Tuesday, December 23, 2008


About ten years ago Carol and I visited London for a few days, including Royal Albert Hall, the great round theater built in memory of Queen Victoria's husband. The tour included walking past the royal box where the queen and her family would sit during a performance.

Visiting such places that acknowledge royalty, one has a feeling that great rulers would not quite understand how common people feel. They are surrounded by opulence, privilege, servants, bodyguards and fanfare as they live the same 24 hour day as you and I do. But they almost live in another world.

When Queen Elizabeth II recently visited the United States, she brought four thousand pounds of luggage, including two outfits for every occasion, a mourning outfit in case someone died, forty pints of plasma, and white kid-leather toilet seat covers. She brought along her own hairdresser, two valets, at least one physician and a host of other attendants. Her brief visit to America cost five million dollars!

In meek contrast, the Almighty God's visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with only two attendants and nowhere to lay the newborn child but a feed trough. The birth of the King of kings, the event that divided history and even our calendar into two parts, had more animal than human witnesses. He had so little security that a mule could have stepped on him.

We humans, even the most poor, are so privileged. Most astronomers believe there is no other planet anywhere among the millions of solar systems that would support life as we have it. Almighty God our Creator has so arranged the atoms of our bodies that we think, love, feel gratitude and believe, activities that no other creatures are capable of. And in this blessed season, we give thanks that we are so privileged as to be loved by our Creator. 

The birth of Jesus is love come down from heaven. May you find extra joy in these days, the joy the surpasses any hint of sadness the world may bring you.

A Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008


This time of year for me is frustrating, because I don't know what Christmas gifts to get certain people in my life. Family members often ask, “What would you like for Christmas?” But I think a gift should be something we choose, a surprise to the recipient, something that shows we put thought into it.

Gifts need not be expensive. Cost should not determine whether it's good or right. Years ago I recall an old gent saying he told his family, “If I can't eat it, drink it or spend it, I don't want it.” That's a bit harsh and limiting, but at least he was honest.

There was a time when most Christmas gifts were made by the givers. Today, few people make their Christmas gifts, but some still do. Certain holiday foods, crafts, or framed photos are always welcome. And if we get something we don't particularly like, we still need to be grateful, and show it.

If you're having trouble with your gift list, here are some “home-made” gifts that only you can give. One of these might be just the thing for a certain person in your life.

++ Mend a quarrel - apologize if you were wrong.
++ Dismiss suspicion and be friendly.
++ Tell someone you love them.
++ Give something valuable anonymously.
++ Forgive someone who has treated you wrongly, and tell them.
++ Thank someone who has made a big difference in your life.
++ Turn away anger with a soft answer.
++ Thank all the store clerks who serve you.
++ Visit someone in a nursing home.
++ Tell a child the story of the first Christmas.
++ Be especially kind to someone with whom you work.
++ Give Christmas cookies, especially ones you've made.

Gift-giving at Christmas began when God gave us His Son Jesus to be our Savior from the curse of sin. Jesus is the perfect gift - we all need Him, and we need never return him for another size. So whatever you give, do it as God has given to you in Christ, without obligation, or reservation, or hypocrisy.

And give it with love!

Monday, December 8, 2008


During a typical lunch hour at the University of California at Berkeley, spokesmen for or against a dozen different causes can be found on the plaza, most of them trying to "out-shout" one another. One day a lone figure sat down in the middle of the noisy crowd and held up a sign that said, "SILENT PROTEST." Someone asked him, "What are you protesting?" The young man held up another sign which said, "NOISE."

This time of year there is a lot of noise about Christmas, also for or against. In an eastern city a Salvation Army woman was informed by a policeman that a local ordinance prevented her from ringing her bells to invite contributions. But a new law did not stop this inventive woman. The next day she did a more brisk business than ever as she stood by her red kettle and waved one sign and then another in the air. The signs said, "DING!" and "DONG!"

There is much noise in our world, especially in these days that lead up to Christmas. Whether it's music blaring out of stores or impatient customers raising their voices; whether it's the honking of horns in overcrowded parking lots or small children crying in the toy section; whether it's athiests griping or Christians complaining, there is a lot of noise to contend with in this season. And the sad truth is that if you really want to be heard right now, you are probably going to have to shout.

Noise during Advent is nothing new. John the Baptizer shouted his message in the desert, "Prepare the way of the Lord!" (Mark 1:3) John may have shouted just to get people's attention. People of his day were distracted by worldly things just as we are. Spokesmen for diverse causes always need an audience, but John's "cause" was eternal. He was preparing a decaying world for the eternal Savior. His message would lead people to follow a man who was born amid the singing of angels and the bleating of sheep. The Prince of Peace was born into a land which has known little peace.

My prayer for each one reading this message is that during this noisy Advent/Christmas season you will find some time for peace and quiet. May it be in bedside prayer at night, or with your Bible in the morning. May you find peace in your room or inside your car on the freeway. Peace doesn't depend on what is outside your ears; it depends on what is inside your heart.

May the Prince of Peace calm your troubled heart.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Last week a friend wrote, "Where do you come up with all these stories?" Sometimes they're hard to come up with, so I have to repeat something. Not this week. It will be just some ramblings. Sometimes rambling is the most profound thing we do all day.

By the way, it's Advent - time to get ready for Christ's coming. He came the first Advent in the event we call Christmas, and He will come again in the second Advent on the Day of Judgment. Life between the advents seems to be getting more and more complex, although it's really not. We live, we love, we work, we trust (or not) and we hope we can be part of something good in this crazy, wonderful life God gives us to live.

Years ago there was a TV game show, "Truth or Consequences," and that title has always intrigued me. Today we tend not to face either. Truth is what we try to make it, and consequences we think we can avoid. But the truth is beyond us. Truth is not the opinion with the most votes; it comes from God. Truth is what we don't want to face - the consequences are too difficult, too scarey. Truth is that Christ will one day come in judgment, and that makes us very uncomfortable. The way we live, it should.

The other day Carol gave me a box with an amaryllis bulb in it, or what was left of one. She got it as a gift last year and it got lost on a shelf. It was dry, like a hollow onion, ready for the trash, but something made me keep it. I found a container, followed the instructions, added soil and poured on water. Two weeks later it is sprouting leaves at an alarming rate. This thing that was hollow and dead will be two feet tall by Christmas and may give us a flower. It looked like nothing but now it is something, and it will probably be quite nice.

Can we be renewed and restored, like that bulb? Have we gone past the point of no return? Are we ready for the trash? I don't think so. God doesn't give up on us so easily. He's not done with us yet.

Six centuries ago we were in the "Dark Ages," a time when thinking was suppressed and the future was bleak. It was a time when a few controlled the many, when there was poverty of both body and soul. A man named Martin Luther helped usher us out of that age. He brought the Water of Life to the shell of the church, and with God's grace and mercy the Gospel bloomed forth once again.

Christmas is about Christ coming to earth to take consequences of our sin on Himself. We may be entering a new "Dark Age." If we are, I hope it won't be a long time, and I pray there will be someone else to rescue the dying bulb of Truth, to water it, and to help make God's Truth bloom freely once again.

They thought He was dead, too!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, old Eddie walked to the pier with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to him and he would feed them. Many years before, in October, 1942, this same man, then a much younger man known as Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea.

But somewhere over the South Pacific his Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran out, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean. For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, weather, and scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five, the biggest shark, ten feet long.

But of all their enemies at sea, the one proved most formidable was starvation. Eight days out, their rations were gone, and it would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle did occur. Captain William Cherry had finished Bible reading and a prayer for deliverance and they had sung a hymn of praise. With hats pulled down over their eyes to keep out some of the glare, the men tried to doze off.

But then something landed on Captain Eddie's head, and somehow he knew it was a sea gull. He and his men stared at the big bird, for it meant food. Captain Eddie caught the seagull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and they were all rescued because one lone sea gull, hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.

Captain Eddie made it back and he never forgot. After he retired and until he died, every Friday evening, at about sunset, the old man filled his bucket to feed the gulls, and to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle, like manna in the wilderness, so all could live. And until he died, he never neglected to give them thanks.

Now that's something to remember on Thanksgiving Day!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Now and then I enjoy watching a dog show on TV. Not a show with a dog who rescues a little boy, but a real dog show - where the impeccably dressed dog owners parade around polished pedigreed pooches to show off their unique canine quality. These dogs have been trained to stand confidently with chins lifted high, their shiny coats carefully brushed and styled, as they are poked and prodded by judges. To me, they all look like winners.

