Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Amazing Race of Life

This Sunday, I'm going to start a two week series entitled "The Amazing Race". The Bible uses a number of athletic images to portray our life in Christ. One such image is that of a runner and a race and it is found in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. The Bible is clear, this thing called life is like a race and the race can be long. But, the race should be amazing and we should all look to finish well for Jesus. Sadly, many Christ followers would not categorize their race for Jesus as "amazing". The difficulties that go along with any race claims many along the way and I'm sensing that fewer and fewer Christ followers are finishing well for Jesus in our current culture.

As with any who engage in a race, preparations must be made. How foolish of us to think that we could run this marathon of life without first preparing to do so. For example, if I woke up tomorrow and tried to run 26 miles, I would most likely drop to my knees defeated before I finished that marathon. It's not because I wasn't willing to try but rather, I had not trained or prepared to do so. Sadly, many Christ followers attempt to run the race of life by trying to live for Jesus rather than training to live for Jesus. We must prepare ourselves spiritually to take on the race of life and finish well on a daily basis.

It is also important for a runner to run with purpose and direction. How foolish would a runner look if the starting gun went off and they started running in the wrong direction. A runner knows where the finish line is at and with great aim and precision they work towards that target. It's also very important that every Christ follower understand that they have been fearfully and wonderfully created for a purpose. It's not about you and I, but rather fulfilling God's purpose for our lives as His created. Are you running with purpose or just casually letting the challenges of this world blow you in many directions leaving you confused and discouraged? Know what your Creator wants to accomplish in and through you.

Finally, we must run with passion for the prize. Most runners run so as to win some sort of a prize. They run to get gold medals and advertising deals. These items create great passion within athletes as they want to be the very best at what they compete in. How sad that many Christ followers don't run with passion towards the finish line. Christ has promised to reward those who run a great race for Him. Not a perfect race, but a committed and passionate one where the runner is sold out to finishing well for Jesus and it tangible shows on a regular basis.

I firmly believe that many Christ followers are not experiencing an amazing race in our current culture. We've bought into so many worldly concepts about what brings satisfaction and value that we've lost sight of what Christ has called us to do. My desire as I write this today is to run well the race Christ has set before me by daily training in spiritual activities and running with purpose and passion. I'm not running a perfect race by any means, but I have the finish line in my sight and I know that Jesus is at the finish line. I want to cross that finish line with joy in my heart, not because life was easy, but because I ran well in my Savior who gives me strength and wisdom day by day to handle whatever the course of life throws at me. May your race for Jesus be an amazing one today!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Movin on Up and some Spiritual Lessons

Last week I mentioned that a number of moves took place within my family. I noted that a piano moved into my house, my grandmother moved into a nursing home and my in-laws moved into a new apartment.

I'm thankful for a great relationship with my in-laws and I'm glad they took this step of moving from their home into a brand new apartment complex where they will no longer have all the worries and concerns that go along with home ownership. As I think about the move they just made and the process leading up to it, a few thoughts come to mind.

1) The process of moving helps you clean out. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of stuff we North Americans have the ability to collect. Cleaning out is healthy as it removes unwanted stuff that so often clutters and disorganizes a home. It's a wonderful experience to have the Spirit of God and the Word of God clean us out at times. Isn't it amazing how we have the ability as humans to collect stuff (a.k.a. sin) that clutters our hearts. It isn't always comfortable to have God move us, but the clean out is needed more often than we may like to admit.

2) The process of moving helps you realize how greedy we can be as North Americans. Now don't misunderstand, I'm not stating that owning nice things is evil. But, isn't fascinating that almost immediately after we clean out, we need to start adding to our collection again. Moving has always helped me really think about how much stuff do I need to be happy. It's good to think about at times as we often forget how the majority of the world has nothing and the greed that drives us must be anything but pleasing to God.

3) Movin on Up! My in-laws moved into an apartment complex to the fourth floor. As noted within my previous blog about my grandmother, every year that goes by is another year we all move up one day closer to death. The Bible clearly teaches us that it is appointed unto man to die once and after that judgment. I'm just thankful that for each of us who are in Christ, it truly is a movin on up!

