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.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Feeling Like Jesus

TRULY, NO ONE CAN FEEL LIKE JESUS, at least not in the fullest extent. But, during our week of Vacation Bible School I got a sense of what He just might have felt . . . at least in part.

My key responsibility during VBS was to teach the Word of God to a wide age group of kids (and of course the adults in the room as well.) Telling Bible stories, especially well known ones, seems like an easy enough task, but teaching them to such a wide variety of ages, keeping them connected and interested and helping them to grab the vital truths about God, is not all that easy as I find out each year. (Nope, it doesn’t necessarily get easier with practice.)

In that teaching responsibility I get a sense, at least a little bit, of what Jesus felt teaching the masses. Yes, I know He is perfect and so it would be all well, but He did face an audience made up of all kinds of people, not least of those who would choose not to believe. I wonder if He wondered how many were really following His thoughts or were just coming for the punch and cookies, or in His case the loaves and fishes. I’m sure it troubled His heart from time to time, and I suppose it also troubles His heart today when He knows that not all will respond favorably to His Word.

There is one time each VBS that I truly feel I am getting a sense of how Jesus felt and that is when we call the children up front who that day made a decision to trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior. There is nothing quite like sitting on the steps of the stage and being surrounded by scores of smiling faces. This year I was blessed to sit amongst 114 new believers. Kids from Pre-Kindergarten through 6th grade made their way up front to say that they had chosen to follow Jesus. To sit with them at my knee and to pray one more time is truly one of the great blessings of my pastoral work.

Looking back over that special time I always think of Jesus’ command of letting the little ones come to HIm and hinder them not. What a blessing to sit at the feet of Jesus and receive His welcome, His blessing, His love.

Here is something we all need to realize, we are all children before the Lord. He calls all of us to come. He welcomes all who come. He blesses all who come. He loves all who come. Here’s my question for you today, “Have you come to the feet of Jesus?” There’s plenty of room for all. If you have yet given up childlike faith I encourage you today to do so. Lay aside all excuses and all fears, and just like those VBS kids, come and meet with Jesus. He is waiting for you!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Seeing Well

VISION IS BEING ABLE TO SEE WELL. The Scripture, Proverbs 29:18, “Without a vision the people perish . . .”  is often quoted when a person is going to talk about having a vision for the church. But the second half of the Proverb is often left unstated, “but he that keeps the Law, happy is he.” (KJV)

The key to having vision is keeping the Law of the LORD. What is that Law? Well, one could look to the Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus 20 and all the regulations which follow, or one could simply look to Jesus’ summation of the Law in Matthew 22:37-40, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Here at Felton Bible Church we seek to maintain a Vision Statement and a Mission Statement, followed by a set of four Values. In this edition of the Shepherd’s Staff I would like to remind you of the Vision, Mission and Values which we seek to uphold here at FBC, that which must drive all that we do.

Our Vision Statement reads as follows, “To see God fully glorified and His Kingdom fully realized.” This vision empowers our Mission Statement which is, “To love God and to make God’s love known.” Both our vision and our mission seek to fulfill the commands to love God with all that we are and have and to love our neighbor. These two driving forces also lead us as we seek to uphold our Values of being a place of Sanctuary, Nurture, Gratitude and Hope.

Over the next few Sundays I will be addressing our Vision, Mission, and Values Statements within the Shepherd’s Staff. As we prepare ourselves to receive the new shepherd that God has for us it is imperative that we keep these driving forces in mind. May God give us the wisdom and strength to move forward in seeing Him glorified in all ways and at all times.

Monday, June 19, 2017


C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-I-O-N!  We’re going to celebrate and have a good time. That’s just what we did for the past week at Vacation Bible School 2017. From music to crafts to playing games and learning about how planting trees is saving lives and saving souls, from lessons from God’s Word and the Neighborhood Kids, we all celebrated the life that God gives us. Let’s face it putting 250+ kids and 115+ staff together is going to lead to a time of celebration and celebrate we did!