But when the audience is gone, I wonder what these dogs are really like? Do they ever relax and let their sleek fur get matted in the mud? Do they nip at each other, or even at their master? Do they ever get "doggie breath?" Do their masters let them have a little fun or is life always training for the show?

But a more important question is what are we really like when no one is watching. Someone once said "Integrity is what you are when no one is watching."  In Matthew 23:2-7, Jesus rebuked those who were interested in how they looked in public rather than how they were seen by God. Jesus wants us all to be obedient, faithful and committed to Him, even when nobody else is looking. The Pharisees focused on the way they were perceived by others. God's focus is on what we're like inside. His desire is for us to be like His Son.

We are not in competition with other Christians. God will never ask us to compete for "Best In Show." He measures us by the perfect standard of His Son. St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:13, "Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

And because we cannot ever measure up, He forgives us and by the Holy Spirit's power helps us do better. Jesus' whole life is for us. Everything He did was to make us perfect in God's eyes.

God loves us just as we are, but He won't let us stay that way for long.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


It was Sunday morning in a small church in the south. About a hundred or so people were present to hear the Word of God, sing His praises and have fellowship together. Little six-year-old Tommy Jackson was full of vim and vinegar, squirming when he should be sitting and jabbering when he should be quiet. Pastor's sermon that day was on prayer and it was appropriate, for Tommy's Mom and Dad had been praying for him to be quiet all morning. But to no avail. Tommy would not sit still and would not be quiet.

Finally during the offering Tommy dropped a hymnal on the floor with a loud bang and he blurted out. "Damn!" His mortified Dad grabbed him by the seat of his pants, tossed him over his shoulder and headed down the aisle for the back door. Everyone, Tommy included, knew what was coming next. Just as he disappeared out the door, Tommy said loudly, "Y'all pray for us!"

It's time to pray for our country. We've been acting out and irritating each other when we need to be quiet and hear the voice of God. The economy has had us squirming and the election has had us jabbering nonsense. In general, we've become immature children who need to be taken to the woodshed. What we really need is to sit still and to pray for each other and for our country.

"Y'all pray for us!" I was encouraged last Sunday when my pastor, an Air National Guard chaplain, prayed for our president-elect. I know he didn't vote for him, but that didn't stop him from leading us in prayer for him. I was encouraged by several articles in the newspaper which told of churches praying for our nation and all its leaders. But besides prayer, I believe our elected officials need to be taken to the woodshed. Never have I seen so much self-centeredness and foolish talk coming from the mouths of those who should know better.

"Y'all pray for us!" Yes, pray a lot, and to the True God, not some idea that blends all gods into one. Pray for our nation and our leaders to grow up and stop acting like selfish children. Pray for churches to lead according to God's Word and not the latest opinion poll. Pray for courts to stop treating humans like throw-aways. Pray for the family to be protected from those who would destroy it. Pray for our soldiers to defeat the enemy and come home. Pray for youth to grow up and be the responsibile adults so many of us have failed to be.

"Y'all pray for us!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


On this National Election Day, I would like to give you this small poem to consider. It can help calm our hearts, and give us all hope for the future:

"GATE OF THE YEAR" (by Minnie Louise Haskins, 1908)

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
"Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!"
And he replied:
"Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God;
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."

So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night;
And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So, heart, be still! What need our little life,
Our human life, to know, If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife Of things both high and low,
God oft hideth His intention.

Put your hand into the hand of God.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


While conducting a church service, the pastor ask an old deacon to give the final prayer. He prayed a fine humble prayer ending with, "Lord, prop us up on our leanin' side."  After hearing him the pastor asked him why he prayed those particular words.

He answered, "Well sir, you see, it's like this... I got an old barn out back of my house. It's been there a long time, and it's withstood a lot of weather. It's gone through a lot of storms and stood for many years, but it's still standing. One day I noticed it was leaning to one side a bit, so I got some pine poles and propped it up on its leaning side so it wouldn't fall.

"Then I got to thinking about that old leaning barn and how much I was like it. I've been around a long time. I've withstood a lot of life's storms and a lot of bad weather in life. I've stood against a lot of hard times, and I'm still standing too. But I find myself leaning to one side from time to time, so I like to ask the Lord to prop us up on our leaning side, 'cause I figure a lot of us get to leaning at times.

"Sometimes we get to leaning toward anger, leaning toward bitterness, leaning toward hatred, leaning toward cussing, or leaning toward some things that we shouldn't. So I think we need to pray, 'Lord, prop us up on our leaning side.' Then maybe we'll stand straight and tall again so's we can glorify the Lord'. ''

Are you leaning too far one way or other?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


As we approach Election Day, Nov. 4, I offer this prayer for our nation. "Prayers of the Presidents" is an anthology of actual prayers each president noted here prayed on his Inauguration Day.

(Pres. George Washington, 1789)   Almighty GOD; we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection, that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States of America at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and a gentle temper of mind which were the characteristics of The Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation.

(Pres. Thomas Jefferson, 1801) We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. 

(Pres. Franklin Roosevelt, 1945)  Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace--a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

(Pres. George H. W. Bush, 1989)  Accept our thanks for the peace that yields this day and the shared faith that makes its continuance likely. Make us strong to do Thy work, and willing to heed and hear Thy will. For we are given power not to advance our own purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name for ourselves. There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people. Help us to remember this, O Lord. May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us; and may He incline our hearts to Him, that we may walk in all His ways, and that all peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. 

Grant our supplications, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


We returned last Saturday from our trip to the Mediterranean with souveniers, memories and a nasty cold. This trip came mostly from retirement gifts and involved 12 days on the Emerald Princess with stops at Barcelona, Marsaille, Florence/Pisa, Rome, Naples/Pompeii, Mykonos Island, Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens/Corinth and Venice. We had lots of walking, too much food, and a nice room on an amazing ship (112,000 tons, 3,200 passengers, 1,500 crew, a floating hotel larger than most aircraft carriers)

The most memorable part for me was visiting the ruins of Rome, Pompeii, Ephesus and Corinth. The artwork of Florence, Vatican and Venice is truly amazing, but there's something special about the ruins. Perhaps it's that they represent what is past and gone. In my travels I've seen some really old stuff, especially in Israel, and often wonder why cities of old lie abandoned today.

Ancient ruins also make me wonder if other peoples, centuries from now, will dig up our ruins. What will they find? That, of course, leads one to the larger question of how long this world will last. World economic problems can make us pause and wonder about things like that.

"Only one life, 'twill soon be past; Only what's done for Christ will last." Those words from a plaque on a wall of my childhood room have remained with me. Through parents, pastors, professors and other amazing people, I've learned that with Jesus Christ, life need not be just a pile of rubble. We may ruin some things in life, but Jesus will rebuild, make them worthwhile. Our ruins may seem deserted, but our Good Lord never deserts us. "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you, says the Lord." (Hebrews 13:5)

God doesn't live in cathedrals or temples - He lives in peoples' hearts. He doesn't need marble or bronze, paintings or frescos, tapestries or mosaics to represent Him - His Holy Word shows us who He really is and what He wants us to know. He is our Lord who is above all human art forms; He is our Savior who rescues us from the world's woes; He is greater than the sum total of all human effort to represent or glorify Him.

He is who we need at this time!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


When I was a small boy, I was for a time afraid of the dark, probably because I had such an active imagination. Now and then at night my Dad would tell me to go turn off the pump or check on the chickens or some such thing, and since it was already dark I'd have to walk 100-200 feet across a dark and forboding farm yard. We had a yard light on a fairly high pole, but it cast big shadows all over. And who knew what dangers lurked in those shadows?

One particular moonless summer night I was headed out to the barn to retrieve something and paused when I stepped into the big shadow behind our granery. I knew Dad had parked some machinery near there and didn't want to run into it and break a leg. Then I realized something was there in the shadows and I couldn't see! I waited a moment for my eyes to adjust and just at that moment something cold and slimy touched my hand...

A monster! Yikes! My heart pumped about a gallon of adrenalin and I jerked my hand away and ran like the wind, letting out a pitiful holler. I ran that 40 yard dash back to the house in record time, but not before our old dog Zeke got there ahead of me. You see, it was his wet nose I'd felt and I'm sure I scared him more than he scared me. Our old dog was a monster, and he didn't even know it! The next morning, of course, Zeke was by the front door wagging his tail, and the yard was sunny and there was no monster, and I felt a little foolish at being so frightened. It was a new day and everything was okay.

Right now some of us are feeling something cold and slimy touch us in the dark. It's a disease we have, or it's a bad relationship, or it's the ugliness of politics, or it's a shakey economy. Part of the problem is real, but part is imagined because we can't see into the shadows.

