Friday, November 30, 2012

What is honest sexuality?

Ever since Madonna some 25 years ago, there seems to be a pervading mentality amongst Americans that if your honest about your sexual feelings then you're going down the right road.  This road, as it's communicated to us, is the best road because we're no longer hiding and we can really be ourselves.

This mindset has contributed to us glorifying the "American Pie" movies as successful movie-making.  It has made celebrities out of people who simply choose to flaunt their sexuality on what we've chosen to call "reality TV."  It has forced young, talented singers like Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, and maybe even Justin Bieber to "turn up the heat" on their lyrics and stage presence in order to keep selling records.  Recently, it has made a villain out of new-Christian Angus T. Jones because he spoke out against the content of the show he's on, "Two and a Half Men," calling it "filth."

Yes, we have come to a place where a person can feel convicted by something he's been doing, want to become a better person, and be publicly lambasted for it.  Yet, at the same time, Fiat, Direct TV, and a European beer company use Charlie Sheen (the former star of the same show) and his bad boy image to sell their products.

Truly honest sexuality is when a person comes to grips with who invented sex (God), who is trying to reinvent sex (Satan - God's enemy), and how the original cannot be reinvented.  A person does not have to do very much research to see the devastating effects of living life based on the lie of Satan that sex can and should be had when we want and how we want it.  It produces all kinds of abuse, unwanted pregnancies, dehumanizing of females through pornography, and the defining of a person based on their sexual preference.

Each of every person on the face of this earth is a creation of God Almighty (Colossians 1:16).  Not only that, but each and every person is created in God's image (Genesis 1:26), which means that He put His heart and soul into who we are and why we're here (see Psalm 139:14).  As a result, we have no choice but to search with our whole hearts WHO our Creator is, WHY He created us, and WHAT we are to do about it.  I guarantee you that if you seek Him and His Word based on this premise, you will find TRUE sexuality, placed in its right context, and end up with life that is truly life.  This world cannot offer such a guarantee with its shallow, lust-based, selfish version of the original.

Friday, November 9, 2012

"God bless America"?

Early Wednesday morning (late night of Election 2012), both candidates ended their speeches with the phrase "God bless America."

I shuddered.

After the long road of declaring your knowledge of everything and your opponent's stupidity in all things . . .
After pointing out that you are RIGHT and that the other person is wrong. . .
After making the motivation of your campaign, in essence, what people want to hear. . .
After lying to yourself and others about what you will do. . .

. . . do we really expect God to bless what goes on from here on out?

If there's an acknowledgement of God at the end of a campaign, what kind of acknowledgment was there during the campaign?  I don't mean blanket statements or addressing praying breakfasts and religious activist groups.  No, I mean acknowledging with humility and bent knee that God is who He reveals Himself to be and that we, in start contrast to Him, are under His sovereignty and lack ability to do anything on our own.

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  Ecclesiastes 12:13

We want the blessings of an all-powerful, loving, merciful God, right?  Yet we, many times, refuse to come to any sort of conclusion that He is in charge and, therefore, has every right to withhold blessing and even pronounce curse.  What?  Curse?  No, not the God I believe in.  He would never do anything to allow anybody to get hurt . . . right?

Without getting too much into how God's control of matters interacts with our free will, the key subject at hand hear is our willingness (and ability) to PLACE OURSELVES UNDER God's ultimate authority.  Think about it:  if He allowed is own Son (Jesus Christ) to suffer at the hands of sinful, mortal man for our sake, why wouldn't He allow suffering for the sake of our eventual benefit and His glory?

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   2 Corinthians 5:21

If we truly want to be blessed by the Almighty Creator of the universe, then we better humble ourselves under His mighty right hand.  Then, AND ONLY THEN, will we know Him and understand what it truly means to be right(eous)!

Monday, October 22, 2012


  • Where do you turn when, for no particular reason, you're just having a hard time "getting going" or making sense of things?
  • What do you do when you have feelings of self-doubt, can't see the glass as half full, and can only remember recent failures instead of successes?
  • To whom do you go to when you think you know exactly what people will say in response to your struggle?
  • Finally, what happens when the sermon you just preach, though ringing true for you all the previous week, is falling on your deaf ears the day after?

Well, it's time to turn to the One who is ALWAYS present, ALWAYS hears my feeble prayers, ALWAYS can empathize with what I'm going through, and can ALWAYS be depended on 100%.  It's time to take God at His word as He says to me, "Trust Me."  Two simple words which tests, more than anything else, the ability of the person to TRUST, rather than the ability of God to be trusted.

Let's take the God-given truths of JOY and PEACE and receive them as gifts.  Let's do that straight from His Word and truly take Him at His word:

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.                        - Philippians 4:4-7 (New Living Translation)

Why can I be full of joy in the midst of even the strugglin'?  By recognizing the nearness of His return, which puts things in perspective, and motivates me to be considerate, gentle, and understanding to those around me.

