Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Fading

It's hard to believe it's been two years since my dad passed away. I can still see his face when I close my eyes. Many of the individual images I have burned into my mind blend into the old family photographs, taken long ago. Sadly, other images fade away with time.

We all have memories of those we loved who have left us. Cherished, wonderful memories - they become a part of us. Ironically, we too are fading away in the lives of our children's eyes. And so it continues with each passing generation.

I remember my father's generation in our family. My grandfather's as well. But after that all that is left is fading pictures taken in front of a cabin in the woods or an old house in town. Memories and lives, fading into the distance.

There are times we experience in our lives that are absolutely wonderful. I would call them magical but that would imply an illusion and those special times we have are anything but an illusion. They are beyond real, in the opposite direction. Some memories become engraved on our hearts for a lifetime. It is THOSE special memories that we cherish the most.

With that in mind, I ask you to consider Christ this morning. Two thousand years have passed since He walked this earth, yet his memory still lives in the hearts of those who believe. That in itself is a miracle.

When you close your eyes at night, can you see His face? Can you feel His Holy Spirit inside you? Can you see God working in the lives of those who love Him?

"14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[b] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” - Luke 22:14-19

We all have people in our lives - friends, family members - who have faded away from us. Why is that? Why have they become distant? Is it us? Are we the reason we don't see them anymore? Wouldn't it be nice if the fading reversed itself and they once again became part of our lives?

God may fade away in the memory of those who don't know Him, but His children, those who believe in Him, will ALWAYS remember. There will be no fading away in this man's heart or the hearts of any who have surrendered and made Him Lord of their lives. He is our King

Missing Pages - Seventh Day Slumber

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Grain Of Salt

We all have our own idea of what is right and what is wrong. Some people want to ban guns, others don't. Some people support gay marriage, others don't. There are pro-life people and there are those who favor abortion. Some people like Chevy's Others like Fords.

Who is right? IS there a right and a wrong side to things? If there is, who determines what it is? And what if THEY are wrong? I'm getting weary just thinking about all this. There has GOT to be some source, some means of finding out what truth is and what is a lie.

Many people find their "truth" on the Internet or on television. That's both funny and sad at the same time. ABC, NBC, CBS  and CNN all lean to the left, politically. Fox News claims to be "fair and balanced" but they aren't. They lean to the right. Doesn't anyone speak the truth anymore?

Everybody has their own opinion. News editors and producers have their own opinions of what WE should see on the news or read on their web sites or in their newspapers. We need to take everything we hear and read with "a grain of salt." What does that mean?

"(With) a grain of salt," (or "a pinch of salt") is an idiom of the English language, which means to view something with skepticism, or to not take it literally.

Right now, in this country, we have two people running for president. Both have opposing views on many things. Both will tell you that they are speaking the truth and that the other candidate is lying. So, who is right? They're not BOTH lying are they? Who is right and who is wrong? There can be only one truth. And it is our job to find out what that truth is.

We can actually find out what truth is by opening up our Bibles. In it we will find that JESUS is "the truth" (John 14:6). We also can find that God "does not lie" (Titus 1:2). We can learn that God's "way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30).

And it doesn't take too much research to find out what God thinks about lying, murder, abortion, homosexuality, adultery, over eating, stealing, self pride, etc.

When we hear someone tell us something and say that it is the truth, we should not believe them, unless we know them to be a truthful person. Even then, we should examine what they tell us. There is a very fine line between telling someone something and gossip.

The truth can be a very illusive thing. I have found that only God knows it and speaks it. Everyone else simply has an opinion. Someone once said, "All truth is relative." Is that statement true? Or is it relative,  only true to the person saying it?

Jesus Christ told us that He is the truth. He, being God, cannot lie. Therefore, what He says is truth. That truth may not answer today's political "truths" but it can help us be discerning in our investigation of what IS truth. And, we are told, the truth will set us free.

"42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” - John 8:42-47

I encourage you to watch this short video about "relative truth." Ravi nails it!

The Truth Cannot Be All Relative - Dr. Ravi Zacharias

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Get In The Game

I was listening to someone talking about watching the U.S. Open golf tournament the other day. They said they wouldn't miss watching it for the world. Really? The world? When I have watched golf tournaments in the past I usually last 5 minutes before either a.) turning the channel or b.) falling asleep.

