Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Renewed Commitment

How did your day start this morning? Was it a shrill of an alarm clock ripping you from a peaceful dream? Maybe the tiny fingers of a child grabbing the covers to hoist themselves up for a snuggle. Did it start a gentle nudge on your heart to start your day by talking to God and recommit to him?

An anonymous author started their morning conversation with God like this:

Dear Lord,
So far I've done all right.
I haven't gossiped,
haven't lost my temper,
haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent.
I'm really glad about that.

But in a few minutes, God,
I'm going to get out of bed.
And from then on,
I'm going to need a lot more help.

I have a daily dependence on God. From the moment my feet hit the floor, to my head hits the pillow at the close of the day, I need His help. This is a vital relationship. How about you? How are you and God getting along?

I invite you at this moment to talk with God and give yourself a little checkup. Did you choose to depend on Him today? Did you let Him slip down your priority list? When you are aware of where your relationship with God is at, spend a few minutes recommitting your life to your Savior. Talk about any issues that are keeping him at arm’s length. Rest in the knowledge of John 3:16-17, "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Prepare for Sabbath

Start preparing for Sabbath today. This Sabbath, worship from the overflow of your experience with God. Set aside ample time to revel in the goodness of God. Sit back and read His precious word as an encouragement. Let His promises seep into the places of your heart that need their calming salve.

Instead of coming to Sabbath like a camel to an oasis, come in the glow of a strong relationship with God. The church service isn’t a gas station to prepare us for the upcoming week. We do not arrive hoping to soak up enough of God’s word to carry us through the rest of the week, and then to skid weakly into the following Sabbath. We come to praise corporately the God we spent time with all week long.

Sabbath is the culmination of a week with God. This is the very God who spoke the world into existence. The same God who sent His son to die for your salvation. And He wants to talk to you every day. Take Him up on this invitation. Start with a reading of a favorite passage in the Bible. Perhaps Psalm 121 that reminds you to look up to your God in times of need. Perhaps you need the reminder of God the comforter in Isaiah 40. Then spend time in prayer making requests, or praising Him for His goodness. This preparation will make Sabbath what it is intended to be in our lives.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Worship Through Service

Worship is a many faceted experience. It includes quiet reflection, adoration, and praise. But the end result of true worship is action. This week put actions to your worship. Take your heart of worship and choose to serve at your local church during the Sabbath hours.

In choosing where to serve, start with a few questions. What gifts did God entrust you with? What can you do to serve your church? Maybe you are trustworthy and arrive early. Contact the deacon on duty and offer to assist in their work of opening the church facility and making it ready for guests and church members. Did you walk into the bathroom only to find a tower of towels tumbled across the counter? Pause and pick them up. Make the space welcoming to others who will come to worship God today. Talk with God while you serve. Remember He is why you choose to perform these simple tasks. 

There are so many details that need to be in order on Sabbath morning and we take them for granted that these details just happen. We fail to recognize the hours of work it takes to create this atmosphere. What can you do to be a part of creating the welcoming space that greets our guests?

As you serve, enter into this experience with the attitude of worship to God. Your service facilitates others’ time at church. As you worship through service, it creates a space for others to connect with God.

How will you choose to worship in service this week?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Week in Lodi, California

Last week’s whirlwind that is my life centered around Lodi Academy. It was my privilege to join this high school for a week of prayer. Each morning we sang praises together, I shared from the book of Daniel and ended with a circle of prayer. In between sessions I visited classes, took questions from students, and found local adventures with my family. (We even managed to meet up with Joe and Darleyne in San Francisco, and Luis and Olga’s family for a trip to Elmshaven. Check FaceBook for pictures!)

While I return home tired and doubly thankful for my own bed and church family, this week of prayer was a time of recommitment to my relationship with Christ. Chaplain Janeen invited the students to write anonymous questions for me to answer. And their deep thoughts encouraged and at times challenged me. Questions like, “I asked God for a big thing and he didn’t answer, what do I do now?” To, “Is the God of the Old Testament the same as the God in the New Testament?” To things as simple as, “When did you first experience God’s presence?”

With each new question I prayed that my answering words could draw the asker closer to the God I love. At times I admitted I didn’t have all the answers, and at other times I shared my answer based on the Bible and my experience as a Christian. What questions in your life draw you to a deeper walk with Christ? Share them when we see each other on Sabbath!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Rock or the Candy?

I did an experiment with a group of willing individuals. Each was hand a rock and a piece of candy and we went on a walk together. We put the rock in our shoe and the candy in our mouths. After a while we sat down to discuss our experience. The first evaluation was, that took a while. Then followed concerns about the wearing of the rock against a foot. Others chimed in with agreement. Though we took a few minutes to explore and discuss our experience, the theme remained the same. No one mentioned the sweetness of the candy that melted on our tongues.

Why is it that it is so much easier to focus on the rough edges, the inconveniences and the trouble? It seems that it is easier to point out the problems, then to come up with a solution. First comes the litany of challenges, only later the accomplishment. But what of the joy of the journey? Solutions do not always come quickly. Reaching God given goals do not come at microwave speed, it requires time and commitment.

We are called as Christians to follow Jesus and share his love. This doesn’t happen in a moment, but in a daily journey after our Savior. We are called to share His love with our community. This is a God-sized task. There will be troubles on the way. On this journey will we choose to focus on the rock in our shoe or the sweetness of God’s presence?

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Walls Fall

It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down. Hebrews 11:30

Imagine yourself part of the fighting men called to march around Jericho. Pretend in your mind that you are rallied up to speak to your commander in chief, Joshua, leader of Israel. As he details the actions that will lead up to the capture of Jericho, would your eyebrows raise? what would your response be to the news that you are to march around the city in utter silence?

This seems a strange sort of way to accomplish a siege. Modern warfare, or even the warfare methods in the past do not apply here. Instead, this is a group of fighting men leading seven priests followed by the Ark of the Covenant, and then trailed by more fighting men.

So if your eyebrows raise, you are in good company. But because of their trust they choose to follow these instructions. Each day for six days they rise early, assemble their parade, and march around the city once. Then on the seventh day the circuits continue to the count of seven. But then the sound of a rams horn trumpet pierces the air. Then Joshua’s command, “Shout! For the Lord has given you this town!” Voice raise, shouting as loud as they can. And the amazing thing is not the command or the shouting, it is the walls falling flat. Now the military fortress that was Jericho is laid bare and the fighting men race straight into the city.