We lived this past week by the reality of the resurrection of Jesus and by the command to “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again we say, REJOICE!” (Philippians 4:4) we discovered that God gives us so much to celebrate, most of all that we can have new life in Jesus Christ. So new it’s referred to as being “born again.” (John 3:1-21) What the kids learned this past week is a lesson that we all need to hear and respond to, just as they did.  It is the Gospel message about the life saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and how through believing and trusting in Him we can have new life, eternal life, life in abundance. (John 10:10)

In this life that God has granted us we have so much to celebrate. Our new life is Christ, our family and friends, the church as the Body of Christ. We have peace in the midst of turmoil and joy in the midst of sorrow. All these are gifts from our loving heavenly Father. The life He gives is not only about eternal life, but about life in the here and now. It is life that is lived in light of the promise of heaven. It is a life that is secured in Jesus, and which bears out in hope in the everydayness of our lives.

Take a moment and contemplate the life that God gives you in Christ. Think about the richness of this life. Dwell on the love of God that enfolds you and celebrate!

Come on, CELEBRATE!!!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Gathered to Go Forth

THE CONGREGATION HAS ASSEMBLED. At Westminster Abbey the sacred space is still, save the airy notes of the pipe organ. The soaring arches, accented by glorious stained glass windows, draws the worshipper heavenward. The vastness of this holy hall all but swallowed up those gathered for Evensong.

Pentecost Sunday. People from many nations, tribes and tongues are present to hear the gospel of hope proclaimed. Through song and sacred Scripture, through banners and proclamation, the message is clear; because Jesus is the hope of the nations we are gathered to go forth. It is a message that echoed that one given on Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ two thousand years ago.

Now, as then, those gathered needed hope. In London, just down the street from Westminster Abbey, yet another terrorist attack had traumatized the people. We sought solace amidst the the strong walls of this historic place of worship.

While worshipping I realized that many who found themselves in this sacred place had no idea of what was taking place around them through the liturgy of this ancient church. To them, it was some other worldly pageant put on for those seeking to take in the sights of London. Like those gathered to the words of the Apostle Peter on that Pentecost centuries ago they missed the deeper reality of the message proclaimed; not the unintelligible words of drunken men, but the redemptive message of new spirit-filled saints.

At the conclusion of the afternoon’s service the vicar sent us forth with the challenge to be the church bringing the message of hope to a hopeless world. I could only pray that some heard with the ears of their heart the proclamation and promise of the Hope of the world.

May we answer the call and be the church sent forth.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Everything's Ducky

AFTER ONE OF OUR RECENT SPRING RAINS I noticed two mallards walking down our street, a male and a female. The female was searching the muddy puddles for a morning meal while her faithful partner stood by vigilantly.  As she moved from puddle to puddle he would waddle a few feet away always casting an eye for any hint of danger. It was only when he was sure of her safety that he ventured to scoop through the murky waters with her.

I watched my two feathered friends for quite awhile as they worked their dance of eating and protecting. It was only as the sound of an approaching car was heard that they made their way around the bend and down the street to a safer spot.

The protective relationship exhibited by Mr. Duck, brings to my mind the words of the psalmist found in Psalm 91:1-4. He writes,

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
They say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.
Surely He will save you
from the fowler’s snare
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Our God is the God who is with us. He is the God who stands by our side. He promises never to leave us, never to forsake us and in Him we can find our shalom.

My pray for you this day is that you would know the peace of the God that surpasses all understanding, and will live in the awareness that His peace shall guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Monday, May 08, 2017

They Can Kill You!

MEDICATIONS ARE MEANT TO HELP, until you read the small print. If it wasn’t so scary I would find advertisements for medications quite humorous. Meds for heart problems can give you heart attacks. Meds for intestinal ailments can bring about cramping and diarrhea. If you have asthma you can take a pill to help you breathe, but the side effects can cause seizures. These medications can help, but they can also hurt.  It really makes you wonder.

I realize that the drug companies need to cover themselves from lawsuits, etc. but wouldn’t it be great if these drugs that were meant to bring us relief would do so without the threat of death? The promise of life is not life at all. I suppose, when you think about it, this is true for some many things in life. The tool or toy, if not handled carefully, can bring harm to the user. And let’s not forget food. That diet drink you’re drinking to cut calories can give you cancer. Yikes! The stuff out there to help you can kill you.

Too often we see God’s Word that way. We see it as putting chains upon us. Directing our lives into places that will take our freedom away. His Word can make us feel guilty and can give us the sense of not being able to measure up. But, that’s not the way God’s Word is. It is meant to bring us life, not death.  God’s Word is to bring us to the good, not to the grave. Consider Moses’ words to the Children of Israel just shortly before his death.

