Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Reflections

Well, 2 hours and 38 minutes to 2008. Some closing thoughts about the good of 2007 . . .
  1. Met a group from Alec in February at Terre Haute and life would forever change.
  2. Zachary's cool birthday in March.
  3. April saw us coming to Alec to candidate and be asked to move here!! Wahoo!!!
  4. Telling Dearborn we were leaving, a tough, but good day.
  5. Mother's Day . . . my mom died on Mother's Day, but don't feel sorry for me, she was a great mom, she gave me my love and to die on Mother's Day was kind of a tribute to her.
  6. Finding our home to purchase in Alec. We are blessed and happy here.
  7. June 3 was my final sermon at FBC-Dearborn, along with some parties.
  8. June 20-21 our move to Alexandria and the many people helping clean and fix up our home . . . who can you say thank you besides saying thank you from your heart.
  9. The joy of having friends see you off and say shalom, not good-bye!
  10. A trip to Green Lake, Wi. for my final leadership conference called CECL (I never understood what the letters meant) - actually I think it stood for Center for Excellence in Congregational Leadership. A great experience to attend 6 conferences and met pastors who have become friends, even some from Indiana.
  11. Saying good-bye to Cliff and his send off was a blessing. Along with the Steve Green concert.
  12. Experiencing FBC at its best in giving grace. A beautiful moment in a difficult time.
  13. August means Debbie's birthday and our anniversary! I am the luckiest guy around.
  14. The boys started school, Joshua is in football, Zachary in soccer, Debbie is subbing.
  15. My installation was in October with some friends coming from Dearborn to share in the weekend, especially Nina, who is battling cancer. What a joy!
  16. Having the Gaither's premiere of "How Great Thou Art" at FBC and our greeting and help overwhelmed them. Go team!!
  17. November saw my birthday and a year older, but a year wiser . . . okay a year to be more of a 'wiseguy' aka Curly.
  18. Baptizing Joshua was an amazing experience. I wish every person could baptize their own child, spouse or parent. Actually, I don't see why not!! Hmm. . .
  19. November saw Joshua's birthday and a trip to see Debbie's dad in Alabama and a visit to Huntsville Rocket Center.
  20. The trip also featured a great driving over a ladder as God's way of protecting us for the trip home. The providence of God will never be understood, just accept it.
  21. A great Christmas with family and friends.
  22. Saying good-bye, and shalom to Ernie.
  23. Being blessed by God everyday!
  24. Making many new friends in Alec.
  25. Knowing I have touched some lives is always more powerful of an experience than I can ever imagine.
  26. Having Joshua just come in and give me a hug and say "I love you." Zachary then doing the same.
  27. Watching football with the boys tomorrow (1/1).
  28. Looking forward to what 2008 will bring. I know there will be lots of hard work, but great success in following God's plan for us.
  29. I AM EXCITED!!
  30. I know there is more, but I didn't plan on writing all this so, anything forgotten . . . sorry!

Thank you for being part of my blog . . . for listening, readying and accepting me!

May 2008 be a year filled with greatness as you and I draw ever closer to Almighty God, the LORD of Hosts.

Michael

Sunday Reflections

Not an easy day! But a wonderful day!! I have only known Ernie for 6 months, but we share so many thoughts, ideas and dreams for worship and the church. It was difficult to say good-bye to him as the Music Minister. One of the great things about Ernie is the fact that he understands music and the need for the church to stay relevant and have a mix of the old with the new. Not many people will work to make that happen after 48 years of ministry. Another thing about Ernie is that he was never stuck in a certain time period of music. He has his favorite music, but knows and this is one of the great points about Ernie, he knows worship is about God, not his liks and dislikes.

I look forward to January 20 and a time to fully honor Ernie in a relaxed setting.

Worship was fun and Becky did a great job filling in for Marilyn, who by the way is now home from the hospital.

Since we were talking about duct tape, I wonder what you have used duct tape for, and what about those resolutions, don't make duct tape ones, make ones which are focused on God.

I said I would tell you my 2008 goals - - they are usually pretty basic
  1. Grow closer to Christ . . . and experience more of His presence.
  2. Get in better shape (I got a punching bag for Christmas . . . can you picture me running up the steps of city hall in Alec? But no raw eggs)
  3. Walk more, exercise more, drink more (H2O), eat less
  4. Finish my doctorate!!!
  5. Hang out more with the kids and Debbie (although hard to do when trying to accomplish #3)
  6. There are always more items, but those are probably the top 5.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Celebration

Hey all -

It's been a few days since I last blogged. Taken some down time, doing some heavy reading on the history of Spirituality. Yikes, that is fun stuff. Hope your Christmas was awesome!! We had a great time, way too many presents under the tree, but the boys had fun and we spent time talking about why we celebrate Christmas, besides Santa and presents and food. The boys took turns reading the Christmas story.

Christmas Eve was a good worship. People were pumped and the worship seems to be growing each year. I really thought a lot about Christmas worship. I gained some strong feelings, thoughts and ruminations about Christmas worship. I'll talk more about it in 11 months.

I am getting ready for our final worship of the year, and have been thinking about New Year's Resolutions. Oh what fun it is to make them. I think we like making them because we think for a moment we have control over the next 366 days (remember a leap year this year). I have a friend from Dearborn who is getting married on Feb 29.

So, what resolutions, thoughts, plans, dreams, hopes, visions . . . do you have for 2008. Let's hear them, then I'll share mine.

Blessings to all, and to all a good night.

Michael

Monday, December 24, 2007

Helping a family

Had an opportunity with another family to help a family who didn't have presents for their children. It was great to deliver the gifts and see their excitement and appreciation. That is what following Christ does for you, you give to someone else you don't know, just because God calls us to love others.

It was a great experience, maybe something we can do annually.

Sunday Reflections

WOW!! What a great worship today!!

Oh . . . the weather outside is frightful, but the people in church were delightful . . .

The music the people, the buzz and excitement, great day!!

Ernie and the choir did fantastic. All of the specials, the 3 amigos (shepherds) were great. Beth and Randy's rendition of "Mary did you know?" was so moving for me. For the first time I heard the words and they hit. I was speechless.

Ernie's passion was wonderful to watch, he was so moved by the choir's passion and dedication. You could see it in his eyes, his body posture, everything. Notwithstanding this was his last to direct. He ended with a beauty way to lead us in worship.

I look forward to Christmas Eve and hope many, many people come. It will be a fun night and you will hear about when God was at His best.

Blessings,

Michael

Thursday, December 20, 2007

By - Laws and the Bible

A quick note of correction

Last night (Wednesday) at our Business meeting I may have given the impression that I am totally unfamiliar with our by-laws and don't care about them.

That is not true. I have read the by-laws 4-5 times, and have referred to them on other occasions. So, I am familiar with them, my point, which may have been poorly stated was, 'I prefer to read and understand the Bible more than I prefer to read the By-laws. In fact, the Bible serves as the By-laws for our lives.

I do understand the need for by-laws within a church or any organization.

I hope that may clear up any confusion.

Michael

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

TUESDAY'S HAPPENINGS

A busy but good day!!

Sometimes personalities can dominate our lives. Often times the most dominant personality is ours. Ever realize that? Yet, at the same time we need to ask and ask again, then ask again, 'God, what is my role?' Where am I called to serve, to mentor, to witness, to lead, to stand back, to . . .'

Personalities, they are a gift from God, they help make us unique, one of a kind. How cool God is for the way He went about creating us . . . in His image. Can't wait to see all of the ways we are created in His image, since I really believe we will be surprised to learn about God's uniqueness when we all get to heaven.

