Monday, July 25, 2016
I have discovered that many people experience a sense of both joy and relief when they come to understand that authentic faith in God is not fundamentally about the legalistic observance and oppressive practice of religious rituals.
At a basic level knowing God is about an actual relationship with a being who knows us, loves us and is alive. And what is even more extraordinary is that this being happens to be the almighty creator and Lord of all things!
(I know this almost sounds too good to be true. That’s why it is referred to as good news! Really good news.)
These realities are what make it possible for us to enter into something much more than the routine exercise of rituals. Rather we can enter into the knowledge, truth and presence of God, himself, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
So… rejoice and be glad!
Sunday, July 17, 2016
My dear friends let’s remember that bad news is always going to get the most attention. And to be fair, sometimes the bad news is very important and deserves to be told. Some stories and events are painful to encounter but we need to hear about them anyhow. We need to be aware of what is happening.
However, it is also important for us not to become so immersed in the stories of stress, strife, pain, friction, animosity and violence in our world that we become overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness and pessimism.
It is not irresponsible or unsympathetic to bear in mind that every day there are good, happy, positive, noble, uplifting and encouraging events occurring. Every day there are people who are engaged in helpful, noble, inspiring activities. Every day there are people joyfully serving others with genuinely loving hearts.
These positive stories may not be as sensational. These good and uplifting stories are often very simple and do not involve the inherent drama to draw us in like the negative stories. But they are real. These good activities are happening... all the time. It is helpful for us to keep these good activities in mind.
I know some of us hear the latest news stories and we have a sense of sadness and pain—maybe even fear—deep in our hearts. I can understand those feelings. But remember… the Light is still shining.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Dear E-Flash Friends;
I am glad to be back in Oak Lawn and am really looking forward to worshiping with my church family this Sunday. There is a feeling of enthusiasm I have for speaking and teaching this week that I have not had in a while. I’m not even sure I can explain it. I love to preach God’s word but I have a sort of fresh excitement and anticipation.
Well, whether I can explain this excitement or not (and I can’t) I suppose I should consider it to be a good thing (and I do).
We are starting a new series this Sunday, July 17th from the book of Revelation. The title of the series is: 7 Letters To 7 Churches. On July 17th, the first message of the series will present the message Jesus had for the church at Ephesus. It is a message that is relevant, interesting and helpful to our church today!
The worship team has wonderful, inspiring, God honoring music planned and we will be celebrating Communion, as well.
You will want to be here this Sunday! Seriously. God will be honored and we will be blessed!
See you on Sunday!
Love and blessings,
Sunday, July 10, 2016
My sister-in-law Paula said, “Hey look at this guy!”
It was a large cricket with pretty colors moving slowly through the sand. As I looked at the creature I was struck with an impulse to reach down and let him crawl onto my hand. So I put my hand in front of him and, sure enough, he crept onto my palm.
I said, “I wonder if he will bite.”
Paula said, “No way. He won’t bite.”
Nadia said, “He might.”
As he began crawling up toward my wrist I said, “He has some great colors. Get a picture while he is on me.”
Normally, people can easily reach their phones in less than 10 seconds but we were at a beach and the phones had been stashed away in duffel bags or beach totes and so they searched for phones while the cricket continued crawling up my arm.
By the time photos were actually taken the large cricket had ambled up my arm, onto my shoulder, around to my back and then up to my neck.
It was a strange feeling, sort of ticklish and slightly creepy as he gripped and un-gripped his cricket feet moving around my neck.
When he eventually bit me it hurt but truthfully it was not terribly painful. It was like a strong pinch. The problem was that it caught me off guard and made me nervous because I wondered if there were any potentially significant negative effects from a cricket bite.
This all happened several hours ago.
In the past 10 to 15 minutes I have noticed the emergence of… let’s see… how can I put it? I do not know an accurate way of describing it. I have noticed the emergence of something I can only describe as “powers.”
I know you’re probably laughing and rolling your eyes but I suddenly have capabilities I never used to possess. For example, two minutes ago I easily jumped over a bus without really giving it much thought. And just before that I ate close to 1 acre of a local farmer’s crops.
Oh well… I’m going to take an aspirin and lie down. I guess I’ll be fine in the morning.
Friday, July 8, 2016
Like many of you, my heart is deeply grieved at the violence which is occurring in our country. In particular I am saddened by the racial tension which is a part of the most recent national stories.
This post is likely to bother and perhaps even anger some of the people with whom I am connected on various social media platforms and I am sorry for that because it is my sincere intention to bring words of love, encouragement and comfort. However, I feel compelled to express these thoughts, nevertheless.