How can I obtain peace when things are not peaceful?  Instead of worrying, or being anxious, I need to pray about everything.  In thankfulness for all He's done and all He is, I simply lay it all out to Him.  THEN, Scripture says, "you will experience God's peace." Not after you've solved all your "issues."  Not after learning how to ignore the bad stuff.  Not after getting over it.  Rather, learning to literally place it all in the hands of God and trusting that, because of the work of Jesus Christ, He's truly got your back.

"Trust Me," God says to you and me.  Stop and hear Him say that to you today.  He's literally across the breakfast table from you or sitting next to you on your couch or sitting in a chair beside your bed looking at you in the eyes and saying, "Trust Me."  What does that look like?  What does it motivate you to do, or not do, or say, or not say?

Thank Him for His trustworthiness, His power, and His intense love for you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

World, what will I do with you?

From tyrannical leaders in Africa and an 11-year old getting the death sentence in Pakistan to Americans turning a deaf ear to more deaths in Afghanistan while dealing with needless deaths of young people seemingly every day.  Nothing makes real sense any more.  What about the fact that solid, sensical, biblical standards are being treated like garage sale clothes ("they don't fit" or "they're out of style")?

Is there any hope any more?  What do we do with all of this disturbing news and trying issues?  The way I see it from my limited perspective, it seems that we have one of four responses:

  • Ignore it and live in our own little world.
  • Escape it through pursuing pleasures.
  • Combat it by using all our resources to make it better.
  • Embrace it by submitting to the Higher Authority.

However you choose to live your life in this world, it'd be best to know how you will deal with all the crud that goes on.  If you choose to live in your own world, you can claim ignorance, be happy in it, and hope for the best.  Can we really live in a bubble, though?  Can we CHOOSE to not be affected by what's going on around us?  Good luck with that.

The second option is similar to the first, but instead of choosing ignorance, your choosing numbness.  Overloading your world with so much busyness, pleasure, and/or addictions that there's no time or energy to think about what's going on.  Are you ready to ignore your most important relationships?  Are you ready to accept the consequences of putting all your eggs in the "what the world has to offer" basket?  Please don't trust the world with all that.

Third, you could get into politics, social movements, or devote yourself to philanthropic adventures with the noble intentions of making the world better.  Though this sounds like a great option, certainly more satisfying than the first two, it is dependent on a wishy washy element - YOU!  Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly a wishy washy element as well - we all are.  Plus, WHEN we fall short, how do you get up again and put your whole heart into another effort.

Finally, I suggest that we each realize that all of this crud is part of the package that comes with living in this world, on this side of heaven.  Again, we're not giving up or helplessly fighting it, but we are submitting to God Almighty, doing His bidding, and leaving the results to Him.  Rather than fixing the whole system, we're giving hope to those broken by the system.  This hope is that the love of Christ came into the world, rescued us from the world's crud, and is still alive and well inside all followers of Jesus Christ.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.  2 Peter 3:9,10

Take Heart!  This world is not all there is - something much better is coming.  In the meantime, join the One who has all the answers and give your life to Jesus Christ.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Obedience IS attractive.

Obedience is just not an exciting word. No one will get much press writing on or expounding on or hosting a talk show where the subject is obedience. How many books have you seen with the title having "obey" in it? How many magazine covers feature articles on "new ways to learn obedience"? It's only something that you associate with dog training or little children (and only for their safety, at that).  How in the world do you live a life of obedience when obedience is seen as a weakness?

When I was watching preseason football yesterday, the word obedience was illustrated quite often.  Most specifically, I thought of a player that is trying to make the team.  They want to be in there for as many plays as possible, yet they don't beg the coach to keep them in the game when they're taken out.  They know they only have so much time to make an impression, but they submit to the coach's plan regarding how many plays they're in.

Maybe obedience is simply the smartest way to live a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.  The question is . . . to whom (or to what) are you obedient to?  Our answer to this question will determine how healthy, joy-filled, and successful we really end up being.  For example, some of the most obedience people in the world end up living crime-filled lives (gang members, etc.).

If you choose to submit yourself to another person's plan for your life (or another philosophy), it better be a proven, 100% reliable authority.  In my brief time on earth, the only authority that falls in this category is our Creator, God Almighty.  Obedience to God and to His Son, Jesus Christ, brings life, joy, peace, and the ultimate in a successful life.  That's right, you will be doing exactly what you were created to do - bringing attention to Him while benefitting greatly from His care for you.

Obedience CAN be attractive, though it'll never be fashionable.  Would you rather live a successful life while others mock your choice to follow Jesus or would you rather look good pursuing something that leads to an empty life or even death?  Hmmmmm . . . it's often a daily choice, isn't it?  Choose Jesus, He never fades.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Receiving is harder than giving

