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.”