Print pagePDF pageEmail page

What is a friend? Well, since we all know that the internet is always reliable, I looked for a definition online. Here are a few that I found.

A lifelong friend is someone you haven’t borrowed money from yet.

Friends knock on your door. Best friends walk into your house and start eating.

A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway. – Fr. Jerome Cummings

A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked. – Bernard Meltzer

There’s nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

No matter how you define it, we were designed for friendship. At the very beginning, in the first chapter of Genesis, God declared that it was not good for the man to be alone. He brought every kind of animal to him, but none were suitable to meet Adam’s needs. What he needed was a friend. Someone to be a companion. Someone to support him. So God created one. One that was human just like him. One that thought and felt like he did. And He said it was good.

Just in the stories we find in the Bible, we see examples of friendships. Probably the most well known is the friendship between David and Jonathan. This was not just a run of the mill, I remember you kind of friendship. This was a covenant friendship. Although Jonathan’s father, Saul, set out to kill David, Jonathan loved David so much that he helped him escape, despite potentially destroying his relationship with his father and risking his own life.

And then there was Ruth and Naomi. Although they were related – Ruth was Naomi’s daughter in law – they had formed a friendship that caused Ruth to willingly give up her family and land to travel back to Naomi’s homeland with her and to take care of her there. We also see Abraham and Lot, Elijah and Elisha, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, among others.

Friendships can be so complex that many languages have several different words that can mean friend, including English. We differentiate between an acquaintance, a colleague, a friend and a close friend. Research suggests that the average person can handle 150-200 friends at a time, although in practicality, most of them would fall in the acquaintance or colleague category. That’s not necessarily bad. It’s just that God has designed us each so differently that there are likely only a handful of people that we really feel comfortable sharing our dreams and needs with. But rest assured, we do need those few. Just as a cord of three strands is not easily broken, God has provided us with close friends to strengthen us individually and as a community.

Why do we have so many examples of friendships in the Bible? Because God wanted to make it crystal clear that He did not intend for us to be alone. He places such a high value on friendship – close friendship – that he identifies it with the word love. And over and over, He calls us to love one another. Here are just a few:

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Although we have been taught, especially here in America, to take care of ourselves and to be independent, Jesus calls us to relationship. Many times, we find friendships formed during times of adversity. When the survivors of the tornadoes near Oklahoma City in late May emerged from their shelters, the extreme devastation caused them to form an instant bond with those who had suffered with them. It is at times of pain that even the most independent among us begin to realize the deeply ingrained need for a good friend. That is not weakness, but a recognition of God’s design for His people.

So what is a friend, really? Webster defines it at a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another. The Scriptures don’t give a single definition of a friend, but describes characteristics of good and bad friendships.

Ecclesiates 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Romans 12:10 says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Proverbs 27:6 says “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.”

I encourage you to look for Scriptures this week that describe friendship. There are many more.

And Jesus fulfills every one of these characteristics. You see, when Jesus offers us salvation, He is not just offering us an event. He offers us a relationship. A friendship. John 15:13-15 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus laid down his life for us. He taught us. He trusted us with His Gospel. He has called us his friend. And in harmony with his master design, he calls us to love one another because he first loved us.

We who have been chosen as a friend of God are then free to build that same type of relationship with other people. We serve Him – we show Him our love – by showing love to the people around us. Putting a cool new Duck Dynasty t-shirt in a box, wrapping it up, and setting it on the table saying this is for you, God, isn’t the best way to show you love God. Giving that same t-shirt to the neighbor who lost his job is. Jesus made it clear when he said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Paul beautifully lays out this divine three way friendship in Philippians 1:27-2:11.

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Paul starts this section with the overarching purpose of our even being here – to carry on the work of the Gospel. He calls the Philippians to “strive together for the faith of the Gospel.” The main goal of our working together is to be living examples of His love. This was never intended to be a solitary task! Every reference to fulfilling the Gospel and obeying His commands involves loving others. Even Jesus himself took 12 men with him. Three of them were known as His inner circle, while there was the one favored disciple. When he sent workers out, he sent them two by two. When he told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, he had them wait together.

So it is not surprising that Paul encourages the Philippians towards unity by starting with their relationship with Jesus. And he says, in essence, “If your relationship with Jesus is as great as I think it is, I want you to love each other just like Jesus loves you.” He asked them to get rid of those expressions of human fallenness, selfish ambition and vain conceit, and to put on love – complete love that is characterized by humility. Just to make it very clear, because this was a fairly young church, he describes again how Jesus exemplified love through humility. And he didn’t mean that false “I’m worthless” self-deprecation that some think is humility. He meant trusting in God’s ability to care for them so much that they are willing to put others’ needs above their own. Even with those we most care about, we sometimes find we need to overcome that nagging “What about me?” thought to truly encourage and uplift and sacrifice for a friend.