Speaking of personalities, I am realizing this more and more about my 2 boys . . . WOW!! They amaze me with some of the things they do. And those are the good things. A couple of thoughts ~
  1. Now that Joshua is 10, and before, he does not want mom and dad doting on him, hugging him, touching him in public, yet, when it is my night to put him and Zachary to sleep, he can't wait for me to get in bed with him and put his arms around me. It's as if he can't get enough physical contact. I knew a long time ago, and he is confirming it, one of his love languages is 'touch.' It's a special time for us.
  2. Every day Zachary seems to come home with a picture for Debbie or some drawing that he did in school. He's another one who says 'don't touch me,' yet can't wait for the physical contact. Although I would say touch is his secondary love language. His first would be quality time. He can't wait to just play with me.
  3. Simply put, it would be great if we all knew our children's our spouse's 5 Languages of Love.

Today I also went to the Anderson University Library and was blessed to receive a guest library membership. I can check out 5 books at a time. . . lucky me. I checked out 5 today for my doctorate, including 2 almost 700 page books on the History of Christian Spirituality, good bedtime reading. Plus books written in 1871 and 1895. I can hear your violins playing for me now. I turned one book away because I could not pronounce the name of some chapters (never a good sign).

That's about it from my corner of the world, time for bed. Remember me in prayer, remember the church in prayer as we have our business meeting tomorrow night. Business meetings are a great reminder that the church is not at all about us, it's about God entrusting us sinners to bring His message to those who are not yet believers in Jesus. The church is about our redemption, our transformation from hell bound sinner to heaven bound sinner, simply because God loves us . . . yesterday, today and tomorrow, and He will never change!

PRAISE GOD!!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Random Thoughts

I was reminded I had not posted for a few days . . . yikes!!
  • Looking forward to Christmas? I am!
  • Reflections of God coming to earth, just for you and me.
  • Does it get any better than that?!
  • Consider when God was doing His best work in your life . . . when was it?
  • How did you react to God's intervention in your life?
  • What's with all of these 2 hour delays? Never heard of these until we landed in Indiana.
  • Have I recently said the Bears are pathetic! Well, they are!
  • Tonight I asked Debbie "where did I find you?" She is just too nice of a person!
  • Amazing how blessed I am to have her!!:-)
  • I can't wait to see Joshua and Zachary on Christmas morning, for that matter Debbie, too!
  • Joshua played percussion in the school band concert tonight. He was awesome. I could see him tapping his toes and nodding his head to keep the beat. Never for me. He's got more rhythm than I'll ever have.
  • I am working on my doctorate. I am feeling the pressure, so pray for me . . . pray for the family. I have lots of reading and writing to do between now and Feb 28. I need to order about 10 more books, I found one online, written in 1871 - geesh!
  • I will be starting my project in church on January 6 and for the next 13 out of 16 weeks. We will be looking at 11 different spiritual disciplines. I will be writing sermons and Sunday School curriculum for each. All adult classes will be asked to participate in this and do three surveys about spiritual disciplines. I'll talk more about it on Sunday. I was going to do that last Sunday, but no church.
  • I hated, oops, I really disliked canceling church on Sunday, but think it was for the best. At one point I wanted to call people and say come to church at noon, but that would not have worked. Oh well.
    • Are you ready for Christmas? I am!
    • Looking forward to Sunday!!

    Friday, December 14, 2007

    CORRECTION

    The scripture verse from yesterday that was listed as Revelation 3:5, should have been 3:20. The link to Bible gateway was correct, but the number on the blog itself was incorrect.

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    21 Days of John - The End!

    Folks, I hope this has been helpful to you. Thanks for listening to my rantings. I really hope this helped you gain a little better picture of John and what he is calling us to be and do.

    If this has been helpful, let me know. Not for my praise, but I just want to know what helps, what does not. If something else would be more beneficial let me know.

    Next year we will read through the Bible together and I will send a daily journal (thoughts) about those passages. It will not follow the SOAP acronym, too much scripture makes it hard to pinpoint one or two verses.

    Let others know about this. You don't have to attend our church or even church to be part of the blog. I'd love to have lots of subscribers and comments from you all.

    So . . . if you have a comment, let me know via the comments on the blog; or send me an email at mishana826@yahoo.com

    Blessings,

    Michael

    Day 21 - John 21

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 21
    KEY VERSES ~
    John 21:21-22 When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"22 Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."

    OBSERVATION ~
    The disciples had returned to doing what many of them understood, fishing. Does this mean they gave up on Jesus and His resurrection? NO!! It means they went fishing. It means they took some time as brothers and hung out together. Maybe they needed some time to reflect, to think, to feel, to decompress . . . after all, Jesus who was once dead, is now alive. How does that make any sense to one's senses? It doesn't, and that is the issue.

    They had already experienced His presence, now they experience Jesus' mastery at cooking breakfast. A favorite verse for me comes from REVELATION 3:5 when Jesus gives us an amazing invitation. Read it and invite Him in for some good cooking!!!!!

    Jesus then reinstates Peter by asking him 3 times, the same number of times Peter denied Jesus, if Peter loves Him. Note the subtle differences in all 3 commands.
    1. Feed my lambs.
    2. Tend my sheep.
    3. Feed my sheep.
    Now comes the kicker verse, the one that kicks you in the gut and knocks the wind out of you, as if these 3 questions had not already knocked Peter down.

    APPLICATION ~ John 21:21-22 states -- When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"22 Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."

    What does that mean for me and you? Peter understood that life will get crazy and that he will end up in a death which he would not want, he will lose freedom and ultimately, life. So . . . first thing he does is ask about John, 'what about that guy, how is he going to suffer?' Jesus simply tells Peter, whatever happens to him is my decision, it's not yours and frankly, Peter, it's none of your business. What I and the church need is this one thing and one thing alone from you . . .
    YOU MUST FOLLOW ME!!
    Yup, you got it, follow me!! Isn't that the call for each of us. It's a great way to end John. Jesus calls us to put aside ourselves and follow Jesus. Let go of the petty ante junk which holds us back in our relationship with Jesus and with one another. Get a grip on what real life is about, forget about that old stuff, those old issues, move on . . . move on, pilgrim! Move on, my friend, focus on Jesus, nobody else, it's about Him, isn't it?

    Folks, don't get wrapped up in yourself, get wrapped up in Jesus. Follow Him, follow Him. He has the answers, I don't. My answers will always pale in comparison to His, only when I get it right and say what He wants me to say, and I listen and I don't get in the way, then listen to me.

    There is too much going on in this world we need to fight for. Let me end with a quote from the book entitled,
    Unchristian, "Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than actually feel true compassion and care. Christianity has become marketed and streamlined into a juggernaut of fear mongering that has lost its own heart" (page 15). That is a terrible indictment from a non Christian. Yet, that is very much how the non Christian world sees us. This is why the call of Jesus . . . to FOLLOW HIM is so crucial.

    Pastor Michael

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Day 20 - John 20

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 20
    KEY VERSE ~ John 20:25 - So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

    OBSERVATION ~ The tomb has been opened, what was impossible is now possible. It is unimaginable for Jesus to be alive, it makes no sense to the normal mind. After all . . . how is He alive? Where has He gone? Ever feel that way in your life? Wondering where is Jesus? The disciples and all of His followers were feeling the same. The man they thought was the One, is dead. He's in a stinking rotten tomb and their hopes have been laid to rest with the thud of the rock.

    I love the story of Thomas! He is so indecisive, much like many of us. One day he is willing to die with and for Jesus (John 11:16), then he questions the disciples belief in Jesus, claiming, only if he sees and touches will he believe.

    How do we get to that point? Is our belief in Jesus so shallow, so tenuous that we struggle with faith/trust/belief depending upon which way the wind blows?

