Monday, March 31, 2014


I would like to write for you this morning about the concept of being IN something. Like when you were a kid and you were IN trouble, only not that bad. No, this story is about more of a desire than it is of a place.

When I was in high school there was a song that played on the radio by Dobie Grey that went "I'm in with the in crowd. I go where the in crowd goes." Have you ever been in a crowd? Yeah, me too. But I don't think I have ever been IN with the IN crowd. Although I was a nerd and was not considered "in" in any way, I guess you could say I was IN with the nerd crowd. [I don't remember liking that song very much back then and now I'm upset with myself because that song is stuck IN my head. (sigh)]

The concept of being IN something. How exactly does someone get IN something? We can climb in, walk in, slide in, stop in, run in, we can even go in the out door. And actually, aren't we IN something wherever we are? For example, I am IN my house. I am IN Wisconsin. We are all IN the world and IN the universe. So what's the point of this IN story?

Back in the 60's people wanted to be IN. Everyone wore the latest fashions. They were considered "in." Everyone HAD to be IN. It was actually called that - "being in". "Those clothes are so IN." People talk about being IN fashion, IN control, IN charge. Shortly after I became a Christian I heard a new term - IN Christ. I used this verse in my last blog post but it applies here as well.

"17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." - 2 Corinthians 5:17

I first heard of the concept of being "IN Christ" from Pastor Eric Ludy. He is the head of the Elerslie Mission Society in Windsor, Colorado. I have heard him ask many times from the pulpit, "What is your position?" and his students and congregation always reply enthusiastically, "In Christ!"

Pastor Eric tells two stories about this concept. The first is of a man who decided to take a vacation. He packed his bags, he bought a plane ticket, he went to the airport and waited for his flight. As his departure time drew near all passengers were told to get on-board. However our friend did not leave his seat. Soon the doors to the connecting link were closed and the plane backed away from the terminal. A short time later the man watched as the plane he was supposed to be on took off. The lady behind the counter saw all this happening and approached the man.

"Sir? Was that your flight that just took off?

"Yes, yes it was."

"Why didn't you get on-board?"

"I don't know. I had a ticket. I thought I was going to be flying to Hawaii today."

To that, the ticket-taker replied, "Well, at some point, sir, you have to get IN the plane."

The second story is of a pastor who offered a $20 bill to anyone who wanted it. All hands of his congregation shot into the air. The pastor selected Mr. Smith who sat in the front row and said, "Here is your $20 dollars. I will leave it for you right here on the pulpit."

After church was over the man went out to lunch. He sat at the counter and ordered the blue plate special. The waitress told the man, "That'll be $9.95." To which the man replied, "I have $20. It's over at the church."

"Yeah? So? I will still need $9.95 before you can eat."

The man went hungry that day because, although he had been given $20, he had not taken possession of it. He did not pick it up and physically carry it with him. In other words . . . he never got in the plane.

Our faith is a lot like that. Unless we take possession of it, unless we get in it, put it on like a piece of clothing and wear it, it's really rather useless. We can say we believe in Jesus but unless we actually live it our faith is meaningless.

Take a look around your church, your work place, your community. Do you see people actually living out their faith? Do they wear their faith well? Have they gotten IN the plane? Have they actually taken possession of their faith? Or do they simply say they are Christians and hope that will get them to their desired destination?

What does it mean to wear one's faith? Let Paul explain.

"10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication." - Ephesians 6:10-18

Hmm. Look at all those action words. It sounds like Paul is telling the Ephesians to get dressed!! We too need to take up our faith. We need to take possession of it. We need to put it on and fasten our faith around ourselves so we can be fully-prepared to take on this world. Or would we rather walk out of the front door wearing nothing at all.

A man was about to get on a bus one morning when the bus driver stopped him before he got in and said, "Sir, you are not wearing any clothes. That's a problem if you want to ride this bus."

The man replied, "I have plenty of clothing but's all at home in my closet."

"That's nice, sir. But I am afraid you will have to go home and get IN your clothes."

Here is one more story for you today, about wearing our faith, putting it on in preparation for the coming of Jesus.

"And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
- Matthew 22:1-14

Let us be Christians who are known to be IN the faith by wearing it and living it each and every day. Remember that old song that goes, "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. They will know we are Christians by our love." Let us be known for being IN Christ by the lives we lead. Let there be no doubt about who we are and WHOSE we are.

They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love by Jars of Clay

Saturday, March 29, 2014


"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test?" - 2 Corinthians 13:5

Do you ever wonder about your salvation? Do you ever wonder whether you REALLY prayed that prayer right? Or maybe you were baptized as a baby, always went to church and are wondering what Jesus means when he told Nicodemus that "you must be born again" in order to see the kingdom of God. Satan's good at putting doubt in our heads about all kinds of things but this one is a biggy - wondering if we are truly saved or not.

The following is a test of sorts, totally and unashamedly ripped off from an amazing episode of WretchedTV I watched over the weekend. [The ten points and the questions in bold belong to Todd Friel. The verses are all God's (through the apostle John). The rest of the commentary and text is mine.]

