Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When God's People Seriously Read God's Word

Nehemiah 9:3 (NIV)
3 They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God.

The last ten days I have been reading in the book of Nehemiah. I was really struck by this verse in Nehemiah especially as the New Year opens and this Sunday I will be talking about spending time in the Word to connect with Jesus.

In preparation for this New Year, think about these questions reflecting on last year with me.
· How regularly did I stop, open my Bible and seek to hear from Jesus?
· What things did the Holy Spirit teach me last year as I read the Bible?
· When I read the Bible or heard it preached, how willing was I to do whatever it said?
· How did reading the Bible impact my spiritual leadership opportunities?
· How did reading the Bible impact my marriage and/or closest relationships?
· How did reading, listening and responding to the Word of God shape me last year?

To get a sneak preview into Sunday’s message and about how we are going to read the New Testament together this year go to .

Father, thank You that You have given us Your very words in the Bible. Thank You that You have chosen to communicate with us in this way. Father, I pray that You would motivate me and Your Church to daily read Your Word, to listen to the Spirit and to respond with our lives. Open our eyes that we may see wonderful things from Your Word.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas. Longing for Jesus to show up again.

Christmas. Longings ignored awaken. Hope dashed arise. Expectations for better reluctantly return. Unexpectedly, disappointment deepens.

It’s 5:45a.m. Christmas morning. I woke up at 4 and couldn’t get back to sleep so I got up an hour ago and worked on finishing a book I received for Christmas. I will be plenty tired later as the Tomba’s stayed up past midnight watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I wrote this poem. It doesn’t sound like it goes with “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I think it is the only poem I have ever written and actually talked about publicly. I think I have written one other poem. I suggested putting this poem on our Christmas card. Vela just couldn’t go with it. I laugh thinking about people opening our card and saying, “’that’s really weird.” I read this poem three out four Sundays during advent as I preached. I like it. Honestly, it sounds like something I have heard before.

I still like it. It’s the story of many of my Christmases and the story of many Christmases of friends over the years. It helped me explain how at Christmas everybody convinces everybody else to get their hopes up. It helps me get in touch with how our longings rise to the surface. Its like we are all little kids working ourselves into a frenzy that not even the latest piece of technology can sustain even if we plugged it into our ear.

Side note: At our Christmas eve service, we had the children come to the front. I am talking 3-6 year olds. Maybe some were older. I asked the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” They all wanted iPhones. Wow, I am getting old. It kind of bummed me out. My poem was about to happen to me, when finally some kid said he wanted an AirSoft gun (kind of a modern day Red Rider BB gun). Hurray!

Anyway…I have had a really great Advent season. I have experienced some serious joy. It has been far from perfect. It has not been without disappointment. It has not been without pain. But, by the grace of God, I didn’t expect it to be perfect. My poem, the Spirit of Jesus, and some words from Solomon in Ecclesiastes kept me clear on this: Jesus made His first appearance because there is all kinds of garbage on this planet. Jesus died because things were horrible. Jesus rose and is coming again. I am longing for the second Advent where… Longings ignored will awaken. Hope dashed will arise. Expectations for better will gladly return…And I can’t think of a cool way to end this and turn this poem on its head so that I could put it in a book and make millions of dollars. So I will just give you one of my favorite verses (1John 3:2-3),

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Jesus appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Merry Christmas. Longing for Jesus to show up again.

P.S. It is still early. No one is awake around here which means no one edited this for me. I hope it makes sense.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reflections on Years Past

Ecclesiastes 7:10 Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” for it is not wise to ask such questions.

The third Sunday of Advent we talked about “Reflections on Years Past.” Think about how often we reflect on the past during the Christmas Season. I can hear my kids asking, “Dad, do you remember that time you brought home the giant tree that fell over after it was all decorated?”

In the verse above, Solomon addresses our tendency to look back on the past and improve upon it. I know this happens to me when my present isn’t going very well. I have also seen the opposite extreme. I can look back on past events and people and make them out to be worse than they really were. Solomon reminds us that wisdom is needed in reflecting on the past.

Here is a link to this week’s handout:
This has both a consideration of the wisdom Solomon offers in reflecting on the past as well as some thoughts about Jesus in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Imagine this: in Jesus we get to see wisdom from God in even a greater way than Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. I encouraged everyone to find somebody and look them in the eye and talk about these things. I especially asked fathers and grandfathers to do this with their children and grandchildren. Take some time to do some wise reflecting with someone this week.

Let’s Pray Together
Father, give us the courage to take time during these days to speak words of grace and truth to the people you have placed in our lives. Help us to not only speak about sports, weather, and the hottest gifts this Christmas. May we consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

So that the Scripture might be fulfilled

“so that the Scripture might be fulfilled”

I found myself especially encouraged by these words in the last several days as I have been making my way through the book of John. This statement occurs in chapter 18 and three times in chapter 19 in reference to the details of Jesus’ death.

All the cruelty, all the gory details from start to finish were under the sovereign hand of the Father who loved His Son and who loves us. It was all predicted and promised beforehand. Do you see His love for you? And not only His love for you, but do you see His faithfulness towards you? What God says will come to pass. What God promises, He will perform. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind; has He said it, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good (Numbers 23:19)? Even in the death of His Son, God was busy and faithful in keeping His promises. It is not a stretch to believe that even in the things that feel like death for us, God is keeping His promise to conform us to the image of His Son.

Let’s Pray Together
Father, by faith I consider it all joy as I face the things that feel like death in my life. You are a sovereign, faithful, all-powerful, and loving Father. I trust in You. I will endure. I believe You are making me like Jesus—mature, complete, lacking nothing. Help my unbelief. In Jesus Name.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Treadmill

Ecclesiastes 4:4,8
4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 8 There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless— a miserable business!

The second Sunday of Advent we talked about “The Treadmill.” The treadmill is a metaphor for our tendency to make a job out of anything and everything. We are especially good at getting on the treadmill during Christmas season. However, that’s not the only time. We make a job out of parties for our kids, vacations (Have you said like me, “I need a vacation from my vacation?”), reading the Bible, sports…you name it! If you want to read some ways others have seen this, check out my facebook page (

One of the Hebrew words Solomon uses over and over again in Ecclesiastes is the word “amal.” It is usually translated as work, toil, labor. It is what we are doing when we are on the treadmill. In Ecclesiastes 4:4-8, Solomon observes two things that fuel the treadmill. One is competition or envy. The other is greed. Solomon tells us that this toil for the pleasure of being on top and to possess inordinate amounts of stuff and status steals both rest and relationship.

If you are on the treadmill, the safe way to get off and rest is to hit the stop button. Easier said than done. We will only hit the stop button if we hear Jesus saying at the cross, “It is finished!” There is nothing left to prove!

How do you need to hit the stop button this week?

Let's Pray Together

Father, I confess my propensity to make a job out of good things in life. I confess the need to prove myself to You, others, and even myself. I need to hear Jesus say, “there is nothing left to prove,” this season in order that I may enter into rest. Holy Spirit, show me specifically where I am on the treadmill and what it means for me to hit the stop button.