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August 23rd, 2015

Discipleship is looking for what I’m overlooking in my relationship to God.

Matthew 28:18-20

Two Challenges

I love the Pickles comic strip. Maybe that’s because my Dad loved it, or maybe because I’m getting more like Earl every day. Last Sunday Opal said, “Tsk, tsk. You can’t go to church like that… You have mustard on your tie. Your shirt is wrinkled. Your shoes aren’t polished or tied.” Earl answered, “It’s called church casual. Look it up. It’s a thing.”

On our way back from Pennsylvania I wondered aloud when something being “a thing” became a thing. “Is this a new thing?” I asked our daughter Jeni. (I like to be on top of cultural trends.) She thought it had been around at least since the TV show Friends, or about 20 years. Earl knows things better than I do. Read more »

August 22nd, 2015

I won’t pretend that preparing to preach Scott Horowitz’ service was an easy task.  Not only did I not know him (we only met briefly when his brother died in 2009), his closest family members had had little contact with him for many years.

Neither Ann nor Tracey lack memories of Scott, however.  Many of their memories are painful, but not all.  If Scott could speak he would probably say many of his family memories were also pain-filled, especially his relationship with his father.  Ann and Tracey agree that Bob Horowitz had his own baggage to deal with, and that Scott took the brunt of it.  Maybe it was that he was the oldest son.  Maybe it was because Bob saw too much of himself in Scott, and wanted to push him in different directions.

But not all Scott’s memories were painful either, and he loved his Mom as well as Tracey and David and their children.  He would always end phone calls with “I love you.” Read more »

August 10th, 2015

The Sins of Them

Pulpit Exchange with Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

Romans 1:18-32

An answer to Jesus’ prayer

Sisters and brothers in Christ, I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the reason we live. He is the reason we hope. He is the reason we gather for worship. Honoring Jesus is why we have a pulpit exchange.

The night before Jesus died, he prayed with and for his eleven remaining disciples in Upper Room. Then he added, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who believe in me through their message” (John 17:20). He was praying for us! He was praying for believers gathering at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church August 9, 2016. He was praying for the people of Corinth Reformed Church this morning.

What did he pray? He prayed “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that he world may believe that you have sent me” (21). We are here to put on display the visible unity of the body of Christ. We are here so that the world can see we are one. Most of the time in most of our churches, they see only what Martin Luther King, Jr., declared a half century ago that has not changed much – that 11:00 on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. I sometimes wonder why that has not changed more when so much else has changed. I wonder if it did change more if we’d see fewer Fergusons and Baltimores and Charlestons.

At least once in a while we should find a way to be together and put on display the visible unity of the body of Christ. Today is one of those moments. Read more »

August 8th, 2015

Wedding Meditation for Byron and Bonnie Bean

Honestly, you can’t help but be charmed by the love story that brings us together today.  To hear these two talk, you’d think they were teenagers.  Byron says when they’re apart he can’t think of anything else but being close to Bonnie.  Bonnie said she has butterflies when she sees him.

Love is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?  One of God’s best ideas, I think.   The Song of Songs says love is as strong as death.  It’s like a forest fire that blazes and refuses to be quenched by a flood of water. When it captures you, love is relentless.

I’m not sure if I ran (or if I were Jesus, for that matter) I would have picked you two of you to fall in love, but that’s one very good reason I don’t do matchmaking. The mystery of you only adds to the joy. Read more »

August 2nd, 2015


He took some bread and gave thanks to God. Then he broke it and began to eat.

Acts 27

Surprised by calm

It was October 13, 2014. A group of 25 pilgrims from Hickory was excitedly boarding a commuter plane in Charlotte. We’d have a short jaunt to Newark, NJ, an eight-hour layover, then a long flight on a jumbo jet to meet Jesus in the land of the Bible.

About 30 minutes from Charlotte, we heard a VERY loud bang at the left rear of the aircraft, followed by a persistent rattle. We soon learned that the plane had lost an engine. I thought, “We weren’t planning to meet Jesus in Virginia.” A calm flight attendant’s voice asked us to remain in our seats, and the pilot informed us we would be making an emergency landing in Richmond. Linda said to me, “I think you should lead in prayer.” So I stood up and yelled over the broken engine noise, “Let us pray.” And the flight attendant said, “Sir, in the back there, sit down and put your seatbelt on!”

No, I didn’t stand up. But I did pray out loud and even though only the passengers at the back could hear me, we were told later that some of the non-Hickory passengers were very grateful for the prayer. Later I wrote in my Israel journal, “I was surprised at how calm I felt – even pondering the possibility we would lose another engine.” Paul Schowalter, a retired Air Force pilot who was with us on the trip looked pretty calm as well. But he said later, “You didn’t see my wet pants.”

Today is about living in “calm-fidence” in a crisis. Read more »