Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sheep Dung or a Burning Bush

November 17, 2009

Interruptions. A negative image. The phone rings… the email alert goes off… an annoying co-worker plants himself in front of us… the pile of laundry threatens to destroy the home… the alarm clock buzzes… Like a child who insists on attention, “Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, MOMMY” interruptions interrupt often and loud.

There is a different breed of interruption.

A neighbor stops by, interrupting your busy day, “C’mon, let’s go. I’m taking you out for some fun.” Before you can object, the friend continues, “I’ve made arrangements for a babysitter and hired somebody to do your chores. The day is on me.” Would you welcome that kind of interruption? In a HEART BEAT!!!!

Those are God’s kind of interruptions. Really. If we open our lives to embrace them. Sometimes they don’t look like it on the surface, but if we give ourselves to what God has in mind (don’t whine, complain, resist) we will experience satisfaction and adventure.

Moses was in a comfortable routine and I’m guessing he didn’t like interruptions any more than we do. I don’t know when his 401K was due to kick in, but it had to be close with 40 years of service at 80 years of age. Then one day God interrupted, lit a bush on fire that kept glowing like a gas light, spoke to him from the bush, told him to give up his security and fulfill his life’s purpose. Moses balked, threw up objections and finally asked to be excused. To no avail. Reluctantly he went on the adventure of a lifetime – of several lifetimes. Never in his wildest dreams could he have concocted what God delivered.

An interruption.

I wonder how many adventures we miss because we refuse to go see what the burning bush is about. That’s all Moses did. Nothing heroic, he simply saw something that made no sense, “Hmm, that’s new,” and walked to where God was up to something. Interrupted. Could have been too zeroed in on his routine to see it. Or if he saw it, been too busy to leave the sheep. Or if he walked to the bush he could have been so enamored by the phenomenon that he missed hearing God’s voice. Or if he heard God he could have simply walked away.

What do you do when God interrupts? Dodging sheep dung or talking to burning bushes? Your choice.

Boldly, Herb

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Friday, November 13, 2009

When God Shows Off

November 13, 2009

It is incorrect to say “God shows up.” He is “omnipresent” (theological term that means God is everywhere all the time). God is always around us so it is impossible for Him to “show up.”

But sometimes God SHOWS OFF!

There are times when He makes it unmistakably clear that He is present. And it seems to me that He touches every part of us when He shows us that He is showing up when He shows off.

It’s one thing to know it with our heads. It’s quite another to EXPERIENCE it with all our being. I mean, you can “know” that God is in the room because He told us He is and not feel like it. In fact it can feel like God has stepped out for a divine coffee break just when everything comes unglued.

But there are those wonderful times when God shows off. That He is not only in the room but putting His finger on us. This week I watched God show off in our monthly prayer gathering. We sang. We read scripture. I started to share and something happened. I stopped talking (a VERY good thing to do when God is peeking around the corner ready to show off), and invited people to pray.

God reached out to touch our whole beings. Physically some knelt, some bowed, some raised hands toward Heaven and we all felt physically lighter afterwards. Mentally there was confirmation that this is God. In our spirits the Holy Spirit resonated like a singer who makes drinking glasses ring. Emotionally there were tears and laughter. Relationally we sensed a deeper closeness with one another and a stronger commitment to others in our lives.


I felt so honored and privileged to be in the room when He did.

Those times cannot be manufactured or forced, but we can put ourselves in a position to experience them when God decides to show us that He is showing up in tangible ways by showing off.

Boldly, Herb

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To listen to Herb via the internet go to http://www.newsongpittsburgh.org/sermons.htm

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Get-To’s or Got-To’s?

November 10, 2009

As the holidays approach, let’s serve a helping of honesty to one another.

Who are the people in your family that you “got-to” visit? C’mon, you know the people that empty you of emotional energy. Like human vacuums they suck the life out of everyone in the family. The initiated play “rock-scissors-paper” in the kitchen to figure out who has to sit close. The newbies soon learn (the hard way) to jockey for position so as not to be the last one in the room one on one, captured. You feel emptied and bored by a “got-to” person.


Who are the people in your family that you “get-to” visit? You know, the people that cause everyone to light up and smile? Like a human IV they pour life into all around them. The family collects close to them. When laughter echoes through the house or someone needs a caring touch he/she seems always to be in the middle of it. You feel more alive and energized by a “get-to” person.

