Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Sermon Series

I'm excited about the new series that I'm working on, Mysteries of the Bible.

September 16
Can we trust the Bible?
September 23
Is the Bible relevant today?
September 30
Understanding the Bible
October 7
What the Bible can do for you
October 14
Information or transformation?

Friday, August 24, 2007

My America

If you watch or listen to the mainstream media in this country, you might get the impression that the majority of Americans are a bunch of war-protesting liberal nutburgers. Not true. Let me tell you about my America.

On Wednesday I went to pay my respects and offer condolences to the family of 1st Lieutenant Jonathan Edds, a young man who lost his life in Iraq last week. The visitation was held at the building of the White Pigeon Church of Christ, a small country church in a little town of about 1500 people. Because of the nature of his death and the fact that he grew up in White Pigeon, as well as the fact that his father has been the minister of the church for nearly two decades, I expected there to be a lot of people there. But I was not prepared for what I saw. As I approached the building, I could see 20 or 30 American flags lined up along the roadway. The parking lot was totally full (people were parking in an adjacent field). The Patriot Guard Riders were there, motorcycles lined up in an impressive formation. These men (veterans themselves) formed a perimeter around the church building. They stood there holding flags, greeting people, opening doors, etc. Keep in mind that it was 90 degrees outside.

Inside the building, I’m guessing there were about 200 people snaked around the foyer and into the auditorium, waiting to greet the family. I waited for nearly an hour before I could say a word to Barry & Julie and their other sons, Joel & Josh (who are also serving in the military). As I exited the auditorium, it looked like the throng of people had doubled. The place was packed! I left, thanking the Patriot Guard for what they were doing. Driving into town I saw the flag at the VFW post at half-mast, with a message on the signboard recognizing John’s ultimate sacrifice. Flags were displayed all over town.

That day I saw Americans. Proud Americans. Loving Americans. Caring Americans. That’s my America!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

An American Soldier

A few days ago I received the sad news that Jonathan Edds was killed in Iraq. The last time I saw him, he was an 8-year old kid in White Pigeon, Michigan. He and his family were part of the church I served. His father became the minister when I left. John and his two brothers Joel & Josh were great kids. Their parents, Barry & Julie are wonderful people. I can't imagine their grief. I'm going to White Pigeon tonight to offer condolences and to pay my respects to a great patriot. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of the men & women who put on the uniform for the USA. Please pray for their families.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cell Phone Moments

Someone told this story on Patrick Mead's blog:

I love the cell phone story Rubel Shelly told with respect to his phone going off at a Funeral Home as he was giving the eulogy. He said he apologized to the Funeral Home Director. The Funeral Home Director told him that wasn’t nearly as bad as what had happened at a previous funeral earlier that week. This was the funeral of a prominent woman in Nashville who happened to love the “Wizard of Oz.” It was her request that “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” be played at her funeral. When it came time to play her song the wrong song was selected so instead of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Ding-dong, the Wicked Witch is Dead” came blaring out!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


While attending a marriage seminar on communication, Tom and his wife Peg listened to the instructor declare, "It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other."

He looked at Tom and asked, "Can you describe your wife's favorite flower?"

Tom leaned over, touched his wife's arm gently and whispered, "Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn't it?"

The rest of the story is not pleasant.

Today Mrs. Soren and I celebrate 21 years of marriage. God is good!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I've Been Simpsonized

Actually, my mother's maiden name was Simpson.

Getting Back on Track

My friend John Dobbs posted the following on his blog:

We live in a noisy world with many voices calling us in many different directions. We want to be on the path that God sets before us, if we’re honest, we’ve all taken some detours along the way. Some of them have gone into destructive paths that have been very costly to us. Some of the detours have appeared to be benign, safe, and effortless … but in the mean time have been destructive to our spiritual life. What are some of the detours that destroy our spiritual life?

Being Unwilling to learn. (Hebrews 5:11 “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.”) It’s not that they cannot learn, it is that they are unwilling to learn. The Hebrews were listening to the voices calling them away from grace, away from Christ. We enter this detour when we are failing to stretch ourselves by studying / reading / learning in areas of discomfort or that are difficult. We can also take this detour by being easily satisfied by simplistic explanations instead of diving deeper into the Word of God. Our unwillingness to submit to the task of learning can also be prompted by over-attention to media, recreation, and entertainment. Wouldn’t it be a shame if the Apostle Paul were to write to us and say, “I’d like to tell you more about Jesus, but you stopped learning a long time ago.”

Neglecting Our Duties and Roles. (Hebrews 5:12 “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”) This is a stinging rebuke for people who consider themselves spiritual. Instead, many have neglected the elementary truths of God’s word to such an extent that they need to go back to spiritual kindergarten. What should you be by now? Should we have the ability to teach others at this point … and we cannot? Should we be able to dive into the Word of God with enthusiasm and ability … but instead barely have time to read it? This is not so much about ability as it is willingness … IF we are unwilling to learn (first detour), then we will be neglectful of the duties and roles that we should be filling. We need to break out of the destructive cycles our lives develop into and assume responsibility; get back on the journey to which God has called us.

