Spring has arrived and none too soon. For those of us with kids in school that means that basketball season has ended and track and field and baseball season are about to begin. The first few meets and games in April are usually freezing cold and we spend all our time in coats and hooded sweatshirts jumping up and down to stay warm. The last few meets and games in May we are roasting and looking for the sunscreen. As I write this we are also in Lent. Lent is a time of darkness and pondering over our sins, looking for some light to dawn. Lent reminds me of my least favorite season, winter. Oh how I hate winter. I want to be like a bear in winter and hibernate. I just want the whole thing to go away; cold temperatures, and dark cloudy days with no sun. I think God created winter for one reason, to remind us how great summer is. Most people think of hell being hot, I think of it as never ending winter. During January and February I just suck it up and get through the days, praying please let this end. And then March comes and there is hope, even though it is still dark and cold, spring is coming!
Lent is kind of like that. Lent brings us those harsh texts that are pure law. As I told the congregation before the sermon on March 24th, this sermon is rated TNG, a sermon based on a test with no gospel. For those of you who were there, you know what I am talking about, that “gospel” text was all law, all damming. I had to bring the Gospel in from other places. Lent does that to us, it hits us over the head, telling us we are sinners. Like winter it is unrelenting and depressing. It is also necessary, we need to hear that we are sinners, we need that 2 by 4 of the law to the side of the head to wake us up to our situation, but we hate it. Lent is also like spring. It promises us something better is coming, that winter is ending, that an answer for our sins is coming! It promises us Easter!
Easter is coming! Easter brings us the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. It promises us our own resurrection from the winter and more importantly death. So get your sunscreen ready, brighter days are ahead! Spring is here!
Posted on April 06, 2019 11:50 PM
God told Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” If Pharaoh had known what was good for him he would have done it after God asked the first time. Free labor though is hard to turn down; you can become addicted to that. If the Israelites left who was going to do all the work? The Egyptians had become accustomed to a life of ease; did God really expect them to do all the work themselves? The problem was keeping the Israelites would mean enduring God’s displeasure. The longer he kept them the more plagues God sent. Pharaoh had to make a decision; would he keep his workforce and his life of ease and endure God’s punishments, or would he let them go and have to change his lifestyle? We all know what decision he made, a bad one, not only did he lose his workforce but he lost his life and the lives of everyone in his army. All he had to do with let the Israelites go.
What are some things in your life that you need to let go? What changes would letting them go mean? How disruptive would that be to your lifestyle? What good would come out of letting them go? Sometimes we hang on to things simply because we are used to them, they bring us comfort. I would challenge you to let something go this Lent that yes may bring you comfort but in the long run brings you harm. I have resolved to let Diet Pepsi go this Lent. I am not letting caffeine go mind you, just Diet Pepsi. There are many health benefits to coffee but none for Diet Pepsi. My goal is that at the end of Lent I will no longer miss it. So I am not trying to just give it up for Lent but give it up permanently. I love Diet Pepsi, I enjoy it, I find comfort in it, but in the long run it is not healthy and not good for me, so it is time to let it go. There are a number of other unhealthy things I could give up too, but one thing at a time. So what are you going to give up? It can be something big or it can be something small, the important thing is that giving it up is good for you. Your life will be better by being rid of it, much like Pharaoh’s life would have been better without the Israelites in it. So what is it going to be?
Posted on March 05, 2019 11:15 PM
Phil, we do not believe you! Yes the groundhog said that there will not be six more weeks of winter the other day. We are not buying it. We have been misled before by you Phil. I am thinking that Phil may be of more use in a groundhog stew then in foretelling the end of winter. I guess maybe he thought after the week’s subzero freezing weather that we all needed some hope. He was right about that, just not right about what mattered. Hope is important, in fact it is very hard to live without out. If there is no hope what’s the point? When I am charting on a patient I have visited at the hospital, one of the boxes that is there for me to check is, “Gave the patient hope.” I always pause at that one and think to myself, “Did I?” More importantly what does that mean? For many of the patients there is no hope of living; they are going to die. So do I pull a Phil and give them false hope? Do I say something like, well medical science has its limits and God is going to heal you? Can God heal them, yes, but will he? I don’t see that promised anywhere in Scripture. We all hear of the miracles but the fact is the vast majority of the time when the doctors get to the point that they definitely say someone is going to die, they die. How do you give anyone hope in the face of that? Again I think it comes back to what do we mean by hope?
