Monday, February 27, 2017

Active Design

I watched a video last month by a guy who was building a Tiny Home. He was talking about how the design of his Tiny was "active" - meaning, he was designing it as he was building it. I could easily see that happening with my Tiny Home, but my "active design" would be more like me fixing all of the mistakes I made along the way.

You and I are active designs too I think. God created us. He gave us certain abilities and talents. We learn, we grow . . . eventually becoming who we were created to be. Things don't always work out the way we had planned but, with God's blessing and patience, we end up right where He wants us.

As we go through life we encounter many events along the way. We experience problems and we experience moments of great joy. Each of those events changes us in some way. Life's events are God means of growing us. Who we are now is different than who we were 10 years ago. WE are an active creation.

I love seeing and hearing about how people have used their gifts to benefit others. Especially if they are using those gifts to bring God the ultimate glory. I think God likes it when we do that.

"10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." - 1 Peter 4:10

I saw these two videos yesterday. Although neither one credits God, they do demonstrate God's characteristics of compassion and mercy to a world that is starving for some.

The first video was posted by a young high school friend, the second by a high school classmate - proving that, no matter what age we are, we can always demonstrate compassion to those around us. 

Free Makeovers - BBC III
Wheels - Canadian Tire

The key word in the phrase Active Design is ACTIVE. If we are passive towards others in need nothing will get accomplished either in us or for God. We MUST be active. We MUST get involved. Otherwise, what is the purpose of US?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Deaf Shall Hear

Last week Saturday I was volunteering at a local food pantry (Ruby's Pantry). My job there is to preregister people out in the parking lot so things will go more quickly at the registration desk inside.

I approached one couple I had never seen before and told them that they needed to fill out a registration form. They lady seemed disinterested and confused. I repeated my words, offering her the clipboard. She still looked confused. Then she looked at me and said, "I'm deaf." Ah. It was then that I understood. She couldn't hear my speech. So I changed my approach and communicated in a different way - through her husband.

After that encounter I thought about us humans and the way we look at things. We tend to interact with others based on OUR rules and OUR understanding of the truth. The problem with that is, not everyone plays by the same rules or has the same understanding of what's right and what's wrong.

Watching the nightly news gives daily examples of people with differing viewpoints and attitudes. We often say, "What are these people thinking?" when in actuality, they are doing what in right in THEIR eyes.

We humans have differing belief systems, faiths, denominations, opinions and political views. We all have things we like and don't like, approve of and disapprove of. Some oppose abortion, others are in favor of it. Each one is sure they are right and others are wrong. Are we deaf to each others viewpoints? Are we blind to those things that don't comply with our way of thinking? So who is right? We can't ALL be right.

As Christians, we know where to find the truth. We know that the Bible contains words of truth that we are to live by as WE change OUR thinking to align with Christ's. We ourselves can change no one. But we know someone who can.

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” - John 9:1-5

Jesus then gave the man his sight.

When God spoke about healing the sick in the Bible he wasn't necessarily talking about actual deaf people, the blind or about those who cannot speak. He is usually talking about healing our hearts. Our souls. And about whether or not Jesus is our Lord.

We ALL have "disabilities." We all have wounds and scars. It is how we deal with our inabilities that enables us to do great things. What disability do YOU have that you could turn around for God's glory?

I look at myself (that's where we should always start) and I seek out my deficiencies, what do I do with them when I find them? I take them to Jesus and ask, "How can I use this for your glory? How can I honor you? How can I turn my negative into a positive?" He will answer.

The husband of the deaf woman I met last week was also deaf. His means of turning a negative into a positive was learning sign language to communicate with his wife. He used written means to communicate with those who didn't speak HIS language. He found a way. He found light in the darkness and a way to "hear" despite being deaf. Can we say the same about our shortcomings?

"In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see." - Isaiah 29:18

A Girl and A Blind Man Ballet

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

In Your Eyes

Driving through the darkness on my 45-minute morning commute to work can lead to some amazing thoughts as my mind wanders where it will. It can also be pretty boring!

I had slept in yesterday and was running late. The radio show I usually listen to was over so I groped around my car for a CD to listen to. God picked out a good one - The Book of John.

It was good to hear those stories again. Jesus and Nicodemus, turning water into wine, the woman at the well . . . but the story that touched my heart that day was from John 5. The story of a father's love for his son.

