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

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Good and Perfect Gift

"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

Have you ever received a "good and perfect gift"? I think we all have at some point in our lives. Even those things we don't think of as "gifts from above" really are. It just depends on how you think about them.

Let's start with the basics. Are you alive? Were you born? Everyone's answer to those two questions should be "yes", unless you are the walking dead or an inanimate object. Well, it IS Monday morning so that's possible I guess.

Christians believe that all things were created by God and that life was given to each of us by our Creator. All good and perfect gifts can be traced back to our Heavenly Father - our Creator. 

I received a gift from God last week. It didn't come in a box with wrapping paper. Nor was it delivered by an angel. It came in an envelope from a far away and distant land - Antigo, WI. It was from a friend I met at a church community outreach program several years ago. See, I told you it was a gift from God! :)

Anyway, back then, this family had just moved to the area and the mom was looking for a youth group for her kids. It was definitely a God thing that she asked me for a recommendation - a youth leader for our church's youth group at the time. This family has been a treasured part of my life ever since.

Back to the envelope I received. It was from the entire family but the handwriting was unmistakably that of the mom. It was a Thanksgiving card. Inside the card was a letter and this is what it said.

"Just a little something to say, "Thank you" for you and all you do." There was also a cash donation towards the tiny home I am building for area homeless. But this perfect gift I was given doesn't end there. That's not how God works. He multiplies His gifts of love.

God often blesses us in unseen ways, but sometimes He blesses us in a way that let's us KNOW it was He who did the blessing. And this gift from Antigo is just an example of that.

I was leaving for a meeting Saturday morning but I needed some lumber for the tiny house. I usually just use my credit card and I was going to do just that. But my wife encouraged me to take the gifted money along and use that. I reluctantly agreed. I kind of wanted to use that money for something special.

So I get to the lumber yard, my only chance to get lumber for the weekends building project and the guy behind the counter says, "Before you order, we can't accept any credit cards this morning. Something's wrong with the machine."

That's when I knew this is was all God's doing. The amount of cash I had in my pocket, all from my friends in Antigo, covered the entire bill. My weekend building plans would have been totally trashed if not for that gift from above.

How has God blessed you in YOUR life? Has He introduced you to some friends who have in turn blessed you? Have you and your family been drawn closer to God through a particular event or happening? It's all God! He is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Would you mind if I prayed right now? And won't you please join with me in that prayer?

Father, I thank you for the gifts you give us. They don't come with wrapping paper. They are wrapped in love. I thank you for my adopted family in Antigo. Jeanne, I love you my friend. The same goes for you too Steve, Joshua, Kahla, Cheyenne and Jessica. God, you place people in our lives for our good and Your ultimate glory. You never cease to amaze me with your gifts. They are always priceless in their nature and lasting in their duration. You are an amazing God and we love you and honor you, now and forever. Amen.

The chorus of the following song says it all. Let's sing it to God in appreciation for all He has done.

And all I want is to hold you forever
All I need is you more everyday
You saved my heart from being broken apart
You gave your love away
And I'm thankful everyday
For the gift

The Gift - Jim Brickman
Blessings - Laura Story

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Drink Deep

There is an old saying that goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." That is especially true in the world we live in today. And it can be true in our own lives as well. Here's an example of what I mean.

There's nothing I like better in the morning than a nice Manderfield's Bavarian Cream filled doughnut. I seldom buy them for myself but when someone brings in doughnuts at work for their birthday I am often first in line. The problem is I am diabetic. Sugar is not good for me. Yet I still consume sugar.

My wife tries to get me to eat smart. No doughnuts! No cookies! And I comply with her wishes . . . as long as she is present. But as soon as she turns her back, I am in the cookie jar! My wife knows what is right for me but she has trouble making my follow her wishes. That's because my desire to eat sweets is often stronger than my desire to please my wife.

As a Christian, walking through a fallen world each day, I see many people who are thirsty. Thirsty for the living water of Jesus. The problem is, they don't KNOW they are thirsty. Does that make sense? They are living a life that is not pleasing to God, yet they think their lives are perfectly fine.

We Christians are supposed to be the ones who lead these "horses" to water - Jesus. So, how do we do that? I think the answer is love, and compassion.

