Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You Never Know

In case you wondered where I've been, my family was privileged to get to spend Thanksgiving in Indiana with my in-laws...our first holiday gathering since the passing of my father-in-law...and an important time together (without internet access!). Obviously, we're back and that limitation has been removed.

As some of you may know, my son has been looking for a job for several months now. While God has been good to provide seasonal & odd jobs, a stable, full-time position has been elusive to date.

The Lord has been far too faithful for us to begin doubting Him now, or worrying about His provision, but honestly, we do find ourselves wondering just what He's up to in this arena. No answers yet, but a possibilty I'd like to share with you...all for a point.

Just over a week ago, I was attending a Community Thanksgiving service with residents from Highland Ridge Senior Living Community (where I chaplain). Seeing some familiar faces across the room, I went to catch up a bit since it had been awhile since we last talked.

Kindly, they asked about my son's situation (among other things), and I shared that I was praying for an opportunity for him at a local, highly-regarded employer, but I just didn't know anyone on "the inside" with whom to connect. As with many jobs (especially in this economy), you about have to know someone on "the inside" in order to get in.

They proceeded to introduce me to a man sitting in the next row from this employer - a man I discovered had been hired by my father years before! He asked about my son, inquired about his resume, and informed me that he had two positions to fill - immediately. My son has since connected with this company and is up for an in-depth interview next week.

Now, the Hollywood ending would have this all work out and we'd all live happily ever after, but you and I both know that it doesn't always go that way. Frankly, we're encouraged by this turn of events, but have no clue as to how it will work out.

What I do know, and have been reminded of, is that God's timing is always perfect, He is always working on our behalf, and you just never know how He is going to provide. Thus, we should never despair, never minimize the power of a "God-moment," and believe that He is always "working all things together for good" - even the seemingly random moments of our lives. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


We were blessed last night to have Mike Gillette of "The Strength Show" join us for an area youth ministry event. Almost 70 teens gathered to hear Mike's testimony and watch him attempt (and pull off) a couple of brand new feats of strength (one scared us to death as he succeeded; the other is still a work in progress but impressive nonetheless).

I'm not sure if Mike actually said this or not, but what the Lord said to me last night through his message was this: As great as strength is, it is not intended to only benefit the one who is strong. Strength can be an amazing thing - moving, bending, stretching and deforming objects that it seemed couldn't be.

Granted, it tends to carry some specific benefits to the one who is strong, but what good would it be for a strong person to just sit around and be strong? Sure, they look good - but there are any number of ways to achieve that appearance without putting in all the work to actually be strong.

Real strength is meant to be shared - to benefit others. Jesus extends His to us, and we are intended to extend ours to those we interact with. When God gave His Son for us, He made available to us all the strength we would ever need. And when we give our lives to others, we do much the same, passing along the strength we cherish and enjoy, that they might never have to face anything with only their own strength.

So what are you doing with your life in this area? Getting stronger, I hope! But even more so, as God continues His good work in you (Philippians 1:6), I pray that you will in turn reach out and be a source of strength, passing His along, to all who may need it. That's a truly strong person!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dirty Lights

"Let your light shine before men..."
Mathew 5:16

A few years back (okay, slightly more than a few years back), I had taken a trip with some friends down to Alabama to watch the legendary "Bear" Bryant and his equally legendary football team (now some of you know about how many years back!).

It was a long trip, so to make the best time possible on the road, we decided to drive at night, switching off drivers, so that we could make it to the "big game" on time. Along about 1:00 a.m., the current driver said something like this, "This road must be really old, because the lines are getting kind of faint." We all quickly agreed...and continued to drive on.

About an hour later, though a new driver was behind the wheel, another interesting comment came from that seat, "I've never seen a state paint their highway lines in faint yellow - they're kind of hard to see!" It wasn't another 30 minutes before he said, "Something must be wrong, because now I can't see the lines at all!"

We all got out of the car, and as Gomer Pyle used to say, "Sur-prise! Sur-prise!" The lines weren't getting fainter at all, but our headlights were almost completely blacked out with bugs & dirt! We had to limp along at 3:00 a.m. to get to a gas station where we could give them a good cleaning. Amazingly, the lines jumped right out at us after that!

I've thought many times since then about that night, and how much it is like my life, way too often! As I try to make decisions & choices, things are getting less and less clear to me, and I'm sure that the problem is outside - you know, someone or something else's problem.

But more times than not, what's really transpired is that I've allowed my own life to get "dirty" by allowing dozens of "little" sins to accumulate on my heart & mind, just like bugs & dirt on a headlight. The power is going into the light, but it isn't shining out of the light because I've been careless, too busy (or both) to clean it off.

The problem is that the dimming occurs gradually, because the "dirt" accumulates gradually. But the net effect is just as sure as if I'd just painted the headlights black - no light gets out. If we're going to truly "let our lights shine" as Jesus directed above, it's imperative that we do the job...the daily job...of keeping our hearts & minds clean, that the light and love of Jesus Christ may shine forth unhindered. Meet me at the carwash?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


"Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered.
And lo, no one was there."

Well, it's official - we currently have 20 people signed up to go to Guatemala in March of 2011. They are young & old, male & female, students & professionals, churched &non-churched, excited & afraid. That's right...AFRAID. Tenemos temor!

It probably doesn't take much imagination to figure out what they're afraid of (though imagination makes it really daunting to do what they're getting ready to do!). Lack of money, missing classes (or work, for the adults), leaving family behind, rare diseases, terrorism, losing their ticket, forgetting to bring something important - all of these and more can make a new venture downright terrifying!

The reality is that things much less intimidating than cross-cultural travel can scare the bejeebers out of us (I used that word in last week's children's message and they had no idea of what I was talking about - but I'm sure you understand my word!). So what do we do when the bejeebers are scared out of us?

Like the quote at the top - we answer with Faith. We remember that He is always with us, that His ways are perfect, that His plans are to bless us and use us, that He who calls us is get the idea (check last week's blog for references if you want).

I have no idea what might be scaring the bejeebers out of you right now, but I do know that He is more than capable of helping you to answer the knock of fear with the answer of faith...and discover that there is really no one there! That's God's story, and I'm sticking to it!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Faith vs. Fear

"Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death."

Seems like no matter where I go or whom I talk to, people are dealing with FEAR. Fears about money, family, jobs, health, politics and the interactions between one or more of those pound us relentlessly from every side.

I am sure that you, like me, have dealt with your share of fear in life - perhaps in this very moment. The antidote? Well, it depends upon whom you talk to. Some escape through their "drug" of choice (alcohol, sex, tobacco) or more subtle things (work, music, spending money). I've not tried all of these, but enough of them to know just how pointless...and hopeless they are.

I'll never forget a particular point in my life where fear was threatening to run rampant - out of control - because of a huge decision I had to make. Quite literally, every waking moment of every day, this decision (and the fear of making the wrong one) pounded on the door of my heart.

My solution? The only one I have found to work...every time. I found my strength in the Word of God - The Holy Bible. I confess that I wasn't always reading it, but I was able to meditate on it because of having put it into my heart years before. The most powerful passage for me in that particular time was this: "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is kept on You" (Isaiah 26:3).

