Monthly Archives: June 2011

A Postcard from the Pacific Rim: Maui, Hawaii

By Brendan Scott and Eugene C. Scott

Expectations. Most times what we expect to happen trips us up and gets in the way of seeing and experiencing the more oblique, twisted, fun, real side of life. For example on a trip to Maui one would expect a sunburn, sand between the toes, jungle waterfalls, and serious beach time. These would be good things. But when we take off our expectation colored sun glasses, it’s amazing some of the crazy, fun, real things you can experience. On a recent vacation with my family my son Brendan and I decided to record some of the unexpected things we saw and experienced in a blog. Brendan also writes a blog at

Signs from God?

Quick trip to heaven? Turn left.

Some things go without saying . . .

Shouldn’t you also deploy wings?

. . . yet some people still feel the need to say them.

Sign above toilet ——>
<——Can dogs on Maui read signs?

Random Observations:

We’re staying in the same area in which actress Helen Hunt, the “Mad about You” star, lives. Yes, she is still alive and no, she didn’t disappear after “As Good As It Gets.” Consequently we have experienced dozens of Helen Hunt sightings. The only one we can confirm, however, was a week previous when Dave, our generous host, saw her being interviewed by Jay Leno on TV.

We’ve seen as many trucks with surfboard racks as tool racks. And even then many of the tool racks double for surfboards. The question seems to be surf or survive?

And don’t even get us started on convertible Ford Mustangs. Apparently car rental companies have figured out how to get them to reproduce like rabbits.

Multiplying Mustangs


A woman behind us on the beach:“How’d all this sand get in this?”

Dee Dee on seeing a dead mouse on the porch: “I wish I could be brave.  I just can’t.”

A young mother with her daughter climbing down–as we climbed up–to a rocky crag over-looking the vast, wild blue pacific ocean as it pounded onto volcanic rock cliffs formed eons ago. “There’s nothing up there.”

Ashley on the best places to snorkel. “Swimming with dolphins is fun but after a while it’s irritating. You just want to say, ‘Dolphins, stop being so happy!’”

Emmy on snorkeling anywhere. “I don’t need flippers to snorkel. My feet are better than flippers.”

Danger in Paradise:

Our gracious hostess, Linda, loves Maui. She knows its history ancient and modern, (did you know Hawaiian Hula dancers did not–I repeat–did not wear grass skirts), the correct pronunciation of words like humuhumunukunuku’āpua’a
, the best restaurants (Star-Noodle and The Gazeebo), beaches, and activities (Maui Ulalena). Linda is not only a Hawaii historian but a nurse. Thus she knows how and where every shark attack, drowning, broken neck from surfing, freak hiking accident and deadly food-borne illness took place.

Late each night Linda enthralled us with tales of death, danger and destruction. One such tale was of a doctor and his wife being lost at sea in their kayak and how a shark attacked and the wife lost her leg. The doctor washed up on one of the islands and the wife was never seen again. Locals suspect the doctor was the shark.

Linda told another gripping story about nine Japanese tourists standing too close to the edge of the cliff we had climbed the day before. As they stood admiring God’s handy work, a rogue wave smashed against the cliff and washed them all out to sea. Cameras and all. Tragic but there was a partially happy ending. Some Hawaiians dove in and swam over and saved several of the tourists. “Nothing to see up there” indeed.

Danger is sometimes deceptively beautiful.

Paradise in Paradise.

Expectations. We were up at 3am. on day two of our holiday in Maui driving to the 10,000 foot peak of Haleakala Volcano to watch the sunrise. Our rental Ford SUV climbed slowly up the dark, twisty road–the most elevation gain in the shortest distance anywhere on the planet. We arrived at the dormant craters‘ edge at 5am. God had scheduled the sunrise this day for 5:38am. It would be an hour-long show–like watching flowers filmed in slow motion as they bust out of the ground and blossom.

Sunrise over Haleakala Volcano


Two things:

One: The road less travelled by is sometimes crowded. But still worth it. Several hundred others braved the early hour, the dark, and the cold to witness God reinventing the day.

Two: It amazed us how something so mundane and predictable as the sun rising one more time in a succession of daybreaks that has not stopped since the beginning of time could also be so extraordinary.