I have some young friends who are involved in a same-sex relationship. They are drinking the water from a polluted stream - the world. I have talked with them about sin and their need for repentance. I have done so in love. When we see each other these days we always give the other a hug. There IS love present in our relationship. But they prefer living that lifestyle. I am the same with my doughnuts. Have I done my job as a believer in Christ in the lives of my friends?

I have loved them, I have had compassion for them and told them about sin and doing what is right in God's eyes. I pray for them, that they will one day taste the crisp, clean water the Jesus has to offer. I have led them to the source of the water, but I can't make them drink Him in. I have done my job. The rest is up to them. And Him.

It's frustrating because I love these people. I want what is best for them. God does too. But we all have free will to chose the path we want to take. That sounds like something God might be saying about US when WE screw up and make the wrong choices.

The difference comes, I think, that when we sin the only thing that quenches our thirst for righteousness is another drink from The Well. HIS well.

The next time someone brings in doughnuts at work to celebrate their birthday, what will I do? I'll probably have one, despite the fact that doughnuts are not good for me. And that's the problem. I am more interested in that sweet taste of sin than I am about doing what is right.

"It's just one doughnut."

It's more than one doughnut though. It's a lifestyle that needs to be changed if I want to have a longer life. It's the same with Jesus. If we want to have a longer life - eternal life - we need to make a lifestyle change. We need to drink from a different stream.

So, when are we going to do that?

In a few months I am going to retire. My "lifestyle" will be changed. The temptation from those sinful doughnuts will still be there but the exposure to them will be far less. Isn't that what needs to happen when we sin?

We need to change our lifestyle and how do we do that? Seek the help of someone who changes lives everyday. Jesus is just what we need. Drink Him in and drink deep!vHe will change your life.

"37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’ - John 7:37-38

The Well - Casting Crowns
Washed By The Water - Needtobreathe
Jesus, The Water of Life - Ben Hur
The Atheist Delusion Movie - Living Waters

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Decisions Decisions

Being as old as I am, I have had more time to screw up than most. I have accumulated a rather large pile of "things I'd do differently" if I had the chance. Maybe you have some of those too - things we'd rather have done a different way . . . made a smarter or better choice.

If you could go back in time and change those bad choices, would you? OR do you think those poor choices helped make you who you are today? That's a tough call.

I think God always wants us to do what is right in HIS eyes, not our own.

Most of my decision making is based on the concept of marriage as defined in The Bible. The relationship between husband and wife and the relationship between Jesus (the bridegroom) and his followers (the bride).

"22 Wives, (that's us in our relationship with Jesus) submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, (that's me in my relationship with my wife) love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. " - Ephesians 5:22-28

Yesterday was a beautiful day. I had all of my projects done at work so I took he day off to work on the tiny home I am building. But that's not the first thing I did.

For a few weeks my wife had been mentioning how the lawn needed mowing. I had been putting that off so I could work on my tiny home. Well, yesterday, while she was at work, I mowed the lawn. Why? I sacrificed my desires (working on my tiny home) for those of my wife.

During the previous week she had made me some of my favorite meals - meatloaf & fried potatoes, wienie roll-ups and baked beans, baked chicken and au gratin potatoes. She had done that for ME.

Yesterday it was my turn. You should have seen the look on her face when she saw the lawn.

What choices will we face today? Will we make them as consumers or as servants? In my opinion we can never make the wrong decision if we think like a servant. What can I do to make someone's life better? How can I honor God in what I am about to do?

If we ask ourselves those questions BEFORE we act life becomeS a beautiful experience, no matter what the situation.

How can we help someone? Encouragement? Love? Sacrifice? And how can we honor God? By doing all those things I just mentioned in His name. EVERYTHING we do should honor God. If it doesn't, we've made a wrong decision. Honor God with your life, starting today.

Lead Me - Sanctus Real

Monday, November 6, 2017

Retirement? Nah!

Ever since I announced my retirement at work (March 2018) people have been asking me, "So, what are you going to do?" Wait. I have to DO something? I thought the whole idea of retirement was NOT doing things. I have a lot to learn.