I can't tell you how many times I used this as a shield against the fiery darts of fear that assaulted my heart and mind. It become the rock of truth upon which I stood when the waves of doubt threatened to overwhelm me...and it helped me to withstand them all!

I thought that maybe today you needed to be reminded of some of God's most powerful promises in this arena, so I leave them with you in hopes that your Faith in Him...will triumph over your Fear of what assails you most right now:
  • We walk by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
  • I will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
  • Be strong and take courage, for the Lord your God is with you (Joshua 1:9).
  • In quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15).
  • The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
  • Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).
  • If God so clothes the grass of the field, will He not much more clothe you? (Matthew 6:30).
  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All I Have Seen

"All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. "
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have to admit something to you today: The longer you have been living a life surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ, the easier it gets to do it. That means when you are a relatively new Christian, it can be a lot tougher to do things "His way." I think that's why God gives to the new Christian an extra measure of zeal & energy...because they don't yet have the experiences to rely upon when the going gets tough.

But as you make some choices that honor Him, you discover the power of His promise found in 1 Samuel 2:30 (my life verse): "I will honor the one who honors me." You don't do things just for your benefit, but you discover that when you do things for His benefit, there are benefits for you, too!

And you begin to accumulate know, the ability to come into a tough time, and to look back and say, "I don't know what God is going to do, but He's been faithful to help me before - so I'm going to trust Him again!" So when I come up against the next really trying situation, I remember things like:
  • When God gave me a beautiful wife that I don't deserve
  • When God gave us children after we thought we couldn't have any
  • When God provided a buyer for our house(s) (more than once) before we listed our house(s)
  • When God opened up a job opportunity where it seemed none existed
  • When God replaced depression & despair with His peace
  • When God gave me fresh perspective when I was sure He was being unfair
  • When God restored a relationship I thought for sure was over
  • When God gave me the capacity to forgive one I thought unforgiveable
  • When God forgave me when I felt unforgiveable
  • And the list goes on, and on, an on - you get the idea

Now, I'll be the first to agree with you that He doesn't always work this way - sometimes His ways remain completely baffling & mysterious, but, to quote Mr. Emmerson above, "All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen." It is my prayer that you will reach this conclusion as well!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


So often we are expecting God to ask us to do something big, when all He is asking us to do is "Come."

I came across the above, anonymous quote, just last week and I found myself immediately identifying with it. So, being an "average guy," I thought it might strike a chord with you as well.

God took me back to a night sitting on the hood of my Cutlass Ciera (honest, that's how Oldsmobile spelled "sierra") when He and I had quite the discussion. You see, I was finishing school in Indiana, working at a print shop, and pastoring a small, country, Methodist church (filled with good people, mind you, but not in a hurry to go anywhere).

Things were going pretty well, but not at all like I thought they should be going. Just weeks away from completing my pastoral education, I was just sure that God was going to use me to change the world. Landing in a town with 28 houses, a grain co-op and a church wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I thought of doing something "big" for God.

Through the magic of memory (a pretty cool gift God gave to us, if you think about it), here's how the conversation unfolded...
  • ME: Thanks, Lord, for all you're doing for us here.
  • GOD: I'll continue to do it, Kirk, as long as you continue seeking Me.
  • ME: It's been kind of frustrating, though, Lord, 'cause everyone here seems to be content with things as they are. No one really wants to grow or try new things, or reach out.
  • GOD: I understand, Kirk, but what if I told you that this is the plan I have for your life - to stay in this place and take care of the people here in this small town, in a church that probably will always be this size.
  • ME: You're kidding, right? This is just a "launch point" to bigger and better, right? You wouldn't just leave me here, would You?
  • GOD: What do you think?
  • ME: I think that you made me for much more important things than this...for greater things...bigger things.
  • GOD: Are you saying that the people here aren't important?
  • ME: (Gulp!) NO, not at all! I was just expecting more.
  • GOD: More what?
  • ME: More impact, more exposure, more success, more money...
  • GOD: Kirk, you need to figure out whether you're going to be content with what I have planned for you, whether or not it's what you think is best. Do you trust Me enough to believe that what I have planned is the best plan for you?
  • ME: (Silence)

To be honest, it was several days before I got back to God on this issue. But when I did, I'll never forget surrendering my will (again...and many times since then) to His will, choosing to trust His ways over my ways. And you know what? The ride has been exhilarating...not always what I would choose or expect, but absolutely unforgettable!

Now my only expectation is that God will use me, bless me, and make me a blessing no matter where or with whom I find myself. And that's all I need to know!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


"Faith is believing in advance what can only be understood in reverse."

Well, another trial of life is upon us: my son lost his job this week. The details aren't important - the fact is, he is unemployed. I confess that I wasn't sure how he'd respond to the whole thing. If you've ever walked this road, you know that it can lead you to believe that what you're best at is failing.

While there were indeed the momentary doubts regarding his self worth, I can't tell you how pleased I have been with his overall response - just when I thought he hadn't learned anything from 18 years under our roof! (Not that I can take credit for him "getting it").

He's actually beginning to grab this thing we call faith. If you remember anything about what God's Word has to say about faith, it is defined as:
"Being sure of what we hope for and
certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1
While there is much he does not know, what he does know is this:
  • God loves him...period!
  • God is in control of his life
  • God has a plan for his life
  • If God's plan was for him to stay where he was, he'd still be there
  • What is confusing now will one day make great sense
  • So the best thing he can do now is seek God's direction and...APPLY for another job!

Thus, we don't find ourselves worrying, fearful, anxious or impatient (at least not yet), for we know that the very same God who has helped us in the past, not only is able to, but wants to and will again (though it may or may not be what we think is best).

How about you? Tempted to despair? Not sure what's coming next? As the old song says, "God will take care of you"! Believe now what one day will make perfect sense in reverse! I'll keep you posted on our this particular faith walk evolves!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


"Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as we make use of. One person gets a week's value out of a year while another person gets a full year's value out of a week."
Charles Richards

We, as a local church, have just come off of one of our most anticipated events of the year: Pastor Luis Martinez' visit from Guatemala. Luis is the pastor we worked with in 2009, and the one we're preparing to work with again in 2011 (contact me if you're interested in building homes, clothing children & sharing the Gospel with us!). His ministry is called, IMPACTO, because they are committed to impacting the lives of both the people in his country and in ours through interaction on behalf of God's purposes.

I couldn't help but link his ministry to the above thought, though I confess, I don't even remember where I first saw it. Mr. Richards strikes on one of the key truths of life: our impact is largely determined by us. In other words, what we get out of life is more often than not determined by how we approach it.

Who hasn't known someone who was a master of idleness? Someone who could take more time doing less work than anyone you've ever known (hopefully this isn't you). One of the challenges I've always given to my kids was originally left with me by my Dad: Give an honest days work for an honest day's pay and you'll never be unemployed for long, if at all.

At the core of this counsel is the observation that a huge number of people are looking not to do the above, but to do as little as possible while making as much as they can. They have yet to discover the almost magical truth of Mr. Richards...and the Bible (see Luke 16:10-12). These are the ones who get a week's value out of a year.

