Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Hidden Provisions of God

My wife and I like to take walks whenever we can. Most evenings you can find us walking hand-in-hand . . . somewhere! Usually we take a lap around our subdivision which ends up being around a 40-minute sojourn around the perimeter. Shooing flies and mosquitoes away, always on the lookout for the occasional un-leashed dog.

Every so often God provides us with special treats. A friend going by on his bike stops to talk. A neighbor out walking their dog does the same. And then there are the natural treats - an amazing sunset or a doe and it's fawn out munching grass along the roadside. All of these blessings come from God.

Not everyone agrees with my assessment however. Many people think that this is just life and good things happen along with the bad . . . randomly, in a universe filled with randomness. I however have chosen to believe differently.

I am reading through the Old Testament book of Joshua right now. God was more VISIBLY active in the lives of His people back then. Sending them here and there. Telling them to conquer a city, telling his people to pass another one by. Why? It's almost like God has a plan or something!

As I walk around the subdivision with my wife, it is every bit the same as Joshua leading God's people around the city of Jericho. God commanded it and it was done for His ultimate glory. Some people may disagree with my thoughts about God's provision. Some might scoff at my belief that a man and his wife, simply by walking together, hand-in-hand, would bring glory to an all-powerful God. I disagree.

Anywhere I walk . . . with anyone, and we talk about God? We bring Him glory. And that is our purpose as believers. For you and for me. Our entire purpose, no matter what we do, is to glorify God in heaven. If we do that, God WILL provide amazing things for us. He will do amazing things FOR us.

"13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so." - Joshua 5:13-15

As my wife and I came around a corner on our walk last night we saw a mother deer and her fawn standing right in front of us. We stopped and watched as the doe slowly led her fawn into the woods. How I wish that we as a people would follow our God as closely as that fawn followed its mother. God is more loving, compassionate and merciful than any deer could ever be. Let us give God thanks and praise for all that He provides us - our lives, our jobs, our families and friends. Let us always be mindful of who we are and WHOSE we are. To God be ALL the glory.

To God Be The Glory - Huge Choir, Read the words! :)

"25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." - Matthew 6:25-32

Monday, July 27, 2015

Missing Pieces

My wife and I drove down to the tiny twin towns of Adams-Friendship over the weekend. We were visiting our daughter and her husband. Kind of a long-distance double date. After touring the school where our daughter teaches we went to the local flea market to see what deals we could find.

As we were strolling around the grounds I happened to look down and saw something laying in the gravel. I thought about what I had seen for a moment as I walked and then I stopped, turned around, and took the picture you see here.

What do you think of when you see that puzzle piece laying there on the ground? Several things come to MY mind. My first thought was, "Somewhere there is a puzzle with only 999 pieces in it." That's rather obvious though. What else do you think of? I suppose it depends on the person doing the thinking. Here's the story I came up with. See what you think.

There is a young man in my life - a kids leftover from high school youth group. He's a good kid. I call him a "kid" but he's really a young man. I met with him yesterday and we talked for an hour or so. I've known this guy for several years now and I care for him a great deal.

My young friend has made some not-so-wise choices in his life - just like so many of us have. Only difference is . . . he got caught. He has been in trouble with the law on more than one occasion. Drugs, alcohol, broken home, jail time, you name it. HE is the lone puzzle piece. The rest of the "puzzle," his family, is scattered. There are puzzle pieces everywhere.

I think there is nothing my young friend would like more than to be part of an entire puzzle again. Part of a whole. Someplace where he could fit in and maybe start over. All he needs is for someone to show him a little grace and mercy. Hmm. Reminds me of a story.

"2 Early in the morning he (Jesus) came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” - John 8:1-11

As I look back on my encounter with the puzzle piece, I really didn't do the right thing. I took a picture of it. I wrote a story about it. But what should I have done? What would Jesus have done?

What I REALLY should have done was show mercy and grace to the lonely little puzzle piece, just like Jesus showed the woman in the story we just read. I should have picked up the piece and brought it home with me. And in REAL life, I should have done the same thing with my young friend.

It's too late to go rescue that puzzle piece from the flea market parking lot but it's not too late to show grace and mercy to my young friend. Won't you please join me in praying for him? Pleae pray for me too as I try to figure out how God wants me to show this young man the grace and mercy that God has shown ME.