I invite you to look at this picture that my daughter-in-law took of her son and her husband - my son. What an amazing picture! It says a lot all by itself. I also invite you to read this passage from John 5, then take another look at the picture.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does" - John 5:19-20

Jesus was, of course, talking about HIS Father, Our Father in heaven. Jesus spent His whole life doing what His Father taught Him, speaking the words his Father wanted Him to say. The life that Jesus lived prompted God to say this about His Son.

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." - Matthew 17:5

I look at this picture from a unique point of view - the father of the son (no capital letters). It's not hard to watch my son now, teaching HIS son, and not feel proud. This is MY son with whom I am well pleased.

Still, I find it hard to imagine God's love for us, that He would send His one and only Son, the Son He loved, to die on our behalf. If you think that God does not love you, think again.

Unless you have children it is hard to understand what self-sacrificing, unconditional love is. Walking around at 2:00 AM, carrying a child who has an ear infection or is colicky. Caring for a sick child, not caring in you yourself get sick. You only want your child to get well.

But to see your child, grown, and doing the same thing for their child. Loving THEM unconditionally . . . well, that is very special indeed. It kind of makes me wonder . . . how God must have felt, watching His Son honoring Him in all that He did.

So on this day I pray for all of the world's fathers as they teach their sons. May they do what is right in your eyes, God. I pray also for the sons. One day they will be fathers themselves, teaching their sons the same things. And may we all do what is right in your eyes, Father. May we make YOU proud of us in the way we live our lives. Always serving, always loving, always intentionally teaching our sons and daughters your ways, with the same unconditional love that you first showed us. This is how we will honor you, by living . . . in your eyes.

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

In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel
You Raise Me Up - Westlife

Monday, February 20, 2017

Behind The Mask

I was sitting in church yesterday, wondering what I would write about for this morning's blog. I didn't have a clue. Usually, something pops into my head a few days in advance, but not this time. I was at a loss. Then I opened up the church bulletin. Ding!

Do you know these guys? They look kind of grumpy to me. They're from a place called Easter Island - 2,300 miles west of Chile, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Very mysterious. Here's a few interesting facts about these figures (Moai).
  1. No one knows how they got to where they now stand. They would have had to come a distance of eleven miles - without the use of wheels, cranes or large animals. On average they stand 13 feet tall and weigh 14 tons.
  2. The huge heads actually have bodies underneath them. They're buried! Up to their chins!
The first question that pops into my head is how did they get buried? Well, it's a volcanic island. I can guess how they got buried. Boom! But there they stand - nearly covered up by the world around them - and no one knew anything about them. Perhaps the residents of the island perished in a volcanic explosion? No one knows. People live there now but no one knows the tale of the moai.

Have you ever felt buried by all the worldly stuff you wade through on a daily basis? I sure do. We get saturated by it. It engulfs us and pulls in toward itself like a giant black hole.

I think we all have people in our lives that seem blind to all of the worldly things that happen around us. Just watch the news! Where are the loved ones who come alongside them to tell them they're wrong? Yeah, that's supposed to be us I guess. And we do that! We talk to them, we pray for them, but still they don't listen. Why? It's because they are blind.

Did you ever see the movie Field of Dreams? It's a fictitious story about dead baseball players who came back to life to play baseball in a farmer's field. No theological message in that! There is one scene where a little girl falls and is dying. There is a man with a red beard. He cannot see the ball players like the farmer and his family can. But then something happens (watch the video at the bottom). Suddenly he says, "When did all these ball players get here?"

The scales were removed from his eyes on might say.

In the Bible there is a story about Jesus healing someone who was blind (John 9). Was Jesus trying to show everyone that He could heal people? Or was He trying to deliver a deeper message?

After the healing takes place. Jesus deliver the REAL message of His encounter with the blind man.

"35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” - John 9:35-49

There are many spiritually blind people in this world. Many suffering ones as well. They are buried up to their necks. Sadly, a lot of them go to church on Sunday. SO, what should we do? First, we pray. Continually. Then we should start asking these people questions. Then we should pray some more.

As much as we would like to, we can't change people's minds. Only God can do that. But we can get them thinking. We are called to reach out to the lost, the hurting, and to "make disciples." Let's pray for softened hearts, boldness in our speech, and love in our words and deeds. We too were once blind. But now we see.

