One-liners

Who doesn’t like a good one-liner?

I, for one, have never been very good at coming up with one-liners on the spot and therefore I have much respect for those who have a quick wit. Most of my “on-the-spot” one-liners are thought of moments after the moment has past and thus my one-liner because irrelevant.

One-liners can be funny or destructive. They can draw people in. One-liners can emphasize a point, but whatever the case, they are not meant to be deep and necessarily thought provoking but rather meant to pacify a moment and then move on. That may serve a purpose for a short time but if you want something deeper you need a longer conversation with that person. You need more than just one line.

For those who are friends with me on Facebook and Twitter, you have grown accustomed to me posting “one-liners” (a.k.a short Bible verses) on (nearly) a daily basis. Lately I have gone away from that; not because I am not reading my Bible but because of a Facebook post from a friend that I read a while back about “one-liners”. The post went something like this:

Never read just one verse in the Bible. Read a bunch of them. Read a paragraph; a chapter or more.

The idea of that post is to communicate that by reading only one verse you can lose important context. And as many of you know, you can take nearly any Bible verse and twist it to mean something completely different if you pull it out of it’s original context. Therefore you need more information.

So…

I am doing something a little different now on social media. I am not ceasing my one-liners but rather giving one-liners based on my reading of a whole chapter of the Bible and then directing people to that chapter to “verify” and/or read the context themselves. For me personally, this has proven to be a great spiritual discipline as I reflect on a chapter and then formulate a summary in my head to share. Instead of a scripture one-liner I am sharing a chapter one-liner. My attempt is to be more biblical faithful.

Sure, there may be certain verses that speak to you and ones that are worthy for further reflection, but do so in context. Reflect on your verse but read the paragraph and/or the chapter that contains that verse to make sure you don’t miss the intended meaning. Get the context and by do so, you will be more faithful to scripture and more faithful about your spiritual growth.

One-liners can be good and grab attention, but make sure your focusing attention on the right things.

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

Summer Top Ten List

Yesterday (May 7) was the last day of confirmation for the school year; and what a great year it has been.

The following is a top ten list of things I gave my students, at the end of class, to do over the summer. Not requirements but things to think about as they continue their faith journey; a journey that never ends.  And as I read through this I thought I would share this with you.  They are things that apply to all of us and ones that I will be posting in my office as a constant reminder for me.

So here you go (in no particular order)…
(10) Worship (God the Father, almighty, Creator of heaven and earth)
~ Worship is not a requirement but something that flows out of your faith. We don’t worship because we have to but because we get to.

(9) Read your Bible
~ Bible reading should also be a joy.
~ If you want help staying on course find a partner to read with and hold each other accountable. Talk about about what you read and explore together.

(8) Pray
~ You can’t have a vibrant, healthy relationship with someone if you don’t spend time together.
~ Know that I will continue to be praying for each of you by name.

(7) Make the most of opportunities to share your faith
~ I dare you to ask God to give you an opportunity to share your faith with someone. I have found that God is more than happy to give you opportunities. What you do with them is your choice, but remember, it could be a matter of life or death for that person.

(6) Memorize scripture
~ And not just your “required” memory work. I challenge you to memorize Bible verses as a way of life. You just might be surprised by how God will use those verses in your life to bring Him glory.

(5) Do random acts of kindness
~ Mess with people’s heads (in a good way) by showing the love of Christ.

(4) Deflect praise
~ When someone praises you for something, remember who gave you the ability to do the thing you are being praised for.  Instead of saying “thank you” say, “praise be to God”. I am willing to bet that you will catch their attention; and what a way to share your faith.

(3) Quiet time
~ Take time out of your busy schedule to just think about God, talk and listen to Him, journal and enjoy God’s company.
~ When you are day dreaming about God you are never wasting time ~ but be careful about this if you are supposed to be working 🙂

(2) Be brave
~ When your faith is challenged, stand strong. You have the God of all creation by your side. Even if everyone around you is against you and says your wrong; be brave. God is not wrong.

(1) Remember
~ Remember that God loves you beyond anything you can possibly comprehend.