Thank you. :)

The following song is written about a girl but it really could been sung about a guy too, as you will hear in the song's last line. Please listen to it, then ask yourself, as I did, "Is there anybody in the shadow of MY steeple who is "going down" today? God placed us here in this place to be Jesus in our own little part of this world. What would Jesus do if He met someone, a lone puzzle piece from shattered puzzle? Would there be grace? Mercy? Yes! So should it be with us.

Does Anybody Hear Her - Casting Crowns

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Have you ever been hurt by someone? Or gotten into a fight with someone you thought was a friend? Was it verbal? Physical?  Have you ever said something you have regretted and wished you could take it back? Guilty on all counts here. I'm guessing you are too.

Do those arguments and fights still bother you when you remember them? Why is that do you think? Could it be because you haven't forgiven them? Or perhaps there was some truth in what they said and we just don't want to admit it?

I got in a fight in sixth grade once. Jimmy Fausbender. I don't remember what we were fighting about. All I remember is sitting on his chest at the end of the fight and punching him in the face. I never apologized or even cared about him afterwards. My main concern was not getting into trouble over it. But what about poor little Jimmy? Was he scarred for life because his wimpy friend Bob beat him up? Probably. How could he possibly live THAT down!?! Why do I still remember that fight?

Why do we do stuff like that? Why do we hurt each other? And why is it so hard to apologize afterwards? Psst. It's because we are human and we've got a sin problem.

I was blessed early on in my faith journey to hear my friend Gayle give her testimony in church. She quoted a verse from the Book of James which held a special meaning to her. It's very applicable to this topic so here it is:

"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?" - James 4:1

When someone attacks what we believe or says something bad about us behind our back, what is our first response? Initially, we get angry. Then we might fight back if we are aggressive enough. If we have a passive personality we might withdraw into a shell and spend the day at our own pity party. There is only one way to get rid of the anger and the hurt - let it go and . . . here's the real key now . . . forgive.

If you want to learn a lot about yourself, read the Book of James. Read 1 John as well. Both books are short but they are packed with good, self-examination tips as well as ways to not only survive in this world but to thrive in it.

I have this theory. When ever we feel like somebody has wronged us, we will carry that hurt around with us until we find some way to get rid of it. Some people get rid of the pain by shutting others off, sometimes permanently. That's a mistake. I'm no psychiatrist but I do read my Bible. There's lots of good advice in there you know. B.I.B.L.E. - Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

"21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." - Matthew 18:21-22

Seventy times seven? I'm no mathematician either but according to my calculator that's 490 times! I think what Jesus was REALLY trying to tell Peter was that we should ALWAYS forgive those who sin against us. God does that for us, right? And how many times does He forgive us? Probably WAY more than 490 times.

There are many hidden scars deep inside each of us that come blurting out upon occasion. We have all been guilty about saying something about someone only to have it come right back and bite us in the butt. But we Christians are the ones who are supposed to be know by our love.

Please, read the Book of James. Read the Book of 1 John. Listen for God's Holy Spirit as He convicts you. Be teachable in this.  When James tells us to "be slow to speak," do it! When John tells us to love one another, that's NOT a suggestion. It's a command!

I have found that there are two things that will heal just about any broken relationship - love and . . . 

Forgiveness - Matthew West

"Forgiveness can set someone free, and quite often that person is you ." - Me, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Commands of Jesus: No Trumpets!

Maybe I should wait with this command of Jesus until after the 2016 presidential election. Every politician who has ever run for office is guilty of this one. But so are we from time to time - bragging about what we've done. Here's the text for today.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
- Matthew 6:1-4

God does not like us bragging about the good things we have done. He already knows we have done them. That should be enough. But there is still a tendency to tell others some of the good things we have done. But that is wrong. It's boastful.

Still, there ARE verses where some of the apostles boast. Only they boast about God - someone other than themselves. Self-promotion is not a desirable trait. So what about our politicians? Yeah . . . they need prayer alright.

I'm not going to torment you with political speeches. I've already heard enough of those to make myself ill and we still have over a year to go! Instead I thought I would show you a video of someone who thought he was not only PRETTY good, he thought he was the greatest of all time. Mohammad Ali.