And it’s even harder to do that for someone who isn’t a friend. It’s easy to be a friend to that special person who God has placed in your life that has similar circumstances and thinks in the same way you do and likes the same things you do. But it’s a lot harder to be a friend – to really care about the welfare of, and actually want the best for – someone who says things that get on your nerves or lives a completely different lifestyle, especially one you don’t approve of, or who is mean and hateful, or who has put up emotional walls to keep you out. It is hard to love that manager who tells you that you have to pay $80 that you were told you wouldn’t have to pay. And yet, Jesus himself was our example when he was accused by the Pharisees of being a friend of sinners. He said that it was exactly these sinners – the ones who realized they needed a friend to get them out of this – that he was able to work with. The Pharisees and religious leaders were so full of their own importance that they couldn’t even see their need for a friend who would lay down his life for them. And Jesus calls us to love, not just the easy ones, but the challenging ones, as well.

In Matthew 5:43-47, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” He is calling God’s people to a deeper friendship – a deeper love – than they have known before.

And in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul describes what that kind of love looks like.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

And through this love – because we are loved unconditionally – because we have been chosen as a friend of God, we are able to be the kind of friend that can say with Paul “I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” Because we will not be standing before Christ alone, but with a whole cloud of witnesses surrounding us.

Posted in Sermons | Leave a comment

Abundant Life

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

A couple of weeks ago, Olivia and I went on a date night. We went to see the movie The Croods. I am not a connoisseur of movies. I don’t demand a riveting plot or insist on well developed characters. So children’s movies tend to be right up my alley. I didn’t expect much more than a couple of hours of entertainment from this movie, but what I found was actually a deep truth that Jesus spoke of many times.

In the movie, we are introduced to a family of cavemen and women. They journey out of their cave only long enough to fight an elaborate fight to get not quite enough food. Grug is the dad of the family and his motto is “Never not be afraid.” He tells stories each night that end with the phrase “And she died.” They are living a life of fear and overprotection. One night, the teenage daughter, Eep, who yearns for something more ventures out of the cave while her dad is asleep. Eep meets a young man name Guy who is able to think and plan. When the Croods’ cave is destroyed, they are forced to roam in new territory. Guy comes to their rescue many times and promises to take them to tomorrow. He promises them a life better than they have ever known. Naturally, Grug fights against Guy, and tries to maintain control of his family by finding them a new cave to hide in. At one point during a heated argument, Grug yells to Eep, “But the rules kept us alive.” Eep replies, “That wasn’t really living. That was just not dying.”

This is apparently a universal challenge. In 1937 , Norman Vincent Peale wrote a book called The Art Of Living. In the introduction, he says:
“Everyone who scans these pages is alive. The fact that he is able to sit up and run his eyes over these words is proof of that. It does not follow, however, that being alive he knows the art of living. We are, many of us, in the strange anomaly of living and yet not living. The body functions; its surpassing mechanism does its part well. We live and move and have our being in the flesh, and yet, sadly enough, many miss the joy of life.”

Later, he says that the one question that every person wants an answer to is “how do I live here and now in a way that will bring me satisfaction and peace and give me a sense of worth?” This is still a question that each one of us asks. And one that too many people try to answer with things that don’t last.

This brings to mind a time when Jesus said something similar. Turn with me to John chapter 10 verses 1 thorough 10.

Now we look at this and say, oh yes, I want abundant life. But there are many misunderstandings about what abundant life looks like.

I suspect many of you have heard of the so called prosperity preachers who teach that if you please God, He will give you all the money, jewelry, big homes and shiny cars that you ever wanted. Or maybe you’ve heard someone say that a good Christian should never be sick. Or that all who are really following Jesus will always be happy and peaceful in every circumstance. The problem with many of these teachings is that they take a kernel of truth – that God does give good gifts to His children – and misuse verses like “I have come to give them life more abundantly” to play on people’s desires and lead them on a path to idolatry, serving the mighty dollar or perfect health, rather than the God himself.