This "test" doesn't come with a big SALVATION TEST heading in the Book of First John from which it was taken. One has to dig a little bit to find the questions. There aren't actually any questions there anyway! But the answers are there. So here is the list of evidence, right out of the Bible, that will indicate whether or not you are truly saved. Open your Bibles to 1 John, Chapters 1-4.
  1. Do you enjoy getting together with other believers? (1 John 1:7) “7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, . . . “ Do we like spending time at church? Do we hang out with other church members "after hours" or in a small group? We should. And fellowship isn't just "hanging out" after church. It's hanging out, and talking about Jesus!
  2. Do you know that you are a sinner, deserving of God’s Wrath? “(1 John 1:8) “8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” I used to think because I believed in Jesus I was good to go no matter how much I sinned. Not so. One key word was missing - repentance. Even Satan believes in Jesus. We need to turn away from our sins and turn toward Jesus, seeking His forgiveness.
  3. Do you keep God’s Commandments? (1 John 2:3) “3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” Gulp. This one is a toughy. I'd say most of us keep most commandments but when Jesus says when we look at someone with lustful thoughts we have already commited adultery in our hearts (Matthew 5:28). Or have we ripped a friends CD and not paid for the songs on your Ipod? That's stealing. Commandment #8. Mhmm.
  4. Do you love the world? (1 John 2:15) “15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Shiney cars, beautiful people, really nice houses. Do we love these things? Are they important goals our treasures in our lives?
  5. Have you ever denied Jesus? Do you follow the RIGHT Jesus? (1 John 2:23) “23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also." Are we afraid to talk to other people about God because we're afraid they might think of us as weird? If we deny Him, He has promised to deny us our entry into heaven.
  6. Can’t wait to see Jesus? (1 John 3:2) “2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” This is at the heart of every born-again believer in Jesus Christ. We cannot wait to get to heaven. It's not a suicide thing, it's more of a graduation / promotion thing.
  7. Do you still live in sin? (1 John 3:8) “8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” If we call ourselves a Christian yet live in un-repentant sin and think nothing of it, we ain't no Christian. We should examine ourselves daily.
  8. Do you love your brothers and sisters? Does it show? (1 John 3:14) “4 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” The people at church, do we love them like they are our brothers and sisters. We should . . . because they are.
  9. Do you like to hear teaching? (1 John 4:6) “6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Do we enjoy hearing sermons? Or do we just want to go home and turn on the ball game? We should long to spend time in His Word and learn more about Jesus every day.
  10. Do you believe Jesus is God? Do you share Him with loved ones? (1 John 4:15) “15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” Do we really believe that Jesus is who He said He was? We should if we are truly born again. And do we share our faith and beliefs with others? We should. We are commanded to!
Here are some interesting statistics from the Barna Group.

7% of professing contemporary evangelicals say they are born again. That's down two points since a 2006 survey.

2% of professing contemporary evangelicals actually share their faith.

Christians should be exhibiting ALL these characteristics in some form. When we receive God's Holy Spirit we are transformed. "The old is passed away. The new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are liteally born again.

Born Again by Third Day
Just one final word about The 10 Commandments – it’s not about perfection (we will never obtain that) but it IS about direction. Repentance – our turning around and following after Jesus. May God bless you and keep you safe as we "cast off the old self."

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator."
- Colossians 3:1-10

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Ha! I'll bet you thought this was going to be a story about my favorite 80's rock band, didn't you? Nope. Well, maybe. If you're good. No, this story is really about you. It's about the journey that each of us is on, right now. A journey of faith. A journey of hope. And a journey . . . of love. God's love.

I'm going to tell you a story of three people. Well, two people really. One of them is me so that doesn't really count. But in each person's life there is faith, hope and love. All the stories are intertwined, like a triple-braided chord of sorts. And that chord was woven together by God. The story is about His amazing love and how "He works all things together for the good of those who love Him." (Romans 8:28)

The first character in today's story is a man named Paul. His journey of faith took him from a very small logging town in Montana to a bigger, yet still small town, named Waupaca (where I met him). Ultimately his journey led him to pastor a church plant in the Milwaukee area where he is today. A godly husband and father, Paul is a living picture of the many blessings that God can bring to those who love him, those who are obedient and live to seek His will. He is also a willing vessel, offering himself to God years ago, to be used wherever and whenever God wills.

The second character is a 20-year old young lady named Brooke. A friend invited her to youth group one night several years ago. She came not knowing what to expect. She left feeling loved and saved.

The third character is me. I don't have much to do with this story other than as a witness. Perhaps my role is as a story-teller - about journeys, about faith, and about an incredible God who brings people together for His glory.

At the time our story began Paul was the lead pastor at our church. I was a volunteer youth leader and Brooke was a face in the crowd. I had known Brooke only for a few weeks when Paul just "happened" to come to visit the youth group one night. He loves talking to people so it wasn't unusual to see him talking to this skinny, blonde-haired kid named Brooke. He talked with her all evening, and I mean he was extremely focused and in a very good way! By the end of the night Paul had prayed with Brooke as she surrendered her life to Jesus and we both had a brand new sister!

Paul eventually left our church, starting a brand new one in the Milwaukee area. It has grown in just a few short years from zero members into a church that worships 1600 per week. Brooke graduated high school two years ago and left the youth group. She is currently trying to get her life started, living in a small apartment in downtown Waupaca. And me? I write a blog. And I love people.

The point of all this is to show you an example of how people's lives can be interwined. Sometimes its for a season, sometimes it's longer. Sometimes it's just for a few hours on a Wednesday night, but people come together, often for a specific reason. Brooke came to youth group one night and met Paul . . . for a reason. A life-saving reason. A God-orchestrated reason.

Who are the significant people in your life? Are there certain ones who have really made an impact? Perhaps some have challenged YOU in some way. If so, did things ultimately work out for the better?

We are called to be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15). But are we really ready? What if we meet the next person on our faith journey and ignore them? What then? Or how about this. What if we looked at that "new person" in our life as a potential life changing person. Would we be more engaging towards them, hoping to find our what God has in store for us? Or them?

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." - Romans 5:1-5

Let us be ever watchful as we walk through this world. Let us pray for opportunities. Pray for awareness and openness. And let us pray that God might bless us through our relationships, that we might draw closer to one another through our drawing closer to God. And may our journeys be ever-fruitful. May it's paths be made straight, neither turning to the right nor to the left. And let us always make way for the Lord. And whatever you do, don't . . . stop . . . believing.

Don't Stop Believin' by Journey

Monday, March 24, 2014


I'm sitting here in the living room, staring at my laptop screen. That's because the TV is on and I have given up television for Lent. "Then why is the TV on, Bob?" Well, I may have given up watching television for Lent, but my wife hasn't.

Because I have not given up being with my wife for Lent, I spend a lot of time watching "other things" while my wife watches TV. I watch my dinner plate closer than probably any person ever has. I watch my phone, waiting for texts from friends that don't come often enough. I watch the pages of God's Word, although it's hard to focus on Israel wandering through the desert as my wife cheers on her favorite celebrity dancers. Television sucks.