By God's grace, this dare not be us as Christians! May we be among those who can "do twice the work in half the time" - not because we're a "whirling dervish" - but because we embrace each day as an opportunity for impact and refrain from pursuing a degree in idleness.

So, how many days are left in your year? The decision and the power are yours, granted to you by Almighty God. What you do with what is given to you will make all the difference in the world...and in the world to come. Let's make an impact today!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Good" Or "Godly"?

"The true expression of Christian character is not in good-doing, but in God-likeness. If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not just good human characteristics. God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly."
Oswald Chambers

I confess that this thought from Oswald Chambers brought me up a little short - as it should - and has caused me to do a great deal of "pondering" over the last few days...maybe it will do the same for you?

There is an enormous emphasis in our culture today on "good-doing," manifested in countless ways by many highly visible people. But for the Christian, while admirable, this is not enough. We dare not be only good humans exhibiting good human characteristics.

Think about it: many people can give good things to others, but only the Christian, by definition, can give Christ, and thus the things that go with Him. So what is the difference between "good characterisitcs" and "divine" ones?

Scripture makes it clear that, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self control" (Galatians 5:22-23). These don't come by being a "good human" but from having the Holy Spirit's transforming power working in us.

For my own thinking, I did a little "re-phrasing" of this list, and have come to believe that the non-negotiable "divine" characteristics for the Christian are:
  • Unconditional Love
  • Irrepressible Joy
  • Irrational Peace
  • Unlimited Grace & Forgiveness
  • Unrelenting Compassion
  • Sacrificial Generosity
  • Consistent Self-Control

That does not mean that we have these mastered, but that they are "divine" characteristics that should be growing in both quantity and quality in our lives. No amount of being a "good human" will accomplish these - only God's Spirit in us can.

Now, the moment of truth: Am I known only as a "good human" or as "God-like" in the characteristics of my life? God forbid that after my life is lived, all that anyone will be able to say is, "Kirk was a good person." No, I cannot settle for anything less than to be like Christ Himself, full of divine characteristics that no one can explain away and that draw others to Him! How about you?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A "Not So Secret" Secret

I am privileged to receive thought-provoking emails from some truly great thinkers, preachers and friends! One that grabbed my attention recently stated the following:

"The only advantage the rich have over the poor
is that they already know money can’t buy happiness."

Think about it (I have): While falling into a boatload of money sounds really fun, and we can think of another boatload of things we'd like to do with it, it is a road filled with perils & challenges all its own.

I frequently hear people say, "I know that money won't buy me happiness, but I'd sure like to try!" And as attractive as the scenario sounds, down deep, I think we're all aware that more money is not our #1 need.

The interesting thing about money and it's amazing allure, is that you almost need to have had it to understand that it's not what you need. Thus, the vast majority of us still wrestle with our desire for it, sure that it would help us at least a little.

But talk to anyone who has it (or did at one time) and you'll discover this "not so secret" secret: they were no happier with it than without it. Matter of fact, there's a whole heap of trouble & trial that comes with having more.

Look at what the Bible says regarding this (my paraphrases):
  • Psalm 49:12 - you still die, and have a lot more pressure pushing you there!
  • Proverbs 11:28 - if you trust in riches, you will fall!
  • Proverbs 13:8 - more people are out to get you!
  • Proverbs 23:5 - riches are so easily lost!
  • Matthew 19:23 - it is much harder to trust in God!
  • Luke 8:14 - riches will preoccupy your life!
  • Luke 12:48 - you have much greater responsibility!
  • 1 Timothy 6:9 - there are unimaginable temptations, traps & snares!
  • 1 Timothy 6:10 - wanting more jeapordizes your faith and your life!

What we do need is more of Him...Jesus Christ...for He has promised that, unlike riches, "I will never leave you or forsake you" Hebrews 13:5. Trust in Him will never disappoint us, and we will find that are lives are content...not always longing for more.

Granted, He may choose to bless you financially - nothing wrong with that - but if you count on that, you may easily lose both the blessing and miss the Blessor! I invite you to join me in placing your trust in Christ - no matter what! And I pray that you won't keep that a secret!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

For Or With?

I was challenged recently by something I read in Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest. Without recounting the whole thing, the question posed to me by the Lord as I read "Ozzies" reflection was this (is this - I haven't resolved this yet): Am I looking for Jesus or with Jesus?

Like a lot of people, when I first became a Christian I remember looking for Jesus all the time: at concerts, camps, and conventions; in books, movies and the newspaper; at school, on vacation and at home. I enjoyed finding Him in all of these places at one time or another, and frequently shared those findings with any who would listen.

Now, it's not that we should ever stop looking for Him, but what I feel God speaking to my heart is that if this is all I do, then our relationship hasn't matured nearly enough - it's still largely the same as it was the day I asked Christ into my life.

Increasingly, I believe that one sure sign of maturing in our faith is when we do less looking for Him and more looking with Him. What's the difference? For involves looking all around for evidence of Him ; With means seeing things as Jesus sees them - people, situations, conditions - and hopefully, responding to them more and more as He would and does.

It's fun looking for Him - it's Christ-like to look with Him. I challenge you today, as He is challenging me, to look increasingly with Him at the world around you. When we choose to do so, we'll never be the same, for we will find our hearts moved by the things that move His. And we'll find His ability to use us mutliplied almost exponentially as we become more available to Him, and ultimately, more like Him!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Big Reveal

I have a confession to make: I really like to watch "Extreme Makeover - Home Edition." Not that I watch it all the time (after all, I am a Cubs fan), but something about watching it just always makes me feel good. Sometimes, schedules and such keep from watching it, and I kind of forget why I love it so much...until I catch the next episode.

About now, some of you are either liking me more or less, depending on your opinion of this show, but hang with me. I've asked myself more than once why this show holds such an attraction for me and I think that finally, I have come up with the answer (or at least an answer): The show hinges on what I call "The Big Reveal."

If you're a fan of EMHE, you know the storyline (it never really changes): Some people who have gone through terrible hardships ask EMHE for a new house, and if their request is accepted, they get a new house built for them that would qualify as a "dream house" for just about anyone watching.

Honestly, many of those applying have gone through things that make my life look absolutely cushy, but while the details differ, the whole idea of suffering and then being rewarded resonates deep within me - and evidently millions of others (as witnessed by the show's longevity and popularity).

So what's The Big Reveal? Come on, you know! It's when the entire family, cast, construction crew & community gather outside the new house and scream, "Move That Bus!" (which until now has obscured the family's view of their new house because of its proximity to them). And the bus drives away, leaving people yelling, cheering, crying, jumping, falling, pounding, etc. with excitement.

And then it hits me...every time...there is a "Big Reveal" coming for all those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ (except on an infinitely grander scale). A moment when, as the Scripture says:

"The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever"
(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Talk about excitement! All of the things that we've struggled against, labored with, endured through & waited against hope for will suddenly be taken away (a la "Move That Bus!") and everything that Christ has prepared for us will be right before our eyes! A dwelling beyond imagination will be ours, and no one can ever take it away!

And that's why my eyes fill with tears, every time, when the "Big Reveal" occurs; not just because I can't wait for that day, but because I am reminded that this is why I am a pastor...this is why by God's grace, I endeavor to love people and extend His grace to them, unconditionally (I don't always succeed).

