If there is a mustard seed of faith

As I research my sermon for Sunday, I found an interesting line that someone had written.  One woman asked if her sister was in heaven (her sister took her own life).  The person who answered wrote that he couldn’t tell her if she was or wasn’t, but he knew this:  If her sister had a mustard seed of faith, God will save her.  He also wrote, “You may not know whether she is in heaven or not but you can know that God, who has her in his hand, is faithful and just and will do what is right.”

I’m far from the “Good people go to heaven” camp.  But I also know that I am not wise enough to know what God is going to do when this life ends for each one of us.  But He will do what is right.  And that should be a comforting thought to us.

In the meantime I will proclaim the Name of Jesus and encourage people to turn to Him, not just for heaven, but for peace, comfort, strength, and excitement as we journey through this life.  To turn to Him at the end of our life is to miss out on a life of living for Him.  And I wouldn’t want to miss that.

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Don’t Call it a Comeback

LL Cool J had a song over 20 years ago and in it he said, “Don’t call it a comeback”.  He said he had never been gone, but rather had ‘been here for years’.  According to wikipedia he said he thought his career was over because he didn’t think he’d be able to compete with the up and coming ‘gangsta rap’.  He’s done OK for himself.  He’s been on NCIS Los Angeles the last five years and hosted the Grammys for the last three years.

Most of us like a good comeback story.  We see stories of politicians, actors, and athletes making comebacks.  A comeback often follows a fall – including scandals, health issues, or consequences from a bad choice.

And to make this about Jesus, which I most generally try to do, I wonder if He would call coming back to life from the cross and grave a comeback.  From the peoples’ perspective at that time, it would have looked like the greatest comeback of all time.  Or would He say, “Don’t call it a comeback” because it was really God’s plan all along.

I’m praying for you/those who need a comeback today.  And I pray that you/they turn to Jesus, the Master of comebacks.  I love a good comeback story, whatever you call it.

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Free Mission Trips

At a New Year’s Eve party in 2012, I met someone who told me about free mission trips.  I didn’t believe them.  I’d been on enough trips to know that they cost and sometimes cost a lot.  I thought they must be mistaken.

After further investigation, I found out they were right.  And it’s not the kind of free that they ask you for money at the end.  One time I went on a free 5 day/4 night retreat for pastors and then when it was over they wanted me to go raise funds for them to continue to operate.  This isn’t like that.

This is Samaritan’s Purse, headed up by Franklin Graham (the same people who do the Christmas shoe boxes).  Samaritan’s Purse is funded by people who believe in the mission of spreading the Gospel through helping others – from wealthy corporations who give millions to individual donors who give $20.  And they do not solicit money from their volunteers.  They even give you free t-shirts and hats to wear and keep.  Diane and I have been on three trips with SP.  Our son Adam has been on two and our son Matt has been on one.  They are awesome trips.

They do disaster response helping at the time of the crisis and they do rebuilds.  Because of the nature of disaster responses, to help with them you must be able to go at a moment’s notice.  Unlike most disaster responses which are sudden and unpredictable in nature, rebuilds are long term projects allowing volunteers to plan and schedule a trip three months in advance with a team. These are great opportunities for anyone desiring to get involved with mission work.  You can go by yourself, with one other person, or with a group.  They feed you, provide a place to sleep and shower, provide construction site supervisors, and provide all the materials and tools.

The minimum age is dependent upon the state’s laws.  Right now they have disaster rebuilds in Oklahoma, New Jersey, and New York.  New York requires people to be 18.  I think Oklahoma is 14.  I think New jersey might be 16.

These are free mission trips, paid for by Jesus loving donors who believe in the mission of Samaritan’s Purse.  I see the SP mission as helping those who are at a difficult time and forever changing the volunteers who go to help.  Your only cost is to pay to get yourself to wherever the trip is. Check out the link below.  It’s a wonderful opportunity and most important – they do it for Jesus’ glory and in Jesus’ Name.

Learn more at www.spvolunteernetwork.org.

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That’s over, now what?

If we pay attention, I think we see a lot of transitions in life – a lot of times when have the opportunity to say (whether we think about it or not), “That’s over, now what?”  I don’t just mean major events like weddings and graduations and funerals and births.

