Planning a Vacation?

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I’m getting ready to start a much-needed vacation.

The incredibly busy season of Lent has come to an end, and I’ve journeyed through Holy Week – from the Cross to the empty Tomb. I’ve taken time to respond to an ever-growing list of email messages, to write articles for the next newsletter, to update my blog, and to help our new Parish Administrator brace herself for a time when I won’t be available to answer her questions – while fielding the post-Easter barrage of telephone calls and text messages. I’ve prepared my sermon for this weekend, and I can actually see the glass on the top of my desk for the first time in months. And now, it’s time for me to shift gears a bit and to prepare to stop.

I sometimes find it hard to stop.

I’ve already planned my travel itinerary, and I’ve picked-out the book that I want to read during my vacation. I’ve selected some restaurants that I want to visit. I’m thinking about all of the activities that will fill my days away from home, so that I pack the right kind of clothes. I’m taking my bicycle. I’m bringing my Garmin Vivoactive HR, so that I can count every step I take while walking on the beach. I’m planning to rise early enough to watch the sun rise over the ocean, and I’m going to spend some time collecting sea glass. There will be lots of time for visiting with family and for playing with my little granddaughter. And, of course, I’ll take some time to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins moving forward on their quest to win the Stanley Cup. I’m planning to spend an evening talking with people who are going to move to Pittsburgh. I’ll most certainly need to carve-out special time to spend with my wife – since that’s sometimes lacking during other times of the year. And, of course, I’ll need to eat lunch at Mama Kwan’s at least once.

I sometimes find it hard to stop.

Life often forces us to run like a machine, doesn’t it? I, sometimes, joke about the fact that my most important daily goal is to end the day with fewer things on my “to do” list than I had on that list when the day began. I begin the day with my regular caffeine jolt – and I often take another “hit” in the middle of the afternoon. And once each week, God tells me that I need to stop. “Carve-out some time for refreshment and renewal,” God says. “Take some time to smell flowers – to listen to laughter – to spend time with the people that you love – to allow Me to calm you and to refocus your life.”

I sometimes find it hard to stop, but God continues to remind me that I’m not a machine. God continues to call me to stop – for my own good – and for the good of the people that I love and continue to serve. But, that’s not easy for me to do. It’s far easier for me to keep going and to continue to pack more and more activities into my days. One of the greatest challenges I’ll face this week is learning how to relax and find time for renewal, so that I don’t return home at the end of the week more exhausted than when my vacation began.

I sometimes find it hard to stop.

And this week, I’m going to be challenged again to see that God doesn’t give us “free time” so that we can simply pack it with even more endless tasks and activities. God created a Sabbath because people aren’t machines and I’m going to spend some time in the coming week thinking about that. Or is that just another task that I’m going to try to squeeze into a week when God’s calling me to step out of my normal routine and discover the fact that the world isn’t going to end if I take a much-needed break?

Blessings!

 

Reading Through the Bible – Weeks 7 – 8 – 9

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I’m hoping that you continued your journey through the Bible this week – even if you had to use a little bit of creativity to do it…! I got immersed in my preparations for Holy Week and Easter last week; and, inadvertently, forgot to post readings for Week #7. Sorry about that! I’m posting the readings now – and the readings for the next two weeks since I’ll be taking some much-needed time away from the office. I’m hoping that, if you missed a few days along the way (or if you stopped reading because you weren’t sure which chapters to read next), we can just get things going again without delay. I’m suggesting that we just move forward without feeling a compelling need to return to readings we’ve missed. I’m sure that you’ve already picked-up that theme in this blog.

In the coming week, we’ll be reading one of the best-known passages in the Bible!

Psalm 23 is a wonderful psalm that clearly reminds us of God’s goodness and sustaining presence in our lives. David invites us to picture God as a Shepherd – leading us to places where we can safely drink from refreshing streams, and guiding us toward places in life where we can have our souls restored and refreshed in the midst of busy routines. We’re reminded that God is a God who journeys with us when life’s good, and we’re told that our God is also a God who walks with us “even though [we] walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” (Psalm 23:4)

We do not need to live in fear!