All these moves this past week has me understand yet again just how temporal this journey on earth really is. The days are short and there is much to be done for Christ. May our gracious Lord help each of us stay focused and fulfill the purpose for which He has created you and I!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Dad, A Daughter, A Song and A Tear

On Friday night and Saturday of this past weekend, I spent a wonderful 26 hours with the other girl in my life. That's right... this pastor has two very important ladies he lives with. The first one of course is my lovely wife who I even today enjoy dating and romancing on a somewhat regular basis (always room for more dates). The second lady of my life is my 9 year old daughter. Now I don't get a chance to spend long portions of uninterrupted time with her as like most families we go hard all week with our busy schedules. But this weekend was different!

This weekend, Emma (my daughter) and I went up to Camp Conquest for their Father/Daughter weekend. Now I will be the first to confess that my idea of fun does not include camp or sharing a bunkhouse with 17 other guys. When I as the camp rookie get handed a pair of brand new ear plugs (I was offered used ones too...) by a merciful man, I know it's going to be a long night. It was!!! I never knew that much noise could come out of 18 sleeping men. Between the talking in their sleep, snoring and the many contraptions used to help reduce snoring, I'm sure we kept the wooded animals awake for most of the evening.

But, even with all that, my weekend was a blessing to my heart. The one on one time I enjoyed with my daughter playing games, shooting rifles, doing crafts, decorating cakes and eating meals cannot be adequately described with words. The best meal we enjoyed together was a candlelit dinner for two in the camp dining hall. We both dressed up and through the pouring rain headed off to our quiet dinner where I gave my daughter flowers and she gave me a card that melted my heart.

As great as all that was, the highlight for me was the hour of karaoke we had. To see the 39 girls singing their hearts out was a blast. But, the leader socked us dads with one at the end. We together as men would sing a song to our daughters (karaoke style) and he picked Butterfly Kisses. (Click on the song to see the lyrics) As soon as I knew what song he had picked, I knew I was done for. I tear up when my little girl isn't even with me, let alone cuddled up in my arms when that song plays. Now I know that us guys are supposed to be tough and macho, and I bit my tongue hard to hold back the tears, but by the time we got to the part of the song about giving her away on her wedding day, the tears were flowing. Thank the Lord there were other men casually wiping their eyes as well as I didn't want to be the only wimp in the place.

I'm still not a big fan of camping, but I left that 26 hours with my daughter and thanked God the whole way home for the joy of getting to raise a little girl. Emma, you have a special place in my heart and you will always be my princess no matter how old you get! I Love You!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

One Final Move

On Monday, my parents had the job of moving my grandmother into a nursing home. As grandma has moved up into her 90's, the aging process has been evident these past few years as she has gone from independent living to needing day to day care. Over the past 18 months she has gone from living in an apartment on her own, to a few month stay in the hospital because of a fall, to a semi-independent living arrangement to the nursing home with full time care.

The emotions that go along with all these moves has been huge in that Hebrews 9:27 becomes more of a reality as the years go by and both individuals and families are faced with the reality of aging and death. The wages of sin is indeed physical death and families every single day around the world stand at the graves of loved ones. Until the return of Jesus, one profession that will always have work is that of the funeral director.

Now, odds are good that this was grandma's last move here on earth and to a certain extent there is sadness in that. But, here is the wonderful truth of God's Word that my family and I are resting in very comfortably. Most likely, the next move grandma makes is from that nursing home into the presence of Jesus. (See 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10, Philippians 1:21-24) No U-haul will be needed as our glorious Savior has made all the arrangements through His death and resurrection. The debt of sin has been paid by Jesus (See Romans 3:23, 6:23, 10:9-10, 13, John 14:1-6)and when grandma closes her eyes one last time here on this earth they will open to gaze into the face of her Savior that she has put her trust in for salvation and has faithfully loved and served for 90+ years.