Baseball season is over for the Orioles (undefeated 19-0) and many other young people.  The end of July means vacation is over for most people who were blessed to go on vacation.  For two mission teams in the last month, the mission trip they so looked forward to is over (or truth be told for some – the mission trip they worried too much about).

And the question on my mind is, “Now what?”  Of course we usually go back to our routines, not that routines are a bad thing.  I’ll be back to my usual sermon preparation (I hope God shows up mightier than ever this morning since I didn’t have time to prepare sermons this week), back to my usual morning devotion schedule, back to preparing Wednesday night dinners, and soon back to taking food to the schools for our backpack ministry.

As summer begins winding down (I know you don’t want to hear that), and as you and I get back into ‘routines’, let’s constantly be looking for some ‘now what?’ opportunities.  In our routines, the ‘now what’ opportunities are mostly unplanned.  And because they are unplanned and often interrupt our routine, we may miss them or avoid them.

This is a reminder that just because the adventures of this summer will end, adventures don’t have to end.  God will place opportunities before you.  Keep your eyes open and fixed on Jesus through prayer, Bible reading, and church attendance and your routine will be anything but routine.  When you follow Jesus there are always opportunities for adventure, even in the midst of our routine lives.  How sad if the ‘what’s next’ moments for us are next summer’s vacations or mission trips.  Jesus may put a great opportunity before you today in the midst of your routine.

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Give me Jesus

This morning I walked to the end of the side road near the church we’re staying in while we’re on Long Island for our mission trip. There is a beautiful home at the end with a water view. In front of the home are two Bentleys, one Porsche, one BMW, and a classic Corvette. On the water at their dock are two jet skis. It’s an impressive setup.

And I wonder. I wonder if God blessed the people with those things. He may have. It’s also possible that satan is using prosperity to keep the people away from God. I wonder if it’s possible the people love their things more than God. I’m not writing this to make me or you feel better about not having material wealth. I’m just reminded that things aren’t always what they seem.

If we have Jesus, that’s all we need. If you have Him and a Porsche, that’s awesome. If you only have one of the two, I pray you have Him.

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The thrill of following Jesus

It’s nearly 10:00 pm and 13 of us just left a pizza shop near Times Square, got on and off the NYC subway, and are now on the Long Island railroad heading back to the church we’re staying in.

We’ve spent the last 2 days and will spend the next 3 working on homes damaged by hurricane sandy. Our Facebook friends jokingly ask us if we are on a mission trip or on vacation. Last night we were at the beach.
Saturday we’re stopping at Coney Island (home of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs) on the way home.

Without a doubt, I have found that since I started following Jesus life has been a thrill ride. I’m not saying it’s always been fun or easy, but it has definitely not been boring.

I know there are a lot of other people on this trip who feel the same way. Our son Adam said mission trips are like “church camp on steroids.”

Are we having fun? You bet. Do we go to bed worn out? You bet. Do we know what tomorrow will bring? No way. But we trust the One who made tomorrow.

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It’s going to take more than that to clean up this mess

Yesterday we loaded up a U-Haul filled with Adam’s belongings and moved them from Pittsburgh to our home in Short Gap.  I discussed this in yesterday’s blog when I wrote about faith.

On one of my many trips up and down 44 steps (one way) I saw a guy set his material beverage cooler on the sidewalk in front of Adam’s apartment.  The guy had the cooler on the ground and was doing something on his phone.  Enter a woman pushing a baby in a stroller and walking a dog.  As they came down the sidewalk, her (male) dog sniffed his way to the guys cooler and proceeded to hike up his leg and pee on the guy’s cooler.  The woman jerked the leash of the dog, shouted the Lord’s Name in vain, and started apologizing to the guy.  She told him she normally had baby wipes, but didn’t have any with her at the moment.  Yea… if they only had baby wipes.

It was going to take more than baby wipes to clean that up.  It reminds me of how people sometimes think they can get their act together. Sometimes people think they need to get their lives straightened out before God will accept them or before they can come to church.  We have to realize that the mess that is our lives is way beyond our ability to clean up.  It is only when we realize that all of our tidying up will not take away the stench of sin that we can finally turn to God and turn the mess over to Him.  And He is faithful to forgive us our sin.  And He will begin a good work in us.  And while the sin is forgiven once and for all, we must keep going back to Him over and over to get things straightened out when we’ve made another mess of things.

And turning to Him is not failure.  Turning to Jesus is the only true Hope of getting the mess cleaned up.

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