Saturday, December 30, 2017

Last Day?

Thursday morning at work I wrote two words down in my calendar. You see I am retiring at the end of March so on March 30th's spot I wrote "Last Day". I paused and thought about that for a moment. What if we knew when our last day on earth was? Would we live differently?

It's been really cold here in Central Wisconsin lately. My friend Jeanne in Antigo reported -26 degrees the other day. We were at 19 below in Waupaca. That was Wednesday. Thursday it snowed. When the highway is already frozen and then it snows, and cars drive on that snow, it can turn into ice pretty quickly. And it did. And as it turned out, it WAS also someone's "last day."

"A man's days are numbered." - Job 14:5

As I neared home I began to see brake lights on the road in front of me and then the flashing lights of a squad car. Someone must have gone off the road, I thought. I was right but it was worse than that. Authorities had closed the freeway because of an accident. Traffic was being diverted off the highway so they could clean up the accident scene. Sounded pretty bad. And it was.

An east bound pickup lost control on the ice, went across the median and hit a semi head on. The driver of the pickup was killed. His last day.

We never know when it will be our last day on this earth. As the old saying goes, "Live each day as if it were your last because, one day, you will be right."

Yesterday morning on my way in to work the roads were still pretty slick but I was making pretty good time. That is until I dropped a wheel off the road and snagged a bit of snow and ice with my left front tire. THAT woke me up! Reminding me once again we never know when it will be our last day. It can happen that quickly.

When I got to work I saw a Facebook post by Franklin Graham. Speaking of his 99-year old father, Franklin wrote this.

My father has been faithful to God's Word. He believes the Bible to be the inspired Word of God. He believes in Heaven and Hell, and preached repentance from sin and that people must put their faith in Jesus Christ who took our sins to the cross, died in our place, and then God raised to life. By trusting Christ, we are assured of an eternal home in Heaven. In an ever changing world, isn’t it good to know that God’s Word never changes—it’s the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Amen Franklin! What you have just read is The Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus and His disciples preached that wherever they went. I hope the driver who died Thursday night had heard that message and receiver it. Please pray for his family. Pray for the semi driver as well. He was uninjured but witnessed someone die right in front of him.

"Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is." - Psalm 39:4

If today was your last day, would you be ready?

Fatal Crash -

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Unopened Gift

One last wave goodbye. Bits of shredded wrapping paper cowering under the tree as we toss the rest of its family, screaming,  into the trash. Christmas celebrations are in the books for another year. All the kids are gone and the house, once again, is quiet. Too quiet.

As the sun sets on this day I think back to Christmas's past. Childhood memories seem almost perfect in my eyes - 50+ years removed from today. Any "bad" memories, arguments or illnesses fade in favor of good times had by all.

The first Christmas, the day Jesus was born 2,000+ years ago, only lives in the hearts and minds via stories in the Bible (and the Holy Spirit if you believe). Isaiah 9, Mathew 1&2 and Luke 2 tell the stories that Christmas carols are made of.

Each of us has our own version of the Christmas story in our hearts. Our brains function like that. We try to forget the bad in favor of the good. We don't want to hear about our sin and need for repentance. We picture things through our heart's warm and fuzzy filter. Times we were hurt vs. times we had fun. And that's a problem.

We like to think about the happy, wonderful baby Jesus. In our minds He probably never cried or loaded His diaper. It's a one-sided story. We tend to forget about how Herod had all the other two-year old children in Bethlehem killed in hopes of killing Jesus along with them. Where is THAT fact in our happy, wonderful, filtered Christmas story?

"16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under," - Matthew 2:16

WHY Jesus was born is anything but happy - to eventually be nailed to a tree and killed for the things that you and I have done or left undone.

We have spent more time baking cookies and wrapping presents then we have thinking about the truth written in God's Word. And that's another problem.

The reality of Christmas is we have morphed it into something it was never intended to be - a marketing event and a means for people to make money. Christmas should be a time when we give our King gifts, not ourselves.

If you have remembered the true meaning of Christmas and you have it in your hearts, I thank God for you. For you are truly one of God's children and the spirit of Christmas lives in you throughout the year, not just in December.

There is a group called Advent Conspiracy that started up back in 2009. Their mission is to return Christmas to its original meaning. Their four main tenants are these - Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All.

Sounds good to me! :) As Christians, we should be doing that every day. If you have not placed your faith and trust in Jesus, please, take another look under the tree. Or better yet, open a Bible to one of the stories I mentioned earlier. Perhaps there is "an unopened gift" waiting for YOU. :)

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas. One Christmas closer to His return. Let's hope He comes soon. What a Christmas gift THAT would be.

The Perfect Gift - JJ Heller
The Perfect Gift - 2017 Advent Conspiracy Explainer

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Letter 2017

The beginning of "the Christmas letter" is always an enjoyable time for me. It is a time of reflection and praise as I look back on the year's events. "The reason for the season" always seems to get lost in the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and holiday traffic. It shouldn't be that way.

When spring arrived this year so did the reasons for praising God - the One and Only reason for the season. In April I began building a tiny home for Him - a future shelter for area homeless. This is what the tiny home looked like at the end of April . . . two days before my near head-on, roll-over, 60-mph car accident.

