Noticing God In Good Times

I have been going through the book of Job during my morning coffee time which is always a surreal experience.

For those who haven’t read the book of Job, it’s a story that explores themes of suffering and what it means to righteous. It’s part of the poetry books in the Bible, so it’s more of a parable then a narrative story as part of the book has God having a conversation with the devil.

Job is a blessed man that has all of his blessings stripped away as almost an experiment of whether a righteous man would be able to believe even when he has nothing left. And Job wrestles with that concept throughout the book.

As I said, it’s a surreal experience and an excellent book to read as a person who was randomly born in a country filled with enormous blessings.

One particular section that I have been chewing on comes in chapter 35 where one of his friends is trying to give Job council.

When times get bad, people cry out for help. They cry for relief from being kicked around,
But never give God a thought when things go well, when God puts spontaneous songs in their hearts, When God sets out the entire creation as a science classroom, using birds and beasts to teach wisdom. People are arrogantly indifferent to God— until, of course, they’re in trouble,

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

The friend then says that God is indifferent to those who are indifferent to Him, but that part I know isn’t biblically true as John 3:16 (a corner belief in Christianity) that God loves us all so much that He would become a sacrifice so that we no longer will perish in the next life.

But this piece of his friend’s argument makes me consider my faith in the good moments and in the bad ones.

When everything is okay in my life, sometimes I dredge up something in the past that is more trivial, so I have something for a prayer request.

Why don’t I share my thankfulness of an okay life? Why don’t I share the song that is in my heart and share it with others?

I need to better at taking every day seeking God in the things around me whether it be the birds who chirp in the air to the days of when I have good health. Because God is there and I shouldn’t be indifferent toward Him.

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Thoughts After Watching The Fyre Documentaries

This past month, I and the misses watched a couple of documentaries on the Fyre festival debacle.

If you have either Hulu and/or Netflix, you can watch the story unfold.

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I am a savvy documentary viewer, so I know that what is shown isn’t necessarily the entire truth of the event. I know that the viewpoints are only onesided and you would have to interview hundreds of people to get the complete story.

But with that said, it was a fascinating, depressing and heartbreaking story of the lives that were affected by a few people’s unrealistic ideas of what can be accomplished in a few months.

I have a few takeaways that I might unpack in the next couple of posts.

And the one that was so evident is the money that was spent. From the people putting on the event to the people who paid to attend the event. And the money was for an experience.

Imagine what could happen if just a portion of that money went to clean water, education, health care, or anything that had an impact on others lives. Instead of for a weekend with influencers.

Money and materialism is a struggle for me as a pastor in the US. I struggle with the idea of having a nice home and clothes. Do not get me wrong, having shelter and clothing is essential, but how much is too much to spend on nice things?

I like having a good size television, but do I need it?

I heard an interview with Larry King on the Rubin Report that challenged me a while back. Larry said: “If anyone who has a calling from the above has more than one suit, then he is a copout.”

That idea has plagued me for a while and watching those documentaries has reinforced the number of blessings we have that we use for non-essential items.

Just some thoughts that haven’t been completely fleshed out.

What do you think about all of this? Have you watched either of the documentaries, what are your thoughts about them? Feel free to let me know.

Finding Rest During The Snow

Growing up in Ohio and Michigan and now living in the Pacific Northwest is an adjustment for sure.

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There are plenty of small things like not having Vernors in every store that makes it difficult to find. I mean when you are sick, you better have a little luck finding Vernors at the local Safeway. I do not know how they haven’t discovered the healing benefits of Vernors, so hopefully, I can be an evangelist for them on that front.

One of the unique is the viewpoint on snow. Now, this isn’t the whole PNW area, I am just specifically in the Seattle region, but the fluffy snow freaks people out.

And I get the hills are a pain, and it doesn’t snow enough for them to get used to driving in it. But it can shut down the roads when the snow starts accumulating.

At the lunch table at work, I have heard some mindblowing stories about severe storms that would make the blizzard of 78 die of laughter.

Right now, I am sitting at home drinking some tea and watching the snow fall. And right now, I am taking this time to have rest.

In Michigan, this type of snow wouldn’t stop us. We would be plowing along going at the same pace because snow is no big deal.

But here, since things are closing down and we are stocked up on food, I don’t need to go anywhere. I can find rest.

Do you know Sabbath is mentioned almost 200 times in the Bible? That is a lot for a topic that isn’t brought up very much in the American church.

This morning I read in Isaiah 56 where it say’s “Blesses is the man who keeps the Sabbath, and who does not profane it.”

So you know what, I am going to enjoy the benefits of PNW fear of snow and take this time to have Sabbath, to have some rest.

Being At Peace In A Checkout Line

adult beverage breakfast celebration
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The other day I did something no intelligent, sane person should do. Go shopping after the holidays.

I am on a break, and I should be at home with my comfortable hoodie and enjoying warm drinks. But I needed to grab something for work, that I didn’t get before vacation.

I knew I was in trouble when I walked in the store and saw all the holiday items that didn’t sell that was on sale now for fifty percent or more off. And it was all small tiny individual items.

I just needed two small items, so it should be a very short visit until I got into the checkout line. It was a good size line (I’ve seen worse), but there were only two checkout lanes. Unfortunately, this store didn’t have an express lane or a self-checkout lane, and every person in front of me had a cart full of discounted holiday items.

So I had to wait.

At first, I was displeased by the store’s lack of workers and lack of awareness that they didn’t have extra workers for the day.

But after a few minutes, I asked myself, “Where do you have to go? Are you in such a hurry that you need to be checked out at a faster pace.” My answer was “No.”

