Sunday, January 21, 2018

Saturday, January 20, 2018

LOOK, Grandpa, LOOK!

GRANDKIDS LOVE TO GET GRANDPA'S ATTENTION, at least mine do.  Put them in a room with toys or art supplies, or on the trampoline and it will not be long before you hear the command, "Look, grandpa, look!" My suggestion is that you better look soon, or that command will get louder and proceed to come more rapidly.

The truth is we all want someone's attention. It's not enough for you to say, "Yes, I see," those calling for attention want to know that you are actually looking at them. To know someone is looking, watching, paying attention, brings a sense that who we are and what we are doing has worth. Truthfully, it's most likely more important that you're paying attention to them, than to the thing that they are doing.  It's about care, desire and knowing you're not alone in your activity.

Today, I was reading the Book of Psalms and this verse struck me. It is repeated three times within the psalm. In Psalm 80:19 the psalmist writes,

Restore us, LORD God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.  

The act of saving, of restoration, comes as the LORD's face shines on us. His face is turned toward us. He sees us and what we are doing. More directly, in this case, He sees what we need; and what we need saving.

The good news today is that God is looking at us and He is looking at with His love and compassion. He looked at us most specifically in Jesus Christ. I am reminded of God's gracious love in the words written by the Apostle Paul, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this. While we were still sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

God is looking your way. He hears your call. He is paying attention and not because you are shouting His name, but because He loves you and is always looking your way.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

It's a Matter of Focus

LET'S BE HONEST, WE'RE LIVING IN INTERESTING TIMES. Okay, that's a bit of an understatement considering the political wars going on, the hurricanes and earthquakes, the fires and storms. Not to mention the saber-rattling between nations. If you stay up to watch the late-night news there's a good possibility that you will find it difficult to want to get out of bed in the morning.

The truth is we can all feel a little helpless and hopeless in times like these. Is there any hope? Is there a way to gain the strength and focus we need to face the day?  I believe there is.

I was reading in this week's Time Magazine (January 15, 2018) about one man's advice for dealing with the multitude of mayhem that seems to whack us up the side of the head on a daily basis. Dan Harris in his article, "Meditation can help in the era of angry politics" writes some hopeful words and advice in dealing with the anger that fills our daily news cycle. Mr. Harris' answer is to be found in taking some time each day to meditate (he even gives a 3-step process). But where I think he falls short is that the process of meditation is to find the peace we need within ourselves.

He makes no promises. He writes, "I'm not guaranteeing you bulletproof imperturbability, but short daily does can make you meaningfully less likely to do things you will later regret."

My problem with meditation is that the focus is too often on finding that quiet place within ourselves, a place that may be filled with its own demons not only those which attack from the outside.

I would like to suggest that instead of placing our focus upon the limitedness of our inner being, we place it on someone who is not swayed or shaken by the events that plague our daily lives. For millennia the followers of the God introduced to us in the Bible have found their solace, their peace, not in focusing inward, but rather on focusing upward.

The answers are not to be found in the strength of self, but in the strength of the Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself completely for us. It is through the spiritual discipline of prayer that one can find the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-8) The gift of prayer has brought strength and hope, peace and steadfastness to God's people throughout the ages. 

It is in times like these that I am called to remember the words of the Old Testament songwriter,
 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he reaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah 

Monday, January 08, 2018

If It Walks Like A Duck . . .

IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK . . . quacks like a duck . . . it must be a duck, right?

IT'S BEEN A FEW MONTHS since I have stepped away from the senior pastor role at Felton Bible Church. How does it feel? Well, still a little weird. After 40 years of full-time ministry, you can feel a little lost. There has been lots of time to think, and lots of questions to ponder, the main question being; "If you're not being paid to be a pastor, are you still a pastor?"

I mean, what's in a name?  What's in a title? Truthfully, it's hard to say. Honestly, there have been times since leaving Felton Bible that I have felt more "pastoral" than when I was being expected to be the pastor. Like I wrote above, it's "a little weird."

This little blog is nothing profound, nothing really creative, it's just the opportunity to ask the Should I change the name of the blog?" I do have a study at home. Bookshelves, a desk, computer, journal, etc. It's actually quite comfortable. Not to mention there's a fully stocked kitchen down the hall and a bathroom a few steps away, and of course a great bed for taking naps. Yup! Not a bad place to do your work. But is it the "Pastor's Study?"

I may once again be called to serve at a church, but that is yet to be seen. There are times that I will study the Word of God for something other than my daily personal time with the Lord. There will be opportunities to encourage others in their walk with Christ and of course, there is the ongoing ministry of prayer for so many in need. Yup, the work of the pastor continues on. So, I suppose I shall continue to walk like a pastor and "quack" like a pastor, and until someone tells me otherwise, I shall continue living under the call by which the Lord called me.

