Monday, July 31, 2017

One True Love

Yesterday my wife and I celebrated 40 years of marriage. How did we last that long in a world where over half of all marriages end in divorce? That's an easy question to answer. All you have to do is find the love of your life. Your one true love.

My wife and I were married in 1977 (in case you're bad at math) and we have not stopped loving each other since.

I have had people ask me, "How did you know that Bev was "the one"?" My answer is always a cryptic, "Oh, YOU'LL KNOW!" I knew.

My wife and I met at the end of summer. We had two weeks together before we both went back to school. By the end of those two weeks . . . I knew. The next few months apart were filled with letters and phone calls until October 17th came around and we were both home from school. I proposed. She said yes. And we've been a couple ever since.

It wasn't always easy. There were occasional bumps in the road, but they were few and far between. The secret to our success as a married couple is simple. Love. Unconditional, sacrificial love. It was that unconditional love that solved every problem, healed every wound and restored every cracked and chipped moment to "better than new". It was sacrificial love that headed off other differences in favor of the greater good - our marriage.

There are two verses that come to mind when I try to explain the marriage commitment. The first verse if from 1st John.

"God is love." - 1 John 4:8

Simple verse, complex concept. Do you know God? Is He your Lord and Savior? If you answered "yes" to those questions you know exactly what the love is I'm talking about. If you answered "no", I'm sorry. You might think you know what love is, as defined by the world, but you really have never experienced the greatest love of all. When I was younger, I thought I knew what love was. But that was before I met Jesus.

The second verse is kind of like the first in a way. It's from the Book of Ephesians.

"21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." - Ephesians 5:21

After this verse Paul goes on to explain the roles of husband and wife and the love, respect and sacrifice we have for one another. It's not until verse 31 that we learn that Paul is talking about our relationship (the bride) with Jesus (the Groom).

Love involves sacrifice, it involves submission, it involves surrender of our own personal will in favor of something greater, bigger and higher - our marriage. Our marriage to Christ.

I loved my wife in an earthly sense when we first met. As the years went by and we began to follow God's desires for our marriage, it was only then that we became better, together. The same is true for our faith. When God is part of a marriage it can't help but succeed.

One more verse to leave you with. Ecclesiastes 4:12

"A triple-braided cord is not easily broken."

If the husband is one strand and the wife is the second . . . who do you think is the third strand in the triple-braided cord? :)

I'll close with two of our favorite songs. We always dance to the first one . . . and the second one . . . well, that's where the love of my life and I are going to celebrate our 40th. And the third link is to a video. It displays how my wife and I react inside when we are ever apart for any amount of time.

I love you, my bride. My love for God does not diminish my love for you. It enhances it.

Weekend In New England - Barry Manilow
Somewhere In Time Theme - John Barry
Richard and Elise Reunited - Somewhere In Time

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Every Man Dies

Pastor Paul Washer was speaking to a group of youth pastors about the depths of their responsibilities to Jesus. After he delivered his message, one of the youth pastors came up to him and said, "If I do all of those things you just told us to do, the elders at my church will kill me." Pastor Washer calmly looked at the man and replied, "Then die."

That spoke volumes to me as we consider exactly who it is we are serving in ministry. In life.

On my way home from work the other night I was listening to Janet Parshall's In The Market. Her guest was Randall Wallace, the guy who wrote Braveheart. Randall Wallace is a descendant of William Wallace, the character Mel Gibson played in the movie.

During the show they played various audio clips from the movie and there was one that touched me - enough to write a story about it:

"Every man dies but not every man really lives." - William Wallace

After reading Song of Songs in the Bible last week, I began to realize the true passion and love that God has for His people. I also became convicted of my OWN lack of passion for God. Do I have that kind of love for Him? Do I exhibit that kind of love for others in the world around me? Am I "really living?" My answer was a resounding, "No."

Alright then. How can I change that? How can I "really live" my life MORE for Christ? Well, the first thing I should do, as with ANY situation, is to pray about it. Pray to God that He might change me into who He wants me to be. Not into who I want to become. Who God wants me to be.

Next I think I think I need to read more. I've been trying to read at least a chapter a day in the Bible. Perhaps I should read more than that so I can absorb more, more quickly. Yet, at the same time, take my time with it so I can understand as I go.

