Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Soul. A photo of the top 20% of my body. My brain is in there somewhere. But it's not who I am. We are not a body and mind with a soul. We are soul with a body and mind. We are more spiritual than physical or mental. The Greeks have three words for life: bios (body), psuche (mind), and zoe (soul). Jesus tells us he comes to give us life. And when he uses the word life he uses zoe.

Monday, March 30, 2015

One and Zero

The boys got a 2 to 0 win tonight to open up the season. Lots of work to do on the offensive side, but our defense shut the team from Iowa down. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Palm Sunday Prayer

Pastors - If you looking for a prayer for this Sunday -- feel free to use this one.

Dear God,

It’s Palm Sunday. 

Jesus arrived to a defiant city on a donkey to people shouting “Hosanna.”
     Enter my disobedient heart.
     Replace my pride with humility.
     Release me. Rescue me.

Form in me a deep desire to trust You more fully.
     Give me a faithful obedience to follow You whenever and wherever.
Forge in me the strength to listen to and respond to Your voice.

May I say “yes” to Your plans and promises.
May I say “no” to the competing shallow securities of this world.

Eliminate prideful attitudes that separate me from community with others 
     and distance me from closeness and intimacy with You.
Eradicate my behavior of constantly comparing myself with others 
     and teach me that my worth and value in life is a gift from You.

Rescue me from the double standard of singing “Hosanna” in worship 
     and shouting “crucify him” at work, with friends, and even at home.
Release me from the hypocrisy of worshipping You with my words at church
     but denying You with my actions in the community.

Prevent me from holding on to habits that are harmful to me and hurtful to others.
     Let the destructive parts of my life die and disappear.
Prepare me for resurrection and new life that comes as a gift from You.
     Let reconstruction begin and make me alive again!

You entered a holy city to people waving palm branches and waiting for a King.
Enter my life to make me holy, victorious, and obedient to the King of all Kings.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Holy Week Explained

Palm Sunday. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem wasn’t much to write home about. If you had been there, you wouldn’t have been too impressed—somebody from nowhere riding on a donkey into a city. No television stations or bands were present. But for Jesus, it was his moment of triumph. People waved palm branches. Palm branches were given to Olympic Champions. A symbol of victory. The people also hailed Jesus: “Hosanna in the highest.” Hosanna means to save or rescue.

The songs and the symbolism on Palm Sunday are as powerful as it gets. The songs are about being rescued: from ourselves, from hurts, from addictions, from death itself. The children wave palm branches to celebrate the victory we claim through Jesus. Victory over our brokenness, victory over sin, victory over our fears, victory over death.

Maundy Thursday. Maundy is from the Latin mandatum, the first word of Jesus’ teaching from John 13:34 - "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus was sharing his last meal with the twelve men who would be responsible for taking the Gospel to the nations. No time for small talk. Not even time for good stuff. Only his best words. “I’m going to make this simple. You need to remember this: Love others as I have loved you.”

Good Friday. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. What He really gave us, of course, was Himself. He experienced pain, humiliation, and death so we can experience love, forgiveness, and life. The world hasn't been the same since and your world doesn't have to be the same ever again. No single word or collection of words could ever describe this day. So "good" will have to do.

Saturday. The other days have a name: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. Saturday is just Saturday which is more than enough. It was a day of darkness when Satan celebrated victory over God and dominion over the world. In the epic game of chess against the Almighty One Himself - Satan delivered a surprising, come-from-behind checkmate. He gets a surprise tomorrow: the King still has another move.

Easter Sunday. The bunny and the eggs and the pastel clothes – they neither add nor subtract much because there is nothing that can really be added or subtracted. Easter begins in the despair of the dark caused by the sin of the world and the hatred of many. Fear was widespread. Satan delighted in Christ's death. But it's Easter morning and Satan's party comes to an abrupt ending when he discovers the once defeated man has emerged from the tomb. Christ is alive. It was the day death died. Checkmate. Hope overcomes despair. Light silences darkness. Grace forgives sin. Love replaces hate. Faith calms fears. Life resurrects death.

The best is yet to come…


Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Obey. One of my favorite things is coaching soccer. I have observed when the boys obey, follow the plan, and act as a team - wonderful things happen. When they don't - we struggle. This gives me a glimpse of how God must feel. God loves us, wants what is best for us, and knows what is best for us. Obedience is trusting God enough to follow Him wherever he leads us.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Weather, Entropy, and One Little Non-Scientific Thing

It was late Monday afternoon. We were playing thirty-six holes of miniature golf navigating the tricky undulations and strategically placed, brightly painted lumber. The boys laughed a lot and got a little competitive at the end. The temperature was approaching ninety degrees. It wasn’t that mid-summer, sticky, damp, no Oxygen in the air heat. It was dry and breezy, but much warmer that anything since early October. 

A few hours later, it was dark. Most of the neighbors seemed to have their lights down. Esther, the giant and cuddly Newfoundland dog, was her typical relentless self and wanted to go outside. I acquiesced. Dog owners don’t have much choice. Especially when the dog is the size of a medium bear. I took her glow-in-the-dark ball and she seemed at least willing to entertain the idea of playing fetch. I threw the ball and she gave me this strange look. I had seen it before. My plan to wear her out failed—just like it usually does. I guess I should remember she is a water rescue dog and not a retriever.

I noticed something strange. It was cold. The north wind was sharp. The warmth from the sun was gone. The temperature had easily dropped forty degrees in about four hours. Winter was making what hopefully was her last stand.