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Be Still, Hurried thoughts on Silence, part 3

By Michael Gallup

Be Still.

This verse is found in the midst of something strange to us, Hebrew poetry. This poetry is not concerned with rhyme but with structure. It is full of parallels and chiasms, full of acrostics and musical instructions, full of Selahs.

Hebrew scholars have encountered much difficulty translating this term which litters the Psalms. There is no consensus as to what is meant by this ancient Hebrew term, yet some have believed Selah suggests a pause or break in the poetry; a time to stop and reflect on the glory of Yahweh revealed in the verses.

If you apply that approach, it can offer much color and depth to your reading of the Psalms. We encounter words such as “Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty-he is the King of glory. Selah” And as we chew on this audacious statement, awe and wonder begin to immerse us. He is the King of glory indeed.

However, due to the questions surrounding Selah, some translations and many readers simply skip over or remove this word. A word which in essence says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Maybe our culture hasn’t the patience to reflect anymore. We want our scripture and our God like we want our food: fast, instant, microwaved.

Just as Hebrew has become foreign to our culture so has reflection and consequently so has awe and wonder. Yet in a foreign tongue which we can miraculously understand, the Merciful Spark pleads for reflection, pleads the ‘Selah’, and pleads for the ‘be still.’

As a youngster, I would avoid my chores like the plague, even though they were not so difficult. I would rather do anything other than unload the dishwasher. I can hear my mother say, “Michael, will you unload the dishwasher?”

“I will Mom.” And I would change the channel.

“Michael, did you unload the dishwasher yet?”

“I said ‘I would’ didn’t I, Mom?” And I read another comic book.

“Michael Alan Gallup, unload the dishwasher right now!”

“I WILL!” And yet, I often never did and in the miraculous event that I did, I missed the joy of serving one who had given her life for me. I missed the joy of obedience.

God calls to us, “Be still” and we reply with, “I will.” And yet we often never do. When we do find time to be silent it is often spent thinking over what we didn’t get accomplished that day or what we have to do next and we miss out on the joy of listening to the One who gave His life for us. We miss the joy obedience.

God wants us to do more than to simply follow an order, to do more the merely sit still; He desires that we quiet our entire beings and let Him fill us up. However, we often see this as a colossal waste of time; our list of duties is just too overwhelming to add another time consuming task such as being still. Clothes need washing, bills need paying, papers need writing, calls need making, books need reading, dinner needs cooking and if there is time, perhaps we might read a scripture or two so we don’t feel so bad about ourselves when we lay down at night.

Carl Jung said that “Hurry is not of the devil; it is the devil.” I read these words and a shocking revelation comes over me, I have become a friend of the devil.

My disobedience has produced a lifeless life, one that is rapidly being choked out by busyness, yet in the midst of that stranglehold of darkness, light breaks in and the Spark of Mercy demands for me to be still.

And I am shown that this is not just another part of my schedule but it is something that penetrates deeply into the cracks of my life. I stop filling in the moments with noise and distraction and I begin filling them with God.

Michael is finding freedom from worry and hurry in exciting ways yet still feels distance from the One. He is a busy person surrounded by grace. He sells chicken for a living and tries to be a husband and father. He is currently a student at Denver Seminary. You can read his blog, A Sprig of Hope, by clicking here.


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When You’re Drowning In Stress

by Michael J. Klassen

Ever feel like this?Over the last 6 weeks, the Klassen household has been dogpaddling in chaos. We’re in the middle of a house remodel in three stages. As I write, I’m sitting on my couch in our living room, facing bookshelves from my office and, leaning against it, a mattress from one of our bedrooms. Lining the fireplace is a pile of miscellaneous books and papers from my home office, which I affectionately consider my sanctuary, safe haven, and man cave, all in one. I miss it.

The summer weather finally arrived here in Colorado, albeit three weeks late, so the windows are open. But alas, two homes directly across the street are in various stages of construction, so the din of bulldozers and smell of exhaust do whatever they can to offend my senses.

And did I mention the new Golden Retriever puppy we just adopted, coinciding with the remodel? Bella is four months old and full of unrelenting energy, chewing, mischief, and distraction.

