Friday, July 30, 2010

There's an App for That

1 After the death of Moses the LORD's servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' assistant. He said, 2 "Now that my servant Moses is dead, you must lead my people across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. 3 I promise you what I promised Moses: 'Everywhere you go, you will be on land I have given you -- 4 from the Negev Desert in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River on the east to the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and all the land of the Hittites.' 5 No one will be able to stand their ground against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. 6 "Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give their ancestors. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed. Joshua 1:1-8

I just a new cellphone. Not just any phone, but a Droid. No, it's not the Droid X, or Droid Incredible, but the original Droid. I am amazed with all the features it has. But what really surprises me are all the other apps that you can download to make it do even more! Like the Keyring app that allows you to scan the barcode from all those annoying MVP and Rewards cards. My wallet has just decreased by almost a third. Or the Bubble Level app - now who can go without having your phone convert itself into an old fashion bubble level. I doubt that I'll use that very often, but I have it, just in case. I did also download the Bible onto the phone, something that will now always be nearby without adding to what I already have to carry around. Now that truly is cool. If only there was some app to help me gain clarity on what I am suppose to do today, tomorrow, and so on. Well, guess what, there is...and I already have it.

Joshua, in the text today, was at a point where he wasn't sure what he was suppose to do. Moses, the leader of the people of Israel was dead and now Joshua was being called on to take over and lead the people. God, seeing the anxiety, confusion, and sheer desperation rising up in Joshua told him to calm down, relax, and get his head together. All he needed to accomplish the task before him, he already had. He had it in his toolbox. God told him that the app he needed, he already had; he just needed to move it from the app collection area to his home screen. Then he would succeed.

Many of us already have all we need to accomplish the tasks that loom before us, especially those spiritual tasks or the God-given tasks. They loom large over us, but God's written word (The Bible) is one of our apps for that. Believe it or not, when you break them down to their most basic elements, most all the problems we face today are addressed by God in The Bible. Most problems we deal with today are relational problems - problems in relating with others, relating with ourselves (yes, that happens all too frequently), or relating with God. The Bible speaks to these issues and more. Another app is God. God has provided the Holy Spirit to dwell with us and guide us, but we have to utilize the Spirit. All of this means, we need to spend time each day in reading God's written word and praying. Over time, you'll be amazed how much more prepared you feel to tackle those tasks before you. So, be strong and courageous - there's an app for that.


(P.S. Yes, I know the saying "There's an app for that" is for the iPhone. But that's not the point.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

High Maintenance

28 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." - Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

Over the years, our daughters, as well as Karen and I, have had some friends that we refer to as "high maintenance friends." It's not that they are bad people or that we didn't enjoy their company. It's just that they required so much energy (physical, mental, and/or spiritual) that after we got home from being with them or they left to go home, we're completely wiped out with exhaustion. We like these folks, but we know that when we are around them, we're not going to relax or be at ease.

The scripture text above is one that we can relate. Especially the first line. I have to hand it to Eugene Peterson in his translation of this passage. For pastors and leaders in church, this line so speaks to us at various times in ministry. We just get burned out on religion - not Jesus, mind you, but the toil that is associated with high maintenance people.

Normally, I read this and think, "Yes, Lord, you understand!" Then this morning, I was slapped right in the face with this sentiment as I read this passage in my daily devotion. Jesus does understand what it is like to have some high maintenance friends. And I'm one of them. I have never thought of that before, that I am one of them. I always thought that Jesus understood because, well, he's Jesus, God in flesh, knowing all. But I am coming to realize that it is more that just knowing because he knows, it's knowing from experience - experiencing with me.

Alas, before I got too depressed about that, I had to read on. From his experience, he offers me and you, the relief from the burden of high maintenance friends. It's not to shun them, because he hasn't shunned us, but to strengthen our relationship with him (Jesus) and learn how he deals with us. If I follow his example, not only will I change how I am, becoming a not so high maintenance friend, but I will be able to emulate that to my exhaustive friends.

Isn't it funny how Jesus teaches us? Just when we think we know something, he teaches us something new and better. Thanks, Jesus.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Body and Soul

1 Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers. 2 But they delight in doing everything the LORD wants; day and night they think about his law. 3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper. - Psalm1:1-3

I did it. This morning, I finally did it. I got out of be before 6:00, well it was 5:57, and I went out for a two-mile walk/run. Half of it was actually running! Over time, I hope to work up to running five miles each day. But I have a problem - I don't like to run. I used to work with a fellow who had a pretty insightful disposition about running - "You can run for money or you can run for your life, but you don't run for fun." So, you ask, if you don't enjoy running, why are you doing it. The answer is both simple and complicated, but in essence, here it is - I want to run because I know I should. Holistically, it will benefit me. Of course we all know the health benefits, but for me it will help me spiritually as well. I know this from experience. Several years ago, I used to be in the habit of doing this ritual of getting up early for a time exercise and devotions. I was most attuned to my health and with my relationship with God because I had developed some good habits. And can't we all benefit from good habits?

