August 14, 2020

How Can I be Okay?

 Preface: This isn't "writing" per se, this is the first of three posts that will be lesson outlines from the VBS our church is conducting this week. The titles are, Where Did I Come From?, Am I Important, and How Can I Be Okay? My hope in sharing is that if you work with kids, or simply are interested in answering these questions for yourself, you will be edified.


How Can I Be Okay?


Gold bean bag

  • Do you ever feel broken? Like something inside of you just isn’t right? 

  • The last couple of days the kids have been working on a verse, Gen 1:1, In the beginning, God created…

  • The Bible starts not with people, not with some slog beginning with an immense hydrogen explosion, but with God. A speaking God. A God who speaks life into being

  • What did God call his creation? Very good (v31)

  • Part of that very good creation was an image-bearer: people

    • Kids, who made everything? God!

    • So, who made you? God!

    • So, who’s the boss? God is!

  • Right, God is the boss. And he gave people a job: take care of creation, and reflect what God is like, 1:26-27, 2:15

  • We were made to mirror what God is like-but do we?

    • What went wrong?

  • Kids, who’s the boss? God!

    • But remember, that’s good news. Why is it good news?

    • Who loves you? God!

  • Right, God loves you, and he knows everything. So when he makes a rule, it is a rule that flows from his love.

    • How many rules did he give to Adam and Eve? 1 rule!

  • Genesis 2:16


Black bean bag

  • In Genesis 3 we read about that start of everything that goes wrong: a snake comes into the garden. Gen 3:1-13

  • The snake comes with a terrible lie: God doesn’t love you. God doesn’t care about what’s best for you. Be your own boss, your own ruler. 

  • And the woman and the man both eat the fruit, and the black poison of sin takes root in their hearts


  • Did you know, that is the same poison that lives inside your heart? 

  • 3:15, God promises a Rescuer to fix things

  • The whole rest of the Bible is the story of God preparing a people to be the family of the Rescuer

    • But guess what? They keep failing, because the are full of sin, just like you and me

    • And do you know what the worst part of sin is? It cuts you off from God’s presence: you can’t be covered with sin and enjoy standing before God

  • So what’s going to happen?


Red Bean Bag

  • God wasn’t going to leave people separated from him forever.

  • John 3:16. God sent his Son into the world

  • But was Jesus just going to rescue his people out of the bad place, like a prince swooping in to take away the princess?

  • No, there was a price to be paid. Romans 6:23

  • Jesus came and shed his blood to cover your sins


White bean bag

  • Did you remember where I said you couldn’t stand when you’re covered in sin? 

  • The Bible says if you trust in Jesus, his blood covers your sins, and you get to wear his perfect righteousness. You get clean clothes! It’s called being forgiven

  • Have you ever had to ask for forgiveness? You can be forgiven by God, and live with him, because of what Jesus has done. 

  • You can’t do anything to earn it: it’s a free gift


Green bean bag

  • But this free gift of life isn’t the end of the story. Because eternal life is a real life that starts now

  • So we need to grow. How can we grow? We pray, read the Bible, go to church to spend time with other people who have been forgiven by Jesus. And we tell other people about what he’s done. 

Big Lesson: who made everything? Who made you? Who loves you? Who gives the gift of forgiveness and life to all who ask? God!

August 13, 2020

Am I Important?

Preface: This isn't "writing" per se, this is the first of three posts that will be lesson outlines from the VBS our church is conducting this week. The titles are, Where Did I Come From?, Am I Important, and How Can I Be Okay? My hope in sharing is that if you work with kids, or simply are interested in answering these questions for yourself, you will be edified.


Am I Important?


  • Have you ever felt small and unimportant? 

  • Did you know you are important to God? God cares about little things and little people, because God values all people. 

  • What did we talk about yesterday? Creation

  • Who remembers what the most important part of creation was? People; Gen 1:27, 31. 

  • Gen 2:

    • 7-9, how did God make man?

    • Where did God put him?

    • 15, why did God put him in the garden? Remember how people are supposed to take care of God’s world?

    • 16-17, God gives them a rule. How many rules? 1 rule!

    • What is the rule? Remember that, it’s important.

    • 18-23, God didn’t want Adam to be alone, so what did he do? Made him a wife! Does anyone know her name?

  • When you tell a story, do you like to talk about the boring part or the fun part? The fun part!

  • God spent the first chapter of the Bible telling us how he made everything. Then he spends another chapter telling us how he made one thing. People. 

  • Which part do you think God thinks is the fun part? People!

  • I want to read you a couple of Bible stories that show how much Jesus loves people: 

    • Lk 8:40-56, who did Jesus heal? 

    • John 4:46-54, who did Jesus heal?

