Sunday, March 31, 2013


The long, Wisconsin winter we are STILL enduring is finally showing signs of loosening its vice-like grip on us. We received a lot of snow this year, but now, there are little rivulets of water running down the street in front of our house. And, although our yard is still covered with snow, there are now small, optomistic bare spots here and there.

Usually these patches of bare ground occur where something warm has been. Like where the deer have dug down to find and eat some of my wife's plants. The sun hits the exposed dark soil and the dirt begins to gather that warmth . . . and the warmth spreads.

There are also a few spots where the deer have slept during the night, their body heat melting the snow beneath them. We have been blessed this early spring to have had dozens of deer spending the night in our backyard. They are a joy to watch . . . as they . . . eat my wifes plants.

Another open patch of soft, thawed dirt is also visible over our septic tank - another popular place for deer to forage for something "tasty." The heat from the water we pump out there from the toilet, bathtub & kitchen sink melts the snow. One of my mother's favorite writers was Erma Bombeck who wrote a book entitled The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank. Ha ha! So true!

We have yet to see our first robin or red-winged blackbird - sure signs of spring here in Wisconsin. But for me, it's not spring until I see the leaves popping out on the trees and bushes in our yard. It's not spring until I see the daffodils blooming in my wife's garden on the south side of the garage.

The thing I like about spring is the overall sense of renewal. The fall season is kind of depressing because everything is either dead or dying. Leaves are falling off the trees, the grass stops growing and begins to turn brown. It's all rather depressing. But spring . . . . ahh, spring! The death and depression experienced during the fall and winter fades and we begin to see signs of new life and new growth. Spring is a season of hope and renewal.

Good Friday is a sad day in the life of a Christian. It was for me yesterday. I wonder what it must have been like for the followers of Jesus as they saw him hanging on that cross, dead. He was someone they loved, someone they looked to for knowledge and hope. To suddenly find him gone must have been devastating for them. That was the day on which everything they believed in . . . vanished - their spiritual winter of sorts. What they needed was a sign - a sign of spring, to give them hope.

Fast forward a few days. After Joseph of Arimathea had laid Jesus to rest in the tomb, the disciples were all hanging out at somebody's house. No doubt they were wondering what they should do without their teacher, their rabbi. Mary obviously wanted to be elsewhere and had gone to the tomb. Upon her arrival she discovered that the stone blocking its entrance had been rolled away. She freaked and went to tell the disciples. They came running and found what she had told them was true but then they left. Only Mary remained.

What happened next in the life of Mary was a true sign of spring. A true sign of hope for the future and of things to come. See saw Jesus, risen from the dead. She assumed he was the gardener. I submit to you on this Ressurection Sunday, that Jesus WAS and IS the gardener!

Think about it. What do gardeners do in the spring? They till the soil. They prepare the garden for planting. They sow the seed. They water and protect the new plants. They remove the weeds that inhibit growth. They provide nourishment for their plants and they pray that there will be plenty of sun to ensure a long, abundant life. Isn't that what God does for us? Aren't we His seedlings?

"For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations." - Isaiah 61:11

Jesus told a few parables about seeds and gardens. The first one that popped into my head while writing this was the Parable of The Sower.

"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” - Matthew 13: 1-9

The second parable was a little more ominous - The Parable of The Fruit Tree.

"And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’” - Luke 13:6-9

I praise God for His providing us with a means to join Him in heaven one day, despite our sinfulness. When you get right down to it, the truth about us humans is that we deserve death rather than life. Everyone one of us. But God's grace covers us IF we allow Him to be Lord over us. That means that belief is NOT ENOUGH. Read James 2:19 sometime. There must be evidence of our belief, fruit on the tree, otherwise our "faith is dead" and we WILL be cut down.

This spring I pray we all would embrace the risen Christ and make Him Lord over our lives. We need to start living what we believe rather than just going to church on Sunday and then going back to our daily routine. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. When The Father, the gardener, comes by, pruning His plants, He WILL cut off the useless branches and throw them into the fire.

I pray that I might show signs of life to a holy and just God, here on MY little branch of the vine. I want to be useful to the one who gave me life - the one who made me bloom. You see, I too have been resurrected. My old self has died and my new self has come. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." - Romans 6:1-14

Christ has risen from the dead! And so shall we . . . who believe.

Friday, March 29, 2013


So, yesterday was my 60th birthday. Not that that means anything. Well, it means I'm kind of old, or at least my body is. Inside I feel more like a slightly mature teenager. You know, still willing to do crazy things but having the common sense to think about them before I do.

I was able to spend my birthday doing what I love to do. I spent it with my friends at work. Two of my closest "friends" sabotaged my office with "over the hill" balloons and a big sign that read "old fart zone." Nice. It drew a lot of attention. It was their way of showing me that they love me.

I was able to spend my birthday night with someone else I love - my wonderful wife. We've been reading a book together and finished it last night. As I reflect back on the book it was really the story of Joseph (that was the guys name in the book) and his mercy and forgiveness towards his brothers.

The night before, I was doing something else I love. Spending time with teens. They sang Happy Birthday to me and picked on me and my age for most of the night. I was called "old" and a "dinosaur" but it was all done in love. I felt so incredibly blessed, having so many friends telling me they love me.

This morning I got to thinking about gifts. Gifts given and gifts received.

When we become Christians, followers of Jesus, and we surrender our hearts to him out of love and respect for what He did for us on the cross, we receive His Holy Spirit - God's gift to us. Listen to the promise He made.

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." - John 14:15-17

What an incredible gift! To have God's Holy Spirit living in us!!

When we first come to believe and we receive His Holy Spirit in us, we become changed. It's like we had these seeds inside us . . . hidden gifts. They are called the fruit of the Spirit. They are like God's calling card - evidence that God's Holy Spirit is in us. When God's Holy Spirit enters us these gifts become enhanced.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23

One of the "spiritual gifts" that has been "programmed" into me is mercy. That means I have a great compassion for others who are hurting or are in need. That is why I have been moved to donate blood. That is why I volunteer at the local food pantry and at church. I enjoy doing those things because I am able to us my gift of compassion. It "feels" good. But WHY does it feel good?