Watching golf tournaments has got to be one of the most boring things a person can do. In my opinion. It's right up there with watching paint dry and watching grass grow. I'm sure there are plenty of people who enjoy watching golf. I'm just not one of them. Personally, I would rather play a game than watch it.

Have you ever played golf? I think most people who watch sports on television either can't play the sport well and have given up or have actually tried it, found it challenging, and appreciate watching someone who can play it well. Until and unless a person actually gets in the game they can't truly appreciate what it's like to play it well.

A person's faith can become like watching sports. If we just sit in the church pews on Sunday and don't get into the game, church can become quite boring and meaningless.

When my wife and I were watching our kids play tee-ball & Little League it wasn't uncommon to hear a coach shout to an inattentive player, "Get In The Game, kid!" Even when we're on the field it is possible to not be "in the game."

Just look at how many people are in the stands watching other people play a game. There are WAY more people sitting in the stands and the pews, when they themselves should be getting into the game.

I listened with great sadness Saturday as someone told me that a food pantry distribution site in a neighboring community that was closing. Why?  Did they run out of food? No. They had enough food. That wasn't the problem. The reason the food pantry was closing was . . . they didn't have enough volunteers. Nobody to distribute the food. Are you kidding me? People are now going hungry because not enough people are getting into the game of serving others.

We have been so blessed in this country. But too often we just take and take without giving back. Let's change that. We are a nation of people who has traditionally participated in things. Usually we find our selves participating in wars. But we also participate in other ways.

After the recent mass shooting in Orlando, people lined up on the streets to donate blood. A long line on a hot day is not a FUN place to be but people got into the game in Orlando. They weren't the only ones either.

Chick-fil-A opened their doors . . . on a Sunday. They never open on Sunday. Chick-fil-A is a faith-based organization, "remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy." Yet they opened their doors on a Sunday. Why? Were they looking to make money off of a sad situation? No.

Chick-fil-A opened their doors to serve others in need. They actually lost money that day. How? They GAVE AWAY their food. Why? They got into the game. We should do the same in the communities where WE live.

"9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - Romans 12:9-21

There are many good people in this world. But too often we chose the easy path in life. We chose to sit and watch the world go by.

"35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— 36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping." - Mark 13:35-36

Chick-fil-A News Story - Fox 10 News

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Parable of The Dougnuts

There once was a man named . . . well, let's just call him Bob. Bob loved doughnuts. Unfortunately for Bob, doughnuts don't love him. Doughnuts contain sugar. LOTS of sugar! And Bob is diabetic. Sugar is a problem for Bob. Bob has too much of it and his old body just can't get rid of it like it used to.

Bob still loves doughnuts though. Even though they are bad for him. When Bob sees doughnuts on the counter at work, Bob becomes tempted and, more times than not, Bob succumbs to the doughnut temptation. Bob is weak.

But Bob is learning. Bob has been informed of what will happen to him if he keeps on eating doughnuts. Bob could die sooner than he'd like. Dying is also a bad thing. Bob has a choice to make - life or death. Seems like a no-brainer.

Yeah. It SEEMS that way.

Let's talk about sin for a moment. We have a choice to make there too. We could choose NOT to sin but sin is something we love to do it seems. Sin is natural for us. It's almost like we were made to sin.

Sin is like doughnuts. It just sits there on the counter saying, "Here I am. I'm waiting for you. Come have some before it's all gone."

There are some people I know who don't like doughnuts. Or maybe they DO like doughnuts, they just have stronger will power than I do. Do YOU like doughnuts?

People will always sin. We always have. We always will. The Bible says that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). That means we are going to pay for that sin someday and the price for our sins is extremely high. Death. OUR death.

When we surrender our lives to Jesus He takes away that penalty. We no longer have to pay that ultimate price. Jesus took care of that on the cross. And the doughnuts? Jesus gives us the strength to resist them. We still want the doughnuts but we are somehow made strong enough the resist them. But it is OUR choice.

