Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yikes! What a Hike

I've seen video and pictures of this a couple of times and it never ceases to take my breath away.

I'm speaking of The Kings Way, known also as El Camino Del Rey. Located in Spain, the walkway is 700 feet high off the ground. First built in the early 1900's, the pathway today is closed to visitors, but adventure hikers still manage to get up on the walkway.

Have a look. YIKES!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Reflex of Prayer

Read an article this morning on the leadership of Nehemiah, where Pastor Mark Dever offers this good exhortation:
My Christian friend, cultivate your prayer life. Cultivate your desire to talk to him. What is your first response to challenges? To bad news? For that matter, what is your first response to good news? What stirs up your heart? When you hear anything of significance, you should respond in prayer. Especially if you would be a leader of God’s people!

Taken from, "The Message of Nehemiah," in the Message of the Old Testament

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An E NOte on the Benefits of Singing

Brian Eno is one of the most creative people of the 21st century. From his ambient music, to his production of stars like U2, to his light installations, Eno is a living icon. So when Eno speaks, I listen with keen interest.

Eno is esoteric, but he's on regular ground in an essay he writes for NPR's "I Believe" on the topic of singing:
"I believe that singing is the key to long life, a good figure, a stable temperament, increased intelligence, new friends, super self-confidence, heightened sexual attractiveness and a better sense of humor. A recent long-term study conducted in Scandinavia sought to discover which activities related to a healthy and happy later life. Three stood out: camping, dancing and singing."
Alas, another good reason to attend church this Sunday!

HT: Lee

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wright Blasts the Media

This article is also posted at UCCTruths.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright-- former pastor of President elect Barack Obama-- is speaking out against the media's treatment of him during the campaign season.

During a Q & A session after an address in Connecticut, Wright declared:
"The world doesn't know about my 41 years of ministry, or my writing of books, because it was all taken down to a 10-second sound bite that the media chose to show about a sermon that was delivered seven years ago," Wright said. "The media didn't care about the whole sermon and what it was about. They just used those 10 seconds and used it as a weapon of mass destruction against [Obama's] campaign."
It's true. The world doesn't know Wright's years of ministry and doesn't know his books. Nor does it need to. The world knows plenty enough to judge Wright. It knows that after the greatest atrocity on American soil in modern times, Wright's pastoral word post 9-11 was America be damned because it deserves to be damned.

Lest anyone forget, Wright's past wasn't completely ignored. Back in March, ABC News reviewed dozens of Rev. Wright's sermons, and in their words, "found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans."

You don't need to look further into Wright's past to see that he views this country as systemically racist and incapable of reform. Just consider this recent remark:
"If you take a Tiger Woods, a Michael Jordan or a Barack Obama, their success should not lull us into thinking society has changed."
Translation: the accolades about Obama's "historic" victory are severely overblown.

A few days later, speaking before an audience at Northwestern University, Wright again lamented his treatment:
In the question-and-answer session, Wright accused the media of "public harassment." "My family's getting lynched in the process," Wright said. "Never in the history of this country has there been a demonization of a person like I've been demonized."
Family getting lynched? Who in the media has targeted his family? The only thing close was the New York Post's report of a likely affair by Wright. And demonized by like no other person in the history of the United States? Can you say, "slight exaggeration"? Certainly, Wright's circus performance at the National Press Club had nothing to do it.

Listening to Wright's address at Northwestern was another well-known Obama associate, former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, who summarized the result of the media's treatment this way:
"Both Rev. Wright and I were brought up as cartoon characters in this campaign because of disinformation and dishonest news," Ayers said. "I did not suffer as much as he did, but we both got out of it with a certain amount of dignity."
Yep. Forever elevated in our minds is the ego and radical left-wing politics of this complicated man of faith, Rev. Wright.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rev. J.B. Schlichter (1831-1916)

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Yesterday was the 132 anniversary celebration of the Little River Congregational Church. The following sermon centered on the founder of our church, the Rev. J.B. Schlichter.

Because of this man, you are here today.

Yesterday, I went to visit this tombstone. You can find it in cemetery at Sterling—22 miles southwest of Little River.

The dates on the stone read 1831-1916. The name on the stone is John B. Schlichter.

You are here today because this man was the founding pastor of our church.

This morning, listen to his story and consider the price of our Christian heritage.