Not only do I want to be there at "The Big Reveal," but I want to make sure as many people as possible are there with me. Sure, it's probably a little "longing for home" (my eternal home) that stirs within me at every episode, but it's also a longing to share that home with everyone I can. Interested? I'd love to share it with you!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who, Me?

I have been blessed to be able to travel numerous times over the last 25 years - often abroad, and usually on a mission trip. It's always interesting to see just whom the Lord will place by me, but the conversations (if & when the occur) are nearly always predictable, going something like this:
  • ME - Hi, where you headed?
  • THEM - (destination given)
  • ME - (small talk = weather, sports, world news)
  • THEM - (relevant interaction)
  • ME - So what do you do for a living?
  • THEM - (usual description of job, scope, location, years on it, etc.)
  • THEM - And what do you do for a living?
  • ME - (moment of blunt should I be?) Me? Oh, I'm a pastor.
  • THEM - (either they immediately identify with my role and become more "religious" or the conversation concludes in 10 seconds or less)

Because of this, I always wrestle a bit with whether or not to tell them that I am a pastor. I'm not ashamed or anything (quite the opposite), but I've found that, especially in our current culture, revealing my "secret identity" either turns people way "on" or way "off" - and I don't want the relational "bridge" we've been courteously constructing for the past 10-15 minutes to suddenly be gone...along with any opportunity to point them further towards Christ.

This brings me to the topic of the day. Did you know that statistically, you are more likely to nudge an unchurched person toward personal faith in Jesus Christ than I am? What makes the real difference with the unchurched are personal relationships. The majority who find Christ look back and say that it was a friend who influenced them toward faith...a friend like you!

In all my experience, over and over again, people share about someone in relationship with them. This friendship may have been for a lifetime or just a season, but it was the right person at the right time that helped bring them to faith in Christ.

Because of this, I place great confidence in the people of my church! I understand that most of them are far better situated to lead unchurched people to Christ than I am. And I've learned that if I do lead someone to Christ, I will likely be wearing the "friend" hat and not the "pastor" hat.

You, yes, you will in all likelihood be the one who leads the next person you meet to Jesus - either directly or indirectly. Thus, never underestimate the power of genuine friendships with those around you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I remember a bad prank of years ago called, "The Bohemian Mirror." Now, I am not prejudiced at all against people with this ethnic background (they're in my family), but growing up on a farm and attending Prairie High School of Cedar Rapids, Iowa (affectionately called "Cow Pie High"), necessitated that all pranks and jokes involved these people in some way, as they were everywhere!

The joke goes like this: You ask someone, "Do you want to see a Bohemian mirror?" When they say, "Yes!" you begin to motion to them with your hand and say "Come Here" as you encourage them to follow you. What the person on the butt end of the joke doesn't realize is that the prankster is really saying, "Come, Mirror!" It usually takes 30 seconds or so for the one being fooled to realize this, and that as they have been following the prankster around the room, they in essence, have become...they are...the Bohemian mirror, as they go wherever he or she goes.

A bad prank, I know, but it made me think of something deeper...a lot deeper. God's Word makes it clear that we are to reflect Jesus to our world. In other words, when people look at us, they should get a pretty decent picture of what Jesus is like. The key part that struck me in this is that a mirror (us, in this case) will only reflect what it is following...what it is "looking" at.

This means that the only way we can reflect Jesus is to follow Jesus. We can't expect to reflect Him if we are not following Him. Perhaps more importantly, our lives will reflect whatever we are following...good or bad. Kind of raises the stakes on being careful of what we place our focus upon, doesn't it?

Who or What are you focused on...Where are you "looking"...Who are you following? We will each ultimately reflect that on which our focus lies. "For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he" Proverbs 23:7. If I am going to reflect Him, may I always be sure that I am following Him, and not my own ideas or ways!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New Things

"To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did."
I was recently challenged by the above axiom, sent to me from a friend, and it's been sitting on my desk top while I ruminated upon it. I suppose that the corollary to it (a.k.a. "the flip side") would be the more familiar, "Insanity: doing the same things over and over yet expecting different results."

When I look back at the last 50 years (OK - 50 in December), it's amazing as I recount just how true this has been. While it would be foolhardy (and perhaps somewhat boring to you) to recount them all, here's just a snapshot of some of the more memorable ones:
  • To follow God's calling to pastoral ministry, I had to leave the security of the farm life
  • To end up with the wife of my dreams, I had to walk away from the memories of the past
  • To experience the transformational power of cross-cultural ministry, I had to take the leap of faith that God would provide
  • To "step out of the boat" and move to another country, I had to relinquish control over my family
  • To find the home for my family, I had to surrender my ideas of what "success" means in ministry

No, you can't begin to experience "all that God has prepared for those that love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9) while continuing to do what you've always done. You see, as I read Scripture, I don't ever see God do things the same way twice. He's all about doing a "new thing" (Isaiah 43:19). But He seldom, if ever, prys things out of our grasp - He loves us too much to do so. Rather, He patiently waits for us to let go, and then, only then, can His work continue.

What are you longing for Him to do in your life? While there is no "magic formula," I can assure you that one of the things that must happen is a willingness to do something we've never done attitude that says, "Whatever You ask, wherever You lead, whenever You say 'Go!', Lord, I'm ready to obey."

When He finds us with this heart attitude, only heaven can imagine and measure what He will do both with and for us! Are you ready to make this commitment? I'd love to hear your story!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


“To get to where you want to go you've got to know where you are.”

It’s no secret to most of you that I am a pastor (and have been for over 25 years now). With this calling have come some tremendous responsibilities, but also some incredible privileges. While I would never want to try and “rank” either one of those categories, I think it would be safe to say that one of the greatest privileges has been getting to spend so much time in God’s Holy Bible.

I can honestly say that no other book has impacted my life so greatly as this one authored by godly people inspired to write as God’s Spirit led them (2 Peter 1:21). In it I have found comfort, courage, strength, hope, peace, wisdom, direction and perspective (that’s the more “fun” stuff). But I also have found conviction, correction, rebuke, an awareness of sin, and what I believe to be one of the most important, yet troubling aspects of God’s Word: an extremely clear view of myself.

This two-edged sword of the “clear view” has caused many people over the years just to not read God’s Word at all, as they have been uncomfortable with the way this “mirror” reflects the condition of their own hearts, minds and actions. Thus, they set out on life’s journey, goals in mind, but rarely if ever take a look in the “mirror” to see how they’re doing, and as the quote above reminds us, in order to get where you want to go, you must know where you are.

Several years ago, my wife’s grandmother went in for cataract surgery at 85 years old. It wasn’t more than a few minutes after the eye patches were removed that we found her yelling at the doctors for what they had done to her face! The reality is that it had been so long since she had seen herself clearly in a mirror, she had no idea what she really looked like (and the last 10 years had added more than a few wrinkles!). Thus, it must be the doctor's fault!

I want to challenge you to take a good, long, thorough look into the “mirror” of God’s Word. Yes, it can have some uncomfortable moments as you see yourself, but you’ll also gain great comfort in recognizing that the road He has planned for you will take you where you want to go, and help you become what He has designed you to be!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eggs Or Ham

I recently heard a person on TV ask the following question of a friend: "Are you eggs or ham?" I didn't get it at first, but have come to realize that underneath this simple query is a much deeper issue.

