Saturday, December 31, 2011

The BEST Resolution is not

The BEST Resolution is not

Philippians 3:13-15

13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are [a]perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;

This is the time that everyone makes resolutions on how they will be improving during the coming year.  I don't know about you, but how has that worked out in the past? Mine, not so much.

So instead of making a resolution this year I instead want to have an attitude...a mindset. Promises have not worked in the is doubtful they will work in the future.  What I really want to do is wait for God...not just wait, but wait expectantly.  There is a big difference.

Paul said to the Philippians that he is continuing to press on.  He had not attained his goal yet, but he pressed on in order that he might attain God's time. What is we had the same attitude?  What is we forgot the past? What if we realized that we have not attained our goal, and that we can never attain our goal with out God's help? Would that change our attitude? Of course it would!  I might add that it takes the pressure off of us and puts it squarely on God...just where it needs to be!

So clearly, my exhortation to you is to not even make a resolution.  But my all means, keep on pressing forward with the expectancy that Paul had.  Knowing that God is in control and HE will guide you and make you the kind of person HE wants ...the kind of person He needs you to be. Just the kind of person you want to be!

So remember: The best resolution is not...

Happy New Year!

Blessings All!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Faith of a Shepherd

Faith of a Shepherd

Luke 2: 15-18

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

This Christmas eve service, the Pastor used Luke 2:1-7 as the Scripture verse. But I was captivated by what followed. Let me explain.

The Shepherds who were out in the field that night so many years ago were the first people to learn of the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus. At first they were afraid when the angels all appeared to them announcing the birth of the Messiah. But after they were assured by the angels that they were only there to announce them the most amazing thing ever that would be a blessing to all mankind, they overcame their fear and they decided to investigate further and to see this miracle which was born in Bethlehem.

The Scripture says that they hurried off and found Mary, Joesph and the baby, lying in a manger. But they did not stop there, oh no! They then went back and told everyone they could find about the baby and what the angels had told them about Him!  Everyone was amazed at what they said...these simple nomadic sheepherders who normally probably never said a word to anyone, but now no one could stop there exuberance at what they had found. 

It occurs to me this a perfect picture of how God works today.  If we believe that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, then this story about the birth of Jesus is for us today.  Let me draw several parallels in how God works.

1) God is the one who initiates the miracle.
God is the one who made the birth happen in the first place. This was not initiated by man or by any agency.  It was straight from the Holy Spirit.  Our salvation is the same way. It is initiated by God by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It continues (sanctification) throughout our whole lives. But give thanks to God because of His inexpressible gift! The gift of Jesus.  The true meaning and start of every Christian life.

2) God Uses ordinary people.
In the beginning, God used the shepherds who were just going about their business, but filled them with such joy!  This is really good news for us all because if you really think about it, who of us really deserves such a blessing as to be even told about the salvation that God offers. These humble sheepherders knew the significance of that fact. Do we today?

And finally,

3) They could not contain their joy. They HAD to tell everyone about what they themselves were told and what they knew to be true.

Luke 2:-17-18 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

I wonder how many of those people that the sheepherders told actually believed what they said.  I don't think it mattered to the shepherds.  What they did, they had to do.  They were so amazed, so astounded, that they just had to tell someone.  They told everyone they came across. 

How about you? Have you heard the news of Jesus Christ? Has God visited you and told you about the salvation which is offered to you today through faith in Jesus?  If you have, then I assure you you are just like those shepherds so many years ago.  I cannot help but tell what the Lord Jesus means to me, and I bet, you are the same.

You see, God still is the same yesterday, today and forever. He still initiates the miracle; He still uses ordinary people who cannot contain their joy and then tell everyone else about Him and what He has done.  Isn't that comforting now that you know the real meaning of what happened in Bethlehem so many years ago?

Merry Christmas everyone!  Now go out with joy and tell someone about it!

