Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Did you know that from 1,000 to 1,400 Protestant ministers quit the ministry every month? I was surprised to learn it was that many. It is estimated that 10% of all American pastors are "in crisis" of some kind. Thankfully there is a ministry dedicated to helping those important Christian leaders. 

As the old year closes and a new year of promise approaches, you may be wondering if there is a valuable Christian ministry you might support. I recommend "Shepherd's Canyon Retreat" of Scottsdale, AZ.

Shepherd's Canyon Retreat is dedicated to the restoration of wounded church workers and their spouses. Four couples (8 people, as singles are also welcome) come together for eight days of healing through prayer and the guidance of God's Word under the care of two Christian therapists and a Lutheran chaplain. While this ministry is Lutheran-based, people from other denominations are also welcomed.

If you know of a hurting church worker (pastor, DCE, teacher, missionary, youth worker) who could benefit from Shepherd's Canyon Retreat, please direct them to http://www.ShepherdsCanyonRetreat.org or suggest they call 800-783-3079. The next Shepherd's Canyon Retreat is scheduled for February 16-24, 2010, and I will be present as the Lutheran Chaplain. There are still three openings for that retreat.

If you are interested in becoming a Shepherd's Canyon Retreat "Prayer Partner", please Email Director Dave Anderson at . Dave and Barb Anderson of The Fellowship Ministry are helping church workers find the peace of God through Shepherd's Canyon Retreat. Having somewhat reduced their singing ministry, they are now putting their effort into this valuable work.

You can help a church worker attend Shepherd's Canyon Retreat with a tax deductible gift, sending it to P.O. Box 51510, Phoenix, AZ, 85076. If you have any question about this ministry, including upcoming retreats, please contact Dave Anderson.

Thanks be to God for those who are willing to help heal wounded workers.

Monday, December 21, 2009


There was once a modern man, one of us. He was not a Scrooge, but a kind, decent man. He was generous to his family, and upright with his dealings with other men. And he was looking forward to another Christmas season. However, he did not believe in what he termed "all that incarnation stuff." "It just does not make sense," he said in his mind, too honest to pretend otherwise. He just could not swallow "that Jesus Story," the one about God coming to earth as man.

On Christmas Eve, he told his wife, "I hate to disappoint you, but I just cannot go to church with you tonight." He said he would feel like a hypocrite, that he had much rather stay home, but that he would wait up for them. So he stayed at home and his family went to church.

Shortly after the family drove away, snow began to fall. He watched at the window as the flurries got heavier and thicker, then went back to his fireside chair and began to read the newspaper. Minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound, then another and another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against the living room window, but when he went to the door to investigate, he found a flock of birds floundering in the snow. They'd been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter, tried flying through his picture window to the light inside.

Well, he could not let the poor creatures lie there and freeze. He thought of the barn where his children kept their pony. That would provide a warm shelter if he could direct the birds to it. So he quickly put on a coat and boots and tramped through the snow to the barn.

Once there he opened the doors wide, and turned on a light, but the birds only ignored it. They would not come in. He figured food would entice them in, so he fetched a box of bread crumbs, and sprinkled them on the snow making a trail to the lighted doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the crumbs. They just continued to flop helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them, he tried shooing them into the barn and waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm lighted barn.

Suddenly, he realized they were afraid of him. "To them I'm a strange and terrifying creature," he thought. "If only I could think of some way to let them know they can trust me so they'd understand that I'm not trying to hurt them, but to help them." But how? Any move he made scared and confused them, they just would not follow. They could not be lead or chased because they feared him.

"If only I could be a bird myself,"
he thought. "If only I could be a bird and mingle with them and speak their language. And tell them not to be afraid and show them the way to the warm and safe barn. But, I'd have to become one of them so they could see and hear and understand."

Just then, church bells began to ring. The bells rang so loudly that he heard them that cold night. Listening to the bells pealing their glad tidings of Christmas, and remembering the story of the birth of a baby, he suddenly understood why God became a man. And he sank to his knees right there in the snow.

Thanks to Paul Harvey for that wonderful story about the meaning of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I just watched a news clip about the women and orphans of Africa's Congo. How can we not give thanks that we are alive and well here in this great and free nation, despite what we may think is wrong with it? This Christmas we have life so much better than millions of oppressed people around the world. Thank you, O God, for life!

This time of year many will see a children's Christmas pageant with its unexpected and charming moments. Who among us cannot recall a childish surprise, such as the time Mary tossed Baby Jesus back into the manger as she went up to sing in the children's choir? (I can still see Baby Jesus sailing into His manger that Christmas Eve.) Or when Mary and a shepherd, brother and sister, got into a wrestling match because she corrected what he'd said. Or when a young Wise Man knelt at the manger and said, "We have brought gifts of gold, common sense and fur." Or when a three year old followed his big sister and brother to the front and recited a poem about rabbits.

Probably that first Christmas had its moments as well. An excited Joseph may have brought the wrong things, as men will do, and Mary may not have always spoken politely as she gave birth. Newborn Baby Jesus surely cried a little in that drafty stable, especially considering the task He had before Him. After such a long journey and the trials of finding a place to stay, the young couple may have given thanks they made it there alive. Surely they marvelled when the shepherds came with their story about the angels.

Our world has problems, many of them severe or even horrible, but it also has God watching over His people, offering them hope for eternal life. The violated Congolese women look forward to a good life in heaven because there is little hope for it here on earth. If your life is good, then give God thanks. If it is not, give thanks that God offers you hope for eternal joy with Him. It comes to believers because of the gift of His Only Son.

Thank you, O God, for eternal life!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Where did the Advent Wreath come from? Who started it and what does it mean? Over 80% of the world's Christians observe the season of Advent, but many Christians don't know much about it. I hope today's WEEKLY MESSAGE will help answer some of these questions.

Origins of the Advent Wreath are from pre-Christian times when circular wreaths of evergreens and candles were used to encourage people during the cold and darkest season of the year to take heart that longer days and warmer weather would soon return. The Christian Church adopted this practice during Advent to encourage people to anticipate better days with the coming of Christ, who had arrived at the first Advent at Christmas, and would come again in glory in the Second Advent to judge all people.

Like many Christian observations, Advent came to be observed gradually over centuries. The weeks prior to the winter solstice became weeks of preparation for the Christian celebration of Christ's birth. Four candles were placed on the Advent Wreath in a circle of evergreens which represent ongoing life. Three candles of purple represented Sundays of repentance, and one rose candle was for rejoicing on the third Advent Sunday. Some Advent Wreaths included a white Christ candle in its center.

Christ is the Light that came into the world to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (John 3:19-21). Recently the Christian church replaced the repentance color purple with blue, the color of hope. In many Christian families, Advent wreaths are lighted before the evening meal during special prayers that invite Christ to return again to bring eternal life to all the faithful.

Like other seasons of the year, Advent is intended to stir up faith in the hearts of believers. It can also help to provoke questions among unbelievers, giving believers the opportunity to share the faith and hope they have in Jesus. If anyone asks you the meaning of Advent, don't be afraid to share your faith in Christ.

Midweek worship services are also held in many churches. This year I am preaching the three Advent services at Trinity Lutheran Church, Casa Grande, AZ, under the theme, “Christ our Prophet, Priest and King.” If you would like copies of my sermons from this series, contact me and I will Email them to you.

A blessed Advent to you all!

Monday, November 30, 2009


An old pioneer traveled westward across the great plains until he came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the Grand Canyon. In amazement he looked at the magnificent chasm a mile deep, eighteen miles across, and more than a hundred miles long! The old pioneer gasped, "Wow - something musta happened here!"

In a similar way a visitor to our world today would view the lights, decorated trees, parties, festivities, and the religious services and would probably say, "Something must have happened here!" Indeed, something did happen. God came to our world as a human being on the first Christmas.

Have you ever wondered, why all the fuss? Why special midweek services? Why remember a baby born in an obscure Middle Eastern village and why a huge festival just to honor His birth? Why? Because something happened 2,000 years ago. The Son of God came to earth in the first Advent and that's enough in itself.

Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. His purpose is to save the human race. Environmentalism won't save us, and neither will politics or science or economics or morality - only Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one will come to God the Father except through Him.

Last Sunday the season of Advent started. Advent means “coming,” and usually refers to the three weeks before Christmas. You and I live between two advents - the first Advent of His coming at Bethlehem, and the second Advent is when He will “come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead,” as we say in the Apostle's Creed. Advent is the time for Christians to prepare to celebrate His first coming. Advent is also a good time to prepare us for His His second coming.