Drought is being experienced by most of the U.S. as we speak. There's been some relief lately in the form of lower temperatures and some rain, but by the looks of the crops and the feel of the ground, the word "drought" still very much pertains. Up here in Minnesota we have not really experienced the extreme lack of rain. Though we've gone weeks without, our temperatures have not stayed high and we have had some good downpours recently. One such downpour was this past Wednesday morning. I was just finishing a little morning jog when it started coming - what an incredible feeling it was! I was in need of a quick cooling down, so I stretched out on my driveway while the rain was pouring down all over me. Rain certainly is thorough, isn't it? I was covered and was completely washed over. And you know what I had to do in order to have all that done - RECEIVE. Why is it so hard to receive? Whether it's a gift or a favor or a simple kind gesture of someone opening the door for you, receiving can be hard to do. Our natural tendencies, for the most part, are to fend for ourselves and not inconvenience others. The irony of this is that, by maintaining this stance (either practically or just theoretically), we are becoming more and more selfish. We are communicating to others, "I don't need you, it's really all about me." The way we are made is that we need to be able to give of ourselves to others (see Ephesians 2:10 and Mark 10:43,44). In order for all this giving and serving to take place, there must be people who receive all of this goodwill. Just like our midwest fields, this country needs to learn to RECEIVE. Just like the crops and fields cannot try any harder to receive the rain, we must stop "trying harder" to earn our own way or to come up with a better way to live life. The first step to becoming better receivers is to receive the grace gift of eternal life from our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to humble ourselves before our Creator, trust His way to live life (obedience to His Word), and receive is unmerited, unconditional, 100%-from-God-0%-from-us, GRACE. In many ways, receiving IS harder than giving, for we're dependent on His way, trusting His timing, and admitting that we can't do it on our own. It's a great and freeing life, actually, for everything is on Him and my job is simply to trust and obey . . . for there's no other way . . . right? Before we can give with the right heart, we need to be able to receive with a grateful and humble heart.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Vacation is over

It's been a month since I've posted, but not a day has gone by that God is not clearly pushing me forward. Some days He is literally pushing against a force (me) that doesn't want to be moved. Other days His loving, gentle nudge is enough to send me over the edge (in a good way) and into His plan for me. Always, though, I am a willing participant in His methods and tools to make me a better person for Him. It's always difficult to return from vacation. Though I need it, my family needs it, and I have been blessed with two incredible weeks of getting away this past month, I find myself in a funk. That's right, though I'm back at work writing sermons, planning meetings, and being with people, my mind is still on the dock with a fishing pole, or sitting by the campfire, or longing for a few straight days of NO SCHEDULE. Rather them heaping guilt on myself for feeling this way (which I'm very good at doing), there are two truths that come to mind that help me through this transition time: 1. It's a good thing to long for time with family, both on vacations and during a regular week. These relationships are my most important in this world, so don't take them for granted or neglect them. 2. Work is normal and life is supposed to be work. God created in us the capacity to do work and the satisfaction of doing a good job. The most important things of this life will be the most difficult (see John 16:33 and Matthew 10:22) and anything worth having will be hard to maintain (for example, U.S.A. ideals and mistakes that each of us has made). With school starting around the corner (OK, I know, for us Minnesotans, that's still four weeks away), what is important? In the midst of a Fall season that's filled with new things, I don't want to neglect the ONE who has given me the biggest NEW thing - A brand new life through Jesus Christ (read John 3:16-21)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Real Campfire

I am definitely old school when it comes to building a campfire. Although there are much quicker ways to do it, the point of a campfire is not a quick fire (unless your only meal option is over the fire and everybody is HUNGRY), but rather it should all be a part of the slow-moving, relaxing, pace of camping. Our family has chosen to stick with tents throughout our camping life. This summer, though, we experienced for the first time camping with no help and no electricity. We actually did pretty good, I must say. We didn't go hungry, we didn't get bored, and we even left wanting to do it again sometime. Plus, I was able to make two campfires with nothing but a match and the resources we had on hand. It took some time, it took lots of attention, and it took quite a few moments of "encouragement." Then, after it was going, I received some advice from my wife that helped it get even hotter . . . "put the wood closer together." It worked! Then, after we were done with the fire, we wanted to save some of the wood for a fire on another night, so what do you think we did? That's right, we separated the wood and the fire died quickly. Just like a REAL campfire lends to a REAL camping experience, we can take lessons from this definition of a REAL campfire in order to live lives that are REAL and alive. First and foremost, we cannot live our lives in isolation. We need others to spark our God-given talents and roles in life. In the midst of these relationships, we need to invest time, give lots of focused attention, and do lots of encouraging. Then, once it's burning good we need to continue to stick together so that the flame of the love of God can burn hotter, brighter, and longer. Second, the motivation of our unity must be focused on the right kind of fire. If it's a fire to destroy (gossip, slander, destruction, etc.) the unity is evil and temporary. If it's a fire to keep warm or to make a meal (mutual respect, love, forgiveness, and lifting up) the unity is good, productive, and long-lasting. Both fires must be fed more of the same to stay burning. How will you keep the right campfire burning in your lives, family, and church?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Interview questions