I honestly do not believe there is a political solution to the issues of hatred, violence and racial discord. It is not that political action is of no value or that it is completely inconsequential. I am simply suggesting that political solutions are, ultimately, inadequate because these issues originate in the heart.
This truth regarding the heart is a concept which Jesus expressed very clearly. (See Matthew 15:19)
Where there is genuine hatred; where there is a desire to inflict pain and violence on others; where there is discord or feelings of mistrust and animosity toward people who are in some way different than us there are hearts that need to change. Again, laws and political action are not without value but these responses do not, for the most part, change human hearts.
Heart-change is God’s area.
So I realize that responding with talk of God and prayer seems weak, ineffective and bothersome to some but I genuinely pray for heart change. I pray for God’s love to prevail. I pray for God’s people to be models of His love, patience, mercy, reconciliation and grace.
I have not always been the agent of God’s truth and love that I should be. I haven’t always expressed the presence of Jesus in me to the disagreeable situations of my life. Therefore, I begin by praying for His authentic and tangible work in me.
And I pray for His love in us.
God’s love is extraordinary. God’s love is profound. God’s love is perfect, complete and comprehensive. God’s love will ultimately prevail.
I pray for His love to prevail in my heart today. I pray for His love to prevail in His people today. I pray for His love to prevail in our country today.
Sunday, July 3, 2016
When I was a young man it occurred to me that my belief in God may have been taught to me and instilled in me in such a way that I almost had no choice in the matter.
“Perhaps my parents and other well-meaning people have presented these ideas about God and Christianity so relentlessly and so effectively that the result has been something similar to being brain-washed,” I thought.
I continued to wrestle with these thoughts and pursue them. I asked myself, “Do YOU really believe in God? Or, are you just going along with this particular view of reality because it is what is expected by the community of which you are a part?”
So I came to a point at which I reasoned, “You have to live with yourself. You have to believe what you really believe not what someone else has told you to believe.”
Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true.” …Or, that might have been Moe Howard. I’m not sure. Anyhow, I needed to be honest with myself.
I gave myself permission to reject belief in God. I realize that may seem like an odd way to put it but in my mind that is what I did. For me, this actually involved a form of permission. “You don’t have to pretend, Dan,” I told myself. “You can put aside this belief in God and live without it, if that’s what you really believe about the nature of reality.”
What I discovered during this time of thinking and inner wrestling was very important for me. I’m not suggesting—for a moment—this would be necessary for everyone, I am saying it was important for me. Giving myself permission to abandon belief in God helped me realize I really do believe in God. Belief in God rings true with the deepest part of my heart, mind and soul.
In fact, having been through this season of life and other times of questioning and introspection, I could put it this way: I cannot deny or reject my genuine belief in God.
In the many years since that time I have done a significant amount of reading and studying and have come to discover there is a strong intellectual defense for belief in God. This knowledge has been tremendously helpful to my faith. Correct reasoning matters. Evidence matters.
But it is in my heart of hearts that I have come to realize I believe in God.
C.S. Lewis wrote a line that is specifically about Christianity—not just God—but I can relate with what he expresses: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Monday, June 27, 2016
Our beautiful summer day was suddenly interrupted by the frantic cries of a mom who quickly got the attention of dozens of people at the very busy Siesta Key Beach.
I stood up and walked in her direction. Even though she was screaming, I couldn’t hear exactly what she was saying. But I thought it might have something to do with a child so I wanted to help, if possible.
Sure enough, as I got closer I saw the woman acting in a panicked manner at the edge of the water. Her child was missing. Seven or eight other people were gathering around her, as well. Now I could hear her clearly though she was so frightened and frenzied she wasn’t making complete sense. She was turning in circles calling her daughter’s name.
People were attempting to get information from the mom.
“What is her name?”
“What is she wearing?”
“Where was she playing when you last saw her?”
The beach was very busy and there were scores and scores of people in the water in this particular area. People were looking in every direction calling out the little girl’s name. “Christiana!”
We were looking, with hope and concern, for a six-year-old girl in a pink bathing suit.
This search probably went on for 7 or 8 minutes but it seemed much longer.
Then we saw a woman coming from the water holding a little girl by the arm.
When the mom saw them she burst into tears.
Christiana looked bewildered but she also had a look on her face that seemed to indicate the realization that she might be in a bit of trouble. Her mom took her in her arms and sobbed. Loud sobbing.
It is hard to describe the sound of a mom sobbing for her children but when you hear it, it is hard to forget.
When something priceless was lost and is then found there is great rejoicing.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
It is relatively easy to find the faults, problems, short-comings and errors of the doers in life.