God is with us in both the night and day. Now is the time to stop and realize life is not as bad as we think it is. God, who is with us in the sunny daylight is also with us in the dark shadows of night. Same good Lord, same Friend Jesus, same caring God with His same heart of love and mercy. He who brings us through the day will also get us through the night.

We just need to trust Him and not be afraid.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


The many recent storms and hurricanes in the Caribbean Sea have made me think of how we all need a strong anchor. Ships need them to keep from drifting, buildings need a sure foundation, and trees need a deep root system if they are going to stand when the storms come. In each case, their very survival in the storm depends on being attached to that which cannot be moved.

We all know that life has its share of stormy times, times of impending destruction. But are we attached to the immovable, the unchanging power of God? Despite our preparations, anchors can give way, roots can pull up and foundations can crumble. But God provides us a faith that can endure. It is faith in Jesus Christ that holds us fast in life's stormy times. God the Holy Spirit provides us this faith. Jesus reassures us, saying, "Lo, I am with you always." (Matthew 28:20) It is His strength that surrounds and protects us in the buffeting of life's torrents and calamities.

"Built on the Rock, the Church shall stand," we sing. So shall we stand, if our lives are built on the Rock. If we are personally attached to Christ the Rock of our salvation, we can rest assured that we may stumble, but we will not fall. We may be badly hurt, but we will not suffer destruction. 

God loves us with an everlasting love that does not fade. Knowing and trusting His love, we can have a faith that will withstand the storms of life, no matter how hard they hit, or where they come from.

"Jesus is the Rock of my salvation, and His banner over me is love..."

Saturday, September 6, 2008


A man bought a home which he felt would suit his needs. It was a fine house in a good neighborhood, the soil was rich and there was even a small area in back which he was sure would be good for a garden. But when he began spading his garden, he struck rock! He soon discovered his entire garden area had a rock layer just a few inches under the surface, so the soil could grow little.

And because the man had always wanted a garden, he was very disappointed. “Why me?” he wondered. Yes, the house was nice and the lawn mostly green, but he was sad. Even when he hauled in more soil, his garden grew hardly a thing. Then he discovered it was because that surface rock was a vein of coal on which little could grow. He would have no garden, and so he was very sad.

When bad things come our way, our first response usually is, “Why me?” And yet, when good things come our way we hardly ever ask, “Why me?” It's because we believe good things should be the norm and bad things should be the exception. Most people expect life should be mostly always good, and rarely bad.

We humans are very adept at labeling events either “good” or “bad.” But are those labels correct? For instance, we call business success “good,” but don't consider that it can lead to excessively long work hours, or separated families, or exhausted bodies, or the temptation to love money. And we call disease or trouble “bad,” but forget that such events can also teach us perseverance, or a source of inner strength, or cause us to seek God, or even draw families closer together.

We need to try viewing “good” and “bad” through God's eyes. He has a longer view of our life than we do. God has promised to make all things work together for good for those who love Him. He can make "good" come out of our "bad." Disease, disappointment, troubles, even death can and will touch each of us. But when we havea faith and trust in our Lord Jesus, God can make it turn out for our good.

I suppose I could finish the story by saying the man made a fortune from his vein of coal, but that would miss the point. In the midst of our pain and trouble we need to realize that God can smooth the rough edges of our life and even make a diamond out of our lump of coal.

What “bad” things in your life can God make “good” for you?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


A father was showing his son the stained glass windows in a nearby church. The father pointed out some of the brightly illuminated figures that were pieced together in the glass.  "Who's that?" the boy asked.  "That's Saint Peter," the father replied. Pointing to another, the boy asked, "Who is that?" "That's Saint John." "And that one?" "That's Saint Mark." Then the boy made a profound observation: "I guess a saint is somebody that light shines through."

Perhaps you've been blessed enough to know someone through whom the light shines. It may be a teacher who treated you with special kindness. It may be a kind neighbor, it may be your faithful spouse, or it may be an individual at work who always manages to see the bright side of situations.

The Bible speaks about many such individuals, people through whom the Light shines. Most of all, the Bible speaks about the One who is the Light of the world - Jesus Christ. Without Him, the world is dark, but with Jesus there is hope, joy, peace, forgiveness, escape from guilt and a whole host of other good and lasting things. Best of all, with Jesus there is a life to come that promises the best of everything.

Give thanks for the Light, and then be one of those through whom that Light shines. After all, it was He who said, "Let your light so shine that people will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven."  (Matthew 5:16) By the way, so far your response to "Pastors Hope Fund" has been nearly $2,000 - praise the Lord!

Keep letting the Light shine through!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


It's really easy to see a need and it's even easier to hear of one. In today's world of rapid communication, we are inundated with requests to help this or that person or need. The important things, however, are that we do respond with help if we can, and that we make the right choices.

I have a pastor friend who could use some assistance, due to his age and his being removed from his congregation. He acted according to God's Word, and stepped on the wrong feet, and now has no place to go, for he has always lived in a parsonage. He, of course, is not without some fault in this, but the important thing is that he has no place to live and needs some help.

I have set up a fund through a local church's charity account. If you'd like to assist my pastor friend, age 63, who is praying and actively seeking another pastoral position, you can send your tax deductible gifts to: "Pastor's Hope Fund", 2353 Meadows Ln., Castle Rock, CO 80104. Gifts received will be placed into the Charity Fund and the church will then issue him a check when gifts are in.

It's been said that "People give to people," and "People give then they're asked." This is a legitimate request on behalf of a faithful pastor who has a major need. If you'd like to assist, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks and many blessings to you!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


"The Lord Provides!" How many times have we heard that saying, and how many times have we experienced it? Consider...

+++A young man is buying a gift for his girlfriend. He discovers he is 85 cents short, so he removes the backseat of his car, hoping to find some coins. How much does he find? 85 cents!  "The Lord Provides!"

+++A newly married couple overspends their first credit card by $500. A week later they discover an elderly aunt had given them a C.D. for graduation months before. The amount of her gift? $500!

+++ A young couple finds their washing machine needs replacing. They purchase one on sale for $500. A few days later they change their auto and home insurance policies for a total savings of -- $500!  "The Lord Provides!"

+++ A mature couple makes a pledge to their church's building Fund for $5000 more than they had planned. A few days later their college son calls with the news he's received an unexpected grant. The amount? $5000!

+++After three fruitless months with a rental agency, a man Emails his friends about his son's rental house. Result? In one week the house is rented!  "The Lord Provides!"

I'm sure if we think about it, we all have our story of how "The Lord Provides." The disciples asked Jesus, "How can we feed all these people with so little food?" "Sit them down and I'll show you!" Jesus said, and fed 5000 with a boy's lunch (Matthew 14).  Truly, the Lord provides in amazing ways, and usually through His people.

Next week I am going to ask you to be part of the Lord's providence for a pastor friend of mine who was terminated because he applied the Word of God to some long-standing immorality in his church and stepped on some toes. Illness had depleted his savings, and he owns no home (always lived in parsonages), so he needs help. I truly believe he will get another chance in ministry, but right now he needs people to show him "The Lord Provides."

And I know He will provide, because those examples above are all from my life. I, more than most, know the truth in the saying, "The Lord Provides." I pray we can help bring that kind of hope to my pastor friend.

Next week I will give you details how. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Two land surveyors went to study the mountains of North Wales. They stayed two weeks with a shepherd who fed them and gave them a good place to sleep. During the day the surveyors climbed the slopes, checked landmarks and followed mountain streams to their sources. Each night they returned to the warm and snug shepherd's cottage.

One night, the old shepherd suggested he accompany them the next day.  "There's no need for that," answered the men. "We won't get lost. We have compasses, charts and maps." "Just the same, I'd better come with you," insisted the old man.  "No, no -- don't trouble yourself!" they confidently replied. 

"But I know well the mountain trails. I know where the steep gullies are, and where the bogs run deep," the old man said.  "But it's all on the maps," they answered.  "Why would we need anything further?" The old man paused and then said, "Because the fog is coming in tomorrow, and the fog is not on the map."

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows the trails of our life, and He also knows the fog. He can guide us through any trial or danger we will face in life. Although He gives us the Bible, He still wishes to walk beside us. He knows that fog will come into our lives, and when it does, we will need Him beside us. 

For a safer journey, always let Jesus accompany you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


This message is written by Tony Snow, Christian journalist and White House Press Secretary who recently died after a long battle with cancer. His positive and godly perspective is what kept him, husband, youthful father and friend, going each day amid his several health crises. I hope you will find something in his words that will help you this day:

"Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

"When our faith flags, He throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it. It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up, to speak of us!

