Monday, November 25, 2013

Reclaiming Thanksgiving

When you lose a significant amount of physical possessions in a natural disaster you begin to realize how much stuff you consider to be treasure. You realize this when you are looking for something that you need or "need" and are unable to find it. You can get really mad, grumpy, frustrated, and irritable that you can't find said object. It reminds me of how Gollum responds when he realizes that he doesn't know where his "precious" is. (Did I let my inner nerd slip out there?) Try as we might to not allow things to become "The Thing" our old nature slips us back once again to the place were we anchor our happiness to the temporal rather than the Eternal. And as I think of these things I stop, pray, and ask God how to be thankful with what I have.

Does anyone know what national sacred holiday happens this week?........... You guessed it, Black Friday. Oh that's not what you were thinking? You didn't think it was a holiday? Tell me how many commercials or ads did you see this week promoting thankfulness, contentment, family, grace, or community? I saw ads promoting covetousness, lust (does not just include skin), discontentment, greed, and idolatry. Oh and an ad for a new toaster oven that imprints the face of Jesus on every slice of bread. I need that.

No wonder our world, our country, and our families are in the state that they are in. Jesus says of those who hold value to this evil treasure that"out of the abundance (treasure) of the heart his mouth speaks" Luke 6:45b. What we have or don't have becomes the central focus of our speech. This is not thanksgiving. When that first group of Christians set foot off the Mayflower they were not looking for fortune (unlike other explorers of this new world). Rather they were looking for a place that was simpler, where they would be free to love Jesus and hear and obey His commands. Were they perfect? Of course not, but there was something that they had figured out that we could stand to be reminded of: "Thankfulness".
 My ancestor, William Bradford (great to the 11th power grandpa) , described the legacy they desired to leave by saying:
“May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: "Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice, and looked on their adversity, &c. Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good, and His mercies endure forever. Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, shew how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the; desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry, and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness, and His wonderful works before the sons of men.” - Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647

The foundation that these men secured their lives to was that of the faithfulness of God. When the trials came they were not shaken because their foundation was secure. Too many today are like the man who Jesus described as "building his house upon the ground without a foundation." When the flooded river broke against the house its instant destruction was complete. That man's home was surely his treasure but he neglected the foundation that simply lay beneath a few feet of soil. He had the same opportunity as the man who built his house with a foundation. He had to "dig down deep" to build off of the foundation that was offered to him. That involved a clearing away. Maybe for Thanksgiving you can take the opportunity rather than looking at what more you want, to clear away that which isn't anchored to the foundation of Christ. If what you treasure cannot be anchored to Christ one day you will call it "rubble".

This Thanksgiving let Christians everywhere rejoice that they have a Rock to anchor all good things to and find our true happiness in His steadfastness. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Empty: At His Feet

Sunday Sermon Galena Bible Church November 17th, 2013.

We're Back

We are back. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually back in the job God has called us to. I want to apologize that I did not do a stellar job of keeping people up to date on the challenges we were facing via this Blog. To be honest every time I thought about sitting down to type this out I got nauseous because it seemed like one more thing out of a thousand to do. Let me give you the broad overview leading up to our 5 week hiatus "outside".

From the end of June to the beginning of October we recruited and hosted over 230 volunteers to come and serve in flood ravaged Galena. We had volunteers from Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvanian, Alabama, California, and Washington State. We also had volunteers from all corners of the road system in Alaska (Homer, Soldotna, Kenai, Anchorage, Big Lake, Glen Allen, Palmer, Nenana, and Fairbanks). These volunteers logged just shy of 11,000 man-hours of volunteer labor (or 1 1/4 years of non-stop work) in about 14 weeks. The last number i was told was that we helped in some capacity to restore 45 homes.

While on our recent trip when people asked about the challenges of rebuilding I came up with the best non bush explanation that I could think of: "How many trips to Lowes does it take you to complete a basic weekend project?" Average answer was 4 trips. I said now imagine that you had 45 weekend projects and each trip to Lowes took about 2 weeks in transit (at best) and you'll begin to know the frustration that we felt. There was a significant amount of time spent driving around Galena looking for a specific plumbing part that "might" be in a tote that "should" be under the garage at "so in so's house". The Galena Bible Church early on began to gather basic consumible "job stopper" goods and became a clearing house for basic tools and supplies. Even the FEMA volunteers began to use us as a resource to meet their needs. It was a unique way that we were able to be a practical help.

Speaking of FEMA volunteers ours were not the only volunteers in town. FEMA sponsored about 80 United Methodist volunteers and around 10 Southern Baptist volunteers who in teams of 10 served two weeks at a time. Sunday services were packed to bursting and standing room only on most Sundays with attendance near 100.

During the middle of October Shell, Me, and the kids left for a 5 week homeservice/vacation. I mentally felt like I crawled on the plane exhausted and burnt out. And God's timing and peace are perfect. We had opportunity to rest, reconnect as a family, be loved on and share the story of what God has accomplished. I was blessed to preach at two different churches, take my wife on two date nights, read one and a half good books, and regain a clarity for the next season of ministry. When I stepped back in the pulpit at Galena Bible Church yesterday I did so with a renewed spirit and a fresh burden to share the hope of Christ. I'll be preaching a series I'm calling "Empty" as we look what it means to be emptied for Christ so that we can be filled with Christ. Check it out at our podcast (

Things you can be praying for:
  • Galena Bible Church Elders will meet this week to plan how to most effectively move forward with recover efforts in the Spring. Pray that we would know what to say no to and what to invest our energy in.
  • Galena YoungLife has several blessings and challenges you can be praying for. GYL has started a weekly Campaigners (Bible Study) and WildLife (Jr High club) in addition to regular Club. Pray that the volunteers would be able to build deep and impacting relationships with teens. You can also pray that the Lord would provide the right Area Director to fill the open position.  
  • The infrastructure of Galena is still strained from recovery. In addition to that our Police officer resigned and we have no local law enforcement. Pray that cooler heads would prevail and that the Lord would protect Galena.
  • Martin and Silke Hornfischer (SEND Missionaries who serve in Galena) are still awaiting their VISA Renewal in Germany so they can return to here. Martin oversees outreach for the Bible Church and is desperatly needed back. Would you agree with me to pray that the Lord brings them back soon.