Monday, May 24, 2010

What's in a name?

Philippians 2:9-11 (New International Version)

9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Many of you know me as Elbert LaGrew, but do you know my middle name? I'll give you a hint, it starts with 'D'. OK, that's not really fair. My middle name is DeWitt. Elbert DeWitt LaGrew. For those of you who are interested, another blog posting will deal with my First and Last Names...yes, there is a story behind that as well.

Growing up I never knew exactly where that name came from. Nobody in our family is named 'DeWitt' and that is really not a common name at all anyway. In my early school years I was teased without mercy when people found out my middle name. I heard, "Ha, ha! Elbert 'De Witt's not so witty!." or "For a Wit, you are pretty dull." Or many other variations along those lines. As a kid, these were really hurtful and of course drove me into even more desire to stay away from people. I realize now, looking back, that I spent much of my childhood in self-loathing and misery. I made a good front of fighting it by over compensating to the point of being just a loud-mouthed buffoon, which of course only served to alienate me more than I already was.

When I was in High School and after a particularly bad day of being teased and trounced, I had had it and I worked up the courage to ask my Dad just where that stupid middle name of mine came from. Why did I have to have such a name that caused me so much pain and teasing. My father told me this:

When I was in High School, I joined the Marine Corp. I knew I was going to get drafted anyway and I didn't want the government telling me which branch of service I could be in, so I enlisted. I was barely over 17 but they took me anyway. I went through boot camp and I thought I was so tough. I was in great physical shape and of course I had my greatest asset, my teen age intellect.

I was shipped to the South Pacific. On our way over there in the transport ship we ran into a typhoon. It was the only time I got seasick, but it was mainly because everyone else was so sick, you just couldn't help it. We were in rough seas for about 5 days. When we arrived we found out our first assignment was on Saipan. I had never been in combat before, but I sure was looking forward to fighting.

Combat turned out to be nothing like I had imagined. It was the most horrible experience of my 17 years of life. One night, a group of us were sent out on a silent reconnaissance mission. Basically, what we were expected to do is to travel behind enemy lines at night and try to find out more about our enemy. We were not to shoot our weapons...we were to travel unseen and unknown. It we were caught, we were expected to fight, but it would be hand-to-hand.

My Sergeant, was named Sergeant DeWitt. He was a massive man, about 6 foot 6 and about 250 pounds. He was also an old man at 26 years old, at least compared to me. I was 5 foot 9 and about 150 soaking wet and I didn't know it at the time, but I was wet behind the ears as well.

While we were on patrol, we had the misfortune of running into some Japanese soldiers who were on the same mission as we were..silent reconnaissance. It was dark, but there was some moonlight when the fighting began. I suddenly found myself surrounded by 5 Japanese soldiers and I knew...I KNEW I was going to die. There was no chance for me to fight them all. I was well trained and had youth on my side and even my expectation of immortality, but it all left me that night as I stared certain death in the eye.

All of a sudden, from no where it seems, there was Sergeant DeWitt! He, without hesitation, jumped between me and the enemy a few seconds it was all over. I surveyed the area in unbelief...there were 5 dead Japanese soldiers all killed by Sergeant DeWitt. But there also lay my Seargeant...I craddled his head in my arms as he was dying and I promised him with all my heart, "Sarge, if I ever leave alive from this hell-hole and get married, I will name my first-born son after you.". And that is how YOU got your name...son.

I was crying by this time and of course I was embarrassed to do that in front of my Dad. But I will tell you one thing..I was NEVER embarrassed to have that name! I never again felt badly about that, because you see, if it wasn't for Sergeant DeWitt, I would never have been born. I carry that name with pride and with the knowledge that I bear the name of one of the bravest and selfless men my father had ever known.

I will tell you something else. When I first became a Christian, I was embarrassed to tell anyone that I was a Christian, but then I realized that I bear the name of Christ. If it wasn't for the selfless act of one man, I would never have the opportunity to be Born...Again! I think that if people knew the sacrifice that Jesus made for them...the Cost...they too would never, ever be ashamed of the Gospel. How can you be ashamed of bearing the name of the person who saved your soul? I know I am not...I will not....I can not be ashamed. I am Proud!

John 15:12-14

12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command.

Blessings All!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is it a burden?

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 Now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

One of the big objections I get from people when I tell them about Jesus is that there are too many rules. Too many don'ts and just too restrictive. That is not how the Israelites thought about the Lord and his ways. In fact, one of the big graces that the Lord gave Israel was a clear path to what was good and right and what pleased HIM. Read Psalm 119 and tell me they thought the LAW was burdensome! If you can find it there, let me know. I don't think you will.

