Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 9, 2016 - ... along the Way

Good morning!   Last night we learned that we have a new president-elect.   I am sure it was quite a shock to many, some have received the news with joy and wonderment, others with sadness and disbelief.   So what should we think as God's people walking together ... along the Way?

Throughout this entire presidential election year, I have maintained 3 truths that should give us confidence no matter which way the election would end.

1) God is in control.  

In Psalm 146, we read, "Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.   When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.  Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God."

God is eternal, human beings are not.  Earthly kingdoms may rise and fall, but God is the ruler yet.
We can put our trust and confidence in Almighty God.   He alone is fully trustworthy, and He will do what is best.

2) In the US, we do not elect a king.

As an American citizen, I place a lot of confidence in the US Constitution.  The wisdom of a balance of power between the Judicial, Executive, and Legislative branches, creates a system whereby a tyrant cannot take control.  Presidents can voice their opinions, offer plans, and develop budgets, but they are not given unilateral control to do whatever they please.   We are still a government ... "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

3) We will get the president we deserve.  

Because God is in control we will get the president we deserve.   As a people, we are free to choose our leaders through the electoral process.   Yet, as a people, we are also fallen.   We do not always know what is best for us, and often when we get what we think we want in the end it is not what we had thought it would be.

For example, in the Jewish scriptures, we see that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, was the king  God's people deserved.   He was cruel, and God's people suffered under his rule.   Nevertheless, God was still in control.  Eventually, God changed Nebuchadnezzar's heart, so that near the end of his life he proclaimed about the LORD, the Most High, "His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation."

In spite of what we deserve, God is good, and He gives good things to those who fear Him.  We can be confident in light of the election results that God is in control, the US does not elect kings, and although we will get the president we deserve, God is good.

May the hope found in Jesus our true King, who alone has received all power and authority from God, offer us confidence to move forward in peace, as we journey together ... along the Way.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

May 5, 2016 - Along the Way ...

As proclaimed by President Obama, today is the National Day of Prayer.  But what does that mean?

Prayer is an expression of our dependence on God, our Creator.   Today, we acknowledge His hand of care and protection over our nation and this world.  Today we give thanks for all God has done, is doing, and will continue to do.  Today, we humbly bow and ask God to heal our land in every possible meaning of that term.

The church that I serve has a document called, "Our World Belongs to God".   It is a contemporary testimony of our faith and trust and hope that God is ultimately in control, and because God is good we are assured that God has good plans for this, His (not our) world.

There is a song that I have been singing over the past month or so.  It has become my heart song as I have traveled, lived, move, and found God at work along the Way.  The song is true, and can be sung anywhere; in any city, in any nation, among all people.  The song is a prayer, expressing our hope and faith that God has greater things in store for this world; greater things than we can now fathom or even imagine.

The song is "God of this City" by Bluetree.  The song was written by a band from Ireland in a city in Thailand, which testifies to its universal application.

Here are the lyrics - it begins with praise and moves to petition - as we look to God as our greatest and really our only hope.

"You're the God of this city.
You're the King of these people.
You're the Lord of this nation.
You are.

You're the light in this darkness,
You're the hope to the hopeless,
You're the peace to the restless,
You are.

There is no one like our God.
There is no one like our God.

Greater things have yet to come,
and greater things are still to be done in this city."

So on this National Day of Prayer, I invite everyone to make this our prayer together.  We really do need God.  He is our creator, the redeemer of all things, and He is only hope.   So let us make this our prayer not just today, but always, as we journey together in hope ... along the Way!

"Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, 
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea and everything in them -
the LORD, who remains faithful forever."
(Psalm 146:5-6)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April 19, 2016 - along the Way ...

Hello.  I know it has been a while since I have written.  I was busy finishing a Clinical Pastoral Education unit at the Presbyterian Hospital here in Albuquerque.  It was a great experience.   And along the Way, God opened my eyes to the greatest gift we have to offer our family, friends, and neighbors: prayer.

Prayer is the greatest gift we have to offer because in prayer we rely on God to do things we can only dream.  God is able to heal.  God is able to forgive.  God is able to restore and completely transform lives, our communities, and even our city.

So today I want to bring our attention to Jeremiah 29:4-7.

This is a letter God wrote and shared via the prophet Jeremiah with His people.   It is God's marching orders for His people in exile in Babylon awaiting deliverance.  And for us who follow the Way (who is Jesus), it is marching orders as we wait for Jesus to return and make all things new.

Look at the list of activities that God blesses.

Build houses ... settle down ... plant gardens and eat what they produce ... marry ... have sons and daughters ... find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage ... that they too may have sons and daughters ...

This is the stuff of life.   This is life together.  This is why we work.  It is why we pray.  We work to live, not the other way around.   And God is saying that this is all good!

Then come the marching orders ...

"seek the peace and prosperity of the city" ...
"Pray to the LORD for it"...
"because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

So our marching orders are simple: seek peace and prosperity (for all) and pray to the LORD.

