It’s Not the Economy

January 12, 2010

There’s a lot of confusing reports bouncing around out there regarding the economy.  Some say we’re climbing out of this recession, while others still indicated huge job losses and double-digit unemployment.  It creates both hope and fear.

But today’s reading from Luke 12 (there’s a similar rendition in Matthew 6) reminds me that God’s provision for our needs is based on his kingdom–not our economy.  Jesus says as much in verses 31 and 32:

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.  So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

There are two key ideas here, I think.  First, God wants to give us everything we need and it makes him happy to do so.  But there’s a contigency–and that’s based on whether what we’re seeking and putting our full trust in is God’s kingdom or some other kingdom of our own choosing or making.

So put God first and seek his kingdom.  Let others worry about the economy.

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most like me

August 1, 2008

Ever wonder why we tend to most like people who are most like us?  And that our human tendency is to repel from and even judge others, in direct proportion to how different they are.

 

I’ll be honest.  This is not an easy thing to get a handle on.

 

I guess I could make excuses like, “I didn’t grow up with a lot of cultural diversity” or “I’m not biased or bigoted—I just don’t know many people outside my socio-economic, racial, and cultural circle.”

 

But those excuses are lame.  Besides, you don’t have to live in the midst of extreme cultural diversity to experience the tendency to make judgments about people.  In fact, they don’t even have to be that different from you in the first place.

 

It’s just our nature.  Our sinful nature.

 

But what our faith in God and God’s power in us allows for, is the ability to see people the way God sees people—that is, every single one deeply valued and unconditionally loved. 

 

And so, something unique and wonderful happens when we live our lives through the lenses of God’s all-inclusive love.

 

We begin to recognize that we’re all pretty much the same on the inside, and all the disguises we wear on the outside are either the manifestations of our pain or the cloaks of our insecurities.

 

And Jesus wants to free us from them both. 

 

There is healing for our pain—which usually comes in the form of someone who loves God, loving us.  And there’s also the freedom to drop the façade and allow God’s redemptive grace to both erase our sin and fill us with the kind of life that allows us to be ourselves—or at least become the person God always meant for us to be.  If God accepts me, I need to accept me too.

 

And when a person experiences that kind of freedom, it leads to another kind of freedom.  The freedom to love others with the same kind of unconditional acceptance and impartiality that God does.

 

…no matter how different they are.

 

“Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law

found in the Scriptures: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

James 2:8

Boom!

July 3, 2008

Happy July 4th to all!  Gotta love those hot dogs and fireworks.

 

On this Independence Day 2008 I’m thinking about the two Independence Days that are recorded in the Bible—and I’m not referring to the Exodus or the end of the Babylonian exile… ‘cause I know that’s what you were thinking!

 

No, I’m talking about the Old Testament 4th of July and the New Testament 4th of July.  The first one was a sad day.  The second one was a saving day.

 

The first I-Day goes all the way back to Genesis chapter 3, when our first parent made that dubious decision to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden—the only one God said not to eat from.

 

The decision they made that day was not so much about eating a piece of fruit as it was choosing a life of INDEPENDENCE.  Now that may sound great at first, until you realize that they were declaring independence from God.  And as a result, sin entered the whole human race and life without God along with it.

 

And that’s a choice God allowed them to make.  It’s still a choice God allows us to make.

 

But there’s another choice offered to us as well.  And that choice was made possible by the 2nd I-Day recorded in the Bible.  And that one was the day Jesus died on the cross to take away the sin of the world.

 

By taking on the punishment of the whole world’s sin, Jesus set us free from the penalty and the power of sin in our lives—the very curse that fell upon us on that first, unfortunate Independence Day in the garden.

 

And if a forbidden tree was the culprit of our spiritual demise—then it would be a forgiving tree that would bring us the remedy that we so desperately needed.

 

That tree of course didn’t bear any real fruit—but it did bear the body of God’s one and only Son.  And the fruit of his love was our salvation.

 

And so now we are afforded the incredible opportunity to once again choose DEPENDENCE upon God as we accept his gift of forgiveness and walk in the blessing and power of new life.

 

And that’s when the real fireworks begin!

 

Dave

Life in the Right Lane

June 6, 2008

Maybe you’re one of the families hosting a party for one of your grads during this season.  Or no doubt you’ve been to a couple of parties already or will do so.  It’s a wonderful thing to celebrate, isn’t it… graduations?

 

We seem to value these rites of passage more than we realize.  Why there are graduations taking place that were never around when I was growing up.  Now there’s kindergarten graduation and fifth grade graduation.  Even the move from the our town’s middle school (8th) to the high school (9th) is a pretty big deal.

 

Like I said, they are wonderful things to celebrate.  We want to be successful—and we want our kids to succeed. 

