Do you ever wonder if Facebook and Apple are listening?

Go do a google search on some random thing and I’ll tell you what will happen.  That thing will start showing up as advertisements on your Facebook news feed.  It will also start showing up as advertisements on web pages you visit.  I purchased a couple of dehumidifiers for the church this summer.  A friend told me Frigidaire was rated tops in Consumer Reports, so prior to the purchase I was researching that brand.  Dehumidifier ads were popping up everywhere.  If you haven’t noticed it happening, you’re not paying attention.

Sometimes it just gets freaky, though.  Yesterday I was talking with my son Adam.  In a passing conversation I mentioned his degree in psychology.  While I don’t think he’s Screenshot from 2014-10-01 07:55:50interested in going back to school for a master’s degree at this time, I said I didn’t know what kind of master’s programs Frostburg State University offered.  It was really just something I mentioned (not harassingly) in a passing conversation.  I haven’t done any research about it or thought about it before.  Then this morning, by coincidence I guess, an ad shows up in my Facebook news feed about online master’s degrees in psychology – I took a screen shot to show you.  If you told me the same story, I would think you did an online search about it and forgot.  I know I didn’t.  And before I bore you about this or make you think I’m a conspiracy theorist prepper (unless it’s too late) let me tell you what all this technology and ‘spying’ makes me think about.

In the 13th chapter of the Book of Revelation, we’re told that the day will come that everyone will have to have a particular “mark” to buy or sell.  Need milk, gasoline, or electricity?  Not without the mark.  This would have been unimaginable 200 years ago.  People bought and sold in anonymity and were much more self sufficient.  Not today.  Today, most of us could not survive if we couldn’t buy things.  Today, somebody knows everything we’re doing.  Even our movements are being tracked through our cell phones.  You don’t have to ‘check in’ on Facebook, they know where you are by which cell towers you’re picking up.  Go to Montana and someone knows it.  And hear me, I know I’m sounding like a ‘preppers’ TV show.  If that’s what you see in this, you’ll miss my point.

My point is to remind you that God knows what is coming.  And for Jesus’ followers, there are tough times ahead.  As much as we pray for ‘peace on earth’, and there is nothing wrong with praying for peace, we will only find peace in Jesus.  We will not find peace in this world.  On the contrary, almost 2,000 years ago, the Bible warned us that terrible times would come.  2 Timothy 3 starts out, “Remember this: There are some terrible times coming in the last days.  People will love only themselves and IMG_1956 IMG_1955money.  They will be proud and boast about themselves.”  Seriously, can you say #selfies?  Do I want to look studious or cool today?  I know, forget the cool.  But the proud and boastful times are upon us more than at any time in history.  And I believe we can already see the tide turning against Christians in America.  When we read the Bible, we should not be surprised when the trials come and we should not fear.  We know that Jesus wins and that we, His people, overcome.  But the journey will be difficult at times.  And we cannot say that we have not been warned.

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Remind me who I am to You

First, let me say that you need to click here to read this blog from a mid 20’s young woman (whom my family and I love) and then you can come back.  Go ahead, click and read it – it will pop up in a new window.  Nothing here will make sense to you until you read it.

I love everything she says defining who you are and who you are not.  I just want to add a Christian perspective to what she says, (which is why you need to go back and click on it and read it if you haven’t.)

Colossians 2:8-10 says, “Be sure you are not led away by the teaching of those who have nothing worth saying and only plan to deceive you. That teaching is not from Christ. It is only human tradition and comes from the powers that influence this world…  And because you belong to Christ you are complete, having everything you need. “

In layman’s terms it says – Don’t believe Satan’s lies that he has society screaming – that you are inferior, insufficient, and unworthy.  When you belong to Jesus, you are complete.  You have nothing to prove.  Satan says “Here’s what you have to do to be accepted…”  Jesus says, “Because of what I’ve done on the cross… you are accepted.”

If you still need convincing, listen to Jason Gray’s “Remind Me Who I Am”:

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Praying for and praying with

Have you ever asked someone to pray for you or someone you care about?  Has anyone ever asked you to pray?  Have you ever asked a pastor to pray?  If you’re being honest, you would admit that you hope the pastor does a better job of praying for your request than you do in praying for the requests of others.

As a pastor, I don’t know if you can imagine how many people ask me to pray.  If I see someone out somewhere, it is not uncommon for them to tell me of a concern and ask me to pray.  In the kitchen last week at the Wednesday night community dinner someone asked me to pray.  This morning I cannot remember what they asked me to pray about.  And that’s what happens, doesn’t it?  Or is it just me?

Before you condemn me, you should know that in that moment (much to the person’s surprise) I said, “Let me pray for that right now”.  So I grabbed the person and started praying.  Adam, my son, was in the kitchen with us and grabbed the person’s shoulder and bowed as well.

It’s not just the difference in praying  for and praying with someone, but sometimes it’s the difference between praying and not praying.  Five minutes after the fact, three things have happened and the request has left my mind.

I write today’s blog to encourage you to pray with people in the moment.  If you’ve never prayed out loud before with someone else, it will be awkward at first.  You will worry about not knowing what to say or saying something stupid.  But I can tell you that the person will not remember what you prayed, but will only remember that you prayed with them.