Not all Christians observe Advent, but all of them know Jesus will come again some day. Let's be prepared by trusting Him. Let's be prepared by worshipping Him and serving Him. Let's be prepared fror His second advent by sharing our faith in word and deed, helping those less fortunate than ourselves. May all Christian churches so celebrate this season with faith and joy that a new visitor might be moved to remark,

"Wow - something must have happened here!"

Monday, November 23, 2009


God has abundantly blessed us all, so it's time to give Him thanks. Many among us will soon be enjoying American Thanksgiving Day with food, family and football. Some will be too busy, too distracted or perhaps too ill to give thanks. Some will be spending Thanksgiving Day in uniform, at home or abroad, helping others, providing needs, and protecting freedom. But we all can give thanks to the Lord this week.

People have been giving God thanks since the beginning of time. Cain and Abel gave thanks to God for their harvest, Abraham gave thanks for his firstborn son Isaac, and Jacob gave thanks his son Joseph was alive. David gave thanks for offerings to build the first Temple, and Paul gave thanks for offerings to stave off starvation in Jerusalem. Whether 2,000 years ago or this week, giving God thanks is stitched into the fabric of humanity.

Historians tell us the first American Thanksgiving was not the happy occasion we've been lead to think it was. Elementary students today are taught the first Thanksgiving was the Europeans giving thanks to the Indians. An issue of "Smithsonian" magazine describes a meal built on invasion, slavery and oppression. The article has Native Americans as winsome, happy folks while Europeans were unkempt, greedy invaders. The article says about the only thing Europeans brought to the first Thanksgiving was disease. The truth about the first American Thanksgiving, of course, is between the two extremes.

President Lincoln made American Thanksgiving Day official in 1864. Amid the horrors of the Civil War, this remarkable man reminded a faltering nation of its duty to give God thanks. Today, despite the fact that God has been all but eradicated from from the public square, America still observes Thanksgiving Day. We haven't yet abdicated this important holiday and I pray we never will.

How will you spend the day? Will you take time to attend a church service to give your thanks? Some churches have Wednesday Thanksgiving Eve services for those who will spend Thursday preparing food or doing other things. If this is true of your Thursday, I encourage you to take advantage of a Wednesday service. There is no valid reason not to give God thanks this Thanksgiving Day.

"Give thanks unto the Lord for He is Good - His love endures forever." (Psalm 107:1)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Today I write you from our winter residence in Casa Grande, AZ, about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. Yesterday Carol and I drove the 900 miles from our permanent home in Castle Rock, CO, bringing all those "necessary" things with us. It seemed like a longer trip this time.

Yet 150 years ago the settlers drove covered wagons over plains, mountains and deserts, seeking their new home. It would have taken a pioneer family three months and lots more money to travel what we drove in just one day. And we had a home waiting for us when we arrived. Maybe next time we'll leave the car in Arizona and travel by plane. One shouldn't waste time traveling the long way, should one?

We are all travellers between homes. We all have some kind of home here on earth and we're all heading towards another home after this life. People who trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation have a fantastic new home awaiting them. It is all paid for, just the right size, needs no upkeep, has all the modern conveniences, and our neighbors will have no faults. Come to think of it, neither will we. Sounds like heaven!

As we travel the road of life, let's keep our eyes and ears open and stay on the right road. This time we took a slightly different route across country that cut some miles off our trip but ended up taking us on unknown mountain roads at night - not very smart! 

Our GPS came in handy. When we veered from the path, it either scolded us to get back on the "right" road or showed us a new road to our final destination. It almost seemed like a pastor! Best of all, the GPS told us we couldn't get there by going the wrong way. No matter what road we took, we needed to keep heading southwest. You can't get to Arizona by driving to the north Pole, and you won't arrive anywhere unless you keep going.

Lots of folks today are on the wrong road, headed for mountains of trouble. Some think all roads lead to the same place, and even a child can tell you that's not true. Some roads lead to danger and others even to death. True, sin makes us veer off the road now and then, but Jesus helps us get back on again. Sometimes the right road seems uninteresting, but if we keep our eyes on the goal, Jesus Christ and the home He's prepared for us, we will achieve the best destination.

God is with us every mile of the way. He nurtures and guides us with His Holy Roadmap. He talks to us in His Word and wants us to talk to Him (and each other) as we go. That's why the Psalmist said to God, "Your Word is a lamp for my feet, and a light to guide me." (Psalm 119:105)

Get on the right road, fellow travellers!

Monday, November 9, 2009


Last summer Carol and I drove to the top of Mt. Evans. Driving those tight turns up to 14,000+ feet made me wonder if I'd be able to stay on the road. But what a majestic drive! Another winding, twisting road, the one up Pike's Peak, is even more majestic. Some say the only way to get a thrill in life is to drive a dangerous road now and then.

This reminds me of a school district in West Virginia that was interviewing prospective bus drivers. Since they would be driving narrow mountain roads, each applicant was asked, "How close can you drive to the edge of the road?" Some said, "If I keep good hold of the wheel, I can get within six inches." Others tried to top that by saying they could manage four inches. But those who got the jobs usually answered, "I keep as far away from the edge as I can."

It seems today that such a sensible answer - staying away from the edge - is hard to find. Too many people prefer living as close to the edge of life as possible. Whether it's temptation or curiosity or the wish to live life to its fullest, some of us feel compelled to creep as close to the edge as possible. But the closer we come to the edge, the more we put our lives and souls in danger.

Proverbs 1:10 says, "My child, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them." That means watch out for temptation! Temptation comes to us all, but we need not always give in to it. We may think we can resist it, but we're not as strong as we think. Life can be lived just as well away from the edge as next to it.

None of us, no matter what our age, wisdom or abilities, is smart enough to stay always on the road. None of us can keep such a grip on the wheel that we won't at some time go over the edge. We all fall in life because we are weak and sinful.

But Jesus walked our road of life. He knows how we are tempted. Thus He will also be there to catch us when we fall and keep us from harm. If we turn to Jesus in faith, He will pick us up, clean us off, and help us back on the road again. He'll help us to stay there, too, if we let Him.

As you face today and all it brings, why not keep a safe distance from the edge?

Monday, November 2, 2009


Last Saturday, like most Americans, we set our many clocks back to Standard Time. (It's said that a man with many clocks never knows what time it is.) Did you happen to count how many clocks you had to re-set? At our home the clocks number 16, including two computers and two cars. Actually, the computers re-set themselves, as do our cell phones every time we turn them on. It's amazing that we now can have our clocks set exactly to other clocks around the world.

Time may march on, but sometimes it seems to fly. Then again time just drags. The New Testament speaks of "time" in at least two ways: "Chronos" is clock time ("It's time to eat!"), and "Kairos" is general time ("It's about time you did that!"). In any given day each of us is given 24 hours of "chronos" to use as best we can. We also have important periods of "kairos" in life: Time to make a decision, time to fix that problem, time to do what's right.

Time is a bank account we're all given, and none of us knows when the account will be closed, so we need to be good caretakers of our time. It's sad when we hear someone say they have "time to kill," as if those minutes or hours were worthless. Yet we all waste some time, don't we? Waiting may seem like time wasted, as can time spent in uncertainty or indecision. All time is valuable and irreplaceable.

Psalm 31:15 says, "My times are in Your hands." St. Paul warns us there will be terrible times in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1), but Nahum the prophet encourages us, "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him." (Nahum 1:7) Here's a poem with a great thought:

The clock of time is wound but once, And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop, At late or early hour.
Now is the only time you have; Come now and do God's will.
Wait not until tomorrow, for Your clock may then be still.
Let your time count for God and His people.

Monday, October 26, 2009


There was a recent article in the business section of a newspaper that interested me. It urged older Americans not to worry about leaving any inheritance to their children. The message of the article was clear: "You don't owe the next generation anything. You've earned it, so get out there, spend it and live for yourself."

Those sentiments are a bit like a bumper sticker I've seen, "SKI CLUB MEMBERS - Spending Kids' Inheritance." Perhaps this idea is meant to help retirees enjoy life, but it's a poor way to do it. Aside from the obvious "RBS" (Really Bad Stewardship), it encourages an attitude of selfishness that helps no one. Everything we have is a gift from God, and we must use it all carefully and wisely, in every generation.

Leaving an inheritance is, of course, more than one's possessions. My parents left us a small amount of money, and that only due to a wise brother's investment on their behalf. Their real legacy was who they were and the godly example they gave us. Their greatest inheritance to us was the faith in Christ they instilled in us, one that was embodied in a wall plaque that read, "Only One Life, 'Twill Soon Be Past - Only What's Done For Christ Will Last."

