• June 23, 2014

    Learning to Enjoy Sabbath/ Sunday

    To my delight, it was fairly unanimous during our Bible Study that Sabbath (e.g., Sunday rest) is considered to be a blessing. At the same time, it was also obvious that it was complicated. Some in the group had grown up with very strict guidelines of what should and should not happen on Sunday. Others had had very little structure in their day, making the day be not all that significant.

  • June 23, 2014

    Who God Says You Are

    You are not, ultimately, who your parents, or your classmates, or your teachers say you are. For that matter, you are not the good or bad things you’ve done, your GPA or your free-throw percentage, the clothes you wear or the car you drive. You are who God says you are. Because in Jesus, God has given you a new name, too. It might not be a name like “Peter”’–one that appears on your birth certificate, or that you are called by your friends. But it is a name that God whispers in your ear by his Spirit. A name like: Beloved Child.  Holy... 

  • June 20, 2014

    A Messed Up World, and Doubts About Renewal

    I have an old friend, let’s call him Kevin, a nominal Christian; he goes to church for weddings, funerals, Christmas morning, and maybe once in a blue moon. He and his wife are skeptics and suspicious of churches, but they admire and respect regular Christian ethics. When I joined World Renew he laughed and joked, saying “… that’s an extremely ambitious name; this world is in a terrible state, and you and a small bunch of people think you can renew it?” We had a good email discussion but he remains skeptical...

  • June 20, 2014

    What Was #CRCSynod 2014?

    There were a number of testimonies coming out of the advisory committees of appreciation for their leadership. The advisory committee that had to handle the Wisconsin Overture and the one that had to handle the Banner overtures both came with singular reports despite the fact that members reported being far apart from each other entering the process. This bears witness to good leadership who could clearly hear the concerns of diverse...

  • June 19, 2014

    Unity

    I grew up blissfully ignorant of any fighting between the CRC and RCA.  It was only after moving to a small town that had its origins in the Dutch immigrant community that I encountered the problem. My neighbor who was RCA told me about growing up next door to a CRC family that would not allow their children to play with any kids who were not CRC, including the RCA kids next door. I heard stories of kids on both sides of the fence being told by those on the other side that they were going to hell. Really...

  • June 17, 2014

    The Language of Awesome

    Language is awesome. It’s fluid. It’s alive. It’s ever changing, adapting, moving, creating. Recently I learned about the words “toats” “jelly” “adorbs” and “cray” (with the superlative being “cray-cray”). Though I initially cringed and complained about these new variations of totally, jealous, adorable, and crazy (there’s no real superlative to crazy, so cray-cray might just be it), I’ve adapted and see how language continues to live and breathe and create...

  • June 17, 2014

    Final Farewell

    In April I had the privilege of visiting Hyde County, NC, as World Renew DRS was finishing our work in the coastline communities that were impacted by Hurricane Irene in 2011. There were multiple high points during my visit, including time spent with our volunteers and renewed relationships with our UMC friends.  But the most memorable highlight, by far, was visiting a hurricane survivor named Joyce whose home we had the privilege of restoring...

  • June 17, 2014

    After the Storm

    Last night's catastrophes are recorded by rain gauges, like mine, filled to overflowing. Floods blanket the flat land this morning, river banks seemingly gone. Somewhere deaths are being mourned. But life goes on just outside my window. Once again this morning, the players are here, even the goldfinch, full of song that's so much bigger than their diminutive selves. Another day out here on the edge of the Great Plains... 

  • June 16, 2014

    Bummed but Still Blessed...

    We are tired of doctor visits (about 39 in two months), but when I want to complain I remember how blessed we are. We are getting the care we need, this is temporary, and God is our healer. I feel more now for everyone who deals with medical issues daily. We are blessed to know others are praying for us. I have been touched by your emails, concern and care. Thank you...