Moses came with Joshua son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. When Moses finished reciting all these words to Israel, he said to them, ‘Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you -- they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing this Jordan to possess.’” (Deuteronomy 32:44-47)

God’s Word is life. Yes, it may be a hard pill to swallow at times, but when taken regularly and faithfully they do not bring harm, but healing. Hey are for our good and His glory.

Therefore, I encourage you to take of them daily, take the full dose and receive the life that they are designed to give. As the writer of Proverbs wrote, “Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to all who find them and health to one’s body.”  (Proverbs 4:21-22)

Monday, May 01, 2017

A Blessing

AT THE END OF MOST OF OUR MORNING WORSHIP SERVICES we offer a benediction, a blessing to all as they leave the service and head back out to the “real world.” A blessing is something that we all need on a continual basis, and thankfully our God is a God of blessing.

He blesses us with that which we need, and often He’ll bless us with a few things we didn’t know that we needed, like trials. I was reading Oswald Chambers this morning, a little piece he wrote on the place of peace in our lives. He wrote, “we would never know the ‘treasure of darkness’ if we were all in the place of placid security.” (The Philosophy of Sin, Discovery House Publishers) The ‘treasure of darkness’ does not sound like a place I would desire to be, but without those dark times, we would not know the true and abiding peace that the Lord brings during those time. Jesus said we would have trouble in this world, but that He has overcome the world, so that we can have peace in Him. In the place of the unknown, it brings peace knowing that we are known and cared for by our gracious God.

Blessing is important, and not only from God, but from each other. We have been blessed in order to be a blessing. Our blessings come from the words we not only pray for others, but the words we speak over others. When is the last time you pulled your child aside, or a brother or sister in Christ, or a spouse and in their presence spoke a blessing over them?  I know this can sound like a scary proposition, but this blessing can truly lift a person up and help them to find peace and comfort.

The Lord said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) Giving a blessing can instill peace, it makes you a peacemaker, the very thing that the Lord called you to be. This is one of the reasons we offer a benediction at the end of our worship service, to bring peace.  With that in mind I would like to speak a blessing over you today. This blessing comes from a  prayer found in the Common Book of Prayer (from the Church of India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka) . The author writes,

May the cross of our Risen and Conquering Savior, which is mightier than all the hosts of Satan and more glorious than all the hosts of heaven, abide with you in your going out and your coming in. By day and night, at morning and at evening, at all times and in all places may it protect and defend you. From the wrath of evildoers, from the assaults of evil spirits, from foes visible and invisible, from the snares of the devil, from all passions that beguile the soul and body: may it guard, protect and deliver you. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be upon you, and remain with you forever. Amen.

May you go forth to be a blessing. Blessing in the holy Name of our God, and may you know His peace as you seek to bless others.

THIS PAST CHRISTMAS Linda gave me the gift of having my DNA analyzed through It was something I had desired to do since I heard of the process of checking your family roots. My mom always told me that my heritage was rooted in Ukraine and that on my dad’s side in Prussia. Sadly, Prussia, as a country, doesn’t exist anymore and the family records only go back to my grandparents. As far as I was concerned my roots were pretty shallow.

The idea of having my DNA checked struck me as pretty cool. A little spit in a plastic tube, put it in a special mailing envelope and in six weeks my history would unfold before me.

So I waited . . .

Then the day came when I received the results, complete with colored charts and graphs. The results? Not too surprising . . . my folks had it nailed down pretty well. I am Eastern European. I was hoping for some sort of exotic results, like I was Jewish or Hawaiian, but alas, my roots are firmly planted in Eastern Europe.

As I have pondered the results and gone over the charts I have been brought to the thought that the most important part of my heritage is not where I have come from, but rather where I am and where I can help my family go. As I write this I can look up and see a picture of my family. We hail from America, Bolivia and Burkina Faso. Three generations, an international mix, quite a lovely picture. I realize that my responsibility is not so much living up to my past, but preparing my family for the future. Specifically, that they know and follow Jesus Christ and that their homes are made secure in His love and grace.

History is important, it can give us a sense of rootedness to the past, but the roots we are nourishing now are much more vital. As a father and grandfather, how am I developing an environment that provides a rich soil in which my family can thrive? That is the question that must drive me today.

