Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Waiting on the Lord is like Waiting on a Geyser

Our second week of vacation was spent in the very first National Park, Yellowstone. To be honest with you – none of our family had any real idea how truly wondrous and amazing this area is until we saw it for ourselves!  Diverse, awe-inspiring, strange eco-systems, and sweet wildflowers fill the over 2 millions acres of Yellowstone National Park.
1000 miles of hiking trails, 290 waterfalls, plus all sorts of wildlife bison, elk, eagles, foxes, bears, oh my- Yellowstone has just about everything!  Including a grand canyon- who knew?! Resting on and around the world’s largest caldera (with a super volcano underneath) YNP contains ½ of the world’s thermal features…including mud pots, fumardes, and hot springs such as mammoth, or grand prismatic, or blue star, or geysers such as Old Faithful. 
Our family spent an entire morning hiking all around the board walk which surrounds the great geyser basin.  We were joined by a pack of enthusiastic geyser watchers.  This experience for me was another God-moment during our trip.  I had never been a geyser watcher before.  Did not know anything about these thermal features.  Waiting on geysers (which may or may not spout off on time or late or early or not at all) means you watch and wait with a lack of Kronos timing… more like Kairos timing (or God time).  All that is to say putting aside a watch meant I had time to meditate and ponder!  As we walked, waited, sat and contemplated how geysers work and why they do what they do, another scripture came to me… this one from Revelation, And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new”(Rev 21:5). 
God is making things new with through the bubbling works of these thermal features.  Sometimes I forget that while God created all things in God’s timing of 7 days… that does not mean God’s creating power is inactive or has stopped in 2018. 
Yes, Glacier and Yellowstone both show off the evidence of how God creates with the use of force such as tectonic plates of earth crashing into one another.  Giant sheets of deep dense ice banging around and dragging rock and debri for miles.  Moreover, Yellowstone shows off what kind of debri a super volcano leaves by creating either an another mountain range or swallowing a range of hills into its’ molten lava! 
But sitting there quietly waiting on that board walk- I heard God’s creating power!  These gurgling, bubbling springs with their mineral deposits showed me how our earth is still being shaped… and likewise, so too are we!  Graciously slowly… new things are taking shape at Yellowstone which is why you need to go back for another visit!  At least my family and I do.
God is trustworthy and more reliable than any geyser in YNP (yes, even more reliable than Old Faithful)!  Remember who God is and what our God is called?  God’s name is El hanne’eman which in Hebrew means God is faithful!  Jesus is faithful in shaping and re-creating me every day.  So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!(2 Cor 5:17).  If God is doing new things each and every day in such an ancient and wondrous place- how much more is God’s Spirit doing inside you and your life and in me and mine! 
On a final note about our morning spent geyser watching.  Our tour guide wanted to make sure we enjoyed several of the geysers.  He was especially excited to share with us one called Beehive.  In fact, here is a picture of Old Faithful going off with the indicator of Beehive geyser going off at the same time! And when Beehive finally went off… we spent the next 6 minutes running up and down the boardwalk trying not to get soaked in the ice cold water… because it shoots our boiling but falls back down ice cold.
What a fun surprise to get cooled off and drenched by the ongoing handiwork of God’s creating power!  My prayer is that you too are living into God’s faithfulness as God’s Spirit guides your path and creates newness in your life! 