Oh, television had its moments. Watching Neal Armstrong set foot on the moon was good. Watching JFK's horse-drawn casket going down Pennsylvania Avenue was sad but also much needed by a hurting country. Lately however I have noticed that overall, television has become an incredible wasteland. To paraphrase Nathaneal (John 1:46), "Can anything good come out of television?"

During this time of fasting, I have also discovered something else, besides my disenchantment with television. I have discovered something . . . about myself. I live in a world that is in "between." I am the guy who stands with one foot on the dock and the other foot is in the boat. And the boat is moving away from the dock. Either I make a decision in favor of one or the other or my life is suddenly going to become a lot wetter.

The world on which we live is being orbited by a moon. The only thing that keeps the moon from crashing into us is the force of itself spinning around us. Without that speed, we would perish. If the moons velocity slowed it would begin to draw closer to the earth and, eventually, there would be a collision. And so it is with us and our faith.

This world, this God-less culture we have created for ourselves, has an incredible pull on each of us, just like the earth pulls at the moon. Without anyone to keep us from doing so, we are bound to be drawn into it, like a moth to a flame. And we are being absorbed into it more and more deeply, more fatally, with every passing day.

As I look at things it is obvious to me that only God can save us. The ironic thing is He has already offered to do just that. He has given us an invitation to join him in the lifeboat while everyone around us is partying while this ship goes down. And despite how loudly we yell, "Abandon ship!!" the music just gets louder and the drinks flow more freely than ever before. So what do we do?

Well, it begins with you and me. It begins with each of us. We are the ones who must tell our unbelieving friends about the waiting lifeboat. We are the ones who are in between; God's messengers if you will. He has instructed us to "make disciples of all nations." How we doin' with that? I myself am failing massively.

We are COMMANDED by God to preach The Gospel, to "make disciples of all nations" and to love others as we love ourselves. COMMANDED! And yet we do nothing. Back in the day, if we disobeyed a direct order from a king we would be killed or tortured for sure. Today though, seeing as almost everyone is ignoring orders from our King, suddenly it's okay?

We must be ready to speak The Gospel whenever God places people in our paths. We need to get them to see their sinful nature (we're ALL sinners so that should be pretty easy), and make them recognize their need for repentance and for a savior in Jesus Christ. There can be no in between. It's either one side or the other.

"30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." - Matthew 12:30

God does not need us. He is able all by Himself. But He did call us to take action and we WILL be held accountable one day for all of our actions and for all of our inactions as well.

"36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” - Matthew 12:36-37

So let's speak of Jesus often. Let us speak of God's sacrifice of His Son . . . for OUR sins. And let us never be caught in the middle in our faith. May both of our feet be firmly planted on the side of the LORD (our Master and Absolute Ruler). And may His will be done, right here on earth, as it is in heaven.

Somewhere in The Middle by Casting Crowns

Saturday, March 22, 2014


One of the things I have prayed for over the past few years is the ability to recognize opportunities when God places them in front of me. Opportunities for me to give my testimony about how God changed my life. Opportunities to speak into the lives of those I encounter on any given day. Usually I drop the ball and have many post-opportunity talks with myself like, "Idiot!" or the always-popular "What I SHOULD have said was . . ." Well, not this time. God answered my prayers this past week by gifting me awareness and confidence in two situations. And I scored!!!

Now before I tell you how God provided me with those opportunities this week, I need to give you some background information. Like who I was . . . you know . . . before.

I was what most people would call a good person, a good dad. I loved my wife and my children. I had a good job. I went to church a couple of times a year. I was good, or so I thought. Little did I know that my children were being neglected . . . by me. Although I was living as a good example in terms of what the world thinks of as "good," I was not leading a godly life nor was I "training up my children in the way they should go" (verse).

After Jesus rescued me from the life I was living I recognized my shortcomings. I knew that I had failed my children, spiritually, and prayed that God would have mercy on me and them. I began to pray. Pray for opportunities to speak into their lives about Jesus.

Fast forward to this past Saturday. Our daughter was visiting. She and my wife had planned to go out that evening, have a glass of wine, and chat. This, after shopping and talking all day together. After supper my daughter and I were sitting at the dining room table when my wife came in and, looking at the dinner dishes on the counter, said, "I don't think I can go our tonight. I'm tired and all of those dishes are staring at me."

Oh daughter simply said, "Okay."


God was about to answer two prayers at once. He had just laid an opportunity in front of me. I'm sure He was waiting to see what I would do with it. I have missed so many other opportunities in my life. Why would I change now, right?


"I'll take you out. Do you like hot chocolate?"


Opportunity recognized and taken. My daughter and I spent an hour and a half at a local coffee house having a most wonderful conversation. We talked about God, about church, "religion," relationships, husband/wife submission/sacrifice . . . all kinds of things. It was amazing!

The following day at church I told my friend and also our pastor about what had happened. "Praise God!" was their reply. It was like God had given me the football, despite me having a history of "fumbling" opportunities, and I had just come off the field after scoring a touchdown.

A few days later at work I was down in the plan room, wrapping some presents for some college kids when a co-worker came in and asked, "What have you got there?"

Ding!!! Opportunity!!

We talked about God for 20 minutes. I gave him my testimony, telling him how another co-worker had led me to Christ. It was an awesome opportunity to tell someone else about my faith and why I believe what I do.

Wow! Two opportunities this past week. Each one taken. May God continue to provide opportunities in EACH of our lives. To talk about Him. To answer questions about Him. May we always be prepared to give and answer for the hope that we have.

"Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." - 2 Timothy 4:2

Joe Gibbs - I Am Second

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


There is something uplifting about discovering a new truth in God's Word. It's like being an archaeologist and finding a clue to the location of an ancient lost city. Or like piecing together clues on a treasure map to find hidden treasure!!

The Bible, in its compiled form, has been in this world for nearly 2,000 years. It has been in MY life since I received my first one back in Iowa nearly 60 years ago. The only problem was I never read it. I never read the Bible until I was in my 50's. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I fell away from the faith during college. Sad.