Those of us who understand the Grace of God, who have been touched by his gentle, yet mighty hand know full well what a blessing it is to have the guiding of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Does that mean that I always do what is right? I wish I could say yes. I can not and I think everyone, if they are honest with themselves will say the same same thing. But look at what he ASKS of us. To fear him, to walk in his ways, to service him with all our heart and soul and to observe His decrees. Why? "For your own good."! Is that so hard? Is that so wrong?

I ask people how hard it would be to give up something that is killing them. They almost always say that if it was killing them, they could give it up in an instant. Yet when I tell them that sin is killing them, the fact that they are not following what God wants for their life, is actually killing them, they back away thinking that there must be some catch. "You mean to tell me that if I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as my ne Lord and Savior, I could be saved?!" "That's all?", they exclaim in unbelief. You see, the Gospel is too simple for most people to grasp. "All I need to do is love the Lord with all my heart, soul and strength?" "You've got to be kidding me." Nope, I tell them...that's about it. The rest will come as you grow in grace and knowledge.

I have a firm belief that if I told people there was a lot more to being saved than that, they would believe me faster. For example, if I gave them some sort of secret mantra and I told them to memorize it then to hermetically seal it in a mayonnaise jar and bury it in the backyard during a full moon...then each full moon for 6 months they would need to go out where it was buried and dance around the jar at midnight and chant the mantra, they would have no problems with THAT. After all, that is something THEY would do. They would be in would make sense to them. But the fact is, there is nothing you can do. It has all been done by Jesus when he hung on the cross and was raised from the dead. All you have to believe and accept that; accept Jesus as Lord of your life...that is the part that people really have problems with.

No. The requirements of the Old Testament for people to be saved really have not changed much. They relied on Grace and faith they same as we do still was not anything THEY did for was all the LORD's doing.

How about you today? Where are you spiritually? Have you given over your life to the Lord? Have you tasted of his grace? Have you faith in Jesus Christ? How is that working out for you? Have you found it to be burdensome, heavy, unfulfilling, unworth the time and the effort? I know I have not! If you feel the same way...tell someone. Not It is the most fulfilling thing in the world. And you know what? That is not a burden either!

Blessings all!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Following Closely

Mt 16:24-26...Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

I hate freeway driving. For one thing I come from a small town with about one stop light. I remember when Burger King came to town and McDonalds never even was in the town until I left after college. So when I drive on the freeway, it is just a stressful place for me.

It's so unsavory for me to drive in traffic, that I have actually arranged my work day so that I start early and I end early so that I can miss most of the traffic. So you will find me going to work at 2:30 AM and coming home around 2:00 PM. That is perfect for me...really.

One of the things I hate the most is following too closely to the car in front of me. I love it when there is a lot of distance between me and the car in front. Why? Because I am assuming the other guy is an idiot. And my assumption is not wasted. I see so many accidents in good and bad weather that are caused by people not paying attention and following just too closely to the car in front of them. Many people lose their life in that way. So in general, it is not too good a practice to follow idiots too closely.

In this very familiar passage of Scripture, we see Jesus saying in essence..."Follow me closely." In general practice, as I just explained, that would not be a good thing to do. But in this case, I assure you, it is not only the right thing to do...for the Christian, it is the ONLY thing to do!

The thing that makes this an essential thing to do is that Jesus is no idiot. While it is true that you should never follow idiots too closely (if possible, don't follow at all), in this case Jesus tells us in paradoxical terms that if we wish to save our life, we must actually lose it for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. While Christians generally see this as a good thing to do, I am afraid the world will see you as an idiot if you do this. Don't expect people to encourage you too much in losing your life for Jesus' sake. They simply will not understand.

What makes this such an essential task for the Christian; Picking up our cross, following him and losing our life? Our soul. Jesus, in other parts of the Scripture states in no uncertain terms, this is the most prized and precious thing we have as human beings. Don't waste it. Don't squander it and certainly don't lose it...nothing...nothing is worth more than that! But here is the rub. We gain life by losing it. We keep our soul safe by giving it it not to the idiots in traffic on the freeway...not to our bankers...not even to the people we care most about on this earth. We keep our soul safe by giving it to Jesus...lock, stock and barrel. We need to keep our soul safe by following Jesus closely....very, very closely! Remember the words of Jim Elliot...

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Blessings All!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010



Her name was Norma. Norma Stoffel. You won't find her name in any book of people with great faith. Nor will you find her name in a book about great missionaries or extraordinary minds. You will find her name written in the Book of Life which Jesus will read during the end of days.

Norma was already 75 years old when I met her back in 1982. A retired missionary from Honduras and Guatemala, she had spent the last 35 years there. She was teaching a class in the Psalms at my home church in Ironwood, MI.. She loved the Psalms...she stated once that one of her favorite Psalms was Psalm 22.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?