 

Maybe an equally important consideration is what do we want them to succeed at?  Or, what do we mean by successful?

 

My message this weekend at my home church, “Life in the Right Lane” is an attempt to address these questions—and let me say that while it’s a helpful topic for graduates—it’s something we all need to hear.

 

That’s because for the world we live in, success is about life in the fast lane.  It’s about getting ahead and attaining more.  And the stressful reality of this objective is that there’s always someone farther ahead or someone who has more.  And so we have to drive faster to pass.

 

And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work hard or study hard or even that getting promotions and having things is wrong.  It just shouldn’t be what drives us.

 

Life in the right lane is different.  It’s different because there’s a different motivation.  Instead of doing what I want to do and getting what I want to get—my life is driven by what God wants for me.  It’s committing my life to God and his purposes—with attention to alignment with how he’s created me, you know, your gifts, and talents, and interests, and abilities.

 

And what’s really wonderful about life in the right lane is that it will ultimately take you to the right destination.  You don’t have to worry about passing people all the time and you’re already where you need to be when it comes time to exit.

 

And we’re all going to get off life’s exit someday. 

 

It’s the final graduation party, if you will.  And God wants the turns we take and stops we make in this life to be successful—according to his definition of success.

 

So why not stay in the right lane.  Slow down the pace and save some gas.  Enjoy the journey and don’t always be so consumed with the destination.  It’s a better way to drive—and it’s a better way to live.

 

And best of all, if you’re not in the right one, it’s not too late to change lanes…

Unpacking

May 30, 2008

 

Well last weekend was the big move.  Along with some help from a lot of friends and family, the Bishes have a new address.

 

But I’m going to vouch for the fact that moving is not a project, but a process.  Yes, we’ve got all the stuff moved to the new location—but as everyone knows about moving—the real work begins as you start to unpack.

 

And there seems to be no statute of limitations on unpacking.  I had stuff in our last house that never came out of the box for 12 years.  That’s just crazy!

 

It’s a lot like real life you know.  There’s always something that needs unpacking.  We spend our entire lives opening up the boxes of our past and wondering what it all means—and how we can escape the consequences—you know, getting rid of that stuff once and for all so it doesn’t take up any more storage space.

 

It makes us restless and robs us of peace when we’re constantly tripping over the boxes of painful memories and purchases of worldly things, whose novelty has long worn off.  And then they all end up becoming the burdens that we pack up and take with us everywhere else we go.

 

Will we ever be able to put things away for good?

 

Jesus offered an answer to that question in the gospel of Matthew when he said, Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

 

Where life circumstances and poor choices and being hurt by others create unmanageable burdens—Jesus offers support.  He offers to take them and carry them for us.  He assures us that we cannot carry them by ourselves—nor are we supposed to.  He says, “Come to me.”  And he’s more than capable of carrying them.

 

It’s really what’s behind the whole idea of the Sabbath in the Bible.  Sabbath means to rest—to take a break—to adjust the load—or even get rid of it.  It’s where we get the word sabbatical.

 

And so in the beginning God created the universe… and he rested.  Not because he was tired, but because the work was done.  And it was good.

 

And then Jesus became flesh and lived among us and died on the cross for our sin.  And from the cross he uttered the words, “It is finished.”  In other words, the work he came to do is done—so now he can rest.  And it was Good News.

 

Ironically, when Jesus finished his work on the cross it also allowed us to rest—to rest from our constant working and striving to please God in our own human effort—something we couldn’t do anyway.  Religion is the most restless life there is.

 

It’s only in coming to Jesus that allows you to rest.  To rest from managing your sin… to rest from carrying the burdens of a broken world all by yourself… and to rest from the erroneous expectations of a world that is trying to persuade you to find fulfillment in things that will never satisfy.

 

And so Jesus simply invites you to come. 

 

Are you restless?  Do you lack peace?  Are you hurting?  Are you tired of trying and failing?  Are you carrying a heavy burden?  Then come.  Come to Jesus.

 

If you do, you’ll discover that the Sabbath rest is a lifestyle and not just about keeping the lawn mower in the shed on Sunday.

Make A Move

May 21, 2008

Well the stitches on my arm from last week are out—just in time for moving… yes, my family is moving this weekend—not away, just to another house here in our community.  With my injury I thought I might get out of the heavy lifting—but alas, my son with the broken collar bone is our family’s only exemption.

 

I’m not a big fan of moving day.  You know, all the pre-packing into boxes, calling utility companies, labeling everything, and most of all loading and unloading heavy stuff.  Like the one Seinfeld episode suggests—you really assume something about relationships when you ask someone to help you move.

 

But I’ve also grown to appreciate moving as well.  There’s a lot of opportunity that comes with a move—and generally speaking, there’s some good things that can happen to our faith too.

 

I’ve experienced a few big moves in my life.