So what would YOU do if you suddenly didn't have to work anymore? I guess I never really thought about it, until this week. One thing's for sure. I'm not going to get up as early as I do now. Four thirty is insane! I'll try six o'clock for a while and see how that works.

I'm looking forward to doing more stuff that I don't have the time to do now. Like clean my office and workroom downstairs. My wife will be doing cartwheels! I should probably transition slowly into the cleaning thing. Don't want to give my wife a heart attack.

I'm definitely going to read more. I'm reading through the Bible for the fifth time right now and am still learning new things each time I read. Getting to know God more is a very high priority.

But probably the thing I will enjoy doing the most is spending more time pouring into my relationships. Stopping back in at work and saying, "Surprise!" sounds like fun to me. And having breakfast with my wife! But the thing I am looking forward to the most is spending quality time in ALL of my relationships - past, present and future.

I'd like to change the "Well, I have to go nows" into "Where are you goings?" Know what I mean?

Retiring doesn't mean you're never going to do any work again. It means CHANGING the type of work you are doing. I look forward to that because for the past 12 years I have felt like I should have been doing something else. Maybe this is it!!

Most people think of retirement as not having to anything. I look at it as an opportunity to do MORE things.

I read something in the Book of Matthew last night that made me think about my retirement in a new light.

"27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works." - Matthew 16:27

When Jesus returns, what will He find us doing? Will we be watching television in our bathrobe and slippers? Will we be sleeping in until noon after a late night out on the town? No. I don't think so. Not for me.

When Jesus returns I hope he finds me deep into a conversation with some kid who is struggling. Or catching up with a friend I haven't seen in a while. Or serving down at the local food pantry.

Yes, I will no longer have to go into work each day like I have for the past 40+ years, but I will keep myself busy working for The Lord. I can't think of anything more enjoyable or rewarding than to be found in His service. :)

Working Man's Blues - Merle Haggard

Saturday, November 4, 2017

God's Healing Hand

My last story was about the amazing relationships that can spring forth out of the adversity we often encounter in our lives. Today I will be exploring just WHY God allows bad things to happen. For example, what reason could God possibly have for allowing someone to get cancer, when Almighty God has the power cure it all?

First, let's go back into the Old Testament and see how God's people, the Israelites, are doing at obeying their God. They are not doing well. They are disobedient and stiff-necked. They worship other gods and The One True God is rather upset with them. So upset that He is going to hand them over to their enemies.

"20 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, My anger and My fury will be poured out on this place—on man and on beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground. And it will burn and not be quenched.”

"21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. 22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 

23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’ 24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. 25 Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. 26 Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers." - Jeremiah 7:20-26

God's people eventually repented. Those of them who were left anyway. But then they drifted away again and God's wrath came down on then . . . again. This pattern repeats itself again and again throughout the entire Bible! Sin, punishment, repentance, forgiveness. We never learn. God used punishment back then to get the attention of His people and to draw them back to Himself.

God is the same yesterday, Today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Why would God change His pattern now? The only thing different that God has done since then has been for His punishing His one and only Son to pay for our sins with His death. Yet we STILL sin. We just can't seem to stop sinning.

God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14). He wants our obedience. So much so that He was willing to sacrifice His Son to get it. Would He use an illness or some other hardship to draw us to Himself? He has done it throughout the Bible. Why would He, The Unchangeable One, suddenly change? WE are the ones who must change.

As we walk through this life it is our obedience and love that God wants. He will use whatever means necessary to achieve that. But we are a stubborn people, fighting Him every step of the way.

It would be easy to close this story with something warm and fuzzy. There are instances scattered throughout His word about how loving and forgiving God can be. And He is. But, if we are truly in the last days like most scholars think we are, it's only going to get worse. We will continue to frift further and further away. Until . . .

Only the true church will be saved.

When Jesus returns and raptures His church, things on earth will REALLY get bad. Only after Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom on the new earth will things be different. THAT is when things will get warm and fuzzy. Until then though we are going to be in for a mighty rough ride, unless we repent and turn to God.

When Moses encountered God he repented from his wicked ways on gave himself over to God in obedience. It cost him much - the kingdom of Egypt. But he gained everything and led God's people out of slavery in Egypt to The Promised Land.