"This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the true touch of God.

"What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us who believe, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place, in the hollow of God's hand."

May God always give us such a shining light of faith in the public arena!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


In my sunroom I have a staff I can take with me on walks. My walking staff is a gift from my brother and is made from "diamond willow." It is lightweight and has a unique shape, with about a dozen diamond shaped notches of different sizes on its lovely rust-colored wood. Diamond willow is found in northern Minnesota and North Dakota, and is highly sought after for canes and walking staffs.

The interesting thing is that diamond willow is not a species. It's a regular small willow tree that's been attacked by a fungus that occurs around it in nature, especially along river banks where willows often grow. The beautiful diamond shapes are actually enlarged notches caused by the stress of the tree trying to avoid the attacking spores. The results of the stress are rare formations not seen in any other tree. The result of the stress is a form and beauty unseen in any other species of tree.

A diamond willow staff doesn't come looking beautiful. It is ugly in its natural state and needs to have the rough outer bark stripped away to show the beauty inside. It needs an artist to polish and sand it, so as to show its inner true character. Without the artist, people will just toss it aside as useless.

All willows have such fungi growing around them, but only certain ones react by being changed. Without the stress, it would be just a regular stick, but because of the stress and what it has done to the small tree trunk, this diamond willow staff is admired for its unusual beauty.

You and I often have stress in our lives that shapes us, perhaps in ways we'd rather not see. It can change our attitude and affect our relationships with others, including our loved ones. Everyone has stress - no one can aviod it. The important thing is how we react to it and what it can do to us. Sometimes we may think it makes us worse, but with God's help it can make us unique and beautiful, depending on what it does to us.

People are not all the same. We are unique individuals God has created and life has shaped. Jesus has forgiven us our sins and stripped away our outer ugly nature. Because of His great love for us, He has made us beautiful so that we can "shine like the stars" (Philippians 2:15) as we show forth our faith in Him.

I hope some day you can see the beauty of a diamond willow staff.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


The Summer Olympics will soon be back again, this year from Beijing, China. This fall Carol and I will be taking a cruise around the Mediterranean, flying first to Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona was the site of the 1992 Olympics and provided one of Track and Field's most memorable moments. Britain's Derek Redmond was considered the fastest man in the world in the 400-meters, a certain contender for the gold medal. When the gun sounded, he was running the race of his life, ahead of the field as he rounded the turn into the backstretch. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain go up the back of his leg, and he fell headlong onto the track with a torn hamstring.

As medical attendants approached, Redmond fought to his feet and began hopping on one leg, in a valiant attempt to finish the race. As he did so, a large man in a T-shirt came out of the stands, shoved aside security guards and ran to Redmond's side. "You don't have to do this," he told the young man. "Yes, I do," said Derek. "Well, then," said the big man, "we're going to finish this together." And they did. Refusing the help of medical attendants, tears of pain and disappointment streaming down his face, Derek Redmond completed his race, held up by his father, Jim Redmond.

As they crossed the finish line, the crowd rose in wild, victorious cheers to the pair. Derek Redmond didn't win the gold, but he gave to all who saw it an incredible memory of an athlete's courage, aided by a loving father who left his seat in the stands and to help him finish his race.

That's precisely what God does for us. Whenever we are experiencing pain, injured by life, or are struggling to finish the race we are in, we have a loving Father who won't let us do it alone. He is there by our side, holding us up. Our Heavenly Father left His place in heaven to come alongside us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ who tells us, "I am with you always to the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20)

Just lean on Him!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


In the 1980's,12 year-old Amy Alden of Newfoundland, Canada, found a clutch of 16 goslings whose mother goose had died. She brought them home, fed them and quickly they grew and became family pets on her front porch. But Amy wanted them to succeed in the wild, for she knew if they depended only on her, they would never learn to live on their own.

So Amy and her father, a pilot, build an ultralight aircraft shaped like a huge goose in flight. Her Dad taught her to fly it and somehow coaxed the young geese to follow it. Amy then flew the craft more than two thousand miles south until they came to the Atlantic wetlands where the Canadian geese wintered. Amy and her father left them there, confident they would adapt to the wild. But surprise of surprises, the following summer, all 16 geese returned home to Amy's front porch.

Where is your home? Carol and I returned after three weeks on the road, glad to sleep in our own bed and sit in our favorite chairs again. During our trip, we met many "fulltimers," people whose home is on wheels, their motor coach or trailer, and we wondered how it felt not to have that special place where we could return, the place we call home. In Bozeman we worshipped two Sundays at First Lutheran, welcomed by fellow Lutherans as we sang hymns and liturgy from our familiar hymnal, just like at home.

Where is your permanent, your eternal home? In the 19th Century, composer Anton Dvorzak wrote his "New World Symphony" after visiting America, and incorporated into it the haunting spiritual, "Going Home," whose gentle melody has accompanied many a person to the cemetery. Most Christians long for their eternal home with the Lord, and thanks be to God that He provides a blessed home to all who trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

I'm but a stranger here - Heaven is my home!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Independence Day, July 4, is just around the corner, and I think we should make it a summer Thanksgiving Day. More than 100 years ago, the great evangelist and preacher, Dwight Moody, was preaching from the 103rd Psalm and especially the verse that says, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." The person who recorded his words stated that he said with a twinkle in his eye, "Of course, we can't remember all of God's benefits, but that doesn't mean we should forget them, either!"

Today Carol and I drove through Yellowstone, America's largest and first National Park, and there we saw the marvelous handiwork of God. The geysers and mountain grandeur of the place are unmatched in the world. But as Old Faithful blew into the air a hundred feet or more, someone behind me said to one of his friends, "This happens because Yellowstone is one giant caldera, one of three super volcanoes in the world, and if it ever blew, that would be the end of the United States."

There's always someone to remind us of the possible bad in the midst of the existing good, isn't there? We returned home to read newspaper stories of governmental failure, economic weakness and even some church scandal. I think we need to read and re-read Psalm 103 or 23 or 46, any of those which remind us of God's blessings. Like Rev. Moody said, "Of course, we can't remember all of God's benefits, but that doesn't mean we should forget them, either!"

I don't know what you are planning for this Friday's July 4 at your home, but I pray it will include a few moments of giving thanks to God for His benefits. You have a list of things, just like I do. Then go ahead and enjoy your food and beverage and friends or just an easy chair in the evening.

There's a whole lot more good in America than bad!

Friday, June 27, 2008


One of the popular movies this summer is "The Incredible Hulk." Though I have not seen it, I recall it from a comic book about a scientist who, whenever he became angry, grows huge and superpowerful, destroying everything around him. "The Incredible Hulk" is a good symbol of how anger brings about the monster in us all.

Anger, especially uncontrolled rage, wipes out common sense and reason. Angry people can impulsively hurt others with their words and actions. Angry people also hurt themselves. It's been documented that thirty minutes of intense anger uses up as much energy as a full day of work. Hostile, angry people suffer more illnesses, high blood pressure and headaches, and usually die at a younger age.

The Bible urges us to "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." (Ephesians 4:31). Instead, we are to "Bear with each other and forgive as the Lord has forgiven you." (Colossians 3:13)

Though anger in itself is not a sin, it can - and usually does - lead to sin, even the sin of pride. Anger often comes because we believe we've not gotten what we want, forgetting that what we want is not always what we need. It's true our Lord became angry, but He always kept His reaction to it in check. Sometimes when we're angry, we're not sure where to direct it. That's when we can become our own version of "The Incredible Hulk."

Some people get angry at God, while others find little value in that. While we know God can handle our anger, we need to take care not to have that anger last too long. When it's been expressed to God, then we need to let it go. Anger continually re-expressed can be a sign we're stuck in a dangerous rut.

When we trust in Jesus for our forgiveness and believe He died on the cross for us, He can help us let go of our anger, if we just ask Him. The Holy Spirit can teach us how to live and love as God wants, if we just let Him. Living in the Spirit is the opposite of living in anger, for the Spirit gives us, "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)

Give God your anger, then take the love He gives you back!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


A number of years ago I loaned a complete stranger $5. We were standing in line in the afternoon at the local DMV office (Dept. of Motor Vehicles) which had dozens people hoping the line wouldn't close before they got what they needed.

I was about third person back when the man in front of me became agitated. He turned around and said, "Excuse me, sir, but I'm short of funds. Could you loan me $5? I promise to mail it back to you just as soon as I get home. I need to renew my driver's license, because we're taking a trip and leaving tomorrow morning."