The book of Hebrews tells us all of this happened because of faith. The walls fell flat because of faith in a God who is able to knock down walls. This same God who could knock down heavily fortified walls, is the same God who lives today. It is the same God who can knock down the walls that stand in the way of you accomplishing what He has called you to do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Why Social Justice?

The Biblical mandate comes for social justice in these words: “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” Isaiah 1:17

If these words sound familiar, but the scripture reference sounds out of place, it is because this idea is reflected in multiple places in scripture. This is a Biblical mandate to do good, to engage in social justice issues. The call comes based on the infinite value God places on life. The reality that Christ would’ve died even if only you repented, also applies to your neighbor.

We are to step in and fight for social justice issues based on the human value and dignity that God bestows. The value God places on the unborn, on the elderly. The value He sees in those with special needs, those displaced immigrants. The love lavished from our God on the trafficked, marginalized and undervalued.

I ask with Ann Voskamp in her book The Broken Way. “Why do we rush to defend God to a broken world, and not race to defend the image of God in the world’s broken?” This is not an area that comes easily to me. I could, as could you, repeat many stories of where my choice to be involved in social justice ended in pain. Jesus himself reach out to the broken and it ended in pain, and death on our behalf. And yet the call comes to be involved, to not let that pain be the last chapter in the story.

But even agreeing that we must be involved, the question comes “How?” I can tell you it is much easier to write a check to an organization than to get up close and personal. To salve the conscience pricks that come as a result of news stories covering Aleppo, or the staggering statistics of humans that are trafficked for labor or for sex. We are tempted to stay at arms length, to salve the conscience jabs with a dollar sign and a stamp. I am completely convinced in my heart that we must engage in social justice, yet it often gets messy. How should engaging social justice look? What is the appropriate manner to get involved?

Does it look like the early days of our church’s history and Sarepta Miranda Henry? This is the lady we credit with founding women’s ministry. Her way of addressing the evils of alcohol was a pray in at the local bar. The women showed up and loudly prayed until the owner agreed to close.

Is it softer and gentler like the church that visits a home for severely developmentally challenged children to brush their hair and hold their hand? These children don’t even know they are there, cannot communicate in words. And yet this church goes daily to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Is it joining with the six year old boy who penned a letter to the president inviting the shell shocked Syrian boy Omran to live with him? Alex wrote: "Can you please go get him and bring him to [my home]?" he said in the handwritten note. "We will give him a family and he will be our brother."

People shout to close our borders and to lock the gates. And yet immigrants are who we are. We are all ethnic. We as the church don’t do ministry to those dependent on us like benevolent Santas. Rather we learn from these marginalized people, and our hearts begin to beat more like our Savior’s. “The church isn’t white or American. The church is headed by a middle eastern Jewish man who never spoke a word of English.” Russell Moore, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.

It is so painful to wrestle with how to engage, because by choosing one place to step in, we are saying no to others. Our hearts break to know that because we dedicate our resources to immigrant connections, that we will not have the resources to help unwed mothers. But I invite you to engage in this prayerful wrestling. In invite you to sit down to ask questions and listen to the Holy Spirit. To formulate a plan that is as unique as the gifts God gave you. And in this wrestling to know what it looks like to follow the invitation of Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Remember forgiveness today. The forgiveness God gives you.

In Luke 18 a Pharisee and a tax collector head to the temple to pray. The Pharisee stands in a prominent place of the temple, as close to the holy of holies as he can get, and proceeds to pray. His prayer volume is barely short of a shout. The words he says are recorded for us, “‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.”

This Pharisee has it together. He isn’t in the list of people who won’t make heaven, cheaters, sinners or adulterers. Instead of fasting once a year, this Pharisees amps it up and fasts twice a week. He even returns his tithes. But he feels his goods works will gain him entrance to heaven.

In the shadow of the corner is a tax collector. A man who is in the same category as those the Pharisee is thankful he is not a part of. This tax collector who makes his living by cheating people is praying to God. His words are simple, “O God be merciful to me a sinner.” He sees that he is utterly unworthy of heaven, and pleads to God to do whatever it takes to justify him. He recognizes he can do nothing of himself. And so he admits his complete dependence and need.

Pray today as did the publican in Luke 18, “O God be merciful to me a sinner.” Recognize that there is nothing you can do to earn this salvation. You will not be allowed into heaven because your good works outweigh the bad. The only chance of heaven you have is your Savior’s death. It is based on this knowledge that the publican returned home justified before God. This is also the basis of our justification. Will you recognize this in your prayer today?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Name Them One by One

A friend shared with me one of her regular spiritual practices, taking time to count her blessings. I realized as I talked over my life and concerns with God, that counting my blessings is just what I need. I started following in her example, naming my blessings and thanking God for them. When I’m driving down the road, feeling the stress of the situation ahead, I begin to list blessings. This simple practice of naming blessings sets my heart in the right tune. Sometimes the blessing is as simple the fresh air wafting through my window. Other times it is a dramatic healing in answer to prayer.

Even though it seems that setbacks come my family’s direction, there are still many blessings that remain. This spiritual practice helps me to remember the things that are going right. So today as I sit with my heart open to God during my devotional time, I will begin by whispering thanks for three of my blessings. Next I will move to the scripture in 1 Chronicles 16:34, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Then I will talk with the God who is the author of each of these blessings. I invite each of you to spend time with this spiritual practice. Make time to remember the good things in your life. Will you join me today in this spiritual practice?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

God in the Midst

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Timothy 3:16

The Bible contains amazingly dense passages, pieces of scripture that cause us to pause and ask questions. Eyebrows raise and we wonder what stories like Jael and Ehud can teach us about God and this world. It seems that these stories are a mess, and difficult, and just plain strange. We are tempted to trip quickly over these passages in our reading of the Word. To leave them behind in favor of more cheerful and comfortable places. Yet these very passages are an invitation to wrestle with the Word, and prayerfully unearth the treasures within.

We as Seventh-day Adventists believe in sola scriptura. Literally translated this Latin phrase means, by scripture alone. It describes our belief that the highest authority in all matters of doctrine and practice is the Bible. We govern our lives by what we read in the Holy Scriptures, and we adjust our practices to line up with what we find.

We as Seventh-day Adventists also believe in tota scriptura. This means we embrace the whole Biblical canon, all sixty-six books, from start to finish. We can’t pick and choose the passages we are more comfortable with, and toss aside those that make us itch.