I once met a man who beat out many other applicants for a job because he knew how to interview well. Now, this man was very smart, he did his research, and he probably knew which questions he had to answer well. You know what these questions are, right: What are your best characteristics? What are your weaknesses? How would you handle certain scenarios? Unfortunately, he interviewed so well that they really didn't hire HIM, they hired the person that interviewed. Clearly, they did not ask the right questions. It's one thing to mess up an interview process for hiring someone. It's a whole nother thing to ask the wrong questions when it comes to life in general - asking the wrong questions will lead to a life (and eternity) full of regret. What are the most important questions, then, to ask in life? I came up with two that I asked a good friend of mine, then he added another that needs to be asked before the other two are asked. My two questions were as follows
What's going to happen to you after you die?
Why am I here on the earth?
. My friend followed that up with this one that should be answered correctly before the others can even be tackled:
Is there a God?
Of course, these are HUGE questions that cannot simply be answered by simply thinking about it really hard. We need a powerful, authoritative, accurate voice that we can listen to, depend on, and tell others about. We do have such an authority in our lives - it's the Word of God - His Bible written to us, to bring us to Him. Do you want a "cheat sheet" for those questions that you will need to know and need to know well? Do you want to be able to answer those questions with conviction and clarity, like they are a part of who you are? Or do you simply want to get by with sounding like you have the right answer? Your creator wants you to LIVE your purpose, LOOK FORWARD to your eternal destiny and KNOW this God that certainly does exist. Enjoy this process as you dive into His Word.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thank God for standards!

This summer, already, has been full of nasty thunderstorms and wind here in the middle of Minnesota. Our trampoline has been through some trials already so we have to be more creative in keeping it grounded. While listening to the weather radio and watching the sky, I am repeatedly thankful for the builders of the home we are in. I know that they used levels and squares. I know that they used sufficient screws and nails. I know that things were done according to code. I can tell all these things, partly, because of how easily it stands up to what nature has to offer. I can also say these things because I know that the codes are enforced and that local builders are well-respected. If it wasn't for these standards, who knows what our house could stand up to? Similarly, without standards for living life, we would be without foundation, susceptible to folding under any pressure, and have no ability to stand up to anyone or anything. These standards that we are given are all around us. Like the physical standard of gravity, if we choose not to obey these standards, the consequences could be deadly. These standards are outlined nicely in the Word of God. As our Creator, He knows what's best and He loves us most and He is, quite literally, in charge. I know these standards are there because of how sturdy the lives of Jesus-followers are and how unsturdy I would be without them. I also know the validity of these standards because of the character of my God and the consistency of Scripture. So keep up on God's standards and you can be an "expert builder" of what it means to live a godly life. If you don't already have a place in the Bible you'd like to read, let me suggest the book of Mark or the book of Joshua or the book of James. Each will challenge your thinking regarding what's right, what's wrong, and why submitting to the the God of the universe is the best option for a life well-lived. Finally, let's thank God for these standards. If it wasn't for God revealing Himself through Jesus Christ and through His Word, we could look like our poor trampoline.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Just when you thought . . .

That's right, it can't get any worse, can it? I mean, you can only press the envelope so far until people are going to cry, "FOUL!" When will our culture realize its continuing downward spiral in every important area? Our morals are slipping, our schools are struggling, our families are disintegrating, and our churches are lifeless. Of course, I am using generalities, for there are many people who are maintaining high standards, many schools that are thriving, many families that are strong, and many churches that are full of life. It is quite evident, though, that the "norm" in this country is the following: It's OK to have sex when you feel like it, to drink when you feel like you can handle it, to talk about sex with whomever, whenever, and to lie as long as it doesn't "hurt anybody." Emotionally, I am pretty angry, because I can't even watch a simple NBA basketball game on ABC with my son without both of us getting inundated with commercial images of an upcoming show that promotes adultery, lying, cheating, and voyeurism. Plus, while watching a Stanley Cup Finals game, NBC continued to promote a show that puts "hot" couples on an island to vie for each other's "love", if that's what you call it. No, this isn't some cable network, or second-rate network trying to get viewers, no matter what kind they are. These are major networks, during primetime, promoting, apparently, their major shows this Summer. Then, we've got seasoned actors like Adam Sandler and Will Ferrel, for example, who feel the need to keep producing guaranteed money-makers despite the complete lack of anything good coming from most of their movies. Sure, many would say that, in the end, the movies have a good lesson of what's important in life. What motivates them to make these movies to begin with . . . the moral at the end of the movie? No way! The real motivation is the "Almighty Dollar". What sells movies like that is sex, jokes about sex, and trailers promoting sex. The "logic" goes something like this: Let's teach a lesson that life is about more than just sex by making a movie that has sexual images and language that'll really get people to pay for it. It would be like getting people to try your health food story by offering 2 for 1 candy bars to every person that comes in the door. My son and I will not allow the media, our world, or our culture to dictate what's important and what's worth pursuing. All of those things, whether it's sex, money, power, or popularity, does not and can not bring satisfaction to life. Only a life lived out according to it's Creator will be satisfying and most enjoyed. As sad as this sounds to me, this may mean watching LESS sports because it simply is not worth it for me to risk me or my son's values just to watch a little basketball.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Must we really fight for freedom?