Blessings All!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Eight Gifts That Do Not Cost a Cent

Eight Gifts That Do Not Cost a Cent
1.   The gift of LISTENING.  But you must really listen.  No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your response.  Just listen.
2.   The gift of AFFECTION.  Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds.  Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for your family and friends.
3.   The gift of LAUGHTER.   Clip cartoons.  Share articles and funny stories.  Your gift will say, "I love to laugh with you".
4.   The gift of a WRITTEN NOTE.  It can be a simple "Thanks for the help" note or a full sonnet.  A brief handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime, and may even change a life.
 5.  The gift of a COMPLIMENT.  A simple and sincere, "You look great in red", "You did a super job", or "That was a wonderful meal" can make someone's day.
6.  The gift of a FAVOR.  Every day go out of your way to do something kind.  And, when you know someone has a problem or is hurting, send up a prayer on his or her behalf each day.
7.  The gift of SOLITUDE.  There are times when we want nothing better than to be left alone. Be sensitive to those times and give the gift of solitude to others.
8.   The gift of a CHEERFUL DISPOSITION.  The easiest way to feel good is to extend a kind word to someone.  Really, it's not that hard to say "Hello" or "Thank you".
Hope I haven't been too "sappy" but thought some of these would be nice to think of and do sometimes. Another saying I like and live by is:

Blessings All!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Who is Like the Wise?

Ecclesiastes 8

 1 Who is like the wise?
   Who knows the explanation of things?
A person’s wisdom brightens their face
   and changes its hard appearance.

Ecclesiastes is turning out to be one of my favorite books in the Bible.  It was hard for me in the beginning because I was looking at it from the wrong perspective. Maybe this has happened to you to. 

It is a difficult book to understand and to appreciate because I first thought it was so negative...that is until I read the whole book.  I then went back with a renewed perspective and re-read the book and pondered on each verse.  It really has made all the difference in the world.

Another thing which has really helped me is studying it with other Christians. We are using the book in our adult Sunday school class.  The wisdom and perspective that other people have brought to the study is amazing.  Try it yourself and see if that truth holds for you as well.  The Holy Spirit peaks through other people and their experiences and bring a fresh look to just about everything.

Who is like the wise?  They are those who embrace the thoughts, words and experiences of other people that God has touched in a special way.  It's not always about us.  It is always about Jesus and what He wants to do with us.

During this Christmas time, I challenge to to ponder on ways you can embrace other people and what they have to say and give. Bring them along on your journey...surround them with the love of Jesus. After all, didn't God do the same for us when He sent Jesus to that manger so many years ago? Didn't HE embrace us?  I did nothing to deserve salvation and yet He thought the world of me.  He brought me along on a womderful Journey...I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow!

Blessings All!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ecclesiastes: The Beginning

We will be studying Ecclesiastes (Abrev. ECC) for this course of study.  I tend to rely on greater minds than mine to provide background material.  Therefore right at the start, I will give you a reading list so that  we can be on the same plane when discussing this very interesting and very important book of the Bible.  Hold on's going to be a bumpy ride!

First order of business.
Very good and highly recommended.


Lessons: (From which we will garner a framework for discussion)

and the following as well

We will be going through the book verse by verse and commenting on the ideas, thoughts and applying the lessons learned to our own life.  As I said, this will be fun!

Enjoy the  Word of the Lord for us today...even though this was written thousands of years ago, you will see that it truly is the 'living word of God'.

Blessings as you follow this!


Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Picture of Hope

I have been many things in my life.  Done many things.  Some I have not liked, some I have fact most I have loved.  Being an optimist is always about balance in one direction. :-)

I have always loved poetry and have written much.  I found one of my older books the other day and was reading through some of it.  It strikes me that I have gone through at least 3 major phases in my poetic life.  1) Doubtful but hopeful.  2) Hopeful but doubtful and 3) Hopeful and faithful.

I will be sharing some of my poetry here and explaining more about these "phases".  It will be an interesting journey.  I hope you enjoy the ride.

 This is a poem I wrote in March 17th,1986. From my 2nd phase I think.