 

The first was my college days when I lived about two hours away from home.  Close enough to get home if I needed to—but far enough to not make it a habit. 

 

Then my wife and I were married and we moved from our parents’ homes to our first apartment.  Simple days and meager.  A great context for faith-building.

 

After two years of marriage we moved to Chicago so I could attend seminary.  We both resigned our teaching positions and packed up everything we owned in the smallest U-Haul trailer you can rent and started to drive.  About Toledo, Ohio I turned to her and said, “What the heck are we doing?”

 

Three and a half years later we returned to our home town as I began ministry as a youth pastor.  And the children were being born.  It was good to be near family in those early days of parenting.  Our family grew from two to six.  Faith required.

 

And then came 1995.  The years we packed everything up again and headed for DuBois, Pennsylvania.  The U-Haul was considerably bigger this time around—and Tri-County Church was born.  A new job.  A new house.  A new community.  And we didn’t know a soul. 

 

Each move seemed a little more daunting.  Each transition produced a little more anxiety.  Each leaving and arriving demanded a little more faith.

 

But then when it comes to faith—there’s no proving unless there’s moving.

 

That’s what happened when God called Abraham in Genesis chapter 12.  God said, “Abraham go.”  Abraham asked, “Where are we going?”  God said, “I’ll tell you when we get there.”  And Abraham went.

 

And Abraham went.  It’s so simple.  So responsive.  So obedient.  But you know full well he was scared.  But Abraham went.

 

The rest is history, as they say.  God provided everything along the way and when they got there.  Just like he has in my life.  Just like he’ll do in yours.  Not without challenges—but not without hope.  Moving can be a good thing.

 

But honestly, I do hope this is the last time I have to move…

 

Dave

Triage

May 16, 2008

It’s been one of those weeks…

 

So I’m helping some friends get ready to move into a new house on my day off (which is usually Monday) and just as I’m finishing off mounting the last exterior light on the back of the house—the step ladder kicks out to the right—and my body obeys gravity to the left.

 

I remember two things: A guttural yell from my diaphragm—and landing hard upon my left arm and shoulder.

 

As I groaned and got up my friend yells out the door, “Dude are you okay?”  Still bent half-over I managed the words, “I’m not sure.  I think I hurt my arm.”

 

Now my friend is no triage nurse, but he took one look at the laceration below my elbow and said with earnest, “Okay, I need to take you to the hospital now.”

 

Four x-rays and ten stitches later I was in recovery mode.

 

One should only have to visit the Emergency Room once in a while—certainly not twice in a week.  Did I mention it’s been one of those weeks?

 

Oh, it wasn’t for me this time—it was for my son.  Seems he encountered some similar laws of physics when the fell at first in his baseball game Wednesday night.  I get a call from a trainer that she thinks he may have broken his collar bone and that I should take him to the ER when they arrive back home in two hours.

 

Are you kidding me?  I was just there on Monday!  And sure enough—that’s just what he did.  So now we have one another to commiserate with.  It seems to help a little.  And at least they won the game.

 

But these things happen in life.  Things get cut and broken.  My son and I were fortunate.  My cut will heal and his bone will mend—even though it takes longer for me these days.

 

Other bumps and bruises in life can be more devastating.  And hope and healing seem far from reachable.  And some of the hardest injuries of all are the relational ones.  As if life weren’t unpredictable enough—we suffer people cuts and fractures.

 

But they too can mend and heal–if the right treatment is applied.  In fact, offering and receiving grace between individuals can actually lead to stronger, healthier bonds–much like a cut that heals or a bone that mends.

 

We just seem to have faith that when the ER doctor closes our wound or when the orthopaedic MD casts our limb that healing will naturally take place.  But it’s seems more of a mystery to me than that. 

 

And I believe that kind of mystery and miracle happens when we allow God to involved with broken relationships too.

 

It couldn’t hurt…

Happy Mother’s Day

May 9, 2008

If this applies to you, the reader, then let me be the first to wish you a HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY.  I know it’s two days away, but I just wanted you to know you deserve more applause.

 

And if you’re not a mom—you have or had a mom—and maybe it would be a good thing to take some time and inventory the blessings and lessons they taught you.

 

I was pondering that very thing this week and here’s what I came up with.  Some of these are concepts and some are actual quotes  from my mother.  I’ve written the quotes in italics

 

1. Love follows a path from the kitchen to the dining room.

MY MOTHER WAS A CAREGIVER and she always made sure we enjoyed a good meal.  She was and is an awesome cook and this was back in the day when families sat down together for dinner.

 

2. A full house beats a clean house every time.

MY MOTHER WAS A GREAT HOSTESS and all the kids in our neighborhood congregated at our house for everything.  That’s a lot of water breaks to thirsty, dirty, sweaty kids.