By day I try to work efficiently and by night Kelley and I wile away our extra time painting walls, ripping out carpet, or moving furniture from one temporary location to another.

Not to mention the four women in our house—two of whom are 14 year olds. If we’re dogpaddling in chaos, then I’m drowning in a sea of estrogen. Broadway should commission a screenplay based on the four Klassen women because drama is definitely on stage.

Sometimes I think I’m on the verge of losing my mind.

Every day Kelley and I remind ourselves, “When the remodel is finished, it’ll be worth it.” But in the meantime, we’re just trying to hold it together.

Without a doubt, you’ve faced overwhelming situations. They might not involve home remodels and 14-year-old drama queens, but they could be just as stressful or even worse:

A difficult boss at work
A troubled marriage
Terminal illness
Deep sadness or depression

And, if you’re like me, you want to scream…or at least take a long vacation.

The Good News (Or Is It Bad News?) About Stress

Jesus was about to walk the long, lonely road to the cross. In his final moments with his disciples, they broke bread, he washed their feet, and then left his final words. With just a few moments remaining, Jesus began speaking very directly to his closest friends. No more figurative speech, they needed straight talk.

Then he explained, “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone” (John 16:32)

Jesus reassured them that he would be okay because his Father was with them, but then he gave them a strange promise:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

Did you catch that?

Jesus promised that they would have trouble. The Greek word for “trouble” means “suffering” or “persecution.” Chaos, stress, grief, misunderstanding, unemployment–none would be averted by even his closest friends.

Stress Is Part Of The Job Description

In the movie Private Benjamin, Judy Benjamin is a young, distraught high society widow. In her grief she happens upon an army recruiter who promises a career of fun, adventure, and exotic travel. Benjamin, played by Goldie Hawn, enthusiastically enlists. But after finding herself immersed in the stress of boot camp, she confronts her commanding officer.

“I think they sent me to the wrong place,” Private Benjamin confides. “See, I did join the army, but I joined a ‘different’ army. I joined the one with the condos and the private rooms.”

When we’re drowning in a sea of sorrow or stress or conflict, how often do we tell God, “Excuse me! I think I landed in the wrong faith. See, I became a follower of Christ, but I followed a ‘different’ Christ. I followed a Christ who guarantees good health, provision, and stress-free living. I didn’t sign up for this!”

Yet Jesus issued us a promise: As long as we’re living in this world, we’re going to experience suffering, pain, sickness, sorrow, sadness, hardship, poverty.

Feeling hopeful?

You Can’t Overcome The Stress On Your Own

The good news is, Jesus doesn’t abandon us in our trouble. He concluded his remarks with these important words:

“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

He didn’t say, “You can do it! You can overcome the world. Just take the bull by the horns, believe in yourself, and will your way through it.”

Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.”

It’s interesting that he spoke in past tense—“have overcome,” not “will overcome”—because the cross still stood before him.

You can’t will your way through trouble. You can’t overcome. But Jesus can and he has.

So where does that leave us?

Jesus offers us the invitation to draw close to him, to abide in him. In this same conversation with his disciples, he called them to abide, remain, in him.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Apart from him, we can do nothing.

Trouble may be unavoidable, but as we press in to Christ, as we immerse ourselves in knowing him and communing with him, we can experience true peace.

Regardless of the chaos that may be reigning in your house.

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


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Is God a Control Freak?

By Eugene C. Scott

There have been times when life has been completely out of control. And there seemed nothing anyone could do to change it, fix it, or stop it.

Even God.

It was as if my life were a passenger jet first wobbling, then looping and finally plummeting out of control. But before it hits the ground I bust into the cockpit only to discover God chatting it up with the co-pilot (and no, contrary the popular bumper-sticker, I am not God’s co-pilot and neither are you), while He is also texting and updating His status on Facebook. In the meantime my life is heading down nose first.

“Who’s in control here?” I shout. “Don’t You know You’re not supposed to text and drive? Grab the wheel. Get a grip!” God simply smiles and shrugs and goes back to texting.