Paul tells in 1 Corinthians 15 that real hope is found in the resurrection. He very pointedly says that without it we have no hope. Here is the exact quote, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” At the hospital dealing with patients who are not my members I am limited in what I can talk about with them. I am not allowed to proselytize, so if the person is not a Christian the resurrection is off the table. Usually with that person I talk about their family and maybe I can have a prayer with them, where I do mention Jesus, but as far as hope that is about it. My hope in visiting them is that they might start thinking about God and their relationship with him, that they might start asking some questions. My ultimate goal is that they feel better after I left than they did before, but sometimes I feel like Phil, yes they feel better but are they? I look at the box, “Gave the patient hope”, and I am still not sure if I should check it or not. When I run across Christian patients in the hospital I do get to share that hope, and check that box, and that is a great joy. The fact is without Jesus and the resurrection there is no real hope in this life or the next. Phil is not a source of hope, but Jesus is. In him we know that this world is not the end, that there is more to come in heaven that is something we can really put our hope in.
Posted on February 10, 2019 7:33 PM
Over the Christmas break I began to sort through my mom’s old recipe boxes. My mom developed many of her own recipes, but also clipped some from magazines and wrote down ones that she had received from friends. My mom, unlike me, had very good handwriting and wrote everything in cursive. Many of the recipes came with a story of how she got it and it was kind of like reading through a diary. In the midst of clippings and recipe cards, I ran across letters from people. These letters would contain a recipe but also talk about how that person’s family was doing and ask about our family. I recognized the names; some of them were extended family, some were friends but they all brought back memories. Most of the people like my mom are now gone, but they live on through their food. I cooked German pancakes over break using my mom’s recipe. I remember eating them as a kid and was happy that my kids loved them as well. When I shared that over Facebook, many of my family members began to share stories about how they all loved the recipe and how they had added stuff to it through the years. We all connected again through food.
As we look back over the past year we all no doubt have many good memories but also many bad memories. 2018 was a year of loss for me. My mother and her best friend, who was like a second mother to me, passed away both at the age of 89. They are buried within 20 yards of each other in Missoula, Montana. I struggle with their loss, I miss them. They were great cooks. Whenever I eat spaghetti or any type of pasta I think of my red haired Italian friend Gracie and whenever I eat German pancakes or Finnish pasties I think of my mom. It was also a year of good memories, our family had a great vacation out west this summer. We had some adventures as a family doing things with relatives that we will never forget. 2018 is now behind us, it is just a memory. It is a memory that we keep in our hearts though. It is a memory that helps us as we move forward into 2019.
We need to take the good and leave the bad from 2018 and move into the future. We don’t know what the future holds but we do know who holds the future. The people from our memories are now with Jesus in his kingdom. We also are with Jesus in the here and now in a different way. While we remember the past we cannot become a prisoner of it. Life is lived looking forward not backward. Therefore we take the things that we have learned, the recipes, the experiences and we add to them. We improve the recipes, we make new ones. We make memories for the generations that follow to look back on. What are they going to remember about us, what are they going to learn from us, how are they going to improve on what we accomplish for Christ? There is a time for reading history, and having memories and there is a time for creating history and making memories. We look forward to 2019 as a year in the Lord where he continues to provide us with his grace and forgiveness and everything else we need for this life. In that knowledge we in the words of Paul rejoice in the Lord.
Posted on January 02, 2019 7:31 PM
Santa Claus is coming to town. He knows whether you have been naughty or nice so be good for goodness sake. We know these words well, we all grew up with them and they are still heard on the radio every year at this time. Everyone is excited about Santa coming but if you look at the words also a little fearful. What if you weren’t nice enough? What if you are on the naughty list this year? Are you going to get a lump of coal in your stocking? For the most part with Santa, if you are naughty, you will not receive anything for Christmas from him. You don’t have to worry that Santa might take you out while you sleep, or instead of coming down your chimney, set your house on fire. We hope he comes and if he does we greet him with milk and cookies, but if he doesn’t you can always use that lump of coal for barbecuing.
Jesus is also coming to town this Christmas, actually this Advent and Christmas. A lot more is at stake with Jesus though. He also knows whether you have been naughty or nice and if you are on the naughty list when he comes for the second time, being taken out or having your house burned down is the least of your worries. The season of Advent prepares us for Christmas and beyond. The first Sunday reminds us that Jesus is coming back a second time sometime in the future; we wait for that with great anticipation. The second and third Sunday reminds us that Jesus has come to preach and proclaim the kingdom of God and also comes to us every day in our lives now. The fourth Sunday prepares us for his first coming as a baby at Christmas.