John 9
Easter Island Heads Have A Surprise
Doc Saves Karin - Field of Dreams

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Bottled Water

As I prepare to begin construction of my Tiny Home this spring, one of the things I am trying to work out is a mobile, off-grid source of water. The solution for anyone who is thirsty has always been easy to figure out. All we need to do is look up!

Look at the picture to the left. Study it. Examine it. What do you see? A water bottle? Some water? Look closer. The water is pouring out of the container. What's behind the container? Blue sky? The sun? That's right. The water is pouring out "from above."

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

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

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

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

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

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” - John 4:7-15

The thing about bottled water is, although the bottle contains one of the basic elements of life, and can literally save someone's life, it is totally useless until it is opened. I'm one of those bottles of water. I should NOT be full. And, just like a bottle of water, we were created to be emptied.

Is there "living water" in you? Have we opened our little bottle and poured it into someone else? Would people say there is a spring of living water pouring out of us? If we call ourselves Christians we should have been filled up with God's Holy Spirit. We should have been filled to the point of overflowing. And that's the big question, isn't it? "ARE we overflowing?"

Water is a powerful thing. Just ask the Grand Canyon. Just ask the 180,000 people living beneath the Oroville Reservoir in California. Water can change the landscape around us. It can change us too.

The world we live in is in desperate need of "living" water. God provides all the water that the world needs - both to sustain us and to change us. However, we are in short supply of vessels . . . water bottles. That's us. WE are the bottles that contain the living water Jesus speaks of. Are we overflowing? Or do we still have our caps on?

Oroville Dam Video
The Well - Casting Crowns

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The War Inside

Have you ever thought you'd done everything right only to discover that you got it all wrong? Welcome to every day of my life. LOL!

I think most of us Christians know that we are sinners. That's a given in the Christian faith. That "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). But I am not sure we understand just what sin is. In addition to doing things that God doesn't like, sin is also NOT doing things that God wants us to do.

I am reading through the Book of First Samuel right now. After Saul was made king of Israel in chapter 10, God rejects Saul as king in Chapter 15. That didn't last long. Israel had turned its back on God by demanding an earthly king so God gave them one. But Saul was just like you and me. Disobedient.

Saul started out good. "Small in his own eyes" as Samuel put it. But when Saul became king, he let his new position get the better of him and Saul began doing what was right in his OWN eyes instead of God's.

God commanded Saul to do something and he did what God said . . . with a few exceptions. He kept some of the animals he and his men had captured for a sacrifice to God. Sounded like a good idea, but . . . Oops.

17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
    and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
    he has rejected you as king.” - 1 Samuel 15:17-23
I was listening to a CD on my way to work yesterday morning. I heard a song that describes perfectly what Saul's problem was. Pride. Saul may have defeated the Amalekites thoroughly but he lost the battle against Satan - The War Inside.
I am the war inside
I am the battle line
I am the rising tide
I am the war I fight
Ain't no killer like pride
No killer like I
No killer like what's inside
We all want to be masters of our own destiny. We all want to be our own gods. Our selfish desires are constantly at war against God's command to be obedient. Some people think they don't need Jesus. From where I sit, and I have a front row seat for the battle that wages within myself, we need Him desperately. There is no hope apart from Christ. May we be obedient in everything we say and do.

The War Inside - Switchfoot

Monday, February 13, 2017

Beauty From Pain

Jordy Nelson - physical pain (broken ribs)
Yesterday was a bright, sunny day. We haven't seen one of those for quite a while. With all the sunshine and melting snow it seemed as if spring might actually be coming! There was a renewed sense of hope in my heart, remember better, warmer days.

When skies are cloudy and temperatures are cold, it's hard to feel "encouraged" about one more day of winter. Yet, it is the winter weather that makes springtime so welcome.

This past week I spoke with two friends of mine who are going through extended bouts with pain - one physical, one emotional.

How does one cope with periods of extended pain? How does one remove painful memories resulting from a relationship gone bad?

The initial offering of the Christian to someone experiencing emotional pain is that Jesus can ease it. "If you'd only pray harder," some would say. Is that correct?

First, can God heal? Absolutely! So why are there still broken people in this world - both physically and mentally? Why doesn't God heal everyone?