People who believe in God love to talk about God being in control. By this we usually mean that we believe God can and should keep most–if not all–evil, bad, or even slightly uncomfortable situations from befalling us.

Given life’s raft of tornadoes, cancers, marriage break-ups and daily disappointments, it doesn’t seem that God has the same agenda. Is God is in control of this wildly tilting planet of ours? This discontinuity between believing in a loving God and living in an unpredictable world is the genesis of the question “how could a loving God allow (insert painful, devastating life circumstance here)?”

Most of us–even those who don’t really believe in God–understand that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Being should be able to prevent the personal and global problems of the world.

Yet life does not reflect any such controlling God. Not mine anyway. To me God seems to be anything but in control. But it’s not just me–or you. Even the Bible seems confused on the issue of God being in control. God did not stop the first two of us from making a bad choice. Then–like dominoes–character after biblical hero stumbles and falls: Abraham, Jacob, Saul, David, Judas, Peter and Paul to name the biggies.

Consider the story of Joseph. God gives him a big dream and then lets his brothers nearly murder him and finally sell him. Israel ends up in slavery for four hundred years. Moses tries defending some poor Hebrew slave and is cast into the desert for another forty years. Yes, Moses eventually sets his people free. But couldn’t God have prevented those tragedies? Wasn’t there a better way? Not according to God.

Or on a smaller scale, couldn’t God have kept my father or mother in this world just a little longer? In Navy terms, God doesn’t run a very tight ship. This pain and struggle that often permeates our lives leaves us a choice. We must believe God is in control and we have done something for which God has removed his controlling hand and let us swing in the wind, as Job’s friends claimed. Or to cease to believe in God, as C.S Lewis once did and so many others have.

Or to rethink how God and control interact.

Love requires freedom. Control kills love’s response. I have complete power over a toy remote control car. Not so a kitten. I can make the car turn left, right, back up, stop. But I can never win love from it. A kitten, however, listens to me not. It runs free and ignores anything I say or do except the opening of a can of cat food. But I can win love from that . . . well maybe using a cat was a bad example but you get what I mean.

A world in which love exists, much less thrives, must favor love and danger over control and safety. Therefore, God, unlike us, seems to eschew control.

If God is not in control, who is? Or is God simply a wimp?

God is no wimp. And God is indeed sovereign. Surprisingly so. In God’s surprising sovereignty prevention of pain gives way to redemption of pain.

In 1990 I was offered my first ordained pastoral position, associate pastor to families in a large church in Bloomington, IL. Dee Dee, my wife, and I prayed, sought advice, studied, debated and decided to accept the position. We moved, lock stock and two young children. A mere two years later spiritually, physically and emotionally broken I was ready to give up this dream of serving God in the pastorate and strap on my carpenter’s tool belt again. The church we went to serve was a broken, dying place. The senior pastor was on his umpteenth affair and the congregation took its pain and confusion out on anyone new and vulnerable: The Scott family.

What was God thinking? We asked for wisdom. God could have prevented the whole thing.

Instead God redeemed it.

In the middle of this came a phone call out of the blue. “I hear from a mutual friend you’re in a difficult church,” the pastor I had met at a wedding in Denver years ago said. For some reason I told this virtual stranger my story.

“Our senior pastor went through something very similar here as an associate pastor. Can he call you and talk to you about our need for an associate pastor to families?”

Almost two years to the day after we moved to Bloomington, we were on our way to Tulsa, OK. We spent almost nine years serving at Kirk of the Hills. Some with equal pain to Bloomington.

But Dee Dee and I return to Tulsa often. Our youngest daughter, Emmy, was born there.  Our oldest daughter, Katie, son-in-law, Michael and two beautiful grandchildren still live there. You see Katie married Michael, a boy who came to love Jesus and my daughter in the Kirk of the Hills youth group.

Redemption indeed. God could have prevented the pain of Bloomington. But he chose a better story! A story of taking our pain and turning it into something more beautiful than any Van Gough, Remington, sunset or seascape.

God is no control freak. I love Him for that.


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Be Still, Hurried thoughts on Silence, part 2

By Michael Gallup

Be Still.