  • June 16, 2014

    Dads Bring Home More Than Bacon (Not Less)

    Men are living like boys hanging around high school parking lots remembering the state championship in football; instead of playing Legos with their kid's (metaphorically). Dads, we need more than your bacon...we need your presence. We need more than your provision (not less)... we need a vision bigger than the American Dream. We need you to teach our children what it means to be responsible men and woman. We need you to care about something bigger than the next golf outing or who won the game. We need you to be strong and weak at the same time willing to ask for help.

  • June 12, 2014

    Inheritance

    To promise, as the NIV does, that those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land sounds, in this region, like a pipe dream—and it is. Good people don’t inevitably win in the quest for land ownership. The mid-80s’ “farm crisis” made that perfectly clear. More often than not, good, hard-working people got flattened. Sorry, David—maybe that was true in old Israel, but it’s not true—nor should anyone promise it—in the rural areas of the Upper Midwest. The KJV says, more metaphorically perhaps, that the righteous will inherit the earth.

  • June 12, 2014

    Remembering Those Who Served

    Naval Station Norfolk is the largest U.S. naval base in the world. It is home to more than 100,000 people. Our tour took us past numerous ships that were in port including four submarines that we likely would not have noticed had the guide not pointed them out. But my favorite ships by far were the two Nimitz Class aircraft carriers that were docked that weekend. These ships are the size of small towns. They are propelled by two nuclear reactors...

  • June 12, 2014

    Nurturing a New Conversation

    God is at work. He is softening the hearts of people, organizations and institutions throughout the United States. And there is a growing openness to have conversations regarding topics like the Doctrine of Discovery and systemic injustice against Native Americans. But this openness is still young and conversations like these need to be nurtured, coaxed and gently encouraged. So while there is a growing willingness to talk about these issues, there are almost no institutions, agencies or organizations willing to pay for them...

  • June 12, 2014

    PK

    As a pastor, the end of the school year always gets busy. It coincides with the end of the ministry year and church year as well and this year it happened to coincide with a bunch of important vision-type meetings happening at church. As I look back on my calendar I only had 2 weeknights at home from the end of March through May. As I was leaving for another meeting and saying good night to my kids, Karissa said in a rather accusatory tone, "You have to go to another meeting at church!?!"...

  • June 11, 2014

    Rituals for Grad School (and Life)

    Grad school brings with it its own set of rituals: meetings, papers to write, grading, emails, chats with colleagues, submissions and forms unending, etc. At times these rituals can seem to overtake our life and determine who we are. So last week we talked about different rituals – rituals that point us to and move us towards God. These help balance the pressures placed upon us from academia but also help us to remember that we are more than...

  • June 11, 2014

    The Gospel Through Maps

    I’d told a story about how hard it’s been for me to throw away my cheap tourist map from Paris. It had so many memories attached to it. At that point in my sermon I pulled out the map and retraced a couple of the more beautiful moments from that trip. I was trying to make the point that maps can imaginatively ‘take us places’ (looking back via our memories or ahead via our dreams). Then I made the segue to the Revelation 21/22′s description...

  • June 9, 2014

    Transitions: Left Behind in Nigeria

    When they learn of our transition, many of our friends wonder what happened to the work responsibilities now that we’ve left. Thinking about the ramifications of me leaving my job as Operations Director led us, on multiple occasions, to question whether or not this new assignment was really from God. It led to feelings of guilt. It brought about difficult conversations with colleagues in Nigeria. It was not easy by any stretch of the imagination!...

  • June 6, 2014

    The Value of Being a Child of God

    Guatemala was ransacked by a horrific civil war that ran from 1960-1996. When a peace treaty was signed in 1996, Lucia and her neighbors hoped for positive change. “The government and private organizations came to our community promising many things that would improve our quality of life, but none of them fulfilled their promises,” she said. Her life took a turn, however, when she was invited to attend a community meeting. World Renew’s...

  • June 6, 2014

    Code Talkers

    This marvelous story has more than its share of ironies. Code Talkers used their own Navajo language, a language spoken only on the Reservation, to save American lives. At the very same time at reservation boarding schools, the Navajo language was forbidden. At once, the Navajo language was glorified and demonized...

