Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tree of Life Day 24: Judges 4, 6-7, 13-16

It's a long passage to read today, but one part in particular stuck out to me.  I'm grateful for the Bible's honesty in moments like this because it gives a lot of hope to at-time-less-than-courageous-leaders like me.
So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had told him.  But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. (6.27
I'm thankful for that passage right there.  Gideon did what the Lord required, there's no question about that.  And he did what he knew was right - not just following the Lord but tearing down the altar of Baal (a false god).  But he did it at night.

He was scared.  He thought he might not have to do the confrontation thing.  He thought it might just slide by and he could look around with everyone else and say, "Hey!  What happened here?  Who did this?"

In my own spiritual journey, there have been times like that.  Times where I know the right thing and have even done the right thing, but done it in a way so that it minimizes the conflict and ugliness that often comes with confronting evil in the world.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tree of Life Day 23: Joshua 5-8

How terrible is sin?

It didn't just cost Achan his life, but the lives of his family members.  And it wasn't just the family of Achan, but 36 other warriors who had gone to fight against Ai.

If there is a fight worth fighting, it's against sin.  But it's not just for my sake (though that would be enough).  It's for the sake of those around me.

As a husband, my sin can affect my wife.  Even the sin which I have hidden, "with the silver underneath," will weasel its way out.  Even the part which I think I've got buried so deep no one will ever know about - thoughts, intentions, feelings, admirations, desires, tinges of allegiance - even those find their way to the surface, like a flower growing from the smallest crack in the sidewalk.

As a dad, my sin can affect my kids.  Attitudes work their way out in sharp words or sharp actions.  Instead of passing along the fruit of the Spirit, I end up spiritually genetically engineering a person for whom sin is no big deal.  If I can dismiss it, so can they.

As a pastor, I can lack spiritual power because of sin.

As a friend, I can run out of compassion or service that is needed.

As a...

You fill in the blank here.  But it's serious.  And it's a war.  And it's worth fighting.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tree of Life Day 22: Joshua 1-4

Joshua and the crew crossed the Jordan.  Joshua did something amazing - he had 12 men grab 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan and drop them on the other side as a memorial to God's provision and power.  Then he said something to his people:  "When your kids ask you about what these stones mean, you tell them that God split the Jordan and led us into the Promised Land and all the rest of the cool things He did." (Yes, that's my paraphrase)

In our house, we have something similar.  It's our memorial "box."  I'd encourage you to have it in your house for your kids and grandkids too.  Here's ours...

Enclosed you find things that remind us of God's provision, faithfulness, power, and work in our lives.  All encased in a cabinet older than anyone reading this post from Ginny's grandmother's family.  On occasion we get asked about it by others and we get to tell the stories.  On other occasions we get a piece out and tell a story to our kids.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sermon Notes from Sunday 2.26.12

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon in the series Tree of Life.  You can find the sermon audio and these notes in PDF at  You can also download the sermon audio from iTunes via our podcast.

Tree of Life
Part 4 – The Promised Land
Psalm 78.70-72

What’s Happening?

God raises up Joshua to lead God’s people into the Promised Land.

God raises up judges to deliver His people from oppressors.

God raises up David, a king and man after His own heart.

What does it Mean?

God appoints leaders to care for His people.

Leadership is a calling

Leaders aren’t always obvious.

Leaders are not perfect.

Leadership is difficult.

Leadership is heart and hand.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tree of Life Day 20: Psalm 78

The reason we forget is that we don't actively remember.

Does that sound obvious enough?  It should.  Why do you make a list for the grocery store?  Why do you make up an acronym for the three things you need from Walmart (E - eggs, B - baggies, B - bread, E-B-B)?  Why do you frantically find the voice record on your iDevice to say something before it slips away and then email that to yourself so that you remember that you recorded it?  Or is that just me?