This is perhaps the loveliest yet most difficult of all God’s commands. In it, I hear my Father yearn for me to enjoy Him in the silence, to be a part of the mystery of Easter, to have a relationship with the maker of heaven and earth. Yet despite these benefits, I find myself like so many within my culture, afraid of the silence.

I’m not sure why exactly but I am; maybe my culture has conditioned me this way. We find ways to fill our lives with noise and crowds; we buy ipods so that in between things on our to-do list, we don’t have to suffer the condemnation of silence. We fill every gap in our lives with meaningless chatter: television, cell phones, facebook, texting, twitter, music, and the like. We constantly bombard our minds with noise. Our culture has lost the art of silence and consequently has lost the art of the presence of God. T.S. Elliot notes, “Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.”

Maybe this conditioning is why I am afraid of the silence or maybe I am simply afraid that I might actually hear God. So instead of preparing an inner sanctuary, I fill my schedule with thing after event after meeting after thing.

I am always telling myself the lie, “I simply don’t have the time to be still.” Right now, I need to focus on these other commandments: don’t judge, don’t be proud, don’t lust, feed the hungry, be holy, be perfect. Yet the Merciful Spark will not let me go; in the background of all of this I hear a small still voice saying, “Be still…” and the voice fades into the darkness and my to-do list lengthens until it rivals Santa’s naughty or nice list in length. There is just too much to do. I don’t have enough time.

Yet right smack dab in the middle of my schedule that is engraved in stone, God with a THUNDEROUS WHISPER says-“be still.” And I am humbly reminded like Elijah that He is not in the fire, He is not in the raging wind, He is not in the earthquake, He is not in the tempest of finals week, He is not in the deadlines, He is not in the burdens of a world that looks on my body of work and demands, “More! Give me more!”

No, He is in the mundane, just underneath the surface, waiting for me cease striving and listen. Yes, He is in the deep silence of the soul crying out for our thirsty hearts to come to the water’s edge and drink.

Michael is a busy person surrounded by grace. He among other things plays the Mandolin poorly. You can read his blog, A Sprig of Hope, by clicking here.



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An Alternative To Homelessness

Every moderately large city has them. They stare at you when you pause at the stoplight. They accost you for money when you walk through a downtown area. A teenager in my neighborhood recently joined their ranks after running away from home. And when we give them our attention, if you’re like me, you feel guilty.

Homeless people comprise the lowest caste in western society. (A caste is a social division of people—often genetically linked—who share common privileges and limitations.) In India, the Dalits comprise their society’s lowest caste. Often called “the untouchables,” their name means “ground”, “suppressed”, “crushed”, or “broken to pieces.”

Undoubtedly, the homeless play a similar role in western society. To be honest, I often find myself avoiding eye contact with them out of concern that they might ask me for money, or gasp, touch me. It’s also a way to circumvent the inevitable guilt if I really see them.

Solutions to homelessness are legion. A few years ago, the mayor of Denver promised to eliminate homelessness in our city, not by shipping all of them out of town, but by providing a program to help get them on their feet. Although his measures made a dent in their presence, he fell far short of the mark when he left office.

But what is our personal responsibility when it comes to homelessness? When someone asks us for money, what do we do? Organizations that serve their particular population tell us that giving them money only reinforces the problem. Instead, we’re advised to give to one of their organizations where it will go into drug and alcohol rehab, and job counseling and training, as well as food and clothes.

John Fischer is a friend of mine. Forty-two years ago he released the first Christian “rock” album—just a few months before the more famous Larry Norman. He wrote a song every youth group in America sang in the 70s—the “All Day Song” better known as “Love Him In The Morning.” And although he’s a great musician, he’s an even better writer and thinker. My two favorite books penned by Fischer are Real Christians Don’t Dance and 12 Steps For The Recovering Pharisee (Like Me).

A few years ago, John launched a blog entitled “The Catch Of The Day”, which I subscribe to. In his June 14 post, he wrote about a recent encounter with homelessness. John and his wife Marti volunteer at a homeless shelter for women.

Recently, after enjoying breakfast with a friend, he walked past a homeless women on the street and realized that he knew her. Wanting to help her, he returned to his breakfast spot and bought a cookie to make change for the $20 bill in his wallet. Then he gave her some change.