When I was at church on Wednesday night I used my gift as I listened as three people share with me things that were hurting them, emotionally. If you look at those encounters from a heavenly perspective, I was given the opportunity to use my gift AS a gift. By using my God-given gift of compassion for others, I was in effect worshipping God by using the gifts He has given me. I feel good when I use those gifts because I doing exactly what God wants me to do and that makes me VERY happy. Does that make sense?

Good Friday is especially hard for most Christians. It is a reminder of all the gifts, and sacrifices, God has made for us. The birth and death of Jesus - gifts given to us out of love. How it must hurt God when we ignore these precious gifts . . . ignore the death of Jesus, His one and only son, who was sacrificed on a cross . . . like a common criminal . . . for us. Bearing OUR sins on himself.

"From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
- Matthew 27:45-54

Today is the day we as Christians recognize this most precious of God's gifts. It is through the death of Jesus, and his subsequent resurrection, that we ALL can have the gift of new life. Let us give Him thanks and praise for the gift of His precious Son.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


These days I think we are ALL pretty busy. Life pulls at us from many different directions. I don't know about you but between work, home, and church, MY schedule gets pretty full. Then I look at the life of a teen today. They are expected to learn and do far more these days than I EVER did!
School occupies much of their schedule. Then add in homework, a job, driver training, softball practise, play practice, baby sitting. You get the idea. But wait! There's more! I forgot to add in all the stress of grades, finals, all the drama associated with high school relationships, family expectations & chores . . . it's not easy. What we all need, but especially teens, is a well-adjusted set of priorities.
I was talking to the mother of a teen that USED TO attend youth group every Wednesday. The mother was very apologetic saying, "Susie will come back to youth group once basketball season is over." Guess what. Susie never came back to youth group. God was not a priority in her life.
Before I knew Jesus my priorities were much like most of the teens I encounter these days - even in my 50's! Most of the adults I know have the same, whacked-out priority system too. Our priorities are focused on worldly things and not on God. The funny thing is, if we'd only focus on God and make Him our #1 priority, our lives would be made SO much simpler.
My life used to be all about me. I had a good job and a great family. I even saved up enough money to buy myself a really fast car. But God was nowhere in the picture. Since answering God's calling however, my priorities have changed. Like an underdog race horse, God came from WAY behind in my "priority race" to take the lead in dramatic style. Work began to become less important. I sold the car. My family, while still extremely important, dropped from first to second place. I prioritized my life, and made God first.
Then something really amazing happened.
As soon as my relationship with Jesus became a priority, all the other areas of my life began to improve. The relationship with my wife got better, my relationship with my children and my friends all improved. And I began gaining more and more new friends as God's Holy Spirit led me to volunteer in our community. Hmm.
I believe that God blesses those who honor Him with their obedience. Hey, it's biblical!
"Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart." - Psalm 119:2
The decisions we make when we assign priorities to things and people in our lives run through "filters" - the filter of our hearts, the filter of our minds, and for the Christian, the filter of the Holy Spirit. The things that are most important to us get the highest priorities. We can place great importance on our jobs but what does that gain us? More money perhaps. A bigger house or . . . in my case, a fast car. But fast cars wear out quickly. Houses can collapse or get destroyed in a storm. Even making family and friends our number one priority can cause problems through disappointments and hurt feelings. Only when we place our faith in Christ, and make HIM our #1 priority, does everything else make sense. Only then does everything seem to fall into place.
Sometimes though, such prioritizing comes with a cost. Placing God first in our lives can cost us relationships with friends and even family members. Becoming a Christian has led to being dishonored in some countries of the world. Even martyred! A tremendous cost can sometimes be made for our priorities.
 For Jesus there are TWO priorities. Only two.
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'" - Matthew 22:36-39
Those should be our priorities as well. God first, others second and we should be last. Why? Why should we place our selves last?
"But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." - Matthew 19:30
Because we all will stand before Jesus one day and we WILL be judged.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." - 2 Corinthians 5:10
We have been given our priorities, in Christ, in that verse from Matthew 22. Each of us must examine ourselves, daily, to see how OUR priorities line up with our Heavenly Father's. I'm not sure about you, but when I get to heaven, I LONG to hear Jesus say to me, "Well done, good and faithful servant." May the same thing be said of you.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Our entire immediate family was in Michigan this past weekend for a mini family reunion of sorts. We usually get together around Christmas time but that didn't happen this year due to our son and his wife giving birth to their first child in late October so . . .

This was the first time my side of our family got to meet the newest piece of fruit on the family tree, our grandson. Our daughter also got engaged recently, as well as my nephew, so two new "branches" of our family are sprouting, right before our eyes. A healthy family tree that is growing and bearing fruit. That's so cool to see and be a part of.

However, not all families in this world are blessed with the love and closeness that our family has been. Some families have arguments at family get togethers. Other families actually have split up. Family reunions are none existing. There are "trees" in the forest of families that have lost branches - suffering heavy damage, others have had new branches grafted in. Some family trees, sadly, have actually died. However, there is hope for those without a family - in Christ.

"Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." - Galatians 3:13-29

I have noticed an incredible closeness with many of my brothers and sisters in Christ since I came to believe. I find this amazing. These people, who otherwise would be merely acquaintances or friends, have become brothers and sisters through our mutual faith in Christ. We are that close! I am incredibly close to my physical brother and sister, but spiritually, I almost feel closer to non-blood relatives who have placed their faith in Jesus. We are indeed brothers and sister because we have the same Father, in heaven.

There truly is nothing like this common bond with God as the head of the family tree. We truly are a family of biblical proportions. There are millions of us! As numerous as the stars in the sky."

However, I fear our numbers are dwindling. The Bible speaks of "a remnant" and Matthew 24:10 tells us that "many will fall from the faith" in the last days. I see a falling away happening right now. Our spiritual "family tree" is decreasing in lushness. Our leaves are shriveling. But there IS hope. :)

Look at the picture I have included with this post. It's a tree. A NEW tree, growing out of what? A dead tree. Life from death. Beautiful! The tree in the picture represents a NEW "family tree, " a new tree which has sprung up from death . . . the death of Jesus and the death of ourselves. You and I can have new life, just like that tree, in a new eternal family, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our belief in Him and our death . . . the death of our old selves, grafts us into that beautful, wonder life-giving family tree. Resurrected to new life.