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Being life flighted out

Diane, Adam, and I are going to Haiti with Samaritan’s Purse in November.  I was told I may be working with pastors, helping, teaching, and encouraging them.  Adam and Diane may be working with families and children, helping, teaching, and empowering them from a Jesus perspective.

Samaritan’s Purse will provide us with insurance to cover us while we’re in Haiti.  Our own insurance will cover us while we’re in the United States.  Today I sent them our insurance information.  They said they needed it in case a medical emergency necessitated an evacuation from Haiti by helicopter back to the U.S.  Dr. Kent Brantly was serving with SP when he had to be evacuated from Liberia with Ebola.  Even in the routine of our lives we never know when something will happen, and the odds are probably greater in a place like Africa or Haiti.  SP wants to make sure we’ll be covered here and there.

One of these days something is going to happen with each of us and we’re going to be “evacuated” from this world.  There is a 100% death rate.  And the beauty of it is that there is a way to be covered.  We can be covered here and there by the same policy.  It’s a policy that has already had the premiums paid in full.  It was paid by Jesus on the cross.  When we put our faith, hope, and trust in Jesus, He will be with us in this life through good times and bad.  And when we leave this world, He will welcome us to be with Him forever.  It’s a great policy.  Are you covered?  If not, check out the Roman Road -

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Tony Stewart: responsibility in our society

While I’m not a huge NASCAR fan, I have been to a race and know some of the personalities.  I was at a race about 10 years ago in Martinsville when Tony Stewart lost a tire on the track.  Most Americans know that Tony Stewart was driving a car a couple of months ago on a dirt track and hit a man (Kevin Ward, Jr.) when the man wrecked and got out of his car and walked in front of Stewart’s car.  The man died.  A grand jury found there was not enough evidence to indict Stewart.  When the District Attorney talked about why the grand jury failed to indict, he mentioned that toxicology reports showed that Ward had a large amount of marijuana in his system – ‘enough to impair judgement’ according to the DA.  That could explain why you would walk into the path of an oncoming car.

The family read a statement after the DA that said the focus should be on Tony Stewart’s action on the track, not Ward’s.  The family is obviously grieving deeply.  The statement certainly sounded as if they will be filing a civil suit against Tony Stewart.

The Stewart/Ward incident is a microcosm of our American society.  People are rarely willing to admit fault and take the blame for anything.  It happens in government and it happens in everyday life.  It happens at work and in church.  In many churches, pastors blame the congregation and the congregation blames the pastor.

I believe this attitude is a major stumbling block in becoming a Christian.  It’s why pastors who call people to repent of their sin are called judgemental and hateful and some kind of phobic.  The progressive 21st century church calls people into the church and tells them they are OK.  They don’t call people into the church to be forgiven of their sin.  They call them into the church to be welcomed, accepted, and included telling the sinner that God loves them just as he or she is.  While that is true of God, it’s not the whole Gospel.  The Gospel includes repentance.  The Gospel calls us to turn from sin.  The Gospel is Good News, but the best of the good news is not just that God loves you, welcomes, you, and includes you, but that God will save you.  And one cannot be saved without admitting fault.  1 John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Where do you stand?  Are you always making excuses and looking to blame others, or are you willing to humble yourself and say, “God, I admit that I need a Savior.  I admit that I am guilty.  I no longer want to justify my sin.  I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sin and I ask you to forgive me of my sin because of Jesus.  I understand that I need to make some changes in my life and I can’t do it without you.  I ask you to help me day by day to make decisions that honor you.  If and when I fail, forgive me and gently set me back on your path.  Help me to live for you and help others to see the change you have made in my life and may they glorify you.  I pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. Amen. Amen.

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Getting back up

pansyYesterday I saw a person planting pansies.  I remember last year when we moved to Short Gap and Diane and I were thinking of buying some pansies here locally, but we weren’t sure if they would survive the frost.  We called Bob Barnitz from Bob’s Market and asked him if there was a special pansy that would survive the frost.  He said all pansies were considered ‘frost free’.  You can plant pansies in the fall and they can survive all winter.  Let it snow and they will be knocked down and look dead, but let the sun come out and the snow melt and those flowers will bounce right back.

That’s how I see our lives when we know Jesus as our Savior.  In Matthew 10:28 Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…”  This world is going to knock you down at times.  But with Jesus, you will never be defeated.  Even death does not defeat those who are in Christ – those who know Jesus as Savior.  That is an encouraging promise to those of us who put our faith and hope in Him.

Plant yourself some pansies and as winter comes, let them remind you of the resilience of the Christian life.  I have a feeling that on Diane’s next visit back to Mason she’ll be bringing back some pansies from Bob’s Market.

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Keeping out the riff-raff

Michael Yacconelli in Messy Spirituality says that nothing makes people in the church more angry than grace.  It’s ironic: we stumble into a party we weren’t invited to and find the un-invited standing at the door making sure no other un-inviteds get in. Then a strange phenomenon occurs: as soon as we are included in the party because of Jesus’ irresponsible love, we decide to make grace “more responsible” by becoming self-appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the Kingdom of God, keeping the riffraff out.

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