Thursday, June 26, 2008

"for better, for worse..."

Marriage vows are a part of most traditional wedding ceremonies although, I am told, the contents are ever-changing to facilitate the mercurial nature of marriages today. Going in, it as if there are a list of predetermined caveats that undermine the once-honored "for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health..." In their place are the now more common, expected--if not recited words--"as long as we love each other", "until we change", "whenever it takes more effort than I am willing to make", etc.

It is tragic to me to observe the blatant disregard for commitment and the choosing of the path of least resistance as the final arbiter of whether or not two people, once in love, often now parents, decide to remain in their marriage. More often than not is the well-documented legacy of divorce that wreaks its toll upon them and succeeding generations.

I know it well. I have been divorced. As a minister, I desperately want to protect those I counsel from the pain and sorrow that awaits them--that foolishly they expect will be evaded or, at least, diminished, by leaving a troubled relationship. Little consideration is given for the selfishness and costliness of their decision and the inevitable repercussions for little children left in the wake of a breakup for "convenience and comfort", or, for just "pure" lust.

"For better, for worse..." aniticipates that in the normal marriage there may well be a little of both. The vows of commitment declare the determination to stay in the marriage because of a promised love for one another. Such vows do not leave the back door open for a quick departure (eagerly provided for by the State) but, sadly, the words seem to be only rhetoric, a traditon to be adandoned in the name of personal expedience.

It is no wonder things are not better...but worse.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seven Things God Hates

Well, it seems big jump from the "fruit of the Spirit" for five days of VBS to "Seven Things God Hates" in our Sunday morning worship series from Proverbs. But I took that step Sunday.

There is a necessary correlation between the two. God is a God of love--we love to talk about His mercy and grace, His kindness and patience. We are drawn to the loving God and we can be enveloped in this to such an extreme, however, that some would suggest anything without this motiff should NOT be taught or preached, i.e., sermons on sin, death, hell, etc.

God is also a holy God--a righteous and a just God. He is a God who hates sin. How can we NOT talk about the things He hates--the things Proverbs 6:12-19 identifies as "detestable" to Him--with a mindset to take note of them as children who desire to please their Heavenly Father?

Here's the connective link. If we truly love God how could we choose to do the things that He hates? The list--pride, dishonesty, injustice, selfishness, rebellion, hypocrisy and divisiveness--is developed in my sermon (available on These things are contrary to the nature of a holy God, and should be uncommon to the life of a believer who truly loves Him..

I love God too much to choose to do the things He hates.

Still, I do fall short of such determination. In that context I am reminded of Paul.s words, "God commended His love towards us that while we were yet sinners (see the list above), Christ died for us".

Take the jump with me, and embrace the "fruit of the Spirit" produced in a loving relationship with God...but repent of the things God hates that can break our fellowship with Him.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vacation Bible School

We are passed the midweek point of a spectacular week of VBS at Grace Fellowship. Yes, I am the senior pastor but I am also,along with my wife, the volunteer 3-4 grade and 5-6 grade Bible lesson teacher..what a great assignment!

Why me? We have 120 children participating and about another 50-plus teen and adult helpers in refreshments, crafts, music, administration, drama, teaching, recreation, name it. I just wanted to connect with the children of our church this week. Every morning about 8:30 a.m. I show up to greet them by name, hug them,and generally let them know I love them--from the innocent two year olds to the "sophisticated" sixth graders. And I get lots of love back in return.

Two sessions of twenty-five minutes each Bev and I teach about the fruit of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, patience and kindness. As we have looked into the eager faces of the 50 plus children in our two classes, I have had an emotional moment or two thinking about the families they represent--their path to Grace Fellowship--and their role apparent as future participants in the body of Christ. What an opportunity to impress them with the truth of God's Word.

Each day the children come together to sing and are dismissed to classes that include music, recreation, crafts, Bible story time and Bible application. The opening session features a dramatic presentation by some high school teens, and every other environment--grade specific--includes age appropriate crafts (the older boys arte constructing bird houses!), interactive games, the Bible lesson and application time and a culminating session where everyone comes together to reconnect before heading home about 12:30 p.m. It is a long but worthwhile morning.

It is 5 p.m. and I am tired. Three days down, two more to go!

But I am energized by the realization that I am investing in the lives of young children who will, hopefully, look back some day and remember this as a special week.

It has been for me!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Father's Day

I have been reflecting upon my father's life the last few days. June 10th would have been his 86th birthday and the twentieth anniversary of his untimely death is later this year. The shadow of his life gives me pause to remember him today.

Dad was extraordinary in many ways. People who know me--and who knew him--tell me he was one of the kindest, most loving persons they knew. Though he was a large man, he was gentle and soft-spoken, and no one ever feared a temper tantrum or a vile word from him.

He was brilliant, though he camouflaged it well. He knew words in the dictionary I had never heard and he could remember pieces of history and other trivia that amazed us and made us laugh. He could read quickly and still recall details from what he had read. He had an incredible sense of discernment about people and their motives and was not easily deceived.

Dad was a motivator, even though he did not realize it. He used His presence and passion well, encouraging kids the world would have abandoned to go to college and to prepare themselves for service. At one time over one hundred teenagers had left the small church he pastored in Stockton, California, to travel cross-country to a small Bible college in Iowa to ask God how they could spend their lives serving Him. And now they are literally scattered aorund the world in churches, on the mission various places of influence for the kingdom of God.

My twin brother is a minister. My oldest sister has spent most of her vocational life teaching in Christian schools. My younger sister is married to a pastor-chaplain, and now, for forty-one years I have been a pastor as well. All four of us live in the shadow of dad's love and influence.

On this Father's Day I want to honor my dad by seeking to live with a similar mindest to humbly serve God and to motivate others to do the same. In that way I can extend his legacy to me.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Grinnin' with the grandkids

I have eleven grandchildren and in the last ten days I have spent quality time with seven of them--five days with the three in Texas, and four days with four of the eight from San Luis Obispo. What a treat! I have learned a few lessons along the way...

1. Grandchildren make me happy. I can't count the times I stopped myself and thought, "Why am I smiling like this?" (Sadly, that is not typical of my commom facial presentation.)

2. Grandchildren make me tired. I hiked, swam, carried, hoisted on my shoulders, wrestled, ran, chased, hosed...these are all high-level action words that seemed to be "eternal", with the "tired" part only to be discovered at the end of the day when sleep was instant!

3. Grandchildren make me proud! I watched my son, daughter-in-law, daughter, son-in-law, step daughter-in-law--carefully. They are all better parenta than I was and I am intensely proud of how they are raising their children with a good mix of love and discipline, freedom and boundaries.

4. Grandchildren make me concerned. I wonder aloud what kind of world they will live in. What values will be the norm? What role will their faith play in their lives when they get older? And,of course, I am curious about which of them I will see graduate from college, get married, and find their place of service in a needy world.

5. Grandchildren make me hopeful. I see in all eleven of mine with brightness and unlimited potential (a totally unbiased perspective). I see that being fashioned against a backdrop of intentional and careful nurturing by godly parents. I already see in some of them sensitivity, kindness and concern for others...and that gives me hope.

The last batch of grandkids just left and headed home. We probably won't be seeing them for a couple of months--and the three out in Texas even longer (although one is coming here for eight days...I can't wait!)

Any way, I just looked in the mirror...and I am still grinnin'!