In the text scripture text above, the psalmist expounded on the benefit of daily devotion. The more good we engage in, the less we do things that are harmful. I need that water and nourishment from above because, as we know from experience, the long dry days are plentiful just like the the temptation to be lazy. So for me, the regiment of a daily run will always be tied with meditating on scripture and discerning the direction in which God is leading me. the two fit together quite nicely - body and soul. Likewise, if I ever get out of the habit of running, my daily devotions will be that gentle reminder that I need to tend to my physical health as well. Body and Soul.


Monday, July 26, 2010

After the Rest

23 One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of wheat. 24 But the Pharisees said to Jesus, "They shouldn't be doing that! It's against the law to work by harvesting grain on the Sabbath." 25 But Jesus replied, "Haven't you ever read in the Scriptures what King David did when he and his companions were hungry? 26 He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest), ate the special bread reserved for the priests alone, and then gave some to his companions. That was breaking the law, too." 27 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath. 28 And I, the Son of Man, am master even of the Sabbath!" - Mark 2:23-28

I wonder if we have the wrong idea about vacation and weekends. My family and I just got back from a week-long vacation at St. Simon's Island. Usually, when I am on vacation, I try to distance myself from anything that resembles a regular week at home. that meant absolutely no work. After all, vacation is a time of relaxing after toiling in labor for many weeks and months (okay, stop laughing, pastors work hard too!). This year though, I did something different. In my down-time, instead of watching mindless programs on the television (we didn't have Internet - yeah, can you believe that) I spent time reading some business related material - not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I also made sure to keep up the discipline of daily devotions (well, for the most part). Here is the funny thing, I didn't dread coming home, or more significantly, getting back to work!

Maybe the idea of sabbath isn't about a reward for your hard work. Maybe it is a time to rest your body from the routine and also provide time for mental refreshment as well as spiritual.
The Pharisees in the text above had a misunderstanding about what could and couldn't be done on the Sabbath. Maybe we need to widen our vision about it too. Instead of the Sabbath or vacations being reactionary, what if we considered them to be proactive - a time of preparing us for what's ahead? It's worth considering. At least this time I am happy and refreshed.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Home Again

Read Psalm 27:4-6

Our house is starting to look like a home. All but a few boxes have been unpacked. The endless mountain of empty boxes have been taken to the recycling bin, where I know the custodian there is wondering where all those boxes are coming from (especially all the empty Vodka boxes). Things are mostly in place. Except pictures. Who would have ever thought that we have so many pictures to hang. I don't think there is enough wall space for them all. Yet, we are pretty settled. The house is a home again.

It's amazing what the presence of a family can do to a house. Have you ever noticed how fast an empty house deteriorates? But put a family in there, it gets sustained. It's like it need the opening and closing of doors, the rubbing of floorboards from its occupants walking, the subsonic vibrations of stereos played too loud (from teenagers, mind you). Houses needs people.

Houses provide shelter for us, a place to feel safe and secure, a place to settle and have some privacy. But what makes the house a home is the love that is fostered within.

The reading from the Bible today tells of the psalmist longing to be in God's house. There he knows resides the love of God - and his eternal home. There like no other place, can the psalmist, or you or I for that matter, can rest at ease, knowing that no harm or misery can cast its shadow on us. Because there, God resides - the Author of creation, the Sustainer of life, the Redeemer of shattered souls.

But where can we find God's home? On a white sandy beach? On a lofty mountain peak? In a endless green meadow? On a busy street corner? In a park stadium? In my house? In yours?

God's home is found wherever the human heart is open for God's glory and grace to shine forth. God home is wherever God is. God's home is within us, ready to be open for all who seek shelter from the business and stress that life purveys. God, open my heart and let it be your home.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Panoramic Vision

Read Zechariah 2:1-5

I used to like to sit down and study maps. Not that for a test or anything like that; I just liked looking at maps. Road maps in particular. The reason I was so enamored by them was that that opened up the possibilities of going to and seeing new places and people. Now, I don't look at an atlas all that much; I found something better - Google maps with Street View! What a great resource tool! Now, not only can I find new places to go, but I can have a good idea what it looks like because with Street View, I can see exactly what it looks like from a perspective of being on the street at that location, all on my laptop. This also cuts down on the hunting a guessing where particular places are when I go somewhere new.

As cool as Street View is, it still has limits. It only shows what the place looked like the day that the roaming camera was there to capture it. It only gives a two-dimensional perspective, lacking depth. Also, it allows me to see only a portion of all that my eyes can take in if I was actually there. So, the vision is limited.