By “doers” I mean the builders, creators, producers, artists, contributors and leaders… those people who are making an effort to accomplish goals and objectives. The doers are the people who are—at least—making an attempt to move the ball down the field of life.
Unfortunately, I’ve been guilty of engaging in this simple, unimpressive, unproductive type of criticism. It is true that critics can sometimes offer genuine insights, however, being a critic often involves sitting somewhere comfortably watching, exposed to zero risk, pointing out flaws and then eating another donut.
On the other hand, in the course of life, I’ve been in the “doer” position, as well. And I have taken some of that fault-finding from the critics.
I have messed up a lot—I mean A LOT—in my attempts to be a doer. Frankly, some of the criticism that has come my way has been correct and it has been warranted. But I would still rather be a doer than a critic. In fact, I would rather be a failed doer than be a safe, untried, undefeated critic.
So, to all the “Doers” out there: Good job! Don’t give up! At least you’re still trying.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24
Thursday, June 23, 2016
On Sunday evening, we stopped for a quick break in our "on the road" adventure at McDonalds.
I was standing by the beverage area and Rachel walked up to me with a few food items but she was crying. Looking in her direction I could see about 5 McDonald's employees were talking/whispering to each other and looking at her.
I said to her, "What's wrong?"
But she was crying and answering me at the same time so I could not understand what she was trying to say.
One of the managers of the restaurant walked up to us and said, "I'm sorry. We did not hear her full request when she placed her order. So, we only charged her for what we heard her order. Now, we realize she wanted some additional items. When we told her that she only purchased what we gave her and not the additional items she wanted she began to cry."
I think some of the McDonald's employees were as upset as Rachel.
The manager who explained the situation to me looked like she might start crying.
I said, "It's alright. Don't worry." With a big smile I added, "Allow me to order the other things she wanted and pay for them and it will be fine."
I went to the counter and placed the order and three or four employees jumped right into action (I suppose I should mention that no one else was in line ordering food at the moment). Rachel got what she wanted and was satisfied. (Chicken McNuggets almost always lead to satisfaction.)
I tried, again, to smile and reassure the crew that everything was alright. No serious damage was done! But I think it was a rough moment for them. This specific type of scenario is probably not covered in the training and procedures manual.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
I have bad arteries. This is not an attempt on my part to scold my arteries—quite frankly—they don’t really listen, anyhow. This is just describing a physical reality regarding my body.
My heart is strong, but, as my friend Greg puts it, “I have bad plumbing.”
These are the genetic cards I have been dealt.
I have never smoked or drank. I do not have diabetes. And yet I have the arteries of someone who must deal with the effects of those unhelpful health factors.
I am, nevertheless, incredibly blessed because, in spite of some unhelpful genetic realities, my parents passed along something very important—in a sense, something more important—to me.
They passed along their love, wisdom and faith in God.
Additionally, they passed along their living example of graciousness, hospitality, generosity, responsibility, work ethic, kindness, friendliness, joy and moral virtue.
So, if the question arises: Can a guy with bad arteries still recognize that he is blessed?
The answer is: [ Excuse me while I put down these pork chops… ] Yes, he can.
On Father’s Day I’m counting my blessings and thinking about having a great dad and, for that matter, great parents!
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Dear E-Flash Friends;
What would happen if we would actually put our hope and trust in the Lord?
According to the Bible there is a significant strength which is available to those who trust God. Sounds interesting, huh? Good. That’s what we will be talking about this Sunday, June 19th. You are invited to come and learn from this tremendously encouraging passage which is found in the book of Isaiah chapter 40!
We will honor our dads tomorrow, as well.
The worship team has a great time planned for us. During the rehearsal, last night, I was caught up in the music at several points and with excitement I thought, “This is going to be a special time of praising God!”
Why not invite dad to come along with you? It is going to be a wonderful day! Really.
Looking forward to seeing you Sunday!
Love and blessings,
Monday, June 13, 2016
There is a darkness that sows fear, intimidation and terror in our world because of the existence of evil. We sadly encountered the truth of this darkness in a drastic and tragic way this past weekend. Our hearts are grieved and we pray for the innocent victims—our fellow citizens—who were needlessly killed or injured as a result of this horror.
Like many of you, I have been brought to tears as I’ve seen the images and heard the stories from the sight of the shooting in Orlando.
But we do not have to be overcome, overwhelmed, completely disheartened and defeated by the darkness. In fact it is genuinely important that we do not allow ourselves to believe the darkness will prevail.
We can still be agents of goodness, grace, truth and light. That is my prayer.
The light of God is greater than the darkness.