Thursday, August 29, 2013

Labor and Rest

Mindy and I celebrated her birthday and her new teaching job in June.  We were blessed with a gift to stay at the Ballpark Hilton and another gift to eat at a great restaurant near the hotel.  We had thoughtful conversations about how much God has blessed us throughout our first year at Mt. Calvary.  We talked about our wonderful kids.  Mindy discussed how excited she was with her new job.  That night we went to sleep with no little people there to wake us up in the morning.  It probably was some of the best rest I have had in years, but I still woke up at 5:30 am.  Our room was on a floor several stories up where the air conditioning wasn’t very effective, so I was hot.  Mindy is never shocked by this situation because we regularly fight the battle of cold and hot.  So I decided to go for a run.  It was a great morning!  Because of our location, I got to run by the Arch.  I came back to find my beautiful wife still sleeping, so I went to the pool and swam laps.  When I felt like my exercise routine was complete I got in the hot tub.  I realized my heart was racing, but not just from working out.  My life is a constant whirlwind with a wife, three kids, and a wonderful church.  I realized that I needed to force myself to slow down, but I wanted to be able to keep that pace; yet I felt like God was calling me to rest.  I began to pray for my family, Mt. Calvary, and many other people and things.  I got out of the hot tub, went to breakfast, and continued my thoughts about rest.
Funny how God can use such moments in our lives to get us to consider how best to do His work.  He can challenge us or bless us.  In that moment I realized rest really was important.  In our discussions this weekend, we note that we are celebrating a man made holiday that has God’s finger prints all over it; that those who labor should also have rest.  From the very beginning of time, God intended that our work should end with rest.  As busy people this can be hard to do.  Interestingly, our readings this weekend describe the Pharisees challenging Jesus and accusing Him of working on a holy day.
The Pharisees totally missed the point.  God’s intent in establishing a time of rest was that He wants us to slow down, worship Him, love others, read His Word, and pray to Him.  Sound familiar?  This is not a way to prove that we are doing everything right.  It is a blessing that God gives.  He gives rest, and He gives time to recharge so we can be fully prepared to do His work.
            As we gear up for the series, “Nobody Is Left Out”, we take time to rest before we talk about all the different ways God uses our gifts--about our work that could bless Him and others.  It is a great opener to our series and a reminder that Extraordinary Servants need some rest time so they can successfully accomplish their servant work.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


The last line of Proverbs 13:25 really caught my attention this week.  It reads:  The righteous eat to their hearts’ content, but the stomach of the wicked goes hungry.”  These are the kinds of lines that have made this series unique and challenging all at the same time.  This verse brings eating, righteousness, and the wicked all together.  This week I spent time with a new friend who has a passion for healthy eating.  He believes that many kids in the United States are starving in their homes--homes no one would expect.  It could be for many reasons: debt, lost jobs, or just lack of parental care.  He also believes that many kids are obese.  That conversation made me think about a lot of things.  First of all, it reminded me of how blessed I am.  Secondly, it reminded me of a story from my past.

An old friend of mine believed that you could be on any diet and lose weight.  She wanted to prove that no matter what food you selected, it could be considered diet food.  So she started on a donut diet.  She ate nothing for breakfast, lunch or dinner except donuts.  She LOST weight!  I remember talking to her about it.  She said, “Yeah I proved you could do it.  I am malnourished, but I did it.”  Sometimes the outside world can perceive things inaccurately.  Even though my friend appeared to be healthy, she was actually starving on the inside.

In our world we have so many choices of food that we can eat.  Most of the quick, unhealthy options are cheap and easy.  In our busy lives, it is easy to fill our bodies up with food that ultimately can hurt us if we consume too much of it.  Solomon was wise--even for our generation.  He envisioned things that were coming in the future.  He foresaw the way we would fill ourselves.  While to the outside world, the food that is unhealthy may be coveted, but the food that will fill us will allow us to eat as much as we need of it.

This series has taken us on a journey where we were able to see how Solomon’s wisdom was totally a gift of God; but we also learned through examples in his life.  As we finish our series, we focus on the guidance of Jesus.  Unfortunately, even living as forgiven people, we will still make mistakes.  Those mistakes are seen with our own eyes; we still act on them and they consume our bodies.  This week Solomon talks about consuming the righteousness into which the Holy Spirit leads us.  He has challenging topics like disciplining our children; watching what comes out of our lips; and listening to correction.  Our human nature has a hard time hearing these things, but our redeemed souls rejoice in God’s amazing power to rescue us, and put us on the right track.  This week we pray that through the saving power of Jesus, we can understand how His wisdom can guide and direct our lives to eat all we want of the saving words of God.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Joy!  Seriously, define joy for me!  Well, let me tell you how our world defines it:  new cars, good food, good drinks, money, and yes, even family time.  Just look at the ads on television, and you will find a million people explaining why the newest thing they have acquired brings them joy.  Joy is also shown by people enjoying a vacation or a time of relaxation--not to mention that joy is also Christmas, presents, and family time.  Honestly, some of the most stressful times are said to be joyful; yet, as Christians, we know that Jesus gives Joy, so what does that mean?

