EASTER WEEK 2014--What about the earthquake on Good Friday when Jesus died on the cross?

When Jesus died on the cross, there was a big earthquake.  So what?  I've been asking myself that question as we move closer to our celebration of Easter.  

I wonder how the people of Jerusalem reacted to that earthquake.  Did it really shake the buildings in Jerusalem?  Was there much damage from all the moving of the earth?  Did the people in the area connect it with the death of Jesus?  Did they get it?  

What does that earthquake mean for us?  

Is it a reminder for life today that there is a God and he's in control of everything?  

Super-wife and I plan on going to a Good Friday service.  I wonder if the pastor will talk about it.  Hope so.  Here's a short video about the earthquake as mentioned in Matthew 27:50-54:


EASTER WEEK 2014--Memories of Good Friday services at the Empire in Bay City

I think my wife and I are going to go to a Good Friday service this year to recognize the death of Jesus on the cross more than 2,000 years ago.  It's an important occasion and it's one that's too easily left by the side of the calendar.

If my grandkids and I were sitting in the coffeeshop eating scones and drinking espresso and they asked me about how I celebrated Good Friday as a young boy, I'd have to tell them about the services at the Empire Theater in Bay City which were sponsored by local Lutheran Churches.

The services were held around noon time and were at one of the nicest places in our small city on the side of the Saginaw River.  Hundreds would attend.  One of the local pastors would give a sermon where the Good Friday story would be told.  There must have been choir music, but I don't remember it. 

When it was over, I remember walking out of the theater onto Washington Street and everything would be quiet on the busiest street in town.  Stores had shutdown as part of the observance.

Here a picture of the Empire from the Cinema Treasures site.

Empire bay city

EASTER WEEK 2014--Getting ready for Good Friday and Easter Sunday

We celebrate Easter this coming weekend.  For me personally, it's easy to let the relevance of the occasion slide by without tbinking about why we take time out for this special day.  

If I was sitting around the dinner table with my three grandchildren and if they asked how I celebrated Easter as a child, I'd go back to an archive of memories.  Growing up in Bay City, right at the door way to northern Michigan, my first memories of the season were at Immanuel Lutheran Church on the eastside of the Saginaw River.

The organ music was grand and the church was decorated with lillies and other elements that emphasized light.  There were always lots of people, many of whom sat on chairs set up in the aisles. And when they sang the Easter hymns, you could actually hear the people singing louder than the organ played.  

As a young child, I almost expected that Jesus was waiting off on the side ready to make an entrance. For an hour or so, the hope inside the church was thick and bright.

I wonder what Easter is like at Immanuel these days.  

I don't remember hearing this song when I was a kid, but I think Sandi Patty captures the essence of Easter Sunday.  It's a special day that these days seems to have been co-opted by the Easter Bunny.  




What can I learn from Jesus washing his disciple's feet?

Have you ever heard a sermon about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper?  I've heard many.  The actual occasion is found in John 13.  I remember going to a Promise Keepers event with my son and seeing many of the leaders wash each other's feet.

It's too easy to that incident literally.  At church Sunday, Bob King, a preaching pastor at Ada Bible Church, spoke about it from a larger context.  

He did talk about serving others as a way of duplicating reflecting what Jesus did for me.  He first talked about allowing Jesus to clean our hearts from the sin that permeates it.  

I invite you to watch the sermon by clicking on the video above this post.  I'm going to listen to it again.

How "contented" and "satisfied" am I with my life right now?


For the past six weeks, our church--Ada Bible Church--has been going through a series of sermons on living a contented and satisfied life during a time when we have a consumer culture.  It has produced some significant conversation between super-wife and I.

We are not rich, but we have a significant amount of stuff.  It's almost embarrasing to catalog our earthly belongings and then think that we need to have more.

But we've been reminded that the more you have the easier it is to ignore God and what he has done for us.  It can distance me from God and as I get older I know that I want no distance in that relationship.

I need to spend more time with this sermon series.  Each part is live-streamed and then archived.  Each day we get a devotion emailed to us based on the sermon.  Here are the links to each sermon. I invite you to check them out. 

Super-wife and I have enrolled in the "school of contentment"

Jeff Manion's new book on contentment
This is the textbook for our "school of contentment"

There are certain things keeping super-wife and me from being really contented.  I see one of them everytime I look out our living room window this morning and see the deep Michigan gray and when I think of round two of the polar vortex coming tonight which will bring single-digit temps.

Sometime during the day today one of us will talk about how nice it would be to live in Florida where on the coldest day a light jacket would be sufficient.  And if your local utility has a power outage, your main concern is about humidity.  Life would be so much more comfortable, we like to think.

Those kinds of thoughts that seem to permeate lots of life areas are the topic of a series of sermons at our church by Jeff Manion, our pastor.  Today is lesson one and there will be homework and projects.