I Am The Greatest - Mohammad Ali

Wow. What an incredibly humble guy. Not!

Jesus tells us we should be humble and that the last shall be first (Matthew 20:16). If we are indeed to be humble and last how in the world could anyone become a leader. Unless . . . unless, we lead by being humble and not desiring to be first. Is that even possible? Of course it is. :)

As we walk through this world, may we not be blowing our own horn. May we instead be sounding the trumpet for our King. May we spread the Gospel wherever we go, and in doing so, humble ourselves. The meek shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5)

"23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first." - Matthew 19:23-30

Lead Me - Sanctus Real

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tiger By The Tail

One of the reasons I like taking long walks on the Ice Age Trail is because of the things I get to see along the way. For example, I got to see this today. Do you know what it is? It's a beautiful example of God's creation.

Although I did not take this picture I know exactly what this picture is because of something I used to do as a kid. I spent many summers in Michigan and Wisconsin chasing these illusive creatures around our yard and the vacant lot across the street. Let's zoom out a bit.

Wow! Quite a design wouldn't you say? It's hard for me to believe, as some people do, that we all came from a spontaneous spark and that we are all just examples of random chance. Yet that is what is being taught in our schools. Our children learn many "contrary" things in our educational system. Evolution is just one of them.

In the Bible we are told that it was GOD who created all things. And you know what? I believe it. All I have to do is take a look around me as I walk through the woods. The evidence is everywhere for us all to see.

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." - Genesis 1:24-25

This final picture I actually DID take on my walk along the Ice Age Trail yesterday. It's challenging to see how close I can get before these things fly away. Even at this distance though it is rather obvious that this insect is something special. It is incredibly beautiful and actually becomes MORE beautiful the closer you get to it. The closer we get to God's creation, the more impressed we become with it's designer.

God is an amazing at what He does. We humans keep trying to out-do God but the more we try, the more obvious our failure becomes. Why can't we just accept the fact the God created the heavens and the earth and move on. The evidence is quite compelling.

"Let those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

"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." - Romans 1:19-20

Tiger Swallowtails at The Beach

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The First Born Son

"22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him (Jesus) up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”)" - Luke 2:22-23

Our grandson is visiting my wife and I. He's still sleeping in the other room after a fun-filled night spent wearing his grandparents out. My wife and I loved every minute of it. At one point in the evening I was watching over him as he played in the bath tub. He and I had a few moments alone so I chose to pray over him as he played. This is the second time I have done this, prayed with my grandson. There is a reason I am doing this.

You see, something strange is happening in my family. It's kind of rare actually, at least I think it is. What significance it has I do not know but for four generations in my family, each head of their household has fathered a son - a first-born son.

My father, who died last year, was a first-born son to HIS father. I too was a first-born son to my dad. So was my son, first-born to me and my wife, and his son after him. Four generations of first-born sons.

My mother is a genealogist. Her hobby is tracing our family tree back in time. She has made some pretty interesting discoveries but the most important, at least in my mind, is that our family line extends back to Charlemagne and beyond. Charlemagne is my grand father . . . with quite a few "greats" attached!

Charlemagne began what became known as the Holy Roman Empire - a uniting of church and state. People who are much smarter than I have said this Holy Roman Empire is in prophesy. The Book of Daniel . . .

"39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” - Daniel 2:39-45

That Empire, started LONG ago is still in existence today. Today it goes by a different name - The European Union. The symbol of the European Union is a woman riding a beast. Seems weird yet here it is.

It remains just "weird" until one reads the Book of Revelation.

"Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. 5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations.” 6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." - Revelation 17:1-6

And so it is that I stare at my grandson and wonder, "What will be the things he sees in the future? Will prophesy be fulfilled in his lifetime? I'm not bragging that this grandson is a descendant of the one who began this "beast" - the Holy Roman Empire. But I AM saying study your biblical prophesy. There is a great story in the Bible of the return of Jesus and prophesies are being fulfilled in our lifetimes. The real question is not "When will Jesus return?" The real question is, "Are you ready?"

Four generations of first-born sons
 This guys theology is a little different than mine but he does do a good job of talking about the Holy Roman Empire. :)

Holy Roman Empire Reborn - Irvin Baxter

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Buckle Up!