The antagonist in the movie The Avengers claims that we in America don't know what freedom is. He goes about "granting" this freedom to people at will. What, then, is freedom? If we have to fight for freedom, is it really freedom? Aren't we enslaved to the idea of having to always fight for and demand our freedom? Shouldn't TRUE freedom be something that allows us to live our life without having to even think about our freedom? It's kind of like the most perfect weather day. It is a day that you can't feel the weather or worry about the weather or have to guess about the weather. It's simply a day in which the weather will not alter your plans or your freedom to do what you want. Freedom in the United States is truly something worth fighting for on this earth, because it's the greatest freedom there is on this earth. There may be other governments in the past or in the future that have offered or will offer more freedom than America, but it'll be hard to match it. Yet, the only TRUE freedom that can come our way is the one that we can do nothing about. If we were truly in charge of our own freedom, how free can it actually be? As imperfect human beings, we have as much opportunity to mess it up as we do maintain it. We need someone greater than us to come up with the idea and to get it done for us. We need someone to keep it for us. We need someone that will FIGHT for us. No, I'm sorry, it's not the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, or the Hall of Justice. Rather, it is God, through His Son Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:1), and His Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17), who grants TRUE freedom. Yes, even in the midst of governmental rule (good and bad) the only way to live is in God's freedom (I Peter 2:13-17). There is nothing that can alter our joy or our safety or our . . . well . . . freedom because Christ already paid the debt that kept me bound to a life full of wrong and selfishness and hurt. So I have NO weight left on my back, nothing left for me to fight for, and only one person left so serve - God Himself. Inviting Jesus, every day, to fight our battles and be near us is the only way to live a life of freedom. May we trust Him fully.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What will they find?

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8) For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) Sure, the devil and the Lord are both searching out hearts, but that's where the similarity ends. The devil is not present everywhere (though his demons are spread out all over), whereas God searches hearts constantly through his ever-present nature. Also, the intentions of each are completely opposite - one seeks to devour and destroy while the other seeks to strengthen and support. It's a little discouraging to know that they find as we look over the condition of our world today. Yet, the main thing that we ought to be concerned about is where OUR hearts are. PRAYER: "Lord, I now know why you are after my heart. You know that where my heart is, that is where I will go - either in the path of the devil, who looks for the faithless, proud, and ignorant, or in Your path, as you look for humility, alertness, and commitment to You. May You find in me a heart that is devoted to You and that, more and more each day, obeys Your wishes and loves your Word. Turn my heart, Lord, away from those things that make me wander. Keep me, Lord, from the pride that keeps me focused on my own needs. Give to me, Lord, the joy that can only come from serving You wholeheartedly and loving others unconditionally. Find in me a willing heart, ready to be molded by You and You alone. In Jesus name I pray these things, Amen."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

There's no such thing as an easy play

What a great day that will be when all the questions, problems, and issues can be answered simply and thoroughly. What a great day that will be when everyone's goal is the same. What a great day that will be when there's no jealousy, envy, or strife. What day am I talking about? THE day that makes all other days make sense. I don't know about you, but I find myself, often, faced with the all-to-common feeling of, "Why can't I ever seem to get a handle on things?" As I'm coaching 7th grade baseball, a theme has come back around often: There's no easy play. As I've reminded them about this fact, I've seen some improvement at not taking any play for granted, at being ready for whatever may come our way and, most importantly, at keeping our heads in the game. After every out, everyone needs to be telling everyone else how many outs. Whenever the situation changes everyone needs to know how that changes what they do as a batter, runner, pitcher, or fielder. Only in baseball can you go at such a pace that you're able to take inventory and consider your options. With all the issues, questions, strife, and change, we need a down time in which we take inventory and consider our options. That down time should not only be a purposeful slowing down, but it should also be a reminder of what the situation is and how we ought to respond. Among other things, we need to remind ourselves of basic truths about THE day: God is in control of it, I am not. God wins and I want to be on the winning side. Today will matter only if it's been lived under His mighty hand. In this life (before THE day), there is no such thing as an easy day, an easy answer, or an easy way out. Yet, as we submit to the One in control, may this life be full of joy because you're on the right team.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eye on the Prize

Lebron James just won his third MVP award. In his interview he was genuinely focused on the task at hand - winning a championship for the organization, his team, and himself. He not only said all the right words, but his actions prove his words to be true. One could say that he has given himself fully to this one goal, though he's come short each of his nine (9) NBA seasons. Many star athletes have given themselves to the goal of winning a team championship and a high percentage of them come up short year after year after year. What if he does reach his goal this year? Then what? His next goal, I suppose, would be to win championship number two, right? Then what? What, then, is the goal? If the goal keeps moving and changing, then how satisfying could the reaching of that goal actually be. Truth is, there's not very many goals that are TRULY satisfying and lasting. The trick is to find a goal that keeps you focused yet doesn't leave you wanting after reaching it. There's only one goal that will satisfy both of those components, and that's a goal that is not dependent on ANY of the following three things: 1. Gaining a certain amount of power or earning a certain position. (I'll be satisfied when I've reached . . .) 2. Reaching a certain material goal of any kind. (I'll be set when I've earned or bought . . .) 3. Feeling a certain way about what you've done or where you've been. (I'll be happy when . . .) Rather, our goal needs to fixed on a prize that never fades and our eyes need to fixed on a person that will never steer us wrong and will always be with us. The prize is the call of God to be with Him (read more here). The person is Jesus, who laid down His life for each of us, kicked death (and Satan) in the face, and literally designed our path for us. Finally, Jesus created the plan to make it happen. Why not pursue a goal that won't leave you empty in the end? Why not pursue a goal that's worth pursuing, every single day of your life? Why not give your whole life to Jesus, because it'll make all of your earthly, temporary goals even that much more satisfying.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Foundation of Marriage