You would travel great distances to be with a “get-to” person and (except that you are a person of character) would avoid a “got-to” person if they lived next door.

When you think of your religious experiences, is it “got-to” or “get-to”? When you think of worship, prayer, Bible reading, serving others or other spiritual experiences, what does you gut say? Do you make excuses to avoid or do sacrifice to experience them?

HERE’S THE DEAL: when we experience Jesus, the real Jesus, (not the plastic imitation that some have confined Him to but the REAL Jesus), He is the #1 “get-to” person ever. Ever. EVER!

Boring was never a word those who physically walked with Jesus would even THINK of. He spoke words that resonated with their souls and they walk away ENERGIZED. He put them in adrenalin spiking experiences and they walked away THRILLED. He stirred them to tears when He healed and they walked away HEALTHY and MOVED. Their jaws dropped when He did His miracle thing and they walked away with HOPE. They bent over in gut wrenching laughter when they tried to picture a camel going through the eye of a needle and they walked away LIGHTER.

Jesus has not changed.

Now, back to one of those holiday servings of honesty. How come so many of us have the knee jerk reaction of “I’ve got-to .. go to church… read the Bible… pray… serving… sharing… learning...” Instead of “I get-to be with Jesus by going to church… reading the Bible… praying… serving… sharing… learning…”

Is it possible we have propped up a plastic Jesus in our lives that bores and empties us instead of truly experiencing the life of the party Jesus that the Bible actually describes?

Problem’s not with Jesus.

Boldly, Herb

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Fort Hood

November 6, 2009

My heart ached as my friend Steve told me about the tragic news of the Fort Hood shooting yesterday. What a waste! What unimaginable sadness for the families! What a heartrending irony!

I awoke to more details of the appalling attack and the efforts of so many to DO SOMETHING in response. But most of us are too far removed to really do anything about such nightmares.

That’s a big part of why these events hit us so hard. FRUSTRATION because we feel helpless as we hear the ongoing news. FRUSTRATION because it makes us feel vulnerable. FRUSTRATION because things like this are not supposed to happen. FRUSTRATION because we want to do something, anything to help others and relieve what we feel inside.

WE CAN. Problem is that the thing we can do is something that we don’t really think makes a difference or we would not be feeling such deep frustration. We have come to believe it is something you do when you can’t do anything else. Instead we should believe and practice it as THE thing to do first… THE thing that makes a difference… THE thing that makes us powerful no matter the distance.


Be honest, if someone looked at your knee-jerk reactions and all the things you do before you pray, would they conclude that prayer is something you do when you can’t do anything else? Yet, it is THE MOST POWERFUL thing we can do. And should be the first thing we do.

We should pray first because it is POWERFUL. Prayer mysteriously moves the hand of God and transforms us at the same time. It is the one most powerful activity a human being can do.

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has GREAT POWER and produces WONDERFUL RESULTS.” James 5:16 (NLT)

We should pray first because it will LEAD us to what we should do that will make a difference. When we act first we often do things that are not helpful or make matters worse. By praying first our actions can be most effective.

Let’s pray for the victims and families of the shooting at Fort Hood. And for all other circumstances. FIRST.

Let’s be powerful.

Boldly, Herb

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Walking to Your Own Funeral

November 5, 2009

Imagine you get the dreaded phone call – your son/brother has been killed in an auto accident. Grief overwhelms you. Relatives go to the morgue to identify the body, glance, turn away, horrified at the brutal injuries.

The next day you stand in front of the casket, tears streaming down your face, thinking, “What a waste! We didn’t even get to say good-bye.” As you mourn, looking at the body, arm in arm with your closest loved ones, you look up toward the door to spot a man walking purposefully toward you. You blink, look at the body, look at the man, look at the corpse, look at the man, look at the dead, look at your son/brother walking toward you!

Your mind struggles to comprehend, “How does a person WALK to his own funeral? Is there a twin you didn’t know about? Is there a clone?”

Flip the story.

Imagine you are driving your truck home from another part of the country. You decide to stop, visit and spend the night with friends. You’re an adult; you don’t bother to call because no one is expecting you home. You get home a day late to discover that your family is at the funeral home. “For who?” you ask. “For you!” Realizing there has been a terrible mistake and your family is distraught (at least you hope), you hurriedly WALK TO YOUR OWN FUNERAL!