Before that question can be answered one has to answer some bigger questions. Like, "Why are we here?" What is the purpose of our lives? God told this to the Isrealites through the prophet Jeremiah . . .

"11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you." - Jeremiah 29:11-14

  1. God has plans for you. God is going to use us in some way. How? Hmm. But we were created for a reason. Is God going to use your pain to accomplish something in your life or in someone else?
  2. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Prosper? You mean get rich? No. God wants to prosper us spiritually. To develop character in us.
  3. To give you hope and a future. His plans for you should give you hope. You have a purpose and a future in Christ Jesus!!
We are humans. We tend to think in human terms. God is thinking WAY beyond us. He is thinking eternally. Do you really think our current pain and suffering has anything to do with God's eternal plans for us? Maybe a little bit, but it is inconsequential. It is only a means to an end.

Is it possible that God would use someone's pain to draw them closer to Himself? Absolutely! God told us in 2 Corinthians,

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

When we are weak, we are strong, because it is at our weakest that we cry out for God to help us . . . to ease the pain and the suffering. God is using our pain to draw us closer to Him.

Again, why are we here? Is it to live a happy life and then die? For many, that is all they will have. But for the Christian, for the follower of Christ, we are here to learn and grow. We are here to worship and praise. We are here to prepare ourselves for the next life.

Did you see the Packer game against the Giants when Jordy Nelson had his ribs broken? This was a comeback season for Jordy, winning the Comeback Player of the Year. After returning from a major knee injury in 2016, Jordy worked hard through the pain. When he had his ribs broken he rehabbed hard and played the follow week. He played through the pain for his team's ultimate gain.

Our pain and suffering can cause us to lose our focus. There is a tremendous pull at us to think only of ourselves when we are hurting, not that God might be putting US through something so that, one day, er can help someone else.

Constant physical pain is a tough one. It eats away at a person, making them tired, frustrated and depressed. But if that develops in us a spirit of determination, a drive to get past the pain, to beat it, hasn't the pain helped to make us better?

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

There's no magic cure to remove pain but if we can use it to grow and to power us past it, then that is what we must do. Pray with me please?

Father, we have many friends who are hurting. Whether it is relationship issues, physical pain, of an illness they can't seem to beat. Help them through their pain and suffering. Teach them to be strong in ways we cannot. Help them succeed in the ways you want them to. Draw them to Yourself and hold them close when they are hurting the most. And heal them, if it is your will to do so. Let us embrace the storms we face in life because they draw us closer to you. It is you we adore. It is you we love above all others. Ease our pain with your mercy and grace and lift our burdens from us as you promised us you would,

Thank you for hearing us. Thank you for considering this prayer. May we be your hands and feet in this world until you call us home. Though the hills might be steep and the rough might be rough, guide us to where you are. Where you want us to be. Amen.

This story and prayer are for friends in my life who are suffering. You know who you are. Be strong and courageous. Draw nearer to The Lord. I love you all.

Beauty From Pain - Superchick
Determined Paraplegic - BBQ pit

Saturday, February 11, 2017

As The Deer

My wife and I have had a visitor in our backyard for several weeks now. A deer. We get a lot of deer in our backyard but we thought it was quite the treat - too see a deer so close to our house. It was almost like the deer WANTED to stay near to us. But then, as we looked closer at our new friend, we saw why it was so reluctant to move.

The deer has a broken leg. It's right rear leg got damaged somehow and it no longer can move like the other deer do. At first we were saddened. Was the deer in pain? Would it survive the winter? Can we call someone? This poor, poor deer. But then, God taught us a few things about compassion and mercy and grace, and all three of us are better off for it.

We went through a list of things we could do to help the deer. Other people chimed in with their ideas on Facebook after I posted a picture of our three-legged friend. Should we call the DNR? The state park? What about an animal rehabilitation center?

We chose to do none of the above. Why? Are we heartless and uncaring? No. We are realistic. There are a LOT of deer in Central Wisconsin. SO many deer that the DNR is trying to figure out ways to get rid of the deer. There are simply too many deer that, if called, local law enforcement and park ranger types would simply come out and shoot the deer.