Let’s take a look at one specific verse that is often misused in this way, John 10:10. What did Jesus mean when he said, “I have come to give them life, and life more abundantly?” This was not a statement made in a vacuum. It was part of a bigger discussion. Jesus had been wandering, healing and teaching. In his teaching, he often used word pictures to help the people understand complex truths. He has an encounter with the Pharisees and begins to speak of sheep, which the people of that time knew a great deal about. It was common for a man to own many sheep, and several flocks would often be kept in a pen together overnight with a watchman. In the morning, the shepherd would call out to his sheep and they would follow only him out of the pen. Jesus uses this imagery to announce that he is the Shepherd, calling to his people. The sheep are not to follow any other call but his, implying that there will be others who will call to them with false promises. As can only be done in imagery, Jesus depicts himself as not only the good shepherd, but also as the gate by which his sheep go in and out, experiencing not only the protection of the shepherd, but the freedom to enjoy the green pastures and plentiful water outside the pen.

The biggest clue we find to what Jesus meant by abundant life lies in the Greek wording. If Jesus had been talking about material possessions, the word used would likely have been “bios,” which refers to earthly, physical life.” But in this instance, the word used is “zoe,” which refers to essential, ethical, spiritual life. Jesus is talking about giving us a life in the Spirit which is beyond our imagination. Typically, when a truth is found in the scripture, it will be found more than once. This is no different. Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 tells us that “eye has not see, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him.” Romans 8 says that “Law of the Spirit of God has set me free from the law of sin and death.” Yes, through the work of the Holy Spirit and the life of Jesus Christ, God gives His children supreme, extraordinary, surpassing, eternal life.

Jesus answers that age old question of how I can have satisfaction and peace and a sense of worth, by giving his children life – zoe life – abundant, eternal life more than we can even imagine – through His Spirit.

So doesn’t it follow that if God is giving me a life of satisfaction, peace and worth, wouldn’t he want me to have lots of money, perfect health, long life, and never have reason to be sad? Well, not necessarily. The spiritual life and the physical life are intertwined. Each affects the other. Yes, God certainly does promise many blessings for his children. But he also says following him won’t be easy. Those who use God as some kind of spiritual slot machine where they put in their tithe and maybe throw in a quick prayer, hoping God will give them the perfect job making $100,000 a year will fail.

Sometimes, we think we know what we need. God may know better. Like a loving parent, God wants to give us good things and he wants the best for us. But he knows better than we do. What parent would give thousands of dollars in cash to a child in Toys R Us. Even though the child thinks that would be a wonderful gift, the parent knows that would not be in the child’s best interest. God, likewise will not give us things even if we think they’ll be a blessing if he knows that if will derail our faith or if he knows that we need to mature before receiving the gift. Look at Abraham and Sarah. They had to wait 25 years for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son. God knew the right timing and Abraham was considered a righteous man.

Jesus even said in John 14:13, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The phrase “in my name” doesn’t mean simply adding on the name of Jesus to my list of wants. It means praying in God’s will. That becomes easier to do as we mature in our relationship with God, allowing Him to mold our will to His.

God promises to take care of us. Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Then why is there so much poverty and sickness among Christians? Although we can never fully understand God’s ways, he has given us some reasons. Sometimes, it is a curse for not following his ways.
Sometimes we don’t know or don’t follow his guidelines for good health and financial stability (and yes, there are plenty in the Scriptures). Sometimes it is a natural consequence of living in a fallen world. Sometimes God allows us to go through trials or temptations to strengthen us in ways that would not happen if nothing ever went wrong. But through it all, He is there, walking with us through the fire.

Could it be that the abundant spiritual life that God gives us allows us the freedom to fully live through the good and the bad times in life? Could it be that the abundant spiritual life is what gives us the freedom to grieve the loss of a loved one? Could it be that the abundant spiritual life lets us shout for joy when a friend makes the winning shot in a game? Could it be that the abundant spiritual life gives us permission to feel the joy, sadness, love, anger and millions of other feelings that God has created within us without shame, knowing that we have given them all into His capable hands?

Take for example, this Fireworks stand we have going as a fundraiser for the teens. I’m not sure that sitting on black pavement in 90 degree heat for 6 hours would rank on anyone’s list of fun things to do. Not one of those bucket list items. But we have adults and teens who are doing it, fully experiencing the tiredness, aches and pains, short tempers, laughter, time together, visits with friends we haven’t seen in a while, and satisfaction of knowing there is a bigger cause behind this.

Living the abundant life is about so much more than just some money or possessions. The key to those verses in Matthew chapter 6 lies in verse 33, “Seek first His kingdom and all these things will be added unto you.” This is our priority. Loving God 100%. Abandoning ourselves to Him. And trusting that He will never let us down. Let’s not trivialize the abundant life that God offers by focusing only on the physical. True abundant life shows up in an abundance of love, joy, peace and the rest of the fruits of the spirit. Physical blessings are icing on the cake.

CS Lewis wrote: “Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” Let us ask God to open our eyes to his abundant life in us so that we no longer put our faith in the mud pies, but in the God who made the sea.