The accident was a blessing in many ways. First, the air bags did their job and I was able to climb out of the car. Two days later I was back at work, praising God for His protection. This was my car the day after.

July was a good month. Bev and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary by taking a trip to Mackinac Island. We love that place. This year we had an amazing conversation about our faith with the chef at our B&B - Rosie. What an amazing lady.
And speaking of amazing ladies, Miss Emma Elaine was born to our daughter and her husband on July 4th. What a precious gift SHE is!

As I reflect on all of these events in our lives this past year it occurs to me that, when added together, they represent The Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ, our Messiah.

In the tiny home we see an example of us humans trying to build our lives on our own, without the help of God. In the end, doing things on our own leads to death (the car accident). We need someone to rescue us. If we place our faith and trust in Jesus (the bridegroom) we can have a successful marriage lasting far longer than just 40 years. It is through our belief that God forgives ALL of our sins that we become born (Emma) . . . again.

And that is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus. He was born, to die for us so that we might live.

"17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." - 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

May God bless you all this Christmas. May you draw closer to God this year than you have ever been. May Jesus be born in you and may you play your drum for Him every day of your lives. Love you all!

Be Born In Me - Francesca Battistelli
Little Drummer Boy - For King and Country

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A New Hope

Christmas CAN be a sad time of year if we let it be. When bad things happen they can easily put a damper on our traditional holiday celebrations. Unless, of course, we are prepared for them and have this amazing weapon in our belt.

No, it's not a light saber. Luke Skywalker's "force" can hold a candle against the power that was born in Bethlehem 2,000+ years ago.

Look, bad things happen year 'round, not just at Christmas. There are some who struggle everyday with chronic pain or depression. Others experience sudden lows via a recently diagnosed illness or through the breakup of a relationship. These things are all too real. And when they happen at Christmas time they can really leave a mark.

Jesus made many promises, but here's one that we wish wasn't true.

"In this world you will have trouble." - John 16:33

Gee, thanks. What kind of "encouragement" is that!?! Well, it is kind of depressing. But we need to keep reading. The next part of the verse is where he find the encouragement. It is where we find "a new hope."

"But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

That's great news! But what does that have to do with us? How does that help the current situation we are in? Let go backwards through this verse and start asking some questions.
  1. How did Jesus "overcome the world"? He rose from the dead! The world has no hold on OUR King! It has no hold on us either, when we place our faith in Him.
  2. Why did Jesus die? The Old Testament law demanded a perfect sacrifice for sin - a spotless lamb. Jesus was that lamb and died for OUR sins.
  3. Where do we find hope? Jesus was born to live a sinless life and then to receive the punishment for OUR sins. Jesus was born to die.
There is great hope to be found at Christmas time. Hope in Christ! This world holds nothing for us. It is a time to celebrate because our sins have all been paid for - past, present and future. That alone should give us hope!

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." - Philippians 4:4

"For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6

For Unto Us A Child Is Born - Westminster Cathedral Choir

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Point of View

On my way home last night the moon seemed almost non-existent. There was just a thin little sliver left in the western sky. Most of the moon was in shadow . . . just like you and me.

The moon makes no light of its own. Neither does the earth. In THIS solar system, only the sun makes light. Everything else just reflects light.

That makes me wonder. Who do WE reflect?

Some of us might reflect our mom or dad. That's natural. Genetics you know. Sometimes we can reflect our siblings. Twins do that really well while other siblings can look totally different.

Look at the picture of the moon here. Most of it is in darkness. To us. From our point of view. The other side of the moon in this picture is totally lit up. We just can't see it from where we are. In order to see the most reflected light of any object, we have to be closer to the light source than the object we are looking at.

That's why a moon looking like this is closer to the sun than we are. A full moon occurs when we are closer to the sun than the moon is. I all depends on our point of view.

As we walk through this dark world do we reflect the light of our Savior, Jesus? Of do we look like this moon - just a sliver of light, the rest in darkness. If we examine ourselves and find ourselves mostly in shadow, we CAN fix that! We just need to get closer to The Son.

Jesus has given us the ability to do this. He has also TOLD us how to do it.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:34-35

"37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” - Matthew 22:37-40

This time of year our hearts should be filled with love. We should be closer to The Son than at any other time of year (except for Easter perhaps). Are we reflecting His light, His love, to the rest of the world? Most people are in darkness and could probably use a little light in their lives. Help them change their point of view by reflecting the light of Christ into their eyes. Today.

You Are The Sun - Sara Groves

Monday, December 18, 2017

Fill Me Up

I have a theory. I think our hearts have a heart-shaped feature to them that is meant to be filled up. Some people's cups are over-flowing while others are empty. Some cups are bigger than others, some younger, some older. The purpose of a cup is to have something poured into it while we enjoy it and savor it. How full is YOUR cup ?

This past Saturday I volunteered at Ruby's Pantry - a local food pantry. I LOVE serving there. It always "fills my cup" right to the brim.

It was 18 degrees out that morning. Kind of chilly I guess but I had dressed for it. I probably looked like that kid from A Christmas Story, all swollen up and hardly able to bend my arms. Then I saw a friend of mine and asked her how she was doing.

