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Posted on Apr 26, 2017 in Blog, Devotional Thoughts, Featured

The Cutting Room Floor, Easter 2017

The Cutting Room Floor, Easter 2017

One of the hardest parts of being a pastor is having to cut out talking about something you’re really excited to talk about. I had to do that this past Easter. So, I thought I would share part of it with you on this Wednesday. Maybe to serve a reminder of Easter, or what we talked about this past Sunday. Or maybe to just encourage you in the middle of your week. Here you are, trying to live for Christ, Sunday seems like a long time ago…this Sunday is still a ways away.

The weeks leading up to Easter, I was enthralled with this section of John chapter 10. Jesus calls himself the good shepherd.

John 10:7a, 9-11

Therefore Jesus said again, . I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Living on a farm is interesting. The cattle know my uncle’s voice. When he calls them, they will usually come. That is, as long as there isn’t something more enticing in front of them.

A couple of times a year, while my uncle is out of town, the kids and I will take on feeding my uncles cattle. We will use my old Massey Ferguson 65 tractor and a trailer, that way all the kids can participate. That old tractor has a unique sound. The newer tractors on the farm sound different. It’s got an old sputtering kind of a sound to it. It’s pretty cool.

A while ago, we fed the cows for about a week. We used that tractor twice a day, morning and evening to feed. After a couple of days, once the cows figured it out, the cows we start coming towards the barn when they would hear me fire up the 65. Often times, they would come from a far off place in a rush to get what we were feeding them, only for us to take them right back to that same place. They would even be slobbering all over themselves, because they knew what was coming.

Well, a couple weeks after we had done that, I had to pull out my tractor and use it for something. What do you think happened? The cows came running. Only to be disappointed. I had nothing to offer them. It was only a deception.

This reminded me of Jesus talking about himself as THE good shepherd. There is only one good shepherd. Jesus not only refers to himself as the Good Shepherd, but as the gate. The only way to be saved is to enter through him. He also calls himself the way, the truth the life. No one can come to the Father without going through Jesus. There is only one good shepherd.

However, we tend to think there are others. 

Jesus says: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

The promise of following Jesus is that we will find pasture. If you don’t know anything about sheep or cattle, you might pass over this. I’ve learned a few things over the past couple of years.

Two summers ago, we had a very dry summer. All the pasture dried up. There wasn’t anything for the cows to eat. When they didn’t have food, they would get “adventurous” and start finding ways out of the safety of the fenced in pasture to go find greener food. They were willing to endure the shock of the electric fence to find better food.

They may find some greener food, but they may also find trouble. There are a lot of other dangers outside those fences. They may wander off and never find their way back to their shepherd.

What Jesus is saying here is that those who enter through him will come in and go out and find pasture. They will have what they need. They will have peace. They will not have to worry about their needs being met. There will be comfort.

But, we tend to still think there are others…

Just like the Israelites grumbled and complained about the manna and quail, we want more. So, we start looking for someone who will give us what we want instead of trusting the one who has already given us everything we need.

It doesn’t take long. “The thief comes, only to steal, kill and destroy.”

We think the main tactic of the thief is to come and snatch sheep out of the pen when no one is looking. I suppose that could be. But really, I think it works in many different ways.

One of those, is that the thief will come along and give us what we think we want.

There might be green pasture all around us, but “what’s that sound?” “Oh hey, there’s something to eat coming toward me.” A little time might pass…then we hear it again. The old 65 is firing up again. “The last time I heard that sound, I got to eat something different.” Before too long, we find ourselves salivating once we hear the sound of the 65.

And we’re getting what we want.

For a time.

But, what we don’t realize, is that the thief has no interest in feeding us and taking care of us. No interest in protecting us or providing for us. The only aim of the thief is to get us away from the good shepherd. Once we’re off on our own, we’re easy prey.

You may find yourself being lured into things that having nothing to do with the kingdom of God. But remember, often, what we think we want is not what we really need. The good shepherd knows what we really need. We may think we want what’s outside the pasture we have been led to, but we may not realize there are things mixed in with that “greener pasture” that will kill us.