Vision is something I have been thinking a great deal about lately. I am prayerfully seeking God's vision for the church I serve, Sunrise UMC. I know God has a vision for this church - a big vision at that. But I need to open my eyes to it or, maybe, I just need to be prepared to expand the spectrum of that vision.

The prophet Zechariah could relate to that. In today's scripture reading, Zechariah saw a man who apparently was measuring Jerusalem, to ascertain exactly what it could hold, what it was capable of doing. Then an angel of the Lord came running out of the city, proclaiming that the surveyor was thinking way too small - because God would be there and nothing would be able to contain God's glory or those who seek to be in God's presence.

I wonder if maybe we in ministry, clergy and lay alike, try to size up the Church. We look at it and say, this is what we are capable of because of space, resources, and money (let's not forget money). My prayer for Sunrise and for wherever you worship God, is that we will find God's messenger running to exclaim, "You're thinking way too small - God is here!"


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Whole Lotta Shaking Goin On!

Read Haggai 2:1-9

Fifty-some years ago, Jerry Lee Lewis sang for the world for the first time "Whole Lotta Shaking Goin On." Some of you may know that this was back when rock-n-roll was still relatively new and the style of dance appeared to be too new and different for some people to try. They found it to be too "loose" or too strange to try to get into. Evidently, they must have slept through the Roaring 20's when dance really parted company from its heritage. Beyond its catchy beat, the aforementioned song also simply illustrated how easy it would be to dance to it. As one verse said, "All you gotta honey is kinda stand in one spot, wiggle around just a little bit, that's what you gotta do." In other words, feel the beat and let the beat move you.

Many centuries before, the prophet Haggai spoke for God to the the governor, the high priest, and all the people to stop being timid about doing what they knew they should do. The Temple was in ruins and God was telling them it was time to rebuild it, but as my dad use to say, they had to "get shaking." God reiterated being with them, so what should they be timid or reserved about?

In our daily lives, we too get caught up in being timid about doing things we know we should do. But we feel alone, or unworthy, ill-prepared for the occasion. Has not God been faithful in the promise to be with us? Today is not the time to be timid. There is much work to be done in and for the Kingdom of God. God has promised that when we faithfully follow that leading, the future will be far brighter than any of our past. So, come on, there's a whole lotta shaking goin on!


Monday, July 12, 2010


Read Haggai 1:3-11

I saw a sign that struck me odd the other day - it was a sign showing the traffic circle that was quickly approaching. It was showing how many different directions exit off of the traffic circle or, if the driver so chooses, one can just drive endlessly around the circle. I believe in other parts of the world, traffic circles are referred to as roundabouts. That name seems apt to describe them as well.

But it also seems apt about how we live life. We are traveling along on life's highway and we realize that we need to make a decision, change course, go off in a different direction. Some of us do just that, we start off in a direction that is a little different than the direction we are going, others do a 180, while others just seem to wander around and around without any guidance whatsoever.

In the passage above, God, through the prophet Haggai, was telling them that they needed to change their course because they were headed for destruction. The course they were on was one where they were concerned only about themselves and were failing to remember God. God was calling them to turn around before it was too late.

I wonder how many of us is God calling on to turn around. I am sure that some of us need to only deviate a slight bit to be back on the course that God created for us, while others need to make a big U-Turn, that 180, to bring us back to a fellowship with God. Still others need to get out of the roundabout, stop wandering aimlessly around, enjoying the same old sights.

By God's grace, we have free-will. By God's mercy, we have the ability to change our course and follow God.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Judgement and Mercy

Read Habakkuk 3:1-2

Big news today. She's at it again. Lindsay Lohan is back in jail and rehab after being sentenced by a judge a couple of days ago. For one who just turned 24, she has already seen more and done more than most Americans and that's not a positive statement. But, she is a Hollywood celebrity, should we expect any different?

What a sad commentary for a group of people who we wrongly hold up as role models and heroes. Yet, when they do something wrong, we seemed shocked and surprised, then, anger. What causes me the greatest amount of consternation though is when any of these "fallen" people receive an ounce of mercy, too many "good Christian" folk are outraged. Do you remember the uproar of O.J. Simpson's verdict? Too many wanted to be the judge, jury, and executioner when all the facts they were getting came from the nightly "rag news."

Today's scripture can hold me to a level of humility. As we read the first couple of verses, we first see Habakkuk asking for God to do again what had already been done generations before with the people of Israel. They, being God's chosen people, we think of all the great things God did for them. But let's not be too quick here; God punished them as well when they failed to follow God's ordinances.

It is easy for us to ask God to bless us as we have seen others blessed by God. But with blessing comes responsibility. We are called to a higher level of displaying love and hospitality, a deeper conviction and expectation for doing what we know is right. When we fail to meet those standards, we are held to a higher level as well.