    • Mt 19:13-15, who does Jesus love?

  • The Bible tells us (Jn 1:18) that Jesus came to show us what God is like, and Jesus shows us that God has love for all kinds of people. Like you.

  • Big lesson: Who made me? God made me (x3)

    • Who’s the boss? God is!

    • Who loves me? God loves me! (x3)

August 12, 2020

Where Did I Come From?

  Preface: This isn't "writing" per se, this is the first of three posts that will be lesson outlines from the VBS our church is conducting this week. The titles are, Where Did I Come From?, Am I Important, and How Can I Be Okay? My hope in sharing is that if you work with kids, or simply are interested in answering these questions for yourself, you will be edified.


Where Did I Come From?


  • Have you ever wondered where you came from? Who made me?

  • What’s our memory verse? Genesis 1:1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

  • Can you name some things God made?

  • He made everything, stars and trees, elephants and bees, the stars and your knees!

  • But did you know he didn’t make it all at once? Gen 1:2

  • Does anyone know what void means? Empty. But he was there

  • Do you know what happened next? God did 2 things: form, and fill

  • Form: 1, Light/Dark (eyes open/close); 2 water/sky (swim/jump action); 3; water/dry land (swim/pump arms)

  • Fill: 4, Lights (can you name lights in the sky?); 5, (what goes in the air and the water?) can you name your favorite bird or fish?; 6, (what belongs on the land?) what’s your favorite land animal?

  • Do you know what God said the most important part of his creation is? People! Gen 1:26

  • People are supposed to take care of God’s creation and rule over it kindly. 

  • Do you have any pets? How do you take care of them? 

  • That’s how we’re supposed to relate to all of creation: loving rule, like God would take care of it.

  • But how do we know how he would take care of this world?

  • The Bible! The Bible is God’s letter to teach us what he is like, and what he wants us to know. The Bible teaches us how to live.

  • Big lesson: who made everything? God! Who made you? God! So, if God made us, who is in charge of us? God! 

    • Who made me? God made me! (x3)

    • Who’s the boss? God is! (x3)

Review: Educated by Tara Westover


EducatedEducated by Tara Westover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Westover's prose is brisk, clear. Her story is emotionally wrenching.

I was both pulled along by the narrative she weaves and forced to pause as I shared in her grappling: how can you love in the midst of abuse? How can one be honest without being bitter when reality is so demented? How do you do what is right for survival when doing so feels like betraying those whom you cherish?

A worthwhile read for anyone and everyone.

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August 11, 2020

Observing the Beginning

 I'm working on some VBS lessons out of the first couple chapters of Genesis, and I was struck once again by Genesis 1:1-2,

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 

Here are three quick things I noticed in this passage today.


God Created

This is the most obvious point. It's also the most important. The opening pages of the Bible assume the existence of an eternal Creator (present before the beginning, because he initiates said beginning). They also assume that everything else is derivative from, and dependent upon, him. This assumption frames the whole Bible; nothing makes sense without a Creator who transcends, who exists apart from and independent of, this world.


God Formed

I've always found it curious that God didn't just create everything in one big shot. He's speaking it all into being ex nihilio, why this pattern of days that we see? 

But one of the interesting things about this, which we read in v2, is that while this earth is formless and void, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. So while the previous verse introduced us to the transcendent Creator, here we meet the intimate Former of creation. God exists outside of creation, yes. He also personally at work within it.


No Date Stamp

Much to the consternation of people from every side of this question, the Bible doesn't tell us when God made the heavens and the earth. Well, it does: in the beginning. We just don't have a date for that beginning. And I think that's just fine.

I personally find a young earth argument to be the most reasonable based upon Biblical evidence, particularly in how the doctrine of sin develops. But I can look someone of a more Frances Collins persuasion right in the eye, shake their hand, and agree that we hold the central truth of this passage in common, God created. He rules. He is to be worshiped. Whenever he did this marvelous making of heavens and earth.

August 10, 2020

Count the Cost

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously wrote, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."

That makes for a great pintrest quote or opening line to a blog. But does it reflect New Testament reality? The short answer is "yes."



Matthew 10:34-39

34  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.


Mark 8:34-38

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”


Luke 14:25-33

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.


John 12:24-26

24Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.


Jesus' call to us is clear: forsake your life, that you might find it. And know this going in-don't be surprised when relationships are strained and people look sideways at you and the world counts you as nothing because of your identification with Christ. They crucified him. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. Count the cost. The cost is death. But what a small price. What can a man give in return for his soul?

August 09, 2020

Sermon Sunday

 Here is a link to the sermon I preached at our church last week, The Lord Revealed. The sermon text was John 21:1-14.