God Lesson from the Trail to Avalanche Lake

God’s creation is wondrous, beautiful, diverse, and intricate!  Like many of you the most engaging ways to explore and appreciate God’s creation happen when we explore our local, state or national parks.  Over a year ago while my family and I enjoyed the Great Smokey Mountain Park in Tennessee, we make a family pact to visit and explore more of our national treasures.  The Psalmist says, Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them”(Psalm 111:2).  And so too our family discovered that we find ourselves renewed and refreshed as we ponder and delight in God’s wonderful creation!
Within our country we have 58 national parks!  In early July my family and I spent a week in the “crown of the continent” otherwise known as Glacier National Park. The continental divide meanders through/under and within the park… or the area of the park was created over it!  This is a land shaped by fire (from lightning storms) and ice (from glaciers)! 
Over a million acres has been dedicated to Glacier and Waterton.  Established in 1910 as a US national park people come from all over to hike the 743 miles of trails in Glacier NP The magnificent area was named as the first international peace park because Glacier NP and Waterton NP are located in Montana and a portion of Canada. 
People come to see grizzlies and mountain goats in their habitats; or be amazed at the modern engineering marvel the Going-to-the Sun road which connects the east and west portions of the park; and/or marvel at the cool moist movement of the 26 glaciers that remain.  Did you know that Triple Divide Peak is the only peak in the world which supplies 3 different oceans?! the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic.
My family and I ran out of words to describe the beauty and wonder of this portion of the US.  Majestic.  Dramatic.  Beautiful.  The huge rocky landscape made us feel grounded and calm.  We simply could not say, “WOW”, often enough!  Our God formed and shaped this part of our world with the powerful push of glacier moving ancient rock.  Therefore, the experience of being there felt like rocky terrain and densely wooded areas as well as the open meadows, offer a profound and deep quiet to your soul.  We can appreciate why at least three native tribes as far back as 12,000 years ago visited this place as a holy site.  Because this place is holy, indeed! 
Like 50% of the visitors to the park the Knight family decided to go on a hike.  We selected the hike to see Avalanche Lake because it did not sound too hard.  Assumption #1.  My family had each of their own special moments on our trip- but this 6 mile hike was when the Holy Spirit reminded me of an important lesson. 
We started in the lush, moist hemlock and aspen forest. Quickly the terrain pushed us upwards so that our elevation shifted at least 500 feet on the way up.  All the guidebooks said this was a doable hike… not too easy, but certainly not a trail exclusively for professional hikers! 
But have you ever been on a hiking trail that did not have any trail signs?  Perhaps a beginning marker sign… but nothing in between to note your progress on the path?  That was the case for this trail.  No signs.  No markings.  While we met lots of families and individuals going up…there was nothing to tell us how far we were from the lake or how close.  The twists and turns of the path and with the gradual elevation going up and down did not give us much of a sense of where we were on the journey.
To be completely honest with you- as we hiked on- shedding jackets and then other layers of clothes as the day got warmer and we got sweatier- I began an inner conversation in my head.  “how much further?”  “why aren’t we there yet?”  “Did I lead my family on a huge mistake?”  Anxiety.  Not knowing.  Feeling kinda ‘blind’… all brought up an inner uneasiness in me.  Maybe you like to know where you are too.  ‘caused an interesting spiritual lesson.
As we meandered along, we asked a traveler who was coming down, “how much further?” to which their non-committal response only caused me more inner frustration. Suddenly when we came to a clearing… for a pause to drink our water and take this photo, I heard a voice in my head say, Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path(Psalm 119:105). 
Interesting scripture to receive in the daylight, but a good reminder that God always knows where I am. As I thought about that verse I realized afresh that I am not supposed see any further than my feet. God’s Word is a lamp to my feet… scripture does not say God’s Word is a lamp for the next ¼ mile ahead of my feet!  Be where I am - is where and when God in Jesus will meet me. Do not worry about the next ¼ mile until I get there.
We enjoyed a rest on comfy log and visited with a park ranger.  And then we began our trek back down… recognizing where we had been before and yet still not knowing mile markers or specific points to share with other future travelers.  Instead we offered words of encouragement and promises of “it’s worth it”.  The journey and it’s lesson for me was worth it to be reminded God is faithfulness in the midst of such staggering, and powerful beauty.  Good to be reminded how significantly small I am compared to our Lord’s faithFULLness! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Take a Stand- Lent 6

Death is a mirror that gives us a glimpse of who we really are.
            Death is a rearview mirror that puts the past into perspective.
            And if anyone who ever walked this earth lived with an up close understanding of death- it was Jesus.  He entered Jerusalem on the Palm Sunday long ago- with the mirror of death in mind.  Purposeful, poised, and prepared. To put your past into perspective through His death.
            The closer you and I come to death, the clearer and farther you can see.   Nothing recalibrates priorities faster than a cancer screening, a car accident, or a visit from a military chaplain.  Important things become all important.  And unimportant things are revealed for what they are- insignificant. 
Our story today about three teenage Hebrew boys may seem, at first, out of place on a Palm Sunday, but their all in commitment is one that I want us to examine as we consider Jesus’ entrance into the Holy City of Jerusalem.  This is a story of matching talk with walk.  Commitment and action meet at a place called integrity. 
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew that if they refused to bow down to the ninety-foot tall statue of King Nebuchadnezzar, they would be executed.  But these Jewish ex-pats feared God a lot more than they feared death.  They would rather die by the flame than dishonor God.  So they made a defining decision to stand up for what was right rather than bow down to what was wrong. 
If, these three Jewish teenagers had compromised their integrity by listening to a rationalization-they would have been delivered from the fiery furnace.  But their deliverance would have been by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, NOT by God’s intervention.  These God followers would have forfeited their testimony by failing the test.  While their lives would have been saved, they would have sacrificed their integrity. 
It was their integrity that triggered a miracle.  Their integrity that allowed God to show up and show off.  Their integrity that was their fire insurance and life insurance. 
Integrity comes from the root word integer.  It refers to a whole number versus a fraction.  In other words, integrity is all in.  It does not look for an easy way out. 
Is there anything you are bowing to?  Then, it’s time to take a stand.   