Spiritually, we're great forgetters.  If we're successful at one thing spiritually, that's it.  But we're in common company.  So were the Hebrews.  This whole psalm is composed to rehearse the deliverance from Egypt and the resulting consequences - both good and bad - for that rescue.  Asaph created the psalm and built in not forgetting into the text (v.7, 11, 42).

One of the reasons that the Spirit of God inspired this text is to remind us to rehearse the great things that God has done in our lives so that we don't forget.  And more than that, so that we pass on the incredible deeds of God in our generation and the ones gone before us to our kids (v.6-7).

Around dinner tables.  At lunch gatherings.  During bedtime routines.  When an event sparks a memory.  And many more than I can mention.

Story-telling is active remembering.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tree of Life Day 19: Numbers 20-24

It's an interesting set of stories in today's reading.  When I encounter stories like what happened in the text today in the way they were recorded, I find myself asking questions like, "Why did the Lord respond this way?" and, "Why did that happen like it did?"

Moses strikes the rock instead of speaks to it.  No Promised Land for you (in your best Seinfeld-soup-nazi voice).

Balaam goes at the Lord's bidding but finds himself on the other side of a really ticked off messenger from God.

So why did it unfold like that?

At moments like this in the text, all I can do is make some inferences about what happened but is not recorded.  I know the character of God.  He's not capricious or lacking intention.

Moses strikes the rock instead of speaking to it at a key time in the leadership of Israel.  My inference?  God doesn't want His leaders angry at His people, especially during crucial times.  And this wasn't the first time that Moses had been angry.  And it wasn't the first time it had cost him and the people who were following him.

Balaam goes with Balak's envoys at the Lord's bidding and meets the angry angel.  My inference?  Balaam might have been looking forward to the *ahem* honor that Balak was willing to bestow on him.  Balaam was willing to go and speak whatever he was told.  But a little moolah on the side isn't a bad deal if you're a prophet (who weren't necessarily known for having the easiest of lives).  God reinforces His terms with Balaam:  you say what I tell you to say.

The Bible is always clear enough that we can understand it.  We just might have to use our brains sometimes to get there, reading more than just the words on the page.  There is context.  There is an understanding of God.  There is an unfolding of a story.  All of that has to come into play.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tree of Life Day 18: Numbers 11-14

When you named something in the Bible, it meant something.  So when it comes to this strange food that the Lord provided for the Hebrew people in the wilderness, the name is appropriate:  manna.

What exactly does manna mean?  Yep.  That's exactly right.

No, seriously:  manna means, "What is that stuff?" (a rough translation)

I can tell you that in our family we have seen miraculous provision before.  We knew what was provided, but how exactly it came to us was miraculous.  Manna.  I'll give you one simple example.  The Ninja was a sick little kid.  We found out he had pyloric stenosis, where the valve between stomach and small intestine closes.  Projectile vomit.  Failure to thrive.  Terrible stuff for a little one (and his parents) to endure.  On a Saturday morning, we figured this out at the doctor.  Less than four hours later, he was already out of surgery to repair it.  One of our dear friends (who is a surgeon) "just so happened" to be at the hospital.  The blood tests and so forth were already in the books.  From diagnosis to surgical recovery in less than four hours.  Manna.

I say that just to point out that God is an incredible provider for His people.  Trust Him.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tree of Life Day 17: Exodus 14-17, 20

I love the Ten Commandments.  Not only do they help us understand a basic moral code for living in the world with one another, not only are they foundational for practically every just society in the world, but I love them because of the way they begin.
"I am the LORD your God, who brought  you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." (Exodus 20.2).
I love that.  Here's why.

Long before God required of them adherence to a spiritual and moral code, He delivered them.  Long before God demanded obedience to His Law, He rescued them.  He was a Liberty-Giver before He was a Law-Giver.

It leaves no room for me pretending I was good enough, obedient enough, holy enough, or anything enough to deserve such a salvation.

Because I couldn't do anything to please Him on the front end, I have no room to boast.  I can't wave the Trent flag, pretending that because I did this or that (like, being a pastor) that God should like me more or even at all.