  • June 5, 2014

    Downright Foolishness

    A group calling itself "Open Carry Texas" decided to demonstrate its something or other last weekend and simply do what they claim "the founders" would have loved: lug their hardware into places where they and their weapons would be seen and noted. So they grabbed their assault rifles and showed up hither and yon, the sweet heat strapped over their shoulders. All perfectly legal, of course. Nary a sinner in the bunch...

  • June 5, 2014

    Within Arm's Reach

    On invitation from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, I attended a Maternal Newborn Child Health (MNCH) Summit in Toronto with a theme, “Save Every Woman, Save Every Child.” I don’t think I have ever seen or met so many national and international leaders at one event in my life. The approximately 500 attendees were from government, international development agencies like World Renew, and the corporate sector...

  • June 3, 2014

    The Things You Don't Know, the Things You Don't Plan

    The year was 1993. I was in high school. I was living in a one bedroom apartment with my mom. My bed was in the dinning room. I worked. My mom worked. We just were getting by. One night, my mom came home from work and said that there was a new church starting that had a Wednesday night Bible study and a meal. That meant we could save some money and have a free meal. I went. And I stayed...

  • June 3, 2014

    Spirit Power

    June 8 is Pentecost Sunday in the life of the church. On that day we celebrate the great day two thousand years ago when the Holy Spirit came with power. Imagine what it would have been like to be present in that incredible moment and hear Peter preach the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. The results of that sermon were spectacular. The Scripture informs us that "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." Three thousand!

  • June 3, 2014

    God's Not "Nice"

    We speak pejoratively about “fire and brimstone” preaching. It’s judgment without grace, anger without love. But there’s a haunting passage in Jeremiah. God is confronting the false prophets who are not truly representing Him to His people: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.” If someone is bleeding out, a Band-Aid and a kind word—in place of emergency care—will mean their death...

  • June 2, 2014

    Why Does Lamenting Well Matter So Much?

    As I ponder how to give grad students both the opportunity and the means to lament well, I am struck by why it matters so much. I do not doubt that lamenting well is important for all Christians. At the same time, I think it matters even more for those connected to the university. The reason I believe it matters so much is because it’s a way of being honest with things that cause us pain. Lamenting includes acknowledging the pain, sadness, rejection, and more. Some of that includes recognizing sin, including one’s own. At the same time that the struggle is named...

  • June 2, 2014

    Brace Yourself Up Like a Man?

    I believe there has been a concentrated and pernicious attack on men and young boys for the past forty years. I could go into the many statistics, but defending this claim is not the aim of this post. All I will say is that much like our modern political debate, instead of positively stating why women are different, special, and so needed in every realm of life, we were told why men were enslavers, manipulative, and content to keep women down...

  • June 2, 2014

    To SERVE Again

    Begun in 2008, and hosted at Calvin Christian Reformed Church, SERVE is run entirely by volunteers. Currently, SERVE welcomes 15 to 20 participants each year, providing them with a week of teaching and lessons about God, as well as one-on-one support from mentors, fun activities, volunteerism, friendship and good food. “SERVE is never the same. There are always new mentors and participants.

  • May 30, 2014

    The Extent Of Christian Living

    There are times when you have to wonder about how deep we evangelical Christians think that the Spirit digs into the hearts of believers. Does his holy work go only so far as to convict us of the need for a Saviour?

  • May 30, 2014

    Is Going to College Necessary?

    We are in the season of graduations and students looking ahead to their futures. Kids are getting accepted and rejected into colleges and some are going into the work place. [This] raises a question for me. Is college necessary for our children? I have been told you need to have a college fund for your kids. Why? Because we are fed the lie, if you don't go to college, you will live in your car, and live off Hot Pockets the rest of your life... 

  • May 28, 2014

    Father & Son

    Recently I dropped off my son at the airport. He returned to Canada to complete Grade 12 there. Living in Malawi is a blessing: but I must concede that living 12,000 miles away from my son is a great sacrifice for us and one that we find very difficult. Watching my son walk out of my sight at the gate made me reflect on some fathers and sons that I have visited the past few months. Mr. Pendikani Phiri is a diminutive man. But he has an energetic and passionate manner that belies both his size and his age. As we toured his fields, there were four young men trailing along with us.