If you are experiencing trouble in your family. If the seeds of hope are having difficulty springing to life. Water that dead seed with life-giving water and soon you will experience the true joy that comes with a loving, caring eternal family and a Father who will treat every member as His own, through Jesus.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also." - John 12:24-26

Thursday, March 21, 2013


There are some people who have lots of friends. They're SO popular. Other people have very few friends. Who do you suppose values their friendships more? The person with many friends? Or the person with a few? Truthfully, I don't think it matters so much HOW many friends we have, it's the quality of those friendships. So let me ask you, how many friendships do you have that are precious?

Webster defines precious as something "of great value, highly esteemed or cherished" - like a precious jewel. Perhaps for some, when we hear the word "precious," it conjures up images of Smeagol from the Lord of The Rings trilogy. "My precious! We wants it. We needs the precious!" Gollum provides us with a different definition of the word precious. For him, his "precious" is more of an obsession. Ultimately, Smeagol perishes in his pursuit of his "precious" ring.

I saw an example of something precious this week. A friend of mine at work recently had to put her dog down. The dog was suffering greatly. It hurt my friend tremendously to do what was necessary but it was done with mercy and compassion and grace. What was precious to my friend, her dog, was converted in an instant to precious memories. My friends desire to have something precious to love once again, led to a precious little puppy being welcomed into her home. After seeing the tears in my friends eyes a few weeks ago, my friend's smile became precious . . . to see her happy again.

The picture in this blog is from a movie called Precious. I have never seen the movie. But I encourage you to watch the trailer. This young girl simply wants to be precious to somebody. She is bullied, abused at home . . . her self-worth is zero. Yet she IS precious!

This past October, my son and his wife gave birth to a baby boy. You want to talk about precious? I can appreciate his preciousness simply by watching him sleep. Of course, he's not always that quiet. When he's cranky, the word "precious" is seldom used. It is during times of struggle that we tend to forget just how precious things are to us.

Before I gave my life to Jesus I had very few friends. I had acquaintances, but true friends were few and far between. Today, I find myself blessed with many friends, even some VERY good friends. They are truly precious and occupy a very special place in my heart. But there is none, no one, who holds a more precious place in my heart than Jesus - the Son of the living God. Why?

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand — when I awake, I am still with you." - Psalm 139:13-18

Before I was even born, all of my friends were thought of. My wife was created and we "somehow" met through a mutual friend . . . from my high school youth group. It is mind-boggling how God works. I believe he "enhances" situations by bringing people together, all for His ultimate glory.

One of the pastors at our church described all ideal relationships as a triangle. There are three persons involved, not just two. There's you, the other person, and God. With God at the pinnacle of the relationship triangle, think of what happens to an earthly relationship when the two other people each get closer to God. They actually get closer to each other! The two bottom points, as they travel closer to God along the lines of the triangle, automatically get closer to each other. That's a perfect, balanced relationship. That is precious, because relationships like that are rare these.

Our earthly, secular relationships tend to be binary in nature - only two people involved. Imagine the same triangle, God still at the top. What happens to the triangle when the two people on the bottom of the triangle get closer to each other but not to God? They eventually meet in the middle but there is no base on which the triangle can stand. Without a base the now extremely acute triangle can be easily knocked over and the marriage struggles for balance. Many of these relationships fail.

Relationships are extremely precious to God. It is our precious relationship with Him, our faith, that saves us. I pray that your precious soul has surrendered to Jesus so that you can know that most perfectly precious love that only comes from above. There is no balance in any relationship that is solely based in this world. It is doomed to fail. But trust in Jesus? You will soon discover the true meaning of the word "precious."

Remember this song?

"Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Black and yellow, red and white, they're all precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world"

We ALL are precious in His site. But can the same be said of us? Is God precious? Is He "of great value, highly esteemed or cherished." He should be. If he's not, please make him precious in your life today.

Monday, March 18, 2013


According to my calendar, spring is just a few days away. But looking out my window here in Wisconsin, it seems like it will be months before all this snow melts and we see green grass and leaves popping out again. This was a long, snow-filled winter for us here in the Badger State.

New-fallen snow CAN be a beautiful thing . . . back in December, right around Christmas time it's beautiful. But now? I just want the stuff to die. Be gone! Melt already, would ya?!?

There's a lot of yucky, dead stuff hidden under the snow right now. My wife and I bought the lot for our house in the winter time. It looked so beautiful! When the snow melted in the spring we found the ground covered with beer cans, newspapers, pieces of plastic, cigarette butts . . . quite a list of wretched refuse.

After the snow finally gives way to the warmer temperatures, things begin to grow around here. We live where there are lots of pine trees and oaks. Each spring there are lots of new little seedlings in our yard. Some sprout up in the most unusual places.

I've seen plants growing in the gutters on our house. That doesn't speak too well of my outdoor yard skills. I've seen pine trees work their way out of cracks in our sidewalk and in our paved driveway. I've even seen and oak tree growing up out of a dead pine tree. Weird.

The seeds that have the best chance of survival are the ones that are NOT in my way. If you're a tree and you're growing in the middle of my driveway . . . I'm sorry, but you are going to die. If you're trying to survive in my gutter, you're going out to the compost pile. You are NOT going to make it.

Sometimes people can be like that. Not that they hang out in my driveway or my gutter all the time. And I am NOT planning on chopping anyone up and burying them in the compost pile . . . THIS year. ;) But there are some people who, well, they just don't seem receptive to hearing The Gospel. It's sad.

Jesus once spoke about all kinds of people and their faith in The Parable of the Sower.

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” - Matthew 13:1-9

Jesus told us how some people simply will not be interested in hearing the Gospel. As a result of their disbelief, well, they will receive what's coming to them. Sadly, they will be like the seeds eaten by the birds in the parable - never to know what it will be like to spring to true life through Jesus Christ.

Some seeds in our yard try to take root in pure sand, which we have a lot of around here. It's easy for them to sink their roots into the barren soil. They grow in the plentiful spring rain. But during the summer months, when the rains are few and the wind is plentiful, they fall over and die.

