Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thanksgiving

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118.1 (ESV)

Thanksgiving has been a theme for believers in every generation and in every culture. This refrain occurs numerous times in the Bible by different writers over several centuries. Two reasons are given in this verse to be thankful. The first reason is the goodness of God. The second reason is the steadfast love of God.

The goodness of God is at the heart of our understanding of who God is. The first temptation in the Garden of Eden was to doubt the goodness of God. The Serpent essentially asked Eve if God really cared about her. Does God really care for you? Is God really for you? If God is good, then why are you being denied something? You have the right to what you want.

What is your response to God? Is God good? How has He proven Himself to you?

I was asked recently if there was a special word in Scripture for steadfast. In the original language the first word of this verse is a word that means loyal love or unfailing love.  It refers to God’s covenant love for us and is a love that lasts through every trial throughout all of time. David uses this word here to praise God for His protection and care. Many people have failed David. David has failed God and others. But God never fails.

Have you experienced the unfailing love of God in your life?

These words were written as a celebration of thanksgiving. May we join the ancient writers in giving thanks?

 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Run the Race


This morning I had a great run along the banks of the Roanoke River. It was perfect weather for running and I had lots of company along the way. I love seeing people outdoors enjoying God’s creation.

Hebrews 12.1 says, “let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” In this verse running is a metaphor for following God. Even if you are not a runner, it is a simple metaphor to understand.

We are called to run the race set before us. When you compete in a race, race organizers have already determined the boundaries of the race and the starting and finishing points. Runners simply line up and run the race. In this sense, following God is simpler than we sometimes think. God hasn’t called us to solve all of the problems of the world. He has called us to trust Him and follow the path that He has set for us.

I have a tendency to attempt races (or at least paces) that God has not set before me. I am competitive by nature. I try to deny that I am competitive, but the drive is deep within me. Last week, I was enjoying a short run in a neighborhood park before heading to the office for the day. About three laps into my run I noticed a guy getting closer to me on the track. At his pace he would soon pass me. I also noticed that he was about half my age. At first, I shrugged it off as just being part of life. We all get older and a little slower with time. Then I decided to pick up my pace. Soon I was running at race pace and after a few laps I noticed that the young guy was no longer gaining on me. By the end of my run, the young guy was walking. I felt pretty good about myself…for about a minute. Then, I realized that the young guy probably wasn’t even aware that I was “racing” against him.

Being competitive isn’t wrong. Getting distracted from the race God has set before in life is the real danger. We can be sidetracked by goals that have little or no eternal value. We can chase the wrong goals because someone in our life makes us feel guilty or because we lack personal fulfillment. Running the wrong races can drain us unnecessarily and keep us from the running the real race set before us.

How do we keep from running races God hasn’t given us in life? Consider Jesus. He is the focal point, not other runners. Hebrews 12.2 says, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus.”

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Technical Difficulty

This blog has been inactive for a while due to some technical issues. It is good to be back and I have learned that my technical ability has declined in the last few years. It is amazing how quickly things change.

I have been around computers for almost 30 years. My dad bought a commodore 64 in the early 80’s and bought an IMB clone pc later that decade. I spent part of my childhood playing Impossible Mission and Pac Man while typing the occasional paper. For those of you who did not grow up in the 80’s, yes, typing a paper was a big deal. I’m surprised that I didn’t get beat up more as a kid.

I learned how to use pc’s before Windows 3.1 and remember when Word Perfect was better than Word – the WYSIWYG was way better on Word Perfect when printing to a dot matrix.

While I was in college in the early 90’s I took computer programming and worked in the computer lab. During graduate studies I continued working in computer labs and began doing contract work for computer vendors and NCR. I installed self checkout systems for places like Wal-Mart and Kmart and printing systems for Fresenius Medical, Edward Jones, and Kroger Pharmacies. I occasionally assisted with the installation of Cisco servers for universities and banks. I was pretty tech savvy.

It has been about 10 years since I did my last computer contract job. I still have my id badges for different companies and can occasionally hack a payment kiosk screen at a cash register, which I would never do since I am a pastor – no matter how bored I get while waiting in a checkout line.

My ministry opportunities have grown to such an extent that I no longer have time to disassemble pc’s for fun and fortunately do not need to do contract computer work to supplement my income.

For most of my life I have considered myself to be technologically knowledgeable until recently. A few months ago I purchased a new computer for my office. When selecting a new monitor, I had difficulty finding a monitor with a dvi connector. I went to Staples to see their monitor selection. One of the store representatives noticed my puzzled look and offered assistance. He informed me that all new monitors have VGA and HDMI inputs. As he explained the technology to me he demonstrated how to plug the cables in to the monitor. I had momentary flashbacks to tech service calls to Dell in the 90’s when the representative would ask “Are you sure that the computer is plugged in and turned on?”

Somehow a decade of technology has passed me by. I am sure that it won’t be long before I will be the old guy telling the young ones how computers have taken over our world and ruined it – sort of like Impossible Mission.

Now you can understand why my blog has been down for so long. My domain name services changed and I didn’t.

As I get older, I am gaining a greater appreciation for older generations who feel that church has passed them by. Some long for yesterday when church was simpler. I remember several people who mentored me in ministry who have since passed away. I have a better understanding of what it feels like to have a young know-it-all tell me how things should be. I know what it feels like to have a kid who has never seen a c:/ instruct me on plugging in cables. I wanted to tell him about the good old days (that is what my blog is for), but I just smiled and said “thank you.” I remember the wise old mentors who looked at me when I was younger as I told them how church should be. They gently placed their hand on my shoulder and said “keep following God.” I thought those words were affirmations of my great insights. What they really meant was, maybe one day you will understand. Maybe.

I am learning to better appreciate those who have come before me on whose shoulders I stand.  From here I can look far into the future with great hope.

And, I am learning how to post a blog again.