When it comes to naughty or nice we know what group we fall into there, the naughty group, the sinful group, the group deserving the fiery lump of coal. And yet we can wait for our Lord with confidence and peace because, unlike Santa Claus, Jesus gives gifts to those on the naughty list. In fact it is the naughty that he has come to save for himself. See Jesus didn’t come for the nice people, no on the cross Jesus died for all the naughty boys and girls in the world, instead of a lump of coal they get forgiveness and eternal life. The naughty or nice list has been replaced by the unforgiven or forgiven list. Through your faith in Christ you are on the forgiven list. So Merry Christmas, Jesus is coming to town!
Posted on December 16, 2018 9:25 AM
Tuesday October 30th was an exciting day for me. I couldn’t wait until 7 P.M. I had thought about it all day. I made my predictions and just hoped I was going to be right. At 7 P.M. I turned on ESPN and held my breath; it was the release of the first College Football Playoff Rankings for this year’s season. The theme of the show is, “Who’s in.” I am a Michigan and Notre Dame fan and I am also following Washington State University this year because it is just 8 miles down the road from where I went to college at the University of Idaho. I was particularly interested in the top 6 because those are the ones that are “in” competition for big playoff games in January. As it turned out, my hopes were fulfilled. Notre Dame is currently ranked 3rd, Michigan is ranked 5th and WSU surprisingly is ranked 8th in the nation. There are still many games to be played and those rankings very well may change, but it was a good first poll.
What are you excited about? As of this writing there are only 55 days until Christmas. Are you excited about that? What is “in”, for you? How about Thanksgiving that is even closer? If you are excited about Thanksgiving and Christmas what is the reason; the family dinner, turkey, stuffing, spiral ham, eggnog, and pumpkin pie? Maybe it is the presents, or relatives coming to visit. Then again maybe it is a big vacation that you have planned next year or some other thing you are doing. We can get excited about a lot of things and that can be a good thing. It is nice to have things in our lives that bring happiness and pleasure. The question we have to ask ourselves though is what is the purpose of it? What should we really be excited about in other words?
I like college football and I do get excited about it, but I also know that it is just a game and in the big story it is a just a fun distraction. Michigan winning the national championship in January would be great, but again not of great importance in the grand scheme of things. So what is really important in the grand scheme of things? How about your eternal salvation? That is something to be excited about and to focus on. Your relationship with God is the most important thing that you have. In the poll of all things that you get excited about where does God rank? It is a question we all have to answer.
The good news is that God has a championship playoff ranking as well and not only are you ranked number one in his poll but you are also already declared the champion. You are God’s most important priority and he is always excited about you. He always has the You show on his eternal TV and you are also always “in” with God.
Posted on November 08, 2018 7:11 AM
There is a picture from our summer vacation that is confusing to look at unless you know where the picture was taken. My kids are standing off in the distance on what looks like to be a thin layer of snow. The picture is confusing because they are wearing shorts and the sun is very bright; in other words it is obviously very hot. The confusion is cleared up when you learn the picture was taken on the Salt Flats of Utah in July. The white stuff is not snow, it is salt, and it goes for miles.
Salt is throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament countries would salt their enemy’s field, thereby making it impossible to grow anything. We also hear about Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. In the New Testament salt is used in a good way. We are told to be salt to the world. Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” And in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
In the Matthew verse we learn that we are the seasoning of the world. Right after this verse Jesus tells them they are also the light of the world. We are to bring a pleasant taste to those around us. Our life lived by faith adds goodness to other people’s lives. Salt for instance makes us thirsty and so as we live out our Christian lives in front of others we make them thirsty for the Gospel, for Jesus. In the Colossians verse we see that salt also brings a pleasant taste to the ears. Our conversation should always be tasteful and gracious.
We know that we do not always live up to this. Sometimes we are a little bland and tasteless to those around us and at other times our speech may be a little too salty if you know what I mean. You need just the right amount of salt. Thankfully there is forgiveness and Jesus continues to fill us with salt. That Jesus fills us with salt is important to remember, we don’t manufacture the stuff ourselves. It is through our faith in Christ that we get the salt we need and the ability to use it. So be salty my friends, in a good way.
Posted on August 26, 2018 3:51 PM