I have seen people like this too . . . every day in the mirror for most of my life. Before I came to believe, I occasionally went to church on Sunday but that's as far as my commitment to God went. The prophet Isaiah spoke what God thought of this type of faith saying,

"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught." - Isaiah 29:1

There is one type of seed / soil condition not mentioned in the passage from Matthew. Actually, it's more like a two types in one. God is an amazing gardener. Seeds are watered and nourished according to His will. Some grow, some wither and die, and some, like me, get transplanted.

My faith in my younger years was like a seed laying dormant under barren, arid soil. It never sprouted. It never took root. Then one day God stirred up the soil. He placed me, that dormant seed, into more fertile soil. He provided "water and nourishment" through a friend at work. And I finally came to life. And I grew!

Everywhere we go in this life we encounter seeds sown by God onto various types of soil. Some of these seeds grow amazingly well where they are planted. Others wither and die. And some struggle to survive. They don't get enough water. Their soil doesn't have enough nutrients in it to produce growth. So, what do we do when we encounter these seedlings who struggle on their own. Like I did.

The answer is all around us. Perhaps you have seen it wherever you are. Question: Do you usually see pine trees standing all by themselves? Or do you tend to see them in groups? Actually, if you look, most pine trees are found in groups. Do you know why? They support each other when the storms come. They hold on to each other when the strong winds blow. And so should it be with us.

I encourage you to come along side someone like my friend did for me. Make a difference in someones life. Take an interest in a struggling teen. You see, we too are seed planters. Examples really. We are a lighthouse shining out to sea. Our bright light may be annoying to some, but to a ship lost in a storm it can be life saving.

YOU can make a difference in someone's life. Someone did that for me. Someone probably did that for you. Pass it on! Do what Jesus commanded us to do - "Go and make disciples." God will be glad you did.

"My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." - James 5:19-20

Seed Germination Time Lapse

Saturday, March 16, 2013


"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard;" - Matthew 10:16-17

There is nothing more frightening than a group of bored teenagers. Someone is bound to come up with a really stupid idea and the rest will say "Sure!" because they are also bored and have nothing better to do. How do I know this? Because I was a really bored teenager one day when a friend said to me, "Let's drive 2 1/2 hours to northern Wisconsin and climb some cliffs, without using ropes or anything else important, like, oh, I don't know . . . OUR BRAINS!?!?"

"What a stupid thing to do," I told myself, as I clung to a little nub of a rock, 2/3 of the way up a 100-foot cliff in Door County's Peninsula State Park. No ropes, no real free-climbing experience except for the occasional childhood tree. And now, through my idealistic "I am invincible" thinking, I had led myself and a friend into a life-or-death scenario, dependant solely on one huge leap of faith. Literally.

There was nowhere to go, looking up at our hopeful destination, and we sure as heck weren't going to try inching our way back down that cliff. My eyes became focused on a tree root, just beyond my reach to the right. It looked strong enough, and there was a climbing route above it, but in order to reach our means of escape I would have to let go of the rock I was clinging to. The one "sure thing" I knew, I was going to have to leave behind, in hopes of continuing the climb to safety. I had to have faith in that tree root, that it would hold my weight. If it broke, I knew I would soon be doing the same thing on the rocks below. But I had no choice. I had to jump so . . . I jumped.

Once I had made that decision and survived, my friend, who was following me all the way, quickly made the same leap of faith. For him it was much easier because he had seen me do it first. And he KNEW the tree root had held my weight. Sometimes it is safer to be a follower than it is being a leader. Read on.

Leaders and teachers have a tremendous responsibility. But followers have a tremendous responsibility as well. Who are the examples you are following in YOUR faith walk?

When I first came to believe, I trusted everybody. Everything in my Christian life was sweetness and light. I listened intently to sermons. I read many books - absorbing all kinds of information as my spiritual knowledge grew. What a naive little lamb I was. Then one day, all that changed.

I listened to an eighth grade confirmation lesson at a local Lutheran church of the ELCA variety. It was a simple multiple-choice question: "The Bible _____." a) is a history book, b) is the inerrant word of God, c) is a collection of stories to learn from and d) contains errors and contradictions.

That seemed like a rather easy question to me. I smiled as I waited for one of the teens to answer. As a relatively young "student" myself, I selected "b", the inerrant word of God. Then came the answer. It's a good feeling, knowing the answer. I KNEW I was right. God's Word is true! Yet, when the answer was revealed, the youth pastor said the correct answer was "d." - contains errors and contradictions. What!?

How can the Bible contain errors and contradictions? Which of God's wonderful statements was in error? I thought God's Word was true. Doubt began to creep in. Into my mind as well as the minds of the students.

Do you see the dangers of what they were teaching? And they were teaching this to young, growing minds. That was the beginning of the end for me at that church. Those poor, helpless little lambs.

But, as God always does, he turned a bad thing into something good. I began to dig my heals in. I began to study. And I grew stronger in my faith and in my beliefs as a result. I became a Berean!

"Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." - Acts 17:11

Today, we see different faiths, different pastors leading different flocks. Unfortunately, worshipping different gods than ours I'm afraid. Who can we trust? Ever hear the phrase, "wolves in sheep's clothing? "Baaah."

There was a band back in the 60's named Sam the Sham and the Pharohs. They had a song called Little Red Riding Hood. It was their rendition of an old French fairy tale, sung from the viewpoint of the wolf. Near the end of the song you can hear the wolf howl, "A-ooo" then say, . . . "I mean, baaah." Yup. A wolf in sheep's clothing. Unfortunately, they exist in our world today and it ain't no fairy tale.

Former pastor Rob Bell now spends his time teaching that there is no hell. "A-ooo! I mean, baaah." Joel Osteen teaches that we can just "declare" our wants to God and have them fulfilled. "A-ooo! I mean baaah." Oprah Winfrey says she is a Christian, yet she denies that Jesus is the only way to heaven. "A-ooo! I mean baaah." Emergent leader Tony Jones questions the validity of the atonement of Jesus Christ, calling it, "the depraved doctrine of original sin." "A-ooo! I mean, baaah."

