More Great Reading

Certain failure

Some people hate change

YOU CANNOT DOMESTICATE PRIDE

7 WRONG TIMES TO STOP PRAYING

7 Things You Must Know About Your Husband

TEN DIAGNOSTIC QUESTIONS FOR YOUR MARRIAGE

5 Things Every Small To Mid-Sized Church Struggles With

7 Things Every Growing Church Struggles With

The System I Use for Long Term Scripture Memorization

Maybe it is my sarcasm or maybe it is my enjoyment of Weird Al – either way, I liked this video

Every Press Conference Ever (ft. Weird Al Yankovic)

The Word of God Can Give Us Boundaries

I have a little pamphlet in my office that is entitled “Never Read a Verse of Scripture.” The main point of this little booklet is to remind us that the Bible did not come to us as random verses here and there. Instead the Bible books come to us as complete documents or letters. Only hundreds of years later were they broken down into chapters and verses. Those writing were then organized with other writings into a collection of 66 books. Together they form the Word of God.

I frequently remember the name of this pamphlet as I hear people talk about the Bible. Quite often people will pull out one verse and use it to define their theology and practice. Sometimes this is at the expense of good interpretation. Proper understanding of a passage comes by exploring the original context within the immediate writing. Once we have a grasp on that information we then have to ask about the overall message of the Bible. Does the basic meaning of this passage align with my overall understanding of the Biblical topic?

In doing these simple and routine practices of interpretation through the years I have started to notice the Bible often gives us two things. First it gives us direct commands. You shall not steal is easy to understand.

I think the second thing the Bible gives us boundaries. These are diverse statements from which we navigate in between. Here is what I mean:

-We are told to be like children (Matthew 10:14). Then we are told to grow up. (Heb. 5:11-14)
-We are told to help one another (1 John 3:17-18). Then we are told that if we don’t work, we don’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
-We are told to grow and be fed spiritually (1 Peter 2:2). Then we are told to feed others (John 21:15-17 & Heb. 5:11-14).
-We are told to have a drink of wine (1 Timothy 5:23). Then we are warned about the evils of wine (Proverbs 23:30-31).
-We are told not to judge (Matthew 7:1). Then we are instructed to judge those inside the church (1 Corinthians 5:12)
-Jesus was a friend of sinners (Luke 15:1-2). Then we are told that bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33).

I could actually keep my list going and going.

I think this is important to know when we are reading the Bible and trying to live for God. One verse may resonate with me and help me know more about God, but frequently I need to see this from the other side of the issue too. Before you set your life in a firm direction be sure the other side is clear. This will always keep you moving the right direction with God.

I often think that our life with God is a bouncing back between the boundaries of God’s will.

Facts About This Day In History

Many of the things we celebrate and the days we observe have little meaning to us because we do not understand their history. This is true in our Churches and in our countries. So today I wanted to bring a little clarity.

Veterans Day is an official United States public holiday, observed annually on November 11, that honors military veterans, that is, persons who served in the United States Armed Forces. It coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. The United States previously observed Armistice Day. The U.S. holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

Armistice Day is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning — the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

The date was declared a national holiday in many allied nations, to commemorate those members of the armed forces who were killed during war. An exception is Italy, where the end of the war is commemorated on 4 November, the day of the Armistice of Villa Giusti.

Remembrance Day (sometimes known as Poppy Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty – following a tradition inaugurated by King George V in 1919.

The memorial evolved out of Armistice Day, which continues to be marked on the same date.

The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem “In Flanders Fields”. These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I; their brilliant red color became a symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

Have a great day whatever you call this day.

My Father’s Prayer and Thanksgiving

For years and years I prayed before every meal something that my parents taught me. “Dear God, thank you for this day, thank your this food and thank you for everything. Amen”

Somewhere around 18 I ventured off and started to pray “original” prayers. My words flowed from the moment and usually were still focused on that one word, “thanks.”

Also somewhere in this time my dad began to use a phrase in his prayers before the meal at large family gathering. He would say something like “Lord we thank you for these blessings you provide which we often overlook and are too often taken for granted.”

I don’t know whether he heard this from someone and added it to his prayers or whether he just stated saying it and it stuck. Somehow it made it into his words and I have had the opportunity to hear him say it dozens of times over the last few years.

