Saturday, July 21, 2007

This Sermon (and Blog) is On Vacation

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I'm on vacation until August 6, so I won't be posting anything until then. In the meantime, have a look around at some older posts, or check out this sermon about vacations that I preached a couple years ago.

“This Sermon is On Vacation”
July 17, 2005

Today, this sermon is on vacation.

At Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, I told the group that on Sunday the sermon would be about vacations. After hearing this, two members said:
“That sound’s interesting, but I’m sorry, I won’t be at church to hear the message. I’ll be gone on vacation.”
I just got back from vacation recently. In June, my family went to two places. The first was a beautiful ranch in far Northwest Illinois, not far from Wisconsin. For three days, we enjoyed a beautiful apartment, a scenic view down into a lush green valley, a small pond that we canoed in every day, and several ranch animals, including a purple peacock that stood out in front of our apartment and opened his glorious feathers for us to admire.

The second part of our trip was to Cincinnati, Ohio to see my Mom and Dad, along with my sister and her family. We went to the zoo; we went swimming; we ate and visited with extended family. I got to play golf a couple of times with my dad. I caught up with some old friends. Best of all, my wife Melissa and I had an entire day to ourselves. The kids stayed with Grandma and Grandpa and watched Disney movies. We went out on the town and enjoyed a romantic dinner together.

I’m back from vacation and this week I’m going to Camp White to help people have fun on their vacation. I’ll be one of the counselor’s working with a group of developmentally disabled adults. My fingers are going to get raw and sore from playing guitar all week long. I leave today and come back Friday afternoon. It’ll be a lot of work, but it’ll be fun too.

Between coming back from vacation and going to serve people on vacation, I got to thinking:
“Are vacations even spiritual? Do they please God? Or, are vacations simply one more expensive, self-indulgent activity of our western, secular society?”
In the words of Tod Bolsinger, pastor of San Clemente Presbyterian Church:
“In a world where so many people are confirmed (even proudly so) workaholics, where so many people don’t know how to spend a day off, let alone two weeks, is it possible to recreate in a way that is distinctly Christian?”
Our culture likes to think about rest and recreation first and work second, but as Christians, we need to think first about work and then rest. We see this pattern in the opening chapter of the book of Genesis. There, we see God working, creating creation. And from the Lord’s own example, we see that daily work produces a pace and rhythm in our soul.

Imagine listening to the sputtering of an old tractor. “Putt- putt- putt- pa- putt- putt- putt- pa.” As we hear Genesis and hear God working, we hear a working rhythm.

On days 1-2, there is a single work of creation. On day 3, there are two works of creation. On days 4-5, there again is a single work of creation. Then, on day 6, there again are two works of creation.

1- 2- 3- 3- 4- 5- 6- 6.

Author and pastor Eugene Peterson, in his book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, says that:
“The most prominent feature of Genesis is its rhythmic structure…(and when you think about it), we are people immersed in rhythms.”
Sunrise, sunset makes one day. 7 days a week. 4 weeks a month. In a month, the moon circles the earth. In 12 months, the earth circles the sun. Within that year are four seasons that come in predictable, rhythmic pace—summer, fall, winter, and spring.

Physically, we live out rhythms of pulse and breath. Our hearts beat steady. Our lungs expand and contrast. I went jogging yesterday and heard the rhythm of my breath with the rhythm of my steps.

Work has a rhythm of its own too, doesn’t it? We get up at a set time, we do our morning chores, we eat lunch, and we work in the afternoon, until we are done. We eat the evening meal. We relax a little until bed. And we wake up the next day to do the same thing all over again.

We work 5, 6, or 7 days a week, and do it for 50+ weeks a year. I don’t know about you, but after a while, the rhythm and the pace of work wears me out. Right about the time VBS comes around the first week of June, I’m wore out. I’m ready for a break—a change of rhythm—a change of pace.

And that’s what we find in the book of Genesis.

For 6 days, we read that God works, but on the 7th day, the rhythm changes dramatically.

2:2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
For the first 6 days, God works, but on the 7th, he does not—a change of pace. Of interest too is how the author of Genesis mentions the seventh day 3 times. Listen: (read 2:2-3 again). For the other six days, he only says them one time each. But the 7th day, he mentions it 3 times. Again, there’s a change of rhythm, a change of pace.

1- 2- 3- 3- 4- 5- 6- 6- 7- 7- 7.