When I listen to anyone speak these days, whether on TV or delivering a message on a Sunday morning, I now listen through a filter. This filter is available to anyone who wishes to use it. It's called God's Word - the Bible.

The aforementioned television is an especially dangerous place to learn about trust and/or the Bible. I trust only in what I have learned from God, NOT in what others would have us believe.

The current mini-series on The History Channel for example - "The Bible." Is it truthful? Can we trust it? Is it correct? Hey, it's on TV. It must be true, right? Hmm. I have compared The Bible's version of their chosen biblical stories against what the Bible actually says about them and sadly, there ARE mistakes, "errors and omissions", in their depiction of things. "Ninja" angels might make for a more interesting Sodom and Gomorrah story but their leaping, spinning, double-sword wielding antics are not in the Bible. The exclusion of certain important elements of the story (like the townspeople wanting to have sex with the angels) creates a "new version" of the story for the audience to "believe" in. It may be politically correct perhaps, but their program is leading potential believers astray. "A-ooo, I mean baaah."

Matthew 24:4-5 - "Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many."

In our human relationships, we often find ourselves as lambs among wolves. Human relationships rarely are perfect. Even the best earthly relationships encounter bumps in the road from time to time. We learn through experience. But if our spiritual leaders and churches begin straying from God's written Word in their teaching, they are leading us, their flocks, into dangerous territory. DEADLY territory. And our very souls are at stake. "A-oooooooo!"

Here are some words of advice from someone you CAN trust . . . God, through King Solomon . . . you know, he's the one who prayed for wisdom and received it.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6

Thursday, March 14, 2013


When I was back in middle school, probably the 7th grade, I was in the Boy Scouts.We had a cool scout troop and an amazing scout master. He took us camping, hiking, and we did all kinds of adventurous stuff. One coolish fall night we met at the local fire station. Our scout master was also a volunteer fire fighter. Yeah, while it was true that we were going to learn all about fire safety . . . what I REALLY was excited about, along with everyone else in our troop, was that we were going to get to work an inch and a half fire hose!! Yeah!!!
The night started out rather routinely. We all stood and pledged allegiance to the flag as it was brought in to the meeting room at the fire station and placed in its stand. We sat through a MAJORLY boring lecture on what to do if our clothes suddenly burst into flames. Stop, drop and roll! And then we were told it was time to go outside. Shoving our chairs aside we all bolted for the door. Trying to fit a couple dozen boys through one single door, all at the same time, proved quite challenging but we all eventually made it out. And there it was! A shiny, red fire truck!
There was something about the way the metal glistened under the parking lot light that really made that truck look amazing. Every piece of chrome had been painstakingly polished. Beautiful. We turned our attention to our scout master as he began telling us about the truck. We were having a wonderful time. We had absolutely no clue. NO IDEA what was about to happen.
As our trusted scout master stood in front of us, speaking, he suddenly bent over, clutching at his chest. He fell to his right, hitting his head on the running board of the truck and . . . he died. His firefighter buddies quickly came to their comrade's side. They asked for coats to cushion this fine man's head against the gravel in the driveway. Me and my friend Jim gave them ours. But that night no amount of first aid helped and, after they took him away, I picked up my coat. It was covered in blood, and so were my hands.
I've been reading through the Old Testament lately. Lots of information about sacrifices in Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Blood sacrifices offered to atone for the sins of God's people. One verse caught my attention as I read through chapter after chapter of these specific instructions from God.
"Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the earth like water." - Deuteronomy 12:23-24
"The blood is the life" . . . "you shall pour it out on the earth" - a foreshadowing of a sacrifice to come?
God demanded a perfect sacrifice, animals without defect. Their blood was poured out on the earth and their perfect bodies were burned, offered as sacrifices . . . "an aroma pleasing to God."
Every Old Testament sacrifice was a precursor of the ultimate sacrifice to come, Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross. It was HIS blood, HIS life that was poured out on the earth . . . as an atoning sacrifice for OUR sins. Jesus gave his life . . . for US!
This week I had a blood donation appointment. It held extra meaning for me because I was still in the midst of writing this story. I thought about the blood as it ran out of my arm and into the collection bag - a small sacrifice to help an unknown "someone" at some point in the future. The parallels were not lost on this man's heart.
How beautiful, the blood flow (we sang that in church this week). Humans and animals, designed by God, all contain blood that flows and gives us life. To give ones life, ones blood, as a sacrifice so that others may have life? That is what God wants from each of us. He is after the "pleasing aroma" as we offer ourselves to Him. We do this in service to others. We do this by loving others and in the worship we bring to our Lord and savior, Jesus.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship." - Romans 12:1
As my donation finished and as the needle was removed from my arm, the person attending me commented on the I Am Second bracelet I was wearing. I told her, "It means God is first, and I am second. No matter what."

There is life, eternal life, in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ. It was his blood that was "poured out on the earth" as a sacrifice, once and for all. Propitiation is the word. His blood, our sins. Covered. It is finished.

I think that from now on, when I donate blood, I will offer up the communion verses from 1 Corinthians 11 when Jesus said, "This is my blood. Do this in remembrance of me." And so I offer myself, my blood, as a sacrifice to the one who gave ME life, and life abundant.

