Sunday, February 8, 2015


Over the last four and a half years, the path forward in ministry has not been clear.  This led to a number of days of doubt and questioning.  I have often wondered if I am so completely dense to what God is up to that missed his signs.  Since we have walked with the Lord as faithfully as we know how, I guess I thought we might get some clarity as a benefit.  I was having coffee with my friend, Dave Wainscott, when the question was raised, "I have been faithful, Lord, but what the hell?"  It launched a bit of a lament.  Well, I finished that lament here.  

A word about lament is in order.  Lament is a form of writing that expresses deep sorrow, fear, or doubt.  The writer generally speaks out of the bitterness of a life event or life season.  In the Bible, a majority of the Psalms are laments, but with a particular bent.  In biblical lament, the writer pours out the anger or bitterness, but comes to a point of expressing some form of faith or confidence in the Lord in spite of the circumstances.  That is what I hope I communicated here.  This is my lament for the last season of life.

Lord, I have been faithful, so what gives?

Why this road? Why this path?  This doesn’t look like anything I saw at the beginning.

When I sat on that Big Rock, I asked you if I should take that road,

If I should learn to shepherd and serve as one who pastors.

And you said yes as clearly as I hear the voices of my family and friends.

In the voices of those close to me were affirmations of that call.

So I faithfully followed…yet it has not turned out as I thought.

What am I missing?  Did I miss a signal?  Did I fail in some way and not see it?

I guess I figured that faithfulness would count for something more,

For some reward I would not have to wait for.

So what gives? 

What gives, it seems, is my picture of what should be and my plan of how things should work out.

You have shown yourself faithful in every way.  You have proven fully trustworthy.

When there has been heartache and change, you have been our comfort.

When the road was desolate, you remained as our traveling companion and guide.

When it looked like we would have nothing, you were and are our faithful provider.

You use me in the way that is best for your purposes.

You are molding me so that I can accomplish best what will bring you the most glory.

This is a good road, where you will continue to include me in your plan.

As I walk this path, I will continue to walk in faithfulness,

Knowing you will bring me to that place of peace and service that brings me great joy and brings you great glory.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Proverbs 18:2 - A fool takes no pleasure in understanding; but only in expressing his opinion.

In light of the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, many people have taken to social media and other forums to express their opinions of the grand jury, the police officer, the slain teenager, the process, etc.  I believe I have learned much from the different videos and postings regarding different points of view and different renderings of the events.  I have heard people seeking to be civil while their hearts were breaking.  And I have heard pointed comments that stake out a position as if it were high, holy ground.

As I consider again the events of the week leading to Thanksgiving, 2014, I was saddened that these events had to transpire at all.  I was saddened even more when people I know, people I call brother and sister could not seek to understand.  They wanted to be understood.

In  my reading of Scripture, I came across the above proverb that gave me pause.  How easy it is to have an opinion!  How easy it is to speak my mind and sound as if I know what I am talking about.  In an irony of the moment, is that not what I am doing right now?

At this moment, I pause to take stock and ask, "What hurtful way is in me?  What opinion do I hold that will keep me from simply hearing another perspective?  Are the relationships I have worth the harm I will do if I insist on hearing only the din of my voice because I could not hear my brother or sister?"

Saint Frances of Assisi asked the Lord to make him an instrument of his peace.  One such person seeks to bring or restore peace where it has been stolen away.  He understands that to be such an instrument, he would have to refrain from many so-called natural actions of judgment.  To be such an instrument is to accept the person across from her as being made in the image of God, however marred it may be, and possibly in need of consolation, understanding, and love.

A fool does not seek understanding - he seeks the promotion of his ideas.  A fool does not seek to console - she seeks to pronounce the sentence as if the pain of another was punishment.  A fool does not seek to love - he seeks to justify himself.

Too many times I am the fool.  When it comes to comprehending all that goes into the Ferguson events, I am better off listening, consoling, and understanding.  I certainly have a point of view, but I have no more first hand knowledge of this situation and its history than many of my fellow believers and friends.  My conversation needs to be seasoned with salt - an agent that purifies and preserves rather than contaminates and spoils.

Would you join me in this?  Can we speak to one another as image bearers of God so that we honor our Lord in how we communicate?  As for me, my desire and hope is that people see Christ in me not for what I have said but for how I said it, not for my opinion, but for the wisdom I showed in holding it.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


I have been pondering a big question lately, one that I know has been pondered by many before me. What are the traits of a person we perceive to be a mature follower of Jesus?

If I were answering this question twenty years ago, I would be looking at more knowledge-based answers. I think it would have to do with what a person knew. Yes, how they lived was important. But knowledge seemed to mean more than life.

Today, knowledge still seems to be a litmus test. Yet living the life of a Christ-follower seems to have its options. This troubles me. What are we as believers missing that has us pick and choose how to live a Christ-following life?

That's another big question. I believe one part of it is that each person who professes to follow Jesus really wants to pattern his or her life after Jesus. Since this is a theme of New Testament teaching, is this something we are not communicating well as an affect of the good news?

Okay, one more big question. But these questions lead me to the question I am pondering most. It's related to the first question. If I were to mentor someone in following Jesus and he or she wanted a life more aligned with the Master, Jesus, what would be good things to major on?

These are my thoughts so far...

  • Humility 
  • Service 
  • Knowing what Jesus commanded 
  • Grace 
  • Compassion 
  • A sense of God's history with people 
  • Vocation - in ministry and in life 

 Now if you were mentoring someone in the faith, what would you make sure to pass on?