These two beliefs together call us to deep Bible study. It calls us to hold up the scriptures as a ruler for life. It also calls us to understand a topic deeply and broadly as we apply it. Rather than basing a belief on a single line in the scriptures, we choose to explore, read, pray and analyze so our actions are based on a firm foundation.

Combine these two beliefs as you do your Bible reading. Next time as you read along and are confronted with the judgement on Ananias and Sapphira or the terror of Tamar’s situation don’t turn away. Instead read through it, ask yourself, “What does this passage teach me about God?” You may not find a new favorite bedtime story, but you might just find a new assurance of God’s presence in a messy world.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Where is the Pastor?

I write to you from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I’m here with one hundred and sixty fellow clergy and chaplains. All of them ladies. This is the fourth such retreat I have been blessed to attend during my seventeen years as a pastor. And while the attendee number may sound small to you, to me I see growth in those numbers. It warms my heart to see so many following God’s call to serve His church.

In the scripture we note that when the disciples felt challenged, criticized and the weight of ministry, Jesus encouraged them to come apart and rest awhile. To serve as a pastor is truly a privilege, and I love this calling God laid on my life. And in that calling, it is the time with God that restores my soul and gives the strength to do His bidding.

Based on Isaiah 40:31, the goal for this retreat is to renew our strength so that we can continue to run and not grow weary, to walk and not to faint. This retreat provided just that. From Chris Oberg who encouraged us from the book of Esther to use the opportunities wisely when we are called for such a time as this. Then joining in a service project to pack 10,000 meals in less than two hours. (Check my FaceBook of pictures of this amazing event!) To hearing Elizabeth Talbot inspire us to dig deeper into the scriptures through a refreshing and new walk through the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I will joyfully return to preach at Williamsburg this Sabbath. This will be an opportunity to share the overflow from this time of reconnecting and recharging. In preparation for that day together I invite you to also find a few minutes for a brief retreat with God. During that time focus on Isaiah 40:31 and these precious words, “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


The story of Daniel in the Lions’ den shines a light on the strength and majesty of our God. Think about the sheer, raw power of a lion. Now escalate that power by the motivation of a hungry stomach.

A few statistics to flesh out the picture, so to speak. An average male reaches a length of nine feet. Pair this with a weight of 350-400 pounds. Picture the thirty teeth in that enormous jaw, each capable of tearing flesh to pieces. Should you feel that a quick dash may be the answer to avoid capture, realize a lion is capable of 30 miles an hour. Forget leaping to safety, the lion can just follow along leaping twelve feet vertically or thirty-six feet horizontally. And while humans are not their primary prey, they are able to bring down small elephants if need be. This isn’t just a lion den, this is a lions den with an “S.”

This is a dire situation for the prophet. The numbers are in, there is no saving him. And yet that morning when King Darius rushes to the den and calls out into the emptiness, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?” A voice answered. “My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight.”

The lions’ mouths are shut. Daniel is safe. Take a few minutes and let that sink in. Daniel is safe, because of the power of God. So often we focus on God with us, and God as Father. But Daniel chapter six is a vivid picture of a God who is transcendent and glorious. A God who is omniscient and powerful. He is the one who can create a world with the word of his mouth. This is the one true God. The God Daniel risked His life to worship.

Conversation starter with God: Reflect on where you see God’s greatness and hand of might. After this reflection and time of recognizing who God is, worship Him in response.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Mystery of the Incarnation

Noticing the decline in museum attendance, a group of individuals gathered to brainstorm ways to handle the problem. How could they invite a new generation to engage with and appreciate these ancient masterpieces? One idea came to the forefront to help the paintings come alive: to take a one-dimensional picture and make it three-dimensional through the use of actors.

Their living art put costumes, wigs, and makeup on actors. Then they added props and positioned the actors to reflect the painting. Now standing before the backdrop of Renoir's garden scene actors took their place. Instead of a lady reading a book painted on the wall, now in front of it lay an actual woman reading the same book. The little boy playing a game of croquet now stood in the matching shorts and suspenders. The Mona Lisa became a real person, with her eyes following guests around the room. The actors brought a one-dimensional painting and made it come alive.

It worked! Attendance increased as people saw pictures in a new way. Their understanding of art raised as they connected artwork from the past with their lives today. Sometimes we must see something living and breathing before we can understand its value.

It is the same with the great mystery of a God who loves. And yet our God did not want this mystery to be so far removed from us that we could not connect. So God sent his son through the incarnation. An infinite God who chose to communicate his character and essence with finite minds. His goal, that we might begin to comprehend who God truly is. John 1:14 “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”

Conversation starter with God: Talk with God about how you see His character. You may want to choose a story of Jesus from the gospels to read and pray over. Look through the lens of the incarnation to see who God truly is.

The Mystery of the Incarnation

Noticing the decline in museum attendance, a group of individuals gathered to brain storm ways to handle the problem. How could they invite a new generation to engage with and appreciate these ancient master pieces? One idea came to the forefront to help the paintings come alive: to take a one dimensional picture and make it three dimensional through the use of actors. Their living art put costumes, wigs, and make up on actors.

Then they added props and positioned the actors to reflect the painting. Now standing before the back drop of Renior’s garden scene actors took their place. Instead of a lady reading a book painted on the wall, now in front of it lay an actual woman reading the same book. The little boy playing a game of croquet, now stood in the matching shorts and suspenders. The Mona Lisa became a real person, with her eyes following guests around the room. The actors brought a one dimensional painting, and made it come alive.

It worked! Attendance increased as people saw pictures in a new way. Their understanding of art raised as they connected art work from the past with their lives today. Sometimes we must see something living and breathing before we can understand its value.

The same is with the great mystery of a God who loves. And yet our God did not want this mystery to be so far removed from us that we could not connect. So God sent his son through the incarnation. An infinite God who chose to communicate his character and essence with finite minds. His goal, that we might begin to comprehend who God truly is. John 1:14 “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”

Conversation starter with God: Talk with God about how you see His character. You may want to choose a story of Jesus from the gospels to read and pray over. Look through the lens of the incarnation to see who God truly is.

The Mystery of the Incarnation

Noticing the decline in museum attendance, a group of individuals gathered to brain storm ways to handle the problem. How could they invite a new generation to engage with and appreciate these ancient master pieces? One idea came to the forefront to help the paintings come alive: to take a one dimensional picture and make it three dimensional through the use of actors.