This is in my thoughts as I set at my computer this morning for a couple of reasons. First, I am amazed at the number of articles, blogs and posts that are already talking about Christmas. Second, I am more amazed at the lack of any discussion of Thanksgiving.

Maybe there was a simple natural progression in my dad’s thinking. He was thankful for all that we had been given as a family but as time went on he saw how we overlooked the Lord’s blessings. It is easy to do as an individual or as a family or as a country.

So today I wonder what would happen if we spent a month being thankful to God for all of his blessings before rushing into another season of want?

You Don’t Deserve to be Treated That Way

If I really knew you. I mean I really knew your secret thoughts and your private actions. I would bet you are not a very good person. You harbor ill feelings along with guilt and shame. You have done stuff you have never told anyone about. You have failed in an ugly fashion. You have have had thoughts that would make you blush if they were made public.

I know this about you because it is true of me as well.

I don’t deserve respect. I don’t deserve forgiveness. I don’t deserve to be treated special in any way.

And yet, God loves me in spite of myself. He cares for me in spite of my past. He gave himself for my sins even though I didn’t deserve it.

None of that is surprising and you have probably heard it before. What challenges me is not how God treats me but how I treat other people.

I don’t deserve your respect. I don’t deserve your forgiveness. I don’t deserve you to treat special in any way. Honestly, you don’t deserve these things from me.

Because I follow a God who serves, loves, gives and treats people special – I am called to the same standard of living. I am not to show others the love and respect they deserve because they have earned it by their actions. I do it because I serve a God who gives me everything I don’t deserve.

Maybe the biggest indicator of my faith in God is found in the way I treat those who don’t deserve to be treated well.

A Real Celebration

I have two unrelated images that keep connecting in my thoughts.

First is the images that I saw plastered all over Facebook about the parade in Kansas City for the Royals. If you do not live nearby or having been living completely unaware of what happened this week then let me tell you. An estimated 800,000 people went to Kansas City to celebrate the World Series victory by the baseball team the Royals. Here is one picture to capture the image:
Royals parade

Schools closed, people skipped work and thousands of people gathered to celebrate a group of grossly overpaid athletes who can hit a ball, catch a ball and run around bases.

The second image is from my last sermon series from Luke 15. Jesus tells three parables that build on each other. In the first two he stopped the parable to add his own commentary.

Luke 15:7 (NIV) I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:10 (NIV) In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.


In the third parable he interjects a statement by the father, who represents God, when the prodigal son comes home.

Luke 15:23 (NIV) Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.


Each story is culminated with a picture of a celebration. The picture is of a party in heaven by the angels in the presence of God.

I have been wondering all week if heaven looks a lot like Kansas City did this week. Instead of people wearing blue they were dressed in pure white. And instead of celebrating baseball they were focused on something of eternal significance.

It really makes me wonder how in tune we are with God’s agenda for this world.

Big Themes in My Ministry

Over the past two weeks I have been working on my sermon plan for 2016. One part of this process is to look back over the past year and see what I have already preached. Finally I take a big look over my entire preaching ministry (I have a record of all sermons since 1996) and see what has worked well and what has not.

Yesterday as I was looking over my lists I began to see huge patterns in my preaching. There are several topics that I have hit over and over again.

1. Making Jesus Your Savior and Lord. My greatest desire is for people to come to faith in the grace of Jesus. Then I want to see their lives transformed by that grace. My biggest question is, “What is your next step of faith?”

2. Learning Basic Bible. Every year I have preached a series about some basic bible stories or characters. I firmly believe that the Bible is sharper than any two-edged sword cutting to the very soul of a person. Do you know more about God’s word this year than you did last year?

3. Growing In Faith and Practice. While I want everyone to know their Bible, the ultimate goal is the transformation of a person into Christlikeness. I would rather you live 10 verses of scripture that you know than to know 100 verse and do 1. What do you need to do with the knowledge you have of God and his word?

4. The Church. The Church has fallen on hard times lately. People skip Church and do not make it a priority. I firmly believe that the Church is the best place for every believer. It is the place we learn, grow, serve and fellowship. In 22 years of ministry I have yet to see one person grow in their walk with God by Biblical standards outside of Church. The Church is full problems, but so is everything else on this earth. It is still a great place to develop as a believer. Is the church a vital part of your faith?