I need to be more intentional in spending time with God. Involve Him in more of my daily life. Like He's right there walking beside me because . . . He is.

Then love more. Invest time with other people. Listen to their stories. Share their pain. Walk with them as Christ walks with us.

Don't be afraid to physically touch someone. A hand on the shoulder or on the back. If they need a hug, give them one. I need to express my love for others in visible, tangible ways . . . with out getting into trouble in doing so.

Hmm, you know these lists are great. Their wonderful as a check list to show us where we come up lacking. But with out that genuine love in our hearts they are really quite useless. The true solution to loving God and loving others is to follow the advice of William Wallace. I need to die, as every man does. Not a physical death. In that sense we all will accomplish that one day. We need to die spiritually to anything that makes us "live" in this world.

Do I merely existing in this world, pretending to be "religious", and then in the next moment, do something worldly? If that is me, then I must die. I must be consistent - in Christ.

As every man, and every woman, walks through this life, let us be about being who we are. How will we be consistent today? How will we be Christlike today? How will we be examples of the One who saved us from the death that every man dies? The answer is simple. We must live the life we were called to live.

"If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
 
22 “He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”


23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." - 1 Peter 2:20-25

Every Man Dies - Braveheart
Live Like That - Sidewalk Prophets

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Passionate Love

"How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves. All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves . . ."

An excerpt from some cheap porn novel perhaps? Nope. Bible verses.

I have heard it said, "Do NOT teach The Song of Songs, the Book of the Bible where those verses came from, to middle school boys. LOL! That's probably good advice. The words in the book can get pretty steamy!

"How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies."

Yikes! But the Song of Songs is not written about a romance between some ancient man and woman. It is a story, veiled to be sure, about our relationship with God. Huh? Yes, that's right. The picture at the beginning of the story is a selfie - it's an image of you and me. More importantly, it is a picture of the relationship between "the bride of Christ" (us) and God.

If you read just a little more closely you can begin to see the clues into this passionate romance.

"Who is this coming up from the wilderness like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the merchant?" - Song of Songs 3:6

Who came out of the wilderness in the Bible? The Jewish people did. And who led them?

"By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night." - Exodus 13:21

And who was "perfumed with myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the merchant?" It was Jesus!

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." - Matthew 2:11

Our relationship with God is to be like a husband and wife. Honoring, respecting, submitting. and devoted.

Do you remember your first love? How special was that relationship! The man or woman you married . . . wasn't that relationship one-of-a-kind and deeply passionate? That's the way our relationship should be with God.

When I was in college and my girlfriend would send me letter, oh, how I treasured those. I read them over and over again. I smelled them, hoping for a hint of her perfume that would remind me of our times together. I still have those letters, some 40+ years later. I love my wife. There is no one like her in my life. Never was never shall be. Isn't that how our relationship with God should be?

I encourage you to read Song of Songs sometime soon and, as you do so, think of your relationship with God. Do you have that longing for Him? Do you have that passion? I hope you do. God has that passion and love for YOU! :)

Song of Songs - Jesus Culture (with Martin Smith)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Things Above

Well, that was weird. I had the strangest dream last night. Most of it is lost forever in that place where all "dream parts" go - the dream junk yard. But I do remember some parts.  Like me fighting with Benedict Cumberbatch. Like I said, weird.

After I got up this morning I began to analyze my dream, basically asking myself, "Where the heck did THAT come from!?!"

I traced it back to a morphed picture I had seen of Mr. Cumberbatch on Facebook. Someone had taken a picture of his head and stretched it vertically so that he looked like an alien. At least a movie version of an alien and we always fight aliens in movies, right? Well, except for E.T.

I'm not sure why that image stuck in my mind. I wasn't aware that it had until my mind was allowed to wander in a state of early morning sleep.

Shortly after waking up this morning I was showering. Suddenly I found myself singing Blessed Assurance. Where did THAT come from?? Well, Sunday morning we attended that baptism of our granddaughter Emma. Blessed Assurance was one of the songs we sang.

Our minds seem to store things of note and play them back whenever it wants to. At least MY mind seems to work that way. That made me wonder, "What else is my mind thinking that I don't even know about?" That's scary!