It is no different for us today. If we repent and are obedient to God, He will deliver US to The Promised Land. Why? He has promised!

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

Moses Stands Firm For God in Front of Pharaoh - The Ten Commandments
Repenting of Sin and Returning to God - David Platt

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Blessing and A Curse

We've all asked the question. How can God allow pain in the lives of those He loves? It's a big question. An understandable question. So, what's the answer? What I am about to tell you is extremely personal and intimate but it is also the truth. It is the answer we all seek.

Each of us knows someone who has gone through a tragedy in their lives. We too have gone through such things. How do we handle those situations? What do we do? What do we say?

Here's how it happens.

We talk to someone at work or school. We ask them how their day was. And, if they are willing, they tell us. After they tell us their story, if it is a particularly painful one, we have compassion on them and walk with them for a short while as they go through the pain of a loss or a particular struggle. It becomes both a blessing and a curse to do so.

We can receive criticism from family members or our bosses for "spending too much time" with someone. And it does take time. There is sacrifice involved. I call it "a curse" but it really isn't because we are willing to make that sacrifice. It is a blessing to serve God in such a way.

Having compassion for someone and coming along side them will eventually evolve from a painful situation to a trusting loving one. We hear words like, "Thank you SO much!" "I don't know what I would have done without you." "We love you." How can that NOT be a blessing to hear those things.

Most of the friendships we have - tight, close, personal - have come out of experiences like this. A messy divorce, the death of a close friend and mentor, verbal and mental abuse, a miscarriage, drug addiction, alcoholism, a battle with cancer, physical pain, depression. Love is worth wading through all those things!

We are commanded to "love one another". When we place our hearts in God's hands through our willingness to follow Christ, it comes with the territory. We can't help ourselves. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

"34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” - John 13:34-35

Having such close friends, refined by such fire, may seem like a curse at first but they always become a blessing because they are based in faith and true love for our fellow man/woman. Yes, there is pain in the beginning. But God makes beauty from pain. It's what He does.

And that's the answer to the opening question, I think. God allows pain and suffering so we can emerge on the other side of it stronger and more understanding of others who have gone through similar things. Struggles and pain grow us so that we in turn can help others going through the same thing. We end up doing the same thing that Jesus did for us. And that can only lead to a deeply personal, loving relationship. And THAT is what God wants for us and from us. Beauty from pain.

Beauty From Pain - Superchick

Monday, October 30, 2017

When You Love Someone

My wife and I went to visit our grand daughter yesterday. It was totally worth the trip just to hold and cuddle that soft, warm little baby. So much love! However, on the return trip we experienced a different kind of "love".

It is very close to the end of the month and, although I have heard police departments say they don't have ticket quotas, they DO have budgets with a certain amount of anticipated income based on issuing tickets. Is it just coincidence that we tend to see more police cars on the road at the end of the month than at any other time? I think not. But I digress.

Back to our trip home yesterday. We were just about home when I noticed a car parked on the side of the road. I slowed . . . just in case it was a cop car. And it was. State patrol. He was mainly interested in cars heading in the opposite direction and that's where our Bible lesson for today begins.

We passed the cop car and sure enough, here came some cars towards us, heading in his direction. They were dead meat if they were speeding. The State Patrol usually lets you get away with a few miles and hour over but not many.

I flashed my lights and the on-coming traffic - a warning that there was a police car waiting for them just around the corner. I don't do that often but I felt like doing it yesterday for some reason - perhaps it was for this story. LOL!

I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the cars hit their brakes. They were probably breaking the law by speeding and I assume they were thankful for the warning.

As we continued on our way home I began thinking about how we are ALL speeders in God's eyes. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We are guilty of breaking God's law. So who is warning us about OUR transgressions?

God's Word and The Holy Spirit. SO what do we learn from the lesson of teh speed trap? Read The Bible daily. Seek God's rebuke in your own lives before confronting a sinful brother or sister. We are not to judge those outside the church. I speak only about correcting a wayward member of God's family. And when we do so, exhibit grace and love. They will thank you for it. At least they should. All these things do in love and you will be blessed.