We Christians are not immune from sinning. There is still temptation. Sometimes we fall. We can still eat WAY too many doughnuts. But there comes a point at which we can say to ourselves, "That's enough. There are more important things to focus on. More important things to consume."

We have a choice to make in our lives.

"6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." - Romans 6:1-4

Duck Dynasty Doughnut Eating Contest

Monday, June 20, 2016

Decision America

This past Wednesday, Franklin Graham came to our state capital in Madison. He is touring the country, appearing at all 50 state capitals, appealing to all Christians to pray and to get involved in local government. Basically, he was telling us that we need to make a "decision, America." A decision about our future. It's time to take back this once-great country in the name of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.

Mr. Graham spoke about this country's past, present and future - and how we have lost our direction and our focus. I wonder . . . are his hopes of taking back our country too late? Sadly, I cannot answer that question positively with any confidence. But at least he is doing something. At least he is trying.

The day after his speech I was reflecting on Mr. Graham's message, I began to look at just what he was doing - this act of his touring the country, reminding people what God's Word says. Mr. Graham was warning us to repent and change our wicked ways or face the wrath of Almighty God. Where have we heard that message before?

Before God unleashed punishment on the Israelites, He often sent them a warning through the prophets or through a king. The Israelites always seemed to refuse to yield to God's recommendations. God always seemed to punished them for their transgressions.

Have you ever read the Book of Jonah? Most people remember the story about Jonah being swallowed by a whale or a large fish. The big story in the book though is really about a city that repented after hearing someone preach to them - just like Franklin Graham is speaking to our country. The big question for us is, will we listen to such preaching? Only a few of us will listen I fear. But what woul happen if we DID listen . . . if we DID repent as a nation and turn from our wicked way like Nineveh did?

"10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it." - Jonah 3:10

What if Franklin Graham is acting in the role of a prophet? He IS speaking words of warning about our need for repentance? Sadly, we as a people, for the most part, are choosing to ignore those warnings. I fear this nation is headed for punishment in the near future. Unless God has mercy and forgives our wicked ways (not likely) we will surely feel the wrath of God across this great land.

God is loving, merciful and patient but He is not tolerance of disobedience.

Jonah: The World's Greatest Fish Story

The Book of Jonah

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Last Shall Be First

(photo: Krystle Baumgarten)
I witnessed something kind of cool this week. Our dinky little town of 6,080 (2010 census) won the boys Division 2 state baseball championship! That was pretty cool. But on that day I experienced something even cooler than that. It all started with a phone call from my daughter.

"Hey . . . umm, you wanna go watch the Comets play?" she asked.

"Well, I'm at work." I replied.

Then I thought for a few seconds. Hey! The Comets are playing for the state title!!!

"Let's go!"

The Comets were playing Milwaukee Lutheran. It was small town against the big city. In incredible story, just waiting to unfold. And unfold it did. I'm not going to give you the box score here, or the play-by-play. I'm going to give you new meaning to an Old Testament Bible verse.

"6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6
(photo: Krystle Baumgarten)

In your mind's eye, zoom back from the field of play until you begin to see people in the stands. The first thing you noticed that day was all the uniforms. There were dozens of them. They were everywhere. And I'm not talking about the adults or the booster club. Every Little Leaguer from Waupaca was there! Watching. Observing. Learning.

Behind the other dugout there were also parents of the players and a small contingent from Milwaukee to cheer their team on - the defending state champions. There were few kids but here was tiny Waupaca, our fans outnumbering the opposition 4-or 5-to-one.

(photo: Krystle Baumgarten)
I watched as Kronk (that's the coach nickname) worked with his players. Clapping hands, encouraging them, very calm in his demeanor. He placed his arm around the shoulder of one of his players, explaining how the runner had missed a sign. Not yelling, but teaching. He's mighty good at teaching his "children" as it says in Proverbs.

One more thing I noticed. Before the game began the coach walked over to the stands. His son was standing there, holding the coach's granddaughter. It was easy to tell the priorities in this man's life. Others.

There were times in years gone by when the Comet baseball team had been last. This year they finished first. But all that pales, I think, to where his players and our children finish in life.