There's a textbook--Satisfied, Discovering Contentment in a World of Consumption.  He wrote it in a way that's incredibly relevant to everyday life.  


Should a leader be afraid to show his weakness?

Don Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and other books and a movie-maker, has a great quote about leaders who are afraid to show their weakness.  Will you follow somebody who acts perfect and not human.  Miller makes great point.  It affects all kinds of leaders, including pastors.

This was on his Facebook page which is worth following.

Don miller

We may be starting a new tradition with our Saturday night house church

This is the third Saturday where we've eaten supper in front of the computer while we watched a live service from our church.  It our own litte house church with just the two of us attending.

The service is broadcast live from Ada Bible Church just east of Grand Rapids and goes from the beginning to the end.  There's the worship songs and the teaching with various other items intermingled.

Why do we do church twice?  Same service with the same songs and sermon.  We see it as preparation for the in-person service tomorrow.  Tonight, I took notes about the song and about the sermon.

I feel excited about going tomorrow.  I have some time between tonight and the time of the service tomorrow to think about the service and what's going to be said and sung.  

My relationship with God needs to be closer.  I'm excited to have God help that along.  I need to get rid of the life distractions for tomorrow's service.  This helps.  We will be ready.

My Lutheran pastor friend took on the State Department about wearing his clerical collar and won

My friend Mark Powell is a Lutheran pastor just south of Indianapolis who just challenged the U.S. State Department and won.  He was denied a U.S. Passport because the picture he submitted showed him wearing a clerical collar.

For him the clerical collar on his shirt is part of his daily work clothes and important to the practice of his religious beliefs.  When the State Department said he had to change his clothes he recruited a lawyer to send a letter on his behalf.  The passport agency backed down and apologized.

Way to go, Mark.  He and I worked together in the Michigan Legislature where we were both staff members.  He also baptized my grandson Xavier.  Here's a tv news story from Indianapolis about what happened:


Mark powell
Click on this picture to reach the video player for the story.


Beer drinkers tweet more than church members in Michigan

Are Michigan churches missing an opportunity to get their word out by not using Twitter?

Check this recent study of Twitter use in Michigan reported in mLive to see if resident tweeters write more about beer or church.  It's beer.

Are pastors and church members missing a chance to go where people hangout?  In Twitter groups.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: I'm not afraid of being dead, it's getting dead that bothers me

I'm drawn to people with stories who are facing these bigger than life-sized challenges.  And that's why I added the blog of Pastor Ed Dobson to the blogroll on this blog.  You'll find it by scrolling down in the right margin.Are you facing a bigger than life challenge today?  I think of the people in Marysville, Indiana who lost everything to a tornado over the week.  Their whole town was wiped out.  There are people facing severe health problems with huge suffering and no answers in site.  The list could go on and on.

Pastor Dobson has a nasty, degenerative disease called ALS.  Hearing it described, it sounds like wading through the fires of hell before you die.  He writes about it in his blog.  Now like a lot of blogs, it hasn't been updated in a few months.  But his posts are timeless.  He's a real guy who's facing a disease that can shove you through the door to the dark side.

I found this quote on his blog:

I’m not afraid of being dead. It’s getting dead that bothers me. For me, “getting dead” involves choices about wheelchairs, communication assistance, feeding tubes and breathing assistance. It’s not pleasant when I think of the future. Of course, I try to ignore it but the underlying reality is always there. 

He does share how he deals with this.  It's very real.  He's not always, "Glory Alleulia" and "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "Thank-you God for giving me this disease."  

Even though his blog hasn't been updated in a while, I will keep it in my blogroll as a reminder on facing obstacles.  I've seen a few, but none like his.  Perhaps, others might find it helpful.


Trying to decide what I learned from the Seven Churches of Revelation

AdaWhat about your church?  What about my church?  

How would they compare to the seven churches mentioned in the Bible's book of Revelation?  

Super-wife and I listened to and pondered eight sermons about these churches at Ada Bible Church where we were astounded by how similar their challenges were to those in our culture.  Pastor Jeff Manion used the sermons to examine the lives of individual Christians rather than look at churches as a whole.

The challenge after hearing him talk about the last church--Laodicea--is how to make this personal to each of us and to operationalize this in our lives.  

I have lots of questions and thoughts after the sermons, but I have one big one that I haven't heard an answer to.  

Each of these churches got a letter written to them in Revelation.  How did they respond to the affirmation and then the criticism?  Did this make a difference for them?  How has these letters affected Christians down through the ages?

What difference did these sermons make at our church?  It's hard to gauge this because the place is so huge.  It would be helpful is worshippers had a place to talk about the sermons.  I know there are small groups.  But they have their limits.


Getting ready for church in Port Au Prince, Haiti

I remember going to church on our first Sunday in Haiti exactly one year ago.  I hope I never forget getting up in an orphanage filled with noisy children who had either lost or been abadoned by their families.  As we crossed the small compound, they would reach out with their hands wanting to be picked-up.  Their eyes were windows to a world that most never experience.