My wife and I plan to leave an inheritance to our two sons. It already includes a good education and a secure childhood. It will include an ongoing example of marital love and devotion that will equip them for a faithful life. We've left them positive character traits, good work habits, and attitudes that should give them strength and endurance for most situations of life. We've tried to show them when to stand up and speak, as well as when to sit down and listen. And we plan to leave them a financial inheritance as well.

Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." A parental legacy must first and foremost involve Jesus Christ. Teaching our children the way of salvation through faith in Him is the greatest gift we can ever give them. Showing them Christ through regular worship, sharing of material blessings and respect for God's Word, will do more for our childrens' futures than a thousand times the money we could ever give them.

What kind of inheritance are you leaving?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Tom and his wife Gerri decided to have their kitchen remodeled. They developed plans, hired a carpenter and for some three weeks, the schedule around the house was changed into something new. Each day at about 7 AM the doorbell would ring and the carpenter would come in to start his work. He would usually work until about 4:30 when he would close the front door and the house would be silent.

Since both Tom and Gerri worked during the day, it was a good arrangement for all. All except for their cat Tuffy. The sound of pounding and sawing and the clutter of construction upset him greatly. Daily life was different and he didn't know why it had to be that way. So Tuffy also developed a schedule. The moment he heard the doorbell ring each morning, he scampered to an open bedroom closet and slipped far back under some hanging clothes. He stayed there in the dark all day, not even coming out for food or his catbox. Only when he heard the door shut at 4:30 did he emerge from his closet. Even on weekends when the carpenter didn't come he was seen to sneak into his closet when a door slammed.

You had to feel sorry for Tuffy. He couldn't understand what was going on. He could not have realized all the noise and clutter meant something good in the future, for the plans included a special place just for him in the new laundry room. Every day he just hurried to his dark hiding place, assuming the worst, thinking it was the best place to be until that nasty carpenter left the house.

Sometimes we're like Tuffy. God is at work in our lives like the carpenter and we're not sure what's going on. He seems to allow trouble, clutter and unnecessary messes to come into our lives, causing us fear and aggravation. We wish things would get back to normal, and soon. But all the while God is making needed changes, building something good and useful for us, doing things we will not appreciate until later.

The Bible says, "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) Sometimes that's not easy to do, but it's always the best way. God loves us and wants to bring us to eternal life by faith in Jesus. He will guide us in the right path of life if we will just trust Him.

Are you hiding in the closet, or are you looking for how He is at work in your life?

Monday, October 12, 2009


Tonight Carol and I watched "The Soloist," a true story about Nathaniel Ayers, a gifted musician who lived on the streets of Los Angeles due to his mental condition of schizophrenia. He loved Beethoven and played the cello well, although the imagined voices he heard held him prisoner and kept him from using his talent as he wished. It is a touching movie that dealt sensitively with the difficult issues of mental illness, gifts and wanting to help others in need.  

The principal actor, Jamie Foxx, depicted Mr. Ayers incredibly well. After seeing him here and also in "Ray," his movie about musician Ray Charles, I can only hope he continues to use his gifts to make movies that honor people and God. 

Just prior to the movie Carol and I had watched with much frustration our Rockies baseball team end its season with a loss in their divisional series. This movie was a good way to get back to reality. There's nothing like genuine troubles to make imagined ones go away. 

One thing the movie showed was the fragility of the human soul. Seeing the hundreds of street people depicted in their personal and often distorted worlds was sobering. With our common human weaknesses and frailties, none of us are all not that far from mental confusion. Sometimes only a thin line separates the "sane" from the "insane." We'd all do well to give thanks for being ordinary people who usually know what reality is.

In His day Jesus saw people with both physical and mental troubles, and saw them without judgment. Whether it was the demon-possessed man who lived among the tombs or the young man who loved his riches; whether it was the woman caught in adultery or the Pharisee certain of his purity; whether it was the humble and lowly or the high and mighty, Jesus knew their needs. And He loved them despite their sins. He knew they needed a rescuer, a life preserver, someone who could hold them up and keep them from drowning.

Jesus knew what they needed because He was that Savior, that Man among men, the true Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. He died on the cross of Calvary that we the broken might be made whole. It was His prophet who wisely said, "Blessed is the one that trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is." (Jeremiah 17:7)

May we all rejoice in being ordinary!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


A lot of people I know feel they don't have enough time to do all they want to do. Busyness can be imposed or created, real or an illusion. We can feel we're busy while not really doing anything. Retired people know all about that.

The story is told of a father who was so busy that he always brought work home at night from the office. He'd spend a little time with his children at supper, then head for his home office where he shut his door for an hour or two of more work. His first grade daughter saw this and eventually began to wonder why her Daddy did that. 

One night she asked Mommy what Daddy was doing in his office.  "Daddy's working - he has a lot to do, so much that he can't finish it at the office every day." The little girl thought for a moment, and then in a compassionate, childlike way said, "Well, then, why don't they put Daddy in a slower group? That's what we do in school." (I wonder how Mommy related this to Daddy. )

Are there days when you need to be put into a slower group? If so, the only one who can do it is you. Take a moment to look at your life. Are you neglecting the important things, such as cultivating relationships, in favor of that which is secondary?

Our Lord once said, "I have come that you might have life in all its abundance." (John 10:10) When He died on the cross it was to grant us eternal life when we die. It was also that we might trust Him for all things now, including a little contentment and joy in life.

Maybe we don't need to be put into a slower group, but a group that moves at the Lord's pace and according to His priorities. At your life's end, will you look back and wish you'd spent more time at work? Will you rejoice at the time you spent with your hobby? Or will you give thanks for time spent at home and with loved ones? 

What group do you need to be in?

Monday, September 28, 2009


A number of years ago I read a story about Babe Ruth, and I hope it's true. One can't always be sure in this age of internet recycling. The story goes something like this:

At the end of his legendary career, Babe Ruth had become overweight and out of shape. During one of his final baseball games, he bungled several fly balls in the outfield and struck out every time he came up to bat. Fans who had known of his once-proud exploits were now laying on hoots and catcalls, mocking this great athlete who had almost single-handedly made baseball our national pastime. Jeers for the man who had hit twice as many home runs as anyone else in the game was quickly becoming an embarrassment.

About then a small boy jumped the railing and ran onto the playing field. Scampering past players and field ushers, he ran over and threw his arms around the legs of the fading athlete. A gently smiling Babe reached down, picked up the boy and hugged him tight. Not surprisingly, the crowd quieted down. Then setting the little fellow down and patting him on the head, the Babe took the boy's hand and led him over to his dugout. Witnesses say he received an ovation in that moment that inspired quite a few tears.

The crowd had been correct in their assessment, of course. Babe Ruth had let much of his athletic prowess go to seed, even more than age might have excused him. Yet a young boy remembered him for who he was. Best of all, he chose to cover over his hero's errors with genuine love.

This is not unlike what marriage, family and even some special friendships are established to be: people saying to each other, “I know you've failed me and disappointed me at times, as I have you. But I'm still going to put my arm around you and tell you, 'I love you.' After all, we're on this journey together.”

I believe the angels in heaven burst into praise when they see people show love like that. In a way, this is what God's love is like for imperfect people. 1 Peter 4:8 tells us, "Keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." 

In Jesus, God has already done that for you!

Monday, September 21, 2009


We don't always realize the impact we make on others. Often years, even a lifetime, must pass before we realize the difference we have made in someone's life. Then, by God's grace, we are allowed to see or hear how our life or life's work helped someone.

"Operation Market Garden" of World War II took place in September, 1944. The "Screaming Eagles" of the 101st Airborne were center of a paratrooper task force to secure bridges on the lower Rhine so the Allies could rapidly advance into northern Germany and defeat the enemy. However, miscalculations in landing led to the needless deaths of thousands of solders that day when they landed too far behind enemy lines. Only determination and great sacrifice led to eventual victory.

Fifty years later, Maj. Gen. Robert Dees (101st Airborne, Retired), and a small group of other solders parachuted into the same drop zone near Eindhoven, Holland, to commemorate that terrible day. On that day in 1994 when he landed, a Dutch woman came near and hugged him. Through her tears and an interpreter she told him her story. 

In the days before that assault in 1944, the Germans were executing five fathers a day in Eindhoven to keep the population in submission and deter the Dutch underground. On the day this woman's father was to be shot, American paratroopers fell from the sky, saving his life. She learned this from her mother, because this woman had not yet been born. So she was alive in 1994 even though so many others died during Operation Market Garden.