And here's the part that sweetens the love I have:  because I didn't have to perform on the front end, I'm free to perform in the now.  The Spirit of Jesus, who fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5.17), lives in me.  It makes sense that if Law-fulfiller lives in me that I will want to fulfill the Law, not in a "so that" way but in a "because of" way.

I am free to "walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts" (Psalm 119.44-45).  In obedience, I find freedom.  This kind of Law doesn't bind but blesses.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tree of Life Day 16: Exodus 7-12

I can't imagine what a horror it was to endure the plagues that God unleashed on Egypt through Moses and Aaron.  The longer I live, the more I don't like to see destruction and devastation.  Confession:  as a kid, you think it's cool.  As an adult, there's a tinge of bitterness even with the sweetness of justice.

Today is about 10 plagues, 10 deities, and the 1 God who is truly God.

Each of the plagues attacked a specific Egyptian deity, showing how powerless that god was and how powerful the True God is.

  • Nile into blood - against Hapi, the god of the Nile
  • Frogs - against Heqt, the goddess of fertility and water
  • Gnats - against Geb, the god of the earth
  • Flies - against Kheper, the god of creation
  • Livestock - against Apis, their bull god (whom, no doubt, the Hebrews copied in the wilderness when Moses was on the mountain)
  • Boils - against Isis, the goddess of healing
  • Hail - against Nut, the god of the sky
  • Locusts - against Seth, the god of crops
  • Darkness - against Ra, the sun god
  • Death of Firstborn - against Pharaoh himself, the god of the people of Egypt

Against them all, God is above them all.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tree of Life Day 15: Exodus 1-4

But Lord, what if I don't want to?

That's a funny question even to type.  It's petulant and childish (the "but what I don't want to?" part).  It's also theologically converse - because if you're addressing the Lord, you don't get to say anything but, "Yes sir," "Aye aye, Captain," "Roger that," or any other phrase of dutiful accommodation.

You don't get to tell the Lord no, not now, or I need to do something else first.

But Moses in the wilderness asks the first question and it just doesn't go that well for him.  And I kind of chuckle.  Because it's easy to see the backwards approach of Moses' response and bad theology.  Staffs to snakes and hands sick-then-whole not withstanding, it's kind of funny.

Until I see myself doing that.

And then there's not much laughing.  And there should be more repenting.  And certainly some obeying.

Yeah.  I've never been told to have a tough conversation and been too chicken to give my yes to that.  I've never been commanded to confess sin to someone else and whitewashed it like a static-free electronics room.  I've never been ordered to serve someone that it's difficult to serve ("Surely not him, Lord...") and backed off because my schedule was a little too busy and I have to be a good steward of my time.  I've never been prompted to be generous somewhere but found myself a little too light in the wallet.

Nope.  Not me.  Me and Moses - nothing in common...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 2.19.12

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon covering the Exodus.  To get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio, visit  You can also get the sermon audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Tree of Life
Part 3 - Get Me Out of Here!

Colossians 1.13-­‐14

What is happening?
  • Moses is miraculously saved at birth and grows up in Pharaoh’s house.
  • Moses flees Egypt after killing an Egyptian guard.
  • God calls Moses from a burning bush.
  • God sends ten plagues on the Egyptians.
  • God provides salvation at Passover.
  • God’s people leave Egypt and are delivered through the Red Sea.
  • God gives the Ten Commandments to His people.
  • God prescribes the way to worship Him. 
  • God gives the Law.
  • God judges the people’s disobedience by passing over a generation.
    God will not allow those whom He blesses to be cursed.

What does it mean?

God is the Deliverer of His people.
  • God saw us enslaved to sin under Satan’s rule.
  • God rescues us from Darkness.
  • God relocates us into His Kingdom.
  • God delivers through sacrifice. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tree of Life Day 13: Genesis 44-47, 50

"Uh oh.  Now we're going to get it."