Go back up to the top of this page and take a second look at that first picture. Yes, the coach is excited. But not at anything HE has done. And guess who he's looking at. Go on . . . guess.

He's not looking at his adoring, cheering crowd. He's looking at his wife and his kids. And all the Waupaca Little Leaguers? They were looking at him.

"6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6

Someone trained Kronk pretty good too, I thought. And as I turned my head and looked at my daughter sitting next to me. Her mom and I did pretty good as well. Our children are the future. Wise parents train them in such a way that they one day will lead . . . by following.

God writes amazing stories and this one was no exception. You see, this was Kronk's very last game as their coach. What a fitting end to an amazing career. But the teaching and the training of his children will always go on.

Waupaca Comets Win First State Baseball Title - Post Crescent

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Liberty and Justice . . . For All?

When I was in grade school we always said the Pledge of Allegiance every day before classes began. We ALWAYS said it. We never thought anything about it being "offensive to Muslims or atheists." The reason we never thought anything about it was because we WERE "one nation, under God."

We Americans have had our disagreements, even when we were "under God" but this news story I saw the other night deserved today's "You have got to be kidding!" award. It made me wonder about the "liberty and justice" . . . for ALL.

The state of Indiana just passed a law stating you couldn't decide to get an abortion based on race, sex or disability. We as a nation already have anti-discrimination laws on the books. They are good common sense laws. They state that we can't refuse service or housing or jobs to anyone on the basis of their race, sex or physical or emotional disability. Indiana isn't doing something outside of the norm or outrageous. Yet there are some people who think this law is interfering with a woman's right to "health" - to get an abortion.

That's just crazy. In my opinion it is incredibly discriminatory for a woman to say, "I want an abortion because my baby is a boy. I REALLY want a girl. So let's get rid of the boy." How is that different than, "I really don't want white people in my apartment building so let's just refuse to rent them to any blacks."

There are laws against that sort of behavior and rightly so. Yet Planned Parenthood, well known for selling baby parts across the country is suing Indiana so that women can choose what kind of babies they can keep . . . or kill.

What kind of world do we live in where people can chose to kill a living thing because they want to? Was the Orlando shooting any different than what I just described? It too is an example of a willing choice that someone made because they didn't want someone else in THEIR life. It is no different! This world is filled with narcissistic, self focused egotistical people. Jesus preached against that kind of thinking. Perhaps we should take time to listen to his teachings. This is from one of His disciples.

"4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

We are called to love one another. Even the inconvenient ones in our lives. We must love and pray for those at Planned Parenthood. We must pray for the victims of the Orlando shooting. We must love and pray for young women making decisions that are also literally life and death. May we ALL have the wisdom to choose life. May we ALL choose love. May we ALL choose liberty and justice . . . for all.

ACLU, Planned Parenthood Sue State of Indiana

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Commands of Jesus: Judge Not

There are a lot of people these days who feel we should not be judging one another and, for the most part, they are right. Television shows we watch are filled with people judging one another and the television has become the world's classroom. We learn most of what we know about judging from television. That's a problem.

What does the Bible tell us about judging others? And, more specifically, what does Jesus say about it? More on that in a moment but first this little side story.

Coffee Cup Verses. That's what they call them. They are wonderful little snippets of words to encourage us as we start our day.  Small portions of text that are pulled, screaming, from the Bible and taken as "gospel" while the surrounding words, often more convicting, are left behind in favor of feel-good Christianity. Matthew 7 is a perfect example of this.

The picture at the right is how many people read Matthew 7. We just remember the words we want to hear. We don't remember what came before or after. Wey forget about the context, cherry-picking only the key words . . . the ones that make them feel the best. When we do that we hear Jesus telling us that we are not to be judging others. Here's what Jesus actually said.

7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." - Matthew 7:1-5

The last verse is particularly interesting, especially the part that where Jesus tells us we ARE to judge our brothers and sisters . . . BUT . . . only after we have first judged ourselves.

Let's get one thing straight. As believers in Christ, Jesus is OUR judge. But Jesus says we are also to judge our brothers and sisters. And Paul tells us we are only to judge other believers, not non-believers.