 A Picture of Hope

People not knowing
 caring less each day
 Given to their wisdom
leading them astray

Only Grace can draw them
 into your Holy Spirit
 Not by will nor crying
but only by Your might

The Spirit has descended
  and is working even now
  This evil age not ended
but I pray somehow

each soul be joined
to your will for good
for that is what your love wanted
if only that it could be done

Undaunted let me preach
cry, love and die
for your holy will
within my soul does sigh

Give me wisdom to discern
give me patience to accept
give me power to lead a life
that alone I never could have kept

Draw them nearer to you O Lord
by your holy word
let them hear your voice
that even I have heard

Let them follow you
more closely than did I
let them see your face
before they all lay down and die

A picture of hope
I give to all who would entrust
their heart, their soul, their life
to One--That One: Jesus

(c) El LaGrew 1986

Blessings All!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

You are the Light

You are the Light

Matthew 5:14-16  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

 There is nothing so terrifying as darkness.  I don't know if you have had the opportunity to  be in complete darkness.  If you haven't, I would encourage you to try it.  It is simply one of the most profound events that you can experience.

Imagine yourself in a place  where the darkness surrounds you so utterly that it almost seems like the dark is a physical barrier to the real world.  It limits your vision to the point that it almost feels like it is a fabric.  You must feel around. Touch is muted.  Your hearing seems limited.  Smell is nonexistent. It is hard to breath because the air itself seems thick.  This was your life.  This is the life of  millions who have not had their eyes opened to Jesus.  Who do not believe in His Goodness, Grace and Mercy; Who have not experienced the joy of being loved for who they are; who do not have the Holy Spirit living in them producing light so they can see the Truth.

This is where you and I come in.  See, we have had the opportunity thanks to someone in our lives to see the experience God's forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  They were faithful to what Jesus says here in these familiar words in his Sermon of the Mount.  They did not hide the light within them and they illuminated the path of someone stumbling in the darkness of ignorance.  They set the captive free.

This week you have an opportunity to share the Good News with someone.  Don't tell me you don't...I know you do. :-)  There is not a day that goes the opportunity to tell someone about Jesus presents itself to me.  That could be in a personal contact, or it could be in helping someone or it could be in just writing to someone to tell them about what Jesus is doing in my life...the means are endless.  The focus is singular and the results are God given.  Can't go wrong with that can you?

I appreciate what you are doing in the community and what you will continue to do.  I appreciate the fact that you are willing to "put yourselves out there".  To get involved with helping people...shining your light.  But what is more important I think,  is that by doing these things, you are bringing the light of Jesus to those who are in darkness.  To those who have not seen kindness in so very long and who are thirsting for contact of another soul.

So keep on doing what you are doing.  That is what being a Christ-Follower means,  To risk, to go, to shine, to harvest.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Great among you

Great among you

Matthew 20:24-28

 And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers.  But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,  and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Once again Jesus is faced with a crisis that threatens the unity of his struggling band of disciples.  The sons of Zebedee and their mother have just asked Jesus to allow them to sit on the right and left of him when he comes into his kingdom.  As the the Scripture says, "the ten became indignant with the two brothers"

Jesus them proceeds to give the disciples a lesson on humility. I guess they had never heard John the Baptist when he proclaimed that, "He must increase, but I must decrease."  Jesus reminds them what it truly means to be a Christ-follower.

In our own lives, it has been my experience that most of us have character flaws which make it easier for us to go astray in certain ways. Examine your own life and see if this is true or not.  Generally speaking, I would say that tragic human pride is one of the ones at the top. Hubris is pride that leads to sadness and lost dreams.  Although on the surface, it fools you into thinking you have a right to be really don't.  And if you are a Christ-follower...doubly so. I know in my own life this is certainly true and I can give you example after example of when I tumbled over the edge and things ended up badly for me.  If I had only been more humble, this could have all been avoided.  Ask my wife, I am sure she can come up with more examples than I am willing to admit. :-)

The brothers who asked Jesus to sit on his right and left were prideful, but on closer inspection so were the other 10 disciples since they became indignant when they heard the request by the other two.  Hubris is like that,  It multiplies and we all need to be mindful when that is happening.  We need to curb that impulse we all have to want our 15 minutes of fame.

Jesus teaches us that greatness in the kingdom does not depend on you doing great things, but by doing small things and all things with great love and humility. By being a servant, you become a leader; By being humble, you become great;  By dying, you gain life and by giving selflessly, you gain fulfillment.  This is a lesson we all need to hear and take to heart.  This is a lesson we all need to practice everyday.  It is too easy for us to become caught up in what the world is saying and how the rules work here.  In the kingdom it is radically different.