Their living art put costumes, wigs, and make up on actors. Then they added props and positioned the actors to reflect the painting. Now standing before the back drop of Renior’s garden scene actors took their place. Instead of a lady reading a book painted on the wall, now in front of it lay an actual woman reading the same book. The little boy playing a game of croquet, now stood in the matching shorts and suspenders. The Mona Lisa became a real person, with her eyes following guests around the room. The actors brought a one dimensional painting, and made it come alive.

It worked! Attendance increased as people saw pictures in a new way. Their understanding of art raised as they connected art work from the past with their lives today. Sometimes we must see something living and breathing before we can understand its value.

The same is with the great mystery of a God who loves. And yet our God did not want this mystery to be so far removed from us that we could not connect. So God sent his son through the incarnation. An infinite God who chose to communicate his character and essence with finite minds. His goal, that we might begin to comprehend who God truly is. John 1:14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”

Conversation starter with God: Talk with God about how you see His character. You may want to choose a story of Jesus from the gospels to read and pray over. Look through the lens of the incarnation to see who God truly is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

As Was His Custom

When you meet Daniel in the Bible you see a man who is deeply committed to his God, and is equally committed to his work. In Daniel chapter 6 a group seeks to remove Daniel from his job. And the more they follow his work, the more they realize the only place they can find fault with him, is in his relationship to God. So this is where they attack. And in spite of a law that precluded praying to any other than the king, Daniel follows his custom and prays to God. In verse ten it says he prayed, “as was his custom since early days.”

This was just what Daniel did. He prayed. Every day, whether in challenging times or in time of blessing, he prayed. This practiced grew his relationship with God. And because of that connection, Daniel prayed even at the risk of his own life.

Think about the customs in your life. Perhaps it is how you welcome your children home from school, or another deeply engrained habit. Now think about your status as a child of God. What habit will you grow today to build your relationship with God up? Choose today to follow in the steps of Daniel and create a custom that connections you to God and builds your relationship and dependence on Him.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What is the Pastor reading now?

It is that moment when you cross paths with someone of different beliefs that you wish for more skill in Christian persuasion. The goal of the book Fool’s Talk: The Art of Christian Persuasion is all about how to do the best job when you are confronted questions about your faith. This is the job of apologetics, to speak in support of your faith. And the author of this book, Os Guinness, distills his forty years of experience in the field to this very readable volume. “He sees apologetics in its noblest form—a way to lead others to Christ.”

This is our goal as Christians, to lead others to a relationship with Christ. But often we are confronted with questions and attacks that we don’t know how to handle. Os Guinness challenges us to ask questions, to form relationships, to win the war instead of the battle, and to be prepared in and out of season to present the reason for our hope in Christ Jesus.

If you are looking for a book that will stimulate your mind intellectually, and engage you in a thirst for evangelism, then this book if for you. The author helps you walk away from the book with a deeper commitment to Christ, and the courage to speak His name. From real life stories, and snapshots of testimonies in the lives of historical figures, the author will walk you through an understanding of how to reach the heart and elicit an interest in God.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Make Your Choice

The hand moved across the white plaster wall, the letters left behind glowed and arrested the attention. This was a message of doom. A liquidation sale. A calling to account. Belshazzar’s knees trembled and his heart fainted. And yet he had a choice. The words were clear, he was held to account for his treatment of God. What would he do? At this moment that God encountered and challenged, would Belshazzar yet repent and confess?

The story in Daniel 5 holds us spell bound. We image what it would be like to be confronted by the God of heaven with our mistakes. To see a hand move without an arm, to see words appear and burn into our minds our judgment, is frightening. And yet God’s call was redemptive. God reached out to Belshazzar elaborately and called for him to acknowledge Him.

The same happens in our lives. God will confront us with our sinfulness. Even point out where we put other gods in His place. All of these are pleas to acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior. When you see God’s invitation, what will you do? Will you choose to bow in humility and confession? Will you choose to accept God’s judgement and leading? What will you do when you read the handwriting on the wall?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Value of a Converted Heart

Daniel chapter four is the exciting conclusion to God’s relentless pursuit of Nebechadnezzar. First we meet him as the conqueror, bringing the strongest of the captives back to serve him. Next we meet him as the confused, turning to Daniel’s God for an answer to his lost dream. And now we finally meet him as the converted.

You and I both know that that paragraph barely captures the lengths God went to in order to reach Nebechadnezzar. But it isn’t until chapter four that God finally gets all of Nebechadnezzar’s attention. And it took the loss of his mind to acknowledge the living God as the one true God.

At the close of the chapter Nebechadnezzar regains his sanity when he looks up turns his life over to God. It is the act of putting God on the throne of his heart, displacing all other gods, that puts his mind back together.

Isn’t it the same with us? When our hearts are converted, we put God as first in our priority list. And after that, other things slip into their proper place. The whirl of news and terror and political staging dims as we remember that God is in control over all of this. The mess of this world takes its proper perspective when we realize that God will see us through. When our hearts recall, that God will set everything back in their proper order. And that until that day of the second coming, He will walk with us through this mess.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Courage of Daniel

Two words spring to mind to describe Daniel: committed and courageous. Committed to His God, and courageous in the face of challenges. Case in point: Taken before the king Daniel is confronted with the question, can you do what this man says? Can you tell the dream and its interpretation?

What does Daniel do? You can find it in Daniel 2:27-28. In essence Daniel says, “No one can.” What a dangerous answer to a homicidal king. Then he goes on, “But the God of heaven can!” So deep is his commitment to God that Daniel must remind the king, even before they begin delving into the dream, that this comes from the one true God. He doesn’t want Nebuchadnezzar to attribute this wisdom to his training, to an idol or to an earthly advisor. This is something only the God of heaven can reveal.

How will you courageously point people to God this week? Choose to pray over your meal before you partake. Choose to offer to pray with a co-worker experiencing a difficult challenge in life. Choose to honor the Sabbath in spite of the many other demands on your time. Courageously point people to the God you worship and know personally.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Praises to the God of Heaven

How do you handle uncertain times? Some people run away to a cocoon and pretend nothing is happening. Other people prepare by stocking the shelves and ordering a generator. Others choose to turn to God for answers. In Daniel chapter two we find four year men headed for death. The king’s advisors failed him, so he ordered their death. Daniel, Hananiah, Mischael, and Azariah are among the condemned. Their response: to turn to God for help and then rest in the knowledge He is in control.