There’s one other very important detail to consider too about the 7th day. By the end of the 6th day, God has finished His work. So what does God do on the 7th day? Two things. First, God blessed the 7th day and second, He made it holy. In other words, God set this day apart—He purposely made it different.

What is its purpose? It’s for a change of rhythm, a change of pace. It’s for rest. Isn’t it interesting that in the 10 Commandments, the 10 greatest, overarching commands God gives humanity, 1 of those 10 commands says, “Observe the Sabbath.” Take a day for worship and rest because—and the commandment says in Exodus 20—“For in six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth…but on He rested on the 7th day.”

So let me ask you a question, are you as serious about rest as God is?

In days 1-6, daily work produces a pace and rhythm in our soul. But on day 7, God commands a change of pace. If that’s not a heavenly endorsement for an earthly vacation, I don’t know what is! You need to work, but you also need a time to rest. You need rest because after a while, the rhythm of work grinds on you and your soul. Work without rest wears you out.

Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, makes a keen observation. He says that out of your day, you ought to take a break. Out of your week, you ought take off a day. And out of your year, you ought, at the least, take off a week.

Since this sermon is on vacation, how can you make your vacation more than just a self-centered event, but a Christ honoring event for you and your family--one that refreshes your soul, expands your awareness of creation, and creates lasting memories?

Well, as that immortal movie starring Chevy Chase called Vacation illustrates, it’s not easy. But here are few suggestions I’ve learned from experience.

The first idea concerns money. Manage your money. Don’t let it manage you.

Before you leave for vacation, make a budget. I’ve learned this the hard way. You know, vacation is all about getting away from it all. A change of pace. Well, one of things I wanted to get away from was my bills and my checking account. I’ve got Visa packed me. It doesn’t matter what I might have forgotten. I’m on vacation. And I’m going to spend money!

And then, after I get home, the bill comes. Page after page. Charge and charge. How many of you go on vacation—and then come home to debtors’ prison? Go on vacation, but don’t let the vacation follow you home!

Next time, make a budget. This last trip Melissa and I did something for the very first time in our life. We kept the credit card in our pocket the entire trip. We didn’t use it once. All we used was cash and our debt card. And when we got home, we didn’t have Visa statement waiting for us. That was a good feeling.

Here’s another suggestion about money before you go on vacation. Get your offering to the church. Churches really suffer from the lack of giving during the summer time. Ours is no different. Don’t spend God’s portion of your money on yourself. It belongs to Him. So before you go, give your gift, or send it to the church.

Here’s a third suggestion about money. This one will save you some vacation cash. I read this in a magazine. Think about what you want to do, rather than where you want to go. For example, if you want to go to Disney World to ride rides and see shows, you can probably do that dollar for dollar cheaper by going to Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO.

A final thought about money. If you’re just plain broke and can’t go anywhere, come talk to me. We have local camps in this area. I’ll get you in one of them. You too need a change of pace—and can get it.

This is my second big suggestion. Pace yourself. You’re going on vacation for a change of pace. But don’t over do it. Don’t cram so much activity you’re your schedule that you come home exhausted. How many of us have come home from vacation—and then needed a vacation from the vacation? Cross some things off from your list. Decide what you can and can’t do.

A third big suggestion is this—relax and expect problems. Melissa can tell you how much I love leaving several hours late for vacation (groan). One summer vacation we were going to Colorado. And we agreed, “Let’s get up at 4:00am, we’ll be out by 6:00pm and we’ll be in Denver by 2:00-3:00pm.”

Amazingly, we did get up at 4:00am. We were awakened not by our alarm clock, but the town siren— along with a torrential rain and booming thunder. We ran down to the basement— thinking there was tornado. And as we were down there, I (groan) said to Melissa, “You know, if we left now, we would just be driving in a massive storm from here to the Colorado border. Let’s just go back to bed.”

I don’t have the biblical gift of prophecy, but I can assuredly tell you this: Your vacation will not go as planned! So expect problems—work around them and just relax.

My final suggestion for a good vacation is this: Bring along you Bible and if it’s Sunday, go attend a church worship service.

When we were in Cincinnati, we went to two different churches—the Lutheran Church I grew up in, which my parents are still active members, and also to a nearby church that offers a sharp contemporary worship service. Each service was enjoyable, in part, because it was different than our worship here.