Providing a garden of God’s love, joy, hope and peace where there is security to grow as God designs. That’s this gardener's job.

How does your garden grow?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Loose Change

LINDA’S DAD WOULD PLAY A GAME with the kids and grandkids where he would rattle the loose change in pockets and would challenge the kids to guess how much. The one closest to the amount got the money held in his pockets. He would often give each one hints like, “too much” or “too little” in order to help them narrow down the amount, often to the penny. It was great fun and sometimes yielded a goodly amount of money.

This kind of change we all welcome. It’s change wherein we can assume a benefit. But too often in our lives the change which lays hidden is a frightful thing.  We don’t know what the outcome will be.  Will it be too much or too little? Will it bring growth or loss? That’s the way it is with change, there are just some things we do not know.

There are times when change happens all at once, the earthquake that can disrupt the whole of our lives. Sometimes it comes in incremental steps, getting us ready for new life, like the arrival of a child or grandchild. There are times that change just affects our preferences, like the style of music in a worship service, and there are times when the change affects our foundations, like the loss of a job or loved one. One thing is sure, just like grandpa’s pockets, change is inevitable.

Now, here’s the good news, in spite of all the change in our lives, our God does not change. The Holy Scriptures tell us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change.” (James 1:17) And again, “I the LORD do not change.” (Malachi 3:16) And, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

If we have a powerful and loving God who does not change, neither does His love, grace and mercy. He is the One who promises never to leave us nor forsake us. I personally find comfort in King David’s words to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)

God, our God, will never fail us, no matter if the change is little or much. Maybe it’s better just to receive the change from His gracious and deep pockets and count it a blessing.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sweet, Sweet Savor

ONE OF MY FAVORITE SMELLS is that of a baby that has just been bathed with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. I love to hold the tiny one, put my nose to their little head and breathe deeply. It’s the aroma of clean, of newness. I love it.

On this Resurrection Sunday we celebrate the newness of life. The sweet savor that not only fills the air, but fills the heart as well. I wonder what aroma followed the women as they made their way to the tomb with spices in hand to finish the burial process of their Lord and friend, Jesus? Were their minds taken back to other anointings, other deaths? Would these aromas remain with them throughout the day, throughout their lives to remind them of this horrendous death?

As they enter the garden where the tomb was hewn, what early spring, dew-drenched smells invaded their senses?  Were they aware at all, too overcome by the grief of the day? One can only imagine.

But what change overwhelmed all of their senses when they arrived at the empty tomb? Questions. Fear. Doubt. Wonder. What fresh aroma greeted them, the aroma of life, of a world forever changed. The spices they carried no longer filled them with the dread of death, but now filled them with the newness of life. The fragrances they now possessed became a bouquet that would forever remind them of the miracle of a resurrected life.

What aroma draws you to life? Is it the smell of your favorite meal being prepared? Is the bouquet of scents that fills your head as you stroll through a rain-washed redwood forest? Or is it the clean head of a newly bathed baby? This year as you move through life, take time to savor the sweet aromas of life, and let them bring to you the reality of the Resurrection, the assurance of new life. For Jesus is risen and new life abounds offered to all who would believe and receive. Because Jesus lives we too can live and know life to it’s fullest. (John 10:10)

Believe! Receive! Breathe deeply! For He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Monday, April 03, 2017


IF CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS, then the home I grew up in was near the throne room of God. Seriously, our home was in a constant state of being cleaned, not that it ever had time enough to get dirty! Whether it was dusting behind the couch in the living room, or combing the fringe on the rug in the dining room, or straightening the closets, we were always cleaning something. If not the house then on your person. Washing behind your ears, combing your hair or tucking in your shirt. Yup, God was pretty close by.

My mom had a plan and being spotless was on the top of the list. The only real problem was with me, I was anything but spotless. My mantra? “Outta sight, outta mind.” If you doubted that all you need do was check under my bed. Empty space was meant for collecting stuff, just check out my garage today!

I guess my mom and Jesus had something in common, they’re always cleaning up someone else’s problems.

