“How good, Lord, to be here!”



There’s something incredibly awesome when you realize that you’re standing in the presence of the Lord!

You can know that God’s filling you with His presence every time you take a breath.You can know that God’s listening to every word that you say. You can know that God’s coming down out of Heaven to feed you, and nourish you, and forgive you, and strengthen you for what’s coming next. And, as we listen to this week’s message, “How good, Lord, to be here!” , we are reminded that the “gift” of that kind of relationship with God is one of the most precious gifts that we can ever offer to a child – to a grandchild – or to a friend.

I don’t know what kind of challenges, or difficulties, or tragedies you – or the people that you love – are going to face in life. I do know that you love your kids and your grand-kids with all your  heart, and that you probably have friends that you’d walk across a hot bed of coals to help. But, I also know (and this is hard for us to admit) that there are going to be times in life when we’re not going to be able to be where we want to be.

I’ll be sharing a part of my own story in this message – a story about the night when my best friend died in a fiery automobile crash while I watched in horror. I’ll talk about the night when I stood outside of a church and beat on the doors until my hands bled. And I’ll tell you about why is was no “accident” that things unfolded that way on a horrible night.

There’s something incredibly awesome when you realize that you are standing in the presence of the Lord! And, there’s something just as incredible about having the chance to sow life-giving seeds that will sprout as God waters them, and that will grow and flourish and bloom in the lives of people that we love.



Freedom in Christ


I’m a person who was raised in the Church.

I have a little pin that proves that I had ten years of “Perfect Attendance” in Sunday School as a child. I still remember standing beside my father during worship services and learning to follow the service by watching his finger move across pages in the hymnal. And, yes…! I was raised in the Church because I was taught to believe that good people to go worship on Sunday mornings (or Saturday nights) because “that’s just how it is.”

Christians can be drawn to noble causes when they spend time in worship. Christians can be inspired to live their lives in the “proper way” – and learn that a journey with Christ is one that’s filled with rules, expectations, and words like “should.” In fact, when we live our lives with just the “little bit of religion” that we gain during hour-long times of weekly worship on Sunday mornings (or on Saturday night), we actually become quite dangerous!

But then, we begin to hear Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when people slap our face. We begin to hear Jesus tells us to give-away money that we’ve earned in an effort of help other people. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and to be “as perfect as God.” And, we are pretty quickly left wondering when “good enough” is actually going to be “good enough.”

There’s a different way to live-out your life with Christ; and that’s what this weeks short message – “Freedom in Christ” – is all about. It’s a message that challenges us to come out of the “spiritual castle” that we’ve built for ourselves – a place where we can feel good about ourselves while firing cannonballs at other people. It’s about discovering that the Church is a place where I don’t need to try to be as perfect as you are pretending to be – and where you don’t need to try to become as perfect as I’m pretending to be. And, when we grasp that truth, Christ sets us free! The Church becomes a life-filled place where I can come to be forgiven, to be nourished, to be embraced and to be led by God. And the Church becomes a life-filled place where I can invite other people that I know to share that very, same kind of “holy” experience with me.

“Freedom in Christ” may be a message that helps you to understand the Church in a very different way; and it might even be a message that encourages you to lower the drawbridge of your own “spiritual castle,” so that you can walk more intentionally – and authentically – into a world filled with people that God’s called you to love.


The Gift of One Another


Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day!

I’ll be stopping at the Hallmark store on my way home from work today. My wife told me that she’s already purchased some special treats that she’ll prepare for tomorrow night’s dinner, and I’m looking forward to a quiet night at home. The relationships that we share with other people are important, aren’t they? Whether we are married or not – we all have people who are important to us, and who share our joys and sorrows.

Did you know that relationships with others are a gift of God that are created to satisfy one of the deepest longings in the human soul? In the Beginning, God created rivers and birds and beasts and trees. The Bible tells us that God created ADAM from the dust of the earth and that God filled ADAM with “spirit” – the “breath of life.” And then, there was a great, big parade. The Bible tells us that God marched elephants, tigers, bears, zebras, giraffes, pygmy goats, chipmunks and even some raccoons in front of ADAM; and God asked ADAM to give each of them a name. And God did that because God was hoping that ADAM would be so delighted with one of the animals that it would become his “partner.” But it didn’t happen – and a great, gray sadness came over the earth.

It is not good that the man should be alone,” God said. (Genesis 2:18) God knew that “it is not good” for any of us to travel through life alone. And so, God decided to give all of us the “gift of other people” who celebrate the best moments in our lives, and who hold us in their arms and bear us up when life gets tough. God decided to give all of us the precious “gift of other people” because God knows that we all need to feel a sense of connection to something other than ourselves.

But, it’s not always easy to live with those “other people,” is it? We, sometimes, take each other for granted and argue about things that aren’t really important. Many of us bury our faces in our Smartphone these days – while time that we can never get back trickles away.

In this week’s message, “The Gift of One Another”, we’re called to think about that – and we’re invited to explore what “real love” looks like in human relationships. We’re going to explore what it means to share life with other people that God has brought into our lives to become members of our “team.”

I wish you many blessings as you celebrate St. Valentine’s Day tomorrow. And I hope that you’ll all take some time, tomorrow, to think about the relationships you share with ALL of the people that God’s brought into your life. It is not good for any of us to travel through life alone – and that’s why God gives us “The Gift of One Another” in order to satisfy one of the deepest longings in our soul.



The City on a Hill


Many people describe the United States as a “Christian Nation.”

The vast majority of American citizens identify themselves as Christians. People of faith create a ruckus when schools and elected officials remove the Ten Commandments from public property. We’ve probably all sung “God Bless America” at some point in our lives. And there are many churches across our country that proudly display the American flag right beside their altar during worship.

Europeans brought Christianity with them when they settled in America. We hear about the Pilgrims coming to America on the Mayflower in 1620. Another well-known group of faithful Christians came to America in the Spring of 1630 and formed the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Ten of the colonists who came to America in 1630 with John Winthrop were my ancestors. And they all came to America to build “The City on a Hill” that would be watched by the rest of the world. And they formed a Christian “theocracy.”

The distinction between the Church and the government became blurred in the New World that my ancestors created. This is what often happens in a “theocracy.” As “The City on a Hill” began to grow and flourish, some cracks began to develop, some shady deals were made, treaties were broken, and people even began to search for witches.

In this week’s message, “The City on a Hill”, I share the rather twisted story of my own family’s earliest days in America. It’s a twisted tale of deceit and anguish. It’s a story that demonstrates how quickly things go wrong when religious faith and government power become too deeply connected. And yes, it’s also a story that  pretty clearly demonstrates that “Christian Nations” will never be more perfect that the Christians who inhabit them.

So, journey with me for a few moments. All of the people in this story are as real as you and I are. The story’s been carefully researched over a period of more than 20 years. And it clearly demonstrates how quickly things can go horribly wrong – even when people build a “Christian nation” with the very best of intentions in mind.