I seemed to recall having done something like that a time or two, and so I loaned him the $5. He wrote down my home address, thanked me, got his license and left. I pretty much kissed that money goodbye, but a few days later I got a letter with a note of thanks and a fiver. It's nice to know there are some honest people around!

Most folks today would say it's a little crazy to trust a stranger, but sometimes it seems right. Carol and I are in Bozeman, Montana, the next few weeks and will be meeting lots of strangers. Now it's true people at Airstream Rallies are not strangers for long, but every day we will run into hundreds of faces we've never seen before. And I hope they all have enough money in their pockets!

Somehow this all reminds me of the awesome grace of God. He loves us without any reassurance that we'll care. He forgives us, knowing full well that the majority of people in the world will reject Him. And He knows that most of His redeemed people will make promise after promise and not fulfill them.

But still He loves and still he forgives. He sent His only Son to be our Savior. God doesn't wait until we're worthy of His grace, nor does He ask for proof of our intent or any promissory notes for the things He gives us. He just loves and gives, because He knows we need it.

That's a great thought for the day, don't you think?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


By now we all know the price of gas at the pump, that it's rising too fast, making us wonder how far it will go. And we have all experienced some of its stress on our lives. We've been told the price of a barrel of oil could reach as high as $250 by 2010, and we've been told all the problems that will cause. I wonder, though, if most of our imagined problems are driven by reality or merely by speculation. And I wonder if such speculation itself is making the problem worse.

What if gas does reach $8 a gallon? What will happen to America if this or that person is elected president? What will happen if the War on Terrorism doesn't end soon? What will happen to our church if certain people have their way? Is the world coming to an end soon?

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves: Do we live by faith or by fear? Are our decisions made based on the bad that might happen, or the good God can make happen? Speculation has a rightful place in life as we weigh the consequences of various actions. But speculation based on fear rather than faith in God does not help us at all.

My first congregation out of the seminary was in a small North Dakota town where I made some lifelong friends. Roy was one of them, and though he is with the Lord now, several truths he shared changed my life. I, like so many others at the time, was a smoker and wanted to quit. Roy had quit long before and encouraged me to do the same. I told him I was worried I couldn't write a sermon without lighting up a few times, and he said,  "Pastor, it's worth a few bad sermons. Don't worry about what might happen, just do what's right." (I quit in 1972) 

A few other times I confided to Roy my struggles of what might happen if I chose this or that direction. His advice: "Just pick a direction and go that way. Make your decision and don't worry about all the other options. God will help you through it."

1 Peter 5:7 tells us, "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." Care and worry are common to us all, but faith and God's strength is also available to us all. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

God is with us every step of the way. His Son Jesus knows your needs. Just trust Him! Don't fear the future so much. Like Roy said, "Don't worry about what might happen, just do what's right."

"God will help you through it."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Last year I had to catch an early morning flight out of Denter International Airport to Dallas. I was making the flight alone, and due to the early schedule, it had been a short night. I settled into my seat, buckled in, put my head back, and closed my eyes. The next thing I knew I awoke, slightly disoriented and discovered the plane was already flying at 30,000 feet. I had peacefully slept through taxi, take-off and the climb through the clouds.

What blessing to be able to sleep so well, I thought. My next thought was whether or not I had missed the coffee cart (they don't serve breakfast any more, you know). I hadn't, but it made me wonder how this compares to life, namely how quickly time passes. Just last year it seems I was a teenager, last month I was a young parent, and last week I was still leading a growing church.

You may wonder, as I do, where does the time go? How did I get to be this old so fast? Did I sleep through some of those years? Did I miss something important along the way? Can I really be that wrinkled face that looks back at me from the mirror?

There is not much we can do to slow the passing of time. But we can pray that God will help each of us make the most of the time we have. And we can pray that we will not miss, or sleep through, the really important times in life. With all the distractions in our world, it's not hard to do that. And we can be glad that, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)

They say life goes slow when you're young, faster as you mature, and then slows down again when you're old. I think it just goes faster each day we live. That means we need to make good use of every day. We need to make sure we are using our time well, serving others, enjoying each day, asking God for direction and joy along the way. Soon our time on earth will be over, and then we'll realize the saying, "Only one life - "Twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."

I think I'll go out back and smell the lilacs!

Thursday, May 29, 2008


(15 holes, 14 pegs, start with #1 empty)
4 to 2
6 to 4
1 to 6
7 to 2
13 to 4
10 to 8
2 to 7
7 to 9
15 to 13
12 to 14
6 to 13
14 to 12
11 to 13

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


A stonemason must have patience. He may hammer 100 times on a large rock and nothing happens, but with the 101st blow, the stone splits. An oil rig drills round and round, for days, weeks or even months. And then one day, in one final turn, the oil gushes up from thousands of feet deep inside the earth. In both cases, it wasn't the 101st blow of the hammer or the millionth turn of the drill that brought success -- it was all the work that went before, plus that last effort.

Consider parents on Graduation Day. A young woman crosses the stage to get her diploma and two people rise quietly from their seats as her name is spoken. The man raises a small camera and a tiny spark of light flashes across the arena, capturing the moment. How many other moments did they watch her, or how many decisions did they make, or how many times did they wonder if she would make it to this day? But there she is, a graduate, ready to leave home and become independent and on her own.

What are you hammering at right now? Or what work have you set in motion? What snapshot have you just taken? Are you depressed because there's no apparent difference on the surface for all your efforts? Are you repeating the same tasks over and over, with no noticeable results? Are you trying to get through to someone who doesn't seem to be listening to you?

When it comes to your relationship with God, you can be sure that your prayers are answered. You can trust that your offerings, your actions, or your worship is not unnoticed. God sees your heart. He recognizes your faith. He knows your needs and will provide you. The work you do for Him or for His people is never in vain. Your effort will achieve its goal, even if at times that effort seems futile.

In Christ, keep on keeping on!

Monday, May 19, 2008


What are you reading these days? This winter I finished "Fearfully And Wonderfully Made" by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancy, and am currently plowing through "Darwin's Black Box" by Michael J. Behe. Both books were supplied by my science teacher son and heartily encouraged by my vice president son.

And it's about time I did some learning about this. Somehow I got through High School and College without taking much, if any, biology, and reading about biochemistry, microbiology and cell structure at age 63 is fascinating, rewarding, especially since I have the time and interest to do it. Ben Stein's movie "Expelled" helped fan the flames too. He asked a simple question that science has never been able to answer, "How did it all get here?"

Though firmly believing God created the heavens and the earth, I've had periodic thoughts about whether or not evolution has any merit. But it's always been without good information on biology and Darwinism. After reading Brand and Behe's books and turning Ben Stein's question over in my mind, I have no longer have any doubt about the question of "chance." I know enough about mathemetical probabilities to realize there are too many variables and mechanisms for biological life to have come about by chance, without someone designing the process.

If you want to challenge that, read Brand and Behe first. Their scholarship should put to rest any doubts you may have about "chance" evolution. How did it all get here? If it was the Big Bang, who assembled the powder and who lit the fuse? Just how many tornadoes ripping through how many junk yards over how many millions of years would it take to create my Chevy Blazer? Or your little finger?

Some folks answer that God did it all in six days about 6,000 years ago. That is very possible with an Almighty God. Some don't want to use the word "g" word for fear someone might snicker or sneer (Let 'em!). But still others are breathing a sigh of relief to know it's okay to think about a Higher Power. They're not the only ones, inside or outside the scientific community, who know there must be Someone who designed it all.

It's amazing that the Bible with all its simplicity might be right about God being the Creator, just like it's already right about Jesus being the Savior. An elderly lady once said, "The Bible says it, I believe it, and that's that!" She's far closer to the truth than all those bright guys who refuse to use the "g" word.

You really ARE fearfully and wonderfully made!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Robert Merrill, opera singer and actor, worked in summer stock in the role of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof." One night, according to the script, he was imploring God to give him a replacement for his horse which was old and had lost a shoe. At that very moment, a stray dog wandered onto the stage. The audience held its breath, wondering how the actor would handle the interruption. Merrill didn't even miss a beat. He looked up to heaven and said fervently, "Oh God, please try again!"

The situation was hilarious, but it's not too funny when we do that in real life. We ask God for something we want: a new job, a change of attitude in our spouse, a better relationship with someone, or an end to money problems. The list is as long as our imagination.

Then God sends His answer and it looks like the wrong one. He doesn't give us exactly what we want, or even close. It doesn't match up to our expectations. So we look up to heaven and say, "Oh God, please try again!" And we are serious, because this time it's not funny.