Case in point. Remember one of Jesus’ last evenings with His disciples? (John 13) Jesus enters the room where the meal is to be served and instead of sitting down to be served, He strips down and takes the role of the servant and washes His disciple’s feet. He had the right just to sit down, maybe even to be lost in the contemplation of His coming death, but rather than think of self, he thought of others and their need to be clean. Of course with Jesus every act is a lesson for action. Jesus said to them, “You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you,” (John 13:12-15)

The truth is we are all dirty, marked with that spot of sin that soon encompasses the whole of our being. It was for this reason that Jesus came, to remove that stain of sin, to wash us white as snow. As the prophet Isaiah records, “‘Come, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” (Isaiah 1:18)

All the way to the Cross Jesus was at the work of cleaning up the messes of our lives. Whether those messes be a broken body or a broken spirit, Jesus was at the work of cleaning. And He still is at that work. The work of the spotless lamb of God sacrificing His precious, sinless life in order to bring us spotless before our heavenly Father. The work completed on the Cross still washes us clean today.

Years ago a good friend of mine penned a song that has stuck with me to this day,

Come on down to the river
Jesus is a-washin’ us up.
We all go down dirty in the sweet living water,
And we’re clean when we come back up.

Do you need that cleaning today? Come to Jesus and let Him wash you head to toe.

The Groaning Ginkgo

OUTSIDE OUR KITCHEN WINDOW we have a very nice ginkgo tree. We love the tree. In the late spring we relish it’s effervescent green leaves. The the summer we welcome the dappled shadows it throws upon the ground. In the fall our eyes are overwhelmed by the bright yellow leaves that seem to be dancing in sunlight. Even in the winter its barren branches draw us to gaze heavenward. But now, in the early spring we can almost hear it groaning as it pushes forth its leaves. I can hear it say, “Ugh this is hard work, but it’s what I am created to do, so push forth I must!”

The Christian life has its seasons as well, each one of them important to fulfilling that for which we are created. We have our summers full of life and our fall season that glimmers with the hope of the year to come. We have our winters, too. Times for rest and reflection. Then comes the spring, that time of new growth, a time of pushing once again, of straining from our core. It is at these times we can often wonder if it is worth it. After all, there is something comfortable about the restful sleep of winter. But, winter is not where we are called to live.

God has created us not for the winter. As purposeful as that time may be, He has called us for the fruit producing season of summer and fall; and spring is the process by which we get there. Even with all its groaning.

I don’t know what season you may find yourself in today, but remember God has called you to fruitfulness, to be found in the fullness for which we were created. So, bloom on dear friend, even if it takes a little grunting and groaning. Know that as you push through, once again living forth as God designed, you shall be a blessing to all, reflecting His glory.

So, let us grow!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Riotous Reconciliation

IT WAS 1965 AND I WAS TEN. It was a typical summer night at my suburban Orange County home. Our family’s store, (think RiteAid) was about a 30 minute drive from our home, but socially it was decades behind, and that hot summer night the flames of the infamous Watts’ Riots were roaring too close for comfort. I remember the night that my dad got the call that rioters were marching in front of the store. I remember my dad and brother jumping in the truck and heading out to see what they could do to avert too much damage. It was a scary time for all.

From as early as I can remember I was taught that skin color and social ranking were not to be markers of a person’s worth. My dad lived-out that teaching everyday as he opened the doors of his store on Compton Ave. That night in August, 1965, my dad’s faith in the goodness of people, no matter their race or social status, would be put to the test.

Upon driving up to the store my dad and brother found a number of black men with guns at the ready. An even greater dismay occurred when my dad recognised that these were his regular customers, people he had befriended with free items when they were in need. Angered, he jumped from his truck, pistol in hand. As he approached the men they yelled to him, “Mr. Bob! Mr. Bob! Don’t you worry, nobody is going to touch your store. We’re here to protect it!” And protect it they did. The businesses on either side of our store were burned-out, but ours remained untouched.

It was in the midst of the riot that the true nature of people was released. Yes, some rose to cause damage and hurt, be they white or black, and yet others rose-up to show that the color of one’s skin was not to be the determining mark of one’s heart.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are in a riot zone. But we are not called to be rioters, fighting for what we think are our rights, but rather reconcilers, living for what is truth. In the Scriptures we read, “And God reconciled us to Himself through Christ Jesus and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ,  not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)  

Let us all then live out the reconciling reconciled life everyday in everyway.