Posted in Sermons | Leave a comment

Looking Up

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

David has gone down in history as a man after God’s own heart. So naturally, our image of him is perfect, with him always responding to every circumstance the way God would want him to. But when we really take a good look at his life, we see a fallible man, who made mistakes, who responded sometimes through his emotions before turning them over to God. In 1 Samuel 27, we see one of these instances. David had been ruthlessly pursued by Saul, whose sole purpose was to kill David. David had a couple of opportunities to kill Saul, but trusted God to bring about Saul’s demise at the right time. You can imagine him thinking, “Ok, God, I’m doing everything your way, why won’t you get him off my tail?” David becomes despondent, probably wondering if God was even watching him anymore.

So David ran off to the land of the Philistines, reasoning that Saul would assume they had killed David and therefore wouldn’t pursue him. David lived a relatively peaceful life for a year and four months, occasionally raiding nearby towns and killing all the people, then lying to Achish about who it was he had raided. Why did David start acting like this? Because he is human. Humans have an innate desire to feel as if they are in control. David wasn’t in control over his situation with Saul. And as far as he could see, God wasn’t either. So he redirected his efforts towards controlling the people he had settled among.

How often we are like David in this chapter. We can’t see God working, so we become desperate. We get so overwhelmed by the battle around us that we assert our control in unnecessary and often unrelated ways. But the more we look around us to try to control the situation, the less we look up. And the less we look up, the less we see God working. Quite often, He works in ways that we just can’t comprehend when we are looking at the people and situations around us. But when we can lift our eyes to the one who is our stronghold, we will see that “He works all things together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28. It is not our place to control every situation. It is our place to trust that God is in control of them and He will fulfill his promises and He will vindicate His faithful ones.

Posted in Connections | Leave a comment

Saturated With Jesus

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Over the past few weeks, Monty has been taking us through the timeline of Jesus’ ministry. As we begin to draw near to the end, we find Jesus anxious for his disciples to really get him – to understand what he is trying to tell them about who he is and what his mission is. But honestly, they were pretty slow to get it. This was so much not what they were expecting, and they kept trying to fit Jesus into what they know, but it just didn’t work.

In Luke chapter 9, verses 28-36, we find a story of Jesus inviting his inner circle of disciples to join him in his intimate time with God.

Luke 9 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

As is often the case, we see several different attitudes in this story. It should not surprise us that Jesus humbled himself by going to the mountain to pray. This was his quiet time, away from the chatter of the world, to reconnect with his Father. The demands of his work and the people that surrounded him threatened to draw him away. That’s why we find so many times in Scripture that Jesus goes away by himself to pray.

And early in the morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there. (Mark 1:35)

And immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the multitude away. And after bidding them farewell, he departed to the mountain to pray. (Mark 6:45-46)

And they came to a place called Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground, and began praying. (Mark 14:32-34)

But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. (Luke 5:16)

And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12)

Jesus’ prayer time was a time when he humbled himself to his father’s will. And usually, this happened alone. This time, though, he humbled himself even more by inviting Peter, James and John.

These three were known as the inner circle, because these were the three disciples that Jesus invested a majority of his time and energy in. Though originally just ordinary fishermen, they answered Jesus’ call and followed him. They spent their days and nights with him, trying to understand how he did what he did. These are the three that Jesus is hanging his hopes of the ministry continuing on. He loves these three so much that he invites them to join him in one of his most private moments – his prayer time. He wanted to move them deeper. He wanted them to understand not only how he did what he did, but who he really was.

While Jesus was busy humbling himself in prayer and inviting his three beloved friends to join him in his private time, God began to exalt him. His true glory began to show, and his physical appearance was changed to reflect that glory. We are told that “his face changed and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” This is a reminder to the disciples, as well as to us today, that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. It baffles our human brains, but it’s the truth. We read in Colossians 2:9 “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

So Jesus was now fully in his glory as Moses and Elijah appeared and he began a conversation with them. Out of all the great saints in heaven, why would Jesus be talking with Moses and Elijah? Because God was exalting Jesus by setting him higher even than these great men of old. Throughout Jewish history, because of the way God used him in getting the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, Moses has represented the Law. But God says Jesus is greater than the law. And Elijah was a dynamic prophet whose name came to represent all prophets, from the beginning even through the end in Revelation. But God says Jesus is greater than the prophets. God specifically chose Moses and Elijah so that he could exalt Jesus.

