Monthly Archives: November 2010

Master of More Than Preaching

You have known that my father is a master preacher, but you may not know he is also a master carver!  Actually if you had seen the turkey when he was done, you would say stick to preaching.

Mornings Come Early

Occasionally I am ready to get out of bed when the alarm goes off, but that is a rare occasion.  I was always a night person.  My preference was to be engrossed during the quiet late hours in a fascinating book.  When I was not in the mood for reading, the TV offered the opportunity to spend hours scrolling between channels that had little worth watching; yet somehow the allure remained to hang in there, for surely something wonderfully entertaining would soon appear on the screen.

But that schedule is long gone, seemingly a lifetime ago.  Once our children began school, breakfast and the bus schedule began to dominate our mornings, and late evenings abruptly ended.  From the beginning Debbie and I were committed to having breakfast and devotions together as a family.  It was not always pretty, relaxing or edifying, but we got it done each day. 

In order to have my own devotional time, it had to come before family breakfast.  As the kids got older and moved up the school ladder, bus times came earlier and so did my devotions.  Finally I reached a point where I wanted to go further in my devotional life, which meant spending more time in it.  I asked God to physically help me through my days so I could get up even earlier than I had been.  When you work at a desk and do a lot of reading every day, sleepiness can be a major work hazard.

That is how I started getting up at 5:00 in the morning.  A time I would have considered to be the middle of the night twenty years ago.  Years have past and getting up early is a habit that has not gotten any easier.  When the alarm sounds I immediately get out of bed or I would not get up at all.  If I pause for a second, my foggy thoughts quickly fill up with compelling reasons why I should stay where I am.  For one of life’s sweetest pleasures is to wake up and then roll over with my face in the softness of a pillow, stretching my body like a cat whose midday nap has been interrupted, and then gently drift back into sleeeep!

I keep getting up right away, fighting through my grogginess for a reason that is much bigger than breakfast and bus schedules.  When I close the door to my my study and slip into my favorite chair, I find that God has been waiting for me.  He is there to meet me and that has grown to become the sweetest thing in this world to me.  I don’t like getting up early – but I have come to love the time spent with my Savior.  There are four devotional habits that have changed this meeting with God from being travailing to treasured.

      (1)  I worship the “God of my salvation”, who has given me an endless supply of reasons to be awestruck before Him.

      (2)  I talk with God:  If all we bring to God is a long list of requests that we have brought day after day, prayer quickly becomes a tedious.  Yes, I bring my requests to God, but the focus is on sharing whatever fills my heart and burdens my mind.  

      (3)  I submit to my Lord:  I once again offer Him control over every nook and closet of my life.  My desire is to yield under His rule; seeking His mastery instead of my own.

     (4)  I entrust Him with the burdens that press on me.  If the entirety of my life is meant to be lived in service to the Kingdom of Christ, then the problems I face really belong to Him.

Now in case you are tempted to think I have a charmed devotional life.  These are things I am working at.  Each day contains a measure of success with these habits.  Some days are a pathetic offering on all fronts. 

So tomorrow morning when the dreaded sound of that alarm hits my ears, my feet will hit the floor and God will once again be faithfully waiting for me to begin my morning with Him.


P.S.  I wrote this last night and wouldn’t you know, of all mornings today I overslept and did not wake up until Debbie’s alarm went off.  I wonder if this has anything to do with “pride goeth before a fall”?

Who Knew

When Geronimo, the famous Apache war chief, died in 1909 he was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church.

Sermon Leftovers: November 15, 22 & 29

Sometimes leftovers just taste better. In soups and stews the ingredients need that extra time for their flavors to fully meld; and Thanksgiving is famous for providing satisfying leftovers. A fresh snow flake roll piled with cold turkey, stuffing, hot gravy and some cranberry sauce seems to taste even better than when those favorites first appeared on our plates the day before. Could it be possible that sermon leftovers are also better the next day? On Mondays I will be offering a modest portion of those leftovers. Having heard a sermon once already, we are ready to feast on those biblical truths once again, as the Holy Spirit sharpens our appetite to apply them in our life.
Since we are in the midst of a series, I will give a small portion from each of the three messages.