The Rev. John B. Schlichter was born in 1831 in Canada. He was ordained to pastoral ministry at the age of 20. Later, at the age of 40, he was a man like the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who after seeing a glorious vision of God, declared in Isaiah 6, “Lord, here am I, send me.” So in 1871, Schlichter was sent to Kansas by the Congregational Home Missionary Board.

Starting from Topeka in 1871, Rev. Schlichter followed the line of the Santa Fe Railroad. Moving across the prairie of Kansas, he settled in the town of Peace, known today as Sterling.

Schilchter and his family homesteaded land with a one room cabin, 12 x 17 feet. According to our history book, the cabin had “no doors, windows, roof, or floor.” To get inside, I suppose they climbed over the wall with a ladder, and then pulled a blanket over their heads at night. Schlichter became a fruit grower and sold products of the orchard to support his family. He was also, at one time, the superintendent of public instruction for Rice County.

Schlichter preached his first sermon in town of Peace and started a Congregational church there. Then, in 1876—100 years after the Declaration of Independence— Rev. Schlichter made a routine of traveling to the Little River area—riding 22 miles on horseback. Now by car, it takes 25 minutes to get to Sterling. Imagine how long that trip would take on horseback! And how cold the ride!

But once in this area, Schlichter met and preached the Gospel to the people of this area. Then, under Schlichter’s leadership and guidance, a small group of neighbors, meeting northwest of town, in the home of Mr. Antoine Bailey, voted on November 6, 1876 to organize a Congregational Church.

On that date, exactly 132 years ago this past Thursday, a seed was planted that continues to grow and bear fruit.

According to our church’s history book, “Rev. Schlichter worked diligently in (what was then known as) the North Fork Church and, in spite of the hardships of the early settlers, the membership grew, doubling in the first year. A series of revival meetings were held and 11 more members were added in 1878. At this time, it had been voted to pay Rev. Schlichter the sum of $25 per year for his services.”

On December 14, 1878, Rev. Schlichter resigned as pastor of our church in order to go to another community where he said, “the harvest is ripe and the laborers are few.”

Schlichter’s method for starting new churches was this. He obtained permission from the Santa Fe Railroad to use the train depots along the line as a meeting place. After preaching his very first sermon in Peace, Rev. Schlichter went on to preach as far west as Dodge City and established other churches in Garland, Chase, Nickerson, and Hutchinson.

What motivated Rev. Schlichter—and others like him? To leave behind the comforts of home back East, settle in untamed lands like Kansas, and go from place to place, to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ? And today, what should motivate us—to pay the price and make the sacrifice—to share the Good News of Jesus?

Our Scripture reading this morning from 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:13 gives us some clues.

In this text, the Apostle Paul is writing to the church at Corinth—found today in modern Greece. Although this church was started by Paul, the church was at odds with Paul. They even went so far as to question his authority as a messenger of Jesus Christ. But Paul persevered with this church—pleading with them in 5:13, “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.”

Then in verses 14-15 of chapter 5, Paul declares why he is willing to pay the price—to sacrifice and even suffer so that the message of Jesus gets out to others. He says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all… he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Paul is saying, “The reason I get out of my comfort zone, and go out of my way, and pay the price—offering to God the use of my time, my abilities, and my energy—is all because of Jesus. When I look at Jesus, I see how he paid the price for me—how he sacrificed his life on the cross—suffering and dying—just so my sins could be forgiven—and I could be reconciled back to God.”

What Jesus accomplished at the cross is life-changing for all who will receive it. For Paul declares in verse 17, “If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

It was God’s love—seen at the Cross—the message of forgiveness and reconciliation—it is this Good News that motivated Paul to pay the price and make the sacrifice.

If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you too have this message—it’s the greatest message in the world—“God loves you and Jesus Christ has forgiven your sins!”

For this reason, Paul declares in verse 20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (For) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Because of this Good News, Paul was willing to pay whatever price. This Good News of God—it is that good. And in chapter 6, verses 3-13, Paul describes some of the sufferings he willingly endured—hardships, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, sleepless nights, hunger, and more.

You and I may never pay such a price so that others might hear the Gospel of Jesus—but God calls us all to be willing—for that is the mark of a disciple.

Our history book describes our founding pastor, Rev. Schlichter, as a man willing to pay the price. He was staunch, hardy, and earnest—a true example of the early pioneer missionary. When we go downstairs for our fellowship potluck meal, you can see a picture of him as you enter the fellowship hall.