Even in this time of God’s grace being bestowed on him, Luke tells us that Jesus was still completely focused on his mission, talking with Moses and Elijah about the departure from this world that was imminent on him. He knew his time is short, for he had just recently told his disciples clearly that he would be killed and raised on the third day. This was the primary thought on his mind and is what he was discussing with Moses and Elijah when the disciples woke up. When they realized what they were seeing, Peter didn’t want this to end and he really didn’t know what else to do, so he suggested that they build three dwellings. But God stepped in, for although Moses and Elijah were great men of God, Jesus is so different that God refuses to allow the impulsive Peter to unknowingly make them equal by building equal dwellings for them.

God doesn’t do things halfway, and so before this encounter was over, he had enveloped them all in his cloud. Many times in the Bible, we read of God being present among his people in a cloud. In Exodus 13, God guided the Israelites with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. In Exodus 24, God called Moses into the cloud on Mt. Sinai. In 2 Chronicles 5, the cloud of God’s presence covers the temple in response to the praise of his people. Even in the New Testament, we are told of the cloud of witness in Hebrews and Jesus is said to be coming again in the clouds. There is no doubt that this was the manifestation of God’s glory in this moment for the disciples.

And from that cloud, God exalted Jesus by speaking about him, saying, “This is my son, whom I have chosen.” We heard this before at Jesus’ baptism. There can be no doubt that Jesus is God’s son and that God has a special plan for him. God wanted to make sure these disciples really get it. Then he added, “Listen to him.” Three simple but powerful words. God was encouraging the disciples to pay close attention to what Jesus has to say, because he doesn’t always offer easy teachings, and his teachings are so different from the status quo that they are often misunderstood. But God certainly used this time to exalt Jesus.

In the meantime, we see through the disciples, a typical human attitude in reaction to this amazing encounter. To begin with, their physical needs trumped everything else, as they fell asleep while Jesus was praying. In their defense, I don’t think they felt this was another humdrum day with Jesus, with thoughts of, “Can you believe this guy? He takes so long to pray!” going through their heads. They simply didn’t know how to control their impulses. When they woke up to see Jesus shining and speaking with Moses and Elijah, they probably wondered if they were still dreaming. Because you see, even though these were the guys closest to Jesus, and even though he has been speaking very clearly with them, Jesus’ message was so out of the ordinary that the disciples were just beginning to comprehend it.

Realizing that they were in fact fully awake and witnessing a touch of God, Peter couldn’t resist. He just had to do something. So he said, “Let’s build some dwellings.” This word can also be translated “booths.” Peter here is probably hearkening back to the Feast of Booths, which was a festival set by God, when the Israelites commemorated their ancestors who should have died in the dessert, but were divinely saved and guided into the Promised Land. This festival also focused the Israelites on the need to trust God and on the future joy of God’s coming Kingdom. This seemed to Peter like an appropriate time to celebrate!

He wanted to honor these three great men of God, and didn’t think about the ramifications of what he proposed. He might not even have realized yet that Jesus was in fact greater than Moses and Elijah, for these two were touted in all the Jewish thought as the great prophets of old. But Jesus is more than just a prophet, which Peter was to see soon enough. Peter was trying to maintain some control over what seemed to human eyes to be an out of control experience.

Jesus had devoted himself to his disciples, especially to these three for almost three years at this point. He hoped that they could come to terms with this new revelation of his glory. Although they had been with him for years, he wanted them to be so saturated with his presence that they not only called his mission their own, but that they became like him. And when God enveloped them in his cloud – the God cloud that all good Jews knew about – then left along with Moses and Elijah, the disciples were stunned into silence. This was such a powerful encounter that they needed to contemplate it for a long time. It wasn’t until after the death and resurrection of Jesus that they began to tell others what happened.

You see, Jesus didn’t bring them with him so they could talk. He didn’t bring them with him so they could build. He simply wanted them to be with him.

Certainly, there is plenty of time to do for Jesus. In the early parts of this very chapter, we see Jesus sending the disciples out to “proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” In John chapter 21 we find Jesus telling the Simon Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep.”

But just as important as doing for him is simply being with him. We sometimes don’t put as much value on the being with. After all, we’ve been told “quality time” – what you do with a person – more important than “quantity time” – being with another. I’m here to tell you, there is value in both. When I was in the emergency room awaiting an appendectomy, my poor husband desperately wanted to do something to make me feel better. I hope he understood that what really helped me feel better was the simple fact that he was there with me.

As Christians, we consider ourselves Jesus’ disciples. But a disciple is not one who sits in a classroom an hour a week, then goes out on his own, doing things his own way. A disciple is one who walks with the master, learning what drives him, what he is like when the crowds aren’t around and strives to be like him. God doesn’t want us to only do what Jesus did. He wants us to be who he is – the human Jesus, not the God Jesus, that is.