For a related story on blood donation, please read - Jared

Monday, March 11, 2013


Ahh, early March in Wisconsin. High School basketball teams are playing regional and sectional matches, gearing up for their runs for the state championship. It's March Madness time!! It's also time for ANOTHER kind of madness that occurs in late winter / early spring - driving through fog.
 Driving through fog is NOT fun! And, just to make things interesting for us drivers, fog comes in different kinds of "un-fun-ness" as well. There's the kind of fog that hangs just slightly above everything so it's like you're driving under a really low-flying cloud. Then there's the opposite kind - low-lying fog. Above you it's clear blue sky, yet ahead of you and all around you there is nothing but fog. Then there's "patchy fog." You're driving along and all of a sudden it's foggy! Then it isn't. Then it is. And then there's fog . . . at night -  a sometimes deadly combination. I'm not sure which is worse, driving through dense fog during the day when everything is bright and white, or driving through fog after dark when you can't see ANYTHING!! Probably night fog is the worst.
It was foggy on my way to church Sunday morning. Not too bad though. But it was foggy enough that I couldn't see the big water puddle that stretched across the entire road in front of me. SPLASH!! Water everywhere! That really kind of scared me. All that water I disturbed really made a lot of noise when it hit the underside of my car. That got me to thinking. About slowing down? No. I'm a guy. Why would I do that? No, I got thinking, what would happen if someone took me and placed me out on a frozen, snow-covered lake and there was a thick, dense fog hanging in the air. Everything above me, beside me and beneath my feet was white. I wouldn't know which direction to go to get to shore!
And what if it was March like it is now and, to go along with the fog, the lake ice was melting. What if out there beyond the fog where I was standing, there was open water. Deep, dark, frigid icy water. And what if whenever I took a step, I heard and felt the ice crack underneath my feet. What would I do? How would I get to shore? I'd be standing there in the midst of a total white-out, I'd have no idea which direction to take and there is no sound what-so-ever. What would I do? What would YOU do?
What a helpless . . . hopeless situation to be in. What would you do? Would you scream out for help? That might be an option. But nobody could see you. And another person's weight on the fragile ice might be just enough to send you and any would-be helpers plunging into the icy depths. No. Screaming for help is not a good idea. Think about it. What would you do? Hmm. I asked a young friend of mine this question and he came up with a pretty good idea.
"The first thing I would do would be to get down on my knees and begin to crawl. That way, I'd be spreading out my weight more and, if I DID fall in with one hand, I'd have another hand and two legs on the ice. Theoretically." Smart kid. Smarter than even HE realized. He gave the best possible answer and he didn't even know he had done it. Get down on your knees.
So many times we encounter challenging situations, sometimes life and death situations. We try to figure our way out of the mess we're in, trying to come up with a plan so we can save ourselves. Perhaps the best, first thing we could do in my icy, foggy scenario, is pray. Get down on our knees and seek guidance and assistance from our King.
Perhaps then we will hear God speak through a breeze as it begins to clear the fog away, or we might hear the sound of the wind as it travels through the trees on shore, indicating to us a direction of travel. All things are possible.
I think we tend to rely on ourselves too much. WE have to be the ones who come up with all the answers. For example, why can't we just accept the fact that God created the universe and leave it at that. Why do we need to know if the earth is six thousand years old or 13.7 billion? I think it's because WE have to be in control of everything. Simply relying on God is not good enough for most of us. Yet, throughout the Bible, relying on God is exactly what He has always wanted us to do.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." - Proverbs 3:5-6
What if you were placed on that fog enshrouded lake, not to see if you could get off the lake, but as a test of your faith. God tested Abraham when he asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Are we exempt from being tested by God in OUR daily lives these many years later? No. So, when we find ourselves tested this week, how will we respond? Will we try walking off the ice by ourselves? Or will we get down on our knees, seek His face, and be content with whatever challenges comes our way.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


"Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name." - Revelation 13:16-17

There are a lot of weird things happening in our world these days. And I'm not just talking about what goes on in Washington D.C. American politics are not only weird, they're disgusting. But I'm sure that head-shaking politicians are the same wherever you happen to be. I'm talking about WEIRD stuff happening in our world. Biblically weird stuff.

Many people whose opinions I respect, feel that we are living in the end times. Just the other day I heard my very traditional wife say,"Time is short." and "Another sign of the coming apocolypse." She said these things after finding her usually helpless husband doing the dishes one day. Ok, I made that last one up.

Seriously though, there's definitly some weird stuff going on. Biblically weird. For example, did you know that right now there is a plague of locusts infesting Egypt? Right now! I'm serious! Read about it here: Plague of Locusts

If you have a Bible handy, take a look at the Book of Joel. What's the heading of chapter One? Mhmm. An Invasion of Locusts. Keep reading. The headings following this first one outline what will happen. A Call to Lamentation, And army of Locusts, Rend Your Heart, The Lord's Answer, The Day of the Lord, The Nations Judged, Blessings for God's People. The locusts were a warning to repent.

Not only do plagues appear in the Old Testament, but they also appear in the New Testament book of Revelation as a sign that the end of the world is near. Revelation 9:3 - "And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth."

So, I got to thinking, what other signs of the end of the world are in the news these days? If we are really that close to the end there should be other news stories of other signs, right?

Read and weep. The following are news stories I found yesterday during my lunch hour.

One World Religion

Purpose Driven and seeker-sensitive Pastor Rick Warren, Willow Creek's Bill Hybels, the President's spiritual advisor Jim Wallace, Emergent Church leader Tony Jones and several other notable "Christians" took a step closer to a one-world faith with their signing of a document responding to a letter from Muslim leaders to Christians (A Common Word). Here's a link to the list of signatories. A Christian response. Anyone YOU know?

We're also supposed to have a one-world currency (Rev 13)

One World Currency

Here's a story with an amazing picture. A sea turned "blood" and a verse from Revelation to go with it.

"The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea." - Revelation 16:3

Sea Turns Red

Coincidence? Check this out. On March 20th, president Barrack Obama will visit Israel. He has never done that in his 4 1/2 years as president. Yet he is going now. Why? Did you know that March 20th marks the day when Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey (Nissan 9-10). Obama is a democrat. What's the symbol of the democartic party? Mhmm. A donkey.

Do you know what the Secret Service nickname for the president is? It's The Renegade. A renegade is a "lawless one."

And when the president travels he usually takes his own bullet-proof car. Do you know what they call his car? The Beast. So on March 20th the Lawless One, The Beast will enter Jerusalem. With him he will bring an "abomination" as the first president to openly support gay marriage - considered by God to be an abomination . . . Obama Nation.

The words of Jesus spoken in Matthew 24 - “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."

During the tribulation we will not be able to buy anything unless we have "the mark of the beast." Check this link out that documents a program outlined in the recently passed ObamaCare legislation that calls for us all to receive a sub-cutaneous tracking device. The legislation our congress signed . . . without reading.