Have you been lured away by the sound of the thief? Are you listening to a voice that isn’t there to care for you, but only to destroy you? Maybe it’s time to start listening for the voice of the good shepherd.

Matthew 18:12-13

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.

The Shepherd is calling out for you. Do you hear his voice? Will you listen to it?

Or will you keep chasing the old 65?

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Posted on Jul 28, 2015 in Blog, Devotional Thoughts, Encouragement, Featured, repost, Worry

Near…Far…And Everywhere In Between

Near…Far…And Everywhere In Between

Do you remember Grover teaching us as kids about near and far? Maybe this video will help:

Grover was always one of my favorites. Perhaps it’s because he was so overly dramatic, just like me. I still love the little golden book, “Monster at the end of this book.”

On Sunday at SixEight Church, I shared a little about our cross-country road trip during communion. Jim had just shared a great message, and it fit pretty well with what he said. But, I thought it might help others today, so I wanted to share it in written form.

We spent the last two weeks driving from the Pacific Northwest to the midwest. In all, we drove 5,800 miles. The kids handled the driving really well, and it was a really great trip for our family.

However, and if you’ve ever made a big road trip you know this, there got to be a point near the end where it felt like we were never going to get home. We left on Thursday morning from northern Ohio and made it to Lincoln, Nebraska – where we feared for our lives. Seriously. The next day, the longest of the three days back, we drove from Lincoln to Salt Lake City, Utah – where they were shooting off fireworks as we arrived. I guess they were impressed with the fact that we had made it that far in two days. Then, on Saturday, we left from Salt Lake, got into Idaho. The speed limit had been 80 mph. Then as soon as we arrived into Oregon, the limit dropped to 65. Which is ironic to me. Because, Oregon is one of the most progressive states, and yet they are one of the last to change their speed limit.

It felt like all our progress had been stopped. We were never going to get through Oregon. We had hauled the mail through two-thirds of the country, and came to a stand still so close to home. We were so close, but home felt far away. We missed home and our life on the farm. We were ready to get there and see how much the garden had grown while we were gone.

Heading into the mountains in Eastern Oregon, we also faced a stiff headwind. Going uphill into the wind doesn’t do much to help with gas mileage. What I thought was plenty of fuel to get through the mountains to the other side quickly turned to fear that we were going to run out of gas far from a gas station. And, because our van only has 220,000 miles on it, we thought it would be safe to drive across the country without Triple-A.

Needless to say, we made it to the gas station and bathrooms in time. And we got home less than 4 hours later.

But something stuck me as Jim was talking, and God brought this scripture to mind from Jeremiah 23:

23 “Am I only a God nearby,”
declares the Lord,
    “and not a God far away?
24 Who can hide in secret places
    so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord.
    “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the Lord.

We drove a lot. We were very far from home. There were many times when we were far away from civilization. Nothing was near us except bugs and Semi trucks. Have you ever been somewhere without seeing a truck? And yet, not matter how far away we were from everything we knew, God was there with us. Whether we were in life-risking Lincoln Nebraska, the thunderstorms of Wyoming or the corn of Indiana, we were never far away from God.

Have you ever felt like you were far away from God? Like he was in a distant universe? Do you want to know something? You were wrong. Is God in the far off universe we have never seen? Yes. But, God isn’t only there, he is always here. That means there is no where you can go to get away from God. No matter how far away from home you are, God is still there.

Remember this the next time your driving through the mountains, heading into a strong wind and running out of gas. Even if you are stranded far away from everything you know, God is not only far away – he is near.

Near…far…and everywhere in between.

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Posted on Mar 21, 2013 in Devotional Thoughts

I Saw the Sign

I Saw the Sign

I am preparing my sermon for this week, and came across this. It won’t fit in the message, but I had to share it.