Please understand that I'm in no hurry to see her leave this earth, but the reality of this most likely being her last move here on earth cannot be denied. But praise God that through the emotions of all this, my entire family has a HOPE that cannot be shattered or shaken. (See 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 8:18-39) For any who may be following my life journey through this blog, my honest prayer is that you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior so that your final move from this old earth into eternity is one that is filled with hope and assurance. If you find yourself full of only fear and uncertainty when thinking about your final move, I would love the opportunity to dialogue with you about Jesus who longs for every human being to see their final move into eternity firmly secured in Him and Him alone. You can contact me at

I know the day will come when I have to preach grandma's funeral, but amongst the tears there will be joy in knowing she finished well for her Savior whose presence she will spend eternity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Expedition, U-Haul and Memories

This morning I sit and look at a piano sitting beside my sofa where once a book shelf sat just a short week ago. It all began months ago when I learned that Susan's parents were moving and that we were getting the piano she had grown up with. I must confess that my enthusiasm levels were not as high as hers as I've moved piano's before (even little ones like this). Moving a piano ranks right up there with moving a sleeper sofa. My back aches just talking about it!

But... because we're in this thing called life together, we borrowed an Expedition from some good friends with a hitch, visited the ever trustworthy U-Haul (we only got bumped to a new location within the county once and the tires were only half worn this time), got the dog into the kennel and headed out onto the PA turnpike to begin the piano moving adventure.

Now I must confess yet another item of the heart. As the journey towards Altoona began, I noted that the traffic was busier than normal only to find out that it was Homecoming weekend at Penn State which left in me less that a great mood. But I did come to find out that if you want to change lanes with a large U-Haul trailer in tow, people move for you. I also enjoyed arriving in Altoona to find out that their football team was playing State College in the big Friday night game which also had tremendous crowds in the area. By the way... her parents and the piano live right across the field from the football stadium and their street becomes a virtual parking garage. Thus me moving the U-Haul into their yard by hand was nothing but joyful even though my large coffee from Sheetz had hit almost an hour earlier.

But here is the good news! The rest of the weekend went wonderfully. The piano move went without a glitch (for the most part) and we arrived safely home and have a wonderful family item sitting in our family room that carries many wonderful family memories for Susan.

As the weekend wrapped up and the Tylenol kicked in for my sore back, I took a moment to give thanks unto God for our family. Both Susan and I have a wonderful God honoring heritage for which I am very grateful. This piano is more than just an item, it represents the many memories Susan has of her mother and father practicing and preparing for the many ways they used the gift of music to serve within their local church for many years. It represents the times she shared with her mother as she practiced and learned to play the piano. It represents hours of family sitting around and singing and laughing together.

Now I have no desire to move a piano across the state any time soon, but I'm already grateful that it has become the place where my daughter practices her flute with Susan playing the piano at her side. My desire is that it becomes a place where new memories are created for my kids as the years go by even though it creates some interesting looks upon the dogs face as the music flows. But even that has provided the family with some good laughs in just a few short days! I wonder if my daughter's husband 30 years from now will lament in a blog about me when I give the piano to them because I ain't moving it again...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Moving, In-Laws, A Piano and 1 Timothy

My desire this week is to really return to the world of blogging and continue to capture my many thoughts "en route" for God as it is turning out to be an interesting week of sorts within my extended family.

This week has and will see a number of moves that impact my family and show forth the faithfulness of God through the seasons of life. Within a five day span, a piano has moved across the state, my in-laws will move out of their home of 40+ years and my grandmother in her 90's will most likely be making her last move before going home to glory. All these moves have sparked a number of memories and emotions that I will seek to capture through my blog this week. Even though these moves are all very different, I have a confidence that there will be one common thread that will be woven through each experience. I am sure that the common thread will be the gracious and faithful hand of God in each and every detail. His goodness, grace and mercy will most definitely be seen and experienced within the lives of His children through this week of transition.

My desire is also to share a few thoughts on my journey through the Pastoral letters. I've really gotten hung up on the 1st chapter of 1 Timothy as it is full and rich with much to ponder.

It's going to be an interesting few days amongst all the other "normal activities" that go into an Auld week, but I have no doubt some life lessons will be captured and stored away in my heart for future use as I get the updates on all these moves!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Canadian elections, Gaither's and King Jesus

This past week was one that had me reflecting on my Canadian citizenship. I'm sure it had something to do with a visit from my brother who currently lives in Niagara Falls, Canadian Thanksgiving (this past Monday) and the Federal election that just happened on Tuesday.