Each person's life is important. Each home is important. Our small but courageous choices - to stand for the truth, to remain committed to one another, to raise a family that honors Jesus Christ, or to do what is right when others are not - all these will yield a victory of some kind. Just like that Dutch woman was alive because her father was rescued by soldiers who lived through a fierce battle, so also the generations we help raise and are part of, will give life to the future church and society and nation.

What battles are you in right now? What bright spots on the horizen do you see that will give people hope? What can you do to help bring victory in the cultural battle for Christian home and family? 

[Jesus said] "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Rev. 2:10)

Monday, September 14, 2009


What's left of today's print media often gives us articles that offer problems and no solutions. I don't wish to be another gloomy pundit, just a fellow human being trying to understand our journey through life. I want to give you hope for life, not more to worry about. After reading this article, you may find this hard to see.

This week's thoughts start with a realization of how dependent on electricity we are. We are helpless without it. Home and business electricity come from a complex power grid; our monetary system depends on electronic accounting; food distribution depends on computers; newer cars and trucks run only via onboard computers; communication and media are dependent on airwaves and satellites; hospitals, schools, governments, churches and even our powerful military function only by electronics. All it would take for disaster to strike is for the lights to go out and stay out. We can hardly imagine life without electricity.

If you want to read a terrifying reality, look up "EMP" on your computer or encyclopedia. A powerful Electro Magnetic Pulse can put all the lights out. Tiny EMPs occur in nature from a rare solar power burst, but a really damaging one would be man-made, from a nuclear explosion in the upper atmosphere. One medium sized A-Bomb exploded at the right height over America would result in human death on a scale that is unimaginable, simply by rendering our electronics useless.

We have isolated ourselves by technology, marooned ourselves on an island of our own making. Without electricity, most of humanity would die in a year or two. And all it would take is a few people insane enough to make such a bomb and smart enough to send it up in a rocket. We need to pray our military will always be far ahead of those perverse enough to destroy us and themselves for the sake of their god. And we need to pray our leaders will see the importance of being prepared for such a catastrophe.

Despite such a terrifying dependance, there most certainly is hope. Our hope comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He who keeps us will neither slumber nor sleep, and He is ready to hear our prayers at any time, no electronics needed!

I've been leading a Bible Class on the "First Three Centuries of Christianity," a video discussion series by Dr. Paul L. Maier (which, of course, requires electronics for projection and copying). Dr. Maier shows the incredible power of God at work in the lives of the early Christians who endured terrible persecution, war and starvation, and yet managed not just to survive but to thrive and eventually to change the entire world.

Like them, our only hope is Jesus Christ. Faith lives in the heart, not on a circuit board. Christians have always survived because of God's grace and mercy, and the faith and hope of the risen Christ. The love of Jesus is one of the few things we can know for sure in this life. Early Christians survived on hope of forgiveness and eternal life. They trusted with all their hearts that God would care for them here in time, and there in eternity. So must we.

Perhaps we can also lighten our loads a little. We don't need everything Madison Avenue tries to sell us. Maybe we can talk less on our cell phone, read a Good Book, take a walk or take out the original computer which has never been improved upon - a pencil and notebook. That little implement will always be impervious to electronic failure and is 100% accurate, excepting user error.

There are those who will say, "Trust in God but keep your gun loaded." It's human nature to want to protect oneself and loved ones. Besides faith in Christ, some will choose defense and preparedness. These need not be contradictory with faith, although it may rattle us to hear a Christian friend keeps a weapon in the home. That's a constitutional right I hope we will never lose.

God has given us all kinds of gifts in this great nation. The greatest of them is the freedom to worship God as we choose and be blessed by faith in Jesus. With God's great gifts, we can survive anything.

God give you peace of mind and heart, knowing His love for you never ends.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


In 1890, 100 starlings were let loose in America, gift of a someone who had no idea the trouble they'd cause. Today millions of these nasty black birds move in flocks around our nation with their loud raspy noise, leaving behind caustic droppings and a big mess. Nearly impossible to eliminate, they were better left in Europe where they came from.

In the early 1800's a flowering perennial was introduced from Asia and quickly went wild. This aggressive weed (convolvulus arvensis) is commonly called field bindweed, creeping jenny or charley, wild morning glory (and other names), and is nearly impossible to kill. It entwines itself around itself or other plants, seeking new places to root more plants and has earned 85 names in 29 languages, none of them kind.

Bindweed has an extensive deep network of roots and underground stems and continually tries to start new plants. Robbing water from other plants, in one season it will smother a garden or lawn if given the chance. It is impossible to stop by pulling it out, and though chemicals may kill it for a season, it will reseed itself the next year.

I once found bindweed growing inside a church! A tiny yellow plant had wound its way through a crack in the concrete floor and was growing inside the heat register. Tangled and sickly, it measured over three feet, and was doing all it could to survive in that unnatural place.

Though it may not be eliminated, the good news is that bindweed can be managed if you are patient and persistent. There are no quick-fixes for this pernicious nuisance, but it can be stopped. (Starlings, however, have yet to find their match.) Bindweed shouldn't be here, but once present, it never leaves. Because it is so persistent, some peole just give up and admire its small white flowers.

Bindweed is the closest equal to human sin I can think of. We weren't destined to have it, but once introduced into the world, it remained here forever. The fall into sin was permanent and unchecked individual sins will choke the life out of all that is good. How often do we try to stop doing this or that sin, and yet it comes back? St. Paul lamented this fact, saying, "I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." (Romans 7:19, ESV)

All people struggle with sin. Some are overcome by it and others just deny it, accept it or even admire it. The person, however, who acknowledges sin, and goes to the throne of God's mercy in repentance, will find pardon and peace. Jesus removes our sin. He overcame it on Calvary's cross, and now it need not smother or choke us. 

Jesus has removed our sin as far as the east is from the west. And while certain sins may trouble us, they should never be accepted, as permanent and certainly not as being good. Satan constantly persuades us to accept and approve of sin. But in Jesus Christ, sin need never overcome us. 

"Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Monday, August 31, 2009


Have you ever said, "Don't judge a book by its cover?" Today I am saying it, especially regarding two books, "Conversations with God" and "Conversations with God for Teens," by Neale D. Walsch, both of which have been on the New York Times best seller list. They may sound harmless, but their titles are very misleading.

In these two books the author poses questions and then gives answers as if they are from God. But these so-called conversations are mere setups to trumpet the personal opinions of the author. And the answers he gives usually go directly against the teachings of the Bible.

For instance, one question: "Why am I a lesbian?" Answer? She was born that way just as she was born right-handed, with blue eyes, etc. Then "god" tells her to go out and celebrate her differences. Another question: "I am living with my boyfriend. My parents say that I am living in sin. Should I marry him?" The author's reply is "No! And who are you sinning against? Not me, because you've done nothing wrong." It's certain many youth or adults will gladly take these answers as being the truth.

Another question asks about God's forgiveness of sin. His reply: "I do not forgive anyone because there is nothing to forgive. There is no such thing as right or wrong, and that is what I have been trying to tell everyone, 'Judge not lest ye be judged'." Obvious false doctrine, even using Bible to back it up, something Satan did two thousand years ago in his temptation of Jesus.

These books have been sold to school children through The Scholastic Book Club, which is interesting since it's doubtful the Bible or any truly Christian book would ever be sold by TSBC. Most schools encourage the purchase of books through such clubs, so parents need to check carefully what is being peddled to their children. They also need to know what they're getting these days on TV, iPod and internet. The devil, the world and the flesh constantly try to turn them away from God's truth.

Our world may seem improved in some ways, but it never stops getting filled with deceit. We all, youth and adults, need to be sober and vigilant, because the Evil One, "roams about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8). And since lions hunt the slowest, weakest and youngest of the herd, we all must be ever vigilant on their behalf.

Dr. James Dobson and I heartily agree with this message!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Jenny, a cheerful girl with bouncy curls, was six years old. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw a necklace of pretty white pearls. "Oh please, Mommy, can I have them? Please, Mommy, please?" Her mother checked the price and then looked back at her pleading little girl. "$1.95! Well, if you really want them, Jenny, you can earn money by doing extra chores and in no time you can save enough money to buy them. Maybe you'll even get a gift from Grandma on your birthday."

When Jenny got home, she emptied her piggy bank and counted out 17 cents. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and the next day asked Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions from her lawn for ten cents. Grandma gave her a whole dollar, and soon Jenny had enough money to buy the pearls.

Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel so grown up. She wore them everywhere - Sunday school, school, sometimes even to bed. She did take them off while swimming so they wouldn't be lost.

Jenny had a loving Daddy and often he would read her a bedtime story. One night when he'd finished a story, he asked, "Jenny, do you love me?" "Oh yes, Daddy," Jenny said, "I love you." "Then give me your pearls," he said. "Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. You can have Princess, my white horse with a pink tail. She's my favorite. But not my pearls." "I love you, Honey," her Daddy said as he kissed her good night.

A week later, after story time, Daddy asked her again, "Jenny, do you love me?" "Daddy, you know I love you," she said. "Then give me your pearls," he said. "Oh Daddy, not my pearls. You can have my baby doll, that I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful, but you can have her." Her Daddy smiled, "That's okay, honey. God loves you, and so do I." And he kissed her good night.

A few nights later when Daddy came in her room Jenny was sitting on her bed. And he noticed a little tear was on her cheek. "What is it, Jenny?" Jenny lifted her hand and with a small, quiet voice said, "Here, Daddy, these are for you." And she gave him her pearl necklace.

With tears in his own eyes, Daddy hugged Jenny a long time. And as he reached out his hand to take her dime-store necklace, with his other hand he gave her a blue velvet case. In it was a strand of real pearls, very costly and far more beautiful than her toy ones. He'd wanted to give her these all the time, but was waiting for her willingness to give up her toy so she could receive a real treasure.

Our Heavenly Father is waiting for us, His dear children, to give up the lesser things in our lives so He can give us real treasures. Are there things in your life God wants you to let go? Are you holding on to unnecessary or even harmful possessions, relationships or habits to which you've become so attached that it seems impossible to let them go? Maybe now is the time.

God never takes something away from us without giving us something far better in its place. But we won't know what's in His other hand until we are willing to give Him our most precious earthly possessions.

A loss may seem cruel now, but God makes up for it in a much better way.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Last night we had a nasty hailstorm here. Having a rural background, I've always been fearful of hail and for a time was certain we would lose windows and have roof damage. Fortunately the windows held up and an adjuster will soon tell us about the roof.

People have always been wary of the weather. Indeed, humans have always been at the mercy of cosmic forces greater than themselves. But considering what it requires to have a balanced earth and solar system, it's amazing we don't have things far worse. For complex life to exist here, dozens of variables must be in perfect coordination: water, temperature, atmosphere, size and distance from the sun, radiation, gravity, large enough moon, size and number of other planets - to name just a few.

If our earth was just 1-2% closer or farther away from the sun as now, life would not be possible. If the earth we live on did not have every element necessary for life in its correct position and size and relationship with all other factors, complex life would either freeze or fry.

In recent years scientists have given us theories of the origin of the solar system, usually concluding it is the result of evolutionary selection that occurred over a massive amount of time. Given enough time and variables, they conclude, we have what we now have, a lucky combination fit for human life, a "Goldilocks" life where everything is "just right." Physicists like Carl Sagan say the earth is a "pale blue dot lost in a cosmic sea," a place of no special significance.

I disagree with that. Something greater than chance is involved here. In a short but valuable video (and book), "The Privileged Planet," astrophysicist Guillermo Gonzolas and philosopher Jay Richards state their belief that the earth occupies a rare and special place in the solar system that enables it to sustain complex life. They believe that simple molecular life may exist elsewhere, but complex life is possible only here on earth.

Albert Einstein once said, "I have deep faith that the fundamental principles of the universe will be both beautiful and simple." Countless Christians over the ages have had faith that God created life and the universe and placed human beings here to manage it. While those humans have been limited by Sin and lack of understanding, through the mercy of Jesus they have been given a second chance. God enables us to understand life (at least in part) and also to experience life with God in eternity - all by faith in Jesus.

The fundamental truth of the universe is the beauty and simplicity of God loving mankind in Jesus Christ. Psalm 8:1, 3-6, says, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth.... When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet."

In view of an amazing life on a privileged planet, that's my prayer today.

Monday, August 10, 2009


What a mixed-up world we live in! Politicians confuse us, the economy scares us, a rapidly changing culture challenges us, and immorality threatens us. In troubled times like these, we need something permanent to hold on to. The wheels of society seem to be falling off, so what can we do? What will be our refuge as the storm clouds move in?

A number of years ago Bill and Gloria Gaither had similar feelings. They had just been blessed with their third child, and the rapid cultural changes of the 60’s and 70’s made them wonder what kind life awaited their precious gift from God.

The Gaithers, successful ministers and song writers (They’ve written over 500 Christian songs!), felt the darkness closing in the same way many of us feel today. They knew money doesn’t fix everything, and being successful does not take away fear. This sinful world can threaten a bright future, no matter what we have accomplished.

One especially dark night they realized again what they had to cling to, the same certainty Christians of all ages have ever had – the resurrection. Because Christ arose from the dead, He is God’s Son, so they could face tomorrow. Because He lives, their future was not bleak. Their resultant hymn, “Because He Lives,” has helped thousands of people face uncertain days. The refrain says:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
Life is worth the living just because He lives.

What is your anchor in the storms of life? It should be apparent that all things human or worldly will fail us. Wealth, wisdom, government, talent - all give us nothing eternal. Jesus alone does. His resurrection assures believers they have more than this life. They have a life forever with Christ.

Because He lives, you and I need not be fearful these shaky days. We trust Christ will bring us through. He loves us today, so life truly is worth the living just because He lives.

“There is no pit so deep, that He is not deeper still.” (Corrie ten Boom)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


In 1858, Rev. Dudley Tyng was a powerful young preacher in Philadelphia. Besides being pastor of his congregation he often held noonday services at the downtown YMCA that attracted large crowds, mostly men on their lunch hour.

On March 30, over 5,000 men gathered to hear his message from Exodus 30:11, "Ye that are men, now go and serve the Lord."  Over 1,000 of those present that day committed their lives to Jesus.

At one point in his sermon, Pastor Tyng said, "I would rather that this right arm were amputated than that I should fall short of my duty to you in delivering God's message." The next day, while visiting people in the country, Pastor Tyng was watching a corn-threshing machine. Raising his arm to pet an animal, his clothing was caught in the machine and his right arm was badly mangled. A few days later it was amputated due to gangrene, and in those days of little medicine, this injury proved to be fatal.

A reporter recorded that on his deathbed, young Pastor Tyng took his father's hand and said, "Stand up for Jesus - tell all you meet to stand up for Jesus." The following Sunday Pastor Tyng's colleague, Rev. George Duffield, preached his morning sermon as a tribute to his departed friend. His text was Ephesians 6:14, "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth around your waist." 

He concluded by reading a poem he had written based on Tyng's final words. Later set to music, these words have been sung around the world as a challenge to Christians everywhere. At his deathbed, Pastor Dudley Tyng preached to a far wider audience than he ever did during his lifetime.

"Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross!
Lift high His royal banner, It must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished, And Christ is Lord indeed!

"Stand up, stand up for Jesus! Stand in His strength alone'
The arm of flesh will fail you, Ye dare not trust your own.
Put on the Gospel armor, Each piece put on with prayer;
Where duty calls, or danger, Be never wanting there."

Courageous people will stand up for that which is important to them, whether for their families, their rights, their country or their beliefs. God's Word calls Christians to stand up for Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit, may all who hear this message do so with courage and unfaltering commitment. 

Especially in this time of testing, stand up and be counted for Jesus!

Monday, August 3, 2009


A college professor had foreign exchange students in his class. One day the professor noticed a male exchange student rubbing his back as if it was sore. He asked the young man if he was okay, and the student told him that he had a bullet lodged in his back, put there by insurgents who tried to overthrow his country's government.

Then the student asked, “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?” The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said, “You catch wild pigs by finding a place in the woods and putting down corn on the ground. The pigs find the corn and begin coming back every day to eat.

“When they get used to eating the corn every day, you put a fence down one side of that place. After they get used to the fence and eat the corn again, you put up another side of the fence. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate. When the pigs come through the gate for more corn, you shut the gate and catch the whole herd.

He continued, “The pigs will be upset that they’ve lost their freedom, but soon will go back to eating all that free corn, because at least they don’t have to forage in the woods for it.”

The young man said, “That’s what’s happening in America. The government keeps spreading free corn in the form of supplemental income, unearned income, subsidies, welfare, bailouts, free medical care and free drugs."