"Better is open rebuke than hidden love. " - Proverbs 27:5

"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." - Galatians 6:1

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." - Matthew 18:15-17

When Should You Confront Someone About Their Sin? - John Piper
When You Love Someone - Bryan Adams

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Commands of Jesus: Focus

When I was in high school I heard some words that resonated with me. These words encouraged me to be different - to make a stand no matter what and to be willing to try something new.

Those words were written in a poem by Robert Frost. Here they are.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost

Those words made a difference in my life. Especially when I learned similar words spoken by another influential man in my life - Jesus.

"13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." - Matthew 7:13-14

These two people were not actually writing or speaking about roads and gates. They are speaking about life and the way we live it.The difference is that Robert Frost is merely relating what he did. Jesus is telling us to do something. Enter. But enter what? And where is this gate? And what makes it narrow?

The gate is not a real gate. It's more of a path and a decision we make. We get a clue from the second half of the first sentence. "Broad is the road that leads to destruction."

There are many religions in the world. Many Christian denominations as well. And all these preachers on television. Who is right in their teaching? Is ANYBODY right?

My answer is this. Only those teachers preaching the God of the Bible are preaching the truth. Anyone who changes or adjusts the Bibles teaching is a FALSE teaching and a liar. There is only one God. The God of the Bible.

Mormons talk about Jesus and they talk about the Bible. Look closely at their teaching. Different Jesus, different bible. As an example, and this might sound harsh and not politically correct but, those spreading Mormonism are liars and false teachers. Same for Jehovah's Witnesses. Man-made religions peddling a different Jesus.

90% of the preachers you see on television are false teachers. Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Sarah Young (Jesus Calling), Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale, the list goes on because . . . wide is the gate.

Jesus teaches  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6

"I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." - John 10:9-10

We must be mindful of the road we travel on. If we are not walking next to Jesus, we are lost. Many of these false teachers are out to make money for themselves. They are deceived and therefore deceiving others.

So, how do I know that I am right?

" 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”  - John 10:27-30

Be cautious who you listen to. Be a good Berean (Acts 17). Narrow is the gate and there is only ONE gate. Jesus.


7 False Teachers In The Church Today - Jim Challies
When He Speaks - The McKameys

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Too Long A Journey?

When you take a long journey are you grateful to be back home? I sure am. My wife and I sometimes go someplace where there's lots of traffic and people. I think that's where the phrase, "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there" comes from.

That's why my wife and I like "slower" places to visit. More relaxing places that contain fond memories for us. Mackinac Island comes to mind as one such destination. The family farm is another. Still, as wonderful as those places are, there's no place like home.

Reading the Bible can be like that. I just finished reading the Old Testament. Some of the books can be a little . . . well, reading the Old Testament sometimes reminds me of how the Israelites wandered through the dessert for 40 years before entering the promised land. It's a long journey! LOL!

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy reading the Old Testament, but I enjoy reading the New Testament more. Why? It's got Jesus in it!! Yes, I know that the Old Testament has Jesus in it too but Jesus is everywhere in the New Testament! You don't have to dig or think. He's right there!

But there is another journey that ALL of us take - the journey of life. For some the journey is a long one. For others, well, they never really get started. But each of us has a journey to take in this life. And it's what we do along the way that defines who we are.

When we take a long journey we hope it will be a successful one. The same can be said about our journey with Jesus. We want to know Him more. We want to become more like Him. So how do we do that? Ask Him. He knows all the answers.

No journey is too long when Jesus is at the end of it. :)

"So they said to him, “Please inquire of God, that we may know whether the journey on which we go will be prosperous.”And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The presence of the Lord be with you on your way.” - Judges 18:5-6

"7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.:" - 2 Corinthians 5:7

Too Long A Journey - Starland Vocal Band
Walk By Faith - Jeremy Camp

Monday, October 23, 2017

How Deep Is Your Love?

So, I was eating breakfast yesterday morning when, suddenly, my mind was awash with a song I haven't heard for quite some time. I'm not really sure where the song came from either. I hadn't heard it recently, but as I began to sing it in my mind the song's lyrics delivered a message that gave me a chill.

I listen to songs these days with the ears of a believer in Jesus Christ. Songs that don't reflect His teachings or the message He brought to a foolish and dying world quickly fade while other songs delivering a heavenly message, whether intentionally of intentionally, suddenly give new life to old memories.