That's what Joseph's brothers were saying after Jacob died.  Rightly so.  The evil they had committed against Joseph had yet to be avenged.  Now that their dad was out of the picture, little brother had no reason to hold back.  He was in the position of power to pull it off too.  The hammer was about to drop.

"So let's tell him that dad said he should forgive us."

They lied at the end of this story like they did at the beginning of this story.  "A wild animal killed your son."  "Dad said to let us off the hook."

To me, that makes this all the more remarkable.

Joseph kept perspective throughout the trials of his life.  I'm sure he would have rather not gone through them at all.  But he did.  So he worked to keep perspective.  And he saw that the Lord was with him every step of the way.  And that allowed him to drop this bomb on his brothers (and me!) in 50.19-20:
Do not fear.  Am I in the place of God?  What you intended for evil, God meant it for good...
 Wow.  What kind of man says that at the end of that kind of story?  What kind of man shows that much restraint when he could exercise so much power to exact retribution against so much evil?

I don't know.  But I do know God was with Joseph.  And I think that made all the difference in his life - and will make all the difference in mine when trials come.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tree of Life Day 12: Genesis 37, 39-41

Every place Joseph went he prospered, succeeded, kicked booty and took names.  Whether it was in Potiphar's house, the prison, or the Palace of Pharaoh, Joseph was one prospering fellow.

But the thing that struck me from this morning's reading was the why of that.  About 4 times, the Scripture says a variation of this:  The Lord was with Joseph.

And so that brings me to this question for you, me, and everyone else:  what would change about your day if the Lord was with you?

How would your end of the week meeting look differently?  How would planning next week look differently?  How would parenting your kids look differently?  How would dating your spouse look differently?  Worshipping on Sunday?  Recreation on Saturday?  Monday night karate?  Tuesday morning breakfast?  How would those things look differently?

Because here's the kicker:  the Lord IS with you.  Jesus promised to be with us to the end of the age.

So how does that change your day?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tree of Life Day 11: Genesis 28-33

The story of Jacob is full of intrigue and suspense and big questions about just why God would choose to use the people that He does.  Or at least that's the story for me and how I interact with it.

And this one vision of Jacob's ladder...

It really sticks with me.  Wrestling with God I get.  We're doing some of that around our house right now too.  But this ladder...

I think part of the reason it sticks with me is because, at the very least, it represents a prayer for my life and for the church I get to pastor:  Father, please let me [us] see where You're at work around me [us].

If we had eyes to see where all God was at work, what all He was doing, how He was moving, who He was readying for a specific purpose, if I could see all those things I'm confident I wouldn't look at delays, red lights, traffic jams, "interruptive" phone calls, stops in the hallways, or the surly guy in front of me at the post office quite the same.

It's not really a question of if God is working.

The question is if I see it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tree of Life Day 10: Genesis 24-27

How does a father bless his son?

Better yet, how does a father bless his sons?

Isaac didn't bless them as they were but who they hoped they were - which is very different than who a parent wants his kids to become.  Jacob was chosen by God to carry the promise forward.  Isaac wanted that to be Esau.  He loved Esau's game-hunting, outdoorsy life.  Jacob was a momma's boy.

That's who they were.  But God chose to use the lesser, the weaker, the "less desirable."  He does that often to make sure people understand that He's the One who does what is being done, not a group of super-talented charismatic leaders (see 1 Cor. 1.18-31).  But it's in all of us to tend toward and even prefer the strong, clear, pretty, and tall.  But it won't necessarily put us on God's path.

So this is how I pray for and (hopefully) bless my sons...
I affirm who they are and who they are becoming.
I pray for attributes God wants them to have.
You do the former because not every kid is a select baseball star, a GT student, or a Beethoven-in-waiting.  You do the latter because Jesus is in the business of transforming kids and adults of various stripes, shapes, and sizes and the character and contours of soul is the only thing they'll take with them when He calls them Home.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tree of Life Day 9: Genesis 20-22

Happy Valentine's Day!

