Friday Frivolities

Okay, here it is…Friday once again. A lightweight, fluffy bit of stuff and nonsense, some of which will astound and amaze you and some of which will make you puff little breaths of laughter through your nostrils!

Let’s start with the silly bits…

We do seem to have our own language, don’t we. Yet, we try so hard to sound like the world. And it all comes out just a bit like this:

HT: Godfruits

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There’s a conspiracy amongst the wildlife to make life difficult on us humans. Here’s actual video proof:

HT: Twistedsifter

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Here in Rochester, MN, we’ve had snow on the ground already for two weeks. Not large amounts, but still, it’s November and we had snow well before Thanksgiving. Then it turned cold and stayed cold (this Friday morning, it was 0º). However, what I’m finding when friends and neighbors complain about our weather is give them the old ‘You think you’ve got it bad?’ reply:

HT: Twistedsifter

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Now for the amazing, the astounding, the really awesome (okay, I’ll get on with the video)…

HT: Twistedsifter
HT: Project Romsdalen

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Thankful Thursday

Give Thanks leaves and brickIn just one week from today, we, here in America, will observe a day set aside to give thanks. I think that I’m a grateful person, but my own heart can not be the judge of this. It has deceived me far too many times for me to trust a self-assessment to…well, me. So, I must apply God’s Word to my heart and my life, allowing it to guide me to the One who is greater than I, to whom I owe all my gratitude and from whom I have received all things. What do I have that I haven’t received from Him? So, I give thanks…

• for hard lessons learned. They seem to sink in the deepest and remain there.

• for degrees of hardship. If every trial was as bad as it could possibly get, we’d never survive. God is gracious, though, and decrees them in varying intensities.

• for upholding grace through each of these hardships, whether little or small. In the words of Andrè Crouch’s old gospel song, ‘If I’d never had a problem, I’d never know that He could solve it…’

• for men around me who care for me, and are learning to care for me. I think I’m beginning to learn to trust them for more, even as they learn I need to learn to lean.

• for the words of encouragement I’ve received this past week; serious words, genuine words, prayerful words that help a weak man stand in the face of hard matters.

• for a wife who knows me better than I know myself and uses that knowing to care for me, love me and, yes, on occasion, press me forward.

• for the Church, the Body of Christ; my local body where I serve, as well as the whole true body of Christ. None of us would ever make it on our own, so God gave us.

• for hymns, for solid, Bible-teaching, Scripture-saturated, doctrine-bound hymns; no sweeteners added; no artificial flavors; rather, life-sustaining, strength-giving, heart-humbling hymns.

Be thankful; give thanks; raise grateful voices to Him on high.

I’m Not Bailing Out On You

You_should_love_one_another1Love with no exit strategy. I’m convinced we don’t know much of this type of love today. How ti breaks my heart when a couple come to me, professing faith in Christ, wanting to be married, but announce that they’ve been living together.

‘Why have you chosen to live together?” I always ask them.

‘Because I want to make sure he/she is really THE ONE I’ll love and spend the rest of my life with.’

‘So, if he/she turns out not to be that one?’

‘Oh, I know they are now.’

‘So, you’ve had an exit strategy in place all along; you’ve just not had to use it…yet.’

We hear of this frequently when couples announce their intentions of marriage, but make sure everyone knows they’ve written up and agreed to ‘prenups’ – a legally binding agreement in the event the marriage ends. Love WITH an exit strategy.

Christians are to practice none of this. That heart-broken person in the pew ahead of you? Embrace them and their suffering and serve them. The depressed young woman who shows up once or twice a month at church? Show her the hesed of God. The housewife who’s anxious about everything? Come alongside her, listen to her, help her see how God loves her and promises to always take care of her. Love her without thinking, ‘How quickly can I get out of this situation?’

‘But am I supposed to love everyone this way?’

The easy answer would be to say, ‘Yes, because it’s how God loved us’ –

‘We love because he first loved us.’

We hesed (I know, the Greek word is not ‘hesed’ but the truth of it is the same) because God first ‘hesed-ed’ us. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us  (Hebrews 13.5, ESV).

But, we’re not God; only He is God. So, we must start one at a time. Start with someone you see who really needs this love. Don’t look for someone who’s not really in need because you think it’s be easy to love that person. Jesus condemns the practice of only showing goodness and love to those who are like you or don’t really need it.

Love another…one at a time. Start here and you’ll be amazed at the capacity God gives you to love more.

So, you and I, as God’s people must be like this to one another. This was Jesus’ commandment:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

If we would become the face of God’s grace to others, I’m convinced it would change nearly everything the world sees and thinks about the church.

Love with no exit strategy. Love that seeks to have self burned away so what is left is Christ.

No Exit Strategy

No-exitHesed is a Hebrew word that has a full meaning. It can mean ‘mercy’. It can be translated as ‘kindness’. ‘Steadfast love’ is another possibility. Or simply ‘love’. while studying the book of Ruth, I’m learning that this word is one of the most full-orbed words in the OT. We sell it short if we think it just means loving another person.

Naomi showed ‘hesed’ to Ruth when she blessed her and tried to send her back home to her family, following the death of her (Naomi’s) husband and her two sons, one of whom was Ruth’s husband.

Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband! (Ruth, 1.8–9, ESV)

Naomi’s phrase, ‘deal kindly with you’ is the same as saying, ‘May the Lord show you “hesed”…’ She wanted something very special for her daughters-in-law; she wanted God’s best for them, so she asked for God’s blessing of hesed.

Ruth will have none of it, however, and ends up ‘out-hesed-ing’ Naomi:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.