With God, we already have status.  Not based on what we did, but what Jesus did. We do not need to prove ourselves worthy, we are given it to us by Grace.  His Mercy is all we need to achieve. With the world it is not so.  That is why Jesus emphasizes the need for a servant's heart when dealing with people.  The need extends to everyone you encounter, but particularly to the people of God.

Today as you go about doing the things you do, remember this.  Think on this.  Take it to heart and meditate on it.  It is one of the greatest keys we have to unlock the true potential that we have in God's world.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So you are a Disciple...

So You are a Disciple...

Mark 8:34-35 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."

In Mark's Gospel, this passage comes just after Jesus rebuked Peter.  The context of that rebuke and the fact that He called all the disciples and the crowd that was there at the time to His side tells us that this is a passage that we need to examine further. Many call ourselves 'Christians' but perhaps we do not understand exactly what that work means.  This passage helps us to flesh in the details a bit.

So what does being a Christ-Follower entail?  Jesus lays it on the line and He mentions 4 things that we need to do in order to be associated with Jesus and His ministry.

1) Deny yourself.  This is not popular in today's culture, is it?  Where we are enticed into going to spas, vacations that are extravagant, eating way too many things that are unhealthy for us, cajoled into watching infomercials on how we can become rich by working only 2 hours a day. We transfer such warped ideas to our own lives and that seeps into our idea of what God should be doing for us.  After all, aren't we worth it?

But Jesus tells us differently. "Deny...", he says. We view that as a suggestion rather than a command.  but that is not the context and that is not the language He uses.  It is much more than a suggestion.  It is a statement of hortatory fact.  He is telling us that we need to deny ourselves and put Him and our mission first. Just as He has done.  Just like Jesus did.  Philippians 2:6-8  who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  How about you?  Can you say that? Have you emptied yourself and filled the remainder with Jesus?

2) Take up YOUR cross. This is not a one-time event.  The Greek construction here in Mark is a present durative which suggests that you continually pick up your cross.  The burden of the cross followed Jesus throughout His ministry. The time he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, Luke describe His praying so intense that he sweat blood.  He asked His Father then, if there was any way that this cup could be passed, that it would be, but in the end He had to say, 'Not my will, but Yours'   How about us? Are we making a decision every day to pick up  our cross? To do the work that Jesus has set before us? I pray that we all have the fortitude and resolve to do this.  It is an essential part of being a Christ-Follower.

3) Follow Me.  Not only are we to deny ourselves and pick up our cross, we are to follow Jesus.  When I was young, my Dad took me on a hike in the woods.  I followed him because I knew he knew which way to go. The path was not always easy nor pleasant...but I had the confidence in him because he told me he had walked this same path when he was young and he knew where he was at and he knew where we were going.  Somehow this made the trek just a little more tolerable...a little more enjoyable.  Jesus himself has trod this path we are on.  He has been there and He has done it.  Maybe that does not make it any easier for us, I don't know, but it does give me confidence that since He has done it, somehow I can do it too.  He does not say it will be the next statement He says shows.

4) If you want to save your life...lose it. Wow, if we were worried about the first 3 conditions, this should really make us ponder and take notice.  What Jesus? Lose my life in order to save it?  If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.  In order for us to gain eternal life, we must pass from this one.  We must give ourselves fully to the Lord's work. We must die in order to be born again.  This is not the first time Jesus has used such words. Recall that he used the metaphor of a grain that needs to die in order to produce the seed that would become the next generation.  Here He says that if you are not willing to lose your very life, to give God all of yourself, you cannot call yourself a disciple.  You cannot have eternal life.

Now the good news in all this is Jesus has not left us alone.  he has promised to be with us every step of the way...a way that he himself has trod...a way which he has blazed for us.  We will not get lost as long as we follow Him...although from time to time we may get off the path...we will complete the tasks he has set before us. We will persevere because Jesus has done it.  He has called us and His Holy Spirit is in us.  We cannot fail as long as we cling to HIM.

Ponder this today.  Meditate on His Word. Give thanks to His mighty name!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Anyone who loves ME...

Anyone who loves ME...