How much would you sacrifice as an act of love?  of faith?  of duty?

The story of today is the story of Abraham and Isaac and Mount Moriah.  This story is disturbing to the modern reader (present authorship included).  But because we don't have the same cultural context, it's harder to get in the mindset that helps us interpret the story.  Three brief comments.

One, just because I don't like parts of a story doesn't mean it's not true and shouldn't speak to me, critiquing the life I live and worldview I hold.  If Jesus prayed that I should be sanctified in the Truth (John 17.17), then I have to leave room for the Scripture messing me up instead of me writing off portions of the Scripture to fit my understanding of how life should work.

Two, the fact that God did not let Abraham sacrifice Isaac but instead fulfilled the prophetic word ("God will provide for Himself a lamb") speaks volumes.  It sets Him apart from every other deity on the scene, all of whom demanded human sacrifice and many other horrific things.

Three, according to Hebrews 11, Abraham fully expected to make the sacrifice of his son and see a resurrection.  His logic went something like this:  God promised it was going to be Isaac; God said to sacrifice Isaac;  therefore, God must be going to raise Isaac from the dead.

It's gutsy.  Gritty, even.  Risky for sure.

Following God always is.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tree of Life Day 8: Genesis 12, 15-17

I commented in yesterday's sermon that just because the Bible reports something doesn't mean that it endorses it.  Today's reading is a perfect example of that.  The Bible reports that Abram became a polygamist (or at least an adulterer) by impregnating Hagar.

But if anyone reads Genesis with their eyes open and still comes away with a sense that polygamy was not just for TLC but recommended by the Bible, I honestly have no idea what to say to them.  Every time in Genesis when polygamy is introduced into the story, it always ends poorly.  This is the undercurrent of Genesis throughout.  And what would be terrific is if that wasn't really an issue for us any more.  And no, I'm not referring to Sister Wives or Big Love.

What I am referring to is the introduction of anything as a competitor in the one-flesh relationship.  Anything.  I'll provide you with two I see all the time.

Pornography serves as a surrogate spouse and is brutal on marriages, dehumanizing spouses and animalizing sexuality.  It's awful.  And sinful.  And, I'll say it again, it's brutal on marriages.  So if you have an issue in your marriage with this, get whatever help you need and take whatever radical steps you need to take in order to rid this poison from your well.

Parents are another surrogate spouse.  Often one or both spouses will find confidantes in parents.  This is especially true, though not exclusively so, of younger couples.  It erodes trust, builds walls, and separates the ones who are supposed to be one-flesh.  If you think this might be you or it might be your spouse, some good (though hard) conversations might be in order.  And you might need some help from the outside via a counselor or someone else.

One-flesh is one-flesh.  It's not something to trifle with or take lightly.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sermon Notes from Sunday 2.12.12

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon in the Tree of Life series.  You can get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio by visiting our website (  You can also find the sermon audio on iTunes via our podcast.

Tree of Life
Part 2 – People of Purpose
1 Peter 2.9-10

What’s Happening?

  • He’s called by God to follow Him and promised a blessing.
  • Believed and followed God, though He didn’t understand.
  • Isaac is born to him at 100, and shortly after is offered as a sacrifice.
  • Marries Rebekah after Abraham sends a servant to the homeland.
  • Jacob and Esau are born – Rebekah is promised that the older will serve the younger.
  • Rebekah helps Jacob deceive Isaac.
  • Running from Esau, Jacob ends up marrying Leah and Rachel.
  • Bilhah and Zilpah come as part of the package.
  • Jacob has 12 sons and gets a new name and becomes Israel.
  • At 17, Joseph has a dream about his future.
  • He goes from the pit to Potiphar to the prison – blessed and being a blessing.
  • After 20 years, his original dream comes true – He is used by God to save His people.
What does it mean?