Anytime a foundation gives out, the whole structure is, pretty much, worthless. Why do companies and churches and governments spend so much time talking through, ironing out, and solidifying the why, how, when, and where of what they do? Because when things go wrong, or when people lose their way, or when others from the outside try to change things, there must be a place to return to in order to say, "NO! This is who we are! This is what we do! This is where we're going!" How often do we go through the same foundation-building process when we enter marriage? It seems that we go through it less and less. Not only do couples not take it very seriously, but our culture has indicated it's apathy about upholding it as a valuable piece of our society at all. In preaching on marriage tomorrow, I sense that I'm opening up a can of worms. It would be much easier to not teach on it and simply assume that all in our church uphold the biblical model. Rather, I am declaring, with no apology whatsoever, that God designed marriage, that the husband and wife have different, yet equally important roles, and that these roles are crucial to a successful marriage, successful life, and a successful local church ministry. Without the faithful adherence to the roles laid out in Ephesians 5:21-33, it is very difficult to accurately communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world where a distant God is good enough. As we allow the foundation of marriage to be redefined away from it's original, God-given definition, we allow our very society to crumble. We allow US to become the center and we send GOD to the sidelines, allowing Him to "play" only when we're REALLY in trouble. Although God is a fantastic "fix-it man" we need to have Him be our "architect" first.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Solid Standard

What is a standard? Should there be standards? How are standards determined? The NFL is in the process of changing their standards regarding how hard to hit and where to hit an opposing player. It's already created lots of conversation because of the many fines dished out over the past few years. The topic is even hotter now because of the "Bountygate" in New Orleans and the lawsuit by former players who feel that their quality of life is negatively effected because of their involvement with football. Ultimately, the standard has been determined and will continue to be determined by the bottom line, the almighty dollar. This, I'm afraid, is the bottom line which many businesses, families, government, and even some schools use to make major decisions. What a LOUSY standard to major on! Yes, money is needed for something to stay active and for a civil or non-profit to at least keep going. Yet, by concentrating on money like so many do, we lose the human element of whatever it is that we do. This is why many successful businesses don't even invite their financial people into planning sessions or creative brainstorms or goal setting. People must be the motivation of what we do. Even better, why not go a step further and start valuing the One who created these people to begin with. Since our standard relates to what's best for the people, we need to go to the source of people - God Himself. Why don't we want to do this? Because God doesn't play by our rules (imagine that, the creator of everything has His own set of rules). He has the right to determine proper STANDARDS by which we should live. The major relationships in our society (husband/wife, parent/child, employer/employee) are addressed in the Bible from Ephesians 5:22 through Ephesians 6:9. The verse before this passage (Ephesians 5:21) sets up all these relationships - "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." It's only out of an awe and respect for Jesus Christ that we are able to listen to and submit to each other and put into practice these vital principles found in the following 21 verses. Then, in Ephesians 6:10 and following we hear the great challenge to "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might" by putting on the full armor of God. He has it all figured out. He's prepared us with all that we need. He'll gladly take over our situations when we're ready to let Him. He loves you. What will you do with Him today? tomorrow?

The Ultimate Artist

What are the qualities of the ultimate artist? Whether it's the world of paintings, music, dance, or even certain sports, an artist is the ultimate expressionist. He or she is expressing something that can't be seen into something that can be seen. The artists that seem to draw the most attention (whether it's negative or positive) express things that others can relate to or have a disdain for. I want to argue here that God is The Ultimate Artist. Not only is He called our Creator, but He's also the Grand Designer who is constantly at work painting a picture in each of our lives as well as a bigger picture that includes each of our lives. His work is precise, His technique is diverse, His patience is perfect, and His creativity is limitless. As with any artist, though, He will have His detractors - those who hate what they see and clearly make their thoughts known. Does this mean that His work isn't perfect? Rather, it means that He's doing exactly what He needs to be doing - staying active in the midst of a world that is ruled by the prince of the power of the air, who is roaming around, waiting for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8). His work strikes a chord. The question for us remains - will we trust and follow The Ultimate Artist no matter what His work is looking like? Or, will we follow Him as long as the painting is pleasing to our eyes and communicates what we want to hear? He's not an artist that can be ignored or who doesn't care to be noticed - what are we doing with Him and His work?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Prayer of an imperfect person