2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel. [a]

4 In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.

5 They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed....

She told me that this was her favorite Psalm. "Why?", I asked. "Because this Psalm reminds me that I need to stay near the cross.", She told me. I! if this lady of the faith must stay near the cross, how much more do I?

Norma eventually left the church where I attended. She went back to Guatemala. She said she felt more at home there and she missed the friends, who were more like family to her. She also felt God had called her there. The only reason she came home was because the Mission decided it was her time to retire. It was not God's timing however, and Norma could not refuse her Lord when He called.

I am sure that Norma is with the LORD now. Happy, secure, blessed. I think of her often. She was one of the FaithWalkers I will be talking about in this series of posts. She had a profound influence on my life as a Christian. She showed me what it really means to be a fully devoted and developed follower of Christ. She did not say it in so many words...she showed it in so many actions. She modeled Jesus for me and as a young Christian at the time, that meant more to me than knowing the theological implications of Jesus' return and the eschatology of Revelations. A whole lot more.

So remember as you go through this's not so much what you say that counts, it's what you do and what you do it for. Norma Stoffel. Not a name written in a book about people with great faith, or great missionaries or great minds. This is a name that is written on my heart because she showed Jesus to me in a way that no one else could at the time. I pray that I can be exactly like her with someone in my life. I will never know. Norma knows now.

Blessings All!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Can people tell?

Acts 2:36-40 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.


Joel Spolsky: "An idea isn't worth that much. It's the execution of the idea that has value. If you can't convince one other person that this is something to devote your life to, then it's not worth it."

We see the apostles changed attitudes and the power with with they preached after the day of Pentecost. But what about our own lives? Have we changed after we became Christians? How? How Much? Would other people around you notice the change?

I remember when I became a Christian. For me it was like a bolt of lightening...a 180 degree turn around from where I was and to where I was going. People around me suddenly didn't know who I was and what I was doing and frankly, that scared even scared me! But in a way it was comforting knowing that the Lord had changed me in such a radical way. It gave me confidence that He was actually there with me. Little did I know that He was not finished with me and from the moment I accepted Him into my life, that my life not only would never be the would never be the same from day to day or year to year. He kept changing me little my little and continues to this very moment. Praise the Lord that I am changing!

How about those around me that I interact with every day or at least regularly? Do they also notice the change or am I the only one? If I am the only one, then it is a wasteful and squandered gift, isn't it? If I am truly being changed in to the likeness of my Lord and Savior, then I KNOW he would want me to share that change with others? Why? because that is what HE did...that is what the Apostles did and that is what every faith-filled person in the Bible did! Certainly even in History, we see courageously changed, spirit-filled men and women doing exactly the same thing...sharing their faith, changing people and the world around them. Taking the Gospel to everywhere and anywhere God has placed them.

Make it a goal of yours today...not Right. Now. To share your faith and your life with at least one other person today. May the Lord grant you wisdom, strength and grace while you do it.

Blessings all!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Acts 11:23
When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

Barnabas was an encourager, but he encouraged people when he found out they were following the Lord Jesus. He did not encourage people for just any reason. I think we lose sight of that fact today. We are always so willing to either completely condemn someone's actions or on the other hand, completely accept someone's actions. From my point of view, we need to encourage those behaviors which we agree with and try to discourage those behaviors which are self-destructive, selfish or just plain wrong.

Barnabas was not afraid to confront those things which he deemed wrong or incorrect, but he was also very liberal with praise. In doing that, people knew exactly where he stood and what he stood for.

How about us? Do people know what we stand for; what or whom we support? Or do we give so many mixed messages that people are confused? We need to decide what we believe it and what we support. As the scripture say, we should not be blown around by every wind of doctrine...and we know there are many, many doctrines out there today to be blown around by.

Take a stand. Encourage that which you know to be right and true and good. Discourage those behaviors you know to be wrong, selfish or wrongly motivated. Keep the faith...keep up the good fight.

Blessings All!


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"

Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

The Lord Jesus has always called Christians to a higher standard. Even when we seldom want to go the extra mile, that is when Jesus' words ring in our head. We are an obstinate and stiff-necked people, aren't we? And human actions have not really changed in over 6,000 years. We are still like that. Bot thanks be to God, who does not let us remain stagnant! We are constantly changing, learning, growing. All actions attributable to the Holy Spirit and not really to us. Once we become Christians, the Hold Spirit continues the process of making us more and more like Christ Himself. I don't understand all the ways He does that, nor do I always agree with the way He does it! Hey, I AM human after all...but I have to believe that God loves me and wants the best for me. So even though I may not agree with the methodology...I always must agree with the reason and ultimately, with the result.

Here I am Lord Jesus! Do with me what you will. Your decisions are always best. Amen.

Blessings All!