Therefore, the name of this blog shall continue on. Be sure to check back from time to time and I will do my best to encourage you in your journey in becoming conformed to the image of Christ. And therein is our encouragement for today, not to walk as reflecting the life of this world, but rather reflecting, bearing out, the image of Christ. For it is to this which we have all been called.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30

Monday, July 24, 2017

Nature versus Nurture

THE NATURE v. NURTURE DEBATE is the scientific, cultural, and philosophical debate about whether human culture, behavior, and personality are caused primarily by nature or nurture. Truthfully, I’m not 100% sure on which side of the debate I am. This one thing I know, man and woman, in their basic nature, are sinful and broken (listen to my message, “Foundations: The Human Condition” online at Therefore, it is safe to say that if nature is what causes our development it had better be supplemented by some sort of nurture that can move us from bad to better. I believe that God, His Word, and His church are best suited to move humanity to a more positive state of being.

Here at Felton Bible Church one of our Four Values that helps us strive to meet our Vision and Mission, is that of Nurture (Value of Sanctuary in a previous Shepherd’s Staff) We believe one of the key reasons that the church exists is to help people return to the original plan that God had for them; to be a people created in His Image (Genesis 1:26-27) and to live out His Image in the midst of His creation. This nurture begins as we respond with faith to God’s gift of grace in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. His death and resurrection not only redeem us but also reconcile us to God so that we can represent His love and grace to the world.

Being a place of nurture requires that we create various places of learning, and along with the learning, spaces where people can be touched by the love of God. Nurture is as much about the environment in which you learn as much as it the things you learn. The Apostle Paul admonished Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.(2 Timothy 3:14) And Paul encourages his readers, “Whatever you have learned or received or seen in me--put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.(Philippians 4:9)

Therefore, as we seek to nurture one another in Christ, let us give heed to the words scrolled upon the back wall of our sanctuary, “Speak Truth. Love Well.” As we encourage one another to grow in the truth of God’s Word and to reflect the image of Jesus Christ, let us do so walking side by side, hand in hand encompassed in God’s love.

Monday, July 17, 2017

In the Midst of the Storm

LONDON, JUNE 3, 2017 ANOTHER TERRORIST ATTACK. This attack took place the evening before Linda and I were to spend the day exploring London. Needless to say, we heard from people on both sides of the Atlantic that maybe we should change our plans. But we had traveled too far to do that. We would just be vigilant.

On Sunday morning we left for London, stopping at the beautiful Kew Gardens along the way. Our first stop in London was to participate in the later afternoon Evensong service at Westminster Abbey. Everyone’s bags and backpacks were thoroughly checked before entering the grounds and armed military kept a watchful eye for any trouble. Upon entering the Abbey all things changed; we had truly entered a sanctuary. It was a place that sang of stability and peace, a place of holy welcome. It was a place we needed to be.

Here at Felton Bible Church we have our Vision and Mission Statements (see the previous Shepherd Staff writings) and helping us to meet those lofty goals are four Values which we seek to live by as we work to be the Lord’s faithful church. The first of those Values is our desire to be a place of Sanctuary.

Being a Sanctuary means to be a place of peace and a place of worship. It is a place where one can escape, even if for a little while, from the cacophony of noise that fills our days. We seek to be a place that welcomes all in the Name of Jesus and a place where all can experience God’s love and grace.

Fulfilling this Value of Sanctuary is more than just being a building that looks like a church, and provides a place to worship. Being a place of sanctuary must rise from the hearts of the people who call FBC home. Sanctuary is an attitude of the heart. A place of peace and worship, of welcome and grace means there must be people given to such things.

I invite you to join with me is creating such a place. Let us open our hearts to the sanctuary that the Lord provides and out of that place of heart be a sanctuary for others. For we are the church, the sanctuary of God.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fully Loved

THE COMMAND GIVEN to us by the Lord, was to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)  It is this command that drives our Mission Statement which is, “To love God and to make God’s love known.”

Our Mission Statement’s purpose is to give guidance on how we can reach the Vision Statement which we shared with you in last week’s Shepherd’s Staff: “To see God fully glorified and His kingdom fully realized.” As you can see both our Vision and our Mission Statements have an upward and an outward dimension. Too often a church will find itself stuck in one direction and neglecting the other, this is not what our Lord had in mind.

Our desire here at Felton Bible Church is to be a fellowship of Jesus’ disciples that are lifting our hands in praise to God while at the same time stretching our arms out in need-meeting compassion. Both these actions are indicative of a life that seeks to offer up self-denying love to God and to others.

The prophet Hosea wrote of our God’s heart, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and the acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) The best way we can truly worship God is by obeying that which moves the heart of God; caring for the needs of others. As we love those around us by meeting their needs, whether it’s feeding the hungry or listening to the lonely, we are in a very tangible way offering true worship to God.

So, my friend, what holy work will you undertake to bring forth holy worship to our Lord? How will you put forth outstretched arms so you can lift up holy hands in worship? You see, it’s more than just a Mission Statement to write upon the wall of the church, it is a command to write upon our hearts and our hands to the glory of His Name.