Wednesday, December 10, 2014


We are all in the midst of celebrating Advent and anticipating the joy of Christmas. In most all churches, even the most solemn ones, this is a good time of year where people are expressing love and care for one another. This, indeed, is a small glimpse of what we as followers of Jesus are looking forward to – that Day when Jesus returns to our world in power and glory to complete God’s rule throughout human existence, society, and the entire creation. As it is declared in Titus 2:11-13:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians urges us to “encourage one another” with these words. This is in part what the New Orleans Saints football player, Benjamin Watson, is reminding us of in his recent article expressing his thoughts and feelings about the sad events in Ferguson, Missouri. Despite his confusion and questions, he has a sure and ultimate hope in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He knows we suffer in a sinful world, but Mr. Watson also knows that someday Christ shall vanquish all sin and evil - both in the world and in ourselves. This is our hope, this is our encouragement, this is what keeps us going.

If we look at the world around us, people are weighed down with the burden of having no hope. They are craving any sign, no matter how small, of healing for our souls. This desperation leads people in our world to demand “justice now” or immediate solutions, but what they usually mean is that they want people punished according to their self-righteous opinions of who is guilty and who is innocent. Thank God that God does not approach us that way, but instead showers us with mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.

As we look forward to God’s Reign of mercy and love through Jesus, we must continue to do what the letter to Titus describes, which is to allow this hope to give us strength to not join in the world’s way of living for the moment, but instead live upright lives that reflect our hope in Christ. This will make us a people characterized by truth, love, and mercy, not coerced opinion, conditional acceptance, and ruthless punishment.

The world’s way may give us the momentary satisfaction of seeking and seizing power over those we condemn and look down upon, but it is a fleeting feeling that only makes the world worse and leaves in us a feeling of self-loathing and disgust. The hope we have in Christ calls us to rise above these base reactions so that we may bring God’s love and mercy into the midst of this world’s turmoil and tragedies.

So let’s be sure to enjoy the graciousness and goodwill that abounds in this Advent-Christmas season. As the great philosopher-minister, Jonathan Edwards, pointed out, such behaviour is not of this world, but is a small experience of the new world God is bringing into being through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 In Christ’s Peace,


Monday, November 3, 2014

A Random Prayer Of Confession

Almighty and merciful Lord, 
    we sing of your goodness, and we give thanks for your grace.  
But still, we must cry out at times that life is hard.  
Yes, there are good times when everything seems to be going well, 
    but there are also very difficult times, 
    when we wonder 
    what the difference is between hell and what we are facing.  
    In such times, our faith wavers, and our hope wains.  
We even doubt your goodness, and we dismiss the possibility of your grace.
We may hurl our anger toward you, 
    or dare to deny that You exist at all.  
Yet, in all our turmoil, you remain a merciful God, 
    and in our anguish you pour forth the healing remedy of forgiveness. 
Immerse us in your soothing grace.  
Lift us up with the promises and power of your Spirit, 
    who heals all our diseases and makes us whole through Jesus Christ, 
    in whose great and strong name we pray. Amen. 

Friday, May 9, 2014


No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.   John 15:15
Last June my ten year old son, Joshua, attended the Wichita State Shocker Basketball Camp in Wichita, Kansas.  It was a great week for him, especially as he got to meet and become acquainted with players like Fred Van Vleet, Tekele Cotton, Ron Baker, and Cleanthony Early (two of whom were named to the AP All American team in 2014).  This made the 2013-2014 basketball season much more exciting and personal for Joshua, as he could look at the television screen and declare proudly after a monster dunk by Tekele Cotton, “That’s my coach!” or “I know him,” after an outstanding play by Cleanthony Early.
So, not surprisingly, Joshua asked if he could go back to Shocker Camp this June. I said no for a number of good reasons.  After all, he got to go last year, our expenses are up this year with an added car payment, we aren’t making as much income this year, it is difficult to arrange the time off for me, etc, etc.  I explained all these reasons to Joshua, who came back with the statement, “But it means so much more to me when I know the players personally.”  Of course, he is right.  Thus, I mailed the registration for him to attend the camp again this year.
Joshua is on to a point that is important for all of us as followers of Jesus.  We can try to make worship interesting, scripture reading more personal, or prayer more exciting.  But when these are just religious exercises that we feel duty bound to do, they just don’t seem that interesting.  However, when we know Jesus personally, then all these become much more personal to us as well.  Like watching a basketball team that is good, but you do not know anyone on the team and the team represents a school that you have little personal connection to.  It just doesn’t grab you.  But if you are watching a team from your local area (such as the Iowa Hawkeyes for those of us in eastern Iowa), you sense a connection to team and the individual players. Everything becomes more engaging, and you don’t have to make yourself watch them, you enjoy watching them play.
Is worship dull, prayer distant, and fellowship boring?  Yes, it could be the preacher, or the difficult digestion of the onion/garlic/salt bagel you foolishly tried to eat - but it might be something else.   You might ask yourself how your relationship with Jesus is doing.  The more you have a sense of knowing him personally, the better church, scripture, and prayer will be for you.  After all, “it means so much more” to each of us when God is a living and present Spirit rather than some impersonal far off mental concept.
Love, and In Christ’s Peace,


Monday, April 21, 2014

Adventures In Storage

As one who has moved a number of times over the years, I occasionally must plow my way through old packed boxes of papers and things that have become permanently “stored away.”  Last week I was doing this, looking for something I needed for the Lenten gatherings at church, when I happened across a booklet of poems I wrote when I was in college.  Of course, not only had I forgotten these poems, but it is strange to think I ever wrote poems at all.  As I perused these ancient writings, one stood out from the rest and took me back in my mind to the very day and scene that inspired it.  I was working for the electric utility in Wichita, it was summer time, and I was on a lunch break.  The day shift lunches were an hour long, so I was walking through a park along the Arkansas (in Kansas, it is pronounced “Ar-kansas,”) River when I noticed a very sad looking young woman sitting on a bench.  She was staring at a water fountain by the river.  When I returned to work, I couldn’t get her sad look out of my mind, so I wrote the following poem about what may have been going on in her thoughts.

She sat quietly for a long time
    watching the fountain,
    watching the fountain spray and flow
    while nearby the River ran deep.
Many people hurried across the plaza.
    They did not want to be late
    for work, or for an appointment.
But she watched the fountain.
It helped her to think
    about things
    that she would like
    in her life.
Things which maybe could ease
    her longing,
    her loneliness,
    her wish to be more real,
    and more honest.
But no one notices.
No one really knows her.
Oh, for Someone to share her longing!
    But they all just hurry
    and no one stops.
She just keeps watching,
    watching the fountain
    while nearby the River ran deep.
Hoping, wanting, praying
    that Someone will come,
    and make it all good.

There are so many people like I imagined this woman to be: isolated and lonely, yet still hoping that somehow her life could become meaningful and worthwhile.  In this poem I capitalized “Someone” to emphasize that only an encounter with God could bring the “good” that she was seeking.  We all stare at “fountains” in some form or measure.  And like this woman, we sometimes miss the abundance of God's love nearby, like the deep running river next to the fountain.  We are all looking for a person or an event that will give us a sense that life is truly good.   Only Christ can do this, and this is what the Easter message is all about:  that God has taken “notice” of us, has “stopped by,” and spoken to us words of love and affirmation. 

If this life-giving encounter is what you long for, then I invite you to immerse yourself in the love of God that comes to you in Jesus the Anointed One.  God's love in Christ knows no limits and is beyond all bounds.  God wants to touch your life and make it all good!

In Christ’s Peace,