Now, you may be way ahead of me, but the facts are this: to get an egg, it is necessary for a chicken to be involved; to get some ham, it is necessary for a pig to give its life. Obviously, the latter requires much more than the former.

Everyday we are asked to give of ourselves to causes, organizations, and needs by surrendering at least portions of our time, talents or resources. And if we're not careful, we can easily confuse which ones should be given how much.

Frankly, I see all around people who have gotten this out of whack - and occasionally, I am one of those people! Some things just need us to be involved - giving of ourselves as we can (not going to venture into which ones for you). Other things require that we be totally committed - you know, changing our schedules, rearranging our priorities and such.

The challenge is figuring out which ones are which - highly motivated by understanding what's at stake if we confuse the two. For me, I love playing sports, and there are numerous benefits at my being involved...but they're at the "eggs" level in my life. But I also love people, and the ripple effects of being involved in relationships with people far transcends that of playing sports. Thus, they're at the "ham" level in my life.

I don't have the answer to your balancing act, but I do know who does - Jesus Christ. And I invite you to seek His wisdom regarding your "eggs" and "ham." Quite possibly, there needs to be a little rearranging to be sure we're not treating "ham" things like "eggs" and vice versa.

Regardless of how we choose, the reverberations will be felt for years, so as the infamous Yoda stated, "Choose wisely, young Skywalker." Better yet, as God's Word says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (James 1:5).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Oil & Water

Sorry I missed you last week - actually got away to Indiana for a few day. It was the first time we'd seen my mother-in-law there since she lost her husband on Good Friday. A great time together, but quite busy and emotional...both to be expected.

While traveling, the Lord and I were having quite a dialog regarding some things in my life that are needing tuned up. We're just not happy with the level of excellence He's getting from me. In this midst of this listening (my part) and speaking (His part), He used a potent illustration to help me grow.

We're all familiar with how incompatible oil and water are: they just don't mix. Matter of fact, a few weeks back I had talked about this in a Children's message at my church, reminding our kids of the importance of having good Christian friendships. Little did I know then that the teaching was going to continue in my own life (not that I'm surprised).

God continued my education with this illustration by helping me to see that it goes way beyond just friendships: it goes to the things of God and the things of this world...period. Let me try to clarify. When I (or any one) attempt to live a life that is a swirling mixture of both what the world embraces and what Christ embraces, my life is no better than a mixture of oil and water. If I (or anyone) insist on trying to maintain this mixture, I end up with a combination that has lost ALL of its usefulness.

Think about it: apart, both oil and water are quite useful, oil as fuel (among other things) and water as a source of life (among other things). But if I insist on combining them, I lose both, ending up with a mixture with no usefulness as fuel (it will ruin an engine), and actually deadly in regards to sustaining life (a tablespoon will contaminate thousands of gallons of water). Trying to live off of this, it doesn't take long to find me without any usable fuel in my tank and dying of thirst in my soul.

How about you? Are you trying to live life on a deadly mixture? Wondering why there's not more power in your tank? The "oil" of the world and the "water" of Christ are not intended to mix! I invite you to take a good look at what you're trying to live on, and if you find this deadly combination, determine to once again drink deeply of only the water of life that Christ provides!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Success - who doesn't want to enjoy it or to be one? I sure do! But if you're anything like me, it can be a little confusing as to exactly what "Success" looks like. To some it's measured by money, to others by academic degrees. Still others insist that it's best evaluated by the size of my house, make of my car or whether or not I possess a "trophy wife" (which I do...for almost 25 years now!).

Because of the diversity of measurement in this area, coupled with the fact that the "standard" is a moving target, I have found great security and comfort in discovering what God's Word has to say about the topic (and it's said the same thing for several thousand years now).

You probably know by now that I like acronymns because they help me to remember things, and a thing remembered is a step closer to being a thing learned. This is what I take away from God's Word when I look at what He thinks about it.

Single Focus - Philippians 3:13
Understanding of the Word - 2 Timothy 2:15
Contentment - Philippians 4:11-12
Character - Psalm 15
Empathy for Others - Ephesians 4:32
Submission to God - James 4:7
Self Control - 1 Peter 5:8

A lot easier to spell out than to live, to be sure, and more than enough to keep me occupied for my remaining years as I seek to put into action what I know! I don't know if you looked up the verses above or not, but I challenge you to do so...make yourself familiar with them. Then why not join me in the pursuit of true success? You will never regret it, and are assured of a "Well Done" when we see Jesus face to face!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gifts & Calling

I am privileged to meet with a group of area clergy (male and female) on a monthly basis in one of our local coffee shops. The conversation is always stimulating, and recently, got especially interesting via our reading of a book together, "Joshua and the Shepherd" (1990, Joseph Girzone).

The question that consumed us on a particular Thursday morning was not an expressly "religious" question (meaning applicable only to clergy) but is rooted in how we perceive and understand God. Because of a struggle in a main character in our book, we began to wrestle with this question: Does God always gift a person to do a particular vocation to which He calls them?

At a pastoral level, a real-life example might be, "Would God call a person to be a minister and grant them no social skills?" Or, "Would God call a person to be a pastor and grant them no gifts of communication?" Or how about this one: "Would God call a person to priesthood and not grant them the gift of celibacy?" Boy, did it get animated!

At a non-pastoral level, it might look more like this: "Would God call you to be a teacher and give you no communication gifts?" Or, "Would God call you to be an engineer and grant you no perceptional/visualization gifts?" Or, "Would God call you to be an artist and grant you no creative gifts?" Our conclusion? We haven't arrived at one yet! What do you think?

I'm kind of in the middle on this one. Personally, I believe that what God calls you to, He equips you for. But, where I might differ from some is whether or not He always gifts you for it. Our world is filled with people who were not gifted, but became remarkable because of an immense amount of study, preparation and hard work in an area that intrigued or compelled them.

What I also believe is that if God calls you to some particular thing, He may gift you for it, He may wire you for it, or He may grant the grace and strength to develop whatever it takes to fulfill that calling. For some, it may appear to come easily (doing what they're called to do). For others, they may have an inescapable compulsion to pursue a calling largely foreign to them. And for yet others, the calling may be so clear to them that they will forsake all else and give everything to become what is needed to fulfill it - no matter how hard or challenging the route may be.

What I know, is that no matter what God has called you to, the most important thing in the world is for you to do it - no matter what it takes. I grew up being told, "If God calls you to be a pastor, don't stoop to be a king," but I believe equally, "If God calls you to be a ________ (fill in the blank), don't stoop to be a pastor." If God calls you, to quote an overused but accurate phrase, "JUST DO IT!" You'll never regret living life His way!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I have a friend named Carl who loves to look for rocks. Not just any old rocks, mind you, but exceptional rocks - rocks that catch the eye because of their shape, color, structure or sparkle. Most any day that it's not raining (which recently, hasn't been that often), you'll find Carl outside, patiently going over the tens of thousands of rocks that can be found outside his retirement community. Like clockwork, when Carl's been looking, I know that I'll be seeing his latest finds!