Last night after a long day, it was fun to come home and not turn on CNN to see what the latest news is relating to McCain and Obama. I went straight to and begin to track the election results that started rolling in at 10:00 PM EST. In Canada, we have a parliament that consists of 308 seats in the House of Commons. Whenever a federal election is called, parliament is dissolved and the campaigning process begins. Now both are strong democracies where the people's voice determines who will govern, but there are many differences between a U.S. and Canadian election.

One difference is that people vote for an individual who represents their party in their particular riding (There are 308 riding's that represent the 308 seats in the House). You don't vote for the actual Prime Minister on your ballot. There are five major parties in Canada and if your party receives the most votes, that parties leader becomes the Canadian Prime Minister. This federal election saw Mr. Stephen Harper become Prime Minister once again with his Conservative Party winning 143 out of the 308 seats which gives him what is called a minority government.

One of the other huge differences is the length of the Canadian federal campaign. In this particular election, I believe the campaign trail only lasted 37 days. It's an intense 37 days and there are only 33 million people in Canada to be reached versus 300 million in the U.S., but the airwaves aren't littered for literally years of campaigning before the current administration is even close to being done. That's refreshing!!!

Although there are differences, I was glad the Conservative Party of Canada won (they are like the Republican Party in many respects) and I'm glad the U.S. elections are just a few short weeks away. BUT... the thing I was most thankful for last evening as my head hit the pillow is that my true citizenship is in heaven with a Sovereign God who is in complete control of our world. I have the utmost respect for the office of the President and Prime Minister, but I have a love and devotion towards the ultimate King of Kings and Lord of Lords that I'll never feel towards a human ruler. I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God (sounds like a Gaither song coming...) where there will be no elections in eternity. King Jesus is on the throne for good!!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crazy Dog, Family Time and Rest

It's Thanksgiving in Canada today, so this morning I gave a great big thank you to God for my family and the fun times we have together. This past weekend, my family and I enjoyed a visit from my brother, his wife and daughter from Canada. There was a lot of laughter and fun outside as the weather was summer like to say the least. One of the highlights of the weekend was to watch my children interact with our crazy English Springer Spaniel.

Now I must confess that this my dog brings me more frustration than joy as of late with his every increasing runs into the corn field behind my house only to pop out a block away 10 minutes later. But, one of the things we love to do with Tucker (our dog) is play sports with him. Last night, under the lights (the spot on the back of our house) the football game got rolling. It was Tucker and I against Josh (my son). What joy I had to watch Josh and Tucker running, laughing and rolling through the grass having the time of their life. It was also a great joy to watch Emma (my daughter) and her cousin Rachel jumping up and down on the trampoline cheering the boys on while also laughing at the antics of our dog.

The other game we enjoy is keep away with our dog. We all get to different points of the backyard with a soccer ball and pass the ball around keeping it away from Tucker. The fun part comes when Tucker actually gets the ball and then we have to catch him. But I do believe the family laughs hardest when dad is chasing the dog and the dew on the ground causes him to stretch and fall in ways that just isn't normal. That's when the roars of laughter (especially from my wife Susan) really light up the neighborhood.

But here is the best part about hanging out with my family (dog included). By the time we all go in, everyone is tired. There is nothing more rewarding than watching my dog fall to the ground in exhaustion knowing full well he and the kids will sleep heavy. This means dad gets to sleep and rest well too! Maybe that's why I'm so thankful this morning!?!?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Stop with the Economic Blues... Jesus is My Hope!

It has finally happened... I hit a point this morning where I turned off the news in absolute disgust as I'm tired of all the doom and gloom that comes across the airwaves. The doom and gloom is of course related to the rapidly declining global and national markets.