I ran across something interesting the other day, not while reading the Bible, but by reading a book by Tony Evans called Kingdom Man.

About half way through the first chapter there is a sub heading entitled God's Authority. That is where a new truth was revealed to me. Doctor Evans was writing about who God is and why the the Bible is written the way it is, in terms of God's identity. Open your Bibles to the Book of Genesis, Chapter one, verse one.

"In the beginning, God . . ."

Notice how the word God is spelled - capital "G", small "o" and"d." In Hebrew, God, spelled this way, is Elohim, which means "Creator God." God is referred to by the name Elohim while He is creating the universe, the animals, etc. Always spelled G-o-d.

Now skip ahead to when Adam comes onto the scene. Genesis 2, verse 4, after the heading Adam and Eve. How is God referred to in THIS verse? Now God is written of as "LORD God." Now there are two words to describe God and the first one, LORD, is all caps! Why?? What does that mean?

LORD, with all caps, means Yahweh (master and absolute ruler) and we already know that God means Creator. So now God is referred to as not only the Creator but He is Adam's master and absolute ruler.

Things were good in the garden up to this point. God was Adam's master and absolute ruler. Chapter 3 now, verse 1 . . . The Fall.

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”"

Did you catch the change? Satan is only referring to God as "the Creator," NOT as his "master and absolute ruler." Satan is not giving God the respect He deserves. So, what else is new, right? But look what happens next in verse 2 & 3.

"2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, . . ."

Oh my . . . Eve has already demoted God, her LORD God, to just a simple G-o-d. God is no longer her "master" or her "absolute ruler." So . . . who is? I'll give you one guess. Satan. And Eve hasn't even taken a bite out of the apple yet!

Eve sinned BEFORE she even did anything! She sinned in her mind and in her heart when she thought of herself before her LORD God. Eve and Satan referred to God as simply the "Creator." They never refer to God as their "master and absolute ruler."

And Adam? He doesn't mention God by name at all. He didn't know what to think it seems. We never, EVER had it right.

Is God simply "God" in your life? The Creator? Or is He "Yahweh Elohim?" - your "Master and Absolute Ruler?"

I wonder. If the New Testament would have been written in Hebrew, would we have seen a translation of "LORD God" when referring to Jesus? As it is, Jesus is referred to simply as "Lord" in the New Testament. Make Him Yahweh Elohim, "absolute ruler" of your life today.

Agnus Dei by Michael W. Smith

Monday, March 17, 2014


The third Saturday of every month I volunteer at the local food pantry - Ruby's Pantry. I have a great time there and have come to love many of the "clients" and volunteers alike. Hugs are always given away freely at Ruby's, just like the food. The love of Christ flows trough that place like a hydroelectric plant - generating incredible power that warms us all. Ruby's Pantry is a very special place.

There are other food panties around our area but we are told by those who come through the line that Ruby's is the best. When we ask why we are always told, "It's because we feel like you actually care about us." Hmm. I wonder where they got THAT idea.

This past Saturday morning was a little warmer than it's been in a while. It was nearly 30 degrees when I arrived on the scene at 7:00AM. Many had been waiting, standing outside, for several hours by the time I got there.

I pre-register people so I am walking around outside quite a bit. I am the first one from Ruby's that people meet so I always like to greet everyone with a smile, and a hug if needed. I think it's good that I am standing out there with them as they wait. Oh, and I always give out a piece of candy to everyone. I think they like me but I am insecure enough to think that it's probably the candy.

This morning, after most of the line had gone inside, a white sedan pulled up. A mom and two kids got out. It was their first time at Ruby's so I handed the mom a registration form to fill out. That's when I turned to the kids. I gave then each some candy and asked the young boy how come he wasn't wearing a coat. "He doesn't like coats," the mom said. That's cool. He had a nice Milwaukee Brewers tee shirt on in the freezing temperature.

After the family got inside I spoke to them a little more, trying to learn a little bit about their family. The mom was pretty thin and looked kind of weary. Probably just woke up I guessed. She's a mom. She has the right to look tired.

Her daughter was a cool kid. I mean, obviously! She had a Waupaca Comets sweatshirt on! She was early high school-ish and was being nice by laughing at this old man's jokes. The mom's son, the one with no coat, was having a tough time, clearly wanting to be somewhere else. Someplace WARM perhaps? Maybe, but it was more than that though. Something was upsetting him.

Later, when I was helping out inside, I saw this same family come through the line. The mom was looking even more weary, having a tough time getting her son to patiently get through the morning. So I asked her if there was anything I could pray.

"You can pray for my son. He's a special needs kid, very much in need." I promised I would pray for them and, as they continued through the line, I did just that.

Special needs kids are just that . . . special. And so are their moms . . . and their teachers.

After I got home I continued to think about that mom and her kid. What a special mom it takes to raise a special needs kid! But she can't do it on her own. There are special needs teachers who have a gift for reaching out to these special people in an especially caring and loving way. Hmm. Special needs. Special needs. You know, we ALL have special needs.

There are basic needs in life like oxygen and water and food. We are ALL in need of those things in order to survive. And all of those things are given away at Ruby's Pantry each month - at least the food and the water. The air has already been provided by God. Actually, I would submit that the other items have been provided by God as well. All of what is given away each month at Ruby's is provided through the donations by caring people and companies . . . and one very caring God. Think about that for a moment. ALL of our NEEDS are provided by God.

"26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" - Matthew 6:26

Can you think of anything else we actually need to survive? I can't. Gravity maybe? Well, actually, there is one more thing we all need . . .

His name is Jesus. Jesus is our VERY "special" need. He is our need beyond food and water and the air that we breathe. If we didn't have any of those things - air, water and food - we would die. And if we died, what would we need then? Jesus.

We all have needs in this life but when you get right down to it, Jesus is the only "need" we really need. Let us give Him thanks and praise for all He has provided for us in this life. We all have been truly blessed by a God who provides for our every need.