It takes time and experience to learn that God always has a perfect plan for our lives. What seems like a mistake becomes a perfect choice as we look back later. We must, however, look at life with eyes focused on more than just the exact things we want. We fit into a much larger picture of this world than we think.

A familiar hymn says, "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform."  What mysterious ways has God worked for good in your life recently? Are you looking for His eternal good in it, or merely your idea of what is good? 

Have you wanted to ask Him to try again? As it snows here today on May 13, I am tempted, but I know He has His reasons. So......

Thank You, God, for the snow that's falling outside my window.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


After last week's message on dealing with worry, I recalled that I had used that example before. How long ago I do not know, but since I've become a bit paranoid about repeating myself, the fact bothered me. All preachers and teachers must repeat themselves, and some stories are good enough just once.

But I have decided to stop apologizing for repeating myself. After all, how else do we learn? And how many times have parents had to read the same story over and over, begged by their little ones? Maybe it's because in this modern world we've come to think all things must be new all the time. But a wise old fellow named Solomon once said, "There is nothing new under the sun," (Ecclesiastes 1:9). So how can we help but repeat ourselves now and then?

We learn mostly by repetition. Every major new lesson in life comes that way. No one wakes up one day and decides to walk or talk. It starts with small steps or endless babbling of sounds, until one day a word is formed or a step is taken, then another, then soon they're walking and talking all the time.

The Bible encourages parents to teach children. Deuteronomy 11:19 says, "Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." That's why the Gospel of forgiveness by faith in Jesus needs to be heard over and over. Jesus loves us and we need His forgiveness! Few important things are learned after hearing them only once.

So it's good and necessary to repeat some things. Not all things, of course - we've all told forgettable stories, and we certainly don't need to rehearse our aches and pains. But a good story bears repeating. So when you hear that story for the second or third time, smile and listen again. Maybe even thank the teller, because one day you will be there, too.

Did you hear about the lady who wanted to be buried with a fork in her hand?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


In my home office wall I have a small plaque that I got from my mother. It reads (in German), "Das Leben ist am schwersten drei Tage vor dem Ersten," which means, "Life seems most difficult three days before it happens."

Worry affects us all, doesn't it? In some ways I struggle more with it now that I'm retired than before when I had less time to do it. My mother once told me "Worry is concern without faith." She said everyone should be concerned about what might happen, because if we weren't, we couldn't plan things well. But when we think it all depends on us, or if we forget God's place in our life, we can get hooked on worry.

Jesus once said to His disciples, and to us, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about, clothes... or food... or drink? The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows you need them." Then Jesus gets to the heart of things: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:31-33)

I've been doing spring cleaning in our Colorado house (Some folks do stuff like that when they get worried) and as I sought my Bible for what Jesus said about worry, I discovered I'd put it in a closet. A place for everything and everything in its place, you know! But it was doing me no good in there, so I put it back where I used to have it, by my favorite chair where I can get to it easily.

If we put God first in our lives, or at least get Him out of the closet, worry becomes less a problem. Notice I didn't say it vanishes. Worry is like dust - you're always going to have it around, but you can take steps to get rid of it now and then. Like pray more often. Or worship God each week. Or read the Bible more often. Or take a needed step to lessen a particular worry.

As sinners we can never be completely rid of worry, because do have legitimate concerns about self or family or the state of the world. But Jesus came to forgive our worrying, and to help us live better, and to remind us God always provides. So seek first the Lord, His kingdom, His righteousness, and that other stuff will take care of itself. It's His promise, and He always keeps His promises.

I think I have some more dusting to do!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Where do we get our names? Today most first names are made up, based on sounding nice or copied from former generations. There was a time when last names were given based on what a person did (Miller, Cooper), to whom they're related (Johnson, Olson), where they lived (Hill, Townsend), or a wish for a person (Benjamin=son of the right hand, William=protector). Some names have been altered so much it's hard to tell where they came from.

I've always been interested in the origin of names, and many are easy to figure out. Our summer home is Castle Rock, Colorado. There is a huge monolith on a hill as you enter town from the north that looks like a castle. Hence, it was called Castle Rock. "Colorado" probably comes from the Spanish word for "colorful."

Our winter home is now Arizona, and most assume it comes from "Arid" and "zone", which would make sense since it's a very dry place. But historians believe the word comes from two Papago Indian words, "ali" (small) and "shonak" (spring). Thus, Arizona means "place of a small spring," which would make sense given some history of the few springs we have in the state.

Arizona was part of the territory received in the Gadsden Purchase, which was shaped like a large nose. Good thing they didn't name it "Narizona," from the spanish word "nariz," (large-nosed woman). In 1854, Arizona and New Mexico were given separate territorial status, and the name "Arizona" was made official. I believe it's a far more noble name than West Mexico or Gadsonia.

Acts 11:26 tells us a small religious sect of Jews and Gentiles were first called "Christians" in the city of Antioch. They believed Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the "anointed one," the deliverer who had been promised for centuries in Hebrew writings. They believed He was the Son of God, and though He had been crucified and died, He had arisen from the dead and now lives in heaven, from where He will come to judge all people. They believed all who trusted in Jesus would join Him in heavenly bliss and joy.

We Christians still believe that, at least most Christians do. Names may remain, but people often change what the names stand for, and that had been true since the name was first given. There are many who are Christians "in name only," people who want to have that identity, but have long lost the beliefs that make them a Christian.

Being born into a Christian home does not automatically gain a person entrance to heaven. Each one of us must believe and trust Jesus of Nazareth ourself. We all need to be "Christian" by our faith in Jesus Christ.

I pray you do.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The cactus flowers are blooming in Arizona now. Lovely and fragile pink, yellow, white and red flowers dot the tips of the green and grey cactus pods, and for a short time they make us forget the sharp needles that protect them. There are hundreds of varieties of cacti, from the tiny 1/2 inch lilliput to the 40 foot saguaro. All are succulent plants, retaining water in their leaves and stems, adapting themselves to the desert climate. Cacti are found as far north as Canada and all are native to the Americas though a few varieties live in dry parts of Africa and Sri Lanka. The most common is the prickly pear which has more than 1,000 varieties, shapes, sizes and needle length.

Oh yes, cactus needles! Those razor sharp spines from 1/16 to four inches long that penetrate cloth and skin. Don't get too close! Cacti live mostly dormant lives, taking in water and food when it's available. A mature saguaro can drink up 500 gallons of water in a week during the monsoons, storing it for dry days. Birds, butterflies, bats and bees depend on cacti for food and housing.

I've planted a dozen and a half varieties in my backlot here, gifts of neighbors. A cactus cutting can set down roots in a few months and grow in the hardest of dry soils. But it will rot if over-watered. And for these few short weeks each year, cactus flowers beautify the desert. God has given us such an amazing world.

There is a movie coming to theatres soon called, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." In it, Ben Stein tries to show there must be a Divine Power at work in the universe, using rationale and opinions of scientists and philosophers who can no longer explain the nature of life without considering God. It might be worth viewing, though many have already panned it.

People have always panned God, but especially today. We have gotten past such old beliefs. It's all superstition, we say. Evolution explains all things, we claim. But of course it doesn't, not at all. The theory of evolution is based on the premise that all things are adapting and becoming more complex, while laws of science say all things are breaking down and becoming less complex. Seems to me it can't be both ways.

ut with God all things are possible. Belief in God is not complex: He created all things and wants people with Him in heaven. But sin and evil came into the world, so God sent His Son Jesus to take away the punishment of sin and evil. All that's left is for us to trust in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit even helps us do that. God makes all things possible, including accepting sinful people into heaven.

Belief in God is not complex - we just need to get out of His way.

Soon we will be back home in Colorado with its green mountains and spring snow. Later on, we'll have flowers there too, but none as lovely as the cactus flowers of Arizona.

I think I'll go out and take a walk.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


In a recent western movie, "Broken Trail", cowboy Prentiss Ritter is called upon to speak at the burial of a friend. He spoke these words, "We are all travellers in this world. From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities."

Though devoid of the Gospel, in a sense he was right. We are all travellers and pilgrims in a world that offers no lasting peace or rest. And while there is only one eternity, we travel between the past and the future, waiting for promises of an eternal home and a hope that will last forever. And while we travel, we trust that God will fulfill all His promises to us.

Whenever the troubles and struggles of life threaten us with anxiety or despair, we must remember we have a Savior who travels with us, the Lord Jesus who is Master of Eternity. He offers us hope for this life and an even greater hope for a life to come, a life of joy and hope for all eternity.