Cedar tree browse line
We read articles on feeding deer in the winter and learned quite a bit but I think it was our traveling through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan each year that taught us the most. Deer love to eat cedar trees. So my wife and I went hunting for some cedar bows we could harvest and bring back to our house. My wife also bought some butternut squash. All were consumed gratefully by our injured friend . . . and many others.

One day I began to wonder, was God trying to teach us something through this injured deer? I think He was. And still is.

This injured deer has brought out the compassion in my wife and I - especially my wife. She went out into the woods on her own this week and brought more branches home. She is DOING to meet a need. She is demonstrating grace, mercy and compassion. Admirable characteristics in God's eyes.

"Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! 10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful." - James 5:9-11

Is there a "deer" in YOUR life? Is there someone who is in need of your compassion and mercy? Who can you reach out to and extend God's grace to today. A co-worker who has lost a loved one perhaps, or a young mother in need of diapers and formula. A deer in the back yard in need of food has given us the opportunity to use our compassion muscles but is there a greater need for "injured" humans around us?

The early church gave to one another "as there was a need" (Acts 2:45). If we are members of God's church in this world, where is there are need around us that we may serve? Let us move and not be complacent!

The deer stayed close to our house because it felt safe. Nothing could attack it from two sides. It was somewhat safe. And there was food! Are we bearers of "food" to those around us? Will they come near to us in a time of need?

May we be God's hands and feet in a world that is so desperately in need. Let them know we are His children by the things we say and do - by the love we show. The world is broken, just like the deer in our back yard. People are hungry for truth in a world seemingly devoid of any. Let us bring the food of God's Word and let them drink in God's love through our compassion and mercy. In that way God will be honored and praised and we will have done the will of our Father in the lives of those around us.

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." - Psalm 42:1-2

As The Deer - Worship Video

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sudden Life

Did you watch the Superbowl this past Sunday? What a comeback!! From 25 points down, the New England Patriots came back to win the game in overtime. They won the game in . . . sudden death. Death does indeed come suddenly.

Speaking of "sudden death," Monday morning I came into work and asked one of my friends how her weekend was. Before she even spoke a word her eyes told me everything I needed to know.

"What's wrong?"

A 23-year old young man from her community had died over the weekend - a snowmobile accident. My friend knew the young man and his family and was totally saddened by the loss. A sad loss indeed - someone so young.

The question that always pops into my head when I hear about someone's death is, "Did they know Jesus?" I hesitate to ask the question most times though because, if they didn't, well, why make things worse, right? I just hope and pray that they did.

The world we live in is an incredible distraction. It pulls at us and demands everything from us. And it is never, ever satisfied. If it weren't for God and His Holy Spirit, we wouldn't have a chance. We all would simply die and that would be it.

But God . . .

(Two of my all-time favorite words)

But God . . . allows us to escape the finality of this world by simply placing our faith in His Son. It seems like such an easy thing to do. Yet, for most, it is the absolute hardest.

I don't want to make this sound too dramatic but this morning I had a dream. It is why I am typing this at 4:47 in the morning. In the dream my brother-in-law Curt was standing in front of a church. I was there too. Curt, who has done amazingly well delivering eulogies was about to speak at someone's funeral but for some reason could not, so he turned to me and asked me to do it.

This is what I said. Open your Bibles to the Book of Joshua. The first chapter is key. Moses has just died and now God told Joshua, Moses' aide, that he (Joshua) was going to lead His people into the promised land.

Look at the name Joshua. Now look at the name Jesus. In Aramaic and Greek the name of Jesus is pronounced Eoshoa. Close enough to Joshua for you? In the Old Testament Moses was synonymous with "The Law" but now Moses was dead. The Law is dead. We are under God's grace now. God provided Joshua, just as He provided Eoshua (Jesus), to get His people into the promised land. The real key is the God's people needed to follow a leader into the Promised Land. And so do we. We need to follow Jesus.

I don't know if the young who died this past weekend was a follower of Christ or not. But I know this. NO ONE is getting into the Promised Land with out following Jesus. No one! Not Hindu, not Buddhist, not Mormon, not Jehovah's Witness, not Catholic or Lutheran, Baptist or Calvary Chapel. It is our faith in Christ that is key, not a denomination. Follow Christ!

Are you prepared to cross the Jordan? Have you placed your faith in Christ? He is the ticket you need to make the trip.