Read over this story this week, and marvel at their faith. Daniel quietly asks for time to find an answer for the king. Then a fervent prayer meeting takes place. And after the last amen, they all lie down and sleep. It amazes me the peace, to be able to sleep! Sleep is often illusive in stressful situations, but these four trusted God and so they rested. And as they rested, God sent Daniel a dream and its interpretation.

When Daniel wakes up and realizes he is saved, he breaks out in a beautiful praise to God. He extols God for changing the time and the seasons. He praises God for revealing deep and secret things. This is the God they place their faith in. This is the God you can put your faith in also.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Stand for God

At an early age James White determined to be financially independent. He wanted to choose his future, and be free to follow God’s calling. God’s calling was to be a preacher. The paycheck didn’t cover all his family’s needs, so he looked for a side job. Finding a wealthy farmer in need of help in the fields, he signed up. Now this wasn’t in the time where you climb into a large tractor and plowed through the fields. The tool for the job didn’t involve any kind of engine other than human strength and vigor. The tool was a long stick with a handle and a sharp blade. The scythe required focus and strength to wield properly without inflicting any damage on those around or the operator.

The other hired workers quickly learned that James was a preacher. They resented his presence. Putting their heads together, a plan hatched to make things difficult. Their goal, to make things so hard for James that he would quit. So they asked James to lead the pack as they mowed across the field. James agreed to lead and proceeded to pick up his scythe cutting a wide swath as he went. And with every swing of the scythe James was sending up a prayer to heaven for physical strength. The group quickly found they couldn’t keep up; they cut narrower and narrower rows. Finally, they admitted defeat and shortly confessed their plan to James.

Does this story inspire your memories to pull up the file on answered prayer? What story can you tell of where God answered your prayer to stand up for Him and witness? Spend time with God this week remembering where you chose to stand for God. Then spend time in thanksgiving for God’s strength that made that stand possible.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

You See Me…

In my devotional time I came to these words, “You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.” After reading them I took one of those holy pauses to digest what I read. God knows it all, completely, inside and outside. He knows all the actions I take in a day, whether those actions bring me closer to Him or propel me further away.

You can read these words too in Psalm 139. Read the whole Psalm and be amazed at all the details that God recognizes, even knowing all the days of our lives before even one came to be. At first take this may seem the stuff of nightmares, to think of a God who knows and follows every detail. But pause for a moment and realize God knows all this, and loves you completely. One commentator gives this call for reflection based on Psalm 139, “Sensing that God knows all this about you, what do you think would be His evaluation of your present life? Knowing that He knows all about you, yet loves tremendously, honestly face your present.”

Find time this week in your time with God to evaluate your life through God’s eyes. Is His love calling you to change? Is there something in your relationship to God that can improve? Is there a human relationship that needs your attention? Commit prayerfully in the presence of this loving God to grow in the area you identified in the previous exercise.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

God’s Hand in My History

Think back a few years into your history. Now look for God’s hand in your past. What difficult situations did God lead you to and then lead you through? Are there places where you felt like you labored in vain? In my life I can remember many instances where I poured my heart and soul into a project, only to see it end short of my goal. For all my work and energy the result could only be labeled a failure. If this sounds familiar to you too, then turn to Isaiah 49:4.

You will find these words: “But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all.” You and I are not the first to feel these feelings, or to lament the loss of a dream. Isaiah felt the same way, and he poured his life, energy and whole being into his calling. But do not stay in this place, keep reading and find hope. “Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”

We will not always see the results of our labors in this world. Our job is not to find the results, but to know where those rewards are. Our reward is with God. Our job is to be true to our calling, to exercise our spiritual gifts consistently, and to trust Him with what the final outcome will be.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Monuments to God's Goodness

There is a monument that stands next to the Jordan river, you can find its description in Joshua 4. It is simple in construction, and it bears no plaque. Just twelve stones piled one upon the other. But it is a reminder of a profound and powerful event. This is to remind the children of Israel of when God parted the waters of the Jordan. 

Do you remember the story? The children of Israel are closing in on the promised land, all that stands between them is the swollen Jordan river. A spring river that contains all of the run off from the surrounding hills, a river that is angry and dangerous. And God chose to part those waters. He chose to make a path for the Israelites to walk across into the promised land, on dry ground.

This monument by the Jordan river is a reminder of God’s power on that day, and also of His willingness to intervene in miraculous ways. Has God done the same for you? Where did God provide an answer that you failed to dream up in all your brainstorming sessions? Spend time today remembering where God intervened in your life. Walk with the eyes of memory through your past and mark the hand of God in your life. Consider creating a written record to serve as a monument and reminder of God’s providence in your life.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

Since I first learned how squiggles on a page carried stories, I’ve been a reader. I love reading biographies, poetry, theology and even a good Pollifax mystery. The written page can challenge and enrich, so I’m always casting about for recommendations. Recently a colleague pointed at the book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. I laughed at the title and ordered my copy. Making the mistake of picking it up late at night, I found myself reading deep into the night.

The title comes from the words of 2 Samuel 23 verse 20, “ Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.” Benaiah is part of David’s might warriors, here in this scripture you find his resume. Not only did he not run away, he leaped into the pit to chase the lion.

We are called to be lion chasers too. The challenge is instead of running away from lions in the path, to chase them full speed. “What sets lion chasers apart isn’t the outcome. It’s the courage to chase God-sized dreams. Lion chasers don’t let their fears or doubts keep them from doing what God has called them to do.”

You know Benaiah didn’t come out of the pit free of cuts, he was probably covered with claw marks and scrapes from fighting a five-hundred pound beast. But he chased, he leaped, he conquered.

Are you a lion chaser? What will you do with the opportunities God gives you? Will you speak up to your co-worker about your faith? Will you choose to accept that ministry opportunity from your nominating committee? Will you risk to follow His leading and trust the results to Him? Your greatest regret at the end of your life will be the lions you didn't chase. You will look back longingly on risks not taken, opportunities not seized, and dreams not pursued. Stop running away from what scares you most and start chasing the God-ordained opportunities that cross your path. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is inspired by one of the most obscure yet courageous acts recorded in Scripture, a blessed and audacious act that left no regrets: “Benaiah chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it” (2 Samuel 23:20 -21). Unleash the lion chaser within!