One thing about hunting for "keepers" - rocks that he's going to take to his room - is that it takes a lot of time. Finding "keepers" is not something you do in 5 minutes a day, and frequently takes you back over the same ground you covered not more than a few days ago, for you just don't know what you might have missed!

It occurred to me this morning that Carl's looking for "keepers" is a lot like our reading of God's Word (something I hope you do on a regular basis): to find God's "keepers" (truths that touch our hearts, minds and lives) takes more than 5 minutes a day - it takes looking often and persistently. It also frequently takes us over "ground" we've covered before. Another friend of mine stated just yesterday how amazed he is that no matter how often he reads his Bible, he finds something new every time!

Now, this taking of time and devoting it to finding God's "keepers" goes against the fast-paced lifestyles that most of us lead. Like a driver who, because he is always in a hurry to get to his next destination, never fills up his gas tank but puts in just $5 worth of gas every time, it can be easy for us to do the same, spiritually speaking, and never really "fill 'er up." Problem is, he's always worried about running out of gas!

If you're not doing so already, I want to challenge you to take your 5 minutes in God's Word and double least. Use this expanded opportunity to "fill 'er up" and I believe that your discovery of "keepers" will increase exponentially. Plus, you won't ever have to worry about running out of "gas" (God's strength & peace).

And once you find some "keepers," I'd love to hear about them! Matter of fact, I'm betting that once you've found them, like Carl, you won't be able to not talk about them and show them to others!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Purposes of Trials

I've been privileged to lead a Bible study on Genesis at Highland Ridge Senior Living Community since the first of the year. Taking one chapter at a time, we've nearly made it half way through, though the lessons go far beyond our time together!

As we've looked at Abraham, the question has come up repeatedly: Why would God allow such difficult things in the life of a Christian? Though it's a gross injustice to the process we've been in (because it's taken weeks to arrive at our conclusions and only moments to type them), I believe that today we hit upon some keys - keys that are just as true today as they were who knows how many thousands of years ago when Abraham undoubtedly wrestled with the same question. Here's our conclusions:
  • To Develop Our Faith - 1 Peter 1:7. Faith, like a muscle, must not only be exercised in order to grow, it must also be pushed beyond it's current limits. Without question, trials do this!

  • To Reveal Us to Us - Hebrews 4:12. God knows us, so He is not out to test us so that He can see what we're made of. No, rather, He allows trials so that we can see what we're made of - do we actually practice what we say we believe when the heat is on? Or do we have a lot more growing to do than we like to let on? Once we've seen ourselves accurately, God's grace to us takes on a whole new meaning!

  • To Reveal God to Us - Isaiah 55:8-9. Sadly, it is often only when we feel we have no other option that we turn to God and ask for help. Fortunately, He is more than ready to step in...after our faith has grown and we've seen ourselves clearly.

Believe it or not, God often allows these tough times because He loves us, and His love will not allow us to be less than we can be (love never does). I don't know what you are facing right now, but whatever it is, embrace it as an opportunity to Grow your Faith, Get a good look at Yourself, and see God in a totally new and bigger Way!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

God's Word

"The word of God is like a mirror in that it shows us who we really are. It is like a map because it shows us where we need to go. It is like a portrait for it paints for us a picture of who God is."

The truth of the statement above can be seen in these tendencies (shared by me):
  • Far too many people stay away from God's Word for fear of what reflection they may behold in the "mirror." While seeing ourselves as we are can be a bit intimidating, only in doing so will we ever get to be what we're designed to become!
  • Far too many people stay away from God's Word because they don't like someone offering counsel on what to do (or where to "drive"). Insisting in going wherever they want to go, they, sadly, never get to the destination that their heart longs for!
  • And finally, far too many people stay away from God's Word because of what they think God looks like (judgmental, harsh, unfair, narrow-minded). In staying with what they think He is like, they never get to know what He is truly like!

Don't be like "far too many people"! Take a good look in the "mirror" and you'll see who you are and who you are becoming; where to go and the benefits of going; who God is and who He desires to be in your life!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Rare Treat

I had the unique and rare privilege of taking my wife to a concert last Friday. It was unique because it was one of our very favorite artists, Mark Schultz, and rare because the number of concerts we've attended together in over 25 years could be counted on one hand!

If you know anything about Mark Schultz, he has a remarkable gift from God which he displays, more often than not, by writing what I'll call "story songs" - songs which tell a poignant story in usually 5 minutes or less, and nearly always leave you with tears in your eyes (or streaming down your face).

As he sang, shared and ministered, there were a dozen things I could have taken away from that night, but the one that stood out most came from a friend of his who had heard one of Mark's newest songs for the first time. His friend's remark went something like this: "I knew if you stayed around here this would happen - YOU would stop writing songs and GOD would start writing them."

Now, most of us would give about anything to have the kind of gifts and talents that Mark Schultz possesses, but it occurs to me that, no matter what kind of abilities we've been given, the same potential, the same possibility exists for each of us. Think about it; couldn't you take most anything you do and put it into this sentence: "I knew this would happen - if you'll stop _________, God will start _________."
  • If you'll stop impressing people with you, God will start impressing people with Himself.
  • If you'll stop trying to win all the time, God will start giving you real victories.
  • If you'll stop taking care of you first, God will start taking care of you best.
  • If you'll stop worrying about tomorrow, God will start improving today.
  • If you'll stop living primarily for yourself, God will start showing you the joy in others.
  • If you'll stop carrying the hurts of the past, God will start revealing your great future.

See, you have the same potential to touch lives that Mark Schultz does, in your own, God-given ways. Don't underestimate what He wants to...what He can do with you if you'll just let Him.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Every once in a while, an "older" idea resurfaces in my life, and such was the case earlier this week. This "old" idea (relatively speaking) had to do with Worship - what it is and what it is meant to look like in the life of a Christian. If you are an attender of North English Christian Church, you might even remember us talking about this before.

I think that the reason it came up again was a growing awareness of my own inadequacy at it, and a nudge from God's Spirit that I haven't been doing near enough of it. I'm sure that if I saw what is available to me from God and compared it to what I actually utilize, I would be quite embarrassed that far too often, I settle for far too little; not with what I attain, but in what I seek...what I dare to ask of God (and expect). Worship is no different!

This little acronym has helped me in times past, and I am committed to praying living it...more than ever, lest I settle for "crumbs from under the table" when God has prepared for me a "banquet" beyond imagination! Here goes the acronmyn:

W - Wondering at God's majesty & the beautiful intricacies of His plan
O - Offering myself to Him to be filled, corrected & used
R - Removing the obstacles to my relationship with Him (past, present & future)
S - Submitting myself to Him = beyond offering, to actually yielding any resistance
H - Hearing His voice so that I may maintain direction & purpose in my life
I - Inviting His wisdom so that I do not succumb to "common sense"
P - Proclaiming His name so that there is never a doubt as to Who gets the credit or in Whom salvation lies (not me!)

Not the only definition of Worship on the market, but a clarion call as to what my life should consist of...what it must consist of...if I am going to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever" (Westminster Catechism).

