Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2008

Our Dreams and God's Desires

Think for a moment about the different dreams you have had for your life. What have you dreamt for a family, a job, friendships, a house, or a vacation? Why do we dream the dreams that we do? I would wager that one of the influences on our dreams are our expectations for what will make us happy, yet, if you are anything like me, many of your dreams are still that, dreams. Very few people ever achieve the life of their dreams.

On the one hand this isn’t a terrible thing. The life we dreamed about when we were younger was filled with many unrealistic expectations. In fact if we achieved those dreams our lives may have turned out for the worse rather than the better. I can’t imagining living the life of a sports or rock star. Would I be able to live a life which pleases God if I was surrounded by such temptations which they face? What if I married the first crush I ever had; would reality be like the fairy tale I dreamed? As we mature we recognize that it is not a horrible thi…

The Words of Prayer

When You Pray: Part 4

When we pray place is very important. If we are going to pray so we can connect with God then we need to find a place that has few distractions so we can give our full attention to our Heavenly Father. That is the point Jesus made in verses 5 and 6 of Matthew chapter 6. Moving on we notice that there is a second area of prayer that Jesus wants us to think about.

This second area of prayer we need to consider are the words we use.
7 “When you are praying, don't say meaningless words like the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard because of their wordiness. 8 Don't be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8;ISV)

What Jesus says here is that some people pray and the use certain words and pray for a long time hoping that God will take them seriously. They might repeat certain words because they think these words have power or they just keep on praying and their prayers a long, and maybe even very beautiful…

Environment for Maturity

"But this relationship of submission to Christ, far from crushing our personalities, enables them to develop. Just as children grow most naturally into maturity within the loving discipline of a secure and happy home, so Christians grow into maturity in Christ under his loving authority. To lose ourselves in the service of Christ is to find ourselves. His lordship in our lives spells not frustration but fulfillment and freedom." ~ John Stott; Life in Christ; p. 55

Some Pictures I have Taken

This is the sanctuary of the church building where I preach. It is really the best thing about the old building. I love the stained glass.

These are some tulips that were poking out of the ground before the snow came today. I was told that it was 85 degrees here last year and this year we got snow. I love Iowa!

This is my puppy Barkley. He is 4 months old and he is a rat terrier/fox terrier mix. He is a cute little guy.

This is just a stick that was at the shore line of Storm Lake. As you can see the ice is finally beginning to retreat.

Where We Pray

When You Pray: Part 3

Matthew 5-7 we read Jesus’ teaching that we have come to call the Sermon on the Mount. In this teaching time Jesus trying to change His listeners’ perspective on religion and what it means to follow God. One of the areas Jesus teaches on is prayer. Jesus wanted to change their perspective on what prayer was about and how they should pray. What we find in verses 5-8 of Matthew 6 is Jesus focusing on two areas of prayer.

The first area of prayer Jesus is concerned about is the place we should pray.
5 “And whenever you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their full reward! 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-8; ISV)

Where we pray is very important to Jesus. He first tells us not to be like the hypocrite and pr…

Becoming More Human

"Christlikeness is what God wants to see in us. If we had to sum up in a single brief sentence what life is all about, why Jesus Christ came into this world to live and die and rise, and what God is up to in the long-drawn-out historical process both B.C. and A.D., it would be difficult to find a more succinct explanation than this: God is making human beings more human by making them more like Christ. For God created us in his own image in the first place, which we then spoiled and skewed by our disobedience. Now he is busy restoring it. And he is doing it by making us like Christ, since Christ is both perfect man and perfect image of God (Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4)." ~ John Stott, Life in Christ, p. 114

A Foundation for Prayer

When You Pray: Part 2

There is a right way and a wrong way to pray. Prayer shouldn’t be entirely focused on ourselves and our needs, but it should get us to focus on God and His will. Part of the reason we get frustrated with our prayer life and our prayers seem so ineffective is because we have been focused on the wrong thing.

When our prayers are ineffective the religious cover we give God is that we didn’t have enough faith. Somehow we are messing up and if we could just work up enough faith then God would do what we ask (do you see a problem there?). Yet Jesus told us that it wasn’t about having great faith, but having just a little faith. If we have faith the size of a mustard seed God said we would be able to do great things.

I want to let you know this that ineffective prayer isn’t a faith issue. The reason our prayers seem ineffective and why the answers seem so random is that we have focused on just one small aspect of what prayer is. We have made prayer about asking God for t…

Wrong Prayers

When You Pray: Part 1

Christmas is a favorite holiday, if not the favorite holiday, for many people. As you know, one of the traditions that we have is to prepare lists of what we would like to have for Christmas. With the children we usually have them address their lists to Santa Claus and then we will take them to the mall so they can sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they would like for Christmas.

