“Do not say, “Why
were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask
this.” Ecclesiastes 7.10 NRSVOctober 17,
walked the streets of a small town in the thumb of Michigan. In a few hours, I
would have the pleasure of officiating the wedding of a young man I coached in
basketball and his bride to be.
It felt good
to walk in that cool air. Clouds blocked the sun, a mist began to fall and I
pulled my collar tighter as I walked through what had once been the center of
commerce in that small town.
There, I experienced a bit of melancholy.
Almost all the storefronts were empty. Where once small businesses hawked their
wares and where windows would have been filled with the symbols and colors of
autumn and Halloween, only for sale signs clung to the windows.
At noon in
the old heart of that town, I walked alone. Not one other soul could be seen;
only an occasional car hurried by on its way somewhere else.
occupied buildings were a church's ministry to the young people of the community
and a café where I had just enjoyed my meal.
back and got into my truck and left the silent street.
with everything we need and want, shopping centers and the growing home delivery
options made that downtown obsolete.
as a child the excitement of Saturdays downtown. Stores selling everything from
food to clothes to toys and books and more beckoned with colorful lights and the
windows were full of wonder. All now lost except to my memory and perhaps
As deep and
rich as that memory is, we have made our decision. We prefer the convenience and
amazing choices we have now that simply were not there a handful of decades
lost, but much was gained. Such has been my life and yours. So rejoice and
celebrate the now. It’s all we have…until tomorrow!
Prayer: Lord, I
wonder, what's next?
A Season for
your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
Success is there
for the taking, but the price is always painful. There will be nights with too
little sleep and times when work must be done even when we’re not at our best.
And always there are mistakes to make as we learn the lessons needed. Later,
when we succeed, we can call this experience!
would rather blame their boss for not seeing their worth, or blame parents for
being too critical or, if that doesn’t fit, for not expecting enough from them.
seen that lead to succeed.
Kathy prepared a delicious lunch, she and I brainstormed about the next push for
our new book. Once again we are coming into a season of hard work. To be
successful, we know we will have to do work that many don’t want to do and
won’t. Neither do we, but we want to succeed, so we count the cost and make the
owes us nothing, but it offers much if we are ready to work for
Lord, we thank You that we can still keep trying.
An Answer for
Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all
things are possible.”Matthew 19.26
council looked back at me with wary eyes. I had proposed what some in the
council had called “bold moves”. They defined a bold move as anything that the
pastor could not do by him or herself and that cost money.
Finally, the chairperson said to me, “Preacher, we need to be careful. Hard
times are a’coming.”
course he was right. Hard times are always coming. And easy times, prosperous
times and times of want. Wait long enough and any prediction we care to make
will probably come true.
true lack that hurts a church is a lack of vision. God always has an answer.
That answer will walk into the church this Sunday, will call on the phone or
send an email or a check in the mail. We don’t always recognize it because it
comes disguised as risk and change.
hardest times are not those of economic shortfall, but the twin woes of small
minds and little action.
I have several fears, but the only one that I should heed is the fear of failing
Challenges of the American Church
“And they overcame him because of
the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they
loved not their life even unto death.” Revelation
Several years ago, my
friend Kevin sent me an email sharing the testimony of a Chinese pastor he knew.
The church this pastor served in China was constantly harassed, his phones were
tapped, and infiltrators were sent by the government to join the church to spy
from within. Members were often thrown in prison for their faith. The church
continued to grow.
Another friend has spent time
preaching in India. There, to be a Christian often means you may be ostracized
by your family, never rise high on the job ladder and even risk death. And yet
the churches grow.
Here, our challenges are, more
often than not, the style of music, the temperature of the sanctuary, and how
the church will be decorated for Christmas.
And then we wonder why so many
churches are half empty.
Prayer: Lord, sometimes we need
to be reminded of what church is really all about. And it isn’t
The End of the
there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” NRSV Ecclesiastes
Last week on the first day
of Fall, I was walking Trooper when I heard that old and familiar
Autumn in northern
Michigan is crisp and cool as the trees end their growing season in a burst of
But this autumn was
ushered in with over ninety-degree temperatures, breaking some old
Before we shout, “Global
warming!”, August recorded record-breaking cold weather
In the moment, much seems
upside down. Storms of unbelievable force, mass murder and
That morning I looked up
and saw the familiar V of geese heading south for the winter. I was taken back
to a morning on Barton Street where, for the first time, I saw the V and heard
the honking. I ran in to tell my mom who said that the geese always go south for
the winter and, in the spring, they return. They always have.
We live in trying times.
Many of my Christian friends have once again turned to the Book of the
Revelation, or Isaiah or whichever source might let them unlock the secret of
when the world comes to an end.
Others look to radical
political strategies and still others just shake their heads and give
The Creator of time and
earth will get the last word and, until He speaks out, I will marvel at the
geese flying south as they have for uncounted millennium and live the life God
Have faith. It all comes
Prayer: Lord, since I have today,
what say I go do something good for someone? I thought You would like
“But strive for the greater
gifts…” 1 Corinthians 12.31 NRSV
The elevator at the
hospital arrived at the ground floor and a family of seven souls piled aboard.
Somewhat impatient that day, I decided to take the
Since I began walking the dog
regularly some years ago, I found the first flight of stairs and the second
quite comfortable. Then I began to slow down. By the fifth floor I could feel a
burn in my calves. When I reached my destination, I just stopped and waited for
The walking was good for me, but
the stairs told me to not be satisfied and should step up my
There is a principle here I am
trying to apply to my other efforts. My writing has a reached a certain level of
acceptance and quality. Time to get better. My preaching is most often well
received. Time to get better. Like some of you, I sometimes need something or
someone to nudge me to improve myself. Consider yourself nudged.
Prayer: Lord, let me not grow
complacent, even when doing a good job, but instead strive for
No Hope in the Cereal
“On reaching the place, he said to them, 'Pray that
you will not fall into temptation'" Luke 22.40
As it turns out,
fiber in our diets does wonderful things for our health. So I was walking
through the cereal section and looking at the various fiber-rich selections.
It was there that the abomination
caught my eye. I knew then there was no longer hope. All the good intentions
were snatched out of me. I knew the end had come.
I stared at the box,
transfixed by the symbol of goodness that beckoned to me just above the
There, for all to see, was
the Girl Scouts logo above a breakfast cereal I never expected to see.
Thin Mint Cereal! Get thee behind
We are all doomed. Wait a
minute. There. I spilled some and had to rescue that sweet crunch! I wonder if
it would be even better with some salty almonds?
OK, one serious question. Do we
really need Thin Mint Cereal? Just asking.
Prayer: Lord, remind us that
just because we can a do a thing does not mean we