Thursday, February 28, 2013


My Grandpa is amazing.  Norman Bollinger turned 89 years old today, and just talking with him on the phone is inspiration enough to keep me encouraged for a longtime.  This pic was last summer when we were able to make a trip to Minnesota.  He and my Grandma have devotions every day, and they pray for the entire family every day.  Getting to join them in that time is a tremendous blessing.  Olivia was excited to read along with him.

At 89, he's been retired for a few years.  He's the hardest working and most consistent person I've ever been around.  He's had a few different careers, the last of which was a courier driver.  He drove a gutted 15 passenger fan that he filled with any number of things.  He would drive as close as down the street or as far as across the country.  They have driven down to see us at least once each of the last few years.  They are amazing.  He's a faithful husband, a loving father, a compassionate grandfather, an excited great-grandfather, a humble servant, a fixer of anything broken, and a student of the Bible.  Recently, he even wrote a thorough research paper on the Holy Spirit which was brilliant.

I called this morning to wish him a happy birthday, and somehow the conversation gets around to how they are praying for us and believing God on our behalf.  Some people pushing 90 simply rely on former stories of faith and past knowledge of the Word, but he presses in every day for fresh fire.  I'll never forget several years ago when he was diagnosed with skin cancer.  His response was, "Well, I guess I'll give thanks in this circumstance, too."

I hate the we are separated by over a thousand miles, and I wish every day that I could spend more time with him.  I attribute a great deal of who I am to his influence and prayers. The wisdom he has attained has come with some cost, but through trials and pain, he's never complained - not one time. His faithfulness is something that I aspire after.

Today as I was making a big deal of him being 89, he said he talked to his sister who was already 90 and he told her she was REALLY an old lady... told like only my Grandpa could.

Grandpa, I don't know how you manage to run laps around people 20 years your junior, but you do.  I don't know you keep the Lord's commands so fresh and relevant, but you do.  I don't know how you live life with such contentment and joy, but you do.  I hope Angeno's is delicious tonight, and I hope you have a tremendous birthday.  You are amazing, and I'm so grateful for you.  I (we) love you so much.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

If you love me...

In John 14, Jesus promises that His followers will do even greater works than He did.  That is literally impossible and unbelievable.  There is some debate as to what "greater works" really refers to, and it could be a few different things.  What's amazing to me is what makes the impossible possible.  It seems to be loving Jesus back.

John's Gospel is very clear on love being God's motivation for sending Jesus to the world.  Jesus' love for the people entrusted to His care was clear in how he carried Himself.  It's also clear that Jesus charged His followers with loving each other.  He said, " one another: just as I have loved you..."    (John 13). We've been told a million times that God loves us. That's not a surprise.  We also know that we're expected to love each other.  However, Jesus breaks some new ground in 14:15 when He says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."  

God's love for us and His subsequent command to love other people doesn't guarantee that we're responding appropriately to Him.  It doesn't even mean that we're a Christian. The most important thing about our response is that we love Him back.  He shows us here that loving Him back means thinking highly enough of what He has instructed to actually do what He has asked.  To use language from James, being doers of the word is what demonstrates that we love Jesus back.  It shows that we are serious about faith.  It shows that we're about more than religious activity.  It shows that we're willing to following Jesus.  

The next part is the key to the impossible.  Obedience to the commandments of Jesus is met with a gift.   Jesus promises to give His Spirit to those who love Him and keep His commandments.  Without the Spirit, Christianity is just a bunch of rules, aspirations, hopes, religious habits, and behaviors.  With the Spirit, it is freedom, life, light, power, miracles, cleansing from sin, truth, assurance, salvation, eternal life, and so much, much more.  I pray that it's not enough for us to just believe that Jesus loves us and to do our best to love each other.  I pray that we would go the next step and love Him back by obeying His commandments and unlocking the power of the Spirit in our every day lives.

Here are some examples of the power that the gift of the Spirit unlocks in us:

  • The Spirit Gives Life. (John 3:6-7, John 6:63)
  • The Spirit Empowered Jesus. (John 1:32 - on Jesus, Luke 4:18 - Spirit is Upon me)
  • The Spirit Empowers followers of Jesus for ministry.  The Spirit manifests the presence of God through his activity. (Acts 1:8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
  • The Spirit Empowers prayer. (Romans 8:26)
  • The Spirit cleanses us from sin. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
  • The Spirit sanctifies us and builds in us the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • The Spirit guides us into truth. (John 16:13)
  • The Spirit testifies to our status before God and gives us assurance. (Romans 8:15-16)
  • The Spirit brings unity. (Ephesians 4:3)

Thank you, Jesus, for not leaving us on our own and for giving us this amazing gift that allows us to follow you and do the works that you did.  

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Church Overtime

This last week our worship leader had a great Kingdom building opportunity that required him to be gone Sunday, so we called an audible.  I moved over to cover the music and asked a missionary friend in our church family to preach. Then, my missionary friend did what many missionary friends do...he preached for a long time.

I understand that people's time is valuable, but a preacher going long doesn't bother me (as long as he's got something to say).  People followed Jesus around for days at a time because what he was teaching was worth listening to.  My friend preached a long time, but it was all rich and rooted in the Scriptures.  It was spoken from someone whose life and family has been radically changed by the power and truth of the Gospel and is bearing undeniable fruit for the Kingdom.  I could've listened all day.

Our services usually start around 10:40am (10 minutes later than the advertised time because there is never anyone there at 10:30).  We are usually done between 12:00-12:15.  As the 12:00 mark came and went on Sunday, people started to get antsy.  As 12:30 came, some people were visibly annoyed.  Four different groups of people got up and walked out.  One lady left her seat to come and ask when it was going to be over and left irritated minutes later.

This troubles me.  When we watch sports, we celebrate overtime.  At our favorite concert, we beg for an encore.  We want to get our money's worth at every other thing that we do. We'll sit through a 3 hour movie and talk about how amazing it was. At church, if it goes 15 minutes longer than normal, we get antsy, silently complain and can't wait to leave. The thing that troubles me the most is that I don't think it is people seeking to know God who are annoyed.  I think it's church people. I would understand if it was lost people, skeptical people, sojourning people who couldn't take any more and wanted to check out.  That would be fine.  But, it seems to be church people with church backgrounds who are the most annoyed.

If we are teaching that worship should conform to our expectations of time and experience, then we are not teaching about the Kingdom.  Even with a longer than normal sermon, our gathering was over maybe 15-20 minutes later than normal.  Are we really saying that the Kingdom of God is not worth another 15-20 minutes of our time? Is it really that big of a deal?

I understand that people make plans based on the time we normally get done.  I understand that sometimes those plans can happen at certain times that may begin to conflict with our end time.  I understand that some of those things may even be Kingdom things that are important. However, I think that most of the time that's not the case.

When I was first in ministry, I was mentored by some really great guys that I still look up to very much.  One of the things we used to talk about was how to evaluate a successful worship experience.  It's easy to scrutinize the music, the preaching, the announcements, the externals and the other people.  However, for followers of Christ the question shouldn't be about any of those other things. It should be "how was my response to what God has revealed?"  Heaven is going to be an eternal worship gathering.  Worship on earth is supposed to be a taste and reflection of that.

Maybe I'm off because I see it through the lens of someone who's been walked out on a time or two.  Maybe there is a Kingdom-justified reason why an extra 15 minutes is unreasonable.  Maybe I just needed to vent and rant for a bit. Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems to me like church overtime is a good thing.  I wish more people felt that way...

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