And what is it we fill our minds with? We watch the news and hear horrible stories of death and war. We watch television shows about murder and rape, about greed and self-gratification. We are what we eat. Why are we eating THAT!?!

The answer to much of the world's problems can most likely be traced back to "what we eat" - what we consume on the television and through social media. Is that what we have become as a society? Consuming whatever comes at us on the conveyor belt? I think that's true.

The Bible tells us that we are empty vessels (2 Corinthians 4). What are we filling ourselves with? The answer is actually in the song I found myself singing this morning - Blessed Assurance.

"This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long."

The Bible also tells us this:

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." - Colossians 3:1-3

Are our thoughts always on things above? Are we filling our minds and hearts with heavenly things? We should be. May we set our minds on things above, daily, hourly . . . as long as it is called "today."

Blessed Assurance - Third Day
Jealous Love - David Bush

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Priorities

There is something hidden in this picture. Can you see it? It's the most important thing in my life, yet sometimes it takes a back seat to other things. I need to reassess my priorities.

I have now spent two weeks in my new "cube" at work. It's all new and fresh and I'm sure it's trendy and modern, just what our clients are hoping to see but . . . I hate it. I sit right out in the open with no privacy what so ever.  It seems like however designed it was more interested in making a statement than making workers comfortable. And WE designed it ourselves!! It makes me sad. It shouldn't be that way.

Here's something else that's sad. I'm a slob. I just dumped all of my cube items on the counter until I could figure out what to do with them. Look, there's my water bottle and my Tic Tacs, a coupon for a free ice cream cone at A&W and . . . the cross my daughter gave me. Oh . . . my. It shouldn't be that way either.

The cross is the reason I took this picture. It's just lying there with my junk. It should have been the first thing I thoughtfully placed on the wall. Instead, it's just there, semi-hidden behind a plastic up. Sad. I'M sad.

But isn't that how we are with our faith most of the time? We never put it on display for others to see. We just hide it in with our other stuff. We take it out on Sunday and maybe say a prayer if we get into trouble or need something we aren't sure we'll get. Is that faith? What IS faith?

Faith is defined as "having complete trust or confidence in someone or something." By that definition I can have faith in my wife, my car, my toilet (hey, it's a Kohler).  To say I have faith in God kind of diminishes God when I throw Him together with my car and my toilet. Kind of like my cross at work, partially hidden from view.

I think the operative word in the definition of faith is "complete". Complete trust. Do I have complete trust in my car? Well, no. My toilet? Well, it did break down that one time. By complete trust . . . do they mean , like, ALL the time? I think that's what complete means in this case.

If that's the case, I guess the only thing I have true faith in is God. He has never let me down. Rather, I think it is I who have let HIM down. My faith in God is not strong or complete enough to justify his choosing me to be one of His children. ALL the benefits that come with THAT distinction - a child of God - are innumerable.

So what should we do with our faith? I think we are called to wear it, always. I think we are supposed to wear it, continually.

"13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats"; do not be frightened.” 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, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him." - 1 Peter 3:13-22

Noah's number one priority was God. Because of that he and his family survived the flood. If we are yto survive the "floods" in OUR lives, who should be OUR top priority?

Priorities - Francis Chan
God Is My Priority Now

Friday, July 21, 2017

Breaking The Habit

You've probably heard the news by now. Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, is dead. Suicide. Wanna know why he did it? Of course you do. We ALL do. But does anyone really know? Does anyone care?

"Well, I do."

I have been caught in the blast zone of suicide . . . more than once. I'm sure you have taken a hit too. We all have. We've all asked the questions. We all have found that the questions never end. And the answers . . . the answers are frightfully hard to come by.

How does a person get to the point where they decide to end it all? They choose to pull the plug rather than live one more day. Why?

Read this Facebook comment by John Cooper, lead singer of Skillet.