Guilt alleviated? Nope!

As he drove away, he confesses, “I thought, ‘Hey, dumb dumb, why not give her the cookie too? Because the cookie was for me.’”

Please read closely what he says next:

Had she been one of the women from Isaiah House would I have done anything differently? Well, yes. First off, I would have sat myself down next to her and talked with her for a while. I would have gotten her name, found out how she was doing, and attempted to see if there was something I could do for her.

And I would have given her the cookie, or better yet, shared it with her. Sharing it would have put us more on an equal level. And if I gave her any money, I would have done it discreetly, instead of just handing it to her and walking away. And heck, I might as well have just given her the rest of the twenty.

It’s amazing how things change once you get to know someone.

Sharing a cookie. A simple action that won’t solve homelessness in itself, but so much better than throwing money at a “problem” and walking away. By giving and then getting on the person’s level, it brings dignity to our society’s untouchables.

Sounds a lot like Jesus.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


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How to Know if You’re a Control Freak

By Eugene C. Scott

Several thousand years ago dung beetles enjoyed god-like status. They earned this high honor by toiling day-long collecting balls of dung between their tiny horns and rolling them across the hot desert floor. Some observant Egyptian noticed this little rolling ball of dung resembled the sun’s movement. Soon the belief was born that the sun was moved across the desert sky by a huge, invisible dung beetle.

The Egyptians–and most other ancient peoples–considered the powerful, life-giving forces, such as the sun, water, fire, fertility, in nature gods–or, at least, directly controlled by a god such as a dung beetle. Thus they developed religious and sacrificial systems that they hoped would please these capricious gods. In Egypt essential crops flourished or failed based on the Nile River.  If the gods were angry it might flood and wash all their food away. Or dry up. If the gods were pleased, the Nile might over-flow its banks just enough to water even the most distant fields.

These ancient religious systems became what people turned to when life got difficult.

But it did little good. Unfortunately, still children died, crops still failed, life–like the Nile–still ebbed and flowed seemingly without respect to religious sacrifices.

Today scientists laugh at such superstitious beliefs. We know the sun is not the god Re but a star, not pushed across the sky, but a point earth orbits. Science replaced superstition. We watch the weather patterns explained and pin-pointed on the nightly news. Science has given us cloud seeding, en-vitro fertilization, the cure for polio, and brilliant inventions and technologies by the thousands. When life gets hard we have doctors, pharmaceuticals, technologies, and governments we can turn to.

A phrase from my childhood embodies this faith in science most of our world holds. “If they can put a man on the moon, they ought to be able to __________(fill in the blank).”

Unfortunately, children still die, crops still fail, tornadoes devastate, new diseases spring to life and confound and kill us while paying little homage to our scientific advancements and prowess.

Christians call such total dependence on science foolish. Christians believe there is one God who created all these things science has discovered and mastered. In line with this belief we have designed sophisticated worship liturgies that give people access to deeper meaning and connection with God. Theologians have developed systematic theologies that attempt to answer the big questions about life and God. Gifted preachers lay out the five keys to life with purpose. The promise is that when life gets hard these liturgies, systems and practices including prayer and other spiritual disciplines bring Christians healing and wholeness.

Unfortunately children still die, crops fail . . . .

Depending on your perspective and belief system you may read the three world views above and sing that sweet song from the children’s show “Sesame Street,” “One of These Things is Not Like the Other?” And each–superstitious, scientific, or spiritual–is a very different way to understand and live in the world.

But they also each have a foundational similarity. Control. Or more accurately a desire to control. The ancient Egyptians lived in a dangerous, unpredictable world. Any thing that promised even a modicum of control over that world was welcome. And their superstitious practices fit the rhythm of the seasons of life just often enough to hold out the promise of control over the mighty Nile like a carrot on a stick.

Science too, especially in its naive early days, flat-out promised to wrest control from nature and lay it in our hands. And the promise has often been fulfilled. At least tentatively. Antibiotics, heat and air-conditioning, cell-phones, air travel all put us above and beyond nature. But just as often, or more so, science has not fulfilled its promise of control. We did put a man on the moon but we often cannot fill in the blank that would give us the cure to this or that disease or the answer to so many questions. Never-the-less, most of us believed and still may.