James 4:6 “God has an opinion about pride and humility”

Pride relentlessly seeks to erode God’s glory and His Lordship.

Pride is always seeking to make us the center of our world.

Pride opens the door to virtually every other sin.

Our pride is groundless . . illogical . . corrosive . . foolish.

Humility is an unrestrained desire to have God fulfill His role in everything.

Humility leads us to embrace God’s assessment in all areas of our life.

The humble can have an unobstructed relationship with God.

If we don’t think we have a pride problem, it is a serious problem, because we are not seriously examining our heart.

Are we willing to ask God if He would reveal where pride is lurking in us?

Philippians 2:3-8 “Christ is our example for Humility”

Amidst the glories of heaven, the eternal Son of God exercised inexpressible humility to become a man. The events of Jesus’ birth underlined the humility of his incarnation.

Jesus’ earthly labors required him to exercise humility every moment. No one he met ever had the zeal and faithfulness he possessed.

In his death, Jesus embraced wrath he did not deserve, to give us a grace we did not deserve. The events of Jesus’ death underlined the humility his sacrifice required.

Without the deep humility of Christ, our salvation would not be possible!

For Jesus who deserved glory, every expression of humility was extreme.

We cannot follow Christ very far without humility.

If we are to imitate Christ, we must exercise humility in our relationships with each other.

Jesus’ example makes our lack of humility toward others – indefensible.

What role does humility have in our relationships?

Ephesians 2:4-10 “The gospel is our path to humility”

Our experience tells us that fighting pride is a constant battle. How we grow in humility needs to be as persistent as our pride. What is more persistent than our pride? The truths of the gospel!

The gospel is the antidote for pride, and it is the sure path to humility.

The gospel is not just for those who need to be saved, the gospel is the foundation for all Christian living.

To grow in humility we must stay on the path of gospel truths.

The gospel saves us from pride, by saving us from ourselves.

The gospel keeps us from the pride of self-focus.

The gospel will always point us to God . . to reality . . to humility.

Be a worshipper: it is hard to exalt ourselves when we are exalting God.

Make your life serve the Kingdom of Christ: take what you do and turn it to serve what Christ is doing.

Worth Hearing Again

In our Thanksgiving Eve service we baptized a 10 year old girl named Skyler. Skyler was very nervous as she shared her testimony, so you may have missed part of it if you were there. If you were not there, Skyler had a unique way of telling her story that I think you will enjoy. I have posted her testimony without changing any spelling or grammar.

What God Has Done For Me In My Life

God has done many things in my life. He has given me food, water, shelter, friends, family, and many other things I can not explain. But, the two most important blessings are life and Jesus’s crucification. I just can’t believe how special I am, or how much Jesus loves me. I mean think of this for a second: Jesus was sent down as a cute little baby to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus did something SO painful for us. God sent him to die on the cross so all who have faith in God “Shall not perish, but, have eternal life with God.” Man, the things that God and Jesus did.

Now, about life. What is life? who here thinks life is about walking around on earth, meeting old and new friends, and having good times. Now, come on be honest. Well, who thinks that life is about living with God in his kingdom, asking God into your heart, and praying and repenting to him. You were correct if you chose the second answer. life is nothing without God. without him we would go down. God is the answer to all of our problems.