BUT... here is what really has me frustrated... Christ followers who can utter nothing but doom and gloom because of the economic crisis. Now some may take offense to this, but have we become so comfortable with credit and instant gratification as even Christ followers that when the economy takes a down turn we lose hope and faith. I recognize that some tough days are here and may be coming for many people and even local churches, but where's the hope and joy that should be in all of us as Christ followers even in the most difficult of times.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I've begun very slowing chewing on the words of the Pastoral letters. I'm still sitting in 1 Timothy 1:1-2 thinking about the hope I have in Christ Jesus. As I think about Paul and the early church, they knew what financial instability was all about. It was not uncommon for Christ followers in the early church to lose everything because of their faith in Christ, yet Paul sees his blessed Savior as nothing less than his very real hope.

As I dug deeper, I was reminded that hope in the Bible express absolute certainty about something and not a mere wish. As I perused through the pastoral letters, I came across Titus 2:11-14 (emphasis on v13). It states that we are to live self controlled and upright lives in this present age while we wait for the "blessed hope". (see also 1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 4:1) I believe with all my heart that Paul lived day by day with the absolute certainty that the best was yet to come in that Jesus His Savior was coming again. Paul lived out his days with an eternal focus which brought the temporal (i.e. economic downturns) into focus.

I'm thankful for the reminder that JESUS CHRIST IS MY HOPE and not the economy. I've learned again this morning that spending more time watching the doom and gloom report of the news creates within me a temporal focus. When I get into the Word and read that Jesus is my hope, certainty and future, the temporal begins to fade in comparison to His glorious grace, mercy and peace that is mine in God the Father and Christ Jesus my Lord (1 Timothy 1:2).

So... I'm done whining and listening to others whine about the economy. I'm not going to put my head in the sand and pretend that there aren't concerns, but as with all concerns, I lay them at the feet of my Savior and rest in the Blessed Hope I have in Him.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Journey into the Pastoral Letters

I'm desirous as of late to return to the letters of Timothy and Titus for my own personal time in the Word. They are three books of the Bible that are familiar to me, but it's time to let the truth of these letters soak in once again as I ruminate on them for the next little while.

My reason for heading back to these letters is that they are "pastoral" in nature. They are letters of truth written to provide those giving leadership in the church wisdom and focus as they lead the people of God. I also love the intimate and personal nature of these letters. We catch glimpses into the heart of Paul (especially in 2 Timothy) as he prepares to pass the torch onto the next generation of shepherds (a.k.a. elders/pastors). Paul would have been a terrific mentor and I'm believing that this current journey through the pastoral epistles will be like having Paul as a mentor almost 2000 years later.

I share all this as I am desirous to log my journey through the pastoral epistles here on my blog. It won't consume every post, but I am looking to share some of the lessons of the heart I believe God will teach me while ruminating in these letters at this particular season of life. Looking forward to this journey!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Launch into the World of 3 Services

Last night (Saturday) I did something I hadn't done for a while as a pastor. I laid awake from 2:30 -4:30 AM thinking through the launch into three services here at Grace Church and all the logistics we have worked so hard to put into place. The staff at Grace has worked months and months in preparation for this big day. Their hard work is evident in that the morning thus far has gone off with nothing more than a few bumps. All in all, it's been a wonderful launch into the world of three services.

Here are three things that I'm most thankful for this morning:

1) I'm thankful that God has allowed me to be a part of a church that has a need for three services. In a culture where many churches are declining in numbers, God continues to transform lives through the faithful teaching of His Word, wonderful times of worship and creativity which is leading to consistent growth patterns here at Grace. What a joy to be used by God here!

2) I'm thankful for hundreds of volunteers that made this morning a success. As the one giving leadership to many of the logistics that go into adding a service, I am so grateful for the people of Grace who have flexed, transitioned and rolled up their sleeves to make transitioning into three services a reality. They've been great and I know God will continue to bless their service here within our ministry. We could not do what we do on a weekly basis without our volunteers!

3) I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve with a great team every single day of my life. The staff of Grace church is incredible. Their willingness to sacrifice and pour themselves into the commitment that adding a service takes can not be underestimated. Their gifts, skills and passion to meet and move people for Christ is contagious and I'm blessed to do life and ministry together with them.

I believe with all my heart it is only a short period of time before we see three services full. I believe this because we serve an awesome God who loves to meet and move people unto Himself, we have devoted volunteers and a fantastically gifted staff who are pouring themselves into this ministry. It's a good day!!!