Mark 8 (NET)

The Feeding of the Four Thousand

8 In those days there was another large crowd with nothing to eat. So Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have already been here with me three days, and they have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint on the way, and some of them have come from a great distance.” His disciples answered him, “Where can someone get enough bread in this desolate place to satisfy these people?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven.” Then he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. After he took the seven loaves and gave thanks, he broke them and began giving them to the disciples to serve. So they served the crowd. They also had a few small fish. After giving thanks for these, he told them to serve these as well. Everyone ate and was satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. There were about four thousand who ate. Then he dismissed them. 10 Immediately he got into a boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

The Demand for a Sign

11 Then the Pharisees came and began to argue with Jesus, asking for a sign from heaven to test him. 12 Sighing deeply in his spirit he said, “Why does this generation look for a sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat, and went to the other side.

What was the sign of the Old Testament? At least one of them was the bread from heaven – manna. And in another gospel, Jesus corrects these religious zealots. He reminds them that God provided the bread from heaven, not Moses.

Well, here we have the “Bread of Life” who has just provided a meal of bread for 4,000+ people.

Then the pharisees came and began to argue with Jesus asking for a sign from heaven.

Jesus, the bread of life – the bread from heaven, had just provided a meal with edible bread from heaven for all these people to eat. And yet, they still didn’t get it.

No wonder Jesus sighed deeply in his spirit when they asked for a sign after having just given everyone who saw the miracle a PRETTY BIG SIGN!!! I’d get back in the boat too.

 

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Posted on Jan 15, 2013 in Devotional Thoughts, Featured, Pain and Suffering

Magic…Fairy Dust…Hope…

Magic…Fairy Dust…Hope…

It seems we live in a world where everything is possible. And if it’s not possible yet, it will be. We use phones that have more computing power than the computers that went to the moon with the Apollo missions. We watch movies with special effects that look so real we forget they’re not. Unless you’re watching a movie on SyFy – but that’s only what I hear (clears throat). Many of the sicknesses that used to plague the world are cured with a preventative shot. A trip across the country that used to take months, then took days and now only takes hours. And perhaps most amazing of all, this huge world that used to be round is now flat.

Magic.

And yet, many of us still face situations for which there is no easy answer. There is no cure for cancer. The economy is still in the tank and many out of work. Hurricanes cannot be stopped, Earthquakes still destroy, Tsunamis roll and people kill.

Our progress has made us more impatient than ever, even when waiting for the impossible. And yet, for some things there is no advancement great enough to conquer. We would wait for centuries, but there will never be a solution.

So we dream of all the impossibilities being absolved with one simple solution. Some fairy dust we can sprinkle that will make everything better. Three wishes. The Lottery. True Love.

And perhaps, therein, the problem doth lie. (How’d you like that new world english?) We live in a world of actual impossibilities. There are things that will never happen and no amount of advancement will make the impossible – possible. We will never be able to stop a Hurricane from forming, or the earth’s crust from cracking.

We will experience pain and suffering. That’s the reality. There is no magic that can be sprinkled to protect us from it. And even if there was, the magic we dream about is only enough to save us from one situation. If only there was something greater than magic.

Hope.

Some rights reserved by Pol Sifter

Some rights reserved by Pol Sifter – Creative Commons

There are wrongs that cannot be overcome with good. Wrongs we will never understand, nor be able to explain to our kids. But there is hope.

Perhaps this is why we find Jacob hoping for salvation in Genesis and Paul hoping for a clarity yet to be seen in Corinthians. (Along with many other references for hope in between.) Hope is one of just a few universal continuities. Every one hopes.

This is the hope that we have. Hope is the real magic. Magic solves the problem for me…hope, for all mankind. Magic is temporary…hope, eternal. Magic can be undone…hope, permanent.

Hope is what we have. It does not put food on the table, money in the bank or a 401(k). But, we can hope that things will change and that there will be a day in this life where those changes take place. But, even beyond that, we have hope.

We have hope for an existence beyond now where this now we live in will make sense. We will see clearly, know fully and be completely. It may never make sense now, but we have the hope that it will. We have the hope that all injustices will be undone. We have the hope that all hurt and heartache will be gone.

Hope. There are greater things, but hope ranks in the top 3. It certainly out-ranks magic.

Where is your hope?