See you at the ‘all in’ place,

Pastor Michelle


Monday, March 19, 2018

Crash the Party- Lent 5

Jesus must have been bored silly, feigning interest, with small talk about Jewish law at the dinner party hosted by a Pharisee.  This party has ‘lame’ written all over it.
That is until the party was crashed.  By a woman.  And moreover this was a woman who had a reputation and background that was less than ideal.  No doubt she had broken more than one Jewish law and was less than holy.  Imagine the look on the Pharisee’s straight-laced faces when she rushes in and falls at Jesus’ feet!? 
Her act of worship, to anoint Jesus, is one of the most beautiful, expressive and generous statements of faith in the New Testament.  She lavished Jesus with her gratitude. I am sure she knew that the Pharisee men in the room usually stoned a woman like her, but that did not stop her from sharing her expensive gift with Jesus. 
Breaking that jar with semiprecious gemstones filled with a half liter of pure nard was this woman’s burning the ships moment!  The jar represented her past guilt and her future hope.  She anted up pouring our every last drop at the feet of Jesus.  She walked out of the dark shadows of this world and came to meet the Light of the World. 
There comes a moment when we need to come clean.  There comes a moment when we need to unveil the secret shame of our sin.  There comes a moment when we need to fall down on our knees on the gracious feet of Jesus!  This is that moment for this woman.  
Going all in means radical repentance.  Putting all your cards on the table.  We cannot trust God’s grace at 99% and put 1% on our own effort.  It is 100% or not at all.  We cannot receive partial credit for our salvation as much as we’d like to lie to ourselves than we can be part of the equation.  Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians reminds us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  All.  That includes me.  You.  Person next you.  Person behind you.  The person who goes to church regularly.  The person who has never been to church.  All have sinned.  All have access to the free gift of God’s grace in Jesus, accepted by faith. 
Full confession; not half-hearted confession is what you and I are invited to do.  A half-hearted confession always results in half-hearted love for Jesus.  To down play sin is to also down play grace.  And dishonors Jesus, Who is Sinless, and worthy of our love. 
One of the praise and worship songs that has been around for a while is Alabaster Jar.  Listen to these lyrics… “This alabaster jar is all I have of worth, I break it at Your feet, Lord, it's less than You, Deserve; You're far more beautiful, more precious than the oil; The sum of my desires and the fullness of my joy; Like You spilled Your blood, I spill my heart As an offering to my King.  Here I am, take me as an offering. Here I am, giving every heartbeat for Your glory.”
What if you and I sang this song with our lives and actions?  What would happen if you and I mustered the moral courage of this woman, walked into a room full of self-righteous Pharisees, and revealed our sin unashamedly while anointing Jesus as Lord and Savior? 
What would happen?  You know what would happen- a revival on Earth and a party in heaven! 

See you at the ‘all in’ place,

Pastor Michelle

Monday, March 12, 2018

Burn the Ships- Lent 4

There are moments in life when you and I need to burn the ships to the past.  We do that not by literally lighting a match, but by making a defining decision.  A defining decision that eliminates the possibility of sailing back into our old world.  You burn ships named Past Failure or Past Success.  Burn ships named Bad Habit or Regret.  You burn ships named Guilt or My Old Way of Life. 
            That is what Elisha did in our Bible story this morning.  When God needed to select a new prophet for the people Israel, God selected Elisha.  Once Elisha was called by Elijah, he turned his family plowing equipment into kindling and barbequed his oxen.  It was his last supper.  He said goodbye to his old friends and old way of life by throwing a huge party. 
Burning the plowing equipment was Elisha’s way of burning the ships. He could not go back to his old way of life as a farmer because he destroyed the ‘time machine’ that would take him back.  End of Elisha the farmer.  Beginning of Elisha the prophet.  Notice, when we follow the story further in I Kings that Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s power… God granted that request.  Why?  Because God knew that Elisha was 200% committed.
It does not matter if you’re trying to lose weight, get into graduate school, write a book, start a business, or get out of debt.  The first step is always the longest and hardest.  And you can’t just take a step into the future… you have to also eliminate the possibility of moving backward into the past.  That’s how you go after goals.  How you break addictions.  How you reconcile relationships.  You leave the past in the past by burning the ships. 
Burning the oxen and celebrating with friends, was Elisha’s all in moment.  He was not just buying in to God’s call in his life.  He was selling out too.  Fully present and committed.  Not living the past nor the future, but in the moment.  That does not mean you and I don’t learn from our past or plan for the future, but you and I don’t live there.  Going “all in” is living as though each day is the first day and last day of our lives. 
See you at the “all in” place,

