtain was torn and opened, allowing a direct connection with Him. Now we find ourselves with the opportunity to talk with Jesus every day whenever we want. What an amazing gift God has given!  Because of that gift, we are given the chance to live in direct and constant communication with Him, connecting us with our Savior and Creator.  How cool is that?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Read 1

A while ago I heard a presenter talk about how to make the reading of God’s Word  a habit in your life. Two things stuck with me that day. One was the constant reminder that when we are reading God’s Word, we always have a defender. His point was that the devil is always trying to distract us from doing it. Talk to some of the greatest spiritual leaders, and they will tell you how they constantly wrestle with making sure this discipline is in their lives.

Second, he addressed building the habit in your life so that it is common. I am not sure what it was when you were a kid, but we all have things we just know will happen. Some of us had dessert every night, some of us always had time to play a game or do something else. No one had to force you to like those things--it just was natural. Your family did them as you grew up, and you continue to enjoy them into adulthood.  Mine is music.

Music was something that permeated my house. My mom and dad had records that we listened to. I remember break dancing to Michael Jackson in my living room as a kid. My dad played the guitar and I have memories of singing songs with him. My mom sang to us all the time. I remember long car drives and hearing Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel or Glad. One of my first purchases as a boy was a stereo. I can tell you my first Cd I ever bought. My brother randomly texts me song lyrics. Music is in my family through and through. No one ever told me to like it, and no one ever had to because it was modeled for me every step of life. My kids now have music in their lives. There are already times when they are dancing in my office or living room. Jacob, my four year old, taught Gavin, my two year old, the lyrics to Carly Rae’s “Call Me Maybe.” You should hear Gavin try and sing “This Is Crazy.”

We all have things that we naturally teach our kids to love because we love them. Stickers on my car, my planner, a picture on my office wall, all indicate who my
favorite artist is. It all started with my parents’ love for music, and how it became my love. But what if we did that with Scripture? What if our kids naturally saw us read God’s Word every night? What if we were reading it to them? Would it make it that much easier to fall in love with it? Would they tell you that no one made them like reading God’s Word--it is just what our family does?

I believe it is absolutely necessary to set this model, and build this habit in as a young kid. Because the older you get, the more challenging it is to build it. Some of us know the fight of convincing ourselves day in and day out to get back to God’s Word because we know He is the source of life and truth.

In my house we have an age appropriate Bible and my boys know where it is. It is the last book we read before bed. They know where to get it. Trust me, I am not perfect but I am trying the hardest to make it a practice in their lives from early on. I believe in the power of God’s Word. I know it is necessary to know what He says as a disciple. This world can tell me so many lies, but His Word tells me that I am loved, unique and His. This is my heart--not just for Mt. Calvary, but for the Church at large. I know it is hard. I know we have a defender, but the more we practice it in our lives, the better shot we have to stay connected to the strongest Words that have ever been written. We stay connected to the God who redeems us. We stay connected to the redemption we need in a world of pain. Read 1. Just start with one verse a day, and I know God will grow your life to enable you to hear His Word to you. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Love 1

Ever sit down and wonder about the definition of love? Why is love something that can alter so many emotions and so many things? Who really came up with all these ideas of love? Why are candies things that suggest love? Who chose roses to be the proclamation of love, and why are lips romantic?

Love contains a lot more depth than just the romantic stuff, because love is something that is needed by all people. My son, Jacob, recently watched me say goodbye to my mom and give her a hug. He asked me, “Why did grandma hug you? “ Mindy and I tried to tell him that she is my mom. He said, “Dad, you have a mom?” Funny how kids can put things in the perspective of what is happening in life around them.

Love is something that we all need--and not romantic love. But we need people to love us. It helps us to feel confident, to know who we are. But even deeper than that it is how we are designed.

If all people need love, then there is something in our very core that cries out for it. And what would that be that would need love so desperately that nothing else could be filled by it?

Occasionally I pull myself out of my own world and I get to a place where I realize that every person I see on a daily basis is a person who needs love. Have you ever thought about it--the grocery checker, the flight attendant, the car salesman, the homeless dude, the waitress, and even your own parents.   They all need love.

In my small group Bible study, we had a waitress who had always waited on us. She was pregnant, and it seemed like her boyfriend was about to bail on her. We pooled together and got her a gift card. I brought some baby clothes in from the masses we had been blessed with from people giving to us, and she was overjoyed. The baby arrived, and she was happy.  It seemed like things were good. Then all of a sudden one night she was gone. At the restaurant, we heard comments that she no longer worked there, and something was mentioned involving the police. The details seemed foggy and left us wondering what was going on. You got that feeling in the pit of your stomach like how could she do something like this? It left us wondering why we helped her. Did we really think our small gifts could impact her life?

But I remember the nights we circled around her and prayed for her baby. We prayed that God would provide and care for her. She knew that these dudes who met on Tuesday nights cared for her. The imprint of Love 1.

Imprints on people are not always noticed right away, but they are necessary to trace the truth. And the truth about Love is this:  There is only one God who defines love and He is our God. The God who sent His Son to die and rise for us, shows us what sacrificial love is. He shows us what it means to love people that the world casts off, and He teaches us today how His love that has changed us, can change others.

This week we talk about just that: What does it mean to Love 1, and how Jesus‘ definition and teaching about Love affects us. It will be challenging, but it will be rewarding. God created us for this purpose, and that is why we all want love; and whether the world admits it or not, that is the reason they are all in search of love. And so we wait for our chance to teach them one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible.

1 John 4:8  “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”