Blessed be the journey 🙂

The pastor -|—

Guard your way

If you haven’t spent time with Psalm 119 let me urge you to do so.  I know it is a long one (176 verses).  I know there is much to take in, but it is well worth the time.  Take it in sections (there are 22 stanzas of 8 verses each).  Meditate on a stanza at a time and then move on as the Spirit leads you.

I never cease to be amazed at how the Holy Spirit leads me to various places in Scripture.  I know it is not a random thing; that God has a plan.  All I can say is: Wow!
and
Praise be to God!

Verse 1 sets the tone:
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!”

Now — before anyone thinks I am saying MY way is blameless, let me say this:
I AM FAR FROM BLAMELESS…
…but I am trying to walk in the law of the Lord.  I am trying to seek the Lord with all my heart.  I am trying to learn His precepts.  I am trying to store up His Word in my heart.

MY way is not blameless, but GOD’S way is blameless.  And that is the way I am seeking.

But I also know that in all my efforts to walk in the way of the Lord I will fall down.  I will fail.  I will let God down.  I don’t want to, but I know it will happen.  After all I am sinful (but that’s still no excuse).

What a wretched person I am…

…but through Jesus Christ, God is merciful.  Praise be to God!

So I continue my journey.  I continue my walk with God.  I continue my exploration of God’s Word. I continue to seek GOD’S way and ask God to keep me from the temptation of following MY way.

Why?

Verse 9 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your (God’s) word.”

YOUR way will never be pure through your efforts.  Your way is only pure by guarding it through God’s Word.  So…

Seek the Lord.
Mediate on his precepts.
Guard your way that you may be pure and that God may be glorified in your life.

With your whole heart seek God; wander not from his commandments. [paraphrase of verse 10]

May God bless your day as you walk with Him 🙂

edh -|—

What we need to hear

2 Timothy 4:2-5
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

There are many reasons to stay in the word; to study it and meditate on it but the one that concerns me today is the very thing that Paul warns young Timothy about.  There are so many “gospels” floating around out there.  There are so many “preachers” out there leading people astray; saying things to people that “their itching ears want to hear.”

The problem is that what people WANT to hear and what they NEED to hear are two completely different things.

What we hear so much about today are what prosperity gospel preachers are trying to tell people:  If you live right you can be successful and happy in this life.  They hold up the Bible, quote scripture and give you 7 ways to have your best life now.  People may WANT to hear that message but it is not what they NEED to hear.  Happiness now is fine but there are two keys problems:  (1) Jesus never, ever promised that things would be great in this life (he actually told his disciples that they would experience hardship and persecution) and (2) When this life is over then what?

What we NEED to hear is that God, through Jesus, has over come this world.
What we NEED to hear is that Jesus has reconciled us to God through the cross.
What we NEED to hear is that there is hope beyond this life.
What we NEED to hear is that we have nothing to fear in this world with God.
What we NEED to hear is that God is madly in love with you and with me.

Prosperity gospel preachers do not preach this message but rather disguise the Good News with something that people can use now to be happy and successful.  As Paul warned, the time has come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.

So we need to be even more diligent.

Let’s take Paul’s charge to Timothy and make it our own.  Stay in the Word; meditate on it; study it and remain faithful to the Word.  “…keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. “  Tell people what they NEED to hear, not what they WANT to hear.

May God be praised in all we say and do.

Preach it brothers and sisters!  Amen!

-edh-

godly training

1 Timothy 4:7-8
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

I am a runner and an emerging triathlete so I understand the value of physical training.  If I don’t do the proper training then I am not going to be ready for the event I am participating in.  If I am training for a marathon then I need to make sure I get some long runs in otherwise I am going to struggle during the actual race.  When I am training for a triathlon, I need to get bike and pool workouts in as well as my running.  I also need to do back-to-back bike and run workouts to get my legs used to doing those events.  Training is vitally important.

Paul goes on to tell young Timothy that physical training is fine but remember your godly training.  That training will benefit you in this life and the next life.  But what does godly training look like?
–Scripture reading
–Praying
–Bible study
–Service
–Fasting
–Patience (and practicing the other Fruits of the Spirit)
–Worship
–Meditation
–Journaling
Just to name a few.  All of these are great ways to train for godliness.