Mark of The Beast
And I wonder why reporters are asking President Obama this week if he is going to orchestrate a peace treaty with Israel? If he does, and if it last for seven years . . .
All these things are happening right now. So is the end of the world near? Quite possibly. But, as Jesus told us in Matthew 24:15 - "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
So what do we do? How can we be prepared. We as a nation have distanced ourselves from Israel - God's chosen people. We as a nation have turned our backs on God Himself - removing His words from our schools. Apostacy is seeping into our churches. And, to borrow a line from The Ghostbusters movie, "Dogs and Cats, living together. Mass hysteria!"
What can we do? Still got your Bible open to Joel? Repent, humble ourselves before the Lord, ask His forgiveness and then "go, and sin no more."
Whether you buy all this end times stuff or not, whether you feel the end of the world is right around the corner or not, this much is true. Our only hope is in Jesus Christ who died for us - an atonement for our sins. He was crucified and died, but then he was raised from death to life by his Father in heaven. He is alive today, his return to this fallen world already planned. He WILL come again. He promised. Prepare yourselves by surrendering your lives to him now. You WILL be saved. The words of Jesus . . .
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16
 Special thanks to Stand Up For The Truth for their inspiration in writing this post.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


There is an Old Testament story about a sorcerer named Balaam (Numbers 22). The Moabite King, Balak, sent for Balaam to place a curse on Israel because he was afraid they might attack his people. But, despite Balak's offer of money, Balaam sent his messengers away because God had instructed Balaam not to curse the Israelites.

Balak tried again, only this time he sent higher ranking officials and Balak also offered to do whatever Balaam asked of him. Balaam again refused, stating, "Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the Lord my God."

But guess what. Balaam saddled up his donkey and went with them. That's when God got a little angry. And from what I read in the Bible, that's not a good thing.

God sent an angel to block Balaam's way. The angel stood in the roadway with his sword drawn, waiting to strike down Balaam. It wasn't looking good for the guy on the donkey. He didn't see the angel standing there, blocking his way. But SOMETHING did. The donkey!

[Okay. It is now time for us to put on our thinking caps. God is trying to tell us something here.]

The donkey turned sharply off the road to avoid the sword-wielding angel but Balaam beat on the donkey, trying to make him return to the road.

The donkey tried to sneak through a vineyard but the angel block his path there too. And every time this donkey changed direction to avoid going down the wrong path, Balaam beat the donkey, determined to go the direction HE wanted to go.

Finally, the donkey had had enough and lay down the next time the angel blocked their path. Once again Balaam beat the donkey. Surely, this had to have been getting a little tiresome for our friend El Burro, getting beaten all the time when all the donkey was trying to was to go where God directed. But God made something happened this time. The donkey spoke!

"What have I done to make you beat me three times?" the donkey said.

For some reason Balaam wasn't very surprised when the donkey spoke (It would have freaked ME out, that's for sure). Now Balaam and the donkey are having a conversation! And Balaam is STILL not getting it!! God finally "opens Balaam's eyes" and he FINALLY sees the angel standing there. Balaam finally realises what he has done.

As I read that story I reflect on my own life. I was Balaam. Just going through life, venturing down the wrong roads, paths that were against God's will. Only I was not riding on a donkey. There was no one in my life to support me or to turn me off the destructive path I was walking on.

For me anyway, I think God got tired of watching me walk down those roads and sent someone into my life to push me onto the correct one. Now, as a believer and a youth leader, I find myself in the role of the donkey, trying to help others recognize the destructive roads they are on. And just like the donkey, I find myself getting rejected (beaten on), but I must remind myself of my role in this story. I'm not God, I'm the dumb a_ _!

I need to check who my lord is. Is it the fear I have of being hurt or rejected (beaten)? Or is my Lord, the Lord of All - Jesus Christ (doing His will)? The answer seems obvious yet I want so much to change peoples lives myself - so much so that I find myself skipping over the most important verse in this story - verse 31

"Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face." - Numbers 22:31

It's not about me, you donkey!! It's about God!

We who believe are here on this earth to be tools, instruments for God's use, vessels to carry His love to those we encounter on their road to destruction.  God made the donkey speak and he opened the eyes of the sinner. What we need to do as donkeys is to find someone on the road and speak to them about the path they are on and direct them to the road that leads to Jesus. Because if we don't. If we are unwilling to be used, we might as well just get off the road, lie down in the ditch, and let the people we care about walk right by us into the sword of the angel.

I'd like you to listen to a song. It's by Casting Crowns. There is a line in the bridge that goes, "There's a way that seems so right to him, but you know where that leads." Let us never refuse to be used by God. May we always be ready and willing to serve, to carry someone else on our backs, under the direction of our King, until God opens their eyes and they can see that they are standing in the presence of the Lord.

Listen to this . . . as if it were sung by the donkey.