You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” (Psalm 91:5)

We can know that God has “commanded His angels concerning [us],” and we can trust in the fact that God will “guard [us] in all [our] ways.” (Psalm 91:11)

This week, I’d like to invite you to spend some time thinking about where you are seeing God at work in your life these days. Where is God walking with you, right now?  Where is God lifting you up, sustaining you, and giving you strength? Where is God giving you the courage you need to face each new day with faith, hope and peace in your heart?

And now, here are the readings for next few weeks:

Week #7

Sunday: Romans 13-14 – Monday: Genesis 24-27 – Tuesday: Judges 7-11 – Wednesday: Psalms 18-20 – Thursday: Job 13-14 – Friday: Isaiah 34-39 – Saturday: Matthew 17-19

Week #8

Sunday: Romans 15-16 – Monday: Genesis 28-31 – Tuesday: Judges 12-16 – Wednesday: Psalms 21-23 – Thursday: Job 15-16 – Friday: Isaiah 40-44 – Saturday: Matthew 20-22

Week #9

Sunday: 1 Corinthians 1-2 – Monday: Genesis 32-35 – Tuesday: Judges 17-21 – Wednesday: Psalms 24-26 – Thursday: Job 17-18 – Friday: Isaiah 45-50 – Saturday: Matthew 23-25

Please remember that this journey through the Bible is meant to encourage you to explore God’s Word and to help you move through the Bible. It’s not meant to place a burden upon you! I’m hoping that if you miss a reading (or a few of the readings) along the way that you’ll feel free to simply jump back into the schedule of readings that I’m providing – knowing that, when you do, you’ll be re-connecting with faithful people who are committed to traveling through God’s Word with you.

Blessings!

God’s Creating Something New!

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The Biblical theme of “darkness” has always fascinated me.

The Bible tells us that God moved around in the darkness long before He ever said, “Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3) God wrestled with Jacob in the darkness (Genesis 32:22-31), and Jacob saw a ladder reaching into Heaven in the darkness (Genesis 28:10-12). We read that God moved through the land of Egypt and “passed over” the homes of the Israelites (Exodus 12:12) in the darkness. We read that the tomb of Jesus was found empty “at early dawn” (Luke 24:1) because God had raised the Christ in the darkness.

It’s easy for us to be overcome by the darkness these days. North Korea has been rattling its nuclear swords; and, last week, we witnessed the strategic dropping of the “Mother of All Bombs.” We’ve heard about innocent people being killed by poisonous gas in Syria and about millions of people starving to death in Africa. People are dying, every day, from drug overdoses and churches need to carefully screen volunteers before allowing them to work with children. We live in a world where relationships are hard, where our marriages can crumble and fall apart, and where young people are being bullied while they attend school.

And yet, the God who has worked “in the darkness” through all of human history is hard at work today! God’s creating something new, and God’s restoring what has been broken and what needs to be healed!

In this week’s message, “God’s Creating Something New!”, we’re reminded that God is at work in our world and that the forces of good shall prevail. The message of Easter is one that reminds us that, when it’s all said and done, the forces of good and the forces of God will surely prevail! And that’s what we really need to know, isn’t it?

Easter reminds us that God shall triumph; but Easter, also, sends us back into the world as people with a mission. Every time we leave our homes and our churches, we return to a world where we’ll be surrounded by darkness and bad news. Every time we leave our homes and churches, we’re challenged to speak to others with a conviction that springs from Easter courage and Easter hope!

Jesus Christ is risen! All the forces of evil and pain and brokenness have crumbled before the power of a God who even raises the dead! And, today, we can live our lives knowing that all of us – all of the people we love – and all of the people in our world – are securely held in the hands of a God who continues to work “in the darkness” and Who has surely promised us that He’ll lift us up to a better and more glorious Day.