[This post is dedicated to all of the special needs teachers out there (especially to to Katie and to Devyn and to anyone else who I have forgotten). And to my nephew Aaron for works for Special Olympics - Michigan. God has gifted you with some very special talents to teach and to build into the lives of some very special people. May God bless you in your ministry.]

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:19

Autistic Basketball Player

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Last fall when our grandson celebrated his first birthday my wife and I were invited to his birthday celebration. It was an intimate little gathering. Maybe, oh, 25-30 people!

Our grandson got lots of presents. He didn't really care about the gifts all that much but he sure like tearing up the wrapping paper. And the tissue paper? Forget about it!

All the adults had their snacks and beverages of various kinds and there was a lot of laughter. But our grandson wasn't getting as much satisfaction. He had some Goldfish crackers and a tippy cup with some milk in it but that was about it. That's when his mom brought out . . . the big cake!

Everybody was excited to see the cake. Everybody except our grandson. He actually had no idea what it was. He'd never seen one before. Suddenly his mom was taking off his shirt and putting him in the high chair. He did NOT want to be in that chair!

Then our grandson's mom put a piece of cake on the tray in front of him. Nope! Not interested. He spent more time dismantling it than tasting it. Even when his mom put a fork full of cake up to his lips he refused. He turned his head from side to side. ANYTHING to keep that cake away from his mouth. But then mom scored a direct hit and got some of the frosting on his lips. That's when our grandson's life-long opinion about cake changed.

He opened up his mouth like a little bird and in went the first piece of cake our grandson had ever eaten. Guess what? He really liked it and wanted more! And forget about the fork. Let's just grab big handfuls of cake and shove them in!

Oops! It looks like, what with all the excitement about eating cake, some of our grandson's cake accidentally dropped some onto the floor, into his lap, onto his chair. So much cake had found a new place to hide that, after he was done "eating" his cake, it was time to take a bath!!

It didn't occur to me until this week, some six months later, just what a wonderful example this real-life cake eating event was. A perfect example of our walk with Christ.

First, The Parable of the Grandson and the Piece of Cake. How like each of us and our relationship with Jesus. Our reluctance to repent, to seek God's forgiveness, and to make Jesus Lord of our lives, is exactly where our grandson before he got a taste. We fight so hard for our independence from "religion" and "surrender" that we never stop to think it could be the best thing we've ever had. Surrendering is difficult for many. It's contrary to how most of us were raised.

"8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" - Psalm 34:8

But once we do surrender, once we do repent of our ways and turn to Jesus, it's like our grandson and that first taste of cake. The taste was sweet and he desired more. Our grandson became excited about his cake, just as we became excited when we first came to believe.

Remember our hunger for The Word? Remember all of the books we bought? We desired anything and everything we could get our hands on. Anything that had to do with Jesus. We were voraciously hungry!!

The second simile that occurred to me from this, the Great Cake story, was The Parable of the Wise Parents. The "coming out" party was pre-planned, well ahead of time. They knew our grandson was going to make a mess out of things. They had everything all figured out. And so it is with God. He already knows we're going to deny Him just like Peter did. He already knows how messy we're going to make things in our lives. Yet he loves us and takes care of our every need.

"11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11

Oh, I almost forgot. There is one more similarity between our grandson's first birthday party and the eating of his first birthday cake. It's what happened AFTER he ate the cake. His mess was cleaned up. There wasn't even a hint of cake left! Our grandson was washed clean just like we were when WE came to believe. May it be so in the lives of our children and our children's children.

Thank you Lord for loving us despite our messiness. Thank you for calling us to yourself, though our lives might be filled with crumbled cake on our faces. Thank you for washing us clean through the sacrifice of your Son. It is nothing that WE have done, Lord. It's all you. We thank you and praise you, in your holy and matchless name. Amen.

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me." - Psalm 51:1-3

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Do you snore? Do you live with someone who does? To a person having trouble falling asleep at night a snoring spouse can really irritate us. Do I sound like an anti-snoring commercial? Of course I do. Anti-snoring commercials are on TV all the time.

I snore . . . or so I've been told. It's hard for me to tell for sure because . . . well, I'm sleeping.

I went on a mission trip to Mississippi several years back. Before we went to bed after a hard days work, I apologized in advance for my snoring to the bunch guys I was bunking with. That was a mistake. My words planted a seed in the head of one of the high school boys in the top bunk next to mine. During the middle of the night, I rolled over and was just about to resume my sleep when I heard the guy in the bunk below me . . . snoring.

Ha! And I thought my snoring might be loud? I'm sure there was dust falling off the rafters for sure with this guy. Then, suddenly, without warning, BAM!!!! Somebody hit me in the face with a pillow. I had no idea it was coming. The room was totally dark. I whispered back at the assailant, "Dude! That's not me!" A reply came from the darkness. "Sorry." Snoring can get us guys into trouble. Ladies too.

My wife snores. (Why do I think I just made a mistake in telling you that?) Although, if anyone tells my wife that she snores, she'll deny it. After all, it's not lady-like to snore. Well, then how come you . . . . maybe I'd just better stop right there.

Let's face it. When we snore, our snoring disturbs others. It causes others in our lives, loved ones, to lose sleep. And in SOME cases, when our loved ones encounter our snoring, they will attack! Snoring can be hazardous to your health!!

Although, when you think about it, we snorers are doing just what comes naturally. If left to our own devices we'd make it through the night just fine. Some of the most restful sleep I have ever had has been on the nights in which I have found myself on the couch (probably because I told my wife that she snored).

It's hard for me to feel guilty about doing something when I am not even aware I am doing it. Hmm . . . Hey, here's a more theologically-based question: How do we know we are sinning if we don't know that what we are doing is a sin? Good question!

There is an Old Testament story of exactly that happening. The Book of Law had been lost for many years. The people were living as they chose. One day Hilkiah the priest found the book. It found its way to the King and when the King of Judah heard all of the laws it contained and realized he and his people were breaking many of them, he tore his clothes and wept. In short, he repented.