Casting Crowns - Prayer for a Friend

Monday, March 4, 2013


Giants! Giants!! That's all I could think about Tuesday morning at 2:47 AM. Why was I thinking about giants? And why was I thinking about them at 2:47AM in the blessed morning!?!?!
When I went to bed Monday night I had no idea what I was going to do for Wednesday night's high school youth group game. No idea what . . . so . . . ever. I'm in charge or our youth group mixer games. I should probably be thinking about what to do Wednesday night and now I have visions of giants running through my head? They sure can make a lot of noise!!
My mind tends to be VERY creative in the early morning hours. That's when most of my ideas come to me. Whether they're youth group game ideas or blogging topics, they run around in my head, rearranging themselves, until morning comes and I write them all down, But why giants??
Then I thought, "Hmm. Giants . . . " I quickly came up with a game - a relay race, boys vs girls, one kid carrying another on their shoulders. I guess they would slightly resembling giants. Maybe. I thought about playing the movie trailer for Jack the Giant Slayer after the race but the trailer didn't seem very God-honoring in its content so I thought some more. I know! FACING the Giants!! I'd play the Facing the Giants clip where Brock carries one of his teammates 100 yards . . . on his back. You can watch the clip here.
Finally something was coming together! I had been struggling the past few weeks about a few things that were happening at my church. I won't bother you with the details. Let me just say I began questioning my relevance and started thinking about retiring from youth ministry. Yeah, nothing MAJOR. For me to be thinking that and just letting it fester was not good. I had just been plodding along, dragging these issues with me, week after week. But then I watched that "death crawl" video and I listened to the coach, yelling at his player, "Don't stop! Don't stop! Don't you quit on me!!!"
It didn't take me long to figure out the message God was trying to get across to me. Giants! Facing the Giants! Hey, Bob. Instead of just LIVING with your giants (those things that keep oppressing us and weighing us down), try facing them!
In the Book of 1 Samuel you can read all about David and Goliath. I probably don't have to tell you that David did a more than adequate job of facing HIS giant. I want to draw your attention to one verse in particular from that story though. Good advice for those of us who struggle with "giant" issues of one kind or another - 1 Samuel 17:48
"As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him."
Did you catch the last part of that verse? Little David RAN toward his giant!!!
As I look at my life and the battles I face each day, I rarely enjoy facing them, let alone RUN to face them. It's more like I grudgingly accept them as part of my life and just try to get through the day. Is that any way for a child of God to act? Mmm, no.
The other thing David did, as a friend pointed out to me this morning, was David went into battle, with God's blessing, God's anointing. The prosperity preachers of today would say, "God was on his side." No. That's backwards. David was on GOD's side!
So, as I am always fond of telling the kids in our youth group, I asked myself THIS question: "So, what are you going to DO about it?"
Here's what I have chosen to do. I am vowing not to run from the giants in my life any more. Rather, I am choosing to run towards them. To face them as David faced Goliath. And I will face them in a God-honoring way. His Word will be my only weapon. And it is not I that shall emerge victorious from the battle, it will be God. And I will have confidence because Jesus has already gone to battle ahead of me. He laid down his life so that I might have a way to victory.
I would encourage everyone of you to take on the giants you face in life. For me, my giant it's procrastination. It's also a tendency to take on too many things at once. Perhaps it's an addiction of some sort. Perhaps it's an illness. God MUST come first in our lives. He is MORE than worthy of our "first fruits."
Next in line, after God, is everyone else on the planet. Remember the greatest commandment?
 “'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" - Matthew 22:37-39.
Our lives can become overwhelmed by "giants." We can defeat those giants through Christ. Pick up your sling (the Bible), grab a pocket full of stones (God's wisdom from His Word) and slay those giants today . . . in a God-honoring way.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Okay. Now that I have your attention . . . let's talk about Jesus. Ha ha! I AM actually going to be writing about cleavage here, just not the kind most people think about when they hear that word. To give you a hint about the ultimate destination of this blog post, let's make a quick stop over at Merriam-Webster's web site to check out the meaning(s) of this provocative word - Cleavage

Cleavage is initially defined and "the splitting" of something. To the geologist, therefore, cleavage is "the quality of a crystallized substance or rock of splitting along definite planes." To the biologist, cleavage is "the splitting of a molecule into simpler molecules." To the homemaker who has a stopped-up kitchen sink, an over-weight plumber bending over to fix the problem presents an entirely different meaning to the word. Sorry about that mental image but (no pun intended) you get the picture, right? For most of us humans though, cleavage has only one meaning . . .

Seinfeld - Cleavage

So, what am I doing writing about cleavage in a Christian blog? Well, as you have seen there can be many different meanings to words. Cleavage is NOT only about women's breasts, splitting cells or rocks or even about that nasty, vertical smile from Joe, the plumber. To show you what I mean I'd like you to read a parable, which by definition is a STORY with more than one meaning - both an earthly AND a heavenly meaning. This story is from the Book of Luke, the 16th chapter. It is the Parable of the Rich Man and the Beggar.

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house - for I have five brothers - so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” - Luke 16:19-31

Well, there's an example biblical cleavage for you - the "splitting" between heaven and hell, between God and man, and between sin and righteousness. And that is why I am writing about "cleavage" in a Christian blog post. If that rich man had only known what awaited him - the reality of an eternal split he was to face between himself and God. If he only had taken the time and made the right choice when he was here on earth.

The way I interpret the Bible, we ALL will live forever. It's just a matter of where. Separated from God in hell? Or living in His Glorious presence forever. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Yet, most of the people I know don't give the afterlife a second thought. Even many of the "Christians" I know! "I'm too busy living my life to think about that stuff. I'll get around to that when I'm older." Have you ever heard the saying that "The road to perdition (hell) is paved with good intentions." Good intentions don't count for much when you're on the outside, looking in.

Here's one of my favorite sayings. "If 'ifs' and 'buts' were fruit and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas." Grave yards (and hell) are both filled with lifeless corpses who never got around to making a decision for Christ. "If only I had more time." "But I just didn't have enough time." Too busy? Are you kidding me? Too busy to make the most important decision anyone could ever make? Yet, in this fast-paced, live-in-the-now world, we LOVE putting things off to the last minute.

I'm the prefect example. President of the local procrastinator's club. My wife and I just recently met with a lawyer and began formulating our Last Will & Testament. That would be a smart thing for a young family to do. Well, we put that off for quite a while. I'll be 60 in a few weeks! We just never got around to it. Not too smart looking back on things from where we are now. Making a basic faith decision sets the foundation for your entire life! Make it early! Have you considered it yet? If you haven't asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, please, do it now!

Before I close I'd like to tell you about another kind of cleavage. One that makes all the definitions we've been talking about unnecessary and unimportant. It can be found in the book of Deuteronomy.

"Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him." - Deuteronomy 13:4

Hmm. Cleave unto him. Do yo know what that means? While the first definitions of cleaving are all about a splitting apart, this particular definition of cleaving that Moses was talking about in the Bible, is all about "clinging too" or "sticking together." The English language is SO confusing.

Here is something stupid to try this week, if you up for an "X-games" type of evangelism. Walk up to someone and say, “I was hoping you could tell me about cleavage.” Or, better yet, “Would you please describe cleavage for me? Is it the kind that separates or is it a cleavage that clings.” Yeah . . . that probably would not be a good idea. Maybe leave the word 'cleavage' out of the conversation all together. But it is ALWAYS okay to talk to someone about the eternal separation found between heaven and hell.

For the Christian, there is only one kind of cleaving that matters - cleaving to God. Whether it is in His Word, the Bible, or through His Holy Spirit, "cleave unto the Lord." Jesus, Yeshua, is our Lord and Savior. Recognize that. LIVE that. And cling . . . cleave . . . unto God. For He is good.