Our bus driver Leonard drove us through the heart of Port Au Prince where thousands of men, women and children were dressed in their Sunday clothes with Bibles in hand walking to church.  Exhaust from the vehicles on the road was borderline nauseating.  

It's hard to imagine that they had more than two sets of clothes, one for Sundays and the other for everyday.  

The church was on the side of an inner-city hill and its outward appearance it was very humble, but inside it was a cathederal of hope.  Everybody in the service introduced themselves to us and shook our hands and they shared their Creole hymnals during the singing.  The liturgy was an occasion for them to shout out their faith in God and to state their hope in Jesus.

They had so little.  In fact, they had almost nothing, except down deep, we saw that they had everything.  They were free.  Check this video from the Billy Graham Evangelism Association about how they are sharing the Gospel there this year.

I'm still processing yesterday's sermon about the church at Smyrna-- #7churches

Yesterday at Ada Bible Church, super-wife and I heard a great sermon from Rev. 2:8-11 about the ancient church at Smyrna located in what is modern-day Turkey.  It was one of the seven churches in that part of the world to receive a letter evaluating their ministry and their fealty to Jesus Christ.

What we heard was a down-to-earth, very relevant to contemporary life sermon that contains ammunition for dealing with the sometimes crushing circumstances of everyday life.  

Pastor Jeff Manion carefully explained the historical background of that particular church and how its members faced crushing persecution that made their life seem impossible.

Two points from the sermon:  1)  Don't be afraid and 2) Be faithful.  That was the encouragement that Jesus gave to church member at Smyrna.  And as Manion pointed out the power to do this comes from good news of the Gospel.  

I'm processing all this and trying to make it part of my life.

I invite you to view this.  Listen to what he has to say from the Bible.  Does it resonate with you?  Is there an answer here that makes sense?  


Here's a good link to info about the ancient city of Smyrna from Biblical times

I did a Google search for Smyrna, the ancient Biblical city, from the Bible's book of Revelation and found this site giving information with pictures about the ruins left there today.  This is part of my effort to prepare for church today where we are learning about the Seven Churches from the last book in the Bible.  This site is helpful.

Trying to read ahead about the church at Smyrna and how it relates to me in mid-Michigan

Do you understand what John says in Revelation 2 about the Seven Churches?  That's what we are learning about in church.  Today we are on the second church, the one at Smyrna in what is now modern-day Turkey.  Here's the portion that we will be learning about today:

To the Church in Smyrna

    8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

   These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

We are a lot of years away from when that was written and we are a long way from Turkey.  What is God saying here?

Is his church going to face persecution?  It does in some parts of the world.  How about here?  Is that to come?  Have the candlesticks been removed from our local churches?  What does this say to me as an individual?

Getting ready for church: What can I learn from the Seven Churches of Revelation?

Have you ever read about, meditated on or understood the relevance of the Seven Churches of Revelation?  Today at Ada Bible Church, Pastor Jeff Manion will talk about the church at Symrna, an ancient city in present-day Turkey.  What does that mean to me living in Michigan almost two thousand years later?  I'll be listening carefully and taking notes.  We will be talking about it on the way home.

Click here to watch the first two sermons and click here on Monday for today's.


Getting ready for church on this Sunday morning late in August

image from www.flickr.com

The above picture was taken by my son Justin Thorp.  It has to be in front of a tavern.  Right?

I'm waiting in line to use the shower in our busy little household as we get ready to go to church.  It's a perfect time for me to get my head and heart in a right place where I am ready to meet God and fill up my internal hope tank for another week.  I find it too easy to breeze into church, get a cup of coffee, sit down and let it happen.

I know that I need to position myself to be open to God and his love.  I have to be ready to receive it.  Here's a couple of the things I've been reading to help me with that this morning:

  • Oswald Chambers from his devotional book My Utmost for His Highest writes about being Christ aware, rather than self-aware.  I find it too easy to focus on circumstance of the present whether in politics or in the culture before I focus and be more aware of Jesus Christ and who he is, what he has done and continues to do.
  • From the Twitter and Facebook feed of David Maier, president of the Michigan District of the Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod who sent this tweet this morning:


Maier shares a serious and very important point.  I need to live more intentionally, particularly as I more firmly enter my senior citizen years.  The clock is running on my life and I need to make each moment count.  It' easy to get distracted.

It's my turn in the shower and then off to church.


Grace Lutheran in Destin, Florida tackles God's expectation of church versus the cultural church

We've been to Grace Lutheran Church in Destin, Florida several times and if we ever snow-birded it or moved to that area of the Panhandle, it would have to be a church we'd have to consider getting involved with. 

Check out their present sermon series on firing up the church and getting it to be an active, productive extension of the hand of God in their location.  Keep in mind this church is part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS).  It has a reputation for being pretty staid and set in its ways.