Resting in Christ

For those of you who study the Sabbath school lesson, this title brings with it hints of color from your study last week. (For those of you who don’t study the lesson, I invite you to check out or for a free digital version.) The goal of the lesson was to take another look at the Sabbath, to understand what it means to receive Christ’s rest.

In Christ’s ministry we see Him turning away sharp questions, with a few words He can redirect or diffuse tension. He seems to carry with His ministry the restful calm that comes with the same power to calm a storm with just a word. And yet when we see Christ confront the Sabbath, He is militant.

It was unlawful in the society at that time to provide medical assistance to a person on the Sabbath unless it was lifesaving. And yet Christ worked seven miracles on the Sabbath, none of them life threatening illnesses. Christ wanted to reorient their lives around the Sabbath and recapture the joy that only Sabbath can bring.

Will you choose to look forward with eagerness to this coming Sabbath? Will you choose to prepare throughout the week for this precious, precious time with God? Take this attitude of expectation and joy with you as you join your church family for study and worship.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Celebrate Forgiveness

These words always thrill my heart, "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." You can find these words in Psalm 103. You may want to highlight them gently with a colored pencil or a crayon so you can find them easily.

Maybe you need them as much as I do, a reminder that even though I fail Him, He is willing to forgive and remove my sin. Grace. That beautiful gift of God, that He gives so freely and paid so dearly for. A. Weiser says it this way, "As long as man does not understand the depths of the knowledge of sin, he does not really know what grace means."

Another commentator says it this way, "It is precisely because sin is the most shattering experience in his life that the poet is able to recognize the truth that God's grace is greater than man's sin. That His love is stronger than His anger." In spite of the striking analogies drawn on to express forgiveness, the word pictures can hardly do justice to the wideness of God's mercy.

Conversation starter with God: Talk to God about what forgiveness and grace mean to you. End with a time of praise and thanks to the God who chooses to give this kind of mercy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Renewed Strength

I remember a quiet drive on the roads of Wisconsin. The winding paths, the sparkling sun, the crisp breeze whipping in through the crack at the top of the window. It was peaceful and routine, and then out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed a bird in flight. Turning my whole attention toward the bird it dawned on me it was a beautiful and strong bald eagle. And it was not alone, three companions took wing together on the wind currents.

Psalm 103 talks about God’s goodness and then the sweet reminder, He “Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Naturalists tell us of the power and beautiful of an eagle that extends throughout its life. An eagle can live through its hundred years of life, and still be as energetic and vital as when young. Our own eyes remember the magnitude and strength of an eagle, we even choose it as the symbol for our country. To be renewed to the strength of an eagle is no small promise.

These words emphasize to us the infinite benefit of God’s forgiveness. Just look at the verse just about in Psalm 103 to gain context. Verse three says, “Who forgives all our iniquities, who heals all your disease.” When God forgives it is complete. He blots it out. Imagine the energizing realization that the burden of sin is removed. That God says to you, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Conversation starter with God: Spend time talking about the places you need to confess. What sin do you need to turn over to God and go boldly in the future knowing He truly and completely forgives you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Painting Our Praises

Have you ever painted a picture? Maybe with oils, or water colors, or finger paints. How about writing a poem or a book? A sonnet or a haiku? What about sewing or weaving a tapestry? Built a piece of furniture or a house? Each of these take God-given abilities, talents you can use in turn to praise Him with.

David took his gift to praise God with song, and wrote a psalm. You can find his beautiful hymn in your Bible in Psalm 103. It begins with the words, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”

This hymn is called a “star of the first magnitude” in the galaxy of hymns because of the all-pervasive sense of gratitude to God. David exhorts himself to bless, or praise, God’s holy Name. And he even explains the reason, “forget not all His benefits.” God has done so much for him, he can’t help but sing his praises. Apparently the psalmist so deeply appreciated God’s goodness bestowed on him, he feels the inner urge to express his gratitude to the Lord with jubilation, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!”

How will you praise God today? Will you sing? Will you speak his praise? Will you bless him with music or draw a picture of praise? Today, do not forget the many benefits that can only be attributed to God. Spend time praise Him for His goodness to you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

We Grieve with Hope

In the past few weeks these verses stands out as my theme: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” 1Thessalonians 4:13-18

You all know of the loss in my family. My father in law, Bill Crews passed away on March 31. This turned our known world upside down and sent us rushing to be with family in Florida. Life is different without him in our lives. As we gathered together to talk and pray and encourage one another, there was a steady stream of reminds that we walked this difficult road with a family of believers. Texts of courage came to my phone. Messages of lifted prayers on our behalf came. Then the bereavement cards arrived to remind us that while we grieve, we grieve with support. So during this time of loss I grieved with the hope of the resurrection, and with the full knowledge of my church family who came around and supported us. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for those expressions of caring and for the prayers lifted on our behalf. God is carrying us through into this new reality, and I thank you for letting Him use you to remind us of that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

God's Presence is Real

What words do you repeat to yourself when you wake in the middle of the night with heart pounding and adrenaline surging? How about Deuteronomy 31:6, "Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." It is the reminder of God’s presence that makes these words precious. God’s presence allows your heart to calm and the adrenaline to subside as you reorient yourself to the reality that God will never leave your or forsake you.

This week choose to be aware of God’s presence in your life. Spend three to five minutes just sitting quietly and being aware of God’s presence. The words of Deuteronomy 31:6 assures us that God is always with us. Claim this promise and then be attentive and aware of God’s presence with you at that moment. A realization of God’s very real presence can bring you peace in the middle of a storm of thoughts, or worries or concerns. His presence can quiet your heart enough to prepare you for the rest of your devotional time.

In those moments, you may even feel encouraged to stand up for truth in difficult situations. You may remember a moment at your job where gossip started. This may give you the courage to turn that conversation toward the truth. You may remember a friend who looked burdened and take that opportunity to ask if they want you to pray with them.

The knowledge that God is with you is meant to be a comfort. It should instill a thread of iron in your backbone for difficult situations. Knowing God is near when your heart breaks gives courage to step into the future. God’s presence can enable you to serve with a joyful heart. How will you allow this realization to shape your life this week?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

For God So Loved...

Arguably one of the most memorized scriptures in all of the Bible, John 3:16 brings a reminder of God’s love and a hope for our future. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It reminds us of God’s love and affection, as well as His plans for our future.