I believe that we often do the same thing with prayer. We would never admit it, because we have been told somewhere along the line to say, “not my will but Your will be done.” Yet if we were truly honest with ourselves we would admit that our prayers are about God providing for us, watching over our loved ones, and keeping us safe. In short we use prayer to convince God to create the type of life that we want to have. I believe that when we do this we miss out on the true purpose of prayer in our lives. The question I would like for you to consider is: Does my prayer life resemble more o…

Back On Top

Press-Citizen / Matthew Holst

The Iowa Hawkeyes are back on top of the wrestling world. After dominating the sport for so many years the Hawks are national champions for the first time since 2000. Leading this resurgance has been head coach Tom Brands. The article on Brands in The Iowa City Press-Citizen I thought was very interesting. Here is one thing that Coach Brands had to say:
"When I talk about lifestyle, that's what these guys are doing," Brands said. "It's them buying into themselves and believing and knowing they have to live that lifestyle and become fanatics about a certain standard every day."Perhaps we in the church would do well with remembering that very thing. We need to be fanatical about following Jesus. Just something to ponder.

Thank God Through Worship

The Grateful Living: Part 5

In Luke 17:11-19 we read about an encounter Jesus had with 10 lepers. The lepers wanted Jesus to show compassion on them and help them in some way. The way Jesus helped them was to heal them of their disease. The nine Jewish lepers went to the priest to be declared clean, but the lone Samaritan came back to worship Jesus and say thank you. While the nine did a good thing it was the one who did the best thing.

Mark Moore in his study on the life of Christ wrote:
“Now, the nine are doing just what they were told. They are obeying Jesus as well as the Law. They are doing what is right. However, the Samaritan is doing what is better. That’s a tough distinction for Christians as well. Often we are motivated to do what is right, to obey, and to fulfill God’s laws. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but the ‘better” is to worship Jesus. Again, we see the distinction between ritual and relationship. It is possible to do all the right things and st…

Overflowing Gratitude

The Grateful Living: Part 4

In part three I pointed out that the nine Jewish lepers who were healed by Jesus responded to Jesus’ compassion through obedience. Obedience is certainly a good way to respond, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect the gratitude and love that is in our heart. There is a better way to respond to God’s love.

The best response to God’s love is to worship from gratitude.
15 But one of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back and praised God with a loud voice. 16 He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. Now the man was a Samaritan. (Luke 17: 15-16; ISV)

I wonder how far these lepers got before healing over took them. Did it happen immediately as they turned to find the priests? Did it take a few steps? Did they go a mile or two?

Not only that, but what was their reaction when they realized that their curse had been cured, that no longer did they have to leave the life of a person who was regarded as dead? Did the dance and yell? Did they give hi…

Doing Our Duty

The Grateful Living: Part 3

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to face betrayal, beating, and crucifixion when 10 lepers plead for help. Showing compassion Jesus healed the 10 lepers, but only one of the lepers came back to thank Jesus and worship Him (Luke 17:11-19). What can we learn from the two distinct responses to Jesus’ healing?

The first response is obedience to ritual. Luke 17:14 reads; When he saw them, he told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” While they were going, they were made clean (ISV).

To be honest with you it is hard for me to find fault the nine Jews had. After all they were obeying. They were not only obeying Jesus, but they were also obeying the Law God had given through Moses. For these men to be declared clean it was essential for them to be examined by a priest. Shouldn’t Jesus praise these men for their obedience and question the one for his lack of obedience? On the surface this is difficult to figure out.

Here is the problem with obedienc…

Reason for Thanksgiving

The Grateful Living: Part 2

In part 1 we looked at how ingratitude is part of the human condition. No matter what God has done for us in the past it always seems that we take a “what have you done for me lately approach”. Humans are just not very grateful.

Thanksgiving should be a mark of a follower of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote:
6 So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live in him. 7 For you have been rooted in him and are being built up and strengthened in the faith, just as you were taught, while you overflow with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7; ISV)
We should be thankful for all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ. Even if God doesn’t do another single thing for us besides what He has already done we have enough to be eternally grateful.

I ended part 1 with the encounter Jesus had with 10 lepers. Since this is what will be the foundation for what I have to say about gratitude let me provide you with some context for what is happe…

A Lack of Appreciation

The Grateful Living: Part 1

From my point of view, Israel complaining in the desert after being freedom from slavery is an amazing thing. They have witnessed God’s power through the plagues visited upon Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, and yet when things got difficult with food and water instead of trusting God they complained. They were very much people whose gratitude depended on what have you done for me lately. Freedom wasn’t enough to get them to worship and trust God, they demanded that God had to continue to do the miraculous in order for them to worship God.

We can look back on Israel and judge them for their lack of faith and ingratitude, but are we much different? Do we thank God for saving us from our sins or do we demand that He proves Himself over and over again? Would we continue to worship God even if He didn’t bless us anymore? I don’t know about you, but I think I am very much like Israel. I have had a time in my life when I was ready to turn my back on God…

God's Holy People: Part 6

The follower of Jesus Christ is to live counter culturally. In other words Christians are not supposed to imitate the behavior and values of the world, but to imitate Jesus. We are to live differently because we have been set apart by God for His purposes. This is what this series of posts have been about: God’s holy people live differently from the world.