"12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” - 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

So, what do we do? Do we judge others or not? I think the key to this issue can be found in another verse.

"7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” - John 8:7

Before we cast stones at others, before we judge them, we must first examine ourselves. Are WE without sin? Is there something in us that Jesus might see as sinful? Hey, we are ALL sinners. Let us reflect on that fact for a moment.

The key in all this is the word "first." Before we say anything convicting or condemning about someone else, we should consider our own guilt, our own sinfulness. Would the stones then from from OUR hands?

When a brother or sister sins, we should lovingly come along side them and guide them back to the truth. But we should not pick up stones to do so. We should go to them, carrying our OWN sin as a testimony that we ALL must repent. Let us judge one another, in love, and let's do so together.

Judge Not - Todd Friel (Wretched TV)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Red Sky At Night

When you see the weather reports from distant lands, somehow the storms don't seem so bad. They're just videos of storms. We don't "experience" them. We just watch them. Until one comes rolling down the street where we live.

We had a line of thunderstorms go through our area last night. The sky turned a greenish-grey, street lights came on it was so dark. And then the wind. 60 miles per hour we heard later. Where would we have been without weather radar. We knew well in advance that the storm was coming.

We had an opportunity to prepare ourselves. We put things away in the shed, carried potted plants into the garage. By the time the storm hit we were safely inside, watching from the comfort of our living room chairs. But sometimes storms can hit with little or no notice at all.

Sailors have a saying, "Red Sky at morning, sailor's take warning. Red sky at night, sailor's delight." A "red sky" is caused by the sun's rays reflecting off the bottom of clouds. In the morning the sun is in the east. In the evening the sun is in the west. Most storms move from west to east. A red sky in the morning means a storm is coming. A red sky at night? It means that the storm has passed and the sun has come out from behind the clouds.

I have a friend from work who went through a nasty divorce. Her husband came home from work one day and said, "I'm leaving you. We're done." My friend had no idea that storm was coming. It hit with a suddenness and surprise that left her reeling.

Are you going through a storm in your life right now? Maybe someone else you know is having a "red sky" morning" as they try to navigate through some personal storm. Or maybe it's us? What do we do?

First, when we see the warning signs we must act. Maybe we take steps to strengthen our relationships. We must examine ourselves to make sure it's not us that's causing the problem. And then move to change things.

Another thing we can do is prepare for any "life storms"  by reading the Bible. There are many helpful verses that can encourage us as we ride out the storms we face in life.

Prayer is a great way to navigate storms. There are just some things we can't fix by ourselves . . . most things. Praying to God, the only one who can repair the unfixable or heal the incurable, is a mighty weapon against any storm.

Delight in the "red sky at night," Jesus. He is The Light at the end of the tunnel. There is shelter from the fiercest storm in Him. Run to Him!

We can be a light in someone else's life as well. Part of the reason God called us is to help others. We should be helping our brothers and sisters as they struggle and as the storm clouds gather.

May God watch over you. May He keep the storms we face from causing too much damage. And may He see us all through our storms . . . to a brand new day.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:14-16

"34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” - John 13:34-35

Red Sky At Night - David Gilmour

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Parable of The Proud Father

The Bible tells us that pride is a bad thing, but THAT pride is the pride of "self." It's okay to be proud of the accomplishments of others, especially those we know and love - our kids. God was proud of HIS Son after all.

"This is my Son with whom I am well pleased." - Matthew 3:17

I was struck by examples of parental pride this week, and in weeks gone by, in the lives of some of my friends.

The opening picture is of my friend Paul and his daughter Abby. She just got done competing in the state track & field championships - the high jump. Abby can literally jump over my wife!! To see someone so young excelling at something is exceptional. What a joy it is as parents to see our children succeed! Congratulations Abby!!

I have another friend in Texas whose daughter is also a track star. Just graduated, this young lady could have made the weight lifting team with all the medals she has on her arms! Her parents are so proud of her. And with good reason. She is an amazing young lady.

Although it is possible for ANY parent to feel good about their children's accomplishments, I am willing to bet that if you asked these Godly parents what they are most proud of in their children's lives, they would answer, "That they are walking with The Lord." And rightly so.