"I lost both of my parents last month. My mom on November 1st and my father on November 30th."

Turns out my arms could bend after all. As I gave her a hug and told her I was SO sorry, I was actually pouring love from my heart-shaped cup into hers. How awful to lose both parents, one right after the other. I prayed for her right there in the snow.

I think the love we have stored up for ourselves tastes the best when we serve it to someone else in need. The cool thing about giving our love to someone else is, God in turn fills OUR hearts back up for us again.

My wife and I have one, lone Christmas card remaining on our countertop. I has a name on it but no address. I had been sending Facebook messages and texts to this person for weeks but no reply.

Last night I saw this person on Facebook so I sent them a quick message. They responded! I got the address and I got something else too. Filled up!

It turns out that this person's heart-shaped cup was bone dry. After a brief conversation both of our cups were full again.

Love is an amazing thing. We only get love when we freely give of it ourselves. However, there IS a danger. If we give of ourselves without any way to obtain a refill, there is a danger that our cups might become chipped or cracked. That's where God comes in.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:34-35

That same day my wife and I were at a restaurant with our daughter, her husband and our grand daughter. The waitress came by and asked a question we should be asking everyone we meet.

"Would you like a re-fill?"

Pour into someone's life today and you will be filled with the love that never runs out.

Love Never Fails - Brandon Heath

Saturday, December 16, 2017


If you will pardon the pun, today's message is kind of a touchy subject. You see, I have this theory about touching. No, it's not the kind of touching that's been all over the news lately. That's bad. I'm writing about touching someone's heart.

My wife and I were talking the other night about this very topic. She related a story about another lady at church who had given her a hug. This lady told my wife that, when she came to the church for the first time, my wife went over and sat by her to make her feel at home. That meant a lot to this particular lady and now she and my wife hug each other every Sunday. My wife touched someone's heart.

My boss at work is a good friend. We have known each other a long time so when he developed some medical issues I got a little concerned. I went into his office and listened to him talk about his fears for his wife and family should something happen to him. I prayed for him right there, placing my arm around his shoulder. After the prayer he gave me a hug and said, "Love you, bud."

Do you see a pattern here? First there was a non-physical "embrace" of the heart - thinking about the other person's needs. Then came a physical touch - a hug - showing gratitude and thanks for what one person did for another.

The world offers a different kind of love. All these celebrities and politicians getting in trouble for their sexual misconduct. They did not follow the two steps outlined above. They failed on step one when they placed their own desires above the desires of the other person.

Jesus loves us unconditionally. When there are no conditions and no selfish, sinful thoughts in our relationships, it's easy to feel loved knowing that someone actually does love us.

Think about little children and the innocent love they show others. That's the way WE should love. The way the kids in the following passage of scripture approached Jesus is the way WE should act to everyone we meet.

"13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there." - Matthew 19:13-15

How will you and I touch someone's heart today?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Parable of The Blue Dress

Have you ever felt alone in a crowd? I was in that position Sunday afternoon. Literally. I was at a funeral in a church where I knew absolutely no one. There were hugs being given out all over the place, tears were being shed and I was just standing there. Alone, sad and depressed. But then something happened that change my whole outlook on things.

The crowd of black suits and formal wear parted and a lady in a light blue dress walked up to me. She was young, beautiful, maybe in her upper twenty's, blue eyes, blonde hair and a thin build. I was about to check for the angel's wings when she asked me this question. "How are YOU doing?"

That's a typical question that gets asked at a thousand funerals I guess but not when you take into account the woman who asked it. You see, she asked her "how are YOU doing" question while she was leaning on her crutches. She had no right leg.

How was I doing? How are YOU doing? Her question sucked me right out of the gloomy mood I was in and made me realize that my situation wasn't as bad as others in the world. And that's when my thoughts turned towards Jesus and what He went through on the cross.

The image we have of Jesus hanging on a cross should be what we think of whenever we go through struggles or experience pain in our lives. Jesus paid it all.

As we walk through this life we WILL have trouble. But compared to others with deeper pain and more troublesome struggles, can we truly complain?

As Jesus hung on the cross, having heard Peter deny Him three times, Jesus lifted His head and looked right at Peter as the rooster crowed.

"Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”And he went outside and wept bitterly." - Luke 22:60-62

The woman in the blue dress taught me something. No matter how bad we might feel there is always someone who has it worse. I was feeling depressed and alone yet here was someone who's outlook was great - even after losing a leg.

We might go through some struggles but are they really any worse than someone else's struggles? Are they anymore painful than the death Jesus suffered on the cross for us? I don't think so. May we remember that and let that encourage us in our walk through this world. God loves us THAT much that He sent His one and only Son to erase our debt. Jesus indeed did pay it all.

Jesus Paid It All - Fernando Ortega

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Casualty of War

Just because we can't see something doesn't mean it doesn't exist or that it isn't happening. We cannot see the air we breathe, yet we can't live without it. We cannot see God but evidence of His existence is all around us.

There is an unseen battle going on in this world. A battle for our very souls. The Bible speaks about this unseen war in several places but open up your Bibles to Ephesians 6 and let's begin reading in verse twelve.