I don't usually speak out on things like this, but I feel I must. Like everyone else, I'm just shocked and broken over the suicide of Ches...ter Bennington. I didn't know him, never met him. But his music inspired me greatly. The first linkin park record "hybrid theory " has remained in my top 10 best albums of all time, and top 5 best Rock albums. I LOVE linkin park and I LOVE Chester's voice and it has been ripped away and stolen. There's no way to sugar coat this , or make it prettier. This just simply SUCKS. I've got nothing to say that can help. Michael Jackson, prince, Chris Cornell, now Chester..I just feel like I reach out to grab ahold of something that can make sense of this madness and there is nothing there reaching back. Just infinite blackness. Tragic. I don't want to preach. I don't want to judge. I don't want to make trite statements as if I have this figured out. I do not. Just like all his other fans, I'm confused. 

 I want to say out of total love and respect for the fans, just look at what suicide does to those who love you. It ravages the lives of those you leave behind. It's not poetic. It's not an answer. For those of you who have been suicidal, or had thoughts about suicide, please find someone to talk to. There's nothing to be embarrassed about. Find someone that you can be honest with. We all feel a little dark sometimes. Some of us more than others. We all need hope. We all need healing. We are all the same. Please reach out to someone. Thehopeline.com


 "God is my refuge and my strength. He is always ready to help me in my times of trouble." (Psalm 46:1)


I think the real reason people take their own lives is fear. Fear of another day alone. Fear of another day of an unfulfilled life. Fear of one more day of pain. They grow weary of the battle and just chose the nearest exit. What they DON'T realize is their opening the wrong door.

Look at the picture above. Look at Chester's adoring fans. The stadium is FILLED with them. The picture tells you he was loved by millions. Yet, in Chester's mind, it wasn't enough.

There is a door left unopened in Chester's life. There is a door, behind which, lies al the answers. Chester chose not to open it. Too bad. If he had, he'd still be with us today.

When life gets hard it can suck sometimes. When we're alone and thoughts start going through our heads it's hard to think about going on sometimes. But that's the precise moment when we must! That's the moment when we must fight our hardest and reach out. That's the time that when breaking the habit is most critical. Knock on the door!!!

"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.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd." - John 10:9-16

Jesus is the door.

Knock.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." - Matthew 7:7-8

Linkin Park Singer Was Hit Hard By Chris Cornell's Suicide
One More Light - Linkin Park
Breaking The Habit - Linkin Park

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Bad Day?

Do you ever have bad days? No. I mean REALLY bad days. The ones that leave you wondering, "What just happened?" or "Why me?" I usually don't have too many bad days like that but one of them sure snuck up on me yesterday.

It seemed like just about everything that could have gone wrong, DID go wrong.

Where do bad days come from anyway? Are they just a random series of bad events strung together to make one incredibly sucky day? Or does someone have something against us?

God allows bad things to happen to us. Read the Book of Job. It's true. What possible reason would a loving God have that He would allow us to undergo torment and pain? Good question. But God also rewards those who persevere. Again, read the Book of Job.

I think God allows bad days to see how we handle them. I failed my "bad day test" yesterday. That usually means that I will face that same test again someday. I hope I do better when that day comes cuz yesterday sucked. I need to be more like Job. Job had the ultimate bad day. Again, read the Book of Job. And how did he respond to the worst day of his life?

Yeah, he did some complaining. His wife turned on him and his friends gave him pages of questionable advice. Ultimately, at the end of our bad days, we need to take stock of the blessings we still have. The gifts that God has given us. Are we still breathing? Is our heart still beating? Is not God still on His throne?

We may have bad days from time to time, but blessed be the name of The Lord.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." - Job 1:21

"I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth." - Job 19:25



Bad Day - Fuel

Monday, July 17, 2017

Where Is Hope?

There are times in our lives when hope seems impossible to find. Maybe someone we know has cancer and the doctors say there IS no hope. Where do we find hope then? Hope can be hard to come by sometimes. Unless . . .

I attended a worship service at Lifest last past weekend. Wes Stafford (president of Compassion International) and Bob Lenz (president of Life Promotions) - delivered messages on hope.

During Bob's message I heard something I had never heard before. I mean, I'd heard it before but I'd never really thought about it in the way he offered it. He asked the following question. See if you can figure out the answer?

"Where do we find hope?" Where can we find hope in a world that is slowly killing itself? The answer is in the picture above.

Go get your bibles out and open them to 1 Corinthians 13 - the love chapter. Skip past the "love is patient, love is kind" part and go down to verse 13. Let's read it together.