    APPLICATION ~ As I see it and I am seeing it, experiencing it and feeling it more and more . . . it's the need to be so connected to Jesus that nothing really rocks my world to pull me away from Him. Yes, things may rock my world, like the shootings in Colorado and more, but the point is to stay focused / connected to Jesus like a laser. Knowing I need nothing more than Jesus. It almost sounds hokey as I write this, but what more do we really need, if our full (100%) trust is in Jesus. I guess part of the rhetorical question is fill in the blank of what % you really believe, trust in Jesus.

    PRAYER ~ Lord, keep me connected to you. Give me the energy, strength, desire and courage to stay connected, to be faithful, so I can be fruitful. Amen

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Scripture References

    For your convenience when I mention a scripture I am highlighting in in Blue, so you can click on the scripture and it will take you directly to that scripture at www.biblegateway.com

    Rainy Night Thoughts

    I'm dismayed at the shootings in Colorado. How does it happen? How can it happen? WHY does it happen? The theological answer is easy, 'sin.' The heart answer is so much more difficult.

    Yet, some thoughts come to mind.

    God is NOT in heaven right now wringing His hands and wondering what to do next. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that He makes all things beautiful in His time. I don’t understand that, and I wish His time was my time, but I kinda sorta understand, yet I really don't want to understand, but I need to submit to God's sovereignty. That's a word and phrase we don't talk much about. It means God has the "absolute right to do all things according to his own good pleasure."

    If I did things according to my good pleasure, the world would be in more chaos than it is. Scripture says it, and I have to believe it. Paul wrote in Romans 8:28 that God works all things for the good of those who love Him. Once again . . . . I'll admit my ignorance, I don’t understand that – I really want to understand, but I struggle with this especially when it comes to something like this.

    But God is still God . . . and I am not. I have to believe that even when He allows evil to manifest itself in this way, God is still working for the good of all who believe in Him. He has the crystal ball. He knows the future, I don't. I must trust His plan. The Bible says in Isaiah 55:8 that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways, period!!!

    God is bigger than Michael Deutsch. God is smarter and better and more grace-filled and more giving . . . than I am . . . and I have to go back to the trust issue, and simply trust Him and His plans. . . and His timing.

    What happened in Colorado could have happened here . . . it could have happened to us. We like to think it never will, but it can. I wonder about how many friends in ministry are out there, how many people are dramatically impacted from our youth group who were in Arvada this summer at YWAM. We need to continually pray for God's protection . . . daily.

    When things like this happen it is a grave reminder that we are at war. Evil exists, satan exists, he is real and he is out to destroy us. John 10:10 is a great paradox about life . . . the life Christ offers us, and what the devil is trying to steal, kill and destroy us. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that the battle is REAL.

    Folks . . . satan is real and active and the battle must be taken to him and NOT the church that doesn’t happen to be fitting into your neat little box. Just read what john wrote in Revelation 12:17. For me it is one of the scariest passages in the Bible.

    Finally, all we can do right now is to PRAY! Pray for these people and their families. I have no idea what they are feeling . . . but I believe and trust that God works through prayer. Take a time out and say a prayer for YWAM, New Life Church and the families of all those involved. God is in control . . . pray that through this tragedy He will bring more people to Him.

    Alien Invasion

    Took a picture of what is left of Zachary's snowman and if you look carefully and use a little imagination, the snowman looks like someone facing right, sitting on a stool with their right arm close to their chest, and they have a little eency weeny head. Plus it looks like they are wearing a bow-tie or spilled chunks of chocolate cake on their nice white shirt.

    Anyway, enjoy the day.
    Michael

    Day 19 - John 19

    SCRIPTURE ~ JOHN 19
    KEY VERSE(s) ~ 2 Key Verses
    • John 19:7 ~ The Jews insisted, "We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God."
    • John 19:31 ~ Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.
    OBSERVATION ~ The time has come for Jesus to be killed. Pilate wants nothing to do with Jesus. According to other gospels, Jesus scares Pilate, and even his wife didn't want him to have anything to do with Jesus (Matthew 27:19).

    You may consider these the unusual verses to pull out of the crucifixion of Jesus, yet, 19:7 helps you to see the reason why the Jews wanted Him dead. Jesus, in their eyes broke the law. Read Leviticus 24:16. Jesus had blashpemed the name of God, period.

    What is interesting about 19:31 is the irony of the situation. These Jewish leaders who were so determined to have Jesus crucified, who were accomplices in this judicial murder are the very same Jews who are being very scrupulous in keeping the ceremonial law about dead bodies and burial. According to Jewish law (Deuteronomy 21:23) a dead body could not hang from a tree overnight, otherwise the land is defiled. This was an important Sabbath, as the Sabbath which occurs during Passover is always considered as an especially important day.

    APPLICATION ~ Very simply as we move about our days, how are we being Pharisees, legalists about some things, but not about others? Are we really being consistent in our walk with Christ? It can become a 'sticky wicket' when we pick and choose what is acceptable and what is not. Yet, at the same time, we need to have values, Biblical values, but we can get on our high horses about what is really not important, and make it a life and death scenario.

    PRAYER ~ Lord, as I move about my day, and as I finish preparing my heart, soul, mind and body for the remembrance of Your birth, help me to be focused on You, on Your mission, on Your plan and purpose for my life. Thank you Jesus for Your call. May I be obedient to You, may I be filled with love and grace, not law and legalism. Amen



    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Day 18 - John 18

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 18
    KEY VERSE ~ 17 "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" the girl at the door asked Peter.
    He replied, "I am not."

    OBSERVATION ~ The time has come for Jesus' arrest. Verse 3 gives us some insight into the details - 3 "So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons."

    A detachment is either 200 or 600 soldiers, depending on what source you use. But think about it, 200 or 600 soldiers just to capture Jesus, there were torches and weapons. They were ready for a real insurgent, not the Lamb. It's remarkable how paranoid the Jews were about Jesus. They could not stand anyone who might see God in a different way. Talk about people who rebelled against change . . . these were the headliners. So, He is taken away, after healing a soldiers ear (Luke 22:51).

    Pilate sees nothing wrong with Jesus. I was torn between looking at "what is truth?" or Peter's denial. Both are important moments, yet, Peter's seemed more significant at this time. So . . . how do we apply this moment from Peter's life?

    APPLICATION ~ I wonder how many times have we said in one way or another "I am not" to Jesus. Maybe we were asked about being His disciples or we had to make a decision at work, home, school, church, wherever it may have been; and our answer indicated we are not His disciples. At least not the way we acted and spoke. Often times it is not a public thing, it is private where we look around, and if nobody is looking, or so we think, we act. Maybe it is lashing out in anger, hitting something (and breaking it), or it is taking that drink we don't need, or engaging in porn, or being in a harmful relationship which is leading us away from God . . . You can name the situation, but in so many ways, we say NO to God and yes to us.

    On my own power I cannot do it. I must be connected to God in order to stay the course and be equipped to say YES to God and no to myself.

    PRAYER ~ Father, the world pushes me away from You. Sometimes it is so very easy to be pushed further and further away, then reconnecting with You becomes more and more difficult. So, Precious Father, give me the strength, energy, the desire to draw closer to You, to know You are God, and I am not. Amen

    Prayer

    Damon called me and told me about the shooting at Arvada, Colorado where Youth with a Mission is. That is where our youth were at this summer. Two people were killed and 2 wounded by a gunmen.

    Keep all in prayer.

    Gator Nation

    I was never a Florida Gator fan! I have changed my mind, because I was surprised by the winner of the Heisman Trophy. The Heisman is the trophy for the best college football player. I have never liked the Florida Gators, it goes back to the days of Steve Spurrier coaching them. But is has changed.

    The winner of the Heisman Trophy is the first sophomore, Tim Tebow. I learned that Tebow's parents were missionaries in the Philippines where he was born. He is a devout Christian. The ESPN announcer listed Tebow's first 4 priorities in life . . . his first priority is his faith . . . football was 4th.