All those who had not repented felt the wrath of God but those who DID repent were spared. Hmm. Where have I heard THAT before? The Gospel?

There was a lot of that, "not knowing" what was a sin and what wasn't, going on in Corinth 2000 years ago. Paul had started a church there and even after ministering to them for a year and a half, many in the church kept right on sinning. He wrote them a rather harsh letter of rebuke, what we call 1st Corinthians. But he followed his tough talk in chapter six with a gentle reminder of God's grace.

"9 ... Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." - 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

So I still haven't answered the question. How do we know we are sinning? Well, we are blessed to have the Bible. Sixty-six books of God speaking to us. The Corinthians didn't have that. Just a letter or two from Paul. Verse 11 though is where we find our answer. "And such were some of you."

Repentance. Sanctified and justified by Jesus and God's Holy Spirit. The Corinthians had heard the Gospel. So the answer to the question, ANY question, has got to be . . . Jesus. It is Jesus and the Holy Scriptures. Our repentance and faith in Jesus gives us a hunger for His Word. God's Word and His Holy Spirit convict us. They convict us to repent for ALL of our sins, not just the ones we were aware of. We are ALL without excuse. We need to repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus - the ONLY name by which we are saved.

"20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they (we humans, whether we know we are sinning or not) are without excuse." - Romans 1:20

What happens to those who never hear the Gospel? - David Platt

Monday, March 10, 2014


My wife and I love our furry and feathery backyard buddies. We have lots of birds that visit our feeder. We also have lots of deer that feed on my wife's plants. She hates the deer eating her plants but she loves the deer in the backyard. Ironic.

We use black sunflower seeds in our bird feeder. That brings in chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, blue-jays. Even and occasional deer! We also have a block of suit for for our long-billed buddies - woodpeckers and flickers. The nuthatches like suit too. They're not very picky eaters.

We've been on the lookout for a new backyard visitor lately. One we didn't even know we had in our area - a black bear. My wife came home one night last week and said the sheriff's department (my wife works at the county courthouse) had reported a bear had been hit on Highway 54 just west of the county line. Gee. That's where WE live. The DNR was called and it was discovered that the bear that had been hit and killed was a mama bear, and she had been nursing. So, they searched the area and found a den with two cubs and a papa bear inside. The DNR took the cubs so they could be nursed (and survive) and left daddy bear by his lonesome in the den. Oh, and that den just so happens to be at the bottom of the hill leading into our subdivision. Comforting.

The woods can be a beautiful place to spend time with God. I did that a lot last year. But it is a very good idea to know what you might run into. What we know or what we do not know could save your life.

When Paul visited the church in Corinth he couldn't believe what he was seeing. His brothers and sisters in the faith, who he had been instructed in the ways of the Lord, had fallen away from their faith all together. They had been overrun by the sin and corruption that plagued the city, when they should have grown in their faith and been an example to their community. Paul had given them the basics of the faith (milk he calls it) and not the weightier details of what it means to be a Christian.

"Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?" - 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Though you and I might profess to be Christians, do we act like we are? If we were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us? Are we living a life worthy of our calling? Or have we backslidden to where we resemble the unsaved?

When I was walking past the big blackberry bush at the bottom of the hill last summer I never gave much thought to the fact that bears LOVE blackberries or that a bear family might have a den in the area. But now I AM aware and I can take guard against any possible physical encounters with a hungry papa bear (who just recently lost his entire family . . . at the hands of man). I can be prepared.

Here's a question. How do we know we are sinning if no one has ever told us? If "the whole world is doing it" how can it be wrong?

"11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." - Hebrews 5:11-14

First and foremost, people just simply need to know Jesus. No if's, and's or but's. They not only need to KNOW Him, they need to obey Him. People need to surrender their lives, the lives they are screwing up SO badly by themselves, to a God who can help them straighten their lives out by offering more than what this world has to offer. But to get that, people need to surrender. They need to recognize their fallen nature, they need to repent of that and change their ways. Then they need to start following Christ. Instead of living with just a knowledge of Him, they need to live FOR Him and for His kingdom. Only then can we eat of the "meat" in what we believe.

The Last Supper from Jesus of Nazareth

Saturday, March 8, 2014


These days it seems as if I am falling asleep earlier and earlier in the evenings. It could be the winter darkness. Maybe I just FEEL like going to bed earlier because it's dark outside.

It could be because I get up at 4:30 AM to get ready for my 45-minute commute to work, arriving two hours early so I can get some exercise, make coffee for my friends, read my Bible, quickly scroll through Facebook and write this blog. That could be it.

It could be that I am feeling tired at night because I've been sick, coughing for nearly two weeks now. I'm definitely tired of THAT!!

I suppose, if I am to be brutally honest, the real reason I am tired so early in the evening is because I am just plain getting old. Go ahead, you can insert your own "spring chicken" comment here. It's okay. Actually, I am probably tired because of ALL the reasons above. One thing's for sure . . . I'm as tired as an old rusty pump. The older I get the harder it is to get me going.

My favorite pre-bed snack most nights is a tall, thin glass of cold milk. I am not thirsty, I just like milk. I was just about to get up from my comfortable chair and pour myself a glass when I came across a TV show on one of the "religious" channels - Ravi Zacharias - Questions and Answers - so I thought I would give it a shot.

I had heard of Mr. Zacharias before but had never "heard" him. I am glad I stopped and tuned in. Mr. Zacharias was answering questions from a group of college students somewhere. Their questions about Christianity were deep and very well thought out. And Mr. Zacharias answered them all, expertly.

Near the end of the program Mr. Zacharias told a story. It was so good I thought I would re-tell it to all of you. It is a story of faith and of evangelism. The story of Desert Pete (see link at bottom).

There was a man who was wandering through a desert - lost, dehydrating, staggering, near death as he searched for shelter from the sun, for food, and most importantly, for water.

He was thinking about his life as he walked. Why had he made the decisions he had made? How had he gotten to this point in his life? Near death, desiring the simplest of things - water.