 

3. Learn to laugh often—especially at yourself.

MY MOTHER WAS SECURE and took the brunt of a lot of good-natured teasing—especially from me—I have a knack for it.  I loved the fact that she always laughed with us.  She still does.

 

4. Never be too busy to talk over coffee.

MY MOTHER WAS COMPASSIONATE and more nights than not, when I’d arrive home after school, she’d be sitting at the dining room table beside a woman with swollen, teary eyes with a box of tissues and a cup of coffee.  It’s amazing the kind of hope you find in a listening ear that doesn’t judge.

 

5. There’s nothing you’re struggling with that God can’t handle.

MY MOTHER HAD FAITH that you could taste.  It was never a secret where her real power and peace came from.

 

6. “You may as well talk to me because I know there’s something wrong.”

MY MOTHER WAS DISCERNING and I could never hide my feelings from her.  I’d try to brush it off and say I was fine, but mothers read hearts like a dog smells meat.  Okay, so that wasn’t a flowery way of expressing it, but it’s true.

 

7. She loved her husband first.

MY MOTHER WAS FAITHFUL and of course I mean after Jesus.  But was obvious to all of us children that when it came to human beings, she had surrendered her heart to my Dad.

 

8. “I love you all the same—and that’s with all my heart.”

MY MOTHER WAS IMPARTIAL because every time one of us five kids would ask her who she loved the most, this would be her constant and determined answer.

 

9. “All discouragement is from the devil.”

MY MOTHER WAS INSIGHTFUL and she was without a doubt my greatest spiritual tutor as a child.  I’m still learning from her.

 

10. “You need to set the example.”

MY MOTHER WAS AUTHENTIC and when she would tell me as the firstborn child that I needed to set the example, I realized that she was speaking from experience.

 

11. “I thought you didn’t like hamburg gravy.”

MY MOTHER WAS RESOURCEFUL especially when it came to mealtime.  When the cupboard was getting bare she’d always resort to hamburg gravy and mashed potatoes.  I remember always complaining when she said that’s what we were having—and I also remember finishing every last bite!

 

12. Others.

MY MOTHER WAS SELFLESS and to describe the essence of her life would simply be to say: “OTHERS”.

 

All you have to do is add an “M” to OTHERS and what do you get?

Graceball

May 2, 2008

Maybe you’ve already heard about this, but already this morning three people asked me if I’d seen the story about the Division II’s girl’s softball game that took place in the state of Washington.

 

It’s a really good grace story.

 

Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky had never hit a home run in her career… until this game.

 

Opposing team Central Washington had a stand-out senior of their own.  Unlike her Oregon’s Sara Tucholsky, Mallory Holtman held her school’s record in home runs.  But fate would bring them together in this game in an unusual way.

 

It was a must win situation for Western Oregon when Sara Tucholsky steps up to the plate in the top of the second inning with two runners on base and the game still scoreless.

 

After taking a first pitch strike, Sara recalls not knowing where the second pitch was—but that she just remembers hitting it—and she knew immediately that she had gone yard.

 

Hitting your first college career home run would have been enough of a story for Sara and her teammates.  But that’s not going to make national news.  What happens next is the real story.

 

With unsurprising excitement, the petite 5-2 (not-know-for-being-a slugger) rounded first during her home run trot and missed tagging the base.  With a history of knee trouble, she doubled back to make the tag count, and her knee gave out, leaving her to crumble into a painful pile near first base—while the two teammates she pushed around the diamond joyously crossed home.

 

As such, the rules state that if a player cannot make the trip around the bases on their own power, the run will not count.  Sara’s first base coach knew that her only options would be to take an out, or be replaced with a pinch runner—only to have her home run be turned into a two-run single.

 

And that’s when Sara and her coach heard these words from opposing team Central Washington’s Mallory Holtman: “Excuse me, would it be okay if we carried her around and touched each bag?”  Apparently there wasn’t a rule against this.  But who ever would have thought there needed to be?

 

And so Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace lifted Tucholsky off the ground and supported her weight between them as they began a slow trip around the bases, stopping at each one so Tucholsky’s left foot could make contact with each marker.

 

Accompanied by a standing ovation from the fans, the trio finally reached home plate and passed the home run hitter into the arms of her own teammates.

 

Then Holtman and Wallace returned to their positions and tried to win the game—a game they would ultimately lose 4-2. 

 

Following the game, Western Oregon’s coach Pam Knox was quoted as saying: “It was such a lesson that we learned—that it’s not all about winning.  And we never forget that, because as coaches, we’re always trying to get to the top.  We forget that. But I will never forget this moment.  It’s changed me, and I’m sure it’s changed my players.”

 

That’s because grace does change people.  And it’s the only thing that can change a person’s heart.

  

For the whole story go to: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/columns/story?columnist=hays_graham&id=3372631