Thursday, December 10, 2009


I know it has been a while since I have written in my blog. I intend to do better in the future. I wanted to share an article I wrote for our church bulletin this week. I hope you enjoy it.

If I had to choose one Christmas Carol as a favorite, I think I would choose “Silent Night” by Joseph Mohr. Mohr was a Roman Catholic priest and served a parish high in the Alps near Salzburg, Germany in the late 1800’s. He felt that there needed to be more hymns to celebrate the Christmas season. He wrote this and taught it to a friend and they taught it to the congregation in their little village. They never intended the song to be known outside of the little mountain village. However, an organ repairman came through to do some maintenance on the church organ and heard the song being sung. Intrigued he copied the words and music and shared it with others in the places he worked. The popularity of the song spread quickly and has now been translated from its original German into every major language in the world.
I especially like the second verse of the song which reads:
Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!
Luke tells us (Luke 2:10) that the angel who appeared to the shepherds said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The word translated ‘good news’ in the passage is the Greek word ‘evangelidzo’ from which we take our word evangelism. They had no idea how good was this good news. The prophet Isaiah said of this child born in the City of David that “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
That continues to be good news. This is the time of year Christians of all denominations and genres remember the incredible mission of that little one lying in a manger. Our hearts are touched by the suffering he must endure. Our lives are changed by the fact that he did.
Too often we see evangelism as convincing people of the accuracy our belief system when really like the angels, all Christians have ever been asked to do is shine God’s glory to earth and point to what He has done.
Let the miracle of His birth, the fact of His sacrifice and the completeness of His grace and love do the work of changing hearts and lives. That was then, is now and forever will be the good news.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Dating was never my strong suit. Lets just say, "I was no heart throb.” What can I say? I was raised in a family of boys… with the exception of my poor mother who continually apologizes to my wife and my sisters in law saying, “I really tried hard to civilize them but it didn’t work.” When I was in my late teens I still would rather have baled hay than “sit and talk” even with a young lady I found to be attractive. I hated it when girls called just to talk and would find excuses to hang up as soon as possible. I had a handful of guy friends with whom I made it a point to plan fishing trips during school dances.

At church camp there was always pressure to impress the girls so that you didn’t look like a chump at the end of the week by going to the banquet alone. My style of impressing the girls was to throw dead snakes into their cabin and laugh hysterically when the predictable screaming commenced. I gave my friends wedgies when they were “putting the moves” on prospective banquet dates and teased them for talking to girls when they should be playing tackle football. One unfortunate girl who went to the banquet with me left in tears when I sang to her. My singing was fine it was just that I sang Lionel Richie’s “You’re Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady” while expanding my hands out from my waist. She wasn’t fat but she didn’t understand that I was joking. I didn’t get it then and had to roast a wiener by the bonfire alone. I think I understand now.

I improved marginally in college. Instead of snakes, I threw water balloons into dorm rooms. I was the cafeteria champ for wadding up napkins and throwing them at an unsuspecting female from whom I was hoping to garner some attention. I got really good and could hit a girl clear across the room. I don’t guess it ever dawned on me that a paper napkin careening off of your forehead and into your mashed potatoes might not be a turn on. Then again, I’m not sure I cared. If she didn’t go out with me it just freed up a Friday night for fishing. There were a few girls that tried to put up with me but after a few dates of wading in the creek and going to the library to read hunting magazines, they invariably lost interest.

But as for most of us guys there was one girl who was different. I prefer to believe that she saw a diamond in the rough (and there was a lot of rough) and persevered to find it. She put up with the water balloons, snowballs and wadded up napkins. She rolled her eyes at the impressive burps and sat by me on the shore while fishing. She even gave hunting and golf a try; both of which produced stories that are funny but I won’t go into here. She laughed at most of my jokes and cried when I tricked her into touching a vending machine that had a short in it so that when touched produced a mild but painful electric shock. I still feel bad about that one.

