Friday, February 20, 2015


Many people like to give up things for Lent. I will get on my soap box one more time and say that, most of the time, people don’t know why they are doing it. They are supposedly suffering for some reason, but they are not sure why or what the point is. I love to ask Catholics why they give up meat on Fridays. Many times even they have no clue why they do it. Are you curious as to how this practice started? A long time ago a Pope suggested it might be a good way to reflect on what Jesus did for us. It was nothing more than a suggestion. That was it.  Yet now, it is so often taken as truth. I would rather see us take on a new habit than sacrifice a bad one. In our discipleship model we talk about reading 1 verse a day.  I suggest that you pick up that piece rather than give something up.

Yet, sacrifice is important. Recently I was talking to the young adults about my favorite CS Lewis quote, “The man who fights off temptation for 10 minutes doesn’t know what it’s like to fight off temptation for an hour.”  We, who fight against the devil on a daily basis, know that this kind of sacrifice is hard. Both of the stories we read this weekend are heartbreaking. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son!  Even considering such a request was truly hard. I can’t imagine what it was like for him to walk up that mountain thinking about what he was about to do – kill his long-awaited only son.

The same is true of Jesus. Here was this sinless man/God who was facing temptation. This has to be a time when Jesus realizes anew the challenge living on Earth was going to be. Of course, Jesus took on the ultimate sacrifice for us as He walked the road to Calvary and gave up His life – the road we deserved and were supposed to walk ouselves.

Lent is that time to reflect on sacrifice, the blessings God gives, and our personal lives and how we can take time to grow in Him. As you take time to hear these stories one more time, I encourage you to think of the sacrifice of your Savior, but also the sacrifice we each make as we take on the devil and try and develop holy habits our Lord has taught us. The devil is sneaky and tries to attack us.  It is only by grasping the sacrifice Jesus endured for us that we can grow to fully understand Lent. Trust me, this is much more powerful than giving up Dr. Pepper or chocolate. I pray that God guides you into that deep reflection on Him this Lenten season.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Voice of God

This weekend I head home to preach about the voice of God. It is one of those unique things that we struggle with, wondering what God is like. My opening video is of Jimmy Fallon and Adam Levine singing songs in different artists voices. The uniqueness of their impersonations is how they change their voices, and their faces. They look and sound so similar to the artist they are impersonating that it makes it funny.  Their unique style breaks into this hard topic with some humor, and it brings to light a true reality. We honesty don’t know what either of these things are like with God – what He looks or sounds like. At different times I have had people comment on what they think God’s face looks like, and the answers are all over the board. The same is true of His voice. So, we are left with our own impressions to figure this out.

Often we may look to how other people hear God’s voice. Unfortunately, this is like when I question people about the face of God. People often declare to hear directly from God. Even Katy Perry shared that God told her, “You got this” as she was preparing for the Super Bowl. It can leave us puzzled about why we don’t hear from God if others do. So if our own impressions are unclear, and so are the impressions of others, than what do we do? We turn to scripture.

This is where we find the voice of God revealing himself in different ways. In the Old Testament we see God talking directly to people – Moses, Samuel, and so many others. Then in the New Testament Jesus comes, and people are looking at their God. Now they can see what He looks like and hear His voice. When the curtain in the temple was torn at Jesus’ death, we received a direct connection with God we call prayer. Yet, while prayer brings peace, we can still be unsettled with the lack of hearing His voice or seeing His image.

As we had Maddy’s funeral, I wrestled theologically wondering will I see her and know her in Heaven. I guess I could find peace in knowing that I may not recognize other loved ones I saw on this earth, but a daughter I never got to hug was a struggle. Once I even told Mindy that I feel like we won’t know each other in Heaven because in Matthew Jesus says we won’t be married. But the unrest of not knowing and hugging my daughter was unsettling. Then I talked to a pastor friend of mine and shared my struggle. He pointed me to this week’s lesson on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9). He helped me to see that Peter, James, and John recognized Moses and Elijah who appeared with Jesus on that mountain. He asked me, “How could they have known, Will? Were there pictures back then?” All of the sudden this rushing sense of peace of recognizing people in Heaven made more sense. Now, whether I will make the connection that Maddy is my daughter is a whole different topic for a different time. But for the time being I received peace.

I talk a lot about peace.  I write it in my emails.  If you catch it, I often say in the benediction, “…and give us His peace!” The peace of God is something that doesn’t make any sense, but it is something we feel. It is kind of like hearing a familiar voice or recognizing a loved one’s face. For Peter, James, and John that peace was so evident that they wanted to build tents and live on that mountain forever. It was unmistakable that God gave peace and that they were in it, experiencing it, surrounded by it. I connect God’s peace with the very nature of God, as He describes Himself as a servant, selfless, and loving. If our peace is resting in those very thoughts (that God is a servant, selfless and loving), and leaning on our prayer and trust in Jesus, then we know this is the very voice of God in our lives.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Serve Boldly

I really wanted to be an NBA star when I was little. Well, “little” is relative. As a young boy I was playing basketball in my driveway. I can tell you a million memories of the shots taken and how my life was surrounded by basketball. Yet, it was my final year of high school as I sat on the bench with my team down 50 points, that I realized this was not my future. Instead, I was known as the guy that you could go to when you needed someone to listen and give counsel. I had friends in high school who would seek my advice about all kinds of things. It wasn’t like my life was the most put together either.  I was constantly seeking others out about my relationship issues as I waited to find the woman I would marry.