We had quite a storm last night. Heavy downpours, dark skies. The gutters on our house were overflowing with all of the rain we were getting. But, despite the storms, we survived.

The best thing about storms is when they're over. I was reminded of that on my way into work yesterday morning. Wow!! What a sunrise. Beautiful!

As I was reflecting on God's over-arching power in creation, a car went flying past me. He must have been doing 20 miles per hour FASTER than I was going!! Perhaps I had slowed down looking at God's beautiful sunrise. Nope. I was actually doing a few miles an hour over the speed limit. Speedy Gonzales must have been doing 90!!

I reminded myself that I too was speeding. We were both guilty according to the letter of the law. Is it possible that someone can be MORE guilty than someone else? No. Either you are guilty or you are not and according to the law we were both guilty of breaking the rules.

We have a law in our state that says we are supposed to always wear our seatbelts while driving. "Click it or Ticket" is the slogan. Yet we are always hearing news reporters saying of a traffic fatality, "He wasn't wearing a seat belt."

Why do we? I admit that I drive faster than the law allows - two to three miles an hour faster. Unless I am drive around Chicago. Then I drive 80 mph just like everyone else. And guess what. The police don't care. The people in charge of enforcing the laws are determining whether or not they want to enforce them. Is that right?

Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. Will that law be enforced? Probably. How about our immigration laws? Are those being enforced? No. I heard a news story last night about an illegal immigrant who had five felon conviction and had been deported twice yet he was living in our country . . . again. And he just killed someone!

What good are laws if they are not enforced?

Do you know what they call a judge who hands out sentences according to the law? Some might call his a "hanging judge" or one who believes in "the letter of the law." He would be considered a "just" judge. A just judge hands down judgment based on the letter of the law. No mercy. Everyone is treated the same according to the law by a judge who is just.

God . . . is a just judge.

"God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day." - Psalm 7:11

That makes me think of two words . . . "uh" and "oh."


Why do we all have so much trouble following the rules? God's law is the measure by which we all will be judged. Why can't we adhere to it? Umm . . .

It's because we are natural born sinners.

"1 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place."
- Psalm 51:1-6

And that is why we need a savior. Without the atoning sacrifice for our sins there is no hope for us sinners. Destined to die. Doomed if it weren't for one thing, and that thing is Jesus.

Each time we break the law, each time we sin, let it be a reminder to us of our need for a savior. May we humble ourselves, seek his face and be restored to a right standing with God. Then trust in His promise, every day of our lives.

"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Hopeful

It is early Monday morning and I am trying to stay awake. Getting three hours of sleep each night at a Christian music festival can be quite draining. Especially with all of the walking to the various concert stages. Still, although I am back at work this morning and despite the lack of sleep this old body endured, I feel refreshed. Why?

I have been rejuvenated in my faith. There is something about spending time with family that restores the soul. It is truly amazing. I would still prefer being there at Lifest, even though it is raining today, than to be back at work. Most people say that about vacations I guess but this feeling, this desire, is something else.

Each time I go to Lifest I always encounter incredible moments of worship, I renew old friendships, the hugs, the stories, the memories . . . all precious. And so needed as we walk through this life in a world that seemingly does not believe.

This past week I was told that my "religion" is dangerous. I looked around this past weekend and all of the families, all the love walking up and down the aisles, and I thought, "Dangerous?" The word I would tend choose is . . blessed.

There will be many stories coming your way from this blog about the things that went on at Lifest. Too many to tell right now for this old, tired brain. All I know it that God is good . . . all the time. And that all the time, God is good.

The world in which we live is a "taker." It sucks life out of those of us who believe and can leave us feeling depleted, drained and depressed. But "in Christ" we are renewed, refreshed and recharged. There is not a single person who doesn't wish they were back at Lifest right now. Not because we don't like to be at work, but because we would rather be closer to God. And the definitely happens at Lifest.

So as you go through this day, be refreshed. We are a new creation when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. It is "in Him" that we can find rest for our souls. It is the ONLY place. We are the chosen ones, we are the wretched, broken and tired. But because Jesus died for our sins and because God has called us to Himself, our faith has made us brand new, redeemed and hopeful.