Dear Lord, Why am I even able to address you? You are perfect and I am far from it. Thank you for making this possible through the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life and died in my place, so that I wouldn't have to die for my own sins. Thank you for accepting me as your child when I accepted this sacrifice, personally, as my own. THIS is how I can talk to you, and I am forever grateful. Yet, I am still imperfect and struggle with many selfish thoughts day in and day out. I know that you understand this and I know that you're right there with me when I confess my shortcomings and seek to grow. I know that you are most concerned with the condition of my heart. So, as I confess to you today that my heart longs for doing the right thing and that I am in great need of your help, I welcome your peace. Your peace that passes all understanding must overwhelm me much more quickly than my circumstances or sinful defaults do. Overwhelm me, Lord. Change me, Lord. Use me, Lord. I love you, Lord. Amen.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Serving is emptying and freeing

Jesus says in Mark 10, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Then, later, the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus that someone who is a bondservant of Jesus does not serve as "eye-pleasing" acts of kindness for people to see, but rather as a servant of the most-high God "from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man." Jesus, our creator, savior, and friend, was the ultimate servant. His servanthood was characterized as GIVING of his life for the many. After spending the day in the Twin Cities with four youth from our church, I have a new outlook on serving as an act of giving. It was one of the most freeing things in the world to be able to go into a service project having nobody to please but God. After giving of my energy, my time, and money, I am completely drained and lacking physical energy. On the other hand, I cannot hardly wait to speak the Word of God to people tomorrow at our worship time. When you give willingly and generously, you will be filled again so that you can continue to give. I have such a long way to go as a true servant of Jesus Christ. My prayer, as I continue to go down this road of "leaving it all on the field", is that my service in His name will be characterized by a constant cycle of freely being emptied so that He alone can fill me with the capacity to freely be emptied once again for His sake, in His way, and in His timing. Imagine that! A life that is best spent is the life that is most freely given away for Jesus' sake. Who else can be trusted to fill you back up with what you need?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What have you done for me lately?

So the National Football League® is going through a bit of an identity crisis right now. It is a violent sport that, naturally, has violent consequences, yet it almost needs the violence to keep it popular. According to a 1994 study, which was referred to in this 2006 St. Petersburg Times article, NFL players are expected to live some 20 years less than the average American male. Now, I learned that life expectancy is different than life span (life span is actual years and life expectancy is based on health professionals and other expert opinions), so the results vary with different studies. Either way, it would be very hard to argue against the fact that NFL players tend to not live as long. I mean, my wife points out that their lifestyle would even lend to hearts working harder, muscles and bones getting more stress, and minds going through intense ups and downs from game to game and year to year. What drives them to do so? Allow me to use the NFL as an acronym for what I'm getting at - it is the trading the Now For Later business. Each year for at least 10 years a team has gone from worst in their division to first in their division, some even making it to the Super Bowl. More than any other sport, any team could catch fire any particular year. As a result, teams are very willing to trade the Now For Later, like trading three future high draft picks, just to move up in the draft 3 or 4 spots, or signing a proven veteran quarterback who only has 2-4 good years left with a 5-year contract. If you aren't willing, as an athlete, to do all you can to be good NOW in exchange for whatever you have planned LATER, than you may as well leave the Now For Later League. It isn't just a sports thing, I believe it's a life thing as well. We live in a NOW culture where food, entertainment, education, and even marriage demand immediate GOOD results, or we are GONE! The thing is, the best things in life take time, effort, and sacrifice. Children are a total blessing, and if you invest in them like the treasure they are, you will be rewarded greatly. On the other hand, when children are seen as a bother and a "cramping of my lifestyle" they turn into us and demand things of us. As I, and others with us, continue to water and nurture this new little church in central Minnesota, we know that it is a long haul. we also know that it's worth it, because we are promised that we work for God, and not ourselves or even the people here now. If God chooses to bless us now, great, but if He doesn't we can still come out of this looking good in His eyes because we were (are) faithful. Who do you trust in life? The things and organizations that demand immediate results or the God that sees the big picture and promises, "Seek first my Kingdom and I will take care of all your basic needs" (see Matthew 6:33)?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stepping up to the plate

As I continue down this road of "leaving it all on the field" at the end of my life, I must be open to allowing anything to happen to me, around me, or through me. As I coach 7th grade baseball, one key thing that we're instilling is for boys not to be afraid of the ball. They must face the pitcher as if he's going to hit it no matter what. It's our job as coaches to equip each boy with the skills and confidence to hit the ball. They do it, though, because others have gone before them. This is where the "greatest commandment" comes in play from Matthew 22:37-39 - "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets". A reason why we don't follow this great summary of the law from Jesus (see Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 for background) is that it just looks so foreign to practice this in our everyday world. No one else, so we think, loves God that much or shows love to people around them. I can't just start being nice and loving to people just because God thinks it's a good idea. Well, why not? If God is who we think and say He is, what's the logical response to that? People NEED this kind of love. They are aching for this kind of love. They are starved for it. Yet, like a peasant at a king's table that doesn't eat anything because it all looks so foreign, they need someone to model and tell and live out what this love really means. When we don't express this love in clear, tangible, faith-filled ways we are communicating how little we think God's love really is.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

You just never know.