"13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:13

Look at those three words - faith, hope and love. Where is hope? Well, it's right in the middle, right between "faith" and "love."

Think about that for a moment.

Do you have faith in God? Do you love God? If you answered yes to those two questions you HAVE hope. Hope is right there between those two things - not only in the Bible but in our lives as well.

Faith is defined as "complete trust or confidence in someone or something."

Love is defined as "an intense feeling of strong affection."

If we place our faith in God,  and God . . . is love (1 John 4:8) does it make sense then to say, "When we place our faith in God and we love God, our hope can also be found in God? I think it does. And so does God's Word.

“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you." - Psalm 39:7

We humans tend to place our hope in the most unusual places. We place hope in doctors and nurses when we are sick. But when THEY tell us there is no hope, what then?

Hope is defined as "a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen."

Do you have a "certain thing" you hope will happen? I do. We might want a certain person to change their ways. Have a change of heart. We may desire it but where is our hope that it will actually happen? Who can change people's hearts?

Only God can do that. Is our hope then in God? That He can change someone's heart? It should be. God IS our hope. God is where our help comes from.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
- Psalm 121:1-2

If we love God and if we have faith in Him . . . we already HAVE hope!

Hope Is A Good Thing - Shawshank Redemption
My Life Is In You Lord

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Parable of The Sticky Buns

When I was young my mom used to make sticky buns. They were so sugary and sticky that it felt like you were going to suck the fillings right out of your teeth will you were eating them. They were like glue! They were so sticky, yet so enjoyable. Well, this story is not about them, but it IS about something just as sticky and it IS about somebody's buns. LOL!

Each year at Lifest, a Christian music concert in our area, we camp out with thousands of our brothers and sisters in Christ. The music is wonderful, the conversations are wonderful but the weather is sometimes hot and humid like it was this year.

We have developed a Lifest tradition that my friend and I take our group of campers to the office where we work so we all can take showers and smell better. This year was no exception.

Saturday morning we arrived at our workplace and went upstairs to the workout area to shower. Situation normal except we were getting new carpeting in our office and there was a carpet layer there working on the stairs so we had to walk around him.

After our showers was sat in the board room, talking about our Lifest experience. Lots of laughs and tears too as we shared our hearts with one another.

We were all hungry by that point so we set off for another Lifest tradition - breakfast at Perkins. We headed downstairs, me leading the way, talking with my friend David who was right behind me. David is like a son to me, but more on that in a moment. The others followed behind.

As we neared the bottom of the stairs we hear the voice of someone calling out in the wilderness. No, it wasn't John the baptist, it was Jim the carpet guy.

"No, no no!!!!"

I looked down and I was standing in a fresh layer of carpet adhesive. Suddenly, behind me, there was a BOOM! My friend David had slipped and fallen, right in the glue. What a mess.

The carpet guy was very nice, trying to help us to get the glue off our shoes. But he wouldn't touch David's shorts. And neither would anyone else! LOL!

David changed back into his dirty shorts and my friend Gayle took them to her daughter's house for a cleaning. While she went to put David's pants in the wash the rest of us went to Perkins. On the way there I related how we were missing the example God had just provided for us. A living example of The Gospel.

"Huh?"

Yup. I explained . . .

"As we walked down the stairs, The Father (me) was leading the Son (David). The Son sacrificed Himself for those who were following him so that they would not get stick in sin (the glue that sticks to us all)."

Then Molly added from the back seat, "Yeah! And the humble servant (Jim , the carpet guy) was washing your feet!"

"Perkins Jesus" - back, right
We laughed all the way to Perkins. It really was The Gospel!

When the hostess sat us down at our table I looked across the room. There, seated at the far table, was a man . . . with long, brown hair and a beard, wearing a linen shirt. I then told Molly and David to look over to see if they saw the same thing I did. They did and broke out laughing. They guy looked just like Jesus!

"If he's wearing sandals I'm going to lose it," I said to my friends. They looked. He was! And we laughed even harder.

On almost a daily basis, God provides us with Living examples of who He is. Whether it's in the mountains or the stars, walking down the stairs at work or at Perkins - He is teaching us.