Make this day His. Let our lives RISE up to Him as a fragrant offering, and He will refresh us. The perfect beginning to a new life in Christ.

"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." - Jeremiah 31:25

Let It Rise - Big Daddy Weave

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Listen To The Sound

My wife is away on vacation this week. Usually, we tend to go places together but one week out of the year we take separate vacations for a short amount of time. She goes to Door County on a shopping, hiking and reading trip. I attend Lifest, a Christian music festival - an eating, worshiping, sleep deprivation trip. Each of us is doing something we like, but something the other spouse does not.

Although I like hiking and reading, shopping is WAY down there on my list of fun things to do. On the other hand, rock music doesn't thrill my wife either. Nor does hanging around with a bunch of teenagers. So we have chosen to spend some temporary time apart, to better enjoy our times together. Does that make sense?

As I write this I am sitting in a screen tent at Lifest. The sound of a mini-generator running next door, a distant train whistle, and the constant thumping of the bass drum sound check from the main stage. Pretty quiet compared to Thursday night's Newsboys concert.

There HAVE been moments when it has been quiet too. There was one at 3:47 AM and another at 4:23AM but other than that there is always some kind of noise present.  Do you have a lot of "noise" in your life? To me noise is something you don't necessarily want to hear.

My alarm clock is "noise." The generator running next door to our tent is "noise." What about last night's speeches here at Lifest? Noise? No. More like . . . music." Tony Nolan, Michael Tate and Matthew West all gave amazing talks last night. Reminders of the sweet music of God and His Word.

So how can we get rid of all the "noise" in our lives. Several three-word combinations come to mind.

  1. "Turn It Off!" - Many things can actually be turned off . . . like the annoying generator next door. I am seriously just about to get up to practice what I preach! With love of course.
  2. "Drown It Out!" -Replace the "noise" with something else. I think this reason is why we see so many people walking around with headphones and ear buds in their ears. Listening to something other than what the world wants to hear.
  3. "Turn It Up!" - Some people love the "noise." I am not one of them, but there ARE people who actually love the annoying "noise." And actually, they like to make the annoying noise themselves. They tend to compound the noise.
  4. "Rebel Against It" -  Some people don't like the noise and let people know about it. They have their own opinion of how much "noise" there should be. Unless the ambient noise level matches their expectations, they complain and attack. They don't like things that are different than them. And they let people know about it.
  5. "Rejoice In It!" - We have all had people in our lives who are rather negative. They produce a kind of "negative noise" all on their own. We could fight back in anger but what's the point? If we can find joy in the "noise" it is much easier to survive
Everyone makes their own kind of "noise." How we choose to deal with it defines who we are as a human being.

Recently, someone attacked me for what I believe. My faith was "noise" to them. So what did I do? First, I tried to convince them that my faith wasn't "noise" at all. That failed. See Point 4 above. So I chose to embrace this person's "noise" as a learning experience - a means of growth in an entire world of "noise."

We Christians are here to learn and to grow. We are often given "noise" so God can see how we handle it. When things don't go your way, what do you do? Whine and complain? Just try to ignore it? Or do you try finding the silver lining and use the "noise" to your advantage.

How we react to the struggles we have in this life define us. We can tell a lot about ourselves if we examine how we react in "noisy" situations. We need to examine ourselves and ask these question in ANY noise-filled moment in our lives:

"How is God going to use this to teach me something?"

"What can I learn from this that will help me grow in Christ?"

God's will for us is to grow into the image of His Son. We all learn and grow through experiences. If the end result of some "noise" we are encountering is that we will become more like Jesus on the other end of things, how can we do anything else other than to embrace it!

We all make "noise." Examine yourself. Is the noise YOU are making a pleasing aroma to the Lord?

"14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?" - 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Listen To The Sound - Building 429

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Up Nort Der Hey

Door County is one of Wisconsin's favorite vacation getaways. It is also one of favorite vacation destinations for the entire state of Illinois! Or so it seems. We all have our special places we like to go to get away from it all.

Where do you like to go? The beach? Do you just stay at home to get away from it all? Is your "get away" location a bathtub and a cup of coffee?

