Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

Christmas Trips   Leave a comment

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Everywhere I have served as Pastor I have tormented adults and youth with a Christmas IQ quiz. The test is designed to help people differentiate between what Scriptures actually say about the Nativity scene and what traditions we have added to it. Let’s face it, we are professionals at filling in the blanks because we don’t always enjoy stories with missing details.

One of the quiz questions has to do with how Mary traveled when she and Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This trip could have taken a couple of days and she was about to pop with baby Jesus. Pardon my uncaring choice of words there. The multiple choice options are that she:
a) rode a donkey while Joseph walked beside her
b) took Amtrak
c) walked just like everyone else
d) the Bible doesn’t say.

Most people select “a” because it just makes too much sense. A donkey has a smoother back than a camel, I’m fairly certain Amtrak wasn’t around yet, and it seems mighty mean of Joseph to make her walk that far being that pregnant.

The correct answer, if you’re curious, is d), the Bible doesn’t say.

The point? Well, there is none, unless you’re trying to score higher on the quiz than everybody else in the room.

We do not know how they traveled although I’m quite certain you can eliminate Amtrak from your guesses. They traveled from Nazareth, crossed the Jordan to go down it’s east side to avoid Samaria like most good Jews did at that time, crossed back over at Jericho, then trekked up the rocky path to Jerusalem, then a few short miles more to Bethlehem.

Do you remember traveling as a child?

I recall a particular journey when I was a child when my Dad took my sister and I to Florida so we could go to Disneyworld. We were in a Volkswagen van that died on us on the way down. All I know is that it took most of the trip money to get it back on the road, so we didn’t get to do a lot upon arrival but did manage to get into Disney. Along the way, Bonnie, my sister and I did a lot of goofy singing, mostly the jingle to Country Corn Flakes. I never really found out if they didn’t wilt when you poured them on milk.

We were kids, and kids on adventures to places where they know there is going to be great fun are usually pretty happy children. So we sang and laughed and had a ball on the way down. I am not sure what it means, but I have zero recollection of the ride home. Actually, I’m positive I know what it means—that part was not nearly as important to me.

The trek that Joseph and Mary were on was certainly nothing fun. They had to go because it was census time and they needed to report to Joseph’s family’s town, Bethlehem. You can imagine the extra burden of not only Mary’s pregnancy, but then upon arrival the highly serious situation of actually delivering the baby! This journey, of course, ended quite well with Jesus, but it was a very tough trip!

How do you approach life these days? The year 2020 has been anything but a picnic or a fun ride to an amusement park. With all of its pitfalls and unexpected twists and devastation, this has been one heck of a ride that nobody has enjoyed. Yet Christians have this one thing in common that keeps us going. It is something that drives us to continue taking the next step we need to keep moving forward.

It is simply this: we know that at the end of our journey, no matter how or when that happens….is Jesus. The Lord is with us every day as the Holy Spirit never leaves our side. That is how we survive the adventure of life. But at the end of that journey, we get to meet Jesus.

And that, my friends, is what the JOY of Christmas is all about for you and me today.

A Note from a Sinner   Leave a comment

A Note from a Sinner:

I wish I was a perfect, sinless man. But I am not. I wish I was a perfect pastor. But I am not. I wish I had no evil thought ever to run through my mind. But they do. I wish I learned not to be judgmental. But at times, I cannot help it. I wish I had perfect leadership skills. But I do not. I wish I had unfailing moral values. But I do not. I wish I spent more time in prayer and meditation. But I do not. I wish I was a model Christian. But I am not.

Therefore, just like you, I am a sinner living under an unfailing grace that I do not deserve but gladly accept.

brown book page
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Folks whom I serve know that I am no “Bible thumper.” I am not a literalist, Pharisaic leader who asks people to live like me, talk like me, or believe like me or at least how I say you’re supposed to. I do everything in my power to help people turn to God in all things, period. I work at this daily in spite of not doing so to perfection.

As a fellow “work in progress,” I am deeply saddened by some events of yesterday. In a time of complete unrest, violent means were used to clear out people standing in peace for a photo op. A Bible was held in front of a place that has not seen that visitor since the day of swearing-in. I find this deeply insulting.

As an imperfect being trying to do my best for the Lord in spite of my failures, I find it challenging at best to understand this action. Why wasn’t this Bible opened? Why weren’t words of assurance and peace from these Scriptures shared? Why aren’t the values that fill the book proclaimed and portrayed?

Many are referring to this as a publicity stunt. I’ll let history tell that story and make those judgments. I know the person holding that Bible is very much like me, a non-perfect, sinful man. I will not judge him, that is not my job. But I will stand for my faith and for God’s holy word.

Please, in everything you do, keep the sacred, well, sacred. Do not use God’s word, God’s house, or God’s name in any way that does not bring honor to God. In all you do, let the light of Christ shine in and through you. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” (NRSV). Today, I want to do a better job of living that way. Even if I do not do so to perfection, it does not give me an excuse to not try.

I wish I was a perfect, sinless man. But I am not.

Love, Pep

Easter 2020   2 comments

God’s Call and Lessons Learned   1 comment

January 26, 1996. Twenty years ago today I experienced an epiphany. I felt the hand and heard the voice of God. Some do not believe such things are possible and I’m fine with that. What I know is my own experience. I was being shaped and molded proceeding that moment, and remarkable events have defined my life and ministry since. I could write volumes of the things I have experienced in times gone by, but this is a blog, not a novel. For this anniversary I want to summarize some lessons learned in this fantastic adventure. Perhaps they will serve as helpful hints to others called by God.

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Anniversary   Leave a comment

15 years.  Incredible.  15 years ago today I began an adventure in full-time ministry.  The things I have learned since March 1, 1999 could fill volumes in a library and 800GB of memory.  Perhaps it is best if I just point out the bigger lessons…

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