Oh, I almost forget. The glue in David's shorts. What a perfect representation of the sins in our lives. It is only when we are "washed clean" of our sins, the glue that adheres to us in this world, can we be free to enter the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

My friend used Goo-Gone to get ride of the glue on David's pants. All WE have to do is place our faith and hope in Jesus and he will make everything new, and clean.

"16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." - Romans 1:16-20

___________________________________________

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:


38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”


39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” - Luke 19:37-40
Made To Worship - Chris Tomlin

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Grace vs. The Law

I was on my way into town last night, probably traveling faster than I should have been. I was lost in thought, praying for a young friend in need of some help. That's probably why I didn't notice the cop car coming my way on the highway . . . until his lights came on.

Checking my speedometer I saw that I was doing 68 . . . in a 55 MPH zone. Thirteen over. In my mind that's a mandatory ticket. There is money to be made when you are that far over the speed limit. Hundreds of dollars in fines.

As I sat there by the side of the road, I sent a text to my young friend, explaining that I would be late. The officer was stepping out of his squad car now, approaching mine.

"Good evening sir," he said. "May I see your identification and proof on insurance please?"

I handed him both.

"You were going 68 in a 55. Heading home from work?"

"No. I was heading into town for a meeting with a homeless family."

"I'll be right back," and he returned to his car.

This was not going to be good. I was going to be late for a very important meeting. I was going to be out hundreds of dollars due to my inattentiveness. Money that could have been used to help the people I was on my way to meet. Ironic. And it was my fault. I was clearly guilty and was prepared for what was to come.

I saw the officer open up his car door.

"Here comes the bad news.," I thought to myself. "What an idiot I was!"

He gave me back my drivers license and, reaching out with his huge, tattooed arm, he said . . .

"I'm giving you a verbal warning. Please, pay more attention to your speed."

"Thank you, sir." were the only words the officer heard. But in my heart I was thanking God for the grace this man had just showed me. As I resumed my travel into town I wondered, "Why did he let me off? I was guilty! Was it the Bible sitting on my front seat? the Lifest wrist band I am still wearing? Or was it God who softened his heart? Or perhaps this man in blue was an angel, exhibiting God's grace, trying to keep one of His children safe. Only God knows. Either way I am grateful for the grace extends to all of us who believe.

Our laws demand obedience. So does God. When we break our earthly laws there are penalties to be paid. The same is true for God's laws. God's grace is exhibited in by His sending His Son to pay our fine for us. Love, justice, grace and mercy all on display . . . on the cross.

"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." - Romans 6:8-14

Wonderful, Merciful Savior - Selah

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Beautiful Letdown

I knew this day would come. It was just a matter of time before reality set in and things returned to "normal" around here - whatever normal is, or was. My energy level is low. My body is tired. But I am feeling incredibly alive today! I must have just spent four days at Lifest!!

There is a definite letdown upon returning home from such an amazing, uplifting event. There is a large part of me that never wants the time we spent there to end. A LARGE part.

I have said before that Lifest is a taste of what heaven will be like. I think that still rings true. But it's not EXACTLY like heaven. There are still plenty of non-believers there. I witnessed one young man honking his horn at a disabled woman as she tried to cross the street. There's still plenty of "the world" at Lifest, but for the most part it is still an amazing place and an amazing event.

Going into Lifest week I was unsure about returning but now, after some of the conversations we had back at our campsite, as Molly put it Saturday afternoon, "We're going to keep coming back year after year after year until we are dead."

For those who don't believe it is hard to describe so I won't even try. For those who do believe, I don't have to explain at all. You already know what fellowship means. Lifest is THAT for four consecutive days.

Still, I am back in the world now. So are all my brothers and sisters. We are "in the world but not of the world." But today . . . today we are recharged in our faith, lifted up by God's Holy Spirit, and made new once again.

My friend and I sat, praying for 45 minutes Saturday night. There are so many people in need of prayer . . . including ourselves. So many people need God. We lift them up to Him in prayer because that is what we have been called to do. And it is a joy to do so.

When Lifest ended, yes, there was a letdown. But it was a beautiful letdown in that, we KNOW this world is no longer our home. Our home is in heaven - a future home with no pain, no suffering, only love. praise and worship. Jesus is our high priest. We are no longer under The Law. We are under God's grace. May we be grace-filled as while we are in this world so others may see us and praise our Father in heaven. He will NEVER let us down.