John 14:23-24 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

You woke up this morning by the Grace of God.  You did nothing to earn this day.  It is only fitting that you do the will of your Father in Heaven just as Jesus did.
Jesus taught many things during His time on earth.  This is one of the most important.  The context is just before His death.  Jesus is preparing His disciples for the shock by encouraging them and letting them know that there is HOPE.  There is PURPOSE and MEANING in this life...if you do what the LORD asks of you.
How soon we forget this simple truth! We take life for granted because we just know that the sun will rise tomorrow...we just know that life will go on.  When we are young, we do not even often have thoughts of our own mortality. What a shame.  Jesus can use us everyday and, as I often tell people when they are older, the fact that you are still here bears witness that Jesus still has things for you to do. Amen?
Every morning I wake up and go out side, I hear the birds singing.  I'd like to think that they are singing because they are praising God for another day. Another day to live and enjoy His creation..and for us, it is another opportunity to do the will of the LORD.
So it seems to me, the key to understanding the meaning of what Jesus said in John 24:23-24, is to know what Jesus taught, to know the will of Him who sent Jesus.  If Jesus taught what the Father told Him, then surely this is what we need to do as well.
In the coming days, we will explore exactly what Jesus taught and how we too, MUST do the will of the Father, by following the teachings of His Son!  Today, as you work, work for the LORD.  You will find that it is the most fulfilling, most meaningful you could ever do. 

Sunday Encouragement

Good morning people of God!

Hebrews 4:16

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

I just want to write a short note to encourage you.  

I have been praying for you for weeks.  Even though I did not know your names nor did I know exactly what to pray for.  Once I found out that you were going to be having this missions event, I started praying.  And not only for you specifically.

I have been walking a lot lately.  My territory is south of Hwy 95. East of Hwy 169 all the way to the River on the East border of Princeton.  Almost every night I walk these streets and as I walk, I pray. I pray that the LORD will open up hearts; I pray that the LORD will keep hearts faithful and I pray that the Holy Spirit will go out and convict those hearts that do not yet belong to HIM.  

This is where YOU come in!

This week, you get the opportunity to make those prayers a reality.  You have an opportunity to bolldy go before the throne of Grace proclaiming our Risen Lord working in YOUR life.  You get to show other people in our community what a transformation has been taking place.  This is YOUR opportunity.  It is not mine.  God has assigned YOU.  He has called YOU.  He has gifted YOU.

Now what are you going to do with this?  That is as always between you and God.  But let me tell you, what you decide right everyday from now on, WILL affect your life.  It not only will affect your life, but the lives of people you meet along the way.

I don't know about you, but I am EXCITED for what is about to happen.  I am excited that you have this opportunity and that I am praying that the LORD will guide you steps.  Booya!

So go out boldly.  Go out with confidence that the LORD is with you and that the path has already been made smooth for by prayer and supplication.  Go with GOD!

Hebrews 4:16

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.



Saturday, June 11, 2011

Shine Your Light

Matthew 5:14-15

   14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
 Last Thursday we had the opportunity to be in a parade.  In case you didn't know, it is Rum River Days here in beautiful Princeton, Minnesota (55371...if you use MapQuest).

Our church had a simple float that has colorful blocks that have most of our ministries named.  The task we had was to walk along side the float and hand out candy and some eye-catching pamphlets which had our motto, "Connecting people to God and to each other for the glory of God!"  It had our website and our email address, and phone number 763.389.5715, all listed as well as the name of our Pastor (Calvin Friend) and the address of the church.  How is that for a Pastor's name?  Friend!  Can't think of a better one that that!

I have been walking a lot lately for health reasons and have been praying as I've been walking for every household I come across.  Sometimes you see people on the much effort does it take to say a little silent prayer for them as you walk by?  And last Thursday was a perfect opportunity to pray for a LOT of people.  They were lining the streets all having a good time.  They had no idea I was idea that we all cared for them like we did.  It was a real blessing to be part of that.

So we walked alongside the float, handing out our candy and pamphlets and praying...trying to make connections with people.  Trying to shine our light so people knew who we were and that we weren't so bad a folk.  I think people got the idea.  I think they appreciated us.