5. Sharing Your Faith. As our life is transformed by Jesus within his Church we share the good news with the people around us. Each one of us should personally care about the eternal fate of the people around us. Who is closer to the Lord because of knowing you?

These five themes have reappeared in my preaching year after year. As I look into 2016 they will be a part of my sermons once again. I guess when I feel like people have mastered these five things I will move onto something else. Right now, it looks like I should be busy for many years to come.

Good Reading for the Week

Here are some of the best articles I have read lately.

Marriage –

Do You Have a Really Good Man? – This is a great read for younger ladies.

7 Things You Must Know About Your Wife

This might be the key to a happy marriage

Church –

A Church Transforming Proverb – How to handle Church issues and gossip.

WHAT PASTORS WANT FROM CHURCH MEMBERS

How Churches Actually Grow – A must read for leaders who want their Church to grow.

Why a Pew Is Better Than a Podcast

5 Misconceptions About the Pastor’s Wife

General Topics –

The white man in that photo – A great read about a historical photo.

3 Prayers We Need to Stop Saying

How helicopter parents are ruining college students

Impact of Helicoptering, by someone who knows

Helicopter parents are not the only problem. Colleges coddle students, too.

Sexual Orientation Issues – A very interesting read

Reflections on My Oldest Son’s Final Football Game

Last Friday night ended a journey that started when my son Hunter was just a young boy. He played in his final organized football game. It was a bittersweet night as the rain poured down and the team lost 19-14. Hunter was able to get a touchdown on the night, his fourth this season.

After the game I lied awake replaying the past years and thinking about my son’s experience with football. I wrote down several thoughts about his life and asked my wife what she thought. She told me that it is my blog and if I want to praise my son, then go ahead.

So here are some reasons why I am proud of my son and his football experience.

1. Coachable. In all of his years of football he has only had the same coach 2 years in a row. That was the past two years. Every other year his coach has changed. While he, and especially me, did not always agree with them. He always did as told.

2. Good Teammate. I have never seen him yell at a teammate. He has never been angry at the failures of his team. He has been disappointed, but usually he tried to help others get better than point out their flaws.

3. Good Sportsmanship. He has never received a penalty for a personal foul (expect for maybe one facemask penalty.) No late hits. No shoving. No taunting. No celebrating.

4. Perseverance. Hunter’s 5th grade team was a champion. Then we moved. For several years we barely won a game. He stayed with it. In four years of starting varsity he never missed a game.

5. Brotherly Love. My wife and I’s favorite part of every game is watching our children interact on the sideline. Each one of them always seeks out their brothers. They are brothers but also teammates and best friends.

6. Respect. Hunter always helps other players get up. He offers a helping hand and a kind word. I often saw him talking to the other team. I would ask later and he would say he was encouraging them or joking with them or offering advice.

7. Good Choices. Every one of his High School teams has been affected by the poor choices of some. His freshman year before the State Championship the all-star quarterback was kicked off the team for drinking. Even while he witnessed all that he never participated in it (at least not to my knowledge).

8. Blessed. In all the years as a player he had only had one injury. In 8th grade he broke his arm in the first or second practice. He did continue to practice with the team and stepped into the starting lineup in game 2. We feel very blessed by God with his safety.

9. Humility. Hunter might not tell you but he has started Varsity football since he was a freshman. Then his first two years in Alaska we have no record of anything he did. He just did it. Both of those years he was promised to play a tight end but because of team issues he ended up a lineman. As Monte Johnson will tell you that is the most disrespected position on the team. He was disappointed but kept playing. He was never named MVP of the team or even a team captain. While disappointed he still went out and did his best.

10. Christian Faith. Last but certainly not least. In 4 years as a starting varsity football player he missed one Sunday of Church. That time he was rained in on Kodiak Island. I know he wanted to sleep in but he didn’t. He not only attended but he ran sound, PowerPoint and lead singing.

I will admit that early Saturday morning at about 4:00 am I sat on my couch and cried. I will miss seeing big #42 on the field each week. With that said, I am extremely excited that he is planning on going to a Christian University to further his education in sports management. I am proud that he had a great run as a football player but I am more proud that his life is built on more than football.