Ruth grasps what hesed is all about– it is love with no exit strategy. Love that embraces another’s pain and heartbreak, Kindness and mercy which follow through beyond what most humans would even think of. Ruth ‘gets it’!

Then Boaz shows up in chapter 2. Boaz knows the hesed of the Lord and he shows it to Ruth. Not because he loves her, romantically speaking…that hasn’t happened yet. In fact, we’re not really ever told that this is how Boaz loves Ruth in this short, four-chapter book of Scripture. We supply that, read it into the story, make it all about ‘wuv, twu wuv’ (Princess Bride quote for those of you not in the know). What Boaz does for Ruth is protect her, provide for her, show mercy & kindness to her. Along with this, he blesses her abundantly:

The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge! (Ruth 2.12, ESV)

Boaz desires that God pour out hesed upon Ruth…and Naomi.

What we see here so far is the love that God shows to us, His people, being extended to others. And what this love actually means is having no exit strategy, no longing to bail out after things get hard or difficult. This type of love embraces all aspects of the person’s life, even the suffering. The Lord, then, uses this suffering as the crucible to burn off self: self-righteousness, self importance, self-preservation. Self cannot compete with hesed. Hesed will not allow self to remain unchanged; it cannot.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2.5–11, ESV)

Jesus had no exit strategy. He left behind all the prerogative of being God, a member of the Trinity. He actually took on human flesh and lived among us, embracing our life – all of its hardships, struggles, moments of pain and suffering. No way out, no plan to leave.

Satan tempted Him sorely right before He entered His ministry years: ‘Jesus, get out now; they’re not worth it and you are. You’re a big deal! Prove it and live it up now!’

When Jesus told His disciples He was going to give His life to show the hesed of God, Satan used Peter’s misunderstandings and false desires to try once again to let Jesus take an easier way out. Jesus rebuked Peter, but He was, in essence, rebuking Satan as well.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed like you and I have never prayed, even adding up all our times of prayer. He knew what was coming. He knew the immense suffering He must embrace. And while it seems as if He’s crying for an exit strategy, He’s not. ‘Not my will, but Yours be done’ (Luke 22.42, ESV).

Love with no exit strategy.

Part 2 tomorrow.

a cluttered mind

Anniversaries Quietly Unobserved

in August, 1985, Ann & I moved into a small house in Polk City, Iowa to begin a one-year internship at the Evangelical Free Church of Polk City. Twenty-nine years laters, I’m still pastoring.

On November 16, 1997, I began serving as the pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church, Rochester, MN. Yesterday marked the beginning of Year 18. I said nothing to no one about this yesterday. No one said anything to me about it either. It went completely under the radar. Unnoticed. Unobserved.

I had lunch with another pastor recently and when this came up, he asked if we were having a celebration with many other churches invited to come and join in the celebration. I didn’t know how to answer him. How could I? It would have been me planning it, inviting the other churches and conducting the ceremony. The thought never even crossed my mind.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m thankful for the unobserved moments which would call attention to me. It’s not always been this way, but closing in upon 30 years of ministry makes me long more and more to make sure my pastorate is not about me. While there’s a place inside of me that likes to significance of such things, it is embarrassing to be made much of in front of others, who so often go quietly unobserved among our church family.

Don Carson’s book, ‘Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor’ captures it well:

Most pastors will not regularly preach to thousands, let alone tens of thousands. They will not write influential books, they will not supervise large staffs, and they will never see more than modest growth. They will plug away at their care for the aged, at their visitation, at their counseling, at their Bible studies, and preaching…Most of us – let us be frank – are ordinary pastors.

It’s really all I want to be: ordinary. For if I can be ordinary, it guarantees that I’m not blocking the light of the One who is so amazingly extraordinary.

Fascinating Friday’s

Here it is again…my day off and some easy posting of things/places/people/events that have been found fascinating by me, at least:

So, man has landed a spacecraft on a comet. Why? Because we can, that’s why. Lots of arguments for and against, but that doesn’t take away from the fascinating photographs that are being sent, clear as day, from over 300 million miles away on a moving object in space:

Photos from Rosetta & Philae

A delightful presentation on what’s happening

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Here in America, we celebrated Veteran’s Day this week. They celebrated in London as well:

london poppies

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Some people are amazingly creative and artistic…

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I love McDonald’s McRib™ sandwich…but I don’t want to know how they’re made!

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A rocket-powered bicycle outraces a Ferrari…at speeds over 200 mph!

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Have a blessed weekend!

Some Random Thoughts on Thursday

I have over 30 blogs on my news feeder (Feedly) that I read, nearly every day. Yes, I know; it’s too many. That’s why I use Feedly. It gives me a quick overview and I can skim that to determine whether to read the full article. I can get through most in about an hour. Here are a few I think are commendable (for deep thought, for encouragement or just for pure fun):

steaming mugDrink Coffee…and lots of it because it really is good for you!
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Daylight Savings Time is America’s Greatest Shame
Well, okay, perhaps that’s an overstatement, but ask any parent with young children what they think of it and they’ll come close to this writer’s vehemence against it.
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7 Marks of Healthy Accountability
I can take it or leave it, but this post is very helpful when it comes to attempting to practice solid and effective accountability.
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A Man’s Greatest Challenge
I probably can’t ever do one of these blog post summaries without including something that Tim Challies has either written himself or pointed to on his blog. Case in point, right here.
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Top 50 Time Management Articles
Well, clearly my post today isn’t one of them. However, if you’ll be diligent to check out David Murray’s listing here, you may just find yourself handling your time more effectively.