    When he got up to speak and say thank you, he started out by giving thanks to Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior; and in fact did so more than once during that speech. He made me a fan. I give thanks for witnesses like Tim's, when thousands upon thousands of sports fans hear Tebow's first priority is God. How cool!!


    Saturday, December 08, 2007

    Snowmen

    Played outside for awhile. Amazing how heavy it is to lift snow when making a snowman.


    The picture is of our first successful snowman. This was Zachary's creation, Joshua made his, but had more fun jumping on top of it and destroying it. I think he was getting ready for the Colts game on Sunday. Here is Zachary's masterpiece.

    You can see it was pretty tall. At least a snowman's head taller than Zachary.


    Friday, December 07, 2007

    Day 17 ~ John 17

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 17
    KEY VERSE ~ John 17:20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

    OBSERVATION ~ Any guesses where I sense Jesus going with this last part of chapter 17? This chapter is broken up into 3 parts - - 1. He prays for Himself, 2. He prays for the disciples, 3. He prays for the future believers (you and I).

    The time has come for the capture and the pains of death are fast approaching. Can you picture Jesus walking along the path to the garden of Gethsemane and He stops and stoops over at the Mount of Olives (Luke 22) and begins to talk and ultimately begins to pray. His heart and spirit are heavy and torn. The time has come.

    APPLICATION ~ Jesus utters this as part of His prayer. Note how He prayed for Himself, the disciples, then us. There is a specific progression. His prayer is for the future church to be ONE unified body of believers who seek to lead others to know, trust and worship Jesus as Lord, Savior, Forgiver, Leader. . . What is God calling me to do as part of the Kingdom to help people find the church (ours and the universal) are ONE? How can I be part of the ONENESS and not be 'a part' of the oneness?

    For my part, God calls me to lead myself, my family, His church, and those who are not yet in the church. Somehow it is to find a commonality among these 4 branches and not separate and segregate, but to be inclusive. I need to keep my eyes, ears, heart, soul, mind and body ready to call on the love of Jesus so others accept and embrace the call of Christ, to love Him and be transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    PRAYER ~ Father, there are times when it is easier to pull back from Your call. After all, Your call is not the easy road, it is often times the road less traveled, yet, that is where You call me today. Help me to not be so blind and resistant, but to be open to THE call . . . Lead me, make Your plans known and help me to follow, and follow and follow . . . YOU! Amen

    Thursday, December 06, 2007

    Random Thoughts

    SCHOOL DAZE
    What's this with late school days and canceled classes; and even canceled church?
    Joshua and Zachary had fun in the snow. Zachary said he drew (with his body) a picture of the nativity, with Mary, Joseph, Jesus and a star. I would liked to have seen this.

    The side roads were pretty slick last night. Stay safe and stay warm.

    CHRISTMAS
    Christmas can now officially begin. It has snowed.
    I have not been a Scrooge. Our tree is up and lights are on, ornaments go on tonight.

    BULLETINS
    We will have new bulletins for next year. They will be 11x17. Much larger with virtually no inserts. This cuts down on paper and office time. They will look cool.

    CHRISTMAS EVE
    I am hoping for a huge, huge turnout on Christmas Eve. This is our time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but more than that, it is a great, great opportunity to meet people who are seeking Jesus, to love them and welcome them. Let's not miss this opportunity. be ready to greet, to embrace to welcome . . . to celebrate.

    My message will be fun and exciting and will call for a response. And the answer to the question I ask may surprise you.

    Day 16 - John 16

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 16
    KEY VERSE ~ John 16:7 "But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."

    OBSERVATION ~ Jesus is telling the disciples He is leaving. In other words, He will be killed, but the disciples still don't fully understand. Then again, if I was in their shoes, I'm not sure I would have gotten it either. There were moments when the disciples were right with Jesus, and other times when He made no sense. Jesus would talk at levels that they just didn't get, and sometimes maybe they just didn't want to get it. Aren't we that way? Sometimes, we hear the truth, but we just don't want to get it, because it causes us to become too vulnerable, too open to learning something about ourselves that can lead to great transformation, but transformation is always painful . . . and we avoid pain, at least as much as we can.

    APPLICATION ~ Why would Jesus have to go away? What good would that bring to a world which is hurting and pained? His leaving would bring the Holy Spirit! If Jesus didn't leave, we would not have the Spirit of God with us. The Spirit was sent by Jesus for us. He leads us in so many ways, especially to help us know who Jesus is. As 100% man and 100% God, Jesus could not be everywhere at the same time, however, the Holy Spirit is able to be with you and me 24/7. Now that is something Jesus could not do. But through the ministry of the Holy Spirit we experience the Father, Son and Spirit. Maybe this helps us understand a little more why the Trinity is so important.

    PRAYER ~ Father, there are so many moments when I walk the path alone, trying to accomplish Your work on my own powers. Prompt me, remind me that You have joyfully sent Your Spirit to be with me every second of every day. Thank you, Jesus for Your love and Your life, because of You I have hope. . . and because of You, I have the Spirit who sustains me and teaches me, and leads me to know You and the Father. Amen

    Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    Day 15- John 15

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 15
    KEY VERSE ~ John 15:7 ~ If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”

    OBSERVATION ~ The first 17 verses of John 15 are some of my favorite verses. It is the constant reminder for me to follow the leading of God. If I don't, I run the risk of being thrown into the trash as something which is useless. The call of God is to a life of faith which leads to obedience and ultimately as we journey down the road of faith, obedience, listening, learning - - we become fruitful. Even during the times of pruning, which is painful, we experience new growth, which leads to new fruit and more fruit and much fruit.

    APPLICATION ~ In verse 7, Jesus said, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." It's pretty straightforward, ask whatever you want and it will be given to you. Nothing too difficult to that part of it, but, but . . . there is a huge condition to this. We must remain in Jesus. We must be faithful which means we are intimately connected to Jesus, doing what He bids us to do. And when we are in Jesus, we are being faithful and ultimately fruitful.

    PRAYER ~ Precious Lord, there is so much to ask You for, but what I need and want is to abide in You, and to have the comfort of Your abiding in me. Help me to let go of my control and embrace You. Lord,
    • make FBC a place of faithfulness.
    • help us to listen to Your calling in our lives.
    • Help us to be passionate, devoted followers . . . making a difference for You.
    • Let us be fruitful risk-takers . . . following Your call.

    Amen.

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    I WAS SOOOO MAD!!!!!!

    The Baltimore Ravens were the team to beat the New England Patriots. Yet, they lost, and honestly speaking they deserved to lose and should not win again forever!

    There I said it and could not believe how that team gave away a game. It could have turned their season around, but their coaches quit last night. I was embarrassed for the players, because they played their hearts out, and the coaches lost the game for them. Especially the defensive coach, Rex Ryan, son of Buddy Ryan, the great Bears defensive coach.

    If you did not see the game, New England who is now 12-0, was losing, and all Baltimore needed was a couple of first downs. And on 3 consecutive series they did not make a first down, their play calling became ultra conservative. That is the first mistake. Why become conservative at this point in the game? You end up playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. New England knows how to win, Baltimore does not. Big difference psychologically.

    Secondly, the defense only rushed 3 men at the quarterback, Tom Brady. WHY?!? WHY?!? WHY?!? Debbie will tell you I was yelling at the TV. Every time they sent 4-5 men at Brady, they put pressure on him, and he made poor throws. Every time they rushed 3 and gave him time, they gained significant yards. The players lost their composure, which is a coaching issue. The players committed 2 obvious penalties in key situations, which gave new life to New England. Technically New England did not convert three 4th down plays, but due to 2 penalties and the most lame time out by the defensive coach, New England won.