Sugar Snails

This morning our kitchen is filled with the activity and smells of pie baking. I enjoy many forms of dessert, but nothing can beat a pie (for those who claim a great dessert must be chocolate, that’s why there are chocolate pies). I think I came by this love of pie from my granddad who, when asked what foods he liked, would answer, “Just as long as it’s pie.” Another reason I love pie is that early on I tasted the mountain peak of piedom, which is a still warm and fragrant Doris Morey apple pie. The apples have a soft texture and the flavor is a perfect mix of sweet tartness. The crust is never over-handled leaving it flaky and melting in the mouth. Oh my it is good!  In his graciousness, God gave me a wife who among her long list of talents is a terrific pie baker. Debbie was raised in a proper farm home, where baking was a constant activity and pies were considered a major food group.

But my thoughts today are not only on pies, I would also like to extol the humble sugar snail. Sugar snails are made from the leftover pie dough that is sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and rolled. Before being placed in the oven, the roll is cut into small pieces or snails. We have to wait until after dinner to eat pie, but sugar snails are the special treat that can be enjoyed right away. A perfect sugar snail has a crust of caramelized sugar that oozed out and is still sticking to the foil wrapping.

I think there is a wonderful lesson to be learned from the sugar snail. They are a side benefit. No one goes into the kitchen to make sugar snails; their attention is on the lofty goal of producing a delicious and much sought after pie. During all the work and mess of making a pie no one even thinks about the sugar snails that will quietly show up in the end. Yet, when the big effort of pie making occurs, the humble sugar snail is also made possible.

So to those of you who are laboring for Christ, and want to do big things for His Kingdom; know that there are many small and very wonderful results that God will accomplish when we faithfully serve Him. When God enables us to be part of something big, we are rightfully amazed and thankful. Yet today let us not neglect being thankful for the privilege of taking part in little things for God – the “cups of cold water” we give in Jesus name. As you go through this day wanting to be used by God, don’t forget the little things that are possible along the way. Even if the impressive pie you tried to make did not turn out perfect, you can still make and share a few sugar snails. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

A Well Rooted Thanksgiving

What does one write on their first blog post?  I suppose it should be wise and witty.  But then there is the reality that this will only be read by three people including my mom (and I will have to go to her house and open it for that to happen).

A good place to start is to explain the purpose of this blog, which is to help lead any who do read it to become WELL ROOTED in Christ and His gospel.  Along the way  there will most likely be a good dose of meanderings that will regularly cause readers to shake their heads and mutter “but for the grace of God . . .” My wife Debbie, gets credit for the blog name.  We were sitting outside the Somers Point Starbucks with a good concept and a lot of bad ideas, when in a moment of sagacity (the big word for today’s post) she blurted out the name that stuck.  Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day I will take my well rooted meanderings in that direction.

The soil for being well rooted is the Word of God, and prayer is the water that all roots crave.  But today I want to focus on worship, which is the sunshine that warms the soil and stimulates growth in an almost magical way.   During the past two years nothing has impacted my life more worship.  I have gone from seeing myself as someone who worships God, to taking on the identity of being a worshipper. Living out this this distinction has dramatically changed my prayer life, it is impacting my study of God’s Word and it has improved how I, well . . worship.

The passage in God’s Word that has most stimulated this change of perspective is Habakkuk 3:17-18.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Basically the writer is saying, if everything goes wrong, I will worship my God!  How can anyone rejoice in God when everything is going wrong?  Because He is “the God of our salvation”.  No matter what seems to be going wrong in the life of the believer, our salvation is a glorious possession that always deserves the sacrifice of praise.

It is important that we notice the phrase, “I will take joy”.   His joy was something he did not wait for God to give – he went after it.  That is the change I made in my prayer time.  My goal in my prayer time is not to finish my increasing long list of requests, it is to come to a place where I can honestly say that my heart takes joy in my God.  Most days this is not difficult, but sometimes it takes the entire time to take hold of the joy God rightfully deserves from me.

May your Thanksgiving Day be stuffed with worship.  So before we  fill our bodies with the bounty of God’s blessing, let us fill our hearts with praise to God who is our everything!  Let us agree with the prophet Habakkuk – no, let us follow his example: and take joy in the God of our salvation!