  • May 28, 2014

    A Call - Then and Now

    I didn’t necessarily notice it at the time, but in hindsight I believe that God was setting the tone for how He would have me serve Him throughout my life and developing the gifts He wanted me to use for His kingdom — even from that first marble tournament. I began to sense His call to serve in leadership to advance His Kingdom through evangelical missions.

  • May 27, 2014

    Sweet Spot

    What exactly is the sweet spot? In terms I understand the sweet spot is the place on a bat that when the ball hits it makes the ball go really far. 'Sweet spot' is more than just a sports term though I think. In our lives, families, jobs, or wherever we find ourselves I think we all have sweet spots. Places that we were intended to be. Places where everything connects. Places where once things hit there the results are impressive...

  • May 27, 2014

    Popular Phrases Lacking Precision

    In a seminary setting we affirm that words have the power to shape reality. Hence, we encourage one another, in and out of the classroom, to practice discernment when selecting words. In a recent conversation, for example, a student wisely questioned the contemporary practice of referring to the church’s presence in the world as “incarnational.” She thought such usage tends to reduce the incarnation of Jesus Christ to something less than mysterious and miraculous. She may be on to something...

  • May 27, 2014

    Photos and Perspective

    The key to photography is to have a point of view or perspective. Travel helps bring perspective. The time away from what is “usual” and “standard” is an aid in helping to more deeply see the contours of the world I know, but also the world I am getting to know. When Jackie and I returned, people asked “what did you learn” or “what do you ‘take away’ from your visit?”...

  • May 21, 2014

    My Hope for a Less Conflictive, Anxious and Distracted Synod

    While most would agree that there needs to be positive change on multiple fronts, Synod focuses attention on the binational office in Grand Rapids and changes the need to come in there and from there. No one seriously doubts confirmations of the Executive Director and the Canadian Ministries director will happen. We will pay attention to what they say and all hope will also be come with a “wait and see” attitude...

  • May 21, 2014

    Doing Justice and Loving Mercy

    I am feeling restless when I think of the plight of our society and the mission God has laid on our hearts as Reformed churches in Australia. At times I have laid awake at night -- and my thoughts wander and ponder.

  • May 21, 2014

    Huge, Diverse, and Amazing

    One of the reasons that we decided that our kids should go to Guatemala was that we want them to know a life bigger than their immediate world. We want them to know a world that is huge, diverse, and amazing. And we want them to know a God who is huge, diverse, and amazing. Guatemala seemed like a pretty good place to continue that education. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he quoted Deuteronomy and said love God more than anything and with all that you are and love other people too. Loving God and loving others is why we sent our kids to Guatemala...

  • May 21, 2014

    God's Plans and Ours

    Some people think planning is a luxury.  Life is so chaotic and unpredictable, you are lucky to make it to the end of the day.  For many Haitians, most of whom are self-employed (market vendors, tradespeople, etc.) or unemployed, time is not at a premium (though money certainly is). That is one of the reasons why planning is not often practiced in Haiti. Yet, we know that our God values planning.

  • May 19, 2014

    Advice Season

    Thanks to the web, commencement speeches are now recorded and posted, so that they might be enjoyed, mocked, considered, and compared. We can study and anatomize the genre in its natural habitat, noting, for example, that commencement speakers almost universally include two main elements in their talk: jokes and advice. The jokes I understand, but why advice? Good advice should be carefully tailored to the individual and situation in question, yet we have somehow made it conventional for an invited stranger to dispense advice to hundreds of young people...

  • May 19, 2014

    You Are Not Good Enough?

    One of the challenges of grad school is being confronted with the sense that you are not good enough. This might give you the sense that you are an imposter. Imposter syndrome has been written about in various ways, including how to overcome it. Imposter syndrome is one of the themes we’ll touch on this summer in our series about challenges grad students face. So what then?  Do the Bible and Christianity have anything to say about not being good enough?...