    I am not a fan of Bill Belichik. He's arrogant, as is the whole team, and they will most likely beat the Colts in the playoffs, and anyone who is afraid of them. But then again, they have won the Super Bowl in 2002, 2004 and 2005. So, they can be a little arrogant and strut their stuff.


    A final lesson for me is that when you back down, when you do not attack and follow what is working, you will most likely lose. The coaches did not coach well. As the leader at our church, it is my job to coach well. To look for us to make the big plays, to have victories, to motivate and to help us claim the victories our Head Coach, Jesus, calls us to accomplish.

    Okay, I feel much better now after ranting!

    Day 14 ~ John 14

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 14
    KEY VERSE ~ John 14:11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

    OBSERVATION ~ John 14:1-6 is often stated as a passage of comfort at many funerals. We find comfort in the words of Jesus, letting us know there is a place for us in heaven, a place with our name written on it. He also gives us the words which we cannot ignore, try as some may, He is 'the way and the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father except through Him.' Jesus is the only way to eternal life. Zachary was asking about that last night, about only Christians being in heaven.

    Jesus offers us the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it is the way in which God remains with us through all of life. The Spirit does much for us, in giving us a teacher, counselor, comforter, peace, and more.

    The passage that jumped out at me is what Jesus said to Philip, as Philip seemed a little confused about the language of Father and Son, Jesus said, "11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves."

    Jesus is giving two options here. We often miss what Jesus said to Philip and us, and ultimately those who don't know Jesus. The gist of it is this - 'either believe in me, that is, trust my words, trust I am who I say I am . . . but if you cannot believe this way, then at least allow your belief to begin with the miracles Jesus has performed. Look at the evidence, and tell me I am not true . . . go ahead, I dare you.'

    APPLICATION ~ What strikes me about this passage is the opportunity to lead people to Jesus in new ways. We usually assume there is one way to evangelize . . . stand on the corner and shout out "REPENT, BELIEVE IN JESUS!" Or we must go door to door. Yet, Jesus tells us not only should we help people believe in Him, but we can help them to see that He is the real Messiah because of the miracles performed in the Bible and those which we see in life. Part of the miracle is what we can offer others. We take it for granted that life is just to flow normally and naturally. That is our belief, but I never heard God say, believe in me and you will never have another problem in life again. Instead, we have this God we can turn to at all times, a God who is always present with us, a God who desires more than anything to see us having a joy-filled, peace-filled, love-filled life because of who He is . . . and we make a difference in the world because of Him. Hence, people experience Jesus because of who we are and they see the evidence of Jesus first hand in me and you.

    PRAYER ~ Father, You have sent Your Son for us, to believe in and to follow through His miracles and through His words. Help our unbelief, help us in our times of mistrust and distrust, help us to experience You and then lead others to know You because they see You in us. And all this comes because we believe in You and then You give the Holy Spirit to us. Amen.

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    Movers Anyone!?

    Great afternoon today!!

    Damon, Marcus B., Tim W., Jim N., David H., Brian D. and myself helped a family move their belongings off a 16 foot truck, including the heaviest doll house you have ever seen.

    The family recently moved to Alexandria from Alaska and needed help getting stuff into their home and storage sheds. For 2 hours we braved the cold and wind and got the job done.

    Great job, guys. Jim and Rosebell (the couple and their four children) were very appreciative. They came to church last week and this week. Stop by and say hello to them.

    It was a great way to make Christ's love real. It was a grace gift and I was proud to be part of it.

    Day 13 ~ John 13

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 13
    KEY VERSE ~ John 13:14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

    OBSERVATION ~ John goes right from the Jews unbelief and desire to kill Jesus and Lazarus in chapter 12 to the Passover and foot washing. It was an expectation that when you went into someones home they would give you something to wash your hands or your feet; or if they were wealthy a servant would wash your feet. Here Jesus is acting as the servant, doing what nobody would ever expect the Messiah to do, get on His knees and wash the feet of another person. We should be doing that for Him, not He for us. Yet that is the example He sets before us. Along with it is the command 'to do as He has done.' That command is one of the cornerstones of our faith, yet we often don't get it. Along with it is another command from this passage 'love one another.' Sometimes it is not easy to love others. Let's not be pious, let's admit the difficulty and move to finding the remedy, which of course is always Jesus.

    APPLICATION ~ So, how do we / I apply what Jesus commands? What was His example, other than to go into the world and love the unlovable, to challenge the status quo, to seek to be a difference maker. He was GOD! He had the power and ability to do anything He wanted, all resources were at His disposal, yet He did not act 'willy-nilly' about anything He did. Jesus strategized His moves. He loved, He served, He cared. And He did it to those who were the rejects of society. Those were the ones who knew they needed something more. After all, the Pharisees had the law and their arrogance, so they felt they didn't need anything else. God's call is to go into the world and love others, to do as He did, give your love to someone who needs and wants to be loved. Break down the walls and barriers which separate us.

    Prayer ~ Lord, it is not easy to love. Sometimes we want to be loved and be the recipients of the gifts. But for me to grow, I need to extend myself into the world and give away Your love which You continually pour into my heart. Remove any arrogance, remove moments where trust decreases and help me to rely on Your grace and love to lead me. Amen.

    Friday, November 30, 2007

    DAY 12 ~ John 12

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 12

    KEY VERSE ~ JOHN 12:25

    OBSERVATION ~ There is a party in Bethany for Lazarus and Jesus. It was in honor of what Jesus did raising Lazarus from the dead, of course, Lazarus was there, but now he had a bounty on his head. Ever wonder why the Phrarisees thought they could kill a man who could raise people from the dead? Just a thought.

    Jesus continues to talk and push the people about their level of commitment and their level of spiritual maturity. Key issues in our lives today, as they were 2000 years ago. Notice there were some Greeks who had a question for Jesus, yet, Jesus begins the discourse on His terms, leading them where He knows they need to be.

    Have you caught how many times Jesus talks about light and darkness in John. The word "darkness" is used in 5 verses, while "light" is used in 16 verses. There is much more power in light-ness than darkness.

    I know when I allow Jesus to look around inside me His light exposes stuff that I don't want to see or want to admit. It will sound overly simple, but I'm impressed with how Jesus exposes stuff in my life. He exposes my sin and junk in a way that is not shaming, but encouraging and hopeful. That is good and I am grateful for it.

    Sometime I need to take a picture of the church steeple from my home. It's cool to see the steeple of the church lit up at night. It's a great beacon and reminder, Jesus is the light of the world.

    APPLICATION ~ Simply put, what am I trying to keep in the dark from the Lord, which by the way is impossible. Instead of hiding, I should look to God for what is good in me and allow God to expose the good, rather than covering up the not so good. Besides, I/we usually seem to dwell on that which is bad within us, maybe it is time to stop focusing on the bad and look at the good.

    We do this in church as well . . . we see one thing we don't like and we become no different than the Pharisees. We end up focusing on what we want, not on what God may be calling us to do, which is grow in spirit and truth. So, what holds you back? What are you focusing on that may be destructive to your own health and spirit? It is time to let it go and focus on God's Spirit of Light and truth.

    PRAYER ~ Father God, thank you for not letting me wander around in darkness, but providing light that gives direction to my life. And thank you for bringing your light inside my life and helping me see the stuff that wants to destroy your dream for my life. I welcome your light into my life today and I ask that your light give direction for the day. Amen

    Thursday, November 29, 2007

    Day 11 ~ John 11

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 11
    KEY VERSE ~ John 11:25 - I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

    OBSERVATION ~ I love the way John wrote verse 5-6, "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days." On the surface, if Jesus loved them as He said, He should have dropped everything, but He understood the plan He had to really demonstrate He is the Son of the Father.