God moves to make us His people.
  • Chosen Race – based not on our ethnicity but God’s activity.
  • Royal Priesthood – representing God through proclamation and the world to God through prayer.
  • Holy Nation – a people set apart to look like Him.
  • His Possession – there is a change in ownership and we are under His authority.
God uses His people for His purpose.
  • He doesn’t leave us with nothing to do.
  • We are blessed to bless others.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tree of Life Day 6: Psalm 19

As we watched the night sky with our neighbor last night, the International Space Station streaked overhead.  Imagine covering horizon to horizon in about 3 minutes.  18,000 miles per hour (give or take a few hundred) is fast.  It's the second time we've seen it and I'm just as awestruck and dumbfounded this time as I was last time.

Every time something space-related comes up, I can't help but think about the first verse of the psalm from today's reading.  Our friend Terry who piloted the Space Shuttle took that verse into space with him on a wristband.  The heavens tell of the glory of God.  Everything we can look up and see reminds us that there is an incredible, glorious, purposeful Creator out there.  Wow.

But that's not all.  What the theologians call general revelation (things that tell us there is a god) isn't enough to satisfy the human soul.  Special revelation tells us what God is like.  And that's what unfolds in the last half of the psalm.  Through His Word, we come to know who He is and what He's like.

The psalm closes with a great prayer we need to pray often:  may words and thoughts be acceptable to this God.  Amen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tree of Life Day 5: Genesis 11

Two things struck me in the reading this morning.

The first, regarding Babel, was just how incredible it is that the death and resurrection of Jesus reversed and redeemed sin.  What I mean by that is this:  Babel happened because of sin; Pentecost happened because of Jesus.  Whereas Babel separated people and confused language, Pentecost (in Acts 2 which we'll get to in a few weeks) brought people together and helped all the languages hear the Good News of Jesus in a way they would understand.  Bottom line:  Jesus reverses and redeems the effects of sin.

The second, regarding all those names that no one uses, is how God can (and does!) use people that don't even know that they're a part of God's plan.  All of those listed were bringing about God's appointed end: to save and bless Abram and bring a blessing to the whole world through him.  But they didn't know.  And sometimes we don't know how God is using us to accomplish His plans.  But bet on this - He wants to use us.  Availability seems to be the #1 character trait God is looking for.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tree of Life Day 4: Genesis 8-9

"Dude, you just gotta come see this.  Dad's in there drunk and passed out."

This statement is how I imagine the last few verses of Genesis 9 unfolding.  Instead of seeking to honor his dad (who had been faithful to the Lord and used by God to save everyone), Ham laughs at his dad's poor decision.

But no, I've never been guilty of laughing at the sin or the misery of others.  Not me.  Nope.

Interestingly, Noah clears his head from his hangover and figures out what happened and then curses not Ham, but Ham's son Canaan.  That curse sets up a lot of what happens in the rest of the Old Testament, specifically the enmity between the Israelites and the Canaanites.

But what parent wouldn't rather have a curse fall on themselves than their kids?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tree of Life Day 3: Genesis 6-7

I saw something today that I've never seen before.  I know I have read it before, but reading something and seeing it are two different things.  You ready for my big insight?  You ready for a huge intellect to go on display?

God had Noah put food on the ark.

As I reread the story, I wondered how everyone ate.  Well, in 6.21, I got my answer.  God told Noah to put food on the ark.  And it was going to be food for his family and for the animals too.  Well, of course He did.  That only makes sense, right?  No way Noah was going to make it that long with all those apex predators and overwhelming instincts on board.

But here's the zinger for me as the Holy Spirit showed me that:  God always provides for our needs in the midst of trial.  The trials may be God's design or Satan's determination to ruin us.  They may be consequences or concealed blessings.  But God always provides for our needs in the midst of trial.

That's really good news for me today.  How about you?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tree of Life Day 2: Genesis 3-4

Every time Adam had encountered God before, it seems he had run toward Him. Creation. Eve. Giraffes. Sunsets. Big questions. A lot of them he had brought to God.

And that's what's killing me from today's reading. He ran and hid.