Here is a follow up blog post to that sermon, from earlier this week: A Missed Point

August 07, 2020

Follow


"Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them...When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, 'Lord, what about this man?' Jesus said to him, 'If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!'"

John 21:20a, 21-22 




The Setting

Here on the shores of Lake Galilee, Jesus has found 7 of his disciples fishing. He doesn't identify himself to them, but rather asks them a question, "have you caught any fish?" (v5). Which seems rather insensitive, because they haven't. But if you know the story, he more than makes up for this jab to the rib cage.

Jesus tells them to let down their net on the right side of the boat, and the resulting haul of fish is overwhelming to the point where they can't get them aboard the boat. Jesus here reveals himself to the disciples. This is One who knows all, who provides, and who is their Lord. But for Peter, Jesus is also something else. Jesus is the all knowing, perfect provider, the Lord-whom Peter thrice denied.

And so, as we come to the later half of John 21, we find Jesus reestablishing Peter via some painful questioning. Do you love me more than these? Do you love me? Do you love me? Peter, who publicly denied the Lord three times before the crucifixion, is restored by this set of three fold questions. This is also public, before the other disciples. And Jesus commissions him, feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. 


A Painful Call

Then Jesus offers an unsolicited prophecy: you're going to die Peter, and you're going to die by crucifixion. (see v18-19). Why in the world would Jesus say this to him now? Perhaps because of what Peter says in 13:37, I will lay down my life for you. In that context Jesus questions Peter's devotion, will you lay down your life for me? And then issues a chilling statement: the rooster will not crow three times till you have denied me.

We've come out the other end of that circumstance. Jesus has been denied by Peter. But he's been restored. And now Jesus looks forward to the Spirit-filled and empowered ministry he is going to work through Peter and says, you know how you'll meet your earthly end? You will die for me. 


Squirming

This apparently isn't what Peter had thought of as an ideal sort of restoration ceremony, though, because he sees John trailing behind, and feels compelled to ask Jesus, but what about him? Jesus response should cause us all to sit up and take note. If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Or, we said when we were kids, none of your beeswax, Peter! Mind your own business. You have one task, and it isn't making sure everything is fair between you and John, making sure your experiences are the same. Quit looking for your affirmation and validity in the experiences of someone else. 

Your task is simple: you follow me. You. Do you see what Jesus is driving at? We can, I can, be just like Peter. Lord, why is there life so much easier? Father, why do you provide them with extra time or money and here I am feeling like I'm drowning?

Jesus could look at Peter and explain how hard things actually will be for John. But he doesn't. He just says, what is that to you? You follow me. His call is so simple. So clear. Die to self, and follow him.

August 06, 2020

Early obits

“If you’re an elder, take a risk and get real with the others.” 
Jeramie Rinne, Church Elders, 92

If you're like me, the sad truth is that many things that appear on the front pages of newspapers and scream from the top of news feeds, things that are genuine tragedies, be it police brutality, violent mobs in our major cities, bombings internationally, natural disasters-can all seem like so much white noise. Our brains weren't meant to handle this constant bombardment with information, and once it hits a certain point it all starts to blur.

But some headlines jump out. For me, those aren't generally front page. They're obituaries. Certain obituaries in particular. The obituaries of those who have committed suicide grab hold of my attention like no other news I read.

Like a lot of kids today, I became aware of suicide pretty early in life. I had an uncle and an aunt commit suicide when I was very young. Later in life I would lose another aunt, friends, and acquaintances. 

I don't have answers for why people decide to end their own lives. No doubt it is unique in each circumstance. But I do know what it causes me to do, which is pause and consider: do people know me? Do they know what is happening in my life, not just in the public sense of my activities, but what is going on inside? Do I have people I can be honest with? Am I being honest about the state of my own soul?

There are of course things which no one else will understand. "The heart knows its own bitterness" (Proverbs 14:10). But to what extent am I trusting other people with my burdens? 

We weren't meant to walk through this world alone. We need other people. It has been said that in friendship joys are multiplied and sorrows divided. Having someone to walk with you through the dark night of the soul is imperative. But rarely are friendships cultivated in those moments. 

So what sort of friendships are you building right now?

August 05, 2020

Review: The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway


The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other StoriesThe Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a somewhat uneven collection. I wasn't a big fan of the title story, and I didn't finish A Way You'll Never Be. On the flip side, In Another Country and Fifty Grand were two of the best short stories I've read. The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber surprised me with its finish, and was a fitting conclusion to the book.

Everyone knows Hemingway as the dude with short, punchy, declarative sentences. I think the genius of that style is that he ends up drawing you into the occasional run-on sentence. And you have the energy to follow because he has set you up with all those brief declarations. His ability to communicate action via words makes me want to write.

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About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).