He concluded, “When you lose your freedom a little at a time, you don’t see when the gate is shut. You may reason it seems better this way than before, but you are no longer free. And one day the government may refuse to give you corn, because they say you have had enough.”

Thomas Jefferson once said, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have."

(John 8:32)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


What do you think heaven is like? How do you picture it, either from knowledge of the Bible or personal thoughts? Streets of gold? Angel choirs? Conversation with famous saints? Good food and old friends?

This past weekend my son was in Cooperstown, NY, for the induction ceremony at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Brian has been a lifelong baseball fan and is a walking encyclopedia of stats and trivia. He's also a fan of Jim Rice, former Red Sox star outfielder and one of the weekend inductees.

Saturday evening Brian called with an animated description of the thrill of walking around a lovely town and rubbing shoulders with so many baseball legends. He later emailed us with more observations, as well as a list of baseball players he saw and how it affected him. 

"I am telling you, you guys have to come here, especially during induction weekend. It's amazing how many faces [of former baseball greats] you can see. The village here is wonderfully quiet, the houses are old brick structures with all kinds of history and it is so green everywhere. And really it is fairly cheap to visit here provided you don't plan on buying a bunch of merchandise. Anything Yankees or Red Sox you can imagine is on sale." He ended up his phone conversation with, "I think I'll retire here - this is heaven!"

So, what is heaven like to you? I try to imagine whom I'd like to meet there that would be as thrilling. Would a day in heaven include hobnobbing with Peter about discipleship, or talking theology with Paul, or sharing a heavenly brew with Martin and Katie? Would it include the joy of running into Mom and Dad and sharing my life with Carol or our boys or grandchildren? Would I be surprised at some who were there, as well as some who were not?

Maybe the peace and joy of heaven will have nothing to do with what gives us joy now. We can only imagine it based on personal experience. I dream of singing in angel choirs with no rehearsals, where everyone knew his/her part, and perhaps landing a solo. Would I meet people who overcame great odds, or prospered due to advice or encouragement given?

We don't know, of course. But we do know we'll be thrilled to be there, and especially to meet God face-to-face. That's enough - the greatest thrill of all - just to stand in His presence.

What I can't understand is why folks think it's enlightened to deny God and heaven. Why is life better with no faith? What's so wise about believing there's nothing after death, that the door slams shut, and the grave is all that's left? What's so great about believing in nothing but this life?  

One day heaven will be plain to all believers. Jesus once prayed, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." (Matthew 11:25) I'd rather live as a little child of faith than perish with the learned.

I wonder if there's a heavenly Hall of Fame!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


They hauled away my old friend yesterday. Ten years ago I was given a huge old Kodak copier and it printed bulletins very well most of the time. Finally a copier repairman told me not to call him, that no one would work on it any longer. Yet without a repairman it somehow kept making copies until the print finally faded away. 

I called around to see if a recycler would take it, but no one wanted what once cost thousands and was the best and most durable model ever made. Its counter said 753,542 when it quit. It could have gone several million, but it was dead and no repairman would even look at it.

I rolled it into my garage and spent time every day taking it apart, putting the pieces into boxes and placing them on the curb for the garbage men. Twice I helped them toss the heavy parts into their truck, rewarding them with bottles of water as they hauled away pieces of Old Faithful. Yesterday they hauled away the last of the ransacked frame and I thanked them profusely.

(Did I ever tell you that garbage men are among my favorite people because they remind me of Jesus forgiving my sins? But that's another story...)

That old machine was amazing. Who invented it? It weighed 200+ pounds, had over 400 tiny bolts and a mile of fine wire. How did they make it work? How many mistakes did they make before they got it right? And everything in it was for one purpose only, to copy a page in black and white. All the metal and plastic and screws and wires and boxes of toner combined to make thousands of copies, all of them long forgotten.

Then I thought of my own body. It's getting a bit worn, but it still does dozens of things every day, some of them fairly well yet. It stands, walks and talks, uses arms to work and legs to get around, remembers and dreams in color, makes music and creates and prays. It does ten thousand more things than that old copier despite being much older. Pretty amazing!

Now no one with intelligence would ever say that old copier just happened along one day. Every single human being on this planet would agree that someone designed it and manufactured it. That's just common sense. Everyone knows those things don't just appear, no matter how long we waited.

But most all of those same millions of "intelligent" humans would insist, yes, demand I believe, that my human body evolved by accident. No copy machine could ever evolve, they say, not in a gazillion years. But human beings did, oh yes, absolutely! It just took lots of time.

How foolish people are to deny we are products of a Divine Creator. How silly we are to think nuts and bolts must be invented, but bodies just happen. How arrogant not to believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

Some day when they haul away my old dead body in a box, people may remember some of what it did. But few will ever fully realize the miracle of how it came to be, how it lived, thought, breathed, ate, sang, loved and had faith in its Creator. 

"I will praise You, O God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
(Psalm 139:14)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Joseph Scriven discovered early in life how much he needed the Lord. Born in Ireland, he was looking forward to marrying a lovely lass when tragedy struck. On the eve of their wedding, she accidentally drowned. In great sorrow he emigrated to Canada at the age of twenty-five and met another lovely woman he wished to marry, only to lose her after a brief and fatal illness.

Impoverished and with his own health turning frail, Joseph became involved in helping the physically handicapped. He spent the rest of his life helping poor, sick and underprivileged Canadians, often sharing his food and even his clothing with those in need.

But his good deeds and the story of his life might never have been known had not Joseph Scriven written a poem to comfort his mother back home during her serious illness. It had been ten years since he left her, and though he ached to be at her side, he was unable to visit her. So he wrote her a poem and mailed it off, hoping it would bring her what little comfort he had to give.

Scriven's poem lay dormant for decades until sometime later it appeared in a publication which was eventually seen by American lawyer - composer Charles Converse. He set the words to a simple but inspiring tune and gave Christians a hymn that lives in the hearts of believers all around the world.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer.
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations, Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a Friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge - Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do Thy friends despite, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer.
In His arms He'll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there.

Thank You, O Lord, for such beauty and faith amid human trial!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


A friend of mine and her husband are retired missionaries to Africa. Early this year Mary Lu found a tiny spot on her nose, and a careful medical examination revealed she had facial basal cell carcinoma. She awoke from surgery and was shocked to learn just how much infected tissue - half of her face under her facial skin - had to be removed.

With treatment she will survive and with reconstructive surgery will look much the same as before. She's doing well and smiling more these days because she is blessed to have a problem fixed that could have resulted in a gruesome death.

(Mary Lu wrote:)  "I cringe remembering that tiny spot on my nose. If it had not shown up, those killer cells would have continued to grow underneath. What would have happened, if I had no doctors, no facilities, no insurance or finances to pay for the removal? What if I did not have a loving, caring husband, concerned family and faithful friends? I could have done nothing but slowly, painfully, watched my face eaten away.

"This cancer of mine is like the sneaky, horrific results of sin! We may think we can hide those little seeds of sin. But if we don't recognize the decay, it will sink deeper into our being. Like the cancer cells in my nose, it has the potential to eventually destroy us. Thankfully, our loving Savior forgives us when we come to Him with repentant hearts, cutting away all the evil and giving us new life. We give Him all praise and honor."

There are many areas of our lives that outwardly are barely noticeable, but inwardly are serious problems. Secret wrong activities, bad little habits and seemingly harmless misdeeds can hurt and even destroy us if they are not realized, stopped and repented. 

Even a society can have its killer cancers, working silently and steadily to corrupt and destroy people and freedom. That which is legal (but wrong) can become a deadly cancer that destroys a society. We cannot stop seeking to remove that which is destructive, just because others may criticize us. 

May God give us courage to do the right things!

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Today is the Fourth of July, America's Independence Day, a day we celebrate God's gift of liberty. American liberty was declared 233 years ago by a Congress of patriots. It was won by an army of volunteers against the greatest army in the world. The Declaration of Independence was only the beginning; maintaining liberty ever since has come by our people standing for it and fighting when necessary. Human liberty must be declared and won by every generation.

But will America keep its liberty? Is there a generation that will forfeit this great gift? There are those today who believe this goal is naive and no longer valid, that world and planetary problems dictate scaling back of human freedom for the good of all.

If such a thing would happen, it would mean the end of human liberty. Will there yet arise a new generation which will turn the hearts of its countrymen back to the ideals of those who gave us American liberty in 1776? Or will we turn our backs while others chip away at it until it is gone forever?