"12Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." 13Therefore (and this is how we are to fight that battle) put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." - Ephesians 6:10-17

This past Monday the enemy attacked and killed one of our own. This casualty was more than just a fellow soldier though. The book of Revelation refers to the pastors of God's churches as "angels". I believe that is true because they are indeed deliverers of God's messages.

This war we are fighting is invisible yet it's effects are all too real.

Yesterday thousands of people gathered to remember our fallen brother. I consider this man a casualty of war. A war we are ALL fighting in. Yet many of us don't even know the battle is going on!

The Apostle Paul told us how to fight this battle in Ephesians 6. Are we taking him up on his advice? What are our weapons?

The Truth - Jesus said He is "the way, the truth and the life." Everything about us should be based in truth (God's Word) and every word that comes out of our mouths should BE the truth. It is one of the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:16).

Righteousness - How can we as mere mortals be righteous? It is impossible for man. We are all sinners! Unless, of course, we know Jesus as our Lord. Only then can we be saved from this battle. It is The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Faith - It is our faith in Jesus that saves us and gives us power over death. Faith in an unseen God changes us into soldiers who cannot die, spiritually.

Salvation - Are you saved? Is your faith in Jesus Christ alone? It is essential to your survival.

The Word of God - This is the "Sword of the Spirit". With it we defend ourselves against the evil one.

However, even with all these weapons and protections available, it is still possible for us to die in battle. The death of this pastor acquaintance of mine by his own hand proves that. The troubling question remains: With all of these weapons available to him, why did he not use them?

I think the answer can be found somewhere between the darkness and the light. Even though we know all these things in Ephesians 6 to be true, there are still moments when we find ourselves not using them. And those are the moments that Satan attacks. And he is very good at what he does.

For us who remain, we need to arm ourselves just like the Apostle Paul told us. However Paul didn't tell us to do one thing, even though it is implied. Never, EVER let your guard down. ALWAYS be ready for an attack because they WILL come. Remember, this is a war we are fighting!

"On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves;" - Isaiah 62:6

We must never rest in our battle against the enemy. If we do, if we let down our guard at any time, that is precisely when the attack comes. Be on guard!! We are the watchmen of our souls.

For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield
Let It Rise - Big Daddy Weave

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Bear The Burden

I didn't realize it at the time this picture was taken but my friends and I just got done living out a biblical command. Can you guess which one it was?

As many of you know I am building a tiny home. I say I am building it but it's really more than just me. Many people have join the work crew to assemble this house for the homeless.

A week ago this past Wednesday, my friends and I put up the last wall of God's tiny home. The wall was more than I could lift all by myself. I estimate the wall weighed about 240 pounds. That's a lot of weight to maneuver around a job site but with three other guys my 240 pound load was suddenly only 60 pounds.

"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:2 

The Bible tells us to carry one another's burden. Basically, we are called to walk with someone for a short time who is undergoing a stressful situation or a trial of some kind. Maybe we listen to someone complain about their work schedule or pray with someone who is struggling. There are many people and circumstances in this world seeking burden bearers.

Some say, I don't want to get involved or I don't have time to do that. We send them a text telling them it will be alright or we will pray for them. That's no burden for us to do that and therefore not much good in the eyes of God.

Look at the example of these men. They gave up two hours of their day and probably drove 25-30 minutes to get to my house (both ways). They physically helped me bear MY burden - the wall.

Maybe it's a late-night call from a friend or taking someone Christmas shipping who has no car. Or maybe it's visiting someone in the hospital on a cold, snowy day. The point is if we don't help bear the burden, if it does not become a burden to us, it is no good to anybody.

I listened to Tim Keller the other night who drove home this point in a talk about Galatians 6. It made me think about "my preferences" vs "people's needs" and changed my way of looking at things.

This Christmas is the perfect time to bear one another's burdens. Become a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army. Bake someone some cookies and deliver them. Shovel someone's sidewalk for them. Take someone who's lonely out to dinner. Let's do some weight lifting!! It's a perfect "weigh" to show someone the love of Christ - who bore OUR burdens . . . on the cross. A burden we could not bear by ourselves.

Love someone today like Christ loves us. If we do, we will find it's not really the burden we thought it was, because Jesus is lifting with us.

Golden Slumbers - Carry That Weight - The End - The Beatles
Boasting In Nothing Except The Cross - Tim Keller

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Attention Please!

A couple nights ago I met a friend at the local truck stop, each of us ordering of a piece of dessert that we probably shouldn't have eaten. We had our usual waitress. She's amazing. Always attentive, refilling coffee cups, making sure everything tasted okay, always smiling. But then . . .

Then there are those waitresses that would rather be doing something else. You probably know the ones I'm talking about. Trying to get the attention of someone who is not really interested in serving you can be a real struggle. That leads us right into today's lesson.

Have you read the Old Testament? Chances are, if you open the Old Testament ANYWHERE you will find a story about a nation who is unwilling to serve God - Israel. Let's take a look at the Book of Jeremiah for example. This is God speaking through the prophet.

“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem,
    look around and consider,
    search through her squares.
If you can find but one person
    who deals honestly and seeks the truth,
    I will forgive this city.