In Hebrews 11:13, the writer, speaking of many heroes of faith, says, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off [they] were assured of them." The men and women of God who did not know Jesus, but who still trusted God would someday send a Savior, were truly heroic in their faith.

You and I live in the present moments and hours and days, but we look ahead by faith to being with the Lord. Jesus has said, "I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35) And again, "He who believes has eternal life." (John 6:47). One day we will experience that eternity when faith will become sight, and we will see the Lord. Such hope lifts us out of the past to a future life that is eternal.

For time and eternity, Jesus is all we need.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


It is a tradition on the first of April to pull harmless jokes on those near and dear to us. Usually the jokes are funnier in our imaginings than how they play out, but even the most staid among us has been known to indulge in a practical joke on April 1. So be especially aware of what people do and say to you today.

The origin of pranks on April 1 remains a mystery. Until the middle ages, the western world used the Julian calendar which began each year on March 25. But since March 25 fell during Holy Week, New Year's festivals were celebrated April 1. The adoption of the Gregorian calendar during the 1500s moved the New Year to January 1. Some think the origin for April Fools' Day was tricking people into thinking April 1 was still New Year's. Another story says that April Fools' Day commemorates the fruitless mission of the dove, who was sent out in search of land from Noah's ark during the flood. Most probably the custom is a carry-over from the Romans' end-of-winter celebration, Hilaria, celebrated near the Vernal Equinox.

A story going around the internet tells of a judge who tried a discrimination lawsuit filed by someone who wanted a holiday for atheists. With all the religious holidays, what about giving atheists a holiday of their own? The judge tossed the case out, ruling that atheists already had a holiday. Quoting Psalm 14:1, "The fool says in his heart there is no God," he ruled that April Fool's Day is already the holiday for all atheists.

Well, at least the sentiment of that story is true. We live in a highly educated time of history. People pride themselves in finding explanations for most everything. But of all the explanations of human wisdom, none explains the presence of evil in the world. How did evil get here? And if there is no such a thing as evil, why do "evolving" people keep doing the same terrible things to each other, generation after generation? 

Of course evil does exist. And people believe God exists, though most are confused as to who the true God is, and not all who know Him really trust Him. Evil is not some trick God has played on us. It's the work of another person who exists, Satan, and he hates God and Christians. But God's love is far more powerful than Satan's evil, and that's good news for us all.

With Easter already behind us, April 1 this year is a good time to give thanks that Jesus is God's true and living Son. His death is a historical fact, and so is His resurrection. Christ's death and resurrection have defeated the forces of evil. Evil is a headless rattler, making a lot of racket, but already slain. God loves us, and that's the greatest fact of all.

The Lord Jesus is alive, and that's no joke!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer of many years about his plans to quit building houses and enjoy his family and some free time. He would miss his check but they would get by. He just needed to retire. The contractor was sorry to see him go, for he had been a faithful worker many years. He asked him if he would build just one more house as a personal favor. The man said yes, but his heart was no longer in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship, used inferior materials and worked far too quickly. But after all, it was just last job and no one could fire him for bad work now.

When the house was finished, his employer inspected the house and then handed him the door keys.  "This is your house," he said, "my gift to you." The carpenter was shocked! If only he had known he was building his own home, he'd have done it all so differently. What a shame!

You and I build our lives one day at a time, often putting into it less than our best. Then with a shock we realize we have to live in the "house" we have built. And we cannot go back. We are the carpenters. With each nail we drive, each board we cut, and each wall we build, we are constructing the house we live in. Today's actions and decisions certainly affect our life tomorrow.

Give thanks to the Lord that He forgives us and gives us a second chance! If we had no living Lord of Easter, all our foolish decisions, rebellious actions and selfishness would collapse our life around us. Without our living Lord Jesus, our lives would be nothing but disaster. 

But with Him, we have hope for the future. Trusting in Jesus, we are assured of eternal life, despite how poorly we may have lived in the past. By faith in Jesus, even the most rickedy of lives can be salvaged and made strong. So, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Build your life wisely! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Soon Easter will be here, and there is a story that has been going around why this Easter occurs so early on our calendar. Easter has never been a fixed date, and here is the story why:

Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox, which is March 20. This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar.

This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives. And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early. The rest of us will never see it a day earlier. Amazing!

The next time Easter will be this early, March 23, will be 220 years from now in the year 2228, if the world lasts that long. The last time it was this early was 1913, so if you're 95 or older, you are the only one who was alive for that! The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be 277 years from now, in the year 2285. The last time it was on March 22 was 1818. So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year. Amazing!

Yes, but not nearly as amazing as what happened that first Easter. A man arose from the dead! And not just any man, but Jesus of Nazareth, a man who changed the course of human history, who changed all humanity forever. His resurrection is proof He was more than a mere man - He was God in the flesh, God in human form, God bridging the gap between Himself and His creation, God restoring mankind to Himself. Amazing!

We can only understand this if we believe in sin and what it has done to our world. A majority of our world rejects the idea of sin, and yet our world is a mess because of sin. Nations fight, religions argue, people hate and children die, all because of sin. Disease destroys, relationships fail, people kill and the world is being used up because of sin. One day the world will end because of sin - that's how serious sin is.

And that's why Jesus gave His life - because of sin. He came to take on Himself the world's garbage of sin, and to die for sin in our place. And His resurrection is proof He is who He said He is, God's Son, our Savior. And all He asks is that we trust Him instead of ourselves. He doesn't ask our money or our life - just our trust, our faith.

Jesus lives, and that's why Easter is so - Amazing!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


In 1982, New Yorker Roberta Gaspari was served with divorce papers. No reasons were given, no calls were returned; her husband of ten years just disappeared, leaving her with two young sons and only her wits to provide for them. She felt crushed, but not for long. 

All she knew was to give violin lessons, but it soon was apparent that would not provide them a living. So she went to the East Harlem School District and offered to teach violin to students for no pay. If they were pleased, she said, they could offer her a staff position. It was a hard sell, but finally they gave her a semester trial period.

Within year, Roberta Gaspari had over a hundred violin students, there in the middle of the East Harlem slums. Her gentle yet firm attitude not only taught many young musicians, it changed many lives. She was offered a teaching position and her popular programs brought hundreds of children to her auditions each year. Some of her students were accepted into major music schools, including Julliard and Eastman. 

In 1993, she was shocked to learn her program was to be cut for lack of funds. With hundreds of students waiting to learn the violin, the school district had chosen not to fund her work. Ms. Gaspari felt crushed, but not for long. She offered to find funds to keep her program going, and school officials finally agreed but offered no assistance. With some parents she planned a benefit concert and all seemed to go well until one day a parent came with bad news, The hall they'd rented was condemned and couldn't be used, and the concert was only a month away! Again, Roberta Gaspari felt crushed, but not for long. 

Word of her plight came to another violinist who offered her the use of a hall for her concert, "But only," he said, "if I and some of my friends may play along." It turned out to be Carnegie Hall, and the man was Isaac Stern and his friends included Izaak Perlman, Arnold Steinhart and other violin virtuosos. The benefit concert was so well received that her East Harlem violin program was fully endowed and is still going today. Young lives are still being changed, and violin music is heard in the streets of East Harlem.  

Roberta Gaspari could have given up many times, but she did not. She often felt crushed, but not for long. The 1999 film, "Music of the Heart," details her story more fully.

As you and I are faced with obstacles on our journey, we can't avoid feeling crushed from time to time. We may feel like we're being pushed into the ditch on the road of life, but it's up to us if we are going to stay in the ditch or get back on the road.

Jesus has walked that road for you and has earned you forgiveness and a new start. God has a plan for us to be with Him forever by faith. The potholes or rough roads can either make us give up, or they can make us work harder and find newer ways to travel, ways that include Him at our sides.

Whatever happens, let Jesus be your travelling companion wherever you go.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


A recent monthly prayerbook had a message about being carefree.  "We all want to be carefree," it said. "Children expect to be carefree when school is out for summer vacation, adults expect to be carefree when they become empty nesters, and everyone looks forward to the carefree years of retirement."

North of Phoenix there is a Carefree, Arizona, and I'm sure the person who named it intended its name to convey a basic human wish to be that way if you live there. But of course, we can't escape the cares of life no matter how much time or money or wishes we have. Life will always toss its troubles at us, no matter what.

1 Peter 5:7 points us to the solution: "Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you."  Health cares, job cares, money, child or world cares - cast them all on Him, because He knows how to handle them. Some He will remove, others He will help us through, some may remain a long time but He will help us handle them. Whatever the case, Jesus is our heavenly care taker, if we will only let Him.