As I continued into college, I made friends with many people, sometimes too many to manage. Then there were those that chose to mentor me. I had great pre-seminary friends who were older that cared for me.  As time grew and my career path became clear, it was evident that relationships were something I valued.  It came up in personality tests that I took at the seminary, and in the first two churches where I served.  In fact, as I considered the call to Mt. Calvary, it was helpful for me to realize that I was a relationship guy, not just the “youth guy” as I had been in those other churches.  I wanted to connect all types of people (through relationships) to the power of the Word of God.

Even though I value relationships, are there times in my life when I serve others? I look around and see this person passionate about helping those with cancer. I see another person passionate about the jobless or homeless. As I thought about each of those, I realized that I get paid for serving others.  So now the question becomes, am I truly serving with passion? The only way to “Serve Boldly” or be to an extraordinary servant is to ask these important questions – questions whose answers are found beyond our desires in the deep parts of our heart.

After that 50-point loss in high school, I went to my coach and asked him why he didn’t play me. My question was less about me being good enough to play and more about our relationship (me & the coach) and how hard I had worked to be faithful to the team. Even back then, basketball was more about relationships for me and less about a desire to be an NBA player. If the desire truly had been about the NBA, I think I would have worked even harder and tried to get more muscle. I just loved the game, and enjoyed the relationships. Some of my favorite days were going over to Zach’s house before games and chilling with all our buddies.

It took years for me to realize that my “Extraordinary Servanthood,” or my
“Serve Boldly-ness” was going to come in those moments of my relationships where I could show I care and how I love the uniqueness of that particular person. I loved going to Belize and serving, but mostly because of the relationships I formed while I was there. I loved helping youth because I had some challenging experiences as a youth myself and wanted to help them in their relationships. Every time Mindy and I face something, it creates another opportunity to help others. Opportunities to “Serve Boldly” can be found in the everyday things, like being a parent, but also in the challenges and tragedies of life.

Most of our stories are covered up with dreams- like mine were. We are distracted by the outside initial desire without looking much deeper.  However, when we look deeper, we are able to see how God made us uniquely. When Jesus shared with the disciples about being a servant for all and laying down His life as a ransom, He wasn’t putting a specific job out there. Sure, the apostles were chosen for certain reasons and they were gifted in that very way of carrying on the message. Yet, there are so many people uniquely positioned to help – in their own unique way. Jesus’ wide-open description of servanthood allows us to use our gifts in ways where we can truly “Serve Boldly.”

Just as we can “Serve Boldly” as individuals, we can also “Serve Boldly” as a church. At Mt. Calvary, we are uniquely gifted. Over the next several weeks we will highlight some of those characteristics, which an outsider to Mt. Calvary helped us see. As we recognize these gifts, it will help us hold onto our mission to be extraordinary servants. In a culture that is increasingly more focused on charities and serving others, what a great mission to have! As a body, we (Mt. Calvary) can help define some of those areas to serve in/for the community. We already know we care about schools and our preschool. We know that kids are a part of our heart’s mission. That is evident to our community too, since many of them tell us that loving children is something we do well.  But what are the other ways we can be extraordinary servants and “Serve Boldly?” The Lutheran Foundation is using their Serve Boldly campaign to help churches start this type of conversation. If you could look at a church and say, “They ‘Serve Boldly’ by ________ (fill in the blank), which is making an impact in the community.” They would know what each church does and how they use their gifts to Serve Boldly. Our mission pairs perfectly with this campaign. The survey each of us will fill out will help us gather your thoughts how God can use the gifts of Mt. Calvary to serve this world. It will help our young adults and young families to grasp the energy that many of our long time members have. 

It is great to have fresh eyes on something we are so familiar with. Being an extraordinary servant is every day language here at Mt. Calvary.  Through this series, I hope that every member can say at least 3 specific ways we as a church are doing just that (being extraordinary servants). This week we kick off the Serve Boldly series and then we will spend every Wednesday Lenten service discussing a new piece of it. You can fill out your Serve Boldly surveys here at church, or you can take it online. You will see Serve Boldly coffee cups and napkins and a ramped up fellowship hour. It will be a fun weekend to remember the mission we hold dear, have discussions about it, and then come back to the very life of Jesus – who taught us how to be extraordinary servants.