Monday, February 23, 2015


        “You need to trust your mirrors.” That the advice I got from an old man when I was learning to back up our travel trailer. “Good mirrors don’t lie,” he said. “They tell you what’s really back there.”
        For 22 years Carol and I owned a vintage Airstream travel trailer. It was given to us by Carol’s parents and we enjoyed using it many years, either parked on a mountain acreage, or pulled around the country on trips behind our Chevy Blazer.
        The first time we used it, we were not well prepared. We forgot some essential items inside, and discovered the furnace didn’t work well. The hardest part, besides pulling it up a steep mountain road, was backing it into the narrow space we’d rented for the night. After several attempts, an old fellow came over and helped me back it in. Seeing me turn my head around, he said, “You need to trust your mirrors.” It was good advice for seeing, and it saved me from an aching neck as well.
        People often tell us not to look back on our lives, to leave the past and just keep moving forward. But there are times when looking back is helpful, and even necessary. The mirror of our memory can help us recall where we’ve come from as well as remind us how we made it this far. The mirror of a life well-lived, that of a parent or valued friend, can also help us know what choices to make.
        The mirror of God’s love is most evident in Jesus. When we look at Him, we see God's love in action. Jesus urges to live so that when others see us, they can also see God. I believe that’s why He said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
        Not trusting our mirrors can force us to twist our head so far around that we can't drive properly. It’s always best to trust the mirror God gives us in His Word. That also means trusting Him when we're going forward. Good mirrors don't lie, and God doesn't either.

How can you trust your mirrors today?

Monday, February 16, 2015


There surely is a lot of talking in our world every day. Ours is a world of talk, talk, talk - on the street, in the store, on the news, in politics and among friends. There is a lot of talking in our world, but maybe not a lot of listening.
Much of our talking has become silent through the use of social media, e-mail or cell phones that carry “text messages” from one person to another. A man once told me with all the cell phone messages going around, people must really be lonely. He is right. But with all this talking, I wonder if there is as much listening.
A parent lamented giving her daughter a cell phone. They discovered that during a one month period she sent out 5000 text messages to her friends. That averaged 1,200 messages a week and 170 a day, 21 days of which she was in school. And school was where her friends were!
How much do people listen? I was watching three people on a national news program discussing a current event. I liked the people and the topic, but one of them kept interrupting and didn’t let the others finish. Soon they were all “talking over” each other, almost shouting, so I turned the program off.
How much have people listened to me? I estimate that in my years as a pastor I preached around 4,000 sermons and taught thousands of Bible Classes. That’s a lot of talking, but did anyone hear what I said? I believe every pastor asks that question of his ministry. He is also grateful to know that the results of preaching and teaching are not his sole responsibility. The hearers have some, as does God the Holy Spirit. God bids His people to share the Good News, and promises the Holy Spirit will help willing hearts to listen.
St. Paul said,How can they believe without hearing about Him? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15)

May God open your heart today to hear Him speak to you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


What's more important - theology or practice? A man once asked me to give a sermon at a non-denominational chapel and advised me to be practical, not theological. "People don't want theology," he said, "especially not baptism or communion. Better to stick to the practical - God, love, Jesus, faith." After our discussion I declined his invitation.

I think that man was not giving people much credit. Theology is the "science of God" and most people want to know more about Him than just a thin top-layer. They want to get below the basics and find out more about Him. That involves some theology.

A farmer may experience more of God in a quiet July day in a cornfield than he does in a Bible Class. Sometimes God's presence in nature is better than a stuffy church service. Yet that farmer knows a lot more about farming than just how he feels in that cornfield.

He may enjoy the feeling of seeing a good cornfield (practical), but he also knows what it takes to make corn grow (theology). He must know about the land, seed, weather and fertilizer, because farming is more than just digging in a field. A good farmer learns all the details he can about crop rotation, financing, machinery and being a good steward of the soil. There's a lot more to farming than enjoying a nice field.

Theology is the details of God, who He is, what He says and how He does His work. God wants us to grow in our relationship and understanding of His will, His Commandments and His Word. Enjoying God's presence is good, but our feelings are fickle and they can change. God's Word does not.

Some churches are not giving people what they need. Too many are content to help people feel good when they leave and hope they'll return. Giving only the bare essentials of God is treating them like children, all frills and no work. It's like watching the wind blow in a summer field. Your feelings will not pay the bills. "Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths." (Psalm 25:4)

In other words, theology is very practical.

Monday, February 2, 2015


        2014 was a bad year for airline safety. Despite its having the lowest number of air crashes since 2005, there still were 111 plane crashes resulting in major loss of life last year. In March, Malaysia Airlines 370 disappeared off the radar in the Far East with 239 people on board and no trace  of the plane has ever been found. In July, Malaysia Airlines 17 was shot down near Ukraine, killing all 299 passengers and crew. Three days after Christmas, AirAsia 8501 went down with 155 onboard, and there were no survivors. This plane has been found, so families of those who died have some closure.
        While all this loss of life is tragic, flight 8501 had a unique feature. Forty-one members from one congregation, died that day. Over one-fourth of flight 8501  passengers were from the same church, Mawar Sharon Christian Church of Indonesia.
        Having conducted several hundred funerals during my ministry, I cannot imagine what it must have been like for Rev. Philip Mantofa and the other pastors of this large congregation. Ministering to loved ones of more than one death at the same time is difficult. Ministering to the hundreds of people connected with those forty-one deaths at the same time would be unimaginably difficult.
        Fellow Pastor Tejo Bunarto told CNN, “Some things happen in our lives, and sometimes we just don’t understand what God really intends. We just put our trust, and everything, completely, in His will, because He's going to bring about everything that is the best in our life.”
        It is estimated that 6.5 million people in the world fly each day, so we give thanks there aren’t more fatalities. God has given us the wonderful gift of rapid transportation, and each time we step on a plane or get into a car, we trust His grace that we will be kept safe.
        God keeps track of us earthly travelers because He loves and cares for us. We thank and trust our Lord Jesus Christ and take heart in His promise, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” (Matthew 6:34)

May we all travel safely today in the arms of our loving Lord!