Read the words of this song by the Bee Gees, How Deep Is Your Love, through the filter of Jesus and you will quickly see what I mean.

I know your eyes in the morning sun
I feel you touch me in the pouring rain
And the moment that you wander far from me
I want to feel you in my arms again
And you come to me on a summer breeze
Keep me warm in your love, then you softly leave
And it's me you need to show


How deep is your love, how deep is your love
How deep is your love?
I really mean to learn
'Cause we're living in a world of fools
Breaking us down when they all should let us be
We belong to you and me


I believe in you
You know the door to my very soul
You're the light in my deepest, darkest hour
You're my savior when I fall

And you may not think I care for you
When you know down inside that I really do
And it's me you need to show
How deep is your love


Wow. It almost reads like a hymn. I never thought about this song as being spiritual back in the late 70's but I hear it that way today.

So, how do you answer the song's main question? How deep is your love? How deep is your love for Jesus? Is it casual? Is it superficial? Or is it real? Is it deep? Is it passionate?

According to the Barna Group, 73% of Americans identified themselves as Christians in 2016. The same survey finds that only 35% consider themselves as "born-again". Less than half. Barna defines born again as "individuals have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and believe that, when they die, they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior."

Are you born again? It is required to get into heaven according to Jesus.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” - John 3:3

38% of Christians in Barna's survey say they are NOT born again. In light of what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, I'd like to ask them, "How deep is your love?"

How Deep Is Your Love? - The Bee Gees
The State of The Church - Barna Group

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Parable of The Old Stud

The Old Grey Stud
Before you say anything, no, this is not a biographical piece. LOL! It's building a tiny home and not having enough supplies on the job site. You get desperate. How desperate? You'll see.

My friend Chuck and I were working on a few of the remaining walls on the project. I was looking through the scrape heap for a 48" 2x4 or something a little longer that I could cut without too much waste. There was nothing.

Well, there was some of the craps I had used last winter to hold the tarp on the trailer. I was indeed desperate. I picked up an old grey, weather piece of wood and measured it. Exactly 48"!! I wouldn't even have to cut it! So I picked it put it in place and nailed it into the wall.

The Old Rugged Cross
As I thought about it later I smiled. It was just like me. God reached down and grabbed a weathered old man and called him to be part of His family. He takes chances on lots of people and things seem to work out just fine.

How has God used you for His glory? He wants all of us to serve Him in some way. Are you using your gifts to shine a light on Jesus? We should be doing that. It's our job. :)

I was taking a break later that afternoon, looking at the old stud I had used when I noticed something else. Take a look at the picture to the right. I'm sure you can see it too.

What a blessing to be a child of God and to be serving others through the gifts He has given us. It makes me feel useful in my old age. Not "a stud" by any means, but a useful part of His family. And that is a good feeling.

"For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God." - Hebrews 3:4

The Old Rugged Cross - Johnny & June Carter Cash




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What About Now?

There are times when we prefer to do things on our own. "We got this!" we tell ourselves. "No problem!" And sometimes we actually CAN do things on our own. But then there are other times when we need the help of someone else. Like last weekend for me. And like 2,000 years ago for all of us.

I constructed a few walls last weekend for a tiny home I am building. I did it all by myself. But when it came time to actually move the walls to the job site I was unable to do so. They were too heavy. A few days later however, when a couple of friends came over, all three of us managed to pick up the walls with no trouble at all.

Sometimes the opposite can be true. "There's no way I can do this all by myself. Why even bother?" We can be so unsure of ourselves that we often fail to even try. Perhaps, if we had simply made an effort, we could have made a difference.

Jesus made a difference.

2,000 years ago He sacrificed Himself, paying the penalty for OUR sins, so that we could do something we never could have done on our own. Get into heaven. We can never earn our way into heaven by trying to be good enough. We will always fail at that. But when we place our faith in Jesus, He does all the "heavy lifting" for us.

Have you ever thought about Jesus? Have you ever considered WHY He died? He died for YOU, you know. Embrace the One who has promised to never leave you.