  • May 16, 2014

    Saints? For Sure

    A few weeks ago Pope Frances canonized two pontifical predecessors, Paul XXIII and John-Paul II.  In my last post on Saints, I looked at the warm biblical use of the term and concept of saints. Ok, so what now?  How then might saints function in the Christian life? The most basic response is to recognize who we are.  Here’s the truth: you and I, we are saints. More often than not, that’s hard to believe.Yet by naming you and me as saints, the Bible provides a lens through which we can being to see one another more clearly...

  • May 15, 2014

    Relationship, not Ritual

    The setup of Jesus’ well-known parable of the Good Samaritan is “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The question betrays the assumption that the lawyer can work to achieve eternal life. For this man, salvation is not a gift to be received but something to be achieved. It’s interesting that he uses the word inherit. As pastor and author Gary Inrig points out “You can’t do something to inherit a gift..."

  • May 15, 2014

    The Life and Death of George Knoop

    George, a native of the Chicago area, was a warm, deeply spiritual man of prayer who was seventy-four years-old. George worked for a mail-forwarding service that many Haiti missionaries use, Missionary Flights International. He was deeply involved in the discipleship of young men and the teaching and practice of the discipline of prayer. His deep trust in God and his complete dedication to mission left an impression that we will never forget.

  • May 14, 2014

    May Thoughts

    Well, the Lord willing, before I post another entry here, my two kids will have both graduated. My older daughter will be graduating from college, my son from high school. We have a somewhat busy stretch coming up family-wise, and I am left to wonder how we even got here. There are so few typical days I can recall with any vividness. It makes me sad...

  • May 13, 2014

    Commencement: You Go, Girl

    This young grad's tattoo was right smack dab in front of my eyes: "Walk By Faith." Graduations are--a new moment in time for those who are leaving the academic nest. A Christian college, like the one where I worked, hopes and prays its grads will be tattooed by their education here, in just about exactly the way this young lady's right foot is, with some statement of faith...

  • May 13, 2014

    Plantations, Colonialists, and the Innocents Who Wander There

    I lived through the urban ministry movements of the 60s and 70s. I was a white foreign missionary who didn’t know anything in the 90s, and I have now pastored a small, multi-ethnic congregation in a struggling South Sacramento neighborhood for 17 years. I’ve watched white flight to the suburbs, seen plenty of white-missions-projects overseas and to the inner city jn America, and now watch the ongoing “Friends-ification” of the city center again. When Whitey moves or gets a notion, everybody else has got to adjust and not always for the bettert...

  • May 12, 2014

    Hope for the World

    Hope is hard to define; there is no universal agreement on what hope is and where it can be found. Human beings need hope in order to survive, however. Even without complete agreement, everyone appreciates the necessity of hope. Without hope, we will perish. We need hope as much as we need food or air, or even love, which is described as the greatest of the triad of faith , hope and love...

  • May 12, 2014

    Throw Open the Doors!

    In my denomination of the Christian Reformed Church in North America we are scrambling to find out who and why are leaving the church. Statistics and studies show that young adults who are in their late 20′s early 30′s are leaving the church in droves. We have also seen an exodus of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers as well. To tell the truth, I myself have been curious about Gen Xers leaving the church. Why do they? What’s going on here?...

  • May 12, 2014

    #BringBackOurGirls

    Over the past few days, #BringBackOurGirls has been receiving widespread media attention. As a result, we have been getting all sorts of comments and questions: Did this happen close to where you lived? Aren’t you glad to be out of Nigeria now with all of the violence there? What is the feeling there now with the increase in Boko Haram activity? What can we do to help in this situation...

  • May 12, 2014

    Two Ears, One Mouth, and How to Relate to Anyone?

    I love to give my opinion, insight, and solutions to the problems of the world. Maybe you can relate. James said it this way, "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger..." Maybe God did design us to have two ears and only one mouth so we would slow down and learn to listen to people. This profound biblical wisdom from James shows us how to relate to anyone...

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