One more story of parental pride for you this morning. This daughter is not a track star but she is a star in the eyes of her students. And in the eyes of her mom and dad.

She had a student in her class who was struggling. Poor family life, low self esteem. But she saw in her student a gift for writing so she encouraged him.

At the end of the school year, during an awards assembly, this teacher presented her student with an award for his writing. The student was shocked. I wonder, perhaps at the moment of receiving his award, if he wasn't also changed - a life re-directed through loving encouragement.

God loves His children. He is pleased with us when we do things according to His teachings and in alignment with His will for us in our lives. I look at the parents of these kids, all followers of Christ. They are amazing examples of what God's love and pride in us is like. One day, may they hear God tell them . . .

"Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ - Matthew 25:23

As proud parents, we have all felt a little bit of what it is like to "enter into the joy of our Lord." May we all live our lives in such a way as to be pleasing to Him. May the pride and love we feel for our children be a reflection of God's pride and love He feels for us. We are to be a shining city on a hill, a reflection not of ourselves but of who we belong to. Let us shine brightly today and make our Father proud, always.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:14-16

[Special thanks to the parents of these talented young ladies who allowed me to tell their story and use their pictures. You are amazing examples of God's love for us all!]

My Wish For You - Rascal Flatts

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Lowest Places

A lone man sits on a hill, looking down at the desolate valley below. A cold mist hangs in the air as his dirty and blood-stained face is split in two by a single tear tracing down his face. Bodies of his brothers and sisters lie everywhere. Motionless, lifeless, dead. The battle, it seems, is over and we, the people, have lost.

Does that sound like a movie? A dream perhaps? More like a nightmare. But the battle described in the opening paragraph is currently underway. Right now people are dying. The battle is being fought right here. Right now. In this very country and we, the people, are losing. It is the battle for morality and religious freedom.

"Opponents of the moral revolution are to be treated with scorn, contempt, and worse. The terms of moral surrender have been delivered to us, and they are absolute and unconditional. Just ask Japan and Germany what that means." - Albert Mohler

"We The People," have failed. Failed to stand guard, failed to guard the gaps in our moral walls. We have lost the battle for morality.

Nehemiah is usually spoken of as a great leader but today I would like to show you what Nehemiah did when the lives of God's people were threatened. He did something that WE failed to do as a nation.

"7 When Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

10 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” 13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
- Nehemiah 4:7-14

Nehemiah stationed people with weapons at "the lowest places" in the wall surrounding the city. The places where the wall was lowest and most vulnerable.

When we as a people noticed our enemy (Satan) coming into our "city" (our country's moral character) we should have placed guards. We should have fought. We were massively outnumbered and we . . . we, as a nation, HAVE . . . lost this battle.

But what about us as individual followers of Christ. We can still protect OUR walls, our "low places." And Nehemiah already told us how to do it.

Verse 9 - "And we prayed to our God." - We must pray! The ranks of the enemy are growing daily. It is an uphill battle but "if God is for us, who can be against us." (Romans 8:31). We also must "set a guard . . . day and night." - We must guard our hearts and our minds against the attacks of the enemy. How? Read God's Word. Commit it to memory. Apply it, live it, both day and night.

Verse 13 - "in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.

What are your "lowest places? Where are you most vulnerable to attack? What is your biggest weakness? Station a guard there! Find verses to defend yourself. Don't let your moral walls crumble.

We must take action in this battle, even though we are on the losing side of it right now, because God wins in the end. Which side of the moral line will we find ourselves on when He returns? Let me tell you, we do NOT want to find ourselves with crumbling walls and breaches open to the enemy. We must protect our city and the temple where God lives . . . our souls!

This is not a war waged in Washington D.C. That battle is over. The battle we are waging now is in our own minds and in our own hearts. Draw your weapons! Build the walls high! And pray. Pray like you've never prayed before.

Keeping Watch (Part 1) - Ravi Zacharias
Keeping Watch (Part 2) - Ravi Zacharias

Saturday, June 4, 2016

We Need A Miracle

Maybe you've seen them - visual representations of our lives in the world around us. Examples in nature or in our surroundings that teach us things. They might show us the correct decisions to make or they might teach us something about ourselves. Here's an example of what I'm trying to get at.