There are people in this world who don't know Him. There are people, right now, in need of someone to do THEIR heavy lifting. We ALL can make a difference if we come together in love and exhibit the grace, mercy and compassion that God showed to us.

So, when are we going to do that? When are we going to love one another as Christ loved us?

What about now? What about today? Before it's too late.

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

What About Now - Daughtry

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Lord Provides

I am sitting here in front of my computer, hands folded in prayer, trying to figure out what it is that God would like me to write about this morning. The topic is easy - God's provision. God provided SO many things this weekend. It was amazing. But that's what God does. The unbelievable. There were just so many examples of His provision this weekend. It is hard to choose!

First there was the tiny home I am building. I had scheduled a wall building event (a few weeks in advance) for this past Saturday. As the day approached the long-range weather forecast showed rain. So I prayed for an opening, an opportunity to build, in between the raindrops.

God provided.

Saturday morning there was a break in the rain from morning until noon. Plus twice the number of people showed up to help than I was expecting. The overnight rain stopped and we were able to build for 2 1/2 hours before the sprinkles began. Thank you Lord!

Another example of God's provision came Sunday morning when I was sitting in church. Suddenly my wife appeared next to me and said, "We have to go." One of our cats was having a medical emergency and was, as the vet told us later, very near to death.

Years earlier I had been gifted a three-day class at The Skip Barber Racing School. That training came in handy driving from Waupaca to Appleton, sometimes in excess of 90 miles per hour. All of this was done calmly and safely. The vet told us, "I was a good thing you arrived when you did."

The staff was able to revive him and my wife, who was in tears most of the morning, was grateful Sunday evening when the animal hospital called saying that her cat was much improved.

God provided once again.

But I think the example that best suits God's style, and is a perfect example of His provision, occurred Sunday afternoon. With her cat at the animal hospital, my wife wasn't feeling like attending a party but she did. It was our grandson's 5th birthday party.

Seeing grandchildren always improves the mood. But the moment that truly made my wife forget all of her troubles and concerns was captured by my daughter in this photos.

Have you ever heard of the place called Jehovah-jireh? It is the location where Isaac was bound on Mt. Moriah to be sacrificed. Just as Abraham raised his knife, he was stopped and God provided a substitutionary sacrifice. A foreshadowing of Jesus and HIS sacrifice for our sins. Jehovah-jireh means God provides. And He does.

"When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” - Genesis 22:9-15

Paul Washer's Testimony about God's Provision

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Promises

Sometimes the struggles and trials we find ourselves in can be pretty deep and dark. There are times when the storms seem almost unbearable. We'd give anything to make the pain and the hurting stop. So what do we do? Where can we find hope? The answer is as simple as opening a door.

Sometimes, when we have the windows open in our house and the wind is blowing, doors can open and close by themselves. It's weird to see but sometimes, without us doing anything, doors can slam shut. That's not a super bad deal but when the litter box is downstairs and our cats are upstairs it CAN be an issue.

Sometimes our life can be like that. We can get so busy with a particular struggle or event that our focus on God disappears. The "door" of communication that once was open becomes shut. That's not good.

One way I've found to keep the door between myself and God open is to remind myself of His promises. When I feel alone, I remind myself that He has promised to never leave me. When I screw up and commit a sin I remind myself that God has promised to remove my sins as far as the east is from the west.

Sadly, there are many people who don't know Jesus and refuse to open any doors that might lead to Him. They are choosing to remain alone. Choosing to live with their sin burden. That is a terrible way to live.

The love of Christ is an open door. Once opened He promises that He will come into our lives and live with us . . . IN us.

God transforms lives through His forgiveness. He loves His children. Won't you please consider loving Him in return? Open the door.

"20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. " - Revelation 3:20

On my way to work yesterday I heard a song on the radio. I usually don't listen to the music on this particular station but I did that day for some reason. The lyrics reminded me of God's promises and sparked this story. Listen to it, then, let Him in. :)

The Promise - The Martins
Let 'Em In - Paul McCartney

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Good Recommendation

Back in August I was contacted by a friend of mine who was looking for a place to stay on Mackinac Island. I knew the perfect place. But what I DIDN'T know was that I was about to be doing something that ALL of us Christians should be doing - every day of our lives.