Saturday, July 25th will mark 22 years of her patience. The city girl having to refine the country boy a bit but every day being worth it. Thank you Lenore for hanging in there. I love you.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


The media coverage for the Michael Jackson funeral has been nothing short of intense. It is impossible to watch or listen to a news broadcast in recent days without hearing someone comment on some area of minutia revolving around his life or his death or the battle for his children and his sizeable estate. I am confident that it will go on for some time. Soon there will be Michael Jackson sightings, conspiracy theories, and of course the army of impersonators who will dishonor his memory with poor singing and dancing.
While I would never call myself a Michael Jackson fan I couldn’t help but be impressed by his talent. There was no one who could bring a song to life and infuse the level of energy into it like he could. When the “Thriller” video came out I was not a video watcher but I couldn’t help but watch the amazing precision and energy in that work. It must still rank among the greatest music videos ever made.
There were several of his songs that were memorable but there is one I noticed on the list of his greatest hits that I believed had spiritual applications. The song, “Man in the Mirror,” was written to highlight the plight of the homeless. In it Jackson underscores a key to change that has Biblical roots and impressive insight. The song speaks of ‘making the world a better place by looking at yourself and making a change.’
Remember these lyrics?
As I turned up the collar on
A favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin' my mind
I see the kids in the street
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind
Pretending not to see their needs

A summer's disregard
A broken bottle top
And a one man's soul
They follow each other
On the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change, yey
(Album – Bad, 1987; Songwriters: Ballard, Glen; Garrett, Siedah)
Whether we want to change the world, the church or our families, the place to start is now and has always been with the ‘man in the mirror.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

I have recently been reminded of my fascination with Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was just a teenager when she was told that she would soon be expecting. Even though that news came from an angel, it must have been troubling.

“How can this be since I am a virgin?” Mary asks.

She’s not asking for just the biological mechanics of how she is to become pregnant. She is also thinking of the social stigma that came with ‘out of wedlock’ pregnancy. It was socially unacceptable to say the least. She was thinking of the looks she would receive from the other women in town and the words she would hear from the priests at the temple and the disappointment from her parents not to mention Joseph…what would Joseph think?

Yet after all is explained and the weight of it is on her shoulders, her words reveal the depth of her faith and trust in God as she says, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

The years after that are filled with adventure as she gives birth to the Son of God (try to put yourself in her sandals and wrap your brain around that) in a barn.

Think of the terror of losing him after a family trip to Jerusalem. (Luke 2:42-49)

Think of how cool it was to ask him for a miracle at a friend’s wedding knowing (how did she know??) he would come through. (John 2:1-10)

See her concern as she races to him when she hears a rumor that he has lost his mind. (Mark 3:31-34)

Imagine her pride swelling, as do the numbers of the crowds that gather as they witness the jaws drop at his teaching and his miracles.

Feel her rage at those who falsely accuse him.

Sense her disgust at those who cry, “Crucify him”

Imagine her utter brokenness when they do.

There can be no doubt that the broken figure standing beneath the cross with John has been and will always be his number one fan on earth.

Moms have a way of lifting us up even in our darkest days. My mom has always been my biggest fan. She was always there: at my concerts, my graduations, expressing pride at my accomplishments and sharing sorrow at my setbacks. No matter how dark the road ahead, my mom is always at my side, proud to be there just because it is me.

Moms are that way. Be sure to take some time this weekend to express your appreciation to your biggest fan.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Foundation for Strong Christian Families

I Corinthians 3:11
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Any builder knows that the key to building a dependable structure is a solid foundation. Months of planning go into effect for just that part of the building. Earth moving, soil sampling and precise digging take place well before the first cement truck arrives. As the foundation goes, so goes the building.
I submit to you that a solid foundation is the key to a great Christian family as well. Here are three components of a solid foundation for every family.

Component #1 – A Firm Grounding in Faith – Any Christian family must be solidly committed to their faith in Jesus Christ. Parents must have a faith that shows itself in obvious fruits of the Spirit. Parents should strive to be together in their faith and discuss and work out areas where they may see things differently. Unity in the home around issues of faith is crucial.