Simple, but how often do we do it?

Well, I would like to give us a chance to pray about these things.  For those in our area, Chelwood Church is sponsoring the first of many "Neighborhood Prayer Walks" this Wednesday evening, April 20 at 6pm.  

We are going to reflect on Jeremiah 29:4-7, as we walk through our neighborhood being mindful of what we see, hear, and smell; listening to God as He shares His dreams for this community.   If you would like to join us, meet near the front entrance and we will go from there.

These are our marching orders, and we will obey as together we journey along the Way ...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

December 27, 2015 - along the Way ...

Well, we have come to the end of another year.   2015 will soon be only a memory, as a new year arises.  2016 is filled with anticipation for all that might be.  So as we move from one year to the next, we are confronted with the realities of time.  

There are a number of songs, which capture our preoccupation with time. 

“Time Marches On” by Tracy Lawrence which includes the line, “The only thing that stays the same is everything changes.”
“Nineteen Something” Mark Wills with the repeated line in the chorus, “I wouldn’t trade those days for nothin”
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel with the lines in the chorus, “... It was always burnin’ since the world’s been turnin’ … No, we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it.”

        Popular culture has often mirrored our preoccupation with time.   But how should we, who follow Jesus, look at time?

In Psalm 90, the Psalmist, whom the scripture identifies as Moses, gives us some help in how we, who believe God’s promises, ought to view time.

(Read Psalm 90) p. 480

There is a simple message offered in this psalm.  The Lord is our dwelling place for all generations.  He is our home.   Yet in the midst of that simple message comes all the messiness of life.

The psalm is made of 3 parts.  

Part 1 is praise.  It recognizes God’s eternal being and His constant sovereign care.
Part 2 is a lament over the troubles and transience of life.  
Part 3 is a prayer for God’s help throughout life.

So let’s begin with Part 1 (verses 1-2): Praise

The Psalmist begins by declaring the Lord to be his home, and not only his home but the home of all who believe in Him from generations past to generations to come.   The Lord is eternal, and from everlasting to everlasting He is God.

Therefore, the Lord alone is worthy of our praise!

Yet Part 2 (verses 3-12) acknowledges the brokenness of a sin-sick world.  

Two themes offer evidence of the brokenness of our world.

Transience - We are only here on earth for a short time.  Each year that passes is one less in the number God has given us.  As 2015 comes to a close, it will never come back again.  It is gone forever, and all that will be left are memories.  And who we are now is not who we were 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or even at the start of 2015.   Things change, we change, yet God never changes!

Trouble - Not only are our days short in number, but they are accompanied with trouble.   God is good, but sometimes life is not.  I am sure everyone of us has experienced some type of hardship or trouble this year.   There have been good times, but there have also been times we wish would never have come.

Yet through it all, God is acknowledged as the One in charge, and fear is His due.  

Jewish wisdom literature teaches, “The Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7)  Fear is respect, and the knowledge that God is great and I am not.  It is as one commentator has said, “I know two things for sure: First there is a God, and second I am not him.”   God is God, and fear is His due.

Finally, in the midst of the transience and trouble of life, the Psalmist leads us in a corporate prayer for help.   This is Part 3, and it is where we find our hope and our home.

Remember that the Psalmist began by telling us that the Lord is our dwelling place.  He is our home.  Well, if the Lord is our home, then He is the one to whom we should bring our troubles, cares, and concerns.  He is the One who can help in our time of need. 

Part 3: Prayer for help

Gladness for trouble (affliction)
Establishment for transience
Favor for wrath

God has granted us His grace through His Son; the eternal Word who became flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.   This is the miracle we celebrated at Christmas, and He is the miracle we celebrate all through the year. 

But as one year passes and a new year dawns, what do we, as those who believe God’s promise fulfilled in Jesus, learn from this Psalm?  

Our time on earth is limited.   We have a set number of years.  There will be trouble and hardship, and eventually our troubled days will come to an end.  Therefore, wisdom teaches us to number them, to feel them, “to taste tears and enjoy laughter”; to use them as best we can to make the truth of God’s kingdom come alive!

Our time, as are our lives, is in God’s hands.   We belong to God.  He has been our dwelling place for generations.  He is our home.  He will watch over us, and no matter what we think or feel, He will never leave us or forsake us.   

Finally, time is moving toward an end.  It is not an endless cycle, repeated over and over again, rather time is linear.  It will never be repeated, and it is heading toward a pre-determined end.   God knows when that day will be.   Jesus will return and will make all things new and all the sad things will come untrue.

Our times and our lives are in God’s hands.  We can trust Him because to Him the future is already history. 

To God be the glory!  Great things He has done, is doing, and will continue to do!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November 10, 2015 - along the Way ...

It has been a few weeks since I have posted on my blog.   The last few weeks have been very full.  I recently started my second unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).   This second unit takes place at the Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque.   On top of the extra more than 20 hours each week for the CPE, I have participated in a few funerals, served on call with the Albuquerque Police Department, and last week drilled alongside those who serve in the New Mexico Air National Guard.