And yet the idea that God loves the world is surprising. Elsewhere in the book of John is the caution not to love the world, he cautions against loving the world because it is a place of disbelief and hostility. Commentator Carson puts it this way, “There is no contradiction between this prohibition and the fact that God does love it [the world]. Christians are not to love the world with the selfish love of participation; God loves the world with the selfless, costly love of redemption.”

This insightful comment brings new meaning to the prohibition against Christians loving the world. The prohibition isn’t against loving the world that is protected by Greenpeace or the Sierra Club. The world described is not God’s second book, nature. We as Christians are called to be stewards of the physical world around us. Rather it is that part of humanity that is opposed to God. That part of society that chooses to rebel against God’s laws and instructions. And while we are told not to love that part of the world, or become a part of it, Jesus purposefully chose to enter that very world with the goal of redemption.

This is what Jesus came to do, to show this love through redemption. It is not to a specific group of people, not those chosen or privileged that the Savior came to seek and to save. It is the world. It is all of humanity. It is you that Jesus chose to save. “He came to save the world, namely, the all-encompassing circle of men and women who inhabit this planet, people who embrace darkness habitually (3:19–21),” according to Burge. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Draw Near

How will you draw near to God today? In James 4:8 it says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” This is an invitation from the God of the universe to draw near and allow His presence to change you.

Prayer is the vital breathing of our souls. It is what brings life to our spiritual walk, and vigor to our relationship with God. It is not an isolated experience that happens only when we are feeling low. Prayer isn’t a prescription to fix us like a prescription for antibiotics is for an infection. Prayer is an essential daily habit, if we are to be formed into His likeness.

It is just as when a couple married for many years begins to look alike. Their jokes become similar, their hand gestures mirrors of one another. The years indelibly mark the other with their character. As we daily spend time with God in prayer, His character is reproduced in us.

How will you spend time with God today? Will you choose to pray on another’s behalf? Will you choose to pray a scripture, looking for its application to your life? Will you choose to unravel your worries and concerns in His presence? I challenge you to spend intentional time today with the God of the universe and allow Him to leave His imprint on you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Disciple Is ...

In the heart of the great gospel commission is a call for disciples. Matthew 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

I issued the call to define what a disciple is, and this is what you shared.

A disciple is....

One who ministers to others
Open to learning and growing
An obedient friend
Someone that reflects Christ to others
Willing to listen when they are called by God
A follower of Jesus, Ones that love
A person who loves Christ and lets Him teach them
A person who follows Christ and does His will
Teachable, Caring
A person who obeys the great commission from Jesus to go out and share the gospel/good news to the world
Willing, Forgiving, Loving
A friend/student of God, A helper
A representative of God
Kind, Teachable
A willing and dedicated student
An example of His master, a reflection of His purpose
One who wants a relationship with Christ
Will follow you to the end
They care for my family!
A person that gives all for God
An instrument of salvation
A humble servant looking for ways to bless others
Opening myself to God by participating in corporate worship

Following God daily through spiritual practices
Returning time, talents, and resources to God

Willingly serve my local church and community in the context of my spiritual gifts
Anticipating spiritual growth in others by being in genuine relationships

Growing in my life of faith as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit

What would you add to this list? Where do you need to grow as a disciple of Christ?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Becoming a Vibrant Disciple

As our revival series unfolds, we learn how to be more deeply committee to our Savior and to reach out to the world around us. As disciples we are challenged to Reach Forward by following this acronym:

Following God through daily spiritual practices.

Opening myself to God by participating in regular corporate worship.

Returning time, talents, and resource to God.

Willingly serve my local church and community in the context of my spiritual gifts.

Anticipating spiritual growth in others by being in genuine relationships.

Reproducing the discipleship journey in others through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Developing in my life of faith as evidence by the fruits of the Spirit.

Take a few minutes to talk with God about each of these characteristics of a disciple. How are you in allowing God to transform you, what areas do you need His strength to grow in?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Open the Door

Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Reading this verse brings to mind an image of Christ standing at a door knocking. The picture that comes to mind is from a painting done by Warner Sallman entitled Christ at Heart’s Door. Feel free to open another window and google for the image. My guess is it will immediately bring back memories to you also.

Your search engine will present you with a picture of Christ standing at a door with his hand upraised as if knocking on the door in front of him. While you can see a grating on the door, no light shines out. Brambles and weeds are crowding in around the figure of Christ.

In describing the picture its curators at Anderson University say, “The barely concealed heart produced by the luminance of Christ and the frame of the doorway convey Christ’s call to the soul ensnared in thistles of sin and the darkness of ignorance and willfulness. Yet, “all is not hopeless, for there is an opening of grillwork in the door ‘revealing the darkness within,’ so that the individual may see who is at the door, and see that He is good and kind.”

The pictures preaches a theology of repentance. Christ is the first mover, He comes to the door and knocks. But there is no handle or latch on the outside of the door, only the person inside is able to open it. This is a Savior who will not force His way in, but chooses to knock and even to call out with His voice. Jesus patiently waits, and insistently invites a time of commitment and fellowship.

What will you do today? Will you open the door? Will you make a first commitment to this Savior? Is it time to recommit through Bible study and prayer? Jesus stands at the door and knocks, we must choose our response.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Call to Share

As Seventh-day Adventists we are a part of a worldwide movement. Just some facts and figures to make this worldwide church more real to you. The latest statistics released by the General Conference include these numbers. There are 78,810 church congregations in our denomination. Add to that 69,213 companies. (These are faith groups that aren’t officially organized as a church, but meet together regularly for worship on the Sabbath.) Worldwide church membership is 18,479,257. These are amazing numbers to me! This movement that stretches around the globe, sharing the same message of Christ’s love and soon return.

There are 237 countries and areas of the world as recognized by the United Nations, the Seventh-day Adventist church has an official presence in 216 of them. This is encouraging, and challenging at the same time. There is much success to celebrate, and yet there is still much to do.

What will you to today to further the spread of the gospel message? This message is contained in the words of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.”

This is the good news, Christ died for our sins. Because He died on our behalf, there is hope for a future life with Him in a world free of sin. This good news needs to reach to every person, in whatever language they speak. They must know God’s love for them as expressed by His son’s death and the hope that brings. What will you do today to help further the spread of this message?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Evangelism sounds like a large, complicated and frightening word. It may conjure up for you pictures of pitched tents in the field, or handbills arriving in neighborhood mailboxes. You may picture an opportunity to share the gospel, and staring wide-eyed as you watch the opportunity slip away.