I know that no one ever knows exactly how a certain day will go. Yet, there are some days that are mapped out in such a way that we pretty much know what to expect. Today was a definite reminder of how we have absolutely no control over our days, no matter how well planned they are. I had a call to see someone in the hospital I had never met, we cut baseball practice short due to a downpour and a bit of thunder, we had a tornado warning, and I had a chance to help a couple through some difficulty. All of this was AFTER 1:30pm. According to James 4:13,14 we don't even know what will happen tomorrow. In fact, we are described as only a mist, here one moment and gone the next. Why would we even start to think that we have a say in our eternal destiny if we don't have a clue about tomorrow? It ought to bring us even closer to the cross of Christ and bring us to our knees saying, "Lord, without Jesus I would be lost. I would have no chance beyond this life because I am a sinner and I don't deserve You. Draw me to yourself for I accept your sacrifice on the cross as my own. I love you. Thank you for loving me first." Then, when we do finally trust Him with our eternal life, why don't we put our very days in His hands as well. He is in charge, only He can give Satan any kind of permission to touch His people, and His love, power, and justice would beautifully together in the midst of this unfair, unforgiving, and belittling world. Trust in Him, for you truly never know what's coming up next.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Conversation with a teenager

One of my favorite things, EVER, happened just a little while ago. After a wonderful day off where I spent time listening and talking to God, interacting with students in the community, and being with my family, my oldest daughter (16.5 yrs old) asked me a question.

I won't tell you the question, but I will tell you what it led to. It all started this morning, when that same daughter pointed out a verse she memorized that I happened to be reading to the family during breakfast: Psalm 138:8 says, "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands." We ended up talking, tonight, about how God never calls any Christian to a "good enough" life. Think about that verse . . . we have our perfect Creator of the universe who has a purpose for each of us. His love will never leave us and it will never fade away.

 From these two truths we know that a perfect Creator would never leave the work of His hands (us) high and dry? The only way that His purpose for us does not come about is when we go our own way (Isaiah 53:6) and reject the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:36). Therefore, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, never SETTLE, but pursue Him passionately. Obey God and trust Him with the results. I love teenagers.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday with my son

I love spending time with my only son. He's 11, he's funny, and he loves many of the same things I do. After spending much of the last 7 days without him, we had a blast playing Wii and watching hockey, basketball, AND baseball. Is it a waste of time to do this for hours on a Sunday afternoon? Well, obviously, you could get arguments from all over the board, but I'm only concerned with two arguments - one from God's Word and one from my son. What does the Bible have to say about how to spend Sunday afternoons? Well, directly, nothing much, but it does give us plenty of help: Whatever I do, it should be done with thanksgiving to God and in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17). Whatever I do that is not done by faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Whatever I do ought to be done as an ambassador of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). As a follower of Jesus Christ, I need to simply be with my son and love on him - it may not be the way other father/sons spend their time together, but it's what we do. May I send my son away to college (or leave this earth before that time) knowing that we spent LOTS of time together being Jesus to each other and that he was trained to do the same with others. I won't leave anything to chance.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


My second oldest is 14 today. Life is going way too fast. I know that she will be driving before I know it. What to do, what to do, what to do? "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1). My daughter, while she is still with me, is my responsibility. God has given me this life, and new life in Jesus Christ, in order to NOT use it for myself. My prayer this day is that my 14-year old will know that my life is pleasing to God when I give it away to others, especially my family. As I aim to spend my life wisely, my family must receive the main investment. Birthdays - a celebration of God's unique creation as well as a looking ahead to all that He has for us to do and enjoy.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Leaving it all on the field

“And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9) The woman in Simon’s home broke open an expensive bottle of perfume, anointed Jesus with it, and was ridiculed by all around her . . . except Jesus. Instead He honors her and we hear of her faith to this very day. What might people do to me or think of me as I follow Jesus the way He tells me to? As a lifelong people-pleaser, it pains me to know that there are people that have, are, and will be bothered by what I do and say. As I begin this intentional journey of dying to self and trusting my God with honor, I have chosen an analogy that will help me walk down this road.

The goal of any athlete who wants to give it his or her all is to “leave it all on the field.” Once the game or event is over, they should be able to look themselves in the mirror and say that there was really nothing left for them to give. Then, and only then, whether in blowout victory, a close result, or humiliating loss, can a person say, with integrity, “I gave it my all.” What, after all, is more rewarding than knowing that you did what you could to win, or help your team win?

Once God chooses that my time on this earth is over, I want to be able to say to His face, “Lord, I really don’t know what else I could have done . . . I gave You my all!” If God were to take me today, just having turned 44, I could not say that. This saddens me, but it doesn’t sadden me enough. My prayer is that this journey will not only shape what I do with my life, but will shape my heart as His heart is shaped.

As Harold Crick, in “Stranger than Fiction,” willingly faces his death after finding out how noble of a death it was, I want to live out my days the way God prescribes because I know that it will be a noble death in the way He defines it. He knows what He’s doing. Just as Jesus said of that woman, may He say of us, that we did all that we could (Mark 14:8a).