Liberty is a goal of mankind, not of America alone. It belongs to all who enjoy freedom in any part of the world, and it belongs to all nations that will yet serve Him. As we reach back into the records of history to observe the hand of the God, the Great Author of all liberty, we will find direction for the days ahead and discover the keys we need to deal with the future.

Independence Day is day of remembering. We must never forget the past, and must keep teaching our children what has gone before. Forgetting the past, insisting it has no place in today's education, is the first step is forfeiting liberty. There is a great deal at stake today. As we look to that which led to our nation's founding, let us all appreciate what liberty cost those who earned it for us. We cannot neglect the present and still hope to enjoy in the future the blessings of the past.

Liberty was purchased by courage, self-sacrifice, and unceasing vigilance. Only by these virtues can we hope to keep our liberty in future days to come. We must, by God's grace, be as determined to protect our liberties as our forefathers were to win them. We might begin by memorizing the words of St. Paul, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1).

Thank You, O Lord, for Your gift of freedom, today and always!

Monday, June 29, 2009


Can America still be called a "Christian nation"? The answer is both yes and no, depending on what is meant by the phrase. When citizens refer to America as a Christian nation, they do not mean Christianity is an official religion, but that the majority of its citizens hold to a belief in the Christian God. All but one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (Franklin, a Dieist) were Christians, but that does not make America a Christian nation.

What makes us Christian is the sheer number of our citizens - 78% - who identify themselves as Christian. We are certainly a more religiously diverse society today than during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. There are increasing numbers of non-Christians here, including Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Shintoists, Unitarians, Hindus, Wiccans and Naturists. But Christians comprise 78% of the population, while non-Christians are only 6%, and those with no religious affiliation are 16%.

Our constitutional legal system is somewhat based on principles of the Bible, but not on the Koran or any other holy book. We observe Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, and other Christian holidays. The Ten Commandments are still on the walls of several national buildings, including the Supreme Court chambers. Many of our coins have displayed "In God We Trust" since the Civil War, and it's been on our paper money since 1956. We have included "Under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance since 1954. The USA is still firmly fashioned by Judeo-Christian heritage.

Philosopher/historian Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1831, "There is no country in the world, where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America." That is still true today. Though we do not live under a Christian government, we are free to practice our particular religion in accordance with the basic Christian principles which define this nation. In that sense it is proper to say America is a Christian nation.

"In God We Trust" has been used as our national motto in some form since 1863, probably being taken from the final verse of our National Anthem. When we hear leaders say we are not a Christian nation, they are stating an official truth. But when others say America is indeed a Christian nation, they are stating a practical truth. If a majority of its citizens adhere to the Christian religion, then that nation is a Christian nation.

I recently heard a fine song by a group called Diamond Rio entitled, "In God We Still Trust." You can hear it on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiYgpPB1kwU. I believe it's worth your hearing.

May it always be that way in America - "In God We Trust!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009


In the ever-recycling world of the internet, a prayer has been circulating reportedly given by Billy Graham, then aired on Paul Harvey. The prayer is partially true, but it did not originate with Billy Graham, nor was it first aired by Paul Harvey.

It was prayed in 1996 by Rev. Joe Wright of Central Christian Church, Wichita, Kansas, at the opening of the Kansas State House of Representatives. He got a lot of flack for it and some legislators walked out while he prayed it, but its message is true, no matter what your political leanings may be. He doesn't leave much out.

Pastor Wright called it his "Prayer of Repentance." You probably have heard some of it before, but I offer it to you in its complete form with rightful authorship.  I hope you will read (and perhaps pray) all of it, before you form your opinion of it. You might need to change just a word or two so it applies to our nation rather than just Kansas. 

"Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask your forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," (Isaiah 5:20) but that's exactly what we've done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it moral pluralism. We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

"We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem.

"We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbors' possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

"Search us, O God, and know our hearts today. Try us and see if there be some wicked way in us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will. I ask this in the name of Your son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen"

With our newfound freedom of self-expression on the Internet, we need to keep truth before us at all times.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Some may be thinking my WEEKLY MESSAGEs have recently turned the corner from personal devotions to political commentary. I didn't mean for it to be thus, but I admit to have begun addressing the times we live in more directly. It's all part of a Christian's rightful opportunity to witness to the culture in which (s)he lives.

Lutherans believe in separation of church and state. The state has no authority over God's Word, and the Church has no authority of the sword. The Church has no right of civil rule over land and people or to enact and enforce civil laws. So also the state has no right to regulate what a church believes or how it functions in its beliefs.

While it is desirable that public officials be Christian, being a Christian does not guarantee being a good leader. Being an official of the state confers no special authority on a Christian. The Church should not expect or ask any special assistance from the State in her work of soul-saving, except the freedom to exercise one's beliefs as guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

History not withstanding, the Church has no biblical right to set up or depose civil rulers, or to establish kingdoms. Despite what has happened in other lands, the State has no biblical authority to organize Christian congregations, appoint ministers, or legislate spiritual things. Any usurping of power either by the Church or by the State in the domain of the other, is wrong and always results in misrule and tyranny.

Christians may choose to participate in government as citizens in any God-pleasing manner, their motivation being gratitude and love towards God and love and concern for people. Christians have freedom of choice in governmental matters. Any and all teachings that coerce Christians to seek a particular course of involvement have no basis in Holy Scripture.

Christians may (and should) voice concerns if they believe government is erring in its treatment of people. Indeed, they should witness the truth and strive to correct error and confront evil. Christians may exercise their freedom of speech in governmental matters as individuals, but being in the Church gives them no special authority. Ministers need to be especially careful in this area. As in all other things, Christians must rely on God's Word for direction, as they witness to their culture.

When Jesus said, "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's," (Matthew 22:21) He was speaking of more than just taxes. He was telling us there are two Kingdoms, and that we are citizens of both. We need to keep from mixing them up!

God bless the Church, and may God bless America!

Monday, June 8, 2009


"The Wizard of Oz" is a classic to most of us. Besides being a fun story, it contains moral lessons from Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion as they travel the Yellow Brick Road. The great enemy is the Wicked Witch of the West. One lesson we get from the story is that good eventually overcomes evil.

A new Broadway musical, however, has changed the original story completely. In it, the Wicked Witch is a sympathetic character. Born with green skin, she feels like an outsider, and so we are to empathize with all that she must go through in her sad plight. Major characters, plot lines and other details are all changed so the Wicked Witch comes out as merely a misunderstood person. The end result is evil becomes good and good becomes evil.

But this is nothing new. About 500 years before Christ, Isaiah 5:20 wrote, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil." During his ministry, Isaiah saw a reversal of moral values taking place in Israel. People were pushing to make the evils of murder, idolatry and sexual perversion to be acceptable, even good. Isaiah gave them many stern warnings most of which, sadly, they did not heed.

A wise man once said that to change people's minds, you first make the unthinkable thinkable. Then you make it acceptable, and eventually the acceptable will become preferable.

Sound familiar? Our world today pushes relativism in almost everything, resulting in biblical values being trashed. The best way we Christians can avoid this disturbing trend is by devotion to God's word. Only through reading the Word, hearing the Word and living by the Word can we discern what is really good and evil. And only in knowing the Truth can we teach it to our future generations.

Jesus saw evil made into good in His day, and we see it as well. To combat this we must first open our eyes to see what is happening around us. And then we need to combat evil with the truth. Jesus didn't condemn sinners, but He did condemn their sin. He forgave the repentant, but He warned people to follow the truth. He was especially hard on those who believed they had some special relationship with God based on inheritance rather than faith.

No one is born directly into the Kingdom. There will be no denominations in heaven. We all must come to it by faith in Jesus. Christianity is a living faith that rejects the evil and follows the good. Satan's ways must never become ours. We must stand fast in our Lord, who is the Truth, the Way and the Life, the only way to God the Father.

God has no grandchildren....

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I am an admirer of Ben Stein. He's a homely, short little guy in tennis shoes whose appearance hides the fact that he is also a world-class economist and a great writer with a fine mind. A favorite cousin sent me his last article of "Monday Night at Morton's," written for many years at Morton's Restaurant about the Hollywood stars he meets there.

Ben Stein says he realizes now that the stars for us to emulate are not those who recite someone else's lines in front of a camera for an eight-figure salary. True stars are the soldiers, airmen, sailors, nurses, firemen, cops, EMTs, teachers and all kinds of caregivers who put their lives on the line every day to help people who need it.

I dedicate today's WEEKLY MESSAGE to a friend named Ron and to all those others who Ben Stein's words describe so well:

"I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

"But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

"This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York . I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

"Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will."