Pastor Michelle

Monday, March 5, 2018

This is Only A Test- Lent 3

Too often you and I approach stories like God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as if God is on trial.  When we do that we are starting from the wrong place.  It is not God’s character that is in question.  It is Abraham’s character or our character that is on the stand.  Since the Garden of Eden, we get to choose to obey or not to obey.  You and I will either follow through on what God asks us to do with what is most precious to us- or will we not.
            God never intended nor would have allowed Abraham to follow through on physically harming his son.  God does not support child abuse. 
This was a test.  This request of Abraham was an assessment of his willingness or not to follow through on the request made by God.  God wanted to test whether or not Abraham was willing to obey the most counterintuitive command imaginable. Scripture says very clearly in verse 1, God tested Abraham.  And Abraham passed the test!  Good for him!
God tests you and I for two primary reasons.  1) Placing a challenge before us is an opportunity for God to prove himself to us.  God provided a ram for Abraham to use.  2) having a challenge before us is a chance for us to prove ourselves to God.  Abraham was obedient to God’s tough assignment.
When Abraham raised the knife, God knew that he was all in.  And then God proved Himself as a provider by offering the ram in the thicket.  If Abraham had not gone all in, he would have robbed God of the opportunity to provide a ram.  After all, God cannot reveal God’s faithfulness until we have exercised our faith.  Think about that one!  I will say it again, God cannot reveal God’s faithfulness until we have exercised our faith! 
But, thanks be to God, that Abraham was all in!  And thus God was able to reveal that God is our Jehovah-jireh or Great Provider. 
As we step deeper into Lent and thus move closer to the Cross of Christ- what is your Isaac?  What are you placing your security or identity in?  If Jesus is not your security and identity, then God will test you until you leave that “Isaac” on the altar. 

See you at the all in place,

Pastor Michelle

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Draw the Line- Lent 2

The fifth book in the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, tell us stories of the original disciples.  The stories of their martyrdom and later years can be found in a variety of secular and church histories from those time periods.  Did you know that each of the original disciples was martyred except for one? John survived his own execution only to die of natural causes in prison. 
Stephen who replaced Judas Iscariot was stoned to death.  James the Greater was thrust with a sword under the command of King Herod.  Luke was hung in an olive tree in Greece.  Thomas who once doubted but later believed was pierced, tortured, and burned alive in India.  Phillip was tortured and crucified.  He continued to preach while hanging on his cross.  Matthew was stabbed in the back in Ethiopia.  Bartholomew was flogged to death in Armenia.  James the just was thrown off the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem.  After he survived the 100 foot fall, the mob clubbed him to death in their frustration.  Simon the Zealot was crucified. Judas Thaddaeus was beaten to death with sticks.  Matthias was stoned to death and then beheaded.  Peter was crucified upside at his request because he did not feel worthy enough to be just like Jesus was. 
For many centuries Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (which holds a collection of these stories and more) was inspirational bedtime reading for Christian families.  Perhaps you and I need to dust this old book off some shelves as well.  (I have two copies.) Martyrdom for Jesus is a reality check for those of us living in the first world of the 21st century.  Their deaths put our first world problems into perspective.  These real life people who lived and died for Jesus redefine risk and set a different standard for sacrifice. 
Jesus threw down the gauntlet in Luke 9 when he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”  Clearly, when we learn what happened to the first disciples- they took this literally.  For you and me, we can at minimum take this figuratively.  Anything less than the complete surrender of our lives to the Lordship and leadership of Jesus Christ is robbing God of glory that God demands and deserves.  And it is also cheating you and me out of the eternal reward that God has in mind for each of us.
In the words of Pastor Mark, “Time to ante up.  Go all in.  If Jesus is not Lord of all, then Jesus is not Lord at all.”

See you at the ‘all in’ place,

Pastor Michelle