Unable to Escape Being Bogged Down in the Basics (Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.”) It is not our goal in the Journey to continually retread the same subjects over and over to the neglect of the deeper truths of God’s Word. When doing this we tend to only read things that we agree with already. Reminders are good … but our study and activity for God should not be simply a repeat … but it should stretch us. I’m sure there are lots of school kids this week who are being reminded of what they studied last year in School…but they will press onwards from there … diving deeper into these subjects. The basics are necessary … but they are not the end of the story … we move on from there.

Ignoring what we know (Hebrews 6:4-6 “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”) If God is not enough, then there is nothing else. If you have been enlightened, saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, spent time in the Word … and it isn’t enough for you … what else do you think could keep you interested? There is no repentance if those things are left behind. Jesus he healed people, taught them, loved them, was truthful with them … yet … they killed him. Jesus has done all of this for you … would you leave Him now? If so, what will bring you back? Repentance is always an option if we come back … but the Hebrew writer maintains that if Jesus isn’t enough for you, there’s nothing else to bring you back.

Questions To Help us Get Back on Track

How are things going for you? (Hebrews 6:7-8 ”Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.”) Are you producing a spiritual crop for God…spiritual fruit … understanding and enjoying the blessings of God?Or is your life producing thorns and thistles? This is not a bad times / good times question. For the Christian on the Journey, even the bad times carry blessings that we recognize. Where is your life going? Is it moving closer and toward God, or are you following some detour that’s taking you away from God?

How is your serve? (Hebrews 6:10 “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.”) God does not forget our work … he is drawn to us when we have helped people and continue to help them. In the Matthew 25 judgment scene the questions relate to service: how did you treat the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, sick people that you knew? I think we tend to believe there is service and then there is knowledge. Both are important, but in Matthew 25 Jesus did not give them a doctrinal pop quiz. He wanted to know if serving Jesus made them more like Him…more aware of Him … did they live it out?

How is your walk? (Hebrews 6:12 “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”) Is it lazy … just taking in blessings without giving blessings? Is it active … walking in the same paths as those great people of faith we read about in Scripture (as we will see in Hebrews 11).

Are you on track … or on a detour? Detours aren’t to be tolerated. They are dangerous. They are destructive. They can steal your spiritual zeal and power. Hebrews 6 makes it clear that the country club vision of the church is not God’s vision…. this is not a place for people to get together once a week and say howdy … it’s not a chapel to fulfill a requirement for an hour of worship … this is a training facility where we are to be equipped to walk out into the world and be Jesus … be light in the darkness of this world. Like the Hebrews, we can listen to the wrong voices and get off track. If you’ve been on a detour, it’s time to correct your path and get back on the journey with Christ.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Back Home

Had a great time at the Northmen.

My friend Frank Weller gives a good synopsis here.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Northmen

Will be offline for about a week. I'm leaving tomorrow for the Northmen. For those who do not know, The Northmen is an annual campmeeting for men & boys in Northern Michigan. It is very primitive. We camp out in the middle of the woods (the nearest town is 12 miles away). No electricity or indoor plumbing (bathing is done in the creek). The Northmen is a wonderful opportunity to fellowship with old friends. More importantly, it's a great time for father & son bonding.

I will be preaching on Thursday afternoon. This will be my third time preaching there. It is a wonderful privilege, especially for a Michigan guy. Will give a full report when I return.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Funny Church Stories

My friend Tony Liston posted this story on his blog. I thought it was funny, mainly because anyone in ministry has probably done something like this:

I was reminded today of another learning moment in our kids ministry...

It was just before Christmas, and our kids ministry had decided to make Christmas cards for a local nursing home. They also thought it would nice to go Christmas Caroling to deliver their cards to the residents at the nursing home.

One of our young girls, dressed as a Christmas angel, went into a room to deliver a card to the resident - who was dozing at the time. The presence of our young girl apparently stirred the elderly, bed-ridden resident. Noticing the motion of the resident waking, our young "angel" turned and stood wearing a big smile at the foot of the bed. The aged resident opened her eyes to the sight of a young cherub standing at her bedside.

Note to self: When visiting a nursing home, children dressed as angels should always be accompanied by a plainly dressed adult and under no circumstances should they ever enter a sleeping residents room.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Did You See This?

Luke and I were watching the X-Games and we were stunned by this fall. How scary must that have been?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

First Place

Has anyone noticed that the Cubs are in first place? (okay, so they're TIED for first, but still...)


We enjoyed spending a few days with our friends Tony & Lynette Washburn and their boys. They were one of the first couples we met at Northampton. We have spent a lot of time together over the years. It was great to see them again. They made a stop in Indiana while traveling out to see family in Missouri.

Tony and I played golf. It was fun. But we really had fun when we tore down my pool and ripped out the deck with his F-250. Tony is a rocket scientist (literally — he works for NASA), but at heart, he’s just a good ol’ boy redneck (and I use the term lovingly -- it takes one to know one, right?). Good times.