    When Jesus arrived in Bethany, the people were grieving and mourning the death of Lazarus. If only He had been there He could have healed Lazarus. People had seen Jesus do this many times. But this is different, Lazarus is dead. There is no reviving the dead.

    There are those moments in our lives, where we wonder and think, 'if only . . . Jesus had been here for us (fill in the blank) this would not have happened. Yet, we need to remember through the blessing of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is always with us, He will not fail, forsake, abandon, bail out, or leave us. He is always present with us. For some that is a blessing and a curse. That is how Job thought about it when he said, "What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, 18 that you examine him every morning and test him every moment?" Job 7:17-18

    In Psalm 8:4, we hear the positive side of it in a question as well,
    "When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,

    4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
    the son of man that you care for him?

    5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor."

    Ultimately we come to the key verse, when Jesus tells Martha He is the hope of the world, stating "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

    This is the same question asked to us on a daily basis. How do we/I answer.

    APPLICATION ~Intellectually we can say, "yes, I believe." But when we live out our lives, our heart and soul may do what is opposite of what we say we believe. Believing Jesus is the resurrection and the life should give us amazing hope to move forward in the midst of a chaos filled world, but does it. Do we really believe it, or simply / sadly give Jesus lip service. Is that how I live my life. I hear Jesus calling me to step up my trust in who He claims to be. Only by trusting Him totally, completely, 100%, can I then be the person He wants me to be. Without trusting Him, I will always fall short somewhere along the way. My accomplishments may look good on paper, but Jesus knows what could have been; and deep in my heart and soul, so do I.

    PRAYER ~ Lord, take my heart, soul, mind and body so they may be open to You. That I may trust Your plan, purpose and grab the opportunities You place before me. Even when I am in the tomb for 4 days and stink, help me to know that no situation is unmanageable with You. Be my Lord! Be my Savior! Be my Leader! Be my Shepherd! and create / stir in my heart a longing to be in Your presence, to experience You, second by glorious second. Amen

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    Day 10 ~ John 10

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 10
    KEY VERSE ~ John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

    OBSERVATION ~ A number of times in this passage Jesus talks about the fact that the Good Shepherd "will lay down His life." Jesus spoke in parables, some didn't make sense to the disciples, others made perfect sense, and were perfect 'insults' to those who were unwilling to listen to Jesus. The Phrarisees were angry because again, Jesus was putting Himself up there with the Father. Consider this statement from Jesus in John 10:30, "I and the Father are one." This is the very reason the Jews why the Jews wanted to kill Jesus, see verse 33, 33"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

    The key verse is one of my favorites. Jesus tells us the thief, satan, seeks to steal, kill and destroy, while Jesus comes to give us life and give us a super abundant life. The literal Greek means exceedingly abundant, super-added, more than is necessary. That is the offer from Jesus.

    APPLICATION ~ But how often do I accept the offer of the super abundant life? How often do I dwell on that which is superfluous, that which is petty and mundane!? My goal for at least today is to do that which will bring joy to my Father. I have already allowed the busyness and needs of the day to block and even derail me. Now, I need to give it back to God and seek to glorify Him by enjoying Him.

    PRAYER ~ Father, thank you for the offer. Thank you for offering me this abundant life because You were willing to be the Door, to be my Shepherd, so help me not only to hear Your voice, but to discern Your message. May I move about for the rest of today and tomorrow and the days to follow in a manner which brings a smile to Your face, and thus to mine. Amen.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    A Wasted Life? A Compromised Life!

    A pastor in South Carolina named Clayton King wrote the following blog. I think it will help you to understand me better. I want what I do as a pastor/minister/leader . . . you fill in the blank about title, I want it to make a difference in the world. I want it to make a difference in your life, so you make a difference in the world. I have to answer to God, yes to the church, but the ultimate authority is God. As a result, I don't want to compromise what I believe God is calling me to do, so I can placate the people in the church. This means I have to make difficult decisions about where and how God is leading us. It means I must spend time with God and know Him very, very well. At least as well as I can, because the pressure is always on. I need to lead, to envision, to dream, even to dream out loud. I hope I will never check my passion and desire at the door. I want it to become infectious, contagious and I want the world to catch it, and I want to catch the passion of those who are pumped up about Jesus.

    So, this blog from Clayton stands on its own. I'd be interested about your reactions.

    This is something every Christian needs to read, because it is possible for us to get so caught up in trying to please people that we lose sight of WHO we were created for (GOD), thus causing us to waste our life trying to please people who will not be our final judge . . . and so, with his permission, I have reposted his thoughts ~

    "Several days ago, I wrote a reflection on "Dangers for Seasoned Veterans" where I listed 10 potential struggles that older ministers and Christians sometimes succumb to. I promised to share a personal story about one such veteran that I had the great honor to know and even serve on a number of occasions. I had intended to post it a few days earlier, but have spent every free moment trying to ready our new home for inspection on Monday.(In order to protect this man’s integrity and not cast him or his surviving family in a negative light, I choose not so use his real name.)

    When I was in middle school, our family carpooled with several other families, but one family really stood out. The dad was a pastor of a church in our community, and he was one of a kind. Old school, Bible quoting, Southern Baptist, and country to the core. He had a jovial and warm personality and was never, that I recall, in a bad mood. He was trained in the classic seminary model, where he moved his family to a seminary town and spent 3-4 years finishing his degree while pastoring small churches, all the while his wife worked 2 jobs just so they did not starve. He was known and loved by all his parishioners and everyone in town.

    As the years passed, his congregation began to age, as did he. His health began to fail, largely due to the stresses of his job. The older people felt like the church as slipping away from them; too much change, too many new people, and a pastor that was not “holding things together.” They gave him grief for every little innovation he suggested, encouraged him to stop visiting new people in the community and spend more time taking care of the core group of church members. When he hesitated to give in to all the demands of the older members, the deacons reminded him that he had a secure job with benefits and that if he rocked the boat, he would find himself looking for a new church (and how many churches would want to hire a pastor in his late 50s with high blood pressure, hypertension, and high cholesterol)? He understood their point, and he decided to GO ALONG TO GET ALONG.

    A few years ago I was in the hospital visiting a family member when I walked past a room and heard a familiar voice. It was this same pastor, that I had known as a child, whom I dearly loved and respected. It had been years since I had preached for him, but his voice was unmistakable. I entered the room and his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. We visited for about 10 minutes until I could tell he was worn out. The heart surgery had taken a toll on him, so after I prayed for him, I was ready to leave.

    He grabbed my hand and began to weep. “Are you still preaching the gospel, Clayton?” I responded that I was and intended to until I died. Then he choked out these words.

    “Don’t you ever stop, and don’t you ever let anyone stop you. I let a church full of lazy christians steal my passion away from me. They did not want to change, they wouldn’t reach out to anyone, and they did not care about people dying without Jesus. All they cared about was making church easy and convenient. I let them scare me into doing what they wanted. And I slowly died. I would give anything to be your age again, Clayton. I would do it differently and I would obey God no matter what people said. Trust me son, you don’t want to end up like me, dying in hospital with regrets hanging over your head. Once you let anybody other than Jesus tell you what to do, you begin to die.”

    It was the last conversation I had with an old friend. But as that Seasoned Veteran took a bow not long after that, his words are still ringing in my ears. I hope they stick with you for a while, too."

    Day 9 - John 9

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 9

    KEY VERSES ~ John 9:1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

    OBSERVATION ~ I feel that God is opening my eyes to more and more of scripture and to write it all down, somehow just does not do this justice. Maybe it is where I am in my life, maybe it is a newer and growing hunger for Jesus, I'm not sure, but I feel, no, I know God is calling me to move beyond, way beyond where I am right now. For me, for any of us, that can be a scary thought, and it is, because God calls us to do what can only be accomplished when He is leading the charge. On our own, our accomplishments will always pale in comparison.