Have you ever noticed how most people like to go "up north." My wife and I live in Waupaca, Wisconsin. Waupaca is a vacation destination for many from the Milwaukee area or from Chicago. For them, WE are "up north." So where do WE in the Waupaca area go for vacation? WE too go up north - Eagle River, Tomahawk, Canada.

All this raises a question. Where do Eskimos go for there vacation? They are as "up north" as they can go! The only place they can go is "down south." That makes be think there is SOMEPLACE in between where you don't need to travel for vacation at all. There is someplace where people can live that is ALREADY the perfect destination spot. And guess what . . . Shhhh! . . . I have found it. :O

The place I go to "get away from it all" is very close to where I live. I don't need to get packed. I don't need to fill the gas tank or have a change of clothes to weigh me down. My secret vacation destination, the place where I go to relax and calm down from all the activity, noise and busyness, fits right in the palm of my hands.

No! It's not a phone or a laptop. It's my Bible.

Whenever I feel like I need to take a break, whenever I need to just get away, I open up my Bible and I turn to the Book of Romans . . . chapter eight. MY favorite vacation destination. Won't you please join me?

Romans 8

After I get done reading that chapter I just feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from these incredibly old shoulders of mine. I feel rested and relaxed. All my cares are gone and the sunshine seems just a little brighter. All the benefits of a vacation without having to leave my house.

My prayer for you this morning is that you would take a vacation break, right where you are. Open up your Bible and read Romans eight. You too may find rest and relaxation in the arms of Christ.

"38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39

Amen. :)

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Wake

When a boat passes through water it leaves a wake behind it. Wakes are interesting things. They are the result of an external force (a boat for example) on something else (a body of water in the case of a wake). Wakes are a testimony to the boat who made it.

Can you think of other things we see in our daily lives that give testimony to something else?

How about the contrails behind a plane? I wrote about them a few weeks ago. They are the visible evidence left behind by a plane, vapor trails, a wake in the air if you will, one thing caused by something else.

What else? What about footprints? Footprints are a visible reminder that someone has walked through a particular place. If they are crisp and well-defined we can know that they are fresh. The relative size of the foot print leaver and the direction they are traveling in can also be determined. Hmm. Interesting thoughts coming into my head. Yours?

Have you ever seen one of these things? A pile of stone on the beach or some other place? They are called cairns. What can they tell us? Well, they can tell us that someone was there. Stones just don't stack themselves! The builder also knew something about construction (wide base, narrow top). It took some skill to make this.

Do you know who made the first cairn ever? God did. At least He was The One who came up with the idea. One representative of each Jewish tribe made it. Why?

"4 When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5 And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” - Joshua 4:1-7

Question time.
  • Do you leave a wake as you live the life you were given? A wake for good? A positive wake for God? We should be doing that. We should be touching our community for Christ. We should be loving others as God first loved us (1 John 4:19).
  • Do leave a wake for God wherever you go? Leaving a wake is one thing. Who you leave it for is another. We should be spreading The Gospel, in addition to living it,  as we walk through this world. 
  • Are we to be a monument to Christ? Crossing the Jordan was a visual representation of us crossing from death to life when we placed our faith in Christ. Our lives are OUR monument. DO we live them like Jesus did?
The life of a Christian is a hard one. And it will get harder. Perhaps you have already faced some persecution in YOUR life for what you believe. I have. Still, despite that, we are to be salt and light to this world we live in. We are to spread God's truth, God's love and God's grace as we walk through our temporary home. We are to be a blessing to God and a blessing to others. Each day let us start anew. Let it be said of us that we lived to be a blessing.

The Blessing - John Waller

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The REAL Independence Day

I have lived in this country all of my life. I was born here. I was raised here. I will die here. There is a certain pride that comes from being an American. We are free. We have set for ourselves a government of the people, by the people and for the people. At least that's how it's supposed to be.

239 years ago we declared our Independence from Great Britain. The history books tell us there was great tyranny by the British - a remote government trying to maintain its control over a distant colony.

I would like you to watch a video. It's not that long, but it contains a reading of the Declaration of Independence. I would like you to watch it and see if you notice the same thing I did.