When Rev. Schlichter arrived with his wife and six children, Kansas was a state of wide-open spaces for homesteading. In turn, Kansas was also wide-open in terms of opportunities for starting churches. In fact, after the close of the Civil War in 1865, over 250,000 immigrants had moved and settled into Kansas by 1875.

But most of these people were not the religious type. According to author Charles Correll, in his book, A Century of Congregationalism in Kansas, those who moved out to the new West were typically restless, venturesome, and sometimes a lawless bunch that sought to escape from the restrictive social, civic, and religious ways of the established East. In addition, those who happened to be practicing Christians were not Congregationalists.

Just like the farm land of Kansas, the spiritual ground of Kansas was rough and untilled. But Rev. Schlichter, and other Congregational missionaries who came during the 1870’s, were up to the task and willing to pay the price that God had laid on their hearts.

Think about it. Rev. Schlichter willingly left behind the comfort, security, and riches of life in the older, settled sections of America, back in the East, in order to embrace the trials and tribulations that were typical of new undeveloped territories.

Why did he do it? Why did he gladly pay the price? I believe he did so because the love of Jesus compelled him.

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After sixty years of ministry, and earning the title, “Father of the Congregational Church in Kansas,” Rev. Schlichter died at age 85. Today, you can find his tombstone in row two, second tree to the North, in the Sterling Cemetery.

God might never call you to be a pastor. Then again, maybe God is calling someone today under the sound of my voice to give their life in the service of full-time Christian ministry. But paying the price is not just for spiritual giants. Getting out and spreading the Good News of Jesus is a sacrifice that God calls every disciple to make.

In 1876, thirteen Congregational Churches were started in Kansas. Today, less than half of those continue to carry out a mission. Certainly, it can be said that the spiritual soil in Little River has been fertile for many years. For God has graciously provided this church with good pastors and good people who have been willing to labor in God’s harvest field.

Today, God still needs Christians in this community and beyond who are willing to pay the price—who are willing to make sacrifices so the Gospel gets spread. Sacrifices of time, energy, money, and know how. Giving up “my agenda” and taking on God’s agenda. Going out of my way, so I can go in God’s way. Sacrifices that say, “Here am I Lord, send me.” Imagine if every person in our church took on that call.

Today, there are people in this town who don’t know Christ in any real or saving way. If they were to die today, they would spend eternity apart from God.

Maybe you are one of those persons. In chapter 6 verse 2 of our text today, the Apostle Paul encourages you, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

Becoming a Christian is recognizing that your good works cannot save you. You cannot earn your way into heaven. Heaven is not filled with good people. Heaven is filled with forgiven people—with those who have recognized their debt of sin and evil before God—and have put their entire hope and trust in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross—to forgive sin, grant eternal life, and bring us into true fellowship and peace with God. Right where you are seated, talk to God and ask Jesus to be your Savior.

The Christian life is a life of love and life of sacrifice. It’s life with God and life in service to God—a price worth paying.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Mike Roe of the 77s

This is a 2004 pic of me with Mike Roe of the 77s and the Lost Dogs. Mike has been a long time favorite of mine.

The admiration continues. His band the 77s has a new album out entitled, "Holy Ghost Building." It's a collection of gospel-blues songs from the 1920's and 30's.

Good stuff. Check it out!
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Thursday, November 06, 2008

New Cell Phone Tower

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Nex-Tech, the cell phone provider for our local telephone company, Mutual Telephone, is putting up a new cell phone tower south of Little River on Plum St.

The other day I drove by the tower and saw two workers way up high, working on the tower.

I hope they're not afraid of heights!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

New Habitat House in Little River

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Rice County Habitat for Humanity is building its eighth home in the county and its second in Little River.

This home is going up across the street from the city park and will be occupied by a single woman with two children.

I had the privilege of participating in the blitz build over the weekend of October 23-26. Knowing very little about how a home is built, its quite an education seeing a house go up from, literally, the ground up.

Little River is blessed with several outstanding carpenters. Working besides them and learning from them was a real treat.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sermon: God is a Politician

The following message was preached to my congregation on Sunday, November 2, election weekend.

Tuesday is Election Day. Through your vote, our great nation will elect a new President.

The pundits are saying, “This is the most important election ever.” Seems like they say that every four years!

But this is a critical election. We have before us two candidates who are offering us a vision of how they will pursue tax policies, domestic issues, the Courts, and war on terror—and those two visions are in stark contrast.

And so today, this pulpit will get political.