Although they say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’
    still they are swearing falsely.
Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?
    You struck them, but they felt no pain;
    you crushed them, but they refused correction.
They made their faces harder than stone
    and refused to repent.

I thought, “These are only the poor;
    they are foolish,
for they do not know the way of the Lord,
    the requirements of their God.
So I will go to the leaders
    and speak to them;
surely they know the way of the Lord,
    the requirements of their God.”
But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke
    and torn off the bonds.

Therefore a lion from the forest will attack them,
    a wolf from the desert will ravage them,
a leopard will lie in wait near their towns
    to tear to pieces any who venture out,
for their rebellion is great
and their backslidings many." - Jeremiah 5:1-6
There is a common pattern that runs throughout the entire Bible and it is alive and well in the world we live in today. Here's how it goes. Disobey God, God demands attention, Israel refuses to obey, God punishes them, they eventually repent, God forgives them. Repeat. Over and over and over again.
Here's another verse to consider before we get into the meat of what I want to talk about. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." - Hebrews 13:8. In light of the fact that God never changes, why would his approach to us change today? We are forever disobedient.
When we are disobedient God will warn us. He warns us in His Word, He warns us through the words of others in our lives, and still we disobey. And so we get punished. And how does God punish us and get us to the point where we will turn back to Him in desperation?
It might be cancer, it might be the loss of a job, perhaps it's a car accident or a messy divorce after an adulterous relationship. I think God will do whatever it takes to get our attention. Look at Israel, the nation He loved. He turned them over to their enemies and nearly destroyed them but saved a small remnant who were faithful. Our God is a jealous God.
When we drift away from God, we can expect trials and tribulation until we repent of our unfaithfulness. If we repent and return to God He has promised to forgive us. So, what are we waiting for?
Trust and Obey - Big Daddy Weave
The Church, Israel and The Tribulation - John MacArthur

Monday, December 4, 2017

Do What You Like

You'll never guess what I did last night. I sat and watched my wife cook dinner. I know. I lead such and exciting life. But I find it interesting watching people doing something they love to do, especially when they do it well like my wife does.

If I tried to cook dinner it wouldn't turn out very good. I know. I've tried. It doesn't. Oh, I can do SOME stuff. I can microwave a hot dog, open a can of beans and pour some milk. But if I had to cut up a squash, grate it, mix in some cheese and seasoning, all while boiling noodles and frying bacon, we'd all starve. Or die. Or both!

What things are YOU good at? I'd be willing to bet you're good at something. Think about it. Even the most random thing. What is it that you're good at.

My wife tells me that I'm good at fixing things. I guess that's true. More often than not I can get something running, ticking or humming when it wasn't before. I guess that's a gift.

My wife is good at cooking and being a mom. My friend is good at sewing. My daughter is good at teaching and my grandson is good at organizing his collection of cars. We're ALL good at something.

Is there some purpose to the things we're good at? I think there should be. God gave us these abilities. Why? Why would He make us able to do something better than somebody else and make THEM better at going something than us? There has to be a reason. I think there is.

The answer lies in "the first and greatest commandment."

37"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ - Matthew 22:37-39

Could it be that we are to use our abilities for God and for our neighbors? As a way of showing others that we love them?

Why does my wife cook meals for me? She loves to cook and bake and she loves doing that for me. She doesn't want me to starve after all! And why do I fix things for her? Because she can't and I want to make her happy. It's because I love her.

I have two friends who clean up all the leaves in the yard at church. It's not like they love raking or are particularly gifted at it. They love serving and the serve God and our church by getting rid of all the leaves.

There are countless examples of people using their gifts in this world. The question is, why are they using them? Is if for "self" of for "others." Are we focused inwardly? Or externally?

God wants us to use the gifts He gave us to glorify Him and to serve others. And what a perfect time of year to do that! This Christmas season, how will we use out gifts to accomplish that? Think about it. I'm sure we all can think of some way to bless others and honor God at the same time. Do what you like, but do it for the glory of God. Let's do it!! :)

God's Gift To You

Saturday, December 2, 2017


In the 1981 movie Stripes, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis are asked a question by their recruiting officer. "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" Murray and Ramis looked at each other and said, "Convicted? No, never convicted." Funny - implying the were probably guilty of a felony, just never convicted of it. Have you ever been convicted? If we call ourselves a Christian we should have felt convicted at SOME point in our lives.

This past Sunday our pastor delivered a sermon out of the Book of Revelation. Most people hear the word "revelation" and immediately think of End Times events. Others don't know WHAT to think about the book since their churches don't teach out of the book. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is really an encouragement to His church. Us.

This past Sunday that "encouragement" left me feeling a little convicted. And that has made all the difference in the world this week as I began walking a little closer with Jesus.

The text that got my attention was this:

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent." - Revelation 2:2-6


When you first gave your life to Jesus, do you remember what it felt like? Some describe coming to faith in Christ as a "mountaintop experience". I think that's because, in many cases, it can be "downhill" from there. We tend to lose that fire we had at the beginning of our relationship with Jesus.