It is in those quiet times alone with God when he has called us out and said “come here. Just be with me for a little bit” that we are overwhelmed with his love and are refreshed and then able to go carry out his mission. Just as Peter needed to stop thinking about how he could make this better and simply enjoy his exclusive audience at Jesus’ time of glory realizing that as he did he was understanding Jesus that much better, so too we need to have regular times of being in Jesus’ presence, drawing close to him, seeing him more clearly, and being saturated in the love that is Jesus.

Posted in Sermons | Leave a comment

What A Difference A Year Makes

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

A year ago, we were in the final push to get moved out of our 2800 square foot house and into our 400 square foot RV. Although I had it planned perfectly, going through a room each week, the house seemed to grow, life got in the way, and we came upon the last week before our planned departure for a new life as a full-time RVing family with a lot of work still to do. It was all hands on deck as we sorted and organized and resorted and made trip after trip to the RV to try to fit all of our most important stuff into the RV.

It was a lot harder than I expected to decide what stuff was really essential. It seemed even harder for us adults than for the children, probably because we thought more about long term consequences – what if we need that someday? The children worked harder that week than I had ever asked them to, as I kept giving them new projects, although I did try to give them some final play time with their friends.

Finally, our planned departure date arrived and we woke up to a thick layer of ice over everything. This, in addition to the bitter cold that just wouldn’t quit, made me want to head south quickly. But after pouring hot water over the RV steps to make it safe to walk up and down them, we decided to stay put another day. We wouldn’t have been able to pull the slides in anyway due to the ice.

The next day, after a farewell visit from family and asking my cousin to store some last minute items, we hit the road. We only knew for sure what our first two stops were. We chose a KOA about a day’s drive from Columbus so that we had full hookups while we adjusted to life on the road. Then onto Tallequah, Oklahoma to check out the western band of Cherokee Indians. Beyond that, we didn’t know where we were going, how long we would be there or even how long we would be on the road.

A year later, we still live in the RV full-time. But we are settled again in Muskogee, Oklahoma. We ended up here instead of Tallequah last year, and have since realized it was all part of God’s plan to get us to move here. We are fully involved with the awesome Church of the Nazarene down here, where I am the Children’s Director. I am loving working with the children and the adults here. The family here is exactly that, and there are lots of great ideas for fun stuff to do with the children as we show them how much Jesus loves them and wants them.

Meanwhile, I am staying busy with Scouts. I have started a multi-level Girl Scout Troop which involves 16 girls and is still growing. Did I mention it’s cookie time? I am the committee chair for Cub Scouts, and am helping to start a Boy Scout Troop.
Although we would appreciate a little more space, we like it here at Crossroads RV Park. Also, we are finally pretty stable financially, and are completely debt free! We’re not looking to change that by buying a house right now, and renting isn’t very affordable yet. Besides, it’s unlikely we’ll find a place that will rent to a family of 9. For now, we’ll stay right here. That is, until God tells us to move.

In retrospect, a year hasn’t made a lot of difference, since we started out excited and busy following God’s leading, and, although our circumstances are different, we are still excited and busy following God’s leading.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Home Again

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

We left Kentucky for Ohio on June 22, giving us enough time to settle in at Marmon Valley Farm before heading off to a Cub Scout campout. It was fun to meet up with old friends again, and I am so proud of how the new leadership of the Pack has taken the reins and is keeping the Pack strong. The children enjoyed fishing, BB shooting, whittling, volleyball, and building a survival shelter. Eli got a bullseye with the BB gun, while Adam skipped the planned activities and kept a fire going most of the day Saturday.

Sunday morning, Adam, Ian, Owen and I packed up early to head to summer camp with their Boy Scout Troop. This was the first time I have been able to camp with the Boy Scouts, and it is most definitely different from camping with Cub Scouts. The boys are expected to be responsible for themselves, to include choosing the activities they participate in and when – an advantage of Chief Logan Reservation’s open program. CLR did an excellent job providing a mixture of fun and learning, especially considering they were over capacity the week we went. Sure, there were a few glitches, but things went relatively smoothly with the largest contingent Troop 148 has had in many years. While the older boys worked on Merit Badges and some worked on CLR’s Frontiersman program, we had four patrols of first year Scouts going through the Foothills program. This program has a two-fold purpose – to help the boys earn as many achievements as possible toward their Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class ranks, and to help them learn to work together as a patrol. The first couple of days, working together was a high priority for the group I was working with, but by the end of the week, many of them had come close to finishing their rank requirements, and one completed them all.