When you visit a new church, you get to see how others worship. You get to experience a different part of the body of Christ. You see that God's kingdom is big and diverse. And you never know-- you might also get some ideas about how our own worship service can be improved.

You can go to church. And in many places, the church is going to your vacation spot. An article in the July 9th Hutchinson News describes how many churches and denominations are holding services at camp grounds, beaches, and resorts. Churches are doing this because when we go on vacation, we’re open to new ideas. We’re looking for rest.

Pastor Tod Bolinger confesses that for him, it’s easier to spend time outdoors with nature than to sit in a chair and read the Scriptures. Nature is so inspirational and the Bible is…well, just a book.

And yet, as Bolinger writes on his blog:
“Mountains are beautiful but they don’t teach me how to live my life. A geyser is breathtaking but won’t help me keep my promises. A shooting star can stir my soul but not transform it. A dolphin has never offered me wisdom…That’s why experiences, even spiritual experiences are insufficient by themselves. Inspiration is not enough. Creation is not enough. I need revelation. I need guidance from God, a light for my steps.”
He goes on to say:
“If you are a person who finds it so easy to connect to God in nature, then take this one small step: respond to that inspiration by being faithful in Sunday worship. Let the inspiration "out there" lead you to be more regular in church. When creation inspires us, let’s respond with giving worship to the Creator and opening our souls to His instruction.”

“Never forget that Psalm 119, Psalm 19, and all the Psalms were songs of worship. They are hymns that were sung, poems that were read, prayers that were offered. People who had seen the beauty of the earth, the glory of the skies didn’t just climb a mountain peak and stay there. They didn’t just swim in the seas or meander through a meadow. When the beauty of creation moved them, they brought those experiences with them back to their community that gathered to worship God. The inspiration of creation led them to give praise and thanks to the Creator in the community (of worship).”

“Worship joins awe and instruction. Worship teaches us to respond to inspiration with dedication. Worship connects our personal experience to a faithful community…Let the wonder of creation lead you to the Word of Revelation.”
Which leads to the second point of this last suggestion: Bring along your Bible and read it—outside.

Bolinger contends:
"This is not a gimmick. It’s a deeply biblical way of cultivating a deeper spiritual life. In his book, Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas reminds us that the Bible is meant to be read outside (p. 37).”

“The people of the scriptures were inspired by rushing rivers and green meadows as they described life with God. When the psalmists look to the mountains for their help, they were probably looking at actual mountains. When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, he was not standing on a carpeted chancel. When he spoke of lilies of the field and fig trees and the birds of the air, its safe to presume that he actually pointed at those things and didn’t use a picture on a PowerPoint screen.”
In days 1-6, daily work produces a pace and rhythm in our soul.

But on day 7, God commands a change of pace.

You need to work, but you also need to rest.

That’s why this sermon was on vacation.

Have a nice trip.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I Went 650 Feet Underground

I really did!

650 feet is more than the height of the St. Louis arch. More than the Washington Monument. And more than the Statue of Liberty.

650 feet--deep into the earth. How did I do it?

Well, I didn't dig to China.

I went to the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. Located in Hutchinson, Kansas, the underground museum is an old section of an active salt mine.

The adventure begins with a minute and a half elevator plunge that takes you 650 feet under the earth. When you get out of the elevator, you basically enter one huge continuous tunnel-- featuring several main roads with hundreds of sectional rooms. In all, the mine tunnels stretch more than 67 miles.

The ceiling of the mine is 10-17 feet, supported by 40' x 40' pillars throughout. Each "room" is approximately 2,500 square feet or bigger. The floor for our tour is a smooth road made of "saltcrete," a combination of salt and concrete. The temperature underground is consistently 65-68 degrees year round. And without lights, its completely pitch black. We got a taste of that!

You go through the mine by riding an electric tram. A guide points out features of the mine and tells you about its history. You'd think going so deep underground would be scary, but it's actually a very comfortable experience. If you can ride an airplane, you can easily enjoy the mine. My three kids--preschool and elementary age--went and had a great time.

Salt was accidentally discovered in Hutchinson in the 1880's when a man found salt instead of oil. Interestingly, this salt vein runs underground from Kansas and run south continuously into Mexico.

Today, salt from the active mine is used to melt ice on roads, horse feed, and pharmaceuticals.

The underground museum is the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Next door to the museum is the Underground Vaults and Storage Company. The company stores critical records and Hollywood archives like Johnny Carson shows, the original print of Gone With the Wind and hundreds of other movies.

Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 5:13, "You are the salt of the earth." Just as salt preserves food and enhances flavor, so do Christians who inhabit the earth.

Of course, Jesus was referring to the salt crystals that gathered by the sea, not salt mined from underground. But being deep inside the earth, surrounded by nothing but salt, you get a deeper appreciation for Jesus' word picture.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Parable of Wesley's Quadrilateral

An article at the Christian Century blog , along with this one too, inspired me write this short story.

There once was a man named Wesley who organized a Quadrilateral parade for all to enjoy. The streets were lined with thousands of people who came to watch.

The parade began and was led by Scripture, with Tradition and Reason close behind, followed by Experience.

It was a great parade and everyone cheered.

But many years later, some began to insist that Experience start the parade. Why should he always be last? When Wesley replied that only the one with greatest authority should lead the parade, he was scoffed for not being loving or welcoming.

Tossed off the parade committee, Wesley watched in tears from the sidelines as future parades had Experience leading the way and Scripture bringing up the rear.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Six Word Stories

Here's an interesting challenge: Write a story in just six words.

Pete Anderson at Pete Lit observes that:
Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words. Rumor has it that he considered his result ("For sale: baby shoes, never used.") to be his greatest work.
This is Pete's six word story. I really like it:
Aging skier goes downhill. Literally, figuratively
Norman Mailer's is very good. In six words, he elicits an eternity of time. However, I think he gets the ending wrong:
Satan--Jehovah--fifteen rounds. A draw.
This one, found at Caterina, isn't six words, but it's still great:
The last man on Earth sits in his house. There is a knock at the door.
Here's a few six words stories I thought of one evening:
Apple cart gets upset. Pears arrested.

Gotta go. A tornado's about to...

Once upon a time. The end. (My 6-year-old daughter said this one)

Your ticket out gets you in.

You live. You die. Then what?

Hearing this, the banker's interest grew.

Global warming bandwagon cited for pollution.

With six strings, she showed police.
It's your turn. Tell a story. (Notice how many words that was!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What I Saw in the Night Sky

Friday night I couldn't sleep, so at about 12:45am I went outside, laid my back on the porch, and looked into the dark Kansas night sky.

Here's what I saw in the span of 40 minutes:
  • The milky way
  • Thousands of stars--some bright, most dim, all without binoculars.
  • The big dipper
  • A dwarf star--flashing different shades of white.
  • 2 shooting stars
  • A satellite (unlike airplanes, satellites orbit very high. It looks like a star moving very swift)
  • and a partridge in a pear tree (not really)
The night sky? It's pretty glorious.

This Is Too Funny

From Britain's Sky News, via Drudge:

"A 180 foot image of Homer Simpson has been painted into the hillside, next to the famous fertility symbol - the Cerne Abbas giant - in Dorset. Pagans are not happy with the new addition to the hillside, and plan some 'rain magic' to get it washed away."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Review of Facing the Giants

We had a wonderfully hot summer afternoon yesterday for the All-Church and Town social in Little River that featured a softball game, cookout, and movie.

50 people, from pre-schoolers to retired, came out for a friendly game of softball. All the little kids got a hit and ran the bases. The older youth flashed their athletic flair with some big hits and nifty fielding. And yours truly turned a pop fly into a home run.

The cookout following the game at the high school commons also had 50 people. Burgers and dogs hot off the grill and with all the fixings went great with a potluck of side dishes and desserts.

Afterwards, 30 people came together to watch the surprise movie of last year, Facing the Giants. The drama, an amateur (in the best sense of the word) creation by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA, tells the fictional tale of football coach Grant Taylor who is on the brink of losing his job at a Christian high school after six consecutive losing seasons. Facing fear and failure at his job and also at home, Taylor turns to God in desperation and learns how to overcome the giants in his life.

While the movie is obviously a modern version of David vs. Goliath, the lesson to trust God is reminiscent of Job who declared, "Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?" The plot's movement from failure to epiphany to redemption is very good, with some fun surprise twists. The movie illustrates the tilt of Scripture--that in the end, God will vindicate his people.

One scene bothered me--where the school's "praying man" comes into Taylor's office and offers an unsolicited word of "prophecy." The word is an encouraging challenge, but Taylor and the man don't appear to be close friends of any sort. Speaking "prophetic words" to someone you're not particularly close can border on spiritual malpractice.