So, how do we regain that fire we once had? Get closer to Jesus! Here's what you can do. These things will work if you are feeling distant from God and want to be closer to Him. Do what HE did.
  1. Read more. Jesus quoted scripture quite often. Do we? I try to fill my spare moments with reading the Bible. The time I used to spend on Facebook has decreased in favor of reading.
  2. Serve more. God gave us each gifts. Use them specifically for Him. What are your gifts? Use them for God's glory.
  3. Love more. Invest in your relationships.
  4. Pray more. Prayer is how we talk to God. We speak to our earthly friends more often than we speak to God. Why is that? Because we're distant from Him.
My friends, if we have never felt convicted by God's Word, His Holy Spirit does not live in us and we are still dead. Resuscitate yourself today!

Here's one of my favorite Christmas songs but it also speaks to what each of us must have happen in our lives to become born again. Seek Him, Ask Him to restore that fire. May He be born IN you today!

I love you guys!

Be Born In Me - Francesca Battistelli

Never Convicted - Stripes

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Parable of The Icy Sheets

As winter approaches, climbing into bed in Wisconsin can be . . . well, an "exhilarating" experience. Icy sheets bring "Let it go!" screams from under our frigid blankets. But eventually, if we can survive the initial chill, things eventually begin to warm up. A little.

Last night my wife and I were getting ready for bed. Why do women take longer than men to get ready for bed anyway? I think it's so we can warm up the covers a bit before they climb in. Just a theory.

So I was lying there, shivering in bed as my wife was brushing her teeth in the bathroom. Then, for some unknown reason, I decided it would be a good idea to slide over and warm up HER side of the bed.

"Aww, how sweet," you might say. Nope. It was dumb. I triple froze myself. First I froze on my side, then on her side, then again on my side again because the heat left my side the same time I did. I was triple frozen!

When my wife finally DID climb into bed though her side was all toasty and warm. You should have heard her. I think that was the first time I have ever actually HEARD joy.

"Oh, man! This is so warm!! It's wonnnnnnnderful!!"

This time of year men across the globe are trying to find the best gift for their wives this Christmas. They'll spend a lot of time and money trying to get the perfect thing. Ha! Not me. I have found the perfect gift and it doesn't cost a cent. My heat! Of course it IS a seasonal gift. My heat is abhorred come late July and August. Sigh. I guess it's not the perfect gift after all.

There has only ever been one perfect Christmas gift - Jesus.

But there IS a hint in this "frozen" story of mine about what DOES make gifts "perfect". Sacrifice. Thinking about the other person's needs and desires above our own. Our gifts don't have to come with hefty price tags but they DO have to come from the heart.

When God sent His Son to earth in the form of a baby He knew that one day He would sacrifice that same precious gift. God placed OUR needs above His own. And although His gift to us came from His heart it DID cost him a lot - His Son.

"17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." - James 1:17

Every Good Gift - One: A Worship Collective

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Parable of The Gas Can

Have you heard about the homeless man who spent his last $20 on gas for a stranded motorist? A woman ran out of gas in Philadelphia. She had no money and no hope until a homeless man offered to buy her some gas. He told her to "get in the car and lock the doors" while he went to the gas station. But in doing so he actually demonstrated much more than kindness.

The story is a wonderful one - especially at Thanksgiving time. Not only was it a story about the character of this homeless man but it also spoke to the thankfulness of the woman who raised over $350,000 for the man through a GoFundMe page.

There is a deeper story here though. One with eternal ramifications. Hidden just under the surface -  the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

How much like that woman are all of us - stranded in "the world"? We suddenly come to the realization that we are in trouble . . . in danger. We don't know what we should do. Call for help maybe? Walk through a sinful world in hopes of finding some salvation?

That's when someone walked into her life and gave her hope. Have you or I done that for someone lately? My guess is no. This guy gave everything he had to give some stranger hope for her future. He was her savior when He sacrificed himself and his $20 to give her hope. And gas. Didn't Jesus do the same thing for us?

I'm sure this woman has received more expensive gifts but none of greater value.

"41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” - Mark 12:41-44
And look how grateful the woman was! She started a GoFundMe page and literally told the whole world what this man has done.

Are you a Christian? If you are you have been saved from the penalty of your sin. That should give us hope because the penalty for our sins is death. Yet, have WE gone and told the whole world? No. And why not? Good question. Jesus has COMMANDED us to do so.

This week I challenge us to tell this story of the homeless man who gave his last $20 to help someone else. And then share the Gospel with someone. It's actually easier than you might think. We should share our story of how God saved US. That's OUR $20 worth of gasoline.

44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it." - Matthew 13:44-46

Homeless Man Gives Last $20 - Washington Post

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Breaking Free

This time of year we can drive ourselves crazy with Black Friday shopping, trying to find those sought after Christmas gifts and getting ready for family meals and get-togethers. It IS a very busy time of year. So how do we handle it? Do what my wife did.

My wife used to get up at 4:00 AM to go Black Friday shopping in Milwaukee. She NEVER gets up that early. So why did she? She wanted to get the best deals, save the most money and to do that she had to get there before everyone else.

This year she did something different. She slept in. She didn't go Black Friday shopping at all, unless you count going to the deli for some potato salad as "Black Friday shopping." She no longer cares. "It's not worth it," she says and she chose not to participate.