"1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:1-9

God tells us to "be strong and courageous" three times in this passage. He also tells us He will never leave us - His children. We all have people in "the world." They need to hear about Jesus. If we truly want them to live, we need to tell them.

The following clip is from the movie The Matrix. Watch it as Morpheus explains to Neo what the Matrix is. It is "the world" WE live in. Listen to his words in that context.

Matrix Explained

Monday, February 6, 2017

Brothers In Arms

I am a firm believer in the sovereignty of God - that all things are under God's rule and control. That even when we are in doubt, God is not, and that he "works all things together for the good of those who love Him."

Wednesday night I had dinner with a good friend of mine. I hadn't seen my friend for several months and it was good to see him and hear his stories of how God is working in his life.

His story actually started a few months ago when I heard that he had lost his job. That loss for my brother-in-Christ resonated with me. A handful of years before, the same thing had happened to me. That's the reason I had wanted to get together with my friend. To reassure him that God is in control, God saw ME through, He will do the same for you.

There is much that goes through the mind of a man when life-changing things like that happen. Sudden events, out of our control for the most part, it is difficult to rationalize and make adjustments on the fly. Yet we do. And we grow as a result of them.

I am reading through the Book of Ruth right now. What an amazing story of faith, family, redemption and God's provision and sovereignty. Read it. It's only four chapters.

The Book of Ruth

In chapter one we learn of Ruth's devotion to her mother-in-law Naomi. Devotion to family. In chapter two we meet Boaz, a relative of Naomi's dead husband - her kinsman redeemer. Basically, He was Naomi's relative and she was in trouble so he came to her rescue. A wonderful foretaste of Jesus and what He did for us on the cross . . . but back to the story about my friend.

As we ate our food the other night, my friend told me about the interview process he had for his new job. It was very typical of how God works. The company he applied at wasn't hiring, yet they hired my friend. The interviewer spoke of a spiritual need in his company. My friend was created to do the very thing that his new employer needed - to share the love of Christ and His message to those who are in need. God is using my friend, a willing participant, to reach people with the Gospel.

I'm sure there were nervous moments for my friend and his wife, just like their were for me and my wife when the same thing happened to me. But there is great comfort to be found in the Book of Ruth, where we can see how God orchestrates and conducts this amazing symphony called life. There is also great comfort in looking back at things from where God has placed us - to see all of the steps He had us take along the way.

Yesterday morning as I was getting ready for church, I grabbed my belt and began to thread it through the loops on my pants. These verses came to mind and I thought about my friend. Read it as a prayer. A prayer for my brother-in-arms.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints - 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." - Ephesians 6:14-20

We are all soldiers in God's army. Our battle is "not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). And "if God is for us, who can be against us." (Romans 8:31)

Love you, my brother. It is a pleasure serving along side you.

"Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I've witnessed your suffering
As the battle raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms" - Dire Straits

Brothers In Arms - Mark Knopfler
Hacksaw Ridge Movie Trailer

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Parable of The Two Triangles

Have you experienced a failed relationship in your life? Does your boyfriend treat you badly? Is your girlfriend not interested in you anymore? Is your marriage not what you think it should be? Perhaps you need to think triangularly.

A pastor once told me that the only way to obtain a perfect relationship in life is for it to be in the shape of a triangle, like the green one over there on the left. The base is formed of the two people in the relationship. The very top of the triangle is where God is in the relationship. The closer each person gets to God, the closer we get to each other. Want a rock-solid relationship in your life? The focus of successful relationships begins with a relationship with God, first, then with each other.

I heard about another "relationship triangle" this week - this one was shaped like the triangle on the right. The idea was proposed by Dr. James Hamilton, the professor of Biblical Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was speaking about our focus as a nation. It was his observation that, "people have nothing greater to live for than themselves."

We used to be a God-fearing nation, "one nation under God," giving God the highest priority in our lives. This nation began by people seeking religious freedom. We placed God first in our lives. That's why God blessed us as a nation. We had our priorities right. We were thinking eternally, arms stretched upward like the wide top of the orange triangle. Then our focus changed.

We began to have a worldly focus. We thought on a national level. In fighting World Wars I and II had a strong sense of national pride. W heard phrases like "God and Country." God was still there but not as important.