All these events, as well as the special days in the month of November, have me thinking about gratitude and service.

Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13)

Jesus willingly laid down his life (see John 10:18) for us, His friends, and every military veteran follows Jesus' pattern in their willingness to lay down their lives if necessary for the cause of freedom.  As such, these men and women deserve our admiration, appreciation, and respect.  To all who have served, are serving, and those who one day will serve, "Thank you".

I have the privilege to serve alongside some great folks, the men and women who serve in the New Mexico Air National Guard (the "Tacos").   We occasionally recite a creed that reminds us of the seriousness of our commitment.   A line in "The Airman's Creed" says very plainly, "I defend my country with my life."

While it is our hope and prayer that no one from the NM ANG will ever have to actually give their life in defense of this country or our state, we each vow that if necessary we will defend this state and our nation even to the cost of our lives.   This is love; this is great love; in fact Jesus said there is no greater love than this.

Thank you again to all who have served, are serving, and someday will serve.   You are my heroes, and I am honored to serve alongside you as we journey together along the Way ....

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October 14, 2015 - along the Way ...

Since we have covered all the seven deadly sins and their accompanying virtues, we will move onto other matters. 

This week I want to consider the definition of the church.   Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  So according to Jesus the church, which is the body of Christ, is present wherever 2 or 3 gather in Jesus’ name.  

So what does that mean?  

Too often we think of the church as a place, or a building, or a group of people (usually the same group of people) with which we gather each week, especially on Sunday.   But what if Jesus’ definition is more inclusive than that?  

What if we began to see the church, as the body of Christ, present anywhere at least two people gather in agreement in Jesus’ name?   How might our perception of the church and its purpose change?

Last week, as a chaplain with the local police, I had an opportunity to gather with some workers at a local business following the tragic death of one of their co-workers.   As I walked around, I chatted with a few different people.   It was amazing to me to see how many professed faith in God, yet others lamented that there were not many believers there, likely because they did not attend the same weekly worship gathering.   

What might happen in that business, if the believers recognized each other as brothers and sisters-in-Christ?   How might their workplace change?   How might they be able to encourage one another? 

I believe it is time we learn to see the church as Jesus defines it, “where two or three gather in my name”.   As we do, we will begin to see more opportunities to carry out the purpose of the church which is to reveal Christ and His kingdom to those around us wherever we find ourselves as we journey together along the Way … 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

October 6, 2015 - along the Way ...

Today we will discuss the final of the "deadly sins" and its accompanying virtue.    The last of the seven deadly sins is wrath or anger.

Anger comes from misdirected desire because it often involves a response to something I wanted or felt I deserved but did not receive.   It is my desire to be respected and valued, which is not bad in itself, but when misdirected can lead to a sense of entitlement.   I feel I am owed respect, and when I do not get it, I get angry.

For example, the one place I recognize this most in my life is when I am behind the wheel.   If someone pulls out in front of me or cuts me off, I feel anger rising up inside of me.   I can feel my blood pressure begin to increase, and my face becoming tense and turning red.   There is a negative biological reaction to anger, and it causes me undue stress.

Yet there is a remedy for wrath.  The accompanying virtue that I must ask God to cultivate in me is patience leading to forgiveness.   Patience means seeing the value in the other person and respecting them as I wish to be respected, so that I am able to set aside my sense of entitlement and let another have first place.  

Patience also leads to forgiveness when I choose to show love for the other person, and offer them the benefit of the doubt, extending forgiveness even as I have received forgiveness from God.

Jesus highlights this when He taught us how we should pray.   One of the petitions in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray is: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors".   We ask God to help us offer forgiveness to others as freely as we have received forgiveness by believing God's promise met in Christ.

Recently, I have learned a concept taught by Jeff Vander Stelt to the Soma Communities of which he has been pastor.   The concept is called "Gospel Fluency" and it involves four key questions that will help us navigate any situation in a Christlike manner.

1) Who is God?  (Theology) - What does the Bible say about who God is and how does God's being
                                                 relate to my situation?
2) What has God done? (Soteriology - Doctrine of Salvation) - What has God done in Christ and  
                                                 throughout history that would shed light on this current situation?
3) Who am I?  (Ecclesiology) - It is important to reflect on our identity (both collective and
                                                individual) in Christ to determine its relevance for the current situation.
4)  What should I do? (Missiology) - The church does what it is, our identity in Christ (determined by
                                                Who God is, and What He has done) shapes what we do.   This will
                                                make knowing the right thing to do in every situation much clearer,
                                                since as God's children we are called to love others as God has loved us
                                                in Christ.   Thus in this situation that would mean offering forgiveness.

I hope these thoughts have been helpful for you.   I invite you to share your own challenges, and how God has taught you how your identity in Christ can shape what you do in each situation, as we journey together along the Way ...