We all do strange things for various reasons then, one day, we stop doing them and ask ourselves why we ever did them in the first place.

I did that with my Corvette several years ago. I had purchased the car just before becoming a Christian. Then, after I became a follower of Christ, I examined my ways and asked myself, "What am I doing with this car?"

A kind of maturity comes in our decision making the older we get. Or, the more experienced we get. LOL! My wife got burned out on the crowds and the traffic so she stopped shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Millions of people are still into that sort of thing but my wife is not one of them. She has moved on.

For me and for many other Christians, Jesus has re-prioritized our lives. What once was important to us no longer is.

The Apostle Paul sent a letter to the church in Philippi. They were struggling with their new-found identity in Christ. A demon possessed woman was causing problems for the church so Paul cast out the demon in the name of Jesus.

There's lots of stuff we'd like to change in our lives but we just can't seem to do it on our own. Sometimes we need help casting out OUR demons.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God...” - Philippians 4:6

I'm building a tiny home and, as much as I'd like to be able to do things on my own, I am physically unable to lift walls weighing hundreds of pounds up onto the tiny home trailer all by myself. Alone, it's impossible. However . . .

"With God, ALL things are possible" - Matthew 19:26

As I read through the New Testament I am amazed at all of the things Jesus did. The innumerable people He healed, the demons He cast out of people . . . all amazing stories to read about.

At the end of THIS story there is a video by Lacey Sturm. I have seen her perform and have listened to her testimony in person of how God changed her priorities. One day she was ready to die, the next she was loving life. What caused THAT transformation in her life? It was the power of God's love and grace!

So when life gets crazy and the traffic in your brain becomes excessive, pray. Ask God to calm the storm inside. When you finally surrender your heart to Him and submit yourself to HIS ways, He will change you and cast out YOUR demons that are sucking the life out of your daily life.  Make your requests known to God in prayer and your anxiety and panic and stress will all fade away. They did in MY life. They will in yours. Break free!

Lacey Sturm's Story
Breaking Free - Skillet (feat. Lacey Sturm)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The T-Hug

I had a list of things I was going to share about things we should be thankful for as we get ready for Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. You know - family, health, food & shelter. Stuff like that. And we SHOULD be thankful for those things. But today I'd like to suggest we all do something a little out of the ordinary tomorrow. Let's THUG as many people as we can!

Okay, your asking, "What's a THUG?" I got the idea from my grandson. He was staying over at grandpa and grandma's house while his mom and dad were at the Badger game. We had a great time. We drove cars and played with Legos. I took him up to my tiny home and we banged on things and had lots of fun.

When his mom and dad got back and it was time for them to go home he gave his grandma and me a big hug. It wasn't the usual hug though. This one was different. He RAN to us and crashed into us and gave each of us an amazing hug. I kissed him on the top of his head. Reminds me of a Bible story.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." - Luke 15:20

It's the story of the prodigal son. Another translation says that the father "threw himself on his neck". And note that the father was running. Just like our grandson was.

So my thought for this Thanksgiving is to be thankful for the usual things but to DO something with our thanks for family and friends. Give them all a Thanksgiving hug - a T-Hug if you will.

I'm not telling you to crash into grandma in her wheel chair but give someone a loving hug. Give them a kiss on the cheek or head. SHOW someone you love them. Not as the world "loves" but as Christ first loved us and gave Himself up for us as a willing sacrifice for our sins.

Jesus opened his arms wide and gave us all a hug . . . on the cross. He loves us THAT much. He loves us deeply and passionately. Should we be doing the same for those He commanded us to love? Give someone a hug today. Not just a one-arm, I'm afraid I'll break you hug. Run to them!

"Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” - Mark 10:14-15

Jesus Loves The Little Children

Monday, November 20, 2017

What's Important?

Wow! It's Monday morning already? Where did the weekend go? There never seems to be enough time in a given day to do all of the things we'd like to do. What if there was a way to get all of our important things done and out of the way so we could have a nice relaxing weekend? Well, . . .

Perhaps we should start by defining what "important things" are. What things are important in YOUR life? Family? Friends? Your job?

I think our "important things" can easily be defined by the decisions we make every day. Especially when our schedules get full. There are times in our life when we have to choose between A and B. That choice defines what is more important.

Let's talk about relationships for a moment. You call someone asking them if they'd like to hang out. When they don't return your call, after a while it becomes obvious they have something more important to do. At least it can seem that way to us. That person in our lives has made a decision. Something other than us is more important to them.

I volunteer at a food pantry one day each month. I love talking with all of the people I meet there. Sometimes I pray for them or encourage them in some way. I do that kind of stuff because that's who God designed me too be. But sometimes I get tired and don't feel like going.

This past Saturday morning I was pretty tired. I needed to get some work done on the tiny house I am building too. But I made a decision - I went to Ruby's Pantry anyway. Tired and cold, and about to learn a lesson in importance.

As the morning wore on, one of the people I had prayed with in the past came up to me and gave me a card. It was a Christmas card. A little early but appreciated none the less. Later, when I opened the card at home, I was struck by the message inside.

"Thank you for being my best friend."