This year, a survey conducted by the Pew Forum suggests that maybe I shouldn’t use the pulpit for politics. Of those who consider themselves political moderates or liberals, 52% of them say the church should stay out of politics. And those who consider themselves political conservatives, 51% agree, the church should stay out of politics.

But today I’d like to offer one reason why the church should engage in politics and then three ways you—a follower of Jesus—should engage in politics.

Why should the church—that is, God’s people—engage in politics? Because God is a politician.

Yes, God is a politician.

When we think of politics, we usually think something negative. Politicians are crafty. They put themselves first. They devise schemes for their own self-advancement. Often, that is true. But the problem isn’t the office itself. The problem is the kind of person who holds the office. Proverbs 29:2 puts it well: “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

This week I looked in the dictionary for a definition of a politician. God fits every definition. First, a politician is:

1. A seeker or holder of public office
  • The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” –Psalm 103:19
  • “Dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.” – Psalm 22:28
  • “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” –Colossians 1:16
  • On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” –Revelation 19:16
Is God a holder of public office? Absolutely? Does God seek to have you submit your life completely to Him and let Jesus Christ govern your life? Absolutely.

2. An expert in the art or science of government or administration
  • “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders…Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” –Isaiah 9:6-7
Is God an expert administrator of government? Absolutely. He will—in the fullness of time—bring peace to the world. Today, He brings peace to the human heart to all who trust Christ as Savior.

3. Someone who engages in politics—that is, tactics for the benefit of his/her party or their own personal advancement

  • “He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them.” –Daniel 2:21
  • “He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.” –Isaiah 40:23
  • “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” –Philippians 2:10-11
Is God in control of history and the cause-and-effect flow of events in our world? Absolutely. Nothing surprises God. In fact, God is actively shaping history. He is moving history toward a goal and that end is the glory of God and the glory of Jesus Christ.

God is a politician. How then should we—disciples of Jesus Christ—engage in politics?

First, we must vote. I hope you are registered to vote and I hope you will exercise that privilege on Tuesday. God in his providence has given you and me the ability to elect our officials. It is a choice that God has given us and for this reason we should exercise this privilege. Voting is a Christian duty. Michael Gerson of the Washington Post writes:
“The essential humanism of Christianity requires an active, political concern about human dignity and the rights of the poor and weak. But faith says little about the means to achieve those ideals. The justice of welfare reform or tax cuts or moving toward socialized medicine is measured by the outcome of these changes. And those debates cannot be short-circuited by the claim ‘Thus sayeth the Lord,’ spoken by the Christian Coalition or the United Church of Christ.”
So exercise your vote—but pray for God’s direction before you cast your ballot.

Second, we must not cast all our hopes on the political process. If your Presidential candidate wins, don’t get too excited. And if your candidate loses, don’t get too depressed. Chuck Colson, a former adviser to President Nixon, and former Watergate criminal, and later born-again Christian who went on to begin Prison Fellowship, writes these words:
“Many Christians, like most of the populace, believe the political structures can cure all our ills. The fact is, however, that government, by its very nature, is limited in what it can accomplish. What it does best is perpetuate its own power and bolster its own bureaucracies.”
In short, keep politics in perspective.

And finally, never forget, God is control. Slowly, but surely, He is working out His plans. And His plans will come to pass. As Christians, we should yearn for God’s rule, for Jesus has taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
One of my favorite authors—Philip Yancey—illustrates well how God is always in control—and He will work out His plans—not just in politics, but in all things.

He writes:
"In high school, I took pride in my ability to play chess. I joined the chess club, and during lunch hour could be found sitting at a table with other nerds pouring over books with titles like, Classic King Pawn Openings. I studied techniques, won most of my matches, and put the game aside for 20 years. Then, in Chicago, I met a truly fine chess player who had been perfecting his skills long since high school.

When we played a few matches, I learned what it is like to play against a master. Any classic offense I tried, he countered with a classic defense. If I turned to more risky, unorthodox techniques, he incorporated my bold forays into his winning strategies. Although I had complete freedom to make any move I wished, I soon reached the conclusion that none of my strategies mattered very much. His superior skills guaranteed that my purposes inevitably ended up serving his own.

Perhaps God engages our universe, his own creation, in much the same way. He grants us freedom to rebel against his original design, but even as a we do so we end up ironically serving his eventual goal of restoration...

When a Grand Master plays a chess amateur, victory is assured no matter how the board may look at the given moment. In a miracle of grace, even our personal failures can become tools in God's hands."
So go and vote, but be encouraged. God the politician will ultimately win the victory.