They will bring you closer to God and to others.  They will strengthen your faith so others may see your good works and give glory to God.  This training will strengthen you resistance to Satan’s flaming arrows.  This training will feed your soul with God’s grace and forgiveness.  This training will keep us on the right track as we serve as Jesus’ disciples for the sake of the world.

Training is never easy but the more you do it the easier it becomes.  Also…the more you do it the easier it is to face the real thing.  So don’t forget your godly training.  Keep that as part of your daily routine but not so much a “routine” that your training becomes rote.  Train your soul to learn more about this awesome God of ours.  Train your soul so others may experience this awesome God of ours.  Train your soul so the burdens of this world do not become overwhelming.

Happy training all; praising God always and forever!  Amen!

-edh-

God vs. Man

Proverbs 29:25 says “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”

Brings up an interesting question, doesn’t it?  Who do we fear more ~ God or man?  Who’s opinion do we care about more~ God’s or man’s?  Who do we try to please more~ God or man?  Who’s direction do we follow more~ God’s or man’s?

I can’t help but think (and confess) that I fall into the trap of trying to please people in my life more than God.  It is almost like I am more afraid of their judgment of me more than God’s.  Maybe it is because man’s judgment of us is more immediate in some ways.  Maybe it is because we choose to give people in our lives more power than they should have so we feel the need to listen to them and consider seriously what they say.  Sometimes we are afraid of letting people down.  Sometimes we consider their experience and knowledge more valuable than God’s.

But Proverbs tells us that it is not wise to rely on (or fear) man over God.  People in this life may want the best for us but they do not see the whole picture ~ God does.  People in this life may think they are wise, but that wisdom is foolishness compared to God.  People in this life have their agendas but God’s plan is perfect.  Some people in this life want to have power over us but God is the one in control.

I am not saying that we ignore people in our lives.  God does work through people in this world to accomplish His purposes.  The issue at hand is this:  Who do we fear more?  Basically…when a major decision is upon us we need to seek out God first and try to determine what GOD wants us to do.  Maybe that is through other people, but in the end, the fear of God is what leads to wisdom.  The fear of man is nothing more than a snare.

[I just love it when God is this timely with what I am reading in scripture 🙂  God is indeed faithful.]

Praise be to God and Amen!

-edh-

Proverbs 28:5

The text that caught my attention this morning was Proverbs 28:5.  Here’s what it says:

“Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.”

One of the reasons I am reading scripture is this verse.  The fact of the matter is that I am an evildoer; a sinner.

We all are.

And the only way I can come to a true understanding of right and wrong is through seeking out God.  I have my own version of right and wrong but it often conflicts with God ~ so I need to seek out God and learn from Him.

God is the one who sets me straight.
God is the one who convicts me.
God is the one to teaches me.
God is the one who guides me.
God is the one who LOVES me.

I need God’s direction and wisdom ~ we all do.  Seek God out and learn His ways.  Don’t try to speculate rather hear it from the Authority ~ the Creator of the universe who is madly in love with you.

-edh-

Reading through the Bible

A couple months ago I started a reading program that will take me through the Bible in a year.  I have started programs like this before but have always gotten behind…and eventually stopped because I got so far behind.  But so far I am still going strong.  I begin each morning by reading my “assigned” texts on my Droidx smartphone and then I post a verse or two to Facebook; verse(s) that have caught my attention.  But when I have done that I usually don’t make any comments about those verse(s); no explanation of why they caught my attention.  My plan here is to offer a few words on this blog of why those texts hit me on a particular day.  I might not post something everyday but I do plan to use this as a spiritual discipline in helping me engage scripture more deeply.

But before I begin this particular spiritual discipline I want to say a couple words about the spiritual discipline of scripture reading.  I know there are many of you out there that read scripture daily (or often).  But I also know there are many out there that don’t.  Allow me to encourage you today to either continue or to begin.