Midwesterners are a tough bunch of people. We have to be. Weather changes fast. Sunny one minute and rain the next. Hot in the early evening and cold at night.

One thing that changes faster than Midwestern weather is life. I have experienced this as a person and observed this as a pastor. Something doesn’t feel right. You visit the doctor and get bad news. The boss calls you into the office and says the budget is tight. You are out of a job. A relationship ends or changes significantly. An addiction develops. An accident happens. A child makes a bad choice. A parent ages. Somebody you love dies. Somebody you love hurts.

Entropy is what a chemist uses to explain a lack of order or predictability. Like when snow melts on a mountain and floods the river a hundred miles away. Entropy happens in all areas of life. Warm, sunny, and calm one minute and cold, dark, and windy the next. Healthy one minute. Hurting the next. Stable one minute. Messed up the next. Safe and secure one minute. Vulnerable and exposed the next. Entropy happens.

Life happens too. And no matter how hard we try to control—life ends up having a lack of order and predictability. It just does. Faster than the Nebraska weather. Worse than the flooded Missouri River. 

One thing doesn’t change. Entropy doesn’t apply to God. I am the LORD, and I do not change. –Malachi 3:6

In the world full of rapid changes; in this world full of entropy; we are loved by the Creator of the world who doesn’t change. In the storms, the floods, the challenges, and the heartbreaks—God is with us. Today and in the end, that is what matters most and it is the one thing you can count on.

The best is yet to come…


Thursday, March 12, 2015


The first word God uses to describe love is a bit of a surprise: patient. In his description of love, Paul shares other virtues like kind, forgiving, and persevering—but none comes before patience.

Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Patience is not simply the ability to wait – we all have to wait. Patience is how we behave while we’re waiting. 

We live in a world of fast food, speed dating, and overnight delivery. Instant gratification is valued over long-term wellness. The world tests our patience. It really does. 

  • We wait in long lines to pick-up the kids at school.
  • We deal with impersonal telephone mazes when we call the insurance company.
  • People always seem to be late.
  • The store has 18 cash registers available, but only two are open.

We can respond in one of two ways:

  1. Reactions like frustration, irritation, and anger
  2. Or patience

Paul says that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. It is grace. God’s gift. It can only be accepted. It doesn’t come by willpower or strength – it comes through prayer and practice. 

Patience is needed in three areas of life:

Self. This is growth. You are not perfect. So stop trying to attain the unattainable. And don’t play the comparison game. You will lose every time. Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself a second chance. Learn from your mistakes. Laugh at yourself. It’s fine if you are not where you want to be. Just figure out a few next steps and start taking them. 

Others. This is grace. Nobody else is perfect either. You can demand perfection from others, but you will be disappointed. Being patient with another means accepting them as God accepts you. Their world will be better because of your patience, but you are the primary beneficiary of practicing grace. Long-Term, it is a lot easier, more rewarding, and certainly more fun encouraging and supporting than it is belittling and criticizing.

God. This is faith. Instead of telling God your plans and your schedule, spend some time listening to God. Give up control. You might as well because you are not in control anyway. Trust in God’s vision, God’s provision, and God’s timing. 

Come to think of it…I’m not surprised when God describes love…the first word He comes up with it patience. 

The best is yet to come…


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hedgehog's Dilemma

The weather is cold. A group of hedgehogs crowd together to share each other’s heat, which they need to survive. However, their closeness causes them to bump into each other and they experience pain from each other’s sharp spines. This causes them to separate until the cold causes them to come back together until they bump into each other again. They move from one source of discomfort to another until they find a distance that allows them to survive. But, this distance does not allow them to experience the warmth and benefits of community.

source: nakedhedgehogs.com

Philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, and psychologist, Sigmund Freud, have used this dilemma as a metaphor to describe how individuals relate to each other and to society. Humans need connection with each other, but the nearer people get, their potential for hurt increases. Schopenhauer and Freud observed humans simultaneously crave and reject connection. The Hedgehog's Dilemma creates cautious behavior and weak relationships. Hedgehog’s Dilemma explains loneliness. 

We live in a connected world. Our associations have certainly grown broader. Technology and social media have made that possible. With the click of a button, we can see what Katy Perry is wearing, what Faux Pelini is thinking, or what an old high school classmate is up to. But a real connection is different than an association. Connecting brings people together so that a strong bond can be formed. I’m not convinced we live in a connected world. Like the hedgehogs, we are surrounded and associated with others, but how many of us are experiencing the warmth and benefits of authentic community?

source: nakedhedgehogs.com

It is not good for the man to be alone. –Genesis 2:18

That you can be lonely in a crowd, maybe especially in a crowd. You can also be lonely with friends and family. To be lonely is to be aware of emptiness that exists in the heart and mind. It is the sense that something is missing—namely loving and being loved by others and loving and being loved by God.

Friends. A friend is a friend for no particular reason. You can't have more than a few of them. You can disagree and you would be wrong. Friends embrace both the imperfections and the possibilities of each other. They are better together than they could ever become separately. A friend is able to look at the other and say: "I like me best when I am with you." Jesus talks about friendship: "You are my friend if you do what I command." (John 15:14) The command, of course, is to love each other as we have been loved by Him. Jesus is saying friendship takes lots of work and makes no implications otherwise, but his message is at once clear and compelling that true friendship is worth all the effort and then some.

God. "Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Zion," sings the Psalmist (137:1). In the end it is Zion that we're lonely for. A place in our heart that can only be filled by the love of God.