    We are a grace deprived people. I mean that! And the one's who deprive us of the grace is ourselves and those whom we allow to influence us. This passage is a classic example of how we still think today. We assume that when bad things happen to us it must be because we did something bad. That was certainly the case back in Jesus day where affluence was always considered to be a blessing from God and poverty the denial of blessing from God.

    Even though I know God’s goodness is a grace that is given undeserved, I still find myself thinking that if I screw up God will get me and if I will just be really good, He will bless me. (And the hard part about this is the partial truth within this – that if we live life God’s way, Jesus promises it will result in an “abundant life” {although God defines what abundance means}).

    The disciples assume since this guy was blind it must be the result of his sin or sin in his family. They ask Jesus about this and he says, “No, this is not the result of sin.” Jesus doesn’t explain why the blindness, but he goes on to explain that God will take this bad situation and turn it into something good. He will redeem it. God will re-purpose it. And He does - Jesus heals the blind man and gives him his sight! And story of the blind man’s healing is told all over town and has now been told for 2000 years. Literally billions of people throughout history have been inspired by this story to trust Jesus.

    Of course, the Pharisees were the exception. It was better for the man to remain blind for one more day than to upset the Pharisees. Ever get the feeling that the most religious people were the biggest stumbling block? Even the ex-blind man's parents were afraid of losing Temple membership if they spoke out too much, so they turned it back over to their son to speak for Himself. Ultimately, he becomes a believer and worshiper of the true Christ, Jesus! This leads to the application . . .

    APPLICATION ~ Did you catch verse 4, As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. The question for us is the same as it always will be, 'how are we demonstrating our love of Jesus by serving Him and making a difference in the world?'

    When we stand before Jesus will have empty fruit baskets, or will they be filled with fruit, and more fruit, and even more fruit? That is the call of Christ . . . it's my belief we are to be faithful to what Jesus calls us to be and do . . . and when we are . . . we become more fruitful than ever.

    Today, I am leaving the church not long after noon and finishing my work day in the community, typing, dreaming, planning and faithful fulfilling the call of Jesus. I am looking forward to that.

    On another day, I'll share some thoughts about what I sense we (the universal church) are to do in order to further the kingdom, yet, we don't do it.

    PRAYER ~ Lord, You are awesome, You are faithful, You overflow with an abundance of love and grace; even when we are totally unlovable, sinful, wretched . . . and thank you, my precious Jesus for loving me so very, very much that You came into the world to give me hope and a reason to live. Help me to fulfill that dream You have for me, let me not fail You by falling short of the mark. Amen

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    Day 8 ~ John 8

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 8

    KEY VERSES ~ John 8:10-11 ~ 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11"No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

    OBSERVATION ~ Remember the Feast of Tabernacles is concluding and there is a large crowd. Jesus is being tested. Of course, the age old question is ‘what happened to the man caught in adultery.’ Being a male dominated society, he would be given greater liberties to walk away unscathed. She was guilty until proven innocent. It is interesting even in our society that when you commit a sexual crime, you are always guilty until proven innocent.


    Nobody denied her guilt, she didn’t, she was caught, literally caught. But Jesus looked at her and as long as nobody was without sin, she was free to go, but with the reminder to sin no more. Yet, remember who was the sinless One on the spot, Jesus, and He had all authority to condemn her. He does the same for you and I, he does not condemn, but offers grace, love and peace to our souls which are wearied and troubled (see Matthew 11:28-29)

    I am not going into the next passage, it is worthy of a sermon or two. In John 8:58-59 we read ~ 58"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" 59At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

    Oh, you can’t imagine the anger the Jews had at Jesus on this one. He was guilty of the highest crimes at this moment, and He knew it. Think about what He just said, consider what the phrase "I am" means and who said it, then you’ll catch why the anger.


    APPLICATION / PRAYER ~ I’m doing these as one, I think they flow together . . .

    Simply put, Lord, help me not to be a Pharisee, a condemner of anyone who is different, anyone who is a sinner, anyone. At the same time, help me to lay my sinfulness before Your throne, and find your renewal and grace once again and once again. May I accept Your offer of love, and may I be a dispenser of You love, grace, peace and hope. I know I need it, I need to experience You and the gifts You not only offer me, but hand out to me everyday. Thank you, Jesus for Your acceptance of me, a sinner, yet a sinner redeemed and loved by You. Through Christ my Lord, Amen.

    Final Vacation Reflections

    Some final thoughts, some random, some with more spiritual significance ~

    • Most of the way home it was raining, and our back window was never wet. It was always in our face. On the other hand, the vehicles driving south, had most of the rain on their rear window. Ever have it on your rear window only.
    • It started raining moments after we got in the car. I simply said, "okay God, can you hold off for at least 2 hours, God." Strangely, the rain held off for most of 2 hours. I wish I had those powers on a daily basis for more important things.
    • Of greater spiritual significance is what occurred to me on the way home. Ready . . . here it comes ~ we had a blow out thanks to the ladder on the way down. In the end the state trooper recommended we change our other tire as well. He stated we would do a lot of hydroplaning in the rain and it would not be safe. Well, it rained for 7 solid hours on the way home. Maybe God took that ladder as an opportunity to save the Deutsch family from some real misery. It was strange that we were the only vehicle to have damage from this ladder which looked like a mangled piece of junk in the end. Sometimes, disaster is an opportunity in disguise.

    Tonight will be an early to bed night, I'll hit it with a THUD!

    Tomorrow or the next day I will send a blog from another pastor. His name is Clayton King, from South Carolina. I came across his blog and really appreciated something he wrote about a former pastor, now deceased. This may help some to understand a little more about me.

    VACATION REFLECTIONS

    Final thoughts about our time away.
    • Ladders and highways do not mix.
    • Did I say ladders and highways do not mix? Okay, I'll say it again, they really, really don't go together. I feel much better now.
    • I have a difficult time understanding people who speak softly with a southern drawl.
    • Driving 500 miles south does not mean warm weather. After the first day it was in the 40's all week.
    • The weather did not stop us from playing football.
    • We ate Ham for Thanksgiving and I slowed down on my coffee drinking.
    • We watched football, just as the Pilgrims intended.
    • Joshua has turned into the major football fan. Can't pull him away from the TV.
    • Connected a little more with my sister in Chicago while in Alabama.
      • I want to work on that relationship. She's my only sister left. Don't want to have any regrets.
    • Zachary could eat 24 hours a day, 8 days a week. The kid is always hungry.
    • I enjoy watching Debbie smile and laugh with family. She is beautiful.
    • Ate too much chili, enjoyed time with Debbie's cousins we had not seen in 3 years.
    • Had a blast at the Huntsville Rocket and Space Center -
      • Don't ever go on a g-force machine 30 minutes after you have eaten.
        • Amazingly I held it in, but . . . well never mind, you don't need the details.
        • Joshua loved it, but I wanted to yell STOP!
      • Went on a trip to Mars, and a Mars roller coaster. That was Zachary's favorite.
      • The boys went rock climbing and visited the gift shop.
        • They now have dog tags and jets.
      • Looking at the rockets, their engines was amazing. Debbie and I had been there before. There are so many possible things that could go wrong, so many people involved in putting them together.
    • Realized Zachary will probably never be able to be in the army or fireman or an astronaut due to his diabetes. Not trying to be filled with sorrow, but that is probably a reality.
    • It was great to see Debbie's dad, important for Debbie and the boys to also reconnect in person with him. The boys seemed very comfortable with him and in the house, had not seen him for 2 years.
    • Did not do anything spectacular, we did not have to.
    • We decided on the way back this summer we are taking a family vacation somewhere. Any suggestions?
    • We usually take our vacations to visit family. Going off by ourselves is unusual.
    • I plan to lose a few pounds and get in better shape. I need it.
    • I spent some time reflecting about church/ministry/my role, etc. more to come on that one later.
    That is it for now. I know there is more, but my brain is tired of having to think.