“Dead man walking.” True story about 59 year old Ademir Jorge Goncalves, a bricklayer from Brazil.

You don’t have to go to a funeral home to see dead people. They are walking all around us every day. Maybe you are one of them. Hearts are beating, lungs are drawing air several times a minute but they are walking around dead. They go through the motions but have lost purpose, joy, meaning, fulfillment, LIFE! Sometimes they are hard to spot because there are so many of them around. Other times you can see the glazed look and apathy. Maybe you see it when you brush your teeth. The walking dead settle for things that temporarily provide pleasure and then return to living graves.

Jesus said, "I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of." John 10:10 (The Message)

Don’t walk to your own funeral. Choose life. Real life. More and better life than you’ve ever dreamed.

Choose Jesus. Not once, but every day. Discover LIFE.

Boldly, Herb

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009


November 4, 2009


He was probably fulfilling a life-long dream, riding shotgun with his friend in a fighter jet! As the plane rolled, he grabbed for something to brace himself. Turns out he did more than brace himself – he fulfilled a nightmare. Instead of the side of the seat he accidently grabbed the eject lever. In a nanosecond he was shot through the canopy 300 feet into the air by his rocket powered seat.

Now, what would you be thinking at that moment? Unless you were very familiar with jets, I believe you would be thinking, “I’m a dead man! I’m in the air on a SEAT with no wings or landing gear!”

After his ascension peaked, a parachute automatically deployed, gently lowering him to earth. Experts say he was lucky to escape unharmed, that if his posture had been slightly different at ejection he could have sustained severe spinal cord injuries or death.


How many times in life do we grab what we think will help us, provide security, buffer life’s jarring maneuvers only to find ourselves falling? How many times do we discover too late that the things that promise stability actually send us into helplessness? It’s not that we are trying to get into trouble; it’s just that we have not yet learned what we should be grabbing on to.

God shakes His head, smiles at our confusion, and provides a parachute to get us back to reality safely. There’s still a pretty jolt when we hit the ground, but we realize we survived that which we had no business surviving. Left to ourselves we should be walking away with serious injuries or worse. And He asks, “Now, what have we learned here?”


The undeserved, unearned, unwarranted, unmerited, unjustified favored position with God.

What will you do with God’s grace today?

Boldly, Herb

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Sometimes God just doesn’t make sense

November 3, 2009

I’ve heard religious people attempt to refute this, but their reasoning clunks to the floor of the laboratory of life in pieces.

There simply are times when God does not make sense.

Tell me this thought has not occurred to you! Name the situation, the baffling circumstances, the challenging intellectual argument, the scientific deduction, the inexplicable relationship issue. I don’t care what anyone says; sometimes God does not make sense.

What are we to do with that? Let’s think for a second.

Are there things that make sense to you as an adult that did not when you were a child? Sure.
Are there ideas that have cleared up after you got more information? Yes.
Are situations that make sense in hindsight that were baffling when you were in them? Of course.
Even Garth Brooks sings “Thank God for unanswered prayers.”

Here’s the deal: there are some things that make no sense while we’re in them because we are not yet capable of understanding them at the time but make sense in looking back. Because God is timeless He can see the future but it would fry our circuits if He tried to explain.

A second line of thinking… Are there things that make all the sense in the world to you but others cannot grasp? And are there things that you cannot “get” that others seem to understand without trouble? Ever had a conversation with a rocket scientist? My eyes glaze over after about 30 seconds. Yet when I talk about relationships with them, it appears I am talking about, well… rocket science.

Here’s the deal: there are some things that make no sense to us because we don’t have the education and capacity to understand. Same with God – while we’re in the middle of stuff, it is not that He is incapable of explaining them. We are incapable of comprehending if He did.

BACK TO GOD: Would you really want a God who would make sense all the time. Think about this because it is a trick question. On the surface, we would say “Yes! Absolutely!” However, that would mean …
Our God would not be able to see the future nor would His knowledge be greater than ours.
We could be our own God because He would be our size, no greater than us.
God would not love us any better than our ability to love. (Uh-oh!)
God would not have any greater mercy and grace for us than we have for ourselves or others.

Seems to me that the fact that God sometimes does not make sense, that sometimes we cannot understand Him is actually A GOOD THING.

What do you think?

Boldly, Herb

(To listen to Herb via the internet go to http://www.newsongpittsburgh.org/sermons.htm )