Away from the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Away from his Maker. Away from satisfaction. Away from the Giver of answers. Away from life.

Alone.  Separated.  Distant.

And the question is equally haunting. "Where are you?"

It's not a question of location. It's a question of distance. "Why did you move?"

Sin is a devastating separator.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tree of Life Day 1: Genesis 1-2

Let me introduce very briefly what we're doing in the next several weeks at Heritage Park and what will occupy the blog for the same time period.  I've just started a series called Tree of Life that will hopefully help people understand the storyline of the Bible.  We're intentionally taking it in very large chunks and hope it provides a sense of how God has worked and revealed Himself.

To that end, we have provided a reading guide and challenged our people to read along with us.  That guide is downloadable here and we will also have an awesome iDevice app in a week or so (it's currently pending Apple's approval).

So without further ado, I'll take just a moment to reflect on the passage on the first day:  Genesis 1-2.

The thing that struck me, in a word, is rhythm.

God creates and then an evening and day.

God creates and then an evening and day.

And so forth.

And then God rests.

Rhythm.  It's so often foreign to our lives - to MY life.  Phone calls come and doctors appointments get moved and everything's up and down and here and there.  None of it's bad.  Some (most?) of it is necessary.  But I wouldn't call it rhythmic.

So here's to slowing down as much as possible for a few minutes a day and then a few hours a week to take a breath and hear God speak again, creating a new life in us.

Join us in reading.  I think it's going to be a life-changing experience for all of us.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 2.5.12

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday's sermon kicking off the series Tree of Life.  To get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio, visit  You can also get the sermon audio on our podcast via iTunes.

Tree of Life
Part 1 – In the Beginning…
Isaiah 43.1-7

Purpose of the Series – get a sense of what God is doing in every part of the Scripture.

What’s Happening?

In the beginning, God makes everything out of nothing.

Mankind is the crown of His creation.

Satan comes against mankind because he’s a glory robber.

Cain murders Abel out of jealousy.

Noah is saved from great wickedness on earth.

Babel shows people don’t change by themselves.

What does it mean?  Isaiah 43.1-7

We were made for a purpose:  for the glory of God. (v.5-7)

How do we glorify God? 
  • Most of that depends on who we understand God to be.
  • Drill Sergeant – do your duty to follow His every command.
  • Cosmic Homeboy – hang with Him when you can, help Him when He needs it. 
  • Secret Ingredient – sprinkle Him in to whatever your life already is to get its best.

Mountain Spring (Jeremiah 2.11-13)
  • Bring your thirst and drink deeply.
  • Go out in its refreshing strength.
  • Invite others to its satisfaction.

But we still sin.
  • We turn away from God
  • We turn to our broken wells

There’s great news!
  • God has a heart to redeem us (v.1).
  • God holds onto us in trial (v.2).
  • God provides a ransom for our redemption (v.3-4).

Friday, February 3, 2012

Snakes are Scary: Some things I just flat don't understand

Well, Bishop Eddie Long was accused by 5 men of inappropriate sexual relationships with them when they were teens and young men.  And now?

Honestly, I have no idea what in the ________________ is going on in this video.  But it doesn't look good...

(the insanity starts about the 3:00 mark and goes to about 7:30 - then it just gets stupid...)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

For all praying types: a family update

So many of you have asked for a family update regarding the Bear, so let me offer one.  For those who haven't asked, you can read along or click away to something else.  No offense intended or taken if you do.

Bear had an MRI last week to make sure his spinal cord had not re-tethered.  Good news:  it, by all accounts of the neurosurgeon, has not.  Less than good news:  they found a couple of things that look sketchy and want to do another MRI with contrast so they can get a really clear look at what's going on.  The radiologist identified two somethings:  one he thought might be some scar tissue, one he thought might be a cyst on one of the nerves.  Thus, we need a better picture.  I do not know what the treatment options are for either of those are.  Any time you're dealing with the spine, it cannot be good.