What it looks like to our church family is a mission to reach families with young children with the love of God. It looks like our family church where we sat around tables and made snowflakes to share our praises and requests during prayer time. In a moment of optimism we prepared four extra tables for groups to participate in our snow experiment and did you notice God sent people to fill every chair?

Evangelism is the upcoming Kids’ Night In planned by Annie Benedetti. Miss Annie sent out a call to children to join her for games, crafts and more. Her list is growing as parents call to reserve a spot for their children to attend.

This same passion to follow Jesus and share His love extends to our fellow churches of the Potomac Conference. Did you hear yet about Cultivate? It is the church planting and evangelism department’s plan to reach out with evangelism in many ways. Interested in comparing our evangelism with others around the conference, click on this link to see a short video or read evangelism reports from around the conference.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Returning to God

I remember the huge transition from full-time work to student labor when returning to school for my master’s degree. From a balanced budget with allotments for savings and discretionary income, I went to living off of $804 a month. With a rent payment of $350 a month, you can start picturing what my life looked like to cover utilities, a car payment, food and purchasing warm winter gear. The temptation came to shorten God’s piece. On paper it just didn’t work, and so I gave into the temptation. However, the month that I took courage and challenged God to stretch what was left because I wanted Him first, strange things happened. I remember a tube of toothpaste that seemed to keep producing. Simple things like the milk lasting longer in the fridge and a roll of toilet paper that seemed never ending. All these little things with no explanation except God’s blessings.

Is your story similar? Did you notice the blessing of putting God first? Think over God’s faithfulness in your finances as you chose to include His work in your budget. As you go into the week put God first by returning to Him before using your funds to meet other needs or wants. Prayerfully choose what will be marked as tithe and what is marked as offerings to support the local ministry of your church. As you put God first in your finances, see what He will do for you. Step up into this calling to be a steward of your time, talents, and financial resources. Dare to risk returning to God, and see what He will do to show His faithfulness.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

White as Snow

Scrolling through the posts on FaceBook I’ve noticed a theme: my friends are thinking about snow! And so am I. Thanks to Winter Storm Jonas, snow is everywhere. As my eyes wander over the landscape blanked in sparkling white, my mouth starts repeating the words of Isaiah 1:18, ““Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”

This is a call to argue our case with God. God is challenging us to do our best thinking. Think through our choices, and their consequences. It is an invitation to wrestle with the Word of God to seek understanding on this amazing truth: Even stained with sin as deeply as a twice dyed robe of red, God can make us pure again. Pause and let that beautiful thought float through your mind, and then sink in. God can restore. God wants to restore. God’s forgiveness doesn’t just gloss over a mistake, it reaches to the very roots and allows us to be changed and transformed.

However guilty our past, whatever mistakes and sins committed, God can recreate. It is possible to be restored to purity and holiness. Even more than that, this promise deals not just with the results of sin, but with sin itself. God wants to change us so we no longer desire that sinful thing. He desires we be as white as snow.

Conversation starter with God: Talk with Him about the places in your life that you need this restoration. Confess to God your sins, and accept His forgiveness. Leave the conversation trusting God knows how to forgive so deeply, that you can leave that

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Welcome the Sabbath

The welcome sets the stage for the rest of day. Enter joyfully into the Sabbath as it begins. On Friday evening, instead of rushing to the last moment to see how much you can fit, greet the Sabbath with joy. First, look up what time sundown will come. The goal is to think joyfully that the Sabbath is coming each time you look at the clock. Countdown to joy. Replace the countdown of time left to accomplish things with a countdown to rest and special time with God.

As sundown approaches, gather your family together. Let each person turn off their cell phone. Instead of just silencing it, power it down. The world will keep turning without you for this brief worship time. Voicemail can go unanswered for just a bit. Read a scripture together—maybe the beautiful Sabbath commandment found in Exodus 20. Perhaps you need a reminder of the perpetuity of the Sabbath and Isaiah 66:23 can remind you that we will keep Sabbath in heaven too.

Growing up, our Friday nights marked a change in the week. They reminded us of a better day coming. Each Friday night we sat around the table with candles lit and talked. The menu was simple: popcorn and fruit. If we smiled very sweetly at Mom, and asked her very nicely, there would also be tapioca pudding. The best part of the meal, to us kids, was the paper plates. You see, we grew up with chores to do, so paper plates meant a reprieve from washing dishes. It meant rest. This was our Sabbath tradition—a way to start together.

Start a Sabbath tradition with your family. Maybe your choice is to eat a simple meal of fruit by candle light. Maybe you want to connect with Bible memorization. You can recite Bible texts together as the Sabbath beings. Choosing to start the Sabbath in celebration helps us remember the value of the Sabbath. It also helps the whole day to be one of joy, instead of a countdown to secular activities. Sabbath needs to be a day of joy and things to do. A day like none other that brings joy, rest, and a special reminder of God’s presence. It is a day of trust in God. Sure, we could spend this 24-hour period engaged in the occupation that pays the bills, but on this day we rest and trust God to care for the needs and wants of life.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

God is Faithful

As a child my sister, brother and I relished every opportunity to go hiking. We lived out in the country and could access countless acre to explore. My mother outfitted us for the day’s adventure. First backpacks for treasures found along the way, then big squares of neon green pistachio cake. Last, the most important item, a walkie talkie in each backpack for communication. Then, out the door we went. Always our faithful protector followed us out the door. Our companion Jolie, a strong and imposing German shepherd. We climbed trees, turn over rocks, examined berries and collected treasures. All under her watchful eye. Over every action our dog Jolie kept watch. Hours of hiking over hill and dale, and no matter how many hills we conquered or how far we hiked, Jolie was always on our heels. Her commitment to be with us was unswerving.

Perhaps you also grew up with a dog as a constant and faithful companion. You know what it is to gaze into those trusting and protective eyes. Those eyes that chose to attentively watch and care. The eyes that noticed every motion and action. Eyes that leapt into action at a moment’s notice.

The words of 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 tell us of one who is faithful. “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

This is the God who called you to a relationship with God. It is the same God who will be there to lean on when the going gets tough. If He called you to this path, He will get you through it. When a task or a standard seems insurmountable, remember these words. In those moments, claim this promise, He is faithful even in uncertain and difficult times.