Christian spirituality also often degenerates into attempts to control God and his world. Systematic theology unwittingly promises that if we understand God we may know how to get him to do our bidding, purpose driven lives are lives we can likewise understand and control, prayers of Jabez seem to bind God to expand our borders, and five keys to a happy life, word of faith theology, pocketbooks of God’s promises, frenzied scripture memory programs all–even, like science, though they contain some truth–appeal to our deep desire to live in a world we can keep under control.

The truth is from ancient Egypt to modern science to today’s  Christian spirituality we are control freaks.

But superstitious behavior nor mighty dams nor words of faith will tame the Nile much less God.

“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity,” wrote King Solomon. By this the great king did not mean that the pursuit of knowledge scientific or spiritual is vanity. But trying to use that information to gain control over things, people, and especially God is foolish.

Fear grows in neat garden rows fertilized with the promise of control. What if I lose control? is the weedy question that grows here. And it strangles faith. Because faith flourishes in the open fields littered with rocks and pot holes and dung. In this field faith is not the thing we use to control God and life but the thing we use to believe God is good and loves us in a life that sometimes is not under control and is not going the way we expected.

How do you know if you’re a control freak. Pinch yourself. Are you human?


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Be Still, Hurried Thoughts on Silence

by Michael Gallup

The next five Mondays I will be exploring Psalm 46 and the issue of silence. This series of blogs are adaptations of a sermon I wrote in 2009. 

February 16 was like any Monday, busy. I woke up late and skipped quiet-time in favor of finishing my homework for Greek class and studying for our daily vocabulary quiz. I did well on it and then went to Adolescent Literature after that where I had another quiz. I was in class till eleven and then I was off to take care of some pressing matters. After scarfing down my lunch, I rushed over to the conference room to get fitted for graduation. I then squeezed in a visit to the Administration building to take care of some business matters before my one o’clock. After that class I had a handful of meetings to address and then I began to work on the next day’s assignments before going home.

On my way home, I snuck into the Humanities building to check out the art exhibit, but I did not linger long; I had a lot of work to do. As I left the building, I attempted to cover the fifty yards between the door and my truck as quickly as possible. Yet, in the midst of my dash, I felt an inner plea of divine grace, a spark of mercy begging me to look up.

So, I obliged and I was stunned at what I saw: God’s glory spelled out in the stars. How often had I passed-by such awesome exhibitions of God’s grandeur? In this moment I was reminded that God was indeed with us, that He is huge and the He is beautiful. Something deep within me begged me to stop and stare. However, I agreed to merely slow down my stride; I had more important things to do.

Later that evening, I continued the busyness of the morning. Yet in the midst of my work load, I encountered something marvelously ironic and hauntingly challenging, a verse from Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Be still.

These simple words hit me like a ton of bricks. I had read this verse of Hebrew poetry hundreds of times and it had produced similar effects in me as a witty bumper sticker or a Hallmark greeting card might. And yet, as I read them again for the first time, that same spark of mercy that pleaded for me to enjoy the view of the Milky Way, lit fire within my heart and I knew that these words were just for me, just as they had been for countless other saints and sinners before me.

In the thick of the insanity of life nothing could quench my thirsty soul more than these words. I needed them like I have ever needed anything. “Be still and know that I am God.”

Michael is a busy person surrounded by grace. He is a student at Denver Seminary and an aspiring church planter. You can read his blog, A Sprig of Hope, by clicking here.



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The Truth About Heaven

by Michael J. Klassen

Heaven on Earth
We need it now
I’m sick of all of this
Hanging around
Sick of sorrow
Sick of pain
Sick of hearing again and again
That there’s gonna be
Peace on Earth

 Ten years ago, poet Paul David Hewson penned these words about heaven. You might know him better as Bono, of U2 fame. The song is entitled “Peace On Earth” which you can watch in the video above.

Strange—all too often we become so satisfied with the world we live in that we tend to forget about heaven…until people like Bono, Rob Bell, or Harold Camping remind us of its significance.