    Michael

    Day 7 ~ John 7

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 7

    KEY VERSES ~ John 7:10
    However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, "Where is that man?" 12Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, "He is a good man." Others replied, "No, he deceives the people." 13But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews.

    OBSERVATION ~ Jesus is urged to make Himself known, boldly known to the Jews, yet that is what He was already doing. It's amazing to be an active bystander and watch the events unfold. Jesus is at one of the major feasts for the Jews. The Feast of Tabernacles was a major event in the life of the Jews. It was a time of celebration, and during times of celebration they always started and ended in the Temple. Hence, they are now there.

    My key observation for John 7:10 is my look at Jesus' passion and purpose in life. He cannot stay away, even though His life and ministry are on the line, His calling according to the Father leads Him back to the Temple and He cannot listen to what is being taught, so He, the Master teacher, who has no formal education gets up and teaches like an expert. Reread this chapter and note how many times His authority and background is questioned.

    Until ultimately in 7:46, we read, ""No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared." The words of Jesus were challenging and if followed, leads you down a difficult road, but a road filled with a greater sense of God's presence.

    APPLICATION ~ I talk a great deal about passion and purpose; and I really believe in passion and purpose, but life has a way of moving us away from what we are really called to do and be. Part of my day, today, is to take time and reprioritize, so that I can live more of my life according to my God given passion and purpose. It would be cool to have people look at me and think/feel his (Michael's) words are amazing . . . yet, what would be the best epitaph is someone saying he was really led by God . . .

    PRAYER ~ With that in mind Lord, help me to do Your will, to follow You at all cost. Help me to set You as my number 1 priority/relationship/purpose in life. As I move closer to You, let those times be cherished, even sacred, so that I do not compromise myself, my position, or anything so that I am drawn closer to You. This does not mean I fill up my life with busyness, but with what is sacred. Amen.

    HOME SWEET HOME

    We made it home around 9 pm. It rained from Nashville to Alexandria. A long, long drive about 480 miles and 9 hours. Amazing to watch how people drive so crazy when there are slippery roads. Anyway, it was a good trip, good to see Lester and other family at a Friday chili fest. Today was Joshua's birthday (not the best way to spend the day), with most of the day being spent in the van - which rides somewhat different than prior to our incident. We drove past our accident site and recalled the moment . . . then forgot about it . . . for now.

    Two posts tomorrow with John 7 and 8.

    And more with thoughts about what God is calling me to do the rest of the year.

    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Day 6 - John 6

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 6
    KEY VERSE ~ John 6:15 ~ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

    KEY VERSE #2 ~ John 6:60 ~ On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" 61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

    OBSERVATION ~ WOW!!! There is just so much in this chapter; and there are so many verses that strike me. Jesus was such a Master with His words, actions and ways of talking to all people. It didn't matter if you were a disciple (one of the 12) if you were part of His inner 3 (Peter, James and John); if you were part of the 120, or a casual follower. His words always had meaning and intent. Sometimes I think we wonder if He ever just hung out.

    Do you think Jesus told jokes with the disciples, laughed with them, just told stories about life and the silliness in the ways we approach life?

    APPLICATION ~ I'm jumping to the application to quickly focus on a few verses. First is John 6:15.

    It is usually when we are struggling and things are not going well that we need to find time by ourselves with God. Our spiritual reflexes are to wait until something is going wrong before we find time alone with God. Not Jesus. The crowds are increasing to an all-time high and they want to see Jesus do miracles and listen to His teachings. Things are so out of hand that it looks like they might make Him their king whether He wants to be or not and what does Jesus do? He withdraws to a quiet place all by himself to spend time with the Father. This is a great reminder. The time when we need God the most is not just in our desperation, but also in our success. In some ways it is during our times of great success that we are most vulnerable. We tend to think we have done this on our own and that if we just continue to do what we have done more and more success will come our way. Success is a kind of drug that keeps us from feeling the spiritual pangs in our life. I need to withdraw from it all to be with God everyday. Success or failure I need to hear from God everyday! How about you?

    Finally, the disciples proclaim the message of Jesus is hard. He has just told them about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Words that seem contradictory to what the Jews are supposed to eat according to dietary laws. This was tough stuff and Jesus was cutting to the chase, He wanted to separate those who would follow Him and those who were too weak and wanted the road most traveled. Jesus' question in verse 61 still apply today . . . do His words offend us? In many respects, I feel they should. WHY? His words are always hard, they offend our normal ways of thinking. Do we really want to forgive? Do we really want to love those who offend us? Do we really want to go the extra mile? Do we really want to give and give and give? It is difficult, yet we gain our strength when we draw closer to Jesus. He is the only way for us to survive in this world.

    PRAYER ~ Father, after being on vacation and asking myself some questions, I need to withdraw to be closer to You. To seek Your will, Your plan, Your dreams and vision for me, my family, FBC. Help me to make the time to slow down, to seek you and to experience You. And Lord, I know Your message, the actions You call me to take are never easy, so give me the patience, the wisdom, the courage to do what You call me to do. Amen.

    Friday, November 23, 2007

    Day 5 – John 5

    back in the parking lot to send this last email for the night. I will try to send one tomorrow but may miss a day since we will be at the Huntsville space center most of the day

    SCRIPTURE ~ John 5

    KEY VERSES ~ 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

    OBSERVATIONS ~ This is one of those chapters which is very, very different from other Gospel chapters. We hear of an early miracle, then the chapter turns to a very spiritual, somewhat mystical nature. The healing has an appealing verse in number 6, when Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well?” A question all of us need to answer. When we want to lose weight, quit smoking, drinking, doing something which is harmful, do we really want to be made well? Will we make the sacrifice necessary or continue as is, cursing our own lack of willpower and more importantly, God’s potential power in our lives?

    Secondly, verses 18-19 remind me of the reason why Christ died. He was not what the Jews wanted. He was a nonconformist, a radical who changed the world. He broke the rules which people hold onto which work to hinder, rather than free. Think about healing someone, is it better to heal someone than let them wallow in pain? Just one day sooner of healing is worth it, but not to the Pharisees? And Jesus does whatever the Father does, because of verse 19. Jesus can do nothing by Himself, He can only do whatever He sees the Father doing.

    APPLICATION ~ I ask myself two questions - - 1. What is it I need healing from? How can my life change for the better if I would only (and maybe even dramatically) allow God to take over?

    2. How much am I willing to give of myself, even when others look at me as a nonconformist, radical, rule breaker for Jesus? What does that mean for me and the church? How far do I push the radical message of Jesus? Most Christians don’t really catch how radical Jesus was. He was an extremist, and He made most people He had contact with feel uncomfortable, especially the elite.

    PRAYER ~ God, open my eyes to be able to see the world the way you see the world. Help me to learn Your world and see where you are at work and how I can be part of that. Help me to look for it today in both the big and the small. Forgive me for those times when I live like it is up to me to change the world. It is You, O Lord, who will change the world. May I be a part of bringing change and transformation to the world. Bring into my every second consciousness that you are "always at work . . . even to this very day." Amen

    Blogging Issues

    Hey all - we are somewhere in Lawrence County, at Debbie's cousins for chili and lots of great desserts. Lawrence County is the home of Jesse Owens. Today we played two rounds of football in the cold. It is only 34 degrees here. Played cut throat Uno, I helped Zachary win, he can tell you more about that.

    Visited with family. Debbie's cousin Porter's band has opened for Sugarland and was asked to play at the governor of Alabama's inaugeration.

    Cannot get my flash drive to work in their computer so will try to stop at my site to blog again.

    Until later, blessings,

    Michael

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