You're driving down the road. Some people are going the same direction as you. Others are going in the opposite direction. As long as everybody stays in their lane the world is fine. But when someone crosses the center-line into YOUR lane, there's bound to be trouble. This is a perfect example of conflict in our world views.

The political right has certain opinions about what is right and what is wrong. So does the political left. One side's views often contradicts the view of those on the other side. When the two get together there is often disagreement and conflict. It seems as if we need a miracle for anything to get done in Washington D.C.

But conflict can arise even amongst those with similar goals in mind. A lamb walks through a field of grass. It's sole desire is to eat. A lion watches from the under brush. It desires the same thing - to eat. They both have the same goal in mind, the same desire. But conflict soon arises when one desires to eat the other. The lamb needs a miracle in its life. And so do we.

You and I walk through this world we live in. Each of us has our beliefs. What happens when we encounter someone with differing beliefs? There is disagreement at best, conflict - more likely. Have you been disagreed with because of your beliefs? Did you feel defensive? Did your view of the other person change?

ISIS chops off the heads of those it encounters who don't believe as they do. What do we Christians do? We pray. Prayer contains more power than we're ever know.

When King Hezekiah and the Jewish people were surrounded by the Assyrians, the king prayed a prayer. Surrounded by a mighty army, they had no chance. They needed a miracle. God heard and answered Hezekiah's prayer through the prophet Isaiah.

32 “Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 34 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

35 And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. 37 And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place."
- 2 Kings 19:32-37

When faced with a trial that seems too large to bear, I have heard many people say, "Well, I guess all we can do is pray." My friends, prayer is the FIRST and BEST thing we can possibly do!

This country needs a miracle if it is ever to turn itself around and get right with The Lord. Just like King Hezekiah, we need to pray, our leaders need to pray. This country has turned its back on God and on Israel. History has recorded what happens to people and nations who do that. Let us pray to the Lord for mercy and help.

God's Word is "Sharper than any two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12) and our God is mightier and stronger than ANY other would be god. Let us pray to the Lord.

"God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present[b] help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress."
- Psalm 46:1-7

The Lord God A;mighty reigns!!

Shout To The Lord - Darlene Zschech (plus Agnes Dei) with Michael W. Smith

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Ears To Hear

Well, that was interesting. I just took a hearing test over the phone. I know my hearing is not what it once was but I didn't think it was "substantially below the average range." Hmm. I must be getting old. At least my ears are!

Most of my hearing trouble occurs in noisy rooms. Lots of conversations going on, clanking dishes and utensils all add to the confusion. It can be quite distracting. And so it is with my faith.

We can get very distracted by the world we live in. So much so that we often forget about God in a world filled with its own clanging noises and conver*sations.

Politicians clamoring for our attention with smooth, convincing speeches can lure us into believing a lie. Television commercials can also be quite distracting with their soothing rhetoric. My wife and I have taken to muting the television when the commercials come on. You should try it. It's like an oasis in the desert.

Watching the nightly news is also a clanging cymbal in my ears. It's doesn't matter which side of the fence you're on, they all want our attention. Some even shout for it or distract us in other ways.

I've seen some TV preachers that do the same thing. They're yelling at the top of their lungs. Do they think that everyone is as hard of hearing as I am? They must. I tend to turn them off. My eyes glaze over and then roll back in my head as I hear them speak their nauseating self-help messages. That ain't worship boys.

Do you know what DOES get my attention? Do you know what really makes me listen? It's when I "hear" God speaking to me as I read His wonderfully written Word. I may be losing my hearing but I can still hear my Savior's voice . . . with my eyes.

My wife likes to speed read books. She can finish entire novels in a matter of days. Not me. I like to read at the speed of normal human speech. I also enjoy reading out loud. Both reading AND hearing really drive the message home.

As we walk through this world may we train ourselves to tune out the noisy rhetoric and clanging cymbals. Let us focus on the sound of our Shepherd's voice. We know the sound of His voice. Let us listen only for the words HE speaks to us, and not our own.

"10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” - 1 Samuel 3:10

Ears To Hear - Sabbath School