The Seasons of Life and Death

Lon“Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?”  Psalm 85:6

Looking back over the years of newsletters, I realize how “seasonal” they are.  Just as the calendars remind us of birthdays, Easter, and Christmas, our newsletters typically remind us of those days and more.  In this month of July, we celebrate Independence Day.  Many people prophesy we are in our last days as a thriving nation, saying we have strayed too far from God’s plan of “freedom of religion” to our current state of “freedom from religion.”  Our church newsletters still reference holy days like Christmas and Easter.  Much of our culture, though, has decided on Happy Holidays, Winter Celebrations, and Spring Breaks.  Without revival, I do believe America will simply become the next great nation to rise and fall.  That is my opinion, and I’ll leave it there for you to consider.

Read more: The Seasons of Life and Death

Thanks Be to God and FPC

This past Mother’s Day was my 16th anniversary of ministering with all the great believers of First Presbyterian Church here in Madisonville.  Even though I came here with ten years of pastoring and preaching experience, your lives blended with mine since 2001 have created in me a different kind of spirit – better able to feel God’s Holy Spirit in me as I witness His presence regularly in you.  Funny thing is that this drives me to want more of those experiences…with Him and with you.

Over the past 26 years I have taken time to re-evaluate and update a personal faith statement that was first started as I entered seminary in 1988.  You can be assured that I am not the same person (that’s a good thing for all of us).  What I’m beginning to understand is that, done right, a relationship with Christ allows for who I was, lifts me to who I am, and believes in who I am becoming.  Just for your information, here is my most recent update on my continually revising personal faith statement.  I’ve made it simple, so I can live as though what I believe matters.
I believe:

Hope is a "He"

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  John 14:6

“Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is so good, and by raising Jesus from death, He has given us new life and a hope that lives on.”  1 Peter 1:3

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in graveyards - the privilege of last words spoken before dirt is shoveled back into a hole, over a casket.  Sometimes it has been for folks I barely knew - a part of being the preacher from “that church” when someone who used to be a member there passes on.  Sometimes it has been for church members who have been closer than my own family members.  And, after more than a few years of being a preacher, I get to be “the family preacher” who has a part in burying his own.

A graveyard is a logical place to go looking for history – for the last day to finally be etched on stone.  There are not many stones that have to be re-etched because somebody died and then “did a Lazarus.”  Dates on tombstones rarely need to be changed.  A graveyard is a logical place to look for historical accuracy.

Read more: Hope is a "He"

"What, Me Worry?"

Just a couple weeks ago (in February) the temps were in the 70’s.  Earlier this week (in March) we barely made it above 20, and it snowed!  As the saying goes, “Who’d a thunk it?”  Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  God did think it!  And it did happen!  "For to the snow He says, 'Fall on the earth.'"  Job 37:6

Makes me wonder what other things we aren’t even thinking about that God has under total control

  • Worrying about the weather?
  • Worrying about your health?
  • Worrying about that old fridge that’s making noise?
  • Worrying about the kids/grandkids?
  • Worrying about the country?
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Read more: "What, Me Worry?"

Running Together

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”  [Hebrews 12:1-2]

One temptation I’ve noticed over the years is for us to assume that we are, by ourselves alone, responsible for all the content and the results of any pre-determined spiritual discipline we take on during the Lenten Season.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  If we can successfully give up chocolate or coffee or sodas or meat or alcohol or whatever it is we have promised God we would avoid, or on the other hand, if we can successfully read a chapter of the Bible a day or pray for ten minutes every morning or promise to be in church sometime before Easter…if we do or don’t do these things as we have planned them out, then, “Praise God!  We have had a successful Lent!  (Now pass the pork, please…)”

Read more: Running Together

A Tale of Two Perspectives

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…”[Charles Dickens]

I’m writing this just a few days before the inauguration of a new president.  Seems like things haven’t been this crazy and divided since…well, our last inauguration.  For some, this is the best of times for our culture; for others, this is the worst of times.  Who knows?  In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens also said, “…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”  Hmmm.

One thing I think we might safely agree on is that whatever the heck is happening, it feels like we are living in a post-Christian society.  This is not your parents’ or grandparents’ country anymore.  Billy Sunday and Billy Graham have had their day.  Christians, it seems, have had had their “fifteen minutes in the sun.”

If we have figured it out yet, we know it’s time for us to start living with Christ in our hearts, not just with our bumper fish, t-shirts, and ball caps.  Now we have to live like Christ, not just wear Christian jewelry and hang out with other Christians who do the same.

Read more: A Tale of Two Perspectives

This Old House

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.”  [Ephesians 4:17]

Do you ever watch those home remodeling shows on TV?  A few of them start out as simply easy rehabs that turn into major (and expensive) remodels.  A lot of them, though, seem to focus on homes that people choose, then take on major renovations - walls knocked out, new flooring, expanded kitchens or baths.  In reality, the end result is a brand new home - no minor remodel, but a major renovation into something new and wonderful.

Too often, Christians consider their identity in Christ as a minor remodel - put your faith in Christ, take on a new moral here or there, and give up some habit contrary to our faith.  But for the most part, don’t get too crazy with that identity-in-Christ thing.  Surely we don’t have to go over the deep end with a complete turn-around in our lifestyle…Do we?

This minor remodel approach to Christianity falls far short of the biblical vision.  Maybe this new year might be a good opportunity to reflect on a passage in Ephesians that goes in depth as to what it means to think and live as a Christian.  (Yes, it involves more than a coat of paint or scented candles in the foyer.)

Read more: This Old House