Recently I heard a man tell of how he struggled with the sudden death of his wife.  "I learned the meaning of those words in Psalm 23," he said, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." He continued, "The important word is 'through'. Some people get into the valley and stay there, not knowing how to get out. We need to remember Jesus is in the valley also, and He will help us get through it."

During Lent we remember Jesus went into the valley, and endured the pain, isolation, rejection and death we deserved. He went there so we wouldn't have to stay there. He didn't stay there either, but came out alive on the other side. Jesus is our great care taker, for He took away our sins. Now we all can be carefree in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is our risen Lord who loves us, no matter what!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Carol and I just returned from a flight after taking part in a joyful and snowy Colorado mountain wedding. Max Lucado once wrote that people on a plane and people on a church pew have a lot in common. All are on a journey. Most are well-behaved and presentable. Some doze, and others gaze out the window. For many, a good flight and a good worship service are about the same. "Nice," we like to say. "It was a nice flight - It was a nice worship service."

A few, however, are not content with nice. They long for something more. Like the little boy who asks as he comes in the door, "Will they really let me meet the pilot?" His question reaches the cockpit, causing the pilot to say, "Well, come on in!"

With a nod from his mom, the youngster enters the cockpit and its world of controls and gauges and emerges minutes later with eyes wide open. "Wow! I'm so glad to be on this plane!" he exclaims. No one else's face shows that kind of wonder, that kind of enthusiasm. Travelers are mostly content to be on the plane, content to be off to their destination, content to be out of the airport, content to sit and stare and read or say little.

Yes, it’s true - people on a plane and people on a pew have a lot in common. The next time you enter a church service, take a look at the faces. They’re content to be there, content to sit and look straight ahead, to talk a little and then to leave when the service is over. "Seek and you will find," Jesus promised (Matthew 7:7).

And since a nice worship service is what we seek, a nice service is usually what we find. A few, however, seek more. A few come with the childlike enthusiasm of the boy. And those few leave as he did, wide-eyed with the wonder of having stood in the presence of the Pilot Himself.

Are you glad to be on the plane?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Corrie ten Boom, Dutch evangelist who survived the horrors of Nazi Germany once wrote, "Yesterday is a cancelled check, today is cash, and tomorrow is a promissory note to them that accept the victory of Jesus."

One of the big troubles Christians have is understanding forgiveness and redemption. Forgiveness is erasing past sins; redemption is repayment of the debt of our sin. Mankind is often able to accept forgiveness but not always able to accept redemption.

A man once approached Corrie ten Boom and said he believed he could be forgiven but not redeemed. "The consequences of my sin cannot be erased," he said. He told of how he had fathered a child in his youth and how the living child and the memory of his sin would remain with him forever, thus never allowing him to be redeemed.

Corrie then gave him an interesting explanation: "Jesus does not patch things up in our lives, but He does renew us." If this man would ask Jesus to go back with him to that dark spot in his life, He will change its darkness into light. That was His purpose in coming to us. He delivers us from all sin. Isaiah said instead of a curse, there will be a blessing for all who trust in God for redemption.

She went on asking, "Do you understand that? Of course you don't!" These concepts may be confusing, but they are true. We will only understand God's redemption fully when we are in heaven and have new minds. But for now we can understand these things only by faith. Whoever accepts Jesus as the victor over the past, present and future, will see the dark spots in your life changed into blessings.

The devil wants us to dwell on the dark side, and to doubt God can really change and redeem us. The devil may be more powerful than we are, but remember: Jesus is more powerful than the devil. If we belong to Jesus, we are on the winning side in this great and very real struggle in the world. (Thank you, Corrie, for this insight.)

Do you understand this? Of course you don't! But one day, God willing, you will...

Monday, February 11, 2008


After World War One, Robert Watson-Watt invented a process called Radio Detection and Ranging, which in 1941 was coined in the word "Radar." Radar emits electromagnetic waves that are reflected off a target and transmitted back to a receiver, accurately showing location, size and even speed of the target. Radar sees where humans cannot. 

Most all of us have travelled by airplane sometime in life, but do we realize that all planes today are guided by radar? It gives a pilot the ability to fly no matter what the conditions may be, day or night, in clear weather, fog or storm. In the densest of clouds that would keep a pilot from seeing a thing in front of him, the radar screen shows what is ahead and all around. Radar penetrates the clouds and fog and shows the pilot what is out there.

Faith in Jesus Christ is the radar that sees through the clouds of life. If we see only with our eyes, we will miss the reality of God. The reality of the victory of Christ on the cross can be seen only by faith. Faith in Jesus perceives what is actual and real. Human senses perceive only that which is limited to time and space, but faith in Christ sees God in all that happens in life. Faith's radar sees through to the storms of trouble and heartache so that we can see Jesus in the midst of it all, guiding us through.

Human hearts are amazingly alike. If you could talk honestly with people in America, England, Israel or China, you would hear the same needs and longings. If people would only trust in Jesus Christ as the One who guides them in the Word of God, they would be wiser than all the wisdom of mankind. If we would see with the eyes of faith, we would know God loves us in Jesus, and wants us with Him in heaven.

Human wisdom is a poor guide when it comes to God. It's tainted with pride and vanity. We need to see the world through the eyes of the child who trusts God for all good things. 

The next time you fly, know that the pilot is being guided by radar. And the next time you face a day, let yourself be guided by the radar of God's love for you in Jesus Christ.

In the name of Jesus, the best Pilot in life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


As a president's tenure nears completion, we begin hearing about his legacy. A legacy can be a person's possessions, wisdom, or the lessons learned from that person's life. Have you ever wondered what your legacy will be, what you will leave behind for future generations?

Daniel of the Old Testament was a young Jewish captive living in a foreign land. We remember the story about how he and his friends refused to bow down to the king and were thrown to the lions. The story of Daniel's faith and courage is quite memorable.

But we may not also remember that later on Daniel interpreted the dreams of that same king, and as a result was promoted to be the king's chief advisor (Daniel 2). If the story ended there, those facts alone would be remarkable. But many scholars believe that Daniel's influence, his legacy to the Babylonian people and to us, was a prophesy that a future Messiah who would be born in his native land. 

Daniel's most important legacy may have been the reason why 500 years later Magi from that area of the east followed a star to Israel to find a newborn king, to worship Him and then to return to their own country with the good news. Thus today, over the doorway of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, an inscription is carved in stone regarding the birth of a king, words written in the Persian language that originated near the land of Daniel's captivity. Daniel's legacy was not only the lions den, but may also have been the journey Wise Men.

You and I don't know what our legacy will be, but it will be more than possessions. They will fade. No one remembers Daniel's wealth, but all who know of him remember his faith. And perhaps some even remembered a godly prediction that moved Wise Men from the east to come and worship their Savior.

Wise men (and women) still come and worship Jesus.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


What is your name? Do you like your name? Would you like a different one? Names are important, and how parents name their children changes with the times. Years ago we based our names on vocation (Cartright, Miller) or location (Aufdemberg=On the Mtn, or Vondenkamp=From the Battle) or relationships (Johnson, O'Malley). We named our children after beloved parents or friends, or names were descriptive of relationship to God (Timothy=Honors God, Micah=Who is like God). People giving such names hoped that person's life would reflect the meaning of the name they gave them.

Today names are often based on sound or popularity. For a short period in the 1960s, American names were merely cute or even silly, but parents now have returned to the more endurable names of Emily, Isabella, Abigail and Olivia, or Jacob, Michael, Daniel and Matthew. Whatever our name is, we hope it will be honored, and that people will think good of us when they hear our name.
A few people dislike their names so much that they have them changed. They hope it will alter how people view them, or even change their destiny. Some have even had altered family names restored to their original spelling, because names are important to people.

Those who put their trust in Jesus as their Savior are given a name that changes their destiny. We are baptised in the NAME of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and we are named CHRISTian, a name that carries the power of God. The apostles performed miracles in the name of Jesus. They cast out demons, healed and taught the Gospel, which is centered on the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus gives life to all who honor Him as Lord.

It is only through the name of Jesus that we have access to the God of the Universe, the only true God who made the heavens and the earth. When we become Christians at baptism, we share in the meaning and power of Jesus Christ. Christians, therefore, should strive to live out the name of Jesus and become like Him, reflecting His love and compassion in service to others.

Our Lord Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) Those who reflect the name of Christ honor Him and help spread the Good News of eternal life in His name.

Do you know the meaning of your name?