We meet with the orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday to discuss the hip and foot surgery.  Originally, that was the go / no-go appointment but in light of these other potentially complicating factors, it doesn't appear that's quite what this meeting will be.  However, we do anticipate getting results from the gait study and some more information about what's ahead on the orthopedic side.

In the midst of all this, my 3rd grader is grieving the differences between he and "normal" kids and the inability to do things that other kids do.  Recess.  Recreation at AWANA at church.  And so on.  He's also getting flak from other kids during those times, not necessarily because they're mean but because they want to win in the games, etc.  So, grieving has ensued.

So for all who pray, these are the ways to pray...

The Bear would know that God is very near to him and is for him in the midst of these hard times.  I've seen 29-year olds struggle with this question.  I've never seen a 9-year old.  And I'm not a smart enough pastor or parent to help him with it all.  But I believe that God wants Bear to know He is near and so can communicate that in a way that my 9-year old understands.

We would be able to get in soon to the second MRI, with the neurosurgeon and neurologist, and that good, clear information would come from it.  Preferably, we'd want the MRI to come back clear and this just be a anomalous bump in the road.

We, as a family, would draw closer to Jesus and one another.  One of my great fears is that the Ninja will get lost in all the medical stuff the others are going through and end up isolated because of the needed attention given to the others.

If surgery is on the horizon, that it would be a case study for success.  Ultimately, we want God to bring healing for the Bear (in whatever form He chooses).

2012 is the 10th year we've had kids.  8 of the 10, we've had surgeries in.  Is there a frequent flyer card available for this?

Thanks for praying and reading.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Billy Graham in Decision Points

I don't remember ever blogging on this, but this came back up recently and so I thought I'd drop it out here.  In George W. Bush's presidential memoir, Decision Points, he quotes Billy Graham's response to a question posed by then Vice President George H.W. Bush:

"The first question was from Dad.  He said, 'Billy, some people say you have to have a born-again experience to go to heaven.  Mother here is the most religious, kind person I know, yet she has had no born-again experience.  Will she go to heaven?'  Wow, pretty profound question from the old man.  We all looked at Billy.  In his quiet, strong voice, he replied, 'George, some of us require a born-again experience to understand God, and some of us are born Christians.  It sounds as if your mom was just born a Christian.'"

Now, some thoughts...

First, I voted for GWB twice.  I say that so you know where I'm coming from on that point.  I also am a huge fan of Billy Graham and have been for as long as I've been in ministry.  His Modesto Manifesto is a model for my own life and ministry.  His preaching has, by the Holy Spirit, changed the lives of thousands upon thousands.

Second, this is George W. Bush's recollection of the conversation.  Billy Graham could've said something different, although it's certainly hard to understand how Bush would walk away with something else.  But I'm open to that as a possibility.

Third, as Graham has aged, he's been accused of being more inclusive than he was in his younger years.  There might be some merit to that statement.  But quite honestly, wouldn't you rather a man grow kinder than meaner as he reaches the winter season of his life?

Fourth, the theology in this recollection (whether an accurate accounting of a conversation or not) is horrendous.  We all must be born again, at least according to Jesus in John 3.  No one is simply "born a Christian."  We're born separated from God and live out that inherent nature in the daily choices we make.  It's why we're in need of such a profound rescue from an incredible Savior.

Lastly, as a balance and as a tip of my hat in the direction of respect for Billy Graham and trying to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who has laid his life down for decades in the ministry of the Gospel, I do understand at least a bit of the sentiment in this quote.  Children who grow up with moms and dads who love Jesus and follow Him very well might never know a time when they "didn't know Jesus" or "weren't a Christian."  What I mean by that is they will grow up knowing their need for Him and consistently put their trust in Christ throughout their lives because that's what mom and dad have modeled for them and taught them to do.  That's the way it should be!  But, at some point, even kids with great parents still need a personal, existential experience with the risen Christ.  So though they may not remember not knowing Him, they do need to know that they know Him now.

And that's true for everyone.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...