There was lots and lots of walking, and then we walked some more! On Thursday, two of the boys needed to go on the five mile hike, so I went with them. It was challenging, but fun, and we got to see a rock with the partial signature of Lewis Merriweather who lived in the area many years ago. Owen was excited to have been able to start a fire without a match, and I enjoyed learning more about some of the local plants, especially the edible ones. It was great to meet the members of Owen’s patrol for the first time, and both Owen and I are looking forward to participating in Troop activities over the next month that we are here in central Ohio.

After arriving back at Marmon Valley, showering to get rid of the mud from the mudslide that was the hill to our campsite and catching up on sleep, we went back to West Broad Church of the Nazarene on Sunday morning. It was a joyful homecoming! We have missed our church family, and were thrilled to be able to worship with them again.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lexington, KY

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

When we realized that we had about 5 weeks between the end of Bob’s conference in Pittsburgh and summer camps in Ohio, we let Erica pick a place in Kentucky for us to visit. She chose Lexington and we worked together to identify Georgetown as the best place for us. We found Whispering Hills RV Park, which had just opened earlier in the year. After letting them know what and who we had, they quoted us a price we could live with and we were thrilled to be going to a park with a playground and a pool that was open. It turned out to be a great decision, as we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The owners were wonderful and even offered to keep an eye on the children while Bob & I went on date night. We managed to swim almost every day after the pool opened on Memorial Day weekend and the grounds were flat enough that even Abigail could ride her bike on the paved roads. Making lots of new friends is a perk of this lifestyle, and we met several great families during our stay in Georgetown, including our new friends who have 6 children and still invited us over for dinner.

We made it out to several local attractions, including the Thoroughbred Center, Thoroughbred Park, Old Kentucky Chocolates and Kentucky Horse Park, in addition to a few others. Although the Old Kentucky Chocolates tour was short, it was interesting to see how they make some of their candies, and we got samples. I loved it!

For Kentucky Horse Park, I only took Erica and Olivia, because we figured it would be a full day, and while the rest of the family enjoys horses, only my horse lovers would have wanted to stay all day. The Horse Park is a great value. I only paid $37 for the three of us, which covered admission for the whole day into all of the activities of the Park. We were able to view a movie about the history of horses, enjoy two different museums, take a horse drawn tour of the Park, and attend the Show of Champions and the Parade of Breeds twice. We found out that the Parade of Breeds is different each time, so we watched both of them the day we were there. Although I wouldn’t expect a non-horse lover to stay at the Kentucky Horse Park more than half a day, it is a paradise for a horse lover.

Posted in Places | Leave a comment

A Few Days With the Bears

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

We arrived at Jellystone where Bob backed the rig into a tight spot seemingly effortlessly. While we started setting up, Bob packed up to leave for a few days, since he was going to stay at Matt’s apartment during his writing conference. Matt’s apartment was only 25 minutes from the conference, while Jellystone was about 1 hour 15 minutes. Initially, the children were disappointed to find out that we had come during off season, so many of the attractions were not open yet. However, with it being off season, we got half price. And this is one of the few campground in the country that doesn’t charge extra for more than 2 or 3 people. The children didn’t care about the pricing as much as I did, but Ian did perk up when I told him we could build a campfire.

Over the air reception for the TV was nonexistent, so I broke down and bought a cable to attach to the campsite’s cable connection. Then I spent the next several hours trying to get it working! Thank goodness for Forest River forums. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything we could do about the lack of cell phone reception.

Although we battled the rain all weekend, we did manage to get some bike riding, fishing, and a couple of bonfires in. On Friday, when Matt came to visit, since we got in too late to go see him on Wednesday, we were going to have a bonfire and S’mores after dinner. Well, Matt needed to leave to finish packing for a trip, so we started the bonfire early. Then, I allowed the children to start making S’mores as soon as they finished eating dinner, hoping to beat the rain. We almost did. We discovered that night that if you have a good, strong fire going, even a downpour won’t put it out very quickly. Thankfully, it wasn’t very windy, so some of us sat under the awning watching the others play in the rain.

There were some weekend activities, and I think my children managed to do every free activity the campground offered, from hay wagon rides to carousel rides to mini golf with Yogi Bear. The highlight of the weekend was waking up the bears from their hibernation. The interesting thing is that we were at the Jellystone in Cherokee, North Carolina when the bears went into hibernation in the fall of 2010. Naturally, on this weekend, when there were three wagons and the campground’s altered fire truck full of people ready to wake up the bears, the sky opened up and it poured on us! Despite the rain, though, Yogi, Cindy and Boo Boo are awake and ready for another season. And we have moved on to flatter land in Kentucky.