I'm somebody's best friend, and I don't even know their name? That's pretty sad on my part. Yet, I am somebody's best friend. And they took the time to get me a card. They made a decision and I hope they are blessed for it.

It occurred to me that I must like the taste of humble pie because it seems I have had my fair share lately. And that's good. This latest serving tough made me stop and think about how I sometimes get weary and want to sleep in our skip a day serving others.

That will NEVER happen again.

I am reminded of a command from Jesus.

"45 Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. " - Matthew 24:45-47

Will God approve of the decisions we make each day? When things on our busy schedules have to be sacrificed, who will pay the price? When Jesus returns will He find us serving those in need? Or will we be scrolling through Facebook, playing a video game or watching a movie?

Jesus told His disciples that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. I want to be last. I want to be a servant. I'm going to make my daily decisions with that in mind, And do you know what will happen next if we do that? The things we once thought were important in our lives will fade away in favor of the things that are more important . . . in God's eyes.

Give Me Your Eyes - Brandon Heath

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Running The Race

Not knowing, sucks. That uneasy feeling we get in between the tests and the results. In between the marriage proposal and the answer. In between the old job and the new. Not knowing, our insecurity boils over into anxiety and fear of the unknown. There's a reason for that.

We all face hurdles in life. Some of them are higher than others, but we face then none the less. I think God is more interested in how we navigate life's obstacles than removing them from our path. We need to remember that this life we are living right now is a training session for what is to come.

Let's say we are facing a job transition like mine for example. I am retiring in four months. The future is uncertain, our family income with be drastically reduced. How should I approach my unknown future?

I could worry about paying the bills, I could concern myself about how I am going to put food on the table, but I would be limiting myself . . . AND my God.

Maybe you're battling a disease. As a Christian do you think it matters more to God whether or not you win the battle or trust in Him that, no matter what, your life is in HIS hands?

God wants us to run all of our races as if we want to win, not necessarily TO win. Does that make sense?

Maybe you've seen this video. It's a Special Olympics commercial video of a track event - a race. All the contestants want to win. When one of the runners stumbles, watch what happens. Then tell me who won the race.

Special Olympics Race

Sure we will face uncertain times. Sure we'll be afraid and concerned about the future. But God IS on His throne. God is STILL in charge.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." - 2 Timothy 1:7

Fear is believing that God can't handle things. We should not be fearful of the future.

Here's another race to watch. The runner ran to win and eventually he finished the race. Not exactly like he had hope but the outcome inspired millions. All he needed was a little help from his father, who loves him.

And that's all WE need too.

Things Don't Always Work Out

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Commands of Jesus: Be Clean!

When I read the story in Matthew about the encounter Jesus had with a leper I didn't really think much about it. Jesus healed many people in His three-year ministry. It was only when I dug a little deeper that I found some hidden treasure. Can you find it?

"When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” - Matthew 8:3

The first thing we notice is that "a leper came and worshiped Him." The leper, someone made unclean by a defiling skin disease, worshiped Jesus. And the leper "believed" Jesus could do it saying, "You CAN make me clean." Jesus cleansed lepers a lot. Leprosy was synonymous with sin.

The next thing we see is that Jesus WAS willing. He is always willing to cleanse us of OUR sins if we believe.

The third thing we can see is in verse four, and this is the interesting part. Jesus doesn't want the cured leper to tell anyone about his cleansing. What did Jesus want him to do instead?

"show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded."

Hmm. What is "the gift that Moses commanded?" Check out Leviticus 14. Are you ready for this? Hold on . . . it's about you and me and Jesus.

"14 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “This shall be the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the priest.

Who is OUR high priest? It's Jesus!

"3 And the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall examine him; and indeed, if the leprosy is healed in the leper, 4 then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be cleansed . . . "

The leper, the sinner, is to be cleansed. That's you and me! And what does the law of Moses say to do?

"(take) two living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop."

 Two birds. One is Jesus, the other represents you and me. Any guess what type of wood Jesus was crucified on? Was it cedar? And hyssop . . . it used for during Passover . . . when death passed over those who had lamb's blood smeared on their door posts. And what color is blood - Jesus blood? Red. Scarlet.

"5 And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water.

God commanded that Jesus be killed in an earthen vessel (His earthly body) for our sins.

"6 As for the living bird, he shall take it, the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water. . . .

 You and I are literally required to be washed in the blood of Jesus! And He is "living water."

"7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field." - Leviticus 14:1-7

 Seven is the number of completion in the Bible. Remember when Jesus said, "It is finished" on the cross? And then the one who has sinned (that's you and me again), the living bird, is to be set free. Free from the punishment of sin. Amazing!

In Mark's account of this same story guess what the cleansed leper did after Jesus commanded him not to tell anyone? He disobeyed.

"45 However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction." - Mark 1:45

Isn't that just like us? Disobeying God after we have had our sins forgiven? Jesus died for MY sins. I need to show more appreciation for that in the way I live my life.

The Bible is an amazing book. If one takes the time to not only read it but to study it there are amazing treasures to be found. And, as always, God is glorified in ALL of them.

Are You Washed In The Blood / I'll Fly Away - Alan Jackson