Component #2 – A Strong Parental Marriage – The strength of the parents’ marriage is a reliable indicator for the adaptability of a child for adulthood. Kids who come from homes with strong marriages are well positioned to navigate their way in the world. Children from homes with good marriages are also far more likely to adhere to parents’ values and faith.

Component #3 – A Collaborative Parenting Style – Parents who agree on basic values and who work together to set rules and boundaries give their children a predictable world and an environment where they can feel loved, accepted and valued despite the conflicting messages they receive from the world.

To some these components come easily. Usually those to whom they come easily are those who come from families that exhibited those characteristics. Conversely, those who struggle with one or all of them probably came from a home where one or more of these characteristics are not present. None of us had all of these perfectly and to whatever degree we were blessed with them, we owe it to our children to put forth the effort to improve. There are many opportunities here at Northeast and beyond for even healthy families to improve. Bible classes, marriage and parenting seminars, marriage mentoring and counseling opportunities are just some of the tools before us to give the gift of a strong faith family to our children and then ask them to pass the gift down to the generations after them.
Upon which component can you improve? Look today for opportunities to make that happen. Your families will thank you for building a strong family of faith.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Note to Self: Don't Mess with a Chimp

I have been following the news story about the chimpanzee that attacked a woman and nearly killed her the other day. They had an animal expert on GMA this morning who said that he would rather tangle with a lion or gator than he would a chimp. I just never thought of them that way. This thing evidently disfigured this woman's face to the point that she will never look the same again. He also mangled her hands so bad that one or both may need to be amputated. I would have never thought a monkey could do such damage. I will certainly be more respectful of monkeys in the future.

I wonder how the evolutionists would explain this? Is that monkey evolving? Into what? Perhaps our violent tendencies come from those ancestors? Or maybe God made them to act like wild animals. Some might say, " Well, humans act like that too." Fair enough but the animal expert today said this behavior is normal for a chimp. Hmmm?

Monday, January 19, 2009

All Men Are Created Equal

I am writing this on Monday, January 19th, the day before a major milestone is planted firmly along the path of U.S. history. When Barack Obama takes the oath of office, it will in the minds of many be the beginning of a new era for our country. It will strengthen our resolve around a truth formed by God, affirmed by the Declaration of Independence, inspired the passion of a man like Abraham Lincoln, and served as a foundation for a major movement in our country. That truth is "all men are created equal."

It is interesting that the phrase is credited to Thomas Jefferson. The phrase, lifted out of the beginning sentence in our Declaration of Independence was written to respond to the concept of the "Divine Right of Kings" wherein the King of England claimed to be God's representative on earth and what he said and did was to be seen as a directed by God himself. In other words, questioning the king would be considered the same as questioning God and that would not be tolerated. It is easy to see why a leader of a nation on the brink of rebellion against such authority would begin his document by saying in essence, "the king is just a man like the rest of us." How ironic is it to think that he might have penned these words while a black slave swept the floor around his feet and another brought him tea, while another lit the fire over which she would cook his dinner?

History is full of irony but now we see and attach an additional meaning to that phrase. We no longer have a despotic king breathing threats of military occupation for our non-compliance. Now we are mourning a grievous contempt for human rights that once existed among us. We are healing from wounds inflicted by a culture addicted to conquest and greed that was by no means unique to a pre-Revolutionary America but had been in existence in some form for millennia prior to the first slaves arriving in the "New World." These wounds have been further infected by attitudes of racism, and hatred of those whose only offense is a few shades of difference in skin color.

While I may not agree with many of Barack Obama's political positions on the issues, I can hope that with his administration comes continued healing. I hope that his presidency will provide a balm for memories of black children looking through the fences of "whites only" playgrounds. I hope that his presidency will heal the injuries inflicted by phrases like, "we don't serve your kind here" and "you need to sit in the back of the bus."