As a boy, I remember adding up every dollar I was going to make by mowing lawns.  I also figured out how many MLB hats I was going to have at the end of the summer.  I just liked so many of the logos and thought the hats would make a joyful statement.

During my high school summers I woke up at 5 a.m. to take my 108-pound body up to a cold weight room to lift weights.   Yes, skinny little Will, who barely weighed more than the bars did, regularly went to the weight room.  It was all for the anticipated joy of making the public school basketball team, which I did not make.  When I moved to Lutheran High School I loved being on the JV team, but I thought I would find even more joy being on the varsity team.  However, I found most of my days sitting on the bench!

In college I was waiting for the day when I was going to be married.  I felt like marriage and ministry would be my true joy.  I spent hours concerned about the person I would marry.  And the list goes on, but doesn’t it for all of us?  Look back at how much time we waste seeking the joy we presumed we would find through things, ideas, programs, institutions, and whatever else you want to mention.

This weekend we talk about joy.  How do we find real joy?  Where did the wisest man who ever lived find joy?  So we will examine the concept of joy—something we all want, but have failed in trying to find it.

Well Being

There was a period in my life when I experienced an unwelcome sense of isolation.  I was about to begin my vicarage.  My family had just left me in my apartment in Tennessee, and suddenly I was alone!  One of my biggest struggles back then was with feeling like a victim, and those thoughts were running rampant through my soul.

            This was also during the time when the social media scene had begun, and I sometimes found myself on MySpace looking for friends.  Sure, I had a new church, and met some new people, but in that scenario I was this vicar person, not just Will—and I thrived on being just Will.  Consequently, I realized it was time to figure out who Will really was.  I decided I needed to assess the state of my well being. 

            I began to search for a formula for well being.  I set up a demanding workout routine, started eating healthier, scheduled devotional times, and learned how to play the guitar.  During this time, I became aware that I was spending a lot of moments with God.  I found that these moments helped shape the development of some new disciplines.  These habits would help build a solid foundation in preparation for the next seven years, which would prove to be hectic and crazy!

            After my vicarage year, I got married, moved five or more times and found myself serving in three different churches.  The foundation that was developed during my period of loneliness provided me with the understanding of well being that God had prescribed, and that Proverbs described.

            So often this assessment of my well being is disappointing to me, because the first thing I look at is sin.  If you’re like me, you look at the faults, but not at the source of well being.  This weekend we take the next step on our journey of Wisdom for Youth and Children by examining the components of well being.  Solomon says, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you.”  These words might resemble some self help instructions until you realize that these two words describe our Lord and Savior.  He is Love, and He is Faithful.  He is the One who connects us with our Creator and Sanctifier.  He helps us trust in God’s love, faithfulness and provision.  This week we talk about how these words form the solid basis of well being.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


As I began to ponder how to approach our next series, I went in many directions.  At the beginning of last year, as a small group, we put together some ideas for various sermon series.  One of those ideas was to talk about youth and children, and bring us back to focus on our future.  As I spent time preparing for this, I came across a book that is not used as often--Proverbs.  Proverbs was written by the wisest man ever, Solomon.  Yet when reading it we often can feel like children or youth.  Proverbs contains wise guidance for our youth and children, but also for us.

I once heard it said from a PhD who was familiar with kids, that he felt like childhood was one of the most challenging periods in life.  I remember hearing this comment and struggling with it.

Over the next several weeks we will broach the tough topics from this book by Solomon.  These subjects are difficult for our naturally sinful ears to hear, but they bring us into a deep understanding of how the wisdom that God had granted Solomon could help our children, youth, and us.  We will spend the next several weeks digging into this book, and praying that we can be God’s tools to speak the words of wisdom from the Holy Spirit into a world that is struggling to see the Truth of God.
Thinking through the years of good memories from my childhood, I found it hard to relate; but yet on the other hand, reflecting on the counsel I needed to work through some of the tough situations during my childhood, his statement made sense.  Then I also  reflected on my own kids.  A good majority of my focus as an adult is guiding and directing them.  The biggest parental issue today is that many parents tend not to take responsibility for providing this guidance.  Kids that are neglected don’t feel the love and care God intended for them to receive in a family.  The same can be said of our church kids.  I believe we need to talk with them often, provide them with wise guidance, and bring them into leadership roles.  This is the very wisdom of Solomon.  If we are able to impart this wisdom to our kids from the very beginning, we will find God’s Word has soaked into their very bones.