Do you ever long for heaven, I mean, really long for it? Centuries ago, negro spirituals brimmed with hope for the hereafter. Life as they knew it was so difficult that the African-American slaves looked forward to the day when they would experience relief from the pain and frustration of this present life.

To be honest, I don’t long for heaven near like I should. Sometimes I find myself quite satisfied with my life…until something bad happens. All too often, life must get so difficult that we give up placing our hope in the present.

Perhaps that is partly the purpose behind our pain—to remind us that this earth is not our home. At least not in its current form.

In Hebrews 11, we read a description of the great men and women of faith as people who admit they are “foreigners and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). Perhaps that’s what made them great people of faith: they refused to make this present earth their home, preferring to focus on the treasures of heaven.

So what will heaven be like?

  • It will be a beautiful city—think the Emerald City from Wizard of Oz, but better! (Revelation 21)
  • No one will grow old because the tree of life will be there to give us food (Genesis 3:22; Revelation 22:2). Gray hair, be gone!
  •  Eventually it will descend to its permanent location—earth (Revelation 21:2).
  • Jesus will live there with us (Revelation 21:3).
  • Boredom will be no more (Psalm 16:11).
  • No more death, pain, tears, sorrow, sickness, hospitals, operations, tragedy, disappointment, trouble, hunger, or thirst (Revelation 21:4; Isaiah 33:24; Revelation 22:3; Isaiah 65:23; Revelation 7:16).
  • No need for naps because you won’t get tired (Isaiah 40:31).
  • Life will resemble our present lives here on earth—but without the bad stuff (Isaiah 65:21-22).

As much as we might like our lives, they pale in comparison to the real thing.

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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Extreme Encounters

By Eugene C. Scott

Sitting on a rooftop, years ago, a fellow carpenter and I marveled at the wild Colorado sky. Gray, purple, white, and silver clouds mingled on the blue horizon. Distant bolts of lightning spiked out of the clouds grabbing the plains and pulling the storm down out of the Rockies. Pikes Peak shouldered gray storm clouds bravely. The summer storm rolled unchecked out of the mountains quickly swallowing the miles of empty plains separating the housing subdivision we worked in and the coming storm. We sat dumbstruck, our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches half eaten in our laps. Closer and closer the storm crawled on its legs of lightning. Thunder clapped; the mountains disappeared. Black shadows of rain streaked the sky below the clouds. It was an extreme encounter with God’s creation while sitting in the teeth of a lightning storm.

I looked over at my friend to say something profound. My words never found voice. In the still air his red hair stood, dancing like snakes to the rhythm of the thunder. He looked at me and pointed. My hair too stood straight out from my head. The storm had drawn so close the very air surrounding us was charged with electricity and about to turn us into human lightning rods. We wisely waited out the storm and finished lunch in the safety of the basement.

History records a host of people, a cloud of witnesses, scripture calls them, who have encountered Christ. Rich, poor, men, women, children, those seeking, those not. Jesus always knew their need, even when they themselves did not. Peter needed purpose, a blind man sight, Mary Magdalene forgiveness, children compassion, and Martha a spiritual perspective. He never left them unchallenged, though they sometimes left the challenge unanswered.

Having encountered Christ are we also not answering? Surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses do we sit dumbstruck staring at God’s power? Do we run and hide in the basement? Encountering God is risky. Everyone who encountered Christ took a chance. Yet, in a culture dominated by extreme experiences and risky behavior, we insulate ourselves from God. In acts of pseudo risk-taking we bungy jump, watch scary movies, drive fast, or wear edgy clothes. But, for us, taking real risks like trusting God, or reaching out to the homeless, or teaching Sunday school, or sharing Christ at work, or forgiving a friend or family member are far too real an adventure.

Though naive and dangerous, I encountered something in that electrical storm no television weather report could match–extreme reality. I’ll never forget the smell of the air, the pull of the electricity on my skin and hair, the eerie light, the quiet. So too we can read about how others encountered God or we can experience Him.

God fills the very air that surrounds us. Take a risk; stand up, face the storm, and allow God’s grace to strike your soul. Become a lightning rod. The beauty, the clarity of that moment with God will be stunning for now and forever more.


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