Thanks, Ben, for telling us the truth for today.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Yesterday, Memorial Day, I drove through a local cemetery and saw all the flags, representing those who had served their country, many of whom had given their lives in doing so. For that reason, it's good to have cemeteries. They help us not forget. I find it saddening that so many have already forgotten.

But I find it amazing there are those who can stare directly into the face of truth and deny it. Denial of truth is encouraged in many parts of our world today. A huge block of the world's population now denies there was a holocaust. Others deny communism has taken many lives, despite the hundred million who died this past century in the Russia block, China, Cambodia and Viet Nam. Many believe the Salem Witch Trials resulted in the death of tens of thousands, despite historical data showing its numbers to be 25-50 people at most. Still others even deny the truth of what happened Sept. 11, 2001. 

Last March my niece, an Air Force Academy cadet, took a short trip to Bucharest, Romania, with three other cadets and an officer. Though attending a conference, they were able to visit some sites with the aid of a guide. More than the sites, most memorable to all five was learning that a significant portion of the Romanian people believe the events of 9-11-01 did not really happen. Their guide insisted on the fakery of the twin towers destruction and Pentagon, that it was the result of special effects staged to provoke the war against Iraq and Afghanistan. No amount of reason seemed to sway him that on 9-11-01 planes flown by terrorists actually did kill 2,900 people. 

I wonder how many Americans believe the same. Historically, groups of people have always chosen to believe falsehoods, especially when it fed the fires of their passion. But in today's climate of scientific provability, one would think things as huge as 9-11-01 or the holocaust could not possibly be denied.

One would also think that His miracles would prove that Jesus was greater than those around Him, possibly even the Messiah. In plain view of enemies and friends, He cured lepers, the blind, the deaf and the lame. In front of 5000 He multiplied a few buns and dried fish into a hundred baskets of food. He walked on water, turned water into wine, rose from the dead and appeared to hundreds alive. But that's not enough for some folks. It's easier to believe one's own version than see truth as it really is. 

Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me." (John 14:6) This is the ultimate truth that no one can change. Deny it, yes - but change it, no. Jesus is the only way to God. No one will come to the Father except through faith in His Son. Trusting what He did on Calvary and in the open tomb are all that is necessary for our salvation.  

If you find yourself in the presence of someone who denies obvious truth, stand up for what you believe. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


In the past I have tried to stay away from airing politically charged opinions, but I don't think I can or should any longer. I am retired, so I don't have to please those who employ me. I no longer represent a church body, so I need not fear church and state issues. I have a small readership, but no one is required to keep reading WEEKLY MESSAGE. If I have something to say, and technology and freedom allow me, now is the time to say it.

Today we are in a downward spiral in America, politically as well as economically. I used to say no President or Congress could change the course of government all that much. I figured government has so many policies and programs in place that require the status quo that we don't have to worry who is leading us on Capitol Hill. America would just keep going along much as it always has. 

I was wrong about that. Using the economic downturn as a springboard, our President and Congress have set in motion enough new things that will probably change our nation's course forever.

I wonder if politicians ever dreamed all this could fall into their laps so easily. There has always been the leftist desire to spread the wealth, but could anyone have imagined that things in the economy would come together to bring this about so quickly and easily? 

God always gives us the government we deserve. This was true in Old Testament and New Testament times and it's still true. Thus, we must deserve our current leadership which is bent on turning American from capitalism to socialism. Our elected leaders truly believe what they are doing is right. I do not believe DC politicians are floundering around, as some say, but that they are doing just what they want and believe is the right thing to do. And I'm sure they are amazed at how well and quickly they are doing it. 

I do not know if our present political leadership will accomplish all they are planning, but I do know the road ahead for America is going to be much rougher than the road behind. Given our fear of our political incorrectness, as well as our general inability to comprehend God's Truth, America will probably continue to slide more and more away from personal freedom and towards collectivist socialism. 

A News station today said polls reflect that only 21% now call themselves Republican while 53% call themselves Democrat. Those figures are not about political party membership; they show our rapid shift to the left, away from personal responsibility and towards a nanny state. They show a radical knee-jerk reaction to the past. They show what people are hoping will happen in the future.  "Change You Can Believe In" has duped a majority of our nation. It is change for the worse.

Jesus said in John 8:31-32, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." His Truth, of course, is about eternal life by faith, but the principle behind what He said is the best we can follow. The truth does set people free, if they are willing to stand firm in it. The reason so many are giving up their freedoms today is because they are giving up being Christ's disciples. They are running away from Jesus towards all sorts of shallow humanistic trends. 

Perhaps they are running in fear of the few who are turning our titanic ship of state around, directly into the path of the iceberg. Unless Americans rediscover the Truth, they will never be set free by the Truth. We are never set free by giving up freedom. True freedom comes only when we trust Jesus Christ as Lord, and then try our best to do what He tells us. Freedom does not come from turning over to government decisions we ourselves should make.

As sinners, we will always fail to do all that's right, but we must still try to do as much good as we can in our homes, churches and communities. The secret to a good society is individual responsibility of the citizen, not government programs. God forgives those who realize their error, and when they seek the Truth, He gives them strength to do what is right.

May God give Americans the faith to trust in Jesus Christ, the courage to speak the Truth in love, and the desire to do whatever it takes to keep the ship out of the path of the iceberg.

The Truth can still set us free!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Margaret's son suffered brain damage during infancy. Margaret was unsure how much her son could understand, but despite her uncertainty, she talked to him about God and about Jesus his Savior. She told him Bible stories and prayed with him every day, asking God to help him mature. However, at four years old, the boy still could not speak. But Margaret continued to talk to him, pray with him and be the best parent she should could to him.

One day the boy required correction and discipline and Margaret tried to explain this to the boy, not knowing how much he could grasp. As she grew more frustrated, with tears in her eyes, she said, "What am I going to do with you."  At that moment her son spoke. It was hard for her to understand him at first, but he said the words again and again until she realized he was saying, "Pray, Mama!" 

The young boy, limited as he was in abilities, had been understanding her valuable lessons all along. He knew of his mother's faith in God. He knew she turned to God when troubled. He knew that God could help his mama, so he said, "Pray, Mama!"

Prayer changes things. It may not fix our problems immediately, nor does it always show us the way we need to take. But prayer changes things. It changes people and it changes situations. We Christians do not believe in fate; we believe in Jesus Christ who urged us to pray and promised to hear us. 

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! ... Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Prayer is an act of faith. It changes the heart of the one who prays and it can change the mind of God. Not always, but it can, as we see from examples in the Bible. God wants to hear from us. He loves hearing from us, whether about our own needs or the needs of others.

Pray, my friends!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Today is my birthday, but I am not thinking much about it, because yesterday was the anniversary of the day 25 years ago when my first wife died in an auto accident. To those know this story I ask your pardon in rehearsing what you already know. I rarely speak of her, but today it seems right.

Sandra Oetting and I had been married just short of 16 years, and we had been blessed with two fine boys. We had married early and grown up together, moving from Ft. Wayne to St. Louis to North Dakota, then eventually to my first pastoral positions in North Dakota. We had just months before moved to Utah after southern California, and we were on our way to a "Welcome to Utah" party in Salt Lake City given by fellow pastors.

Thankfully we'd placed the boys with friends overnight, because at about 5 PM on May 4, 1984, our car went into an aerial spin and Sandy was thrown out and lived just two hours. And all I had were bruises and a cut finger. 

Sandy was a shy, gentle, sweet woman, a good mother and caring wife. She enjoyed playing the piano, adored her little boys and was loyal to her friends. She loved her Lord and accepted my calling in life, doing all she could to help in ministry, as all pastor's wives so graciously do.

After her death I made the usual mistakes, but fortunately had understanding family, friends and colleagues. A few years later my boys and I were blessed with Carol who adopted them and accepted and loved me, warts and all. Twenty five years ago now, and I often wish she could have seen how well the boys turned out.

One thing is sure - God is in control of our lives, always. There is never a time He takes a vacation from His children. He never leaves us alone. And though we will have times in life we can't understand, God eventually makes sense of them to us. He shapes us by our experiences and we are better for it. Or not, of course, depending on our actions and faith in Him. 

Sandy received God's highest gift at an early age. Now and then I wonder what life would have been like if the accident had not happened. God knows the reasons, and one day I will know more. Meanwhile, I give thanks for the blessings He has given through her, and am grateful that I learned a few lessons on my way down the road of life.

"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)

Thank You, Lord, for those wonderful people who walk beside us on our journey.