Then I decided to wait with good spirit and patience. Even when the cashiers were having trouble with items not having a price, then needing a price check out a sale item. And when finally a new cashier came, their card reader wasn’t working correctly, I waited with a smile and calmness.

When it was finally my turn, I was able to be friendly and kind to the frustrated cashier and wished them a great day after the total price was a few dollars. They probably thought I was out of mind to be a busy store during a holiday break and picking up so little.

It didn’t matter what they thought; I hope my calm presence made their day a little better.

In your life, do you find yourself stressed out when you don’t need to be? If so, maybe you should invest in a meditation regime. Part of my mourning routine, I’ve been spending a few minutes in the morning while the coffee is brewing to site in calmness and meditate on the blessings of God. When I pour the hot water, I thank God for clean water. As the aroma of the coffee enters my senses, I thank God for the beautiful creation of the coffee bean. When I sit down, I thank God for the roof over my head.

It’s a simple part of my morning, but it helps me during the day when I get annoyed by things that shouldn’t annoy me.

Maybe if you are short temper, it might mean that you need to refocus your mind and enjoy the small blessings of the Lord.

Waiting For My Real Home

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There was a time in my life when I was a little more transient. It seemed like I was sleeping in a different place every few months and there was a time during one particular summer that I was moving every few days.

I wasn’t homeless, I still had a roof over my head, but it was a different bed and with different people.

It made me thankful for one common denominator in each circumstance, and that was everywhere I went and whoever I stayed with had one thing in common — our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

It didn’t matter the age difference, the gender, the race or anything else that can segregate me from my housemates. Because we had the same faith, we were family.

During this season of the year, I belong to the universal truth that believers in Jesus are part of a large family that is away from our real home, which is eternal life.

We don’t belong to this world, similar to that I didn’t belong in other people’s home. I was a grateful guest, but I longed for the day like today, where I had a more permanent place.

Our eternal, permanent place isn’t here yet, but because of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, I can anticipate and long for our real home.

I Understand The Pharisees

As a man from the States in my late thirties, I read the Bible a little differently than some people. Growing up watching G.I. Joe, Heman, and Transformers, I sometimes read the Bible in a Good vs. Evil, and that is very much so, in the gospels.

It’s Jesus vs. the Pharisees.

I read the story of Jesus beating the Pharisees at every turn. The Pharisees think they have Jesus cornered, but at the last moment, Jesus defeats them.

I know it’s silly, but that is how I read the story.

But as I matured in the Lord and been a pastor for almost two decades, I see the Pharisees in a different light because I get why they act and say what they do.

Jesus’ message is 100 percent true, godly, and righteous but it’s complicated and messy.

The Pharisees have life down to a science from the clothing to their daily routines. It may be difficult, but it’s not complicated and messy.

For example, in our community, we have a homeless problem. And you can ask 100 different people why there is a problem, and they could give you each a different reason why it’s happening and a way to fix it.

It’s complicated, messy and very disrupting, especially on Sunday morning. They might come into the church not wanting the “God thing” but needing a place to get warm, a cup of coffee, seeking food, stealing coffee money or taking drugs in the bathroom.

Here’s the thing, it’s easy to have the policy to tell the security or greetings what they should do for the homeless, like how many feet can the walk into the building, using the restrooms, taking coffee or whatever to make the building and the worship service “safe.” And that would be a wise and understandable action for a variety of reasons.

Except for one important reason, the Jesus thing.

Matthew 25: 31-46 say’s to give without exceptions.

Because vs. 45 say’s ” He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.”

I want that verse to have some “buts.”

Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t. Even the oldest manuscripts are missing them.

So that means, as I progress in my faith and getting older working as a pastor, I need to make sure that I continue to strive toward the side of Jesus, the side that is messy, complicated, and disruptive.

Even when the safe, secure, and understandable pharisaical side looks like a better option, I know it doesn’t lead to the outcome that God desires.

Lord, teach me to be always generous: to serve you as you deserve; to give and never to count the cost

Giving God Our…

As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, “Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!” When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master!”

He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. “Don’t let a soul know how this happened.” But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met. (Matthew 9:27-31 MSG)

In this story, Jesus is met by two people who are in need of something more than what they have. The men showed great faithfulness and initiative as they followed Jesus from home to home.

We don’t know much about this story; we don’t see the distance traveled. We don’t know if Jesus or the disciples spoke to them during the journey. We can assume that these men weren’t alone, as crowds were following Jesus so I can’t imagine it would be easy for these men to grab Jesus attention. We have seen in the gospels of Jesus’ disciples finding ways to push people away from Jesus.

So for these men to grab his attention, it probably was through a lot of perseverance.

Finally, they approached, and Jesus directly question them “Do you really believe?” and they said, “Why, Yes!” And through a personal touch, Jesus healed the men.

I can’t imagine what these men were going through in life. I know being blind in today’s culture is difficult even though we have many enhancements to assist the blind. So living with these ailments in the ancient times must have been incredibly difficult. But these men believed Jesus could take blindness and give them sight.

My ailments are minor, my pain, wounds, and brokenness aren’t much, but when I go to God in prayer for these things, I sometimes wonder, “Can God heal me?”

During Advent, we are celebrating the impossible and miraculous story of Jesus’ birth, and I still wonder “Can God….”

I need to have the faith and perseverance of these men. I need to continue to follow God and plead, “God help me.” So when God’s spirit asks, “Do you really believe?” I can answer with a simple, “Why, Yes, Master!”

And then the personal touch of God will engulf those pains, wounds, and brokenness to make me whole again.

Prepare your heart this season and pray for the brokenness of this world and ask for God’s touch to make God’s kingdom here on this Earth.