As far as the characters, you've got the self-doubting football coach and his supportive, but hurting wife. The antagonistic fathers ready to scrap the coach. The proud and boisterous coach of the legendary Richmond Giants. The comic relief assistant coaches. The wheelchair bound father who plays the wise sage.

Their personalities could have been truer to life if, for example, we could have seen the crippled father's own doubts and struggles. However, you do see this complexity in the assistant coach who weighs his own ambitions versus staying loyal to the coach. And the plot could been enhanced if the movie ended with one of the characters still waiting for his redemption. Sometimes, God vindicates us in the present time, but sometimes we have to wait--even until the end of the age.

My wife and I were tearing up and laughing throughout. This is one of the best movies not to come out of Hollywood that you'll ever see.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Jesus B-I-N-G-O Children's Song

Last week I served as a counselor to developmentally disabled adults at White Memorial Camp in Council Grove, Kansas. The theme for the week was, "On the Way." Pictures of this special camp are available here.

"There was a farmer who had a dog and Bingo was his name-o."

You're familiar with this classic kids song.

Now, here's a new twist on BINGO that's fun to sing at Sunday School, camp, or anytime you're enjoying a light-hearted moment. I call it the "Jesus Song--BINGO Style." It was quite popular to sing at DDA camp. It goes like this:

There is a God who has a Son and Jesus is his name-o
And Jesus is his name-o

There is a God who has a Son and Jesus is his name-o
And Jesus is his name-o.

You know how the rest of the song goes.

For guitar, the chord sequence goes like this:

There is a God who has a Son and Jesus is his name-o




And Jesus is his name-O

Have fun!

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Funny DDA Prayer

Last week I served as a counselor to developmentally disabled adults at White Memorial Camp in Council Grove, Kansas. The theme for the week was, "On the Way." Pictures of this special camp are available here.

When you spend time with DDA campers, you always experience a few surprises, which once prompted a fellow counselor to say, "I love coming here because I'm reminded that what they've got, I've got." This year was no different.

Tuesday night our entire group of 49 played Bible Bingo. It's like regular Bingo, except instead of finding "N-23" on your card, you look to match a Bible picture. My job was to announce the picture. Glenda, our camp director, said, "I'll be your Vanna White and walk around the room with the picture card."

That Vanna remark gave me an idea.

Before the game started, Glenda and I left the room and I had a fellow counselor introduce us to the campers saying, "It's Bible Bingo at White Memorial Camp! Please welcome your special hosts. From the Wheel of Fortune, Vanna White! And from the Price is Right, Bob Barker!"

Stoking everyone's imagination always make activities a little more fun. When "Vanna" and "Bob" entered the room, we received a hero's welcome.

So I announced the Bible bingo cards and kept announcing them for an hour until everyone in the room won a prize. By the end, the once quiet room was now abuzz as half the participants were mingling at the prize table.

The game was over, but one of the campers, a guy name Jerick, came up to me and frantically said, "Bob, Bob, you didn't say what you always say at the end of your show!" There wasn't time for a sign-off I explained. The room was too noisy. Half the people were out of their chairs. Apparently, only Jerick was expecting a "closing" to the "show."

After an evening snack, our whole group--campers and counselors--went out to Inspiration Point for evening Vespers. We sang some songs, heard a brief Bible story, said a prayer, and closed with a song.

Right after Vespers, it's tradition that the campers stand up and give a testimony or offer a prayer. Some use the chance to shine the spotlight on themselves by talking
endlessly. Others use it to say their parent died ten years ago. And some like to tell how much they enjoy camp.

On this night, Jerick immediately stood up at testimony time. He talked about God, camp, his Mom, the food, sin, and the cross. Then he said, "OK everybody, bow your heads and I'm going to say for us a prayer."

And here's the prayer:
Dear God, Thank you for camp. I like swimming. I want to go swimming tomorrow. And oh yeah, Ted forgot to say this, "Bob Barker reminding you to have your pet sprayed or neutered. Goodbye, everybody!" Amen.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

On the Way--Day 4 at DDA Camp

Last week I served as a counselor to developmentally disabled adults at White Memorial Camp in Council Grove, Kansas. The theme for the week was, "On the Way." Pictures of this special camp are available here.
Then Jesus came to [the eleven disciples] and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
Jesus calls you and me to follow Him on the way.