As he crested yet another sand dune, he saw something in the valley below. Blinking and rubbing his eyes, he looked again. It was still there. An old, rusty hand pump. His walk became more determined now as he approached it. He wondered if it still worked.

The handle was quite hot but he didn't care. He pumped as fast as he could. Just as he feared - nothing. The pump was dry. That's when he noticed the cup hanging on the side of the pump. He picked it up and was just about to throw it away in frustration when he noticed a small note curled up inside it. He opened the note and read it.

"There IS water here. Buried beneath your feet is a jar filed with it. Dig it up and pour all of the jars water into the pump. Soon you will have all the water you need. Re-fill the jar and bury it for the next person."

The man dug as fast as he could. It wasn't long before he had a dirty, dusty jar in his hands. But did it contain any water? He unscrewed the lid. Sure enough! It was filled with water!!

He was just about to take a big drink when he remembered what the note had said. "Pour ALL of the water into the pump." But what if the pump still didn't work?!? All that life-giving water would be gone.

He thought, "The water in the jar will quench my thirst but then what. I'd need more for my journey . . . wherever I am going." He looked at the jar. He looked at the pump.

"Why would someone have written that note if it wasn't true? What did that person have to gain by writing a lie? Was he sitting somewhere, watching? Waiting for me to make the wrong choice so he could laugh? No. It MUST be true!"

He emptied the jars contents into the pump and took hold of the handle. He closed his eyes and slowly raised the pump's handle. Leaning in, he pushed the pump handle downward hoping to be rewarded. Nothing. He tried again. Still nothing. What had he done? All of that water was gone. He began to think he was going to die right there, draped over the pump handle. What a perfect picture THAT would make. One more try.

Still nothing, but that time the pump handle went down harder. One more. There! Was that a drip? Again! A trickle! Again!! A stream!! Again!! Wooooo!!!!! Water FLOWED from the pump! The writer of the note was right!!

The man drank his fill. Topped off his once empty canteen, then re-filled the jar and buried it just where he had found it. He placed the note back in the cup for the next person and hung it on the pump - grateful someone had been thoughtful enough to provide just what he needed, right when he needed it.

How like that man were we before we knew Christ! Thirsty. Without hope. Lost in a desert, stumbling towards our own death.

But then someone cared enough to tell us about Jesus. Someone took the time to "write us a note." Maybe it was a co-worker as it was in MY case. Maybe it was a friend or a family member, Or a classmate. Or maybe it was even a total stranger. The point is it doesn't matter WHO it was. What matters is somebody cared enough to tell you about Jesus. And in so doing, that person was "leaving some water in the jar for the next person."

Do you remember how thirsty you were before you knew Jesus? Do you remember how excited you were when you finally found Him? Were you grateful? Excited? Have you joyfully "filled up the jar" by telling others what Jesus Christ has done for you? Or do we tend to leave the jar empty and rejoice in our own  salvation, ignoring "the next person," not caring if they die without the Living Water that is Christ Jesus.

I may be old, I may get tired sometimes, but I am always ready to give a reason for the hope that I have (1 Peter 3:15). And the guy in the story? Do you suppose he complained about his getting lost in the desert at one point in his life? Or did he enjoy telling the tale of finding life giving water in the desert? So it should be with ALL who believe.

"7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
- John 4:7-14

The Well by Casting Crowns

Desert Pete - The Kingston Trio

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


There are a lot of Roman statues. When you think about culture and you think about what typifies societies and people groups, the Romans really enjoyed themselves. And by that I means they enjoyed "self."

My small group began a study of the Book of Romans last night. Paul wrote a letter t the church in Rome because he cared for them and didn't want them to fall prey to the sinful desires he had heard they were participating in.

The first chapter of Romans is split into two parts. The first part is all warm and fuzzy. In the second part however, Paul rips his Roman friends pretty good. Paul would not win any awards for political correctness these days. Read this and see what I mean.

"18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen."
- Romans 1:18-25

Those sinful Romans!!! How dare they ignore God and spend so much time honoring themselves and thinking about themselves, worshipping images of man rather than worshipping God!!

Uhh, anybody watch the Academy Awards a few days ago? Check it . . . the Romans are us!!!

Golden statues . . . of a man. People dressed up in revealing, self-displaying costumes. Praising each other. Giving awards to each other for their greatness. Yup, we ARE the Romans of our day.

Let me ask you a question. What happened to the Roman Empire? Where are all of the beautiful people from 2000 years ago? They're all dead. The statues they made of themselves are in museums - chipped and cracked, entire limbs of "the beautiful people" broken off with old age.

And where are we? Let's keep reading Romans 1 and see if we can find any clues into what we will become.

"26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."
- Romans 1:26-32

Wow! Sound familiar? Our society today in this country and the world is very much like the Roman Empire. We are extremely full of ourselves. Perhaps it's time to fast from all the gluttony in our lives. How appropriate it is that today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The next 40 days are a reminder of the 40 days Jesus spent in the dessert - fasting and praying. So let it be with each of us.

But Ash Wednesday is more than not eating doughnuts for 5 1/2 weeks. It's not about walking around with a cross of ashes on our forehead. It's not some religious checklist item like, "There everyone will know I went to Ash Wednesday services now!"

No Ash Wednesday is about prayer and abstinence. Not for our glory but for God's. It should be a private thing, between ourselves and God. That is the true way to honor our Father in Heaven. Not through anything WE did, but by acknowledging everything that HE did.

16 And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Matthew 6:16-18

What's Wrong With Ash Wednesday? by BT Daily

Monday, March 3, 2014


I'm going to be expressing a political opinion in this story. Check that. Let's get real. I am going to be expressing some rather sad facts. All one has to do is watch the news.

First of all, we need to pray for our president. Here is a man who aspired to high office, got there and then something happened. Things got real. I think our president is comfortable doing things domestically. He knows how to say all the right words, he knows how to press the flesh, and smile that smile. He did whatever he had to do to win the vote. But then something happened. The reality of world politics forced him to make some choices and he was found to be lacking in his knowledge of what is REALLY happening in this world.