Thursday, July 31, 2014


From the US Mennonite Brethren National Conference.  A quote from Ed Stetzer captured by my friend Rick Bartlett.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I love going to worship on Sunday morning…except when I don’t feel like it.

I anticipate being in worship, singing songs of praise and adoration to the Lord and hearing a message from the Word of the Lord. But there are times I just want to be quiet and other times I just want to sit and cry. I have yet to go to a worship service that makes room for stillness or sorrow.

A number of years ago, I sat in a seminar with musical artist and theologian Michael Card as he explained how there seemed to be so little space given in our worship to sorrow and pain. It was as if worship was only meant to be uplifting and refreshing. For those experiencing loss, depression or distance from God, this continual diet of worship left no room for them. What language was there for them to seek God?

Michael suggested that we need to recapture the lost language of lament. Lamentation is the language of crying out to the Lord in our pain or sorrow and asking for His intervention or at least His perspective. When I consider that half of the book of Psalms from which we derive much praise language is written in the language of lament, this makes a lot of sense.

There have been some Sunday mornings when I have sat in worship, wishing someone would give me space to grieve. I have been asked if we could make space for quiet so that people could personally engage with God in whatever they are feeling. I think we need more mourning worship services.

I propose we set aside a few Sundays in the church year for lamenting. There are things we all can lament. We could lament our sin and penchant for wandering from the Lord and His call. We could lament the losses of the past season, be it a few months or a year. Maybe we could take a service and lament the passing of people in the congregation rather than just making it small part of our announcement or prayer.

To put this all in perspective, biblical lament does not focus solely on the circumstances of loss or pain. As Card points out, each lament rests on a fulcrum, a balancing point that starts heavy with the pain, but moves to expressions of faith and trust in the Lord. True lament cries and wails in sorrow, and then pivots to whispers and sighs of faith and confidence.

This finds its way into worship through prayers and songs of praise that rise from hurting souls that have found release into worship. As people find they can release their pain into the hands of the Father, they also can pivot to express their trust and confess their confidence that the Father has heard and accepted their cries – or should I say OUR cries.

This is my modest proposal. Can we make some generous room in our worship for lament?

For further reading:

A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament (Michael Card, 2005)

The Hidden Face of God: Finding the Missing Door to the Father through Lament (Michael Card, 2007)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


You have heard of faithfulness, holiness, mercy, and love.  The Lord exhibits these traits towards us and we seek to show them as followers of Christ.  There is one trait that does not get as much press.  Thanks to an Israelite king, I began pondering it.

Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place and strengthened himself against Israel. He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim that Asa his father had captured. The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand. And all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. And furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah. (2 Chronicles 17:1-6)

I usually do not consider courage as a Christ-follower trait because the land I live in allows me the freedom to worship as my conscience allows.  In some countries, courage is a necessity.

So why was it necessary for Jehoshaphat?  He was the king and one of the Chosen People.  Why did he need courage?  He needed it because his actions bucked the status quo.  He took on the popular practices and traditions that took root among the people after the days of Moses and Joshua.  During David's time, they were more muted.  After David, they came back with a vengeance.

The king's father and grandfather and great-grandfather were considered good kings.  But they let the practices of idolatry continue in their midst.  Jehoshaphat decided enough was enough.  He did not order the practices to cease.  He went out himself and destroyed the idols.  He sent teachers to the people to direct them to the Lord.  He took on the status quo and he was successful in the Lord.

I enjoy the freedom of this country.  That same freedom and its comforts easily lull me into going with the flow.  Why rock a boat that is drifting well with no waves around? 

Yet truly waves will come.  Will I be able to stay with the boat?  Do I need to get out of the boat as Jesus comes close and bids me go a new direction?  If change is absolutely necessary, am I willing to strike out alone if no one else wants to go with me?

Jehoshaphat was courageous in heart.  He did not let the status quo become his measuring rod.  As a Christ-follower, I feel the need today for the same courage.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.  It's as if they are showing you the way.   - Donald Miller

I snatched this quote from Reader's Digest before I tossed out the old magazine.  I pondered the quote after my first reading.  What do I love and what would I want others to be excited about? 

I first thought of foosball and how my girls enjoy a rousing game - especially if it means beating dad.  They love the game and play it when they can and it started with us.  It started with my enjoyment of the game passed on to them.

I enjoy the Hebrew language.  When I first studied Hebrew, it was to fill a requirement in my M.Div. program.  But taking Hebrew from Allen Guenther and Elmer Martens was not about requirements.  It was about learning to love a language they both loved.  I still remember Allen saying with fire, "Read the Hebrew Scriptures in the original even if you cannot translate it all.  It will transform you!"  I know he meant the transformation would come through the reading of the Word, but I could tell he was full of passion for its original language.

How we love something will tell others how important it is.  Take the disciples of Jesus.  I don't mean the ones in the Bible,  I mean the ones who worship each week in churches and join for Bible study and prayer groups.  I mean the disciples who live today and confess their love for the Lord.  Would you follow Jesus based on what you see?

Jesus said that the world would know who his followers were by their love for each other.  Is this evident among the followers of Jesus today?

The intent of these questions is both reflective and evaluative.  I mean to make the followers of Jesus (of which I am one) consider how their lives demonstrate a passionate love for the Savior.  It is also evaluative.  Do we have a love for Jesus that would cause someone else to take notice and want to love Him  as well?

I really hope I demonstrate that kind of love.  If others do not see it, then I pray that the Lord will continue to draw that kind of love out of me and that my love for Jesus will cause followers and seekers of Jesus to want to love Him more.

It is not like we are without an example.  See what kind of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God.  And that is what we are.  1 John 3