When's the last time you worshipped like this? When you were a worshipper like this? If it's been a while, why not take care of that issue right now - He's waiting for you...for always!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Living & Life

As you might expect, we had a great celebration of Mothers at our service last Sunday, and in some respects, of all women who are seeking to be "The Greatest Woman of All" (at least in God's eyes). It was beautiful and hopefully, every woman there left feeling affirmed and encouraged - if not by their present, at least with their future!

As we looked at what God says makes a great Mom (and woman), it struck me that it really could be summed up in this simple statement: People who focus on making a LIVING end up being remembered with only a headstone; people who focus on making a LIFE end up being remembered with a legacy and don't even need a headstone!

Great moms are classic in this arena: they are not bound by their past, they put their families first, they serve humbly and foster a godly heritage. My mom never focused on making a living and consequently, contributed greatly to making a life - not only for her family then, but for my family now.

In a very real sense, when you focus on making a life, the people around you and those who come after you are your headstone, for they become a legacy that will be around for untold generations, impacting infinitely more people than any headstone ever will!

The Apostle Paul grasped this when, in 2 Corinthians, he stated: "You are our letter, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." This only happens when we focus on making a life and not a living. So which one are you giving yourself to? Thanks, Mom, for choosing to make a life!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I have a confession to make: I am a weather nut! Yes it's true - I am one of those people who has enabled The Weather Channel to gain its unprecedented fan base, and am more than a little embarrassed to tell you how many of their weather reporter's names I actually know! Worse yet, I have successfully passed my ideosyncrasy onto my only son. If you ever want to know the forecast for the next 7 days, no matter where you live, just ask him and he can probably tell you!

This preoccupation with the weather hasn't been all bad, though, and recently, as I was observing a gathering storm on the horizon, I made a rather profound observation (at least to me) that you probably had figured out a long time ago: storm clouds are deceptive. Not just with their wind, direction and intensity, but in their very appearance.

Haven't you ever noticed how black a cloud can look when gathering, but how gray it can become when you're in the midst of it? Just what causes this phenomenon? It all lies in whether or not the sun is shining on the cloud. Short version? Only when the sun is shining on the storm cloud can you see how black it really is; apart from the sunshine, even the blackest cloud becomes merely gray (and not nearly so threatening in appearance).

And then God gave me His nearly routine "ah-ha" moment when I realized how much this is like sin in our lives. Take your pick of a growing list of things that are sinful and you'll find that apart from the Light which Christ brings, most of them usually don't look that bad. Gray and questionable maybe, but never black!

But take that same sin and expose it to the Light of Christ and you will instantly see it for what it is: black, dangerous and destructive. So what do we tend to do? A brief glance of the culture around us...even the Christian culture...and it is readily apparent that the easiest thing to do is to surround the black clouds with other black clouds as we attempt to convince ourselves and others that our "cloud" really isn't that bad.

What should we do? Take that black cloud (which by this time is barely gray and certainly not dangerous) and expose it to the Light of Christ. Then see what it looks like! His light will always show it for what it is, and hopefully, with a clear view of our "cloud," we will realize the danger it contains and the importance of getting as far away from it as possible.

Yes, storm clouds can be very deceptive, but only we can be deceived. 2 Corinthians 2 closes with these words, "...for we are not ignorant of his (Satan's) schemes." Don't be fooled by the appearance of those storm clouds. Stay in the Light and you never will be!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Has it ever occurred to you that Light is always generated at the expense of the thing that generates it? A candle has its wax, a campfire its logs, the star in the night sky its combustible mixture of gases and even the flashlight in your drawer at home its batteries. And not a one of them can produce Light without consuming something else.

To me, this strikes especially close to home when I consider Jesus' words in Matthew 5:16 - "Let your light shine before men..." What makes His words so significant in "light" of our exchange today is that in order for us to "let our light shine" (yes, just like the song you learned as a child), it is imperative (a.k.a. non-negotiable, critical, vital, crucial, very important, essential) that we be tapped into the inextinguishable One (Jesus Christ - The Light), or we, too, will be consumed in our lighting of other peoples' lives.

If you're a frequent reader of this blog, you know that we've touched on the area of Rest recently, and this topic is not far removed from it. You see, there is no amount of good-intentions, pure-motives, sincere-heartedness that will ensure a supply that will not be exhausted in well-doing. The only thing that will guarantee that is being connected to the limitless supply found in Jesus Christ.

I don't mind being a light for Jesus...not at all...even burning for Him, but I dare not allow myself to burn out for Him. The ripple effects of that would be profound, and not represent well at all what God had in mind when He put me here...or you! Reconnect with Him today...and let that Light shine!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rest - Part 2

When it became clear to me what God had for me to write this week, I was sure that we had talked about this before, and checking past posts, sure enough we had! The fact that He brought it up again obviously means I still haven't "got it," so here's what's on my heart today (and I believe on His heart also).

I've had posted in my office for some time now words from Isaiah 30:15. I draw on them for strength, wisdom and encouragement. But true to American form, while I printed out the whole verse, I continually drew upon only part of it (why do we do this?).

The part I had gotten quite familiar with is the last half, which reads, "In quietness and trust is your strength." Great words, but only half of what God intended for me to get out it. It had challenged me to quiet myself and draw upon the strength that He provides more than once, and I still love it.

But look at the first half of the verse: "In repentance and rest you will be saved..." I don't know about you, but nearly every day I need saving of some type - from errant words, thoughts, deeds, attitudes & desires - usually just from myself! And while quieting myself was a good step in the right direction in achieving this, without the "rest" of the verse (bad pun?), I was still experiencing stress & frustration.

Quieting is good, trusting even better, but without the "repentance and rest" I am going to spin my wheels much more often than I like...or need to. Which means, I need a spiritual tune-up in these areas: turning from what I know to be wrong (the essence of the word "repent" means "to turn away from" - not "do less of" or "tolerate better") and taking...making space to rest.

This doesn't mean just getting more sleep, but disengaging from need-meeting (strategically & opportunistically) and plugging into things that feed me. Family, outdoors, a good movie, a good book and plain old quiet work for me! Unfortunately, for far too long I have far too often treated these things as optional.

I know I need about you? Why not think proactively with me about really repenting...really resting? Not only will we benefit, but as is always the case with God, everyone else will benefit as well!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

God Is Good...All the Time?

Some years ago while pastoring in El Cajon, California, Christian musician, Don Moen, made popular a song entitled "God Is Good, All the Time." We quickly incorporated it into our worship times at church and have found ourselves humming this song and quoting this phrase ever since. As catchy as it may be, seems kind of important to know if it is indeed true.