"10 We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. 12 So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. 13 So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. 14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God." - Hebrews 13:10-16

Beautiful Letdown - Switchfoot

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Reaching Out

For the past twelve years I have been attending Lifest, a Christian music festival here in Wisconsin. Lately, my ministry partner and I have been thinking about ending our run here. Neither of us are getting any younger and the allure of camping on the cold, hard ground has lost its appeal. Why are we doing this to ourselves? Well, I'll tell you why.

Last night we sat in our screen tent, talking with a mother of two that my friend had invited to the event. Somehow I ended up giving my testimony to this lady.  It was interesting watching her eyes as I told her the story of how God had reached out to me. She was soaking it in. Then I asked her about her story. Oh my.

Let me just say that, if their was ever a life filled with more hardship, I haven't heard the story. Wow. As I listened, the thoughts in my head were filled with compassion and mercy. "Where were the supporting and encouraging people in her life?" I wondered. Where was the church?

Later that evening I checked my messages on Facebook and found one from another single mom. I hadn't heard from this kid for a year and suddenly, boom, here she was reaching out for help. She, her boyfriend and young daughter are currently homeless.

I go back to the question, "Why do we keep coming to Lifest?" The answer is, "It's not for US. It was never about US. It's not about our comfort. It's for those we meet here. Those we invite here like my friend did. It's an event for us to bring people to and to encourage them in their struggling walk through this world. JESUS is why we are here. This is not about us.

All this stuff happened on Thursday, the opening day. Who knows what will happen the rest of the week. And we were wondering about coming back next year? Friday morning I ordered our tickets and campsites for 2018. God is moving in this place. How can we, His children, NOT be here . . .. moving along with him?

Lifest has as its slogan, "A Party With A Purpose". There is most definitely a purpose here. That "purpose" is loving others where they are at. It is introducing others to the God of the Universe and showing them how much he cares for them. Come back next year? Oh yeah.

There are hands reaching out to for help everywhere in this world. Many don't know who they are reaching out for - anyone who is willing to help.  My dear friends, let me tell you about Jesus.

"25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” - Matthew 14:25-31

There is power in Peter's words as they tell us what we must do to be saved. He cried out to Jesus and was saved. Who in your life is reaching out their hand for help?

Reach Out To Jesus - Elvis Presley
Paul Washer on Evangelism

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Priorities

Hey, yesterday was Independence Day! How did I miss that!?! That's like the biggest day in United States history and I missed it? My wife and I usually go into town and watch the fireworks. This year? totally missed 'em. Our minds must have been elsewhere. And they were.

Our daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl yesterday.  My wife and I were so excited. Nothing could have kept us away from seeing this little pink-faced beauty. Yesterday morning my wife was in Door County - a three-hour drive away from the hospital. Suddenly, with one text message, her priorities were changed and we were on the way to the hospital.

Let's stop and think about our priorities for a moment. What comes first in our lives kind of tells people who we are. If someone looked at you and had to list your top three priorities, what would they be?

Before I came to faith in Christ, my priorities were set. I thought they were pretty good at the time.  Maybe yours are similar.
  1. Family
  2. Work
  3. Friends
After I fully accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, my priorities changed. My LIFE changed. Suddenly. Out of nowhere, Jesus vaulted to the top spot and everything dropped down a notch or two. It was quite an adjustment period.
  1. God
  2. Family
  3. Friends
The importance of work in my life took a dramatic drop and, to be honest, I don't mind one bit. I have actually set limits for myself as far as work goes. There were times when I worked 50-60 hours a week when deadlines were tight. Now I refuse to work any overtime at all. It's not worth it. My priorities changed.

As we examine ourselves, which the Bible tells us we should do, do we ever find ourselves lacking? I did. So I changed my priorities. So can you, if you find them out of order.

I saw a quote yesterday my Mohandas Gandhi, I think it's true. Our actions express our priorities.

What do our actions say about us? If we say we are Christians, God should be our top priority, yet I know Christians that don't go to church. They don't attend worship. We were created to worship! Our priorities tell other who we worship.