Several years ago a young couple walked into Mosaic on Sunday morning. They stood out for a number of reasons, one of which was that they made their way to the front just to find the minister, Erwin McManus, and say hello. They both seemed bright, energetic, and extremely enthusiastic about being there that day. Colin Johnson and Shiho Inuoe were at the same time living together and searching for God. They were a contradiction of terms in that Colin grew up in a Christian home and had tremendous disdain for the church and Shiho grew up in a Japanese home without any teaching about God and had an unexplainable attraction to Jesus.

God's Holy People: Part 5

To be holy means to be set apart. If we are God’s holy people that means that we have been set apart which requires us to live by faith and be different from the world around us. We don’t get involved in the same sinful entanglements that they do and we live by a different set of standards. To put in simply followers of Jesus live differently than the rest of the world.

How do we do that? In Ephesians 5:1-21 we see that the apostle Paul has given us three different ways we are to walk in order to be set apart, to be different, from the world. The first way is that we are to walk in love. The second way is to walk in light. This brings us to the third way found in verses 15-21:
15 So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, 16 making the best use of time because the days are evil. 17 Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18 Stop getting drunk with wine, which leads to wild living, but keep on being filled with the Spirit. 19 Th…

God's Holy People: Part 4

The followers of Jesus Christ are called to live differently from the world. If we are not live differently from those people who are not Christians then we have to ask the question: Am I really following Jesus?

This is more than just going to a worship service on Sunday morning or placing a few dollars in the offering plate, this is about a different set of priorities and trusting God more than you trust yourself. It is seen in the way we love. Part 3 we examined how the apostle Paul expected followers of Jesus to walk in love.

In order to live differently from the world and be beacons of light in this dark world the Apostle Paul also tells us that we are to walk in light.
8 for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light - 9 for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth - 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose the…

God's Holy People: Part 3

In the first part of this series I pointed out that a follower of Christ needs to live counter cultural. It is by living differently from the world that we become beacons of light in this dark world. In part 2 of this series I hit on the truth that how we live reflects what we believe. If we truly believe in God and trust Jesus our lives will be different from those around us. I ended part two by pointing you to Ephesians 5:1-21 and saying that the apostle Paul provides us with ways we are to walk if we are going to be different from the world. In this third part we will look at the first way we are to walk.

First we are to walk in love:
1 Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children 2 and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. 3 But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints. 4 Neither should there be vulgar speech, …

Bohemian Christianity

In chapter 9 of The Slumber of Christianity author Ted Dekker moves from explaining how our imaginations can be used to produce a desire of heaven in our hearts to discussing how we can use pleasure.
“We have explored that wonderful, expansive gift God has given us to awaken to the pleasures of the next life, namely the imagination.

“But there is another gift God has given us to awaken our passion for the next life: pleasure in this life.” (p. 163)

Pleasure is a tricky topic. On the one hand we see how pleasure is misused and abused by the world. On the other hand we realize that God has given us these pleasures, and if God has given them they are for our enjoyment. The church has seemed to over emphasis the first hand and down played the second as we have urged people away from anything that feels good.
“The response of many teachers who see a church enamored by the pleasures of this world has been to drive their flock away from the pleasures of the world rather than toward the pleas…

How to Talk to the Other Side

Tom Gilson at Thinking Christian has a post about how to talk to Evolutionist (which has wider application) that I really appreciated. Here is one of his thoughts:
I am not saying you can’t have an opinion where you haven’t done your homework. I’m also not saying that what you know about God from other sources–revelation, apologetics, faith in general–has to be put on hold on account of this one topic. I am saying that we all ought to admit what we don’t know, especially when the topic is as complex as this one.I encourage you to read the rest of what Tom wrote: How Not to Support "Expelled;" How Not to Attack Evolution

God's Holy People: Part 2

In part 1 of this series I pointed out how the follower of Christ is expected to be counter cultural. A Christian has to live differently from the world. It was this stark contrast that set the early Christians apart from the rest of the Roman Empire. Because they lived differently they were beacons of light in a dark world. Remember Jesus wants us to be lights of the world (Matthew 5:14-16).

How we live is a reflection of what we believe. If we want to be lights in this world that shine with God’s love and truth then we have to live in a certain way. This is what the apostle Paul was getting at when he wrote: But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people (Ephesians 5:3; NIV). There is a proper and an improper way for Christ-Followers to live. The Apostle reminds the Ephesians, and us, that we are no longer sinners, no longer pagans, but we are God’s Holy People! We have been set apart and chos…

God's Holy People: Part 1

To be a follower of Christ has always meant to be counter-culture, to live differently from the rest of society. As the Church began in the first century the days were just as evil as they are today. Rome, as you may realize, was a huge empire and her influence was far reaching, but this empire was not a good place.

The city of Rome was plagued by over crowding. To give you an idea of how over crowded Rome was here are a few numbers to consider: Chicago has about 21 people per square acre. New York is considered over crowded at 37 people per square acre. Rome was extremely overcrowded at 200 people per square acre. This is without the benefit of high rise apartment buildings and with 30% of the city’s space being used for public spaces such as temples, fountains, and markets. Rome as a city in which people were, quite literally, living on top of each other.

With so much over crowding you can imagine that Rome was a place of extreme poverty, and this poverty led to an enormous cri…