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Posted on Oct 16, 2012 in 100 Bible Verses to Memorize, Devotional Thoughts

100 Bible Verses You Should Memorize and why (Part 1 of 100)

100 Bible Verses You Should Memorize and why (Part 1 of 100)

A few years ago, Bible Gateway published a list of the 100 most read bible verses at biblegateway.com (http://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2009/05/the-100-most-read-bible-verses-at-biblegatewaycom/) I thought it would be a great list to use to memorize the 100 most popular verses! I also, thought I’d take minute and explain some of the significance behind the verse as well.

Here we go!

The #1 verse, as you might expect is John 3:16:

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

If you grew up going to church and Sunday school, where you got medals for your perfect attendance, you probably also got a reward for memorizing this verse! Unfortunately, it’s probably so familiar to us that we just brush it off as something we learned when we were kids, so it must be childish.

It is, most definitely not!

There is so much packed into this one verse.

God love the world.

God sent his son into the world.

Believing in his Son saves us from death!

Believing in the Son he sent gives us eternal life!

These four, life-changing truths are all in this one little verse. That’s why we memorize it when we’re kids. God loved us, his creation, his world so much that he would send His one and only son into that sin-filled and dirty world. He sent his son away from the royalty of Heaven and into a dark world. That’s how much he loved us.

And it doesn’t end there, if we believe in that love we can be saved from eternal death and given eternal life, in Heaven with our Creator. We don’t have to do anything to earn this love, it’s just ours. All we have to do is believe.

Earlier in the book of John (1:12) we hear: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Rest in this verse this week! We have been given the right to become children of God. Because he loved us enough to come into the world. All we have to do is believe in him.

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Posted on Oct 15, 2012 in Devotional Thoughts, Pain and Suffering

The Rain Has Come (A life under construction)

The Rain Has Come (A life under construction)

As many of you who listen to the Worship Ministry Catalyst Podcast know, I live in the Pacific Northwest – an area known for being wet. What you may not know is that we often have a couple of very dry months. Typically we will have most of July and August, as well as the first part of September where there is little to no rain. This year was no exception. In fact it was exceptional in this way, we have over 100 days of no rain. The longest dry stretch in recorded history.

But this past Friday, the record breaking stretch ended. It even ended with a record breaking day. On that Friday we set a record for recorded rainfall on that specific date.

I’m one of those people who actually likes the rain. I’m “warm-blooded” and don’t like being too warm. I’d much rather be too cold than too warm. When it’s cool there are things you can do that are effective at warming you up. When it’s hot, and you don’t have air conditioning, there’s not a lot you can do to cool down.

But this year in particular, the rain was a tremendous blessing. It seems that there is construction going on everywhere we go, and it has been going on all summer. Everything was coated in a layer of dirt and grime.

But then the rain came. Yes the construction is still going on, but the dirt is gone. And sure there will be another layer of dirt, but it will get washed away too. But eventually the construction will be done, the dust will be gone and life will go back to normal.

Here’s my point to this seemingly pointless post about rain, weather and construction. No matter what is going on in your life, the rain is coming. Sure there are droughts, there are times when it seems like you’ll never get through. But even in the Atacama desert in Chile, where they only average 1.5cm of rainfall per year, and they went 400 years without rain, the rain still came. It even rains in the desert.

Life is dirty, and it seems we’re always going through some sort of construction. It seems there are constant obstacles getting in our way, and detours we have to take. It seems like the construction should have been done forever ago. And instead of an improved road, we simply have detours and layers of dirt piling up.

But, construction does finish. And just like the roads we drive, when construction on who we are finishes, we have a better way of navigating through life. When we wash away the dirt, we discover that the revisions to who we were prepare us for who we will become. And without the construction, we would drive the same roads, go over the same pot-holes and never imagine  life could be better than it is right now.

My encouragement for you today is, that the rain will come. You may be in a period of construction, and all you can see is the dirt, but the day will come when the dirt is washed away and all you see is new path in front of you. You hay have to take a detour for a while, it may seem out of the way and inconvenient, but a new path is being built.

Ps 16:11 – “You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Rev. 21:4-5: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 

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