The way is not a road to nowhere. The way is not ours to make up.

The way is given by our Maker. The way has a purpose—a goal—a destination.

Our aim is to be a disciple of Jesus—a follower of Him.

Our purpose is to identify our life with Jesus—a decision symbolized through baptism.

Our goal is to align our life by everything that Jesus teaches.

Our mission is to invite others into this blessed life with Jesus.

Our promise is that Jesus will be with us on the way—always and forever—till the very end of the age.

Today, are you walking with Jesus on the way? Walk with Him. Because the way of Jesus is the way of life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On the Way--Day 3 at DDA Camp

Last week I served as a counselor to developmentally disabled adults at White Memorial Camp in Council Grove, Kansas. The theme for the week was, "On the Way." Pictures of this special camp are available here.
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him (Mark 1:9-13).
You can be sure of this—If you are determined to follow Jesus on the way, Satan will tempt you to stray off the way.

The Devil uses all sorts of tricks to get God’s people off track and off the way

With Jesus, Satan used the bait of pride—turn these stones to bread—jump off this ledge and let the angels catch you—if you really are the Son of God.

With you and me, Satan appeals to our greed, our lust, our want of power, our desire for the good life, our impatience—anything to lead us off the way.

On Monday and Tuesday, one of my campers participated in every activity and was having a good time. On Wednesday, he claimed he was sick. Strange, I never felt a cooler forehead. He stayed in bed all day Wednesday. Didn’t even eat. On Thursday, I told him if he got up and ate, I’d take him to the camp's Lookout Tower. He did and ended up having a good camp experience until the end on Friday.

Jesus calls you to follow Him on the way. By relying on His Holy Spirit, we can be faithful.

But beware—the Devil plots to lead you off the way.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

On the Way--Day 2 at DDA Camp

Last week I served as a counselor to developmentally disabled adults at White Memorial Camp in Council Grove, Kansas. The theme for the week was, "On the Way." Pictures of this special camp are available here.

Loyalty is a rare word these days. Coaches climb the success ladder by leaving teams and schools for bigger and better opportunities. Marriages crumble when one person decides they can't take it anymore.

On Glenn Beck's television show, I watched a story of a soldier who lost both his legs in Iraq. The devotion of the soldier's wife and their mutual determination to overcome their obstacles was inspiring.

The story of Ruth in the Old Testament echoes that story of loyalty.

Ruth lived in Moab with her mother-in-law Naomi and sister-in-law Orpah. But after each of their husbands died, Naomi encouraged Ruth and Orpah leave her and go back to their homeland.

Ruth was free to leave Naomi and go back to her home country. If she left her mother-in-law, Ruth would not have done anything wrong.

But Ruth decided to stay on the way:
Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God (Ruth 1:16).
Ruth stayed with Naomi because she was loyal. She embodied hesed--the Hebrew word for loving kindness.

If you go to a DDA camp, you’ll find that campers show lots of loyalty.

Ann the counselor is tall and thin. Jule the camper is short and round. But for the entire week, Jule was devoted to Ann. To her, Ann was “Mom.” And Jule did things out of love for Ann—wanting to please her. She walked all over the campgrounds where in past years she would sit and fuss. She stood up one night at Vespers and declared her love for God and her love for Ann.

The Good News of the Gospel is that God is loyal.

In Christ, God shows us His loving kindness. In Christ, we have the forgiveness of our sins, the gift of eternal life, and the never-ending presence of the Holy Spirit.

When God redeems your soul, He will forever stay with you—on the way.

Monday, July 09, 2007

On The Way--Day 1 at DDA Camp

Last week I served as a counselor to developmentally disabled adults at White Memorial Camp in Council Grove, Kansas. The theme for the week was, "On the Way." Pictures of this special camp are available here.

In Genesis 12, God chose Abram and gave him a wonderful promise: "I will make you into a great nation and bless you." But to receive the blessing, Abram was told to leave the comfortable surroundings of his homeland and go the land where God would direct him.

Sometimes, in order to experience God's blessings, you have to leave and go.

Leave behind your comfortable bed at home. Go sleep on a 6" plastic camp mattress for the week.

Leave behind your comfort zone. Go out on that limb and put yourself in a place where you have to trust God.

Leave behind the excuses. Go attempt something great in the Savior's name.

The Lord is calling. The blessings await.

But to start on the way, you have to take that first step--and go.