I pray that those attitudes become more and more a bad memory from our past and that all races comprising these United States will go forth from this inauguration with a renewed sense of unity and purpose. I pray that we will take to heart the God given truth that "all men are created equal" and that this phrase will form within each of us a passion for working together to make our communities our churches, our workplaces and our nation the united around that truth.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The National Championship

This bowl season was altogether disappointing to me. Being a fan of THE Ohio State Buckeyes it was tough to watch their struggles and their loss in the Fiesta Bowl v. Texas. I was disappointed that Utah beat Alabama. I was disappointed that Va. Tech beat U.C. and I was disappointed that Florida beat Oklahoma. I was also disappointed that the Big Ten won only one of seven bowl games in which they played. I hope that those in control of the Big Ten Conference will stop ignoring the fact that we are on a downward skid and do something about it. We need another team in the conference (West Virginia, Notre Dame?) and we need a Big Ten Championship game. While we are making changes, lets go ahead and change the name cuz we are neither big (for the last few years especially) nor are we 10. There are 3 teams in the conference that perinnially have a shot at making the big dance. A few of the others might have a shot once every 5 years or so and the rest might be a top 10 finisher once every 25 years or so. While every conference has their weak spots, I can't think of another major conference with so little competition for the top teams (PAC 10 perhaps). Is it any wonder that the SEC and Big 12 do so well? They have quality opponents week in and week out. By the time bowl season rolls around they have played in several tough games and had to make big plays to win. Neither one will have a 60 plus day waiting period between their last regular season game and their bowl game. I don't care if it means another loss or two for my team in struggling years if it also means that we can be ready to play quality oponents when the time comes.

All of this is fairly moot of course until we get a national college football tournament. This year could have seen Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Utah, USC, Penn State and one other (U of Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, TCU, Ohio State?). Could Utah have been the David among giants? Might U.C. have had a surprise win? Could Alabama have redeemed themselves for the SEC Championship loss if they were actually playing for something? My guess is that USC would have been the champion this year and not Florida. We will never know. And that is sad.

The one good thing I take from this year is the satisfaction that Michigan really does stink. Although for the sake of the Big Ten they can stop playing like Jr. High girls any time now. O.K. that felt good.

Compassion for the Needy

There are so many endearing qualities that draw us to the person Jesus was while here on earth but one quality you can’t miss about him as you read through the gospels is his compassion.

I sometimes imagine Jesus as he walked through a town. People were excited to have him in their midst. They were awed at his miracles and deeply impressed with his teaching. People were clamoring to be around him. The city officials and the influential no doubt often approached him to rub elbows with the popular rabbi. They invited him to dinners and came to talk with him because they could. How frustrated they must have been when the attention they sought from him and possibly felt they deserved was interrupted by the pleas of the poor, the sinful, the sick or the handicapped of the town. It is so interesting that the attention of God in the flesh was so easily distracted from the powerful and influential by the cries of the hurting.

A perfect illustration of this is found in Luke 8:40-56. Jesus had been summoned by Jairus, a powerful Jew in town; a ruler of the synagogue with the authority to say who can or can’t worship at the synagogue (see: Jn. 9:22). As he is hurrying to save this man’s dying daughter, a woman with serious and personal health problems approaches trying to stay below the radar and touches the edge of his garment. Jesus stops with the synagogue ruler’s daughter hanging in the balance, and engages this woman in conversation praising her faith for making her whole. You get the sense that Jesus’ disciples are caught up in the urgency of Jairus’ crisis and are surprised and even frustrated with his taking time for this seemingly insignificant woman.

The message is clear and repeated time and again. Zaccheus in the tree, Bartimeus’s appeal from the alley, lepers shouting from afar, a weeping sinful woman, and a poor woman with two small coins capture the fascination of the creator of the universe and incite him to action.

If we are to be Jesus to our world there is no way that opportunities to help the downtrodden can be ignored. As we work to have his eyes we will find them fixed on the needy with a heart to help.

At Northeast, we are preparing to undertake an effort to help the needy in a way that we have never done before. We will join a local effort to reach out to the homeless in our community so that we can be the healing hands of Jesus to some grateful people. We will never be Jesus to the world until they see his compassion living in us.