Alleluia!

Reading Through the Bible – Week 6

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I’m hoping that you continued your journey through the Bible this week! If you have missed a few days along the way, that’s OK. We are glad you’re staying with us – and hope that you’ll feel free to simply move forward without feeling burdened by the need to return to what you have missed.

We completed our first book of the Bible this week!

The book of Joshua began with the commissioning of the son of Nun; and continued with a story of dramatic conquest. We watched Israel cross the Jordan River and celebrate the first Passover in Canaan. We read the story of the fall of Jericho, and heard about the sun miraculously stopping in the sky. And then, the land God had promised to the Hebrews was divided between the tribes of Israel and cities of refuge were established for people who had accidentally killed other people.

The book of Joshua ends with a renewal of the covenant at Shechem: “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Choose whom you will serve this day!” (Joshua 24:14-15) And Joshua adds: “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn on you and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” (Joshua 24:20)

Those are haunting words that put God on the spot. What is the nature of God? What is God’s response going to be when people fall short? How does this support or conflict with the image of God that we’ve come to know in Jesus Christ? We’ll see this image of God put to the test, again and again, as we continue to read God’s Word together.

And now, here are the readings for next week:

Week #6

Sunday: Romans 11-12 – Monday: Genesis 20-23 – Tuesday: Judges 1-6 – Wednesday: Psalm 15-17 – Thursday: Job 11-12 – Friday: Isaiah 29-33 – Saturday: Matthew 14-16

Please remember that this journey through the Bible is meant to encourage you to explore God’s Word and to help you move through the Bible. It’s not meant to place a burden upon you! I’m hoping that if you miss a reading (or a few of the readings) along the way that you’ll feel free to simply jump back into the schedule of readings that I’m providing – knowing that, when you do, you’ll be re-connecting with faithful people who are committed to traveling through God’s Word with you.

Blessings!

 

 

 

Have you ever asked God, “WHY?”

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We all face times when our faith is shaken to the core.

On some level, we expect to be blessed with good health and with healthy children when we follow God. We, often, spend time in prayer when we’re facing difficult times or when we want God to heal our bodies (or the bodies of people we know and love).  Deep inside, we might believe that it’s God’s “job” to ride onto the scene and make things better when life’ tough, and we might even be disappointed when God doesn’t do what we expect God to do. Have you ever asked God, “WHY?”

In this week’s message, “Have you ever asked God, ‘WHY?'”, we explore one of the most intriguing stories in the Bible. We read about Lazarus, a man who was ill and we read about a man whose sisters hoped Jesus would save the day. We read about a man who died, and about two sisters who uttered some of the most haunting words in the Bible: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

I suspect that we’ve all said those words in difficult times. We’ve probably all had times when we’ve shaken our fists at the sky and when we’ve pounded on the silent gates of Heaven. But, no matter how many times we ask the question “Why?” – we don’t get an answer, do we? No matter how many times we want to hear the voice from Heaven, it doesn’t come.

And Jesus knows that….

And, perhaps, when Mary and Martha ask Jesus their unanswerable question, that’s why He begins to talk with them about “What’s next?” What does it mean when Jesus tells us that struggles and illnesses and death are not going to be the end of our story? How can we find strength and courage to move through times in life when things are falling apart and when life’s not fair – by remembering that God’s still at work and that God continues to have the power to re-create and give the gift of new life?

We CAN find peace and hope in life – even when the specific details in our lives are not what we want them to be. Do not be afraid! Even though I don’t know where life’s going to take you and what kinds of challenges you’re going to face – I do know that, when it’s all said and done, you’re going to be OK.

“I am the Resurrection and the Life,” Jesus says, and the Day shall surely come when all of your “Why?-s” and “Why didn’t you?-s” will fade away. The Day is surely coming when all the great unanswered questions we have about life and death are going to pass away – and, in that Great Moment, we’ll be swept-up into the arms of the Lord who loves us and we’ll actually see God face-to-face!

Blessings!