But, thank God, with judgment comes mercy. We love to mete out judgment, when it is doled out on others, but cry out for mercy when judgment comes to lie at our feet. Thank God, mercy is available to all. Even to others. Even to you. Even to me.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9

We just moved into our old house. While there has been many advantages, like already knowing our neighbors, there has been one big complication - the house is much smaller than we remembered. Thus all the stuff we accumulated over our four years away from that house, we have discovered does not seem to have a place. So, we are downsizing where we can. One place that I am starting to turn towards is all of the old VHS tapes. Mountains worth. You remember those things don't you? All those movies that were on a cassette the size of a small book. All those tapes take up room, a whole lot of room. So, I am faced with a couple of choices, get rid of them or get them on something smaller, like a DVD. I can't get rid of them, a lot of them are our home movies of when the girls were small. So, I need to convert them. Why? So I can remember.

It's funny, isn't it, how some of the most important moments of your life can so easy wisp away over time. Eighteen and sixteen years ago, I thought I would never forget what my precious little girls looked like as they were small babies. But as time marches forward, I need pictures to remind me of their angelic little faces. I need videos to remind me of their cute little ways of pronouncing certain words. I need to remember.

It's not just with personal events we have trouble remembering. We easily forget other big things too. Even God. In the selection of scripture I asked you to read above, the people of Israel were about to embark into the land that they were promised and had journeyed toward for two generations. In just a few short days, they would enter into the land described as flowing with milk and honey. And God wanted them to remember that it was God who brought them there. It seems rather odd that God would think they would forget that, but God knows us better than that. God knows as we get comfortable and settled into a good lifestyle, we often forget the hardships, the strain and toil of rising above our condition, and that God has been with us. We need to remember. We need to remember God.

Today, why don't you join me and take a few moments to maybe jot down a few things that God has done in our lives. Remember God's ever-presence in our lives. Remember that just as God has been with us in the past, God is in our present, and will be in our future. As we remember the past, we are better prepared for the future.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My "New" Truck

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13

I just bought a new truck. Well, I use the term "new" loosely...very loosely. It's new to me and that's it. Actually, the truck is a 1983 Ford Ranger, four-in-the-floor, a 255 air conditioner (that's two windows down at 55 mph), white and rust color (you figure where the rust color is). My wife thinks I'm nuts! Well, not completely, she has relented in saying how I find beauty in old, broken down things. She is trying to make a vague reference to herself, but she shouldn't. Yet, I digress. She is right though; I do like the old and what some would say is the unattractive. And this truck fits the bill. But I did not choose it for it's looks. I chose it based on three criteria: 1) I wanted a truck, 2) I wanted a truck for a good price, 3) I wanted a truck that ran. For about an hour now, my "new" truck meets these three components and I am suspecting that it will continue to do so, although the third one will be the one I have to guard the most. So, I have a truck and it will do what a truck was built to do. I can get from point A to point B and I will be able to haul things in its bed. I did not get it to look cool in or pick up women (though there is room in the truck bed if they really need a ride). So, I am happy.

It is much like the story from 1 Samuel where the prophet Samuel is instructed by God to go look for a new king. Samuel goes to the house where God tells him to go and he is entertained by a parade of seven young men, all who looked "kingly." You might say that these young men were the Ford F-350 dually, the Chevy Silverado, Toyota Tundra...well, you get the point. With each one, Samuel says, "Wow, this has to be the one." But with each one, God says, "Nope, not this one." Then God says something from which I believe we can all glean some wisdom; God says, "The LORD doesn't make decisions the way people do. People judge by outward appearances, but God looks at what's on the inside, the heart." Of course, by now, you realize God wasn't after the strong, strapping young men, God chose the eighth boy, the scrawny little shepherd boy, name David. And David became the greatest king Israel ever had.

So, am I saying that my old, rusty truck is another David? No, don't be silly, but what I do maintain is that we need to be careful about how we judge things. Sometimes the real treasures, the diamonds in our midst are still covered with mud and gunk and...sin. They just need to be polished up a bit.

Godspeed for today.

Monday, July 5, 2010

New Day - New Hope

I just read a brief passage of scripture - really - it is brief. From Psalm 144:9 comes these words, "I will sing a new song to you, O God!" As I start my ministry here at Sunrise, this brief passage reminds me that today is a new day and yesterday is behind me. Whatever mistakes I made in the past are behind me. Today, I sing a new song to God. Today, I have new hope, new opportunities, a fresh start. Today, I begin to create some new holy habits in my life that will help keep me on course. As I am enthusiastically excited about the future, I take time to read God's word for this day and spend time cultivating that special relationship with God, the One who knows me best and loves me the most. Exciting days ahead!