I know people at work who always seem to be at work. They are always in early. They always stay late. They work weekends too. The company loves them! Personally, I think their priorities are screwed up.

Our new grand daughter is redefining priorities for many people this week. And that's a very good thing. But let us always remember who is #1. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?" - 2 Corinthians 13:5

"33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." - Matthew 6:33

"So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it." - 2 Corinthians 5:9

Priorities

Monday, July 3, 2017

Jealous?

I sit here tonight in an empty house. There are no cats to annoy me. No wife to sleep next to tonight. Just a queen-size bed with one lonely pillow in it. It's amazing the places these stories come from and the ways they touch my heart.

I stumbled across a video of a young man from England singing a song in tribute to his friend who died at the age of 18. The song took on a special meaning for me when the young singer explained how he interpreted the lyrics of the song. The song's chorus ends with this line.

"It's hard for me to say, I'm jealous of the way you're happy without me."

The singer in the video said he was jealous of his friend because he knew his friend was now in heaven . . . without him.

Everyone of us has lost someone to death. The older we get the list of the people we lose just keeps getting longer. Although all deaths of loved ones are sad, as we mature as Christians, we discover that, yes, we can be jealous of our dead friend or relative because they are with Jesus . . . and we are not.

I received a thank you card this week from the daughter of my friend Ali who died a few weeks ago. What a treasure that card was to receive. You see, my friend Ali knew she was dying (cancer) so you know what she did? She purchased some thank you cards before she died and signed them all. She did that so those attending her funeral would be thanked, not only by the surviving family members, but by Ali as well. A little piece of her to hold on to.

Am I jealous of her? Not really. But I AM happy for her. Her pain and suffering is over and she has seen Jesus. Okay, I'm a little jealous of that, but only a little. I'll see Him soon enough. Until then I will rejoice for the time Ali and I shared as friends and rejoice that I will get to see her again.

"21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children."
- Revelation 21:1-7

X Factor - 21 year old mechanic sings Labrinth's Jealous
There Will Be A Day - Jeremy Camp

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Separate Ways

Whenever my wife and I take a walk, we hold hands. We've done that for years. We've held each others hand so much in our 40 years of marriage that it feels strange NOT to hold hands. Yet, each year at this time my wife and I take separate vacations. Why?

Well, it all started about 10 years ago when I began taking kids from a youth group to Lifest - a Christian music festival in Wisconsin. I'd be gone for four days, leaving my wife at home. She is not a fan of rock music like me so she would always choose not to come along.

About five years ago my wife got the idea to take a vacation at the same time. She rented a cottage in Door County - a beautiful Wisconsin vacation destination for many. She absolutely loves it, just like I love Lifest. She can shop at a more relaxed pace than when I'm there, hurrying her along. And I can use that same vacation time to minister to young adults and teens in one-on-one conversations at Lifest.

We each go our separate ways, but we always rejoice when we can walk together again, holding hands.

Our walk with Jesus can have a similar look to it from time to time. Sometimes WE goes our separate ways but it is always US, the humans in the relationship, that take the side trips. God has promised to "never leave us or forsake us" (Deuteronomy 31:6). And that is amazing.

In our relationship with Jesus, we can do many hurtful things that would end most earthly relationships. We ignore Him, we use His name in vain, we can say we love Him yet deny He even exists when we are with our friends. We can do so much harm in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Yet, His promise to never leave us remains.

There is a song by Journey called Separate Ways. The chorus speaks about a broken relationship and, although this is a secular song, it tells us much about God's love for us - "True love won't desert you. You know I still love you. Though we touched and went our separate ways."

Is our relationship with God as good as it can be? Our relationship with God is supposed to be more important than all of our earthly relationships. Is it? We should be eternally grateful that God doesn't turn our backs on our relationship with Him.

"5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." - Proverbs 3:5-6

"15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." - Psalm 86:15

We all tend to go our separate ways with both our earthly relationships and in our relationship with God. The thing about being apart from someone we love is, it feels so good to get back together. If you have strayed in your relationship with God, reconcile. He's waiting for you. Right where you left Him.

"You'll never walk alone. Take care , my love. Miss you, love."  - Journey, Separate Ways.

Separate Ways - Journey