My wife and I love to spend time together on Mackinac Island. If you have read this blog for any amount of time you have read  a few stories about our vacations there. When we go to Mackinac Island we always stay at the same place - The Bay View B&B. We absolutely love it there. Great food, great accommodations. Just an all-around wonderful place to stay.

When my friend asked about places to stay it was easy to recommend the Bay View. Words of praise flowed easily from my fingertips. It's not hard to make a favorable recommendation when you absolutely believe what you are saying about the place is true.

So what does my Bay View recommendation have to do with my Christian faith? Let's examine the steps.

First, my friend Bonny knew that my wife and I had been to Mackinac Island recently. She had seen some of the pictures I had taken on Facebook. Perhaps she had read some of the stories I had written. Who knows. The important thing here is that she KNEW that I might know of a place to stay, so, she asked. She asked me for my testimony.

(Can you see where this story is going now?)

We who profess a faith in Christ usually come equipped with a testimony, a story about how we came to believe. It's usually one of those stories where things start out kind of bad or blah, BUT THEN!!

Testimonies are wonderful things. I absolutely love hearing how people came to faith in Jesus. I love hearing about the events that lead up to the sudden realization that, "HEY, this Jesus is REAL!!"

Because of my excited testimony about the Bay View my friend booked a room there for their recent 40th anniversary trip. They were not disappointed. And that's exactly how it is when someone meets Jesus. They are NEVER disappointed when they take that step of commitment.

Are we excited when we talk to other people about our faith in Christ? We should be!

And look what happened as a result of this B&B recommendation. My wife and I now share something wonderful with my friends Denny and Bonny. We have all spent our 40th wedding anniversary on the same island and stayed at the same place. That's amazing.

And what's really cool is that Denny and Bonny, and my wife and I, will be spending eternity, staying at the same place - heaven. I have read that our Father's house has many rooms. And I am willing to bet that Rosie will be there as well serving up strawberry shortcake for everyone.

Big House - Audio Adrenaline

Monday, October 9, 2017

Walk Humbly

It's funny how God teaches us lessons. Well, it's not really "funny" I guess. Sometimes it hurts. USUALLY it hurts. Like just the other day . . .

I am building a tiny home. For the most part I have been doing it by myself. Sometimes my wife helps me or a friend comes over and pounds some nails for a bit. I enjoy the work. I enjoy designing and then building what I have designed.

But then this 64-year-old body tries to do what it once did at age 25 and things just don't go the way we thought they should. A lesson learned in human body dynamics at the expense of human emotion and pride.

I have some young friends who once thought they were above the law. Then they got arrested and spent some time in jail. That "alone time" changed them - for the better. Still they carried with them the stigmatism of having a record. Jobs and housing were hard to come by as a result.

There is a lesson to be learned in the humbling of one's self. Either we do it ourselves or God will do it for us. We are to become humble as we walk with our God, not remain narcissistic our entire lives. If we need to change our all-about-self status, God will be more than happy to help us do that.

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8

This song doesn't have too much to do with my story today but it contains that verse from Micah. Therefore, I chose it. It's a good reminder of what it means to be a man. Whether 25 or 65, we were made for a purpose - to seek justice, love mercy. and walk humbly with our God.

Courageous - Casting Crowns

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Daniel's Prayer

It's interesting and appropriate that my daily reading found me in the Book of Daniel this week. Chapter nine. Specifically, Daniel's prayer. Oh, what an amazing prayer it is; especially in light of what happened this past weekend in Las Vegas. Won't you please pray it with me?

I have substituted our present day cities and country names for those Daniel used. See if his prayer fits our needs today as we pray for Las Vegas and our entire nation.

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame - the people of Las Vegas and the inhabitants of Nevada and all America, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All America has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Las Vegas. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of the world with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Las Vegas, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Las Vegas and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” - Daniel 9:4-19

What an amazing prayer. What if we all prayed that prayer, each and every day? We are a nation deserving of God's wrath for the things we have done, and not done. Let us repent and turn to God. He has promised to heal our land. What are we waiting for?

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

What If His People Prayed - Casting Crowns
Daniel Prayed - Patty Loveless & Rick Skaggs
The Book of Daniel