Each day when I read my 4 to 5 chapters I always (and I mean always) encounter something meaningful.  God uses those morning moments to speak to me.  Each morning a particular verse grabs my heart and it becomes clear that I need to share it.  This morning it was Proverbs 25:21-22 which reads as follows:

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

Even though there is a “burning coals” aspect of this text in relation to my “enemies” I still find this text challenging.  It is usually easier to turn away from your enemies and ignore their plight.  It is tempting to think that helping one’s enemies is a sign of weakness.  But in the eyes of God it is not weakness but rather strength and a sign of the love of God in your life.  It puts God in control.  How your enemies react to your kindness is not your problem.  This text challenges me, not just today, but everyday.  But even so I am glad God hit me with this today.  And I hope God strengthens me to show this kind of awesome love to all.

So…you don’t read scripture?  Get to it.  God is waiting to share some incredible truths with you as well.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

Remove your shoes

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

The Old Testament small group and sermon series takes us to Exodus this week (despite the fact that the small group have been canceled tonight because of weather).  I didn’t get very far in my reading before I was hit by some pondering and thinking ~ holy ground.  Moses saw this “strange thing” on the mountain ~ a bush burning but not being consumed by the fire.  Of course he had to take a closer look (me…I might have been a little more leery).  As Moses approaches the bush God belts out that this is holy ground so take off your sandals. Why take off his sandals ~ more on that later.

As I read that section I got to thinking about “holy ground” today.  What is considered holy ground?    Many people would define holy ground in various ways.  Some might say their home is holy ground.  A guy might say his man’s den is holy ground.  A golfer might say that St. Andrew’s golf course in Scotland is holy ground.  But what is holy ground?

The word “holy” means special, set apart, different.  The Bible is holy and therefore special, set apart and different ~ it is a book like no other book; for it is a living word.  God is holy and therefore special, set apart and different.  Communion, baptism is holy…and you get the picture.  But do we treat these things as holy?  Do we give such things in our lives the same respect that Moses did for some dirt around a bush?  I am not saying we should take off our shoes during Holy Communion or a baptism (that might not be a good idea for some), but how do we treat and view such events?  How do we treat the truly holy things of God?

We can get so caught up in protecting “holy things” that we miss the fact that the very things we are protecting are not truly holy.  They may be special, set apart and different in our lives, but in relation to our souls they do nothing.  I have seen people treat sports as a holy event; protecting it at the expense of time in worship.   I have seen people protect their status at the expense of the promises they made in Holy baptism.  I have seen people protect their pocket book at the expense of their relationship with their holy God.  Our “holy things” do nothing for us in the long run.  They provide some happiness and security now, but do nothing for our souls.

But consider this ~ we are ALL living on holy ground.  We are living holy lives.  We were created by a holy God to do holy things.  We were redeemed by a holy savior through a death and resurrection that is indeed special, set apart and different.  All that we consider “holy” is only available to us to call “holy” because our holy God created such things and such opportunities.  We may have special things, people, places and times in our lives but they are nothing outside of God.

So if I can dare to be allegorical here let me suggest that we take off our shoes ~ which is anything that gets in the way of truly encountering God ~ and worship God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength.  Let us treat the things of God for what they are ~ special, set apart and different.  Only God is life-giving and life-sustaining.

We are indeed standing on holy ground ~ remove your shoes.

-edh-

Being challenged and stretched

These past few weeks have been a lot of fun.

Wednesday, January 5 we started a small group study/sermon series on Old Testament stories.  The format is that a group would gather on Wednesdays at 5pm to read and discuss an Old Testament story and then I would preach on that story the following Sunday.  Up to this point we have talked about: The creation story, Noah and Abraham.  The Old Testament stories that are coming up in our study are: Joseph, Moses, The book of Judges, David, Daniel and The book of Job.  This small group is scheduled to end right before Ash Wednesday.  I wasn’t exactly sure how this study would be received but so far there is a group of 5 people getting together every week and we are having a great time exploring these stories.

I don’t come each week prepared to lecture on the story but rather I have a couple questions in mind.  The group then takes those questions and a fun discussion ensues.  I have learned a lot from hearing different perspectives.  I have learned a lot about the faith of the group participants.  I have heard questions that I have never thought of before.  And…maybe…gained a couple pounds (one of the participants is an excellent cook and baker and has been bringing treats for us).

There is nothing quite like gathering with a group of people to read, study and discuss scripture.  I have read these stories many times but hearing from others has challenged me in ways that I would not be able to do on my own.  I can hardly wait to see what is coming next.

-edh-