Posted in Life on the Road, Places | Leave a comment

Texas to Pennsylvania

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Saturday, getting ready to travel proved to be more work than expected when we found out that parts of I40 were closed due to flooding, so we had to decide on an alternate route and figure out the best places for us to stay. And we lost Erica to the TV when coverage of the Kentucky Derby started. All of us took a break to watch from the posting of the colors to the race itself, except for Bob who was trying to get an oil change on the van. Unfortunately for Erica, none of her top three picks ranked in the top three.

As it turns out, the best alternate route took us right back through Muskogee, so we stopped back in Crossroads RV Park. They had gotten very busy in the past five weeks, but still had a spot for us overnight. Once we got settled, Ian made dinner, with the help of a few others, to try to give me a little relaxation on Mother’s Day. And the children all tried very hard to be helpful and considerate even when everybody was tired from traveling all day. We may have our occasional (daily is occasional, right?) frustrations, but I do love being a mother, and am glad God chose the children he blessed us with.

Monday was another long day of driving. In the future, I think we’ll stick to one day jumps when possible! Erica apparently decided that counting cows was too boring for her, so instead, she counted dead armadillo. We got to 57. I am now fairly skilled at telling when roadkill is an armadillo or not, even if only the tail is still in tact.. I never knew armadillo were present even up into Missouri. I don’t think she ever spotted any of the dead turtles.

I was struck today by how our lives are like the road. Many times today, it seemed someone missed something. I missed the ostrich. We missed many license plates for the game. Abigail missed the roadkill. Yes, this was a disappointment to her. How many times do we miss opportunities in life? How many times do we look back and realize that God was giving us a chance to make a difference in someone’s life, but we were going too fast to see it? Being on the road has already showed us that we can live and enjoy a simpler life, with more time for people and less time needed for stuff.

We intended to boondock at a WalMart, but the one we intended to stop at was fairly small and the manager didn’t seem all that thrilled about us staying, so we headed in the direction of another WalMart. We spotted a Cracker Barrel first and stayed there. It was much more difficult to sleep than the last time we boondocked because it was warm enough that we slept with the windows open. I don’t sleep well with so many unusual noises.

Tuesday was just another long day of driving, but we were rewarded by staying overnight at the sticks house we still own. It is in contract, so hopefully we will close soon. The children got to spend a little time playing with friends from the old neighborhood, including jumping on the trampoline which was in the driveway, on its way to the neighbor’s house. Apparently, the children have adapted to RV life, because they had three bedrooms from which to choose for sleeping, they all slept in the same room.

Wednesday morning, we visited with some friends, then headed out for Pittsburgh. Driving through small towns up and down hills was horrendous. I am quickly deciding that I prefer flatlands. As we drew close to the campground, there was a low clearance sign stating 12’ 7” ahead. We’re 13’ 6”, so that wasn’t going to work. The local shop owner and the campground staff that Bob called said, “Oh, you’ll be fine.” We went on, with Bob going slowly and carefully up to the bridge. The low clearance must just be on the sides, because he made it through the center with no problem. We got set up and Bob headed out to stay at Matt’s house, closer to his conference.

It was a long ride here. It feels good to be able to set up in place for a few days. The Jellystone we’re at is nice, but I still don’t think I could bring myself to pay full price. It’s offseason until Memorial Day, so we are staying for half price now. Unfortunately, that means the children get to see all these neat things and get frustrated because many are not open yet. There is enough available to keep them occupied, though, and best of all, they get to build a fire.

Posted in Life on the Road, Places | Leave a comment

The Last Splash

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

We tend to do our school and house work Monday through Thursday, leaving Friday for trips. Knowing that this would be our last Friday in Austin, I finally made good on a promise I made to the boys to try to take them and the kayak the park’s owner told us we could use. Since they knew they were going to have the opportunity to swim at our cousins’ house later, only three of the children ended up going to the beach with me, but we had a good time. Owen discovered that controlling that boat against the steady 15 mph wind was harder than it looked. And Ian, ever the doting big brother, agreed to have Olivia sit in front of him while he rowed her out and back, again and again. I’m not sure which one enjoyed it more.

Later on Friday, we went out to Georgetown to visit with cousins from Bob’s side, Bill and Robin. The children had fun playing in the pool. They had really missed playing and swimming in water that you could see through to the bottom. Then, after cousin Matthew and his girlfriend Kerry arrived, we ate dinner. The children did manage to watch the final episode of one of their favorite shows while we adults visited. After dinner, we saw pictures and videos from Bill and Robin’s recent trip to Argentina. Such a different culture, and yet, our needs are so similar. Robin is an excellent photographer, and even caught an iceberg calving. It was such a joy to be with family again, and it seemed that 9:30 and the resulting tiredness came much too quickly.

Posted in Life on the Road | Leave a comment