At the risk of boring you, I thought one of the best ways to help you settle this in your own heart would be to recap the most recent events of our lives. It's a little long, so bear with me, but I'm sure you'll identify with at least parts of it (hopefully with the conclusion, too!):
  • March 25 - received word that my father-in-law was hospitalized in Florida (concern)
  • March 26 - rode with my parents to Chicago to celebrate my son's (Jordan's) graduation (great family time)
  • March 27 - drove back to North English in time to catch the English Valleys spring play (with numerous teens from our church involved)
  • March 28 - after regular church services, hustled over to Highland Ridge Senior Living Community (where I chaplain) for our annual Memorial Service, remembering 21 residents who went to be with the Lord in the last 12 months
  • March 28 - received word that my father-in-law's condition was becoming critical
  • March 29 - flew my wife, Tonya, to Florida to join her mom & sister at her dad's bedside (time for my Mr. Mom hat - pizza every night!).
  • March 30 - attended induction ceremony for my daughter, Hannah, into the National Honor Society (Tonya missed this, of course)
  • March 30 - received word that Tonya's dad wasn't going to be leaving the hospital - ever
  • March 31 - school conferences for both girls with great reports & compassion from the school staff
  • April 1 - beautiful Maundy Thursday service with final Community Choir rehearsal for our Easter musical
  • April 2 - received word that Tonya's dad passed away in the early hours of Good Friday
  • April 2 - three Good Friday communion services at Highland Ridge with a touching community Tenebrae service later
  • April 3 - Community Choir Easter musical @ Highland Ridge; food and cards begin pouring in
  • April 4 - largest turnout in memory for Easter morning Resurrection service, with breakfast and Community Choir Easter musical performed
  • April 4 - Tonya arrives back in Iowa (hurray!); entire extended Statler clan gathers at my parents' home for annual meal & Easter egg hunt
  • April 5 - my 16-year-old daughter (Hannah) gets her driver's license
  • April 5 - we celebrate my daughter's birthday with a new used car, homemade decorations and her favorite cheesecake!
  • April 5 - my son, Jordan, has his first "real" job interview and is hired for his first "real" job on the spot (10 days after graduation) just 40 minutes from our home
  • April 5 - determination is made to have funeral on Friday; I determine that we will not be back to Iowa for Sunday services (which means I have to "hand off" a Worship Committee meeting, church service, a Care Center service and an Interchurch Council meeting - good for me to do and covered wonderfully by caring, capable friends)
  • April 6 - on pure faith, Jordan & I head to Oxford, Iowa, (20 minutes from his job) and find an unbelievable, unlisted apartment for him that we didn't even know existed when we left the driveway (a huge story here, but not the time or place to tell it all)
  • April 7 - we leave for Indiana for Tonya's dad's (Bob's) funeral with 2 vehicles
  • April 7 - we make the deposit for Jordan's apartment on the way to Indiana
  • April 7 - we leave one vehicle at his current apartment in Chicago
  • April 7 - we arrive in Indiana at 1:00 a.m. April 8 (I prepare a Powerpoint slideshow of Bob's life while Tonya drives; God saves us from a car accident)
  • April 8 - spend the morning preparing for visitation; visitation for nearly 6 hours with hundreds in attendance
  • April 9 - Bob's funeral with hundreds in attendance; the most beautiful service I've ever seen (Tonya & I both play supporting roles in this, and Tonya shares letters from our 3 kids written to Grandpa before his death)
  • April 10 - spend the day going through Bob's things with his wife - discussing plans
  • April 11 - drive back to Chicago, load my son's apartment into both vehicles (barely), then drive to Oxford where we unload it all after signing his lease (only his name)
  • April 12 - I show up at Highland Ridge in hopes of catching up, only to have to move my office as we prepare to make more apartments for new residents

Was all that transpired fun & good? No way! Were parts of this hard at times? Unquestionably! Did it demand all we had? Every ounce! Did we see God's hand move in miraculous ways? More than you'll ever know from this blog!

Having finished an unbelievable 3 weeks, I and my family can tell you, with more confidence than ever, that indeed, "God is good, all the time!" As Jesus told the crowd at Lazarus' death in John 11, "If you believe, you will see the glory of God!"

P.S. No car accidents for Hannah, Jordan is moved into his own place and starts his new job on Monday!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Never Goodbye!

Well...he's least from this earth. On Good Friday morning at approximately 9:32 a.m., my wife's (Tonya's) father (Bob) ended his existence here and began his new one in eternity with the Savior he could "only imagine" until that moment. Nearly unconscious his last 48 hours, the tears at his passing were a genuine combination of grief and relief. Thanks for all the prayers and support!

But what a marvelous day to be welcomed home by the Savior! Good Friday will never be the same for us again, as each passing year will prove to be a double reminder of God's goodness: in giving His Son for us and in giving us Bob Appleman - father, husband, grandfather and man of God - for his 81 years (about 48 in our collective memories as his kids and grandkids).

O sure, I cried - God made us that way - but the grief was short-lived as every single preparation for the Easter holiday (and they were multitudinous - had to spellcheck that word) reminded me that, as a good friend shared with me years ago, "as believers, we never say 'Goodbye' - only 'See you later!'" I am so grateful for the godly heritage he was intent on modeling, as it gave me an incredible wife, and thus, some great kids!

With the memorial service pending for this Friday, I am sure that there will be tears again; but I am also sure that they will not rule the day. No, there is far too much to celebrate for grief to have the upper hand! We will remember, laugh, be touched, learn again and count ourselves blessed for the life of this one single man...and eagerly look forward to the day when we will be reunited again - not just in hope, but in certainty! Do you have that certainty??? I pray so!!!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Funny (not really - just a figure of speech) how one phone call, sounding like all the rest as it rings, can take a day (week, month, year or life) and turn it on its ear. Such has been the experience of our family over the past few days.

Having just returned home from my son's (Jordan's) graduation from UTI in Chicago (some great pictures of that event on my Facebook account), I had just about gotten settled back in for a very demanding week when came "the call." In a matter of moments, our week went from one filled with certainty to one that continues to be in this moment, very uncertain.

"The Call" was the one where we discovered that Tonya's dad had been hospitalized in Florida (where her parents winter) because of his inability to breath. While we knew he had been dealing with this for a long time, it had never reached this degree of severity. In the hours that followed, we were told that barring a miracle, he would not be going home...he was not going to get better...he was not going to be with us much longer.

Many of you have experienced the flurry of activity that happened next: plane ticket purchased (man, do they gouge you on that one!); school & work schedules adjusted; family contacted; and a long sleepless night as you are filled with the uncertainty of whether or not you can get there before he is gone.

After my parents got Tonya to the airport early Monday (thanks!), I began working on the wave of other uncertainties: Tonya is one of our key singers (Easter musical twice this week); Tonya has the special music and plays the piano at our Maundy Thursday service; Tonya gets the kids back and forth from school & work; Tonya has food waiting when I get home for supper; Tonya is playing a special piece for our Resurrection service Sunday. Parent teacher conferences & Honor Society inductions to attend & celebrate...somehow. Uncertainty, uncertainty, uncertainty.

But then the certainties started rolling in: people to fill the gaps in food, transportation, work, piano playing, singing, and most importantly, a vast array of praying people gathered around us and the needs of the moment. And believe it or not, these are the little things (not unimportant, just not most important).

In the category of "Most Important," we found rest in the certainty of her dad's (Bob's) life well-lived for Christ - a life that guarantees when his eyes close here they'll open in eternity with Jesus. Comfort was secured again in the certainty that her mom would be taken care of and loved for however many years she has.

We have found the greatest rest in knowing that God is absolutely in control of the entire situation. Oh sure, the week has brought numerous unknowns & uncertainties, but it has brought into razor-sharp focus what we know for sure. And there is no amount of uncertainty that can diminish the certainties that bring us strength, hope and peace. We pray that you have that assurance as well!