The Real Independence Day  

After watching that video, did you feel that certain sense of pride? I did. What has happened to that feeling in our country? Where has it gone? We still shoot off fire works on the 4th of July around here but sometimes we do it on the 3rd or the 5th - whatever suites our convenience. And that is the real problem isn't it. It's all about . . . us. It's not so much about the U.S. anymore. It's about us. Not our forefathers. It's not about the ones who sacrificed so much so that we could have our freedom . . . our independence. It's just another excuse to party and watch while other people blow things up.

The further and further I see our country drift away from what we used to be, the more I need to remind myself that I no longer belong here. Yes, I will physically be here but my heart and soul are no longer limited by earthly boundaries. I am no longer a Wisconsinite, an American, or even an earthling. I am a Christian. I am child of God. This place is not my home.

The founders of our country had great plans for this country and in many ways we are still a great nation, but we have lost our direction. We have lost our compass, especially our moral compass and our spiritual compass. We have begun listening to ourselves and not to God. And, quite honestly, I think God has removed His hand of protection from us and we are being punished for our sins.

On this Independence Day, my prayer is that we return to the principles that made this country stand out from the crowd. We still have many of those characteristics. But I pray we would return to a God-honoring nation. One who obey God's commands. A nation that does not sacrifice it's children to the god of convenience. A nation that would honor God through our marriage'

A young friend of mine posted a link on Facebook. It asked questions of those of us who support gay marriage. One question caught my eye. It spoke to how we have lost our focus as a church. Instead of concerning oureselves with what God wants we have turned our focus inward, asking, "What do WE want?"

Question 37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

Good question.

When Jesus was  about to be crucified, he prayed a prayer for his disciples. At the end of that prayer Jesus prayed this prayer for us.

20 “I do not ask for these only (the disciples), but also for those who will believe in me through their word (that's us), 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” - John 17:20-26

Heavenly Father, May this Independence Day be a day of REAL independence. May we return to you in repentance for the sins we have committed as a nation. And may we re-unite to what we once were before we began thinking so much of ourselves. May we return to you, one nation . . . under God. Amen.

I Do Not Belong - Kutless

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Road Less Traveled

So many things from our high school days get forgotten. At age 62 I have probably forgotten more things than I ever learned in my life but I do remember SOME things. Like high school English class when we had to read poems. That sucked. I remember that! But I do remember this one poem. I have always loved the last three lines of it. You've probably heard them. The words are a kind of a guide for my life but I wasn't sure why until today. Please read this wonderful American poem with me.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost

Do you tend to take the road less traveled? Do you tend to make choices CONTRARY to public opinion simply because you prefer not blending in with the crowd? Or going along with the flow. Do you do that? Perhaps that is why movies like Robin Hood, Hunger Games and Divergent appeal to me so much. The underdog, the rebel, the non-conformist . . . that's me.

I'd like you to read something else if you would. It's from another piece of literature penned long ago. See if you can see any similarities between these two writings you have read today.

"13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." - Matthew 7:13-14

It seems to me that "the road less traveled" these days is the one that leads to Jesus. Same-sex marriages are now the law of the land, the Ten Commandments are being removed from a court house by Oklahoma's Supreme Court. The road just keeps getting narrower and narrower.

Many people I know have left the narrow road in favor of the one their friends are walking on. They would rather be with the majority. They would rather fit in. Why? I think it's because they are afraid. Afraid of being left alone. Afraid that no one will love them. Afraid they will be picked on because they're different. Sad.

Have you seen the movie Divergent? I watched it this past weekend. It's about futuristic society where everyone has a role. Everyone must fit into that role or they are destroyed. The people who don't fit in are called "divergents." They are the ones who choose the road less traveled.

Do you like to fit in with the crowd? Even if the crowd might be wrong?

The world we live in now embraces that which once was considered abnormal. We kill our children at the rate of 125,000 each day. We have passed laws legalizing suicide. We embrace same-sex relationships contrary to God's decrees. The younger generation has determined that sex before marriage is normal, expected, and so they are having babies out of wedlock. What once was, is no more. And what was narrow, is now wide.

To be a Christ follower in today's world is becoming increasingly difficult. In the coming days we will be persecuted, shunned in society because of our beliefs. We will be the strange ones, the oddity in society. In the eyes of the secular world we will become divergent. Check that. Guess what. We already are.

"20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." - Isaiah 5:20

Divergent Trailer