He was not prepared for what happened in Syria, demonstrating a lack of foreign policy knowledge, and he is currently showing his inexperience in dealing with the Russians and their moving into Ukraine. It is embarrassing to watch.

First Syria, where he drew the now famous "line in the sand." The line everyone ignored. He was all set to launch missiles and "protect our interests." But then Russia stepped in, scolded the president, saying that we shouldn't be so quick to attack. Russia then negotiated with Syria, their ally, and produced a peaceful result. Then Mr. Putin publish an Op Ed in the New York Times. In that piece Putin told us Americans what his opinion of President Obama was and he, quite honestly, put our president to shame, internationally and at home. You can read Putin's Op Ed here.

Our president never was not prepared to participate on the world stage nor was he prepared for the reality of what is happening now in Ukraine. Our president has demanded that Russia remove its troops. As of this writing Russia has not responded. Honestly? I don't expect them to pay any attention to our president. After all, Obama is reducing our troop numbers to below World War II levels. He can't go back now, can he? President Obama has himself painted into a corner and, in this scenario, he simply cannot win. Our president was not prepared when things got real.

Are WE as Christians any better? Are we prepared for when reality hits the fan in OUR lives? When will things BECOME real for us? When a friend gets cancer? When someone we know dies in a car crash? My friends, when Jesus returns it will be too late to decide what we believe about God. The door to the wedding feast will already be closed.

I was standing in church today, talking to my friend Ron, when his wife came up to tell her husband something. Their daughter-in-law is from Ukraine. Her country is in the middle of reality. Things just became real for my friend and his family. TOO real.

How can we ever get ourselves prepared for these major life-altering events in our lives? Well, the first thing that needs to be done if for us to get ourselves right with God. Have you submitted yourself to Jesus? Have you repented of your sins and sought his forgiveness? It would be a good idea to do that . . . everyday!!!

So many people in this world think they are good to go with God simply because they go to church regularly and they consider themselves a good person. That is a works-based theology and does not hold water in God's eyes.

I have many friends and relatives who believe in false teachers like Joel Osteen and Rob Bell. They believe that all faiths lead to heaven despite Jesus himself telling us they don't. Osteen doesn't not preach sin or repentance. Bell says all roads lead to heaven and denies the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. He also says there is no hell. These men have not prepared their flocks for the reality of scripture. They all could find themselves knocking at God's door.

Our pastor read this in church on Sunday. It seemed like a good reminder what is at stake for those who are not ready when things suddenly become real.

"And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
- Matthew 22:1-14

The road to God is a narrow one and few will find it. Many think they are walking on the right path. We need to check ourselves, read His Word and start walking like we are actually Christians. I am VERY concerned that too many people take their faith too lightly. We need to make it a priority. A number ONE priority.

Please join me in praying for our president and the leaders and people of Russia and Ukraine. Thank you.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


How long ago was it? Hmm. Well, let's see. My wife and I had a water bed . . . It must have been in the late 80's or early 90's. The bed had these little lamps in the headboard and we had our clock radio/alarm clock right between them. And we listened. We listened as someone read us . . . a book.

I was working at an architectural firm in downtown Appleton. The owner of the firm loved to play Public Radio and the cavernous office building was always filled with classical music throughout the day. That was okay for this then 30-something guy but a little rock and roll once in a while would have been nice.

At lunch time though I got a break from the strings and operatic voices. WPNE, the local Public Radio station, had a news program at noon and then after that they had a half-hour long program called Chapter A Day. Someone at the radio station would read a chapter out of a current novel each day. No sound effects, no musical score, just the spoken word. I began to look forward to hearing the next chapter each and every day as I ate my lunch. I enjoyed hearing the readers voice as his or her words filled my ears . . . and my heart.

Then they announced that each days chapter would be replayed at 10 o'clock each night. Sweet! So I got my wife to listen and me and my wife would lay in bed, our little reading lamps on, waiting in anticipation of the next chapter. We only listened to the reading of one book but we both remember that book, Michael Crichton's Sphere, and we both remember that program, fondly, and the joy we both received through doing something together.

Since those golden days of radio my wife and I have continued the "Chapter a Day" practice in our own way. My wife likes to take hot baths during the winter months. At least once a year one of us purchases a novel and I read a chapter or two to my wife every time she takes a bath.

We just finished a murder mystery featuring one of her favorite TV characters. We've also finished an entire truck load of water softener salt! (not really . . . but close!). Now it's MY turn to pick a book. I was thinking about the Book of Romans. She probably wouldn't go for that but I think that would be an awesome thing for a married couple, or ANY couple, to do. Take turns reading a chapter a day out of the Bible to someone you love.

So, my challenge for you and for me during the month of March is to pick someone in your life and ask them if they would like to read a book of the Bible to one another. Do it over coffee at your favorite cafe. Discuss what God is trying to tell us. Examine your lives to see if the lessons God teaches us through His Word can have an impact our lives. My guess is that they certainly can.

So find someone that God has placed in your life this week. Someone out of the ordinary perhaps and ask them. The worse they can do is say no and you will have to find someone else. But the person you asked will know that YOU cared enough to ask THEM. Let God's Holy Spirit use that thought in their heads for God's Glory.

Here's something I discovered this week. It actually came to me this morning while lying in bed. Check these verses out. See if you can find the hidden connection.

"18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth." - Deuteronomy 11:18-21

And now read this one . . .

"7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs.

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt."
- Exodus 12:7,12-13

So we are to take God's Word and the blood of The Lamb and place it on our doorposts (the sides of our doors) and we will be passed over . . . we will be saved.

Now check out these verses from the first chapter of John

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
- John 1:1-5, 14, 29

Jesus was the Word and the Word became flesh. We are you place The Blood of the Lamb (Jesus) on our door frames - the door we walk in and out of on our way to work or school, the door we walk through into the world. By walking through Jesus everyday and as we walk through the world, we will be a sign to the world who we are and WHOSE we are. And our lives will be a sign unto God. He will pass over us and we will be saved (Exodus 12:13.

Any questions? :)

Jefferson Bethke: Why Don't We Read the Bible More?