That brings us to today. We are currently at the bottom of the orange triangle. Our focus on ourselves. One doesn't have to look any farther than our latest presidential election to see an example. Look at the people protesting over the election results. Our national pride is gone. Half of our nation is comprised of godless, whining crybabies. They didn't get their way so they're throwing a tantrum. Self-worship and not God-worship is something not taken lightly by our Almighty God.

We are disobeying His commands. "Love one another as I have loved you" was so important that Jesus mentioned it twice in the Gospel of John (John 13:34 and John 15:12).

Thursday morning our new president spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, as ALL sitting presidents do. But this president spoke differently than his predecessor did. Could God be returning to the top of our green relationship triangle as a nation?

"America will thrive, as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in God. That faith in God has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas and to lock arms at home, to ensure equal rights for every man, woman and child in our land. It's that faith that sent the pilgrims across the oceans, the pioneers across the plains and the young people all across America, to chase their dreams. They are chasing their dreams. We are going to bring those dreams back. As long as we have God, we are never, ever alone. Whether it's the soldier on the night watch, or the single parent on the night shift, God will always give us solace and strength, and comfort. We need to carry on and to keep carrying on. For us here in Washington, we must never, ever stop asking God for the wisdom to serve the public, according to his will." - President Donald J. Trump.

Amen to that!

I am currently reading in the Old Testament Book of Judges. Its pages are filled examples of God's people placing themselves on God's throne. Let us not be like them, whether in our personal relationships or our national ones. It never ends well for those who do that.

So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs. Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the children of Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim eight years. When the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them: Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord delivered Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-Rishathaim. 11 So the land had rest for forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died." - Judges 3:7:11

Prayer Of The Children - The Concordia Choir
President Trump's Speech at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Tow Rope

Today is the first day of February. To date, we have been having a particularly icy winter – snow, rain and ice. Nice. I am so grateful that I have a big, four-wheel drive truck. It has saved me on numerous occasions. I theorize the cost of my truck has been paid for in saved towing fees and probable body damage repairs to me regular car.
My most recent purchase for my truck has been that of a tow rope. What better way to demonstrate the love of Jesus than to pull them out of a ditch, right? Well, I have yet to use it.
Yesterday, on my way to work, I saw a car in the ditch, flashers flashing. They had tried to turn a corner and failed. So me and my tow rope looked for a place to turn around. Unfortunately for me, by the time I got turned around and returned to the accident scene, there was already a tow truck there. Darn! I am 0-for-2 on my ditch rescue attempts this year.
Later that morning, while sitting in the dentist chair, I was reflecting on the function of the tow rope, its importance and how it relates perfectly to the Holy Spirits role in our evangelistic efforts (What else is there to think about in a dentist's chair?). There are several things involved in any ditch rescue scenario. Check these out and how they compare.
  1. Weather - wintery conditions and storms can keep us from arriving at our destination. In our faith lives, sin does that.
  2. Road conditions - when the roads are slippery it is easy to slide off the road. Temptation does the same thing to us as we try navigating our way through this fallen world.
  3. The victim - that's us in both scenarios.
  4. The victim’s car - that represents the lives we live/
  5. The rescuer - That's us in the role Jesus modeled for us - reaching out to others.
  6. The rescuer’s truck - This is similar to the tow rope's function but I will compare this to God's Word. The Bible equips us for speaking to others about Jesus.
  7. The tow rope - This is God's Holy Spirit. Nobody is going anywhere with out the Holy Spirit moving and coaxing them.
  8. The desire of the victim to be rescued - Most people stuck in ditches are happy to be rescued. Not so in the world in which we live. Most do not even know they need to ne rescued.
  9. The desire of the rescuer to help the victim - This ig God's Holy Spirit working in us - to reach out in love to those who are stuck and don't know Jesus. God wishes that none should perish.
  10. Prayer - This is what makes things work. We pray for people to be open to hearing God's Word. We pray for those stuck in ditches AND in life. We pray that God would soften hearts and open minds to the possibility of and eternal rescue.
Do you know someone who is stuck in life's ditch? How will you help get them out? Do you carry a tow rope in YOUR vehicle? May we be ever-ready to help those in need -the lost, the hurting, those struggling with life. Imagine the look on their faces when someone cares enough to stop and offer help in their hour of need.

"15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." - 1 Peter 3:15

Dodge Pulling a Jeep Out Of The Mud