Why deny yourself such a blessing?  Jesus tells us to shine our light!  To be a light and to be salt.  It does no good for the Kingdom if you do not engage the world and the people in the world.  None at all.  And what effort does it take?  Very little.

The next time you have an opportunity to shine your light or to be reflect the love of Jesus in a broken world, I hope you would.  These opportunities are all around us and we seldom take Jesus up on the challenge.  It's about time we did.



Saturday, June 4, 2011

New Day!

“Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11 NIV

I always get up early in the morning. During this time of year, the birds actually start praising God at 1:30 AM. It is only fitting that we do the same, don't you think? Don't we have even more things to be thankful about?

God does not only take care of our physical needs, but he has also take care of our most important need. The need for salvation; the need to be reconciled to Him. He has done this for us through the sacrifice of His son JESUS!

Thank you LORD!

Blessings All!


Monday, May 30, 2011

‘What do these stones mean?’

‘What do these stones mean?’

Text: Joshua:4:1-24

This is one of the most significant passages in all of Scripture.  If you don't believe that, please keep reading.  I hope to change your mind.

This chapter comes just after Moses' death.  Joshua is the new leader of the Israelites and times are tough.  They are marching into a new land. They have just had the report of the spies who crossed over and went to Jericho where they found Rahab..who by the way not only helped the spies get in and out of the town without being noticed, but also is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. They come to the mighty Jordan river on orders for the Lord.  They find that the river is swollen because of recent torrential rains. They are told to: “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”

The stage is set.  Can the Lord deliver?  Can they cross the river safely? The answer is found in Chapter 3 of Joshua.  You will want to read all of it before coming to Chapter 4.

At this juncture, the Lord says: " 1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” 

After the priests had come out of the Jordan and the stones had been gathered, Joshua build a memorial at that very place that the LORD lead the Sons of Israel out of certain death.  This did 2 things.  1) It cemented Joshua's position of rightful leader of the Israelites. The Bible says, "That day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they had stood in awe of Moses."  Joshua 4:14


2) It established a memorial so that Israel could forever remember what the Lord had done there in that insignificant place for such and insignificant people, as people go.  Recall that the LORD himself said that he did not choose Israel because of their greatness nor because they were the most numerous.  It was because he loved their fathers and made a covenant with them that he chose them.  they had nothing to brag about.  They were however, on God's side and in His will.  That made them significant. That made then unbeatable.

Now on this Memorial Day 2011, we too get to remember the brave fighting men and women who have given their lives for us. Memorial Day it seems to me, is getting less and less important every year.  When I was a kid growing up, I remember the parade that always started in down town and proceeded to the cemetery where we would have a 21 gun salute and the mandatory taps played. I usually marched in the honor guard with the flags.  And it always brought chills to my spine to realize the reason we were marching to the cemetery. 

My dad fought in WWII.  Marine Corps. Pacific.  Infantry. Tough as nails and as mean as they come.  He had to be to survive.  But because of that...I was born and I enjoy living in a free and most excellent nation.  I believe that with all my heart.

If you think of it, there are only 2 people who have died for you.  Can you name them?

The first is Jesus.  Jesus died on the cross to save you from your sins.  Have you accepted that truth yet?  When will you realize that?  When will you bow the knee and surrender your will to the only one who can save you from your sins?  Think about it. make a decision today.

The second who died for you is the American G.I.  They died so you can live in freedom and relative safety.  If it wasn't for their sacrifice, have you ever though about where you would be today?  have you ever thought about the quality of life you would have?  It gives me shivers when I think of how things might have been if it wasn't for the willingness of those brave men and women to serve our nation.

 So memorials are a good thing.  Memorial Day is a good ting if it helps us to never forget the sacrifice that was made and is still being made today for our freedom and quality of life...not only here, but world-wide.  The world should remember the sacrifices of the American G.I. as well...not just us.  but it has to start here.  Respect and remembrance has to be kept alive and well here if we have any hope that the world will remember.

How about you?   Two questions for you. 1) Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? and 2) Have you given the proper respect to the American G.I.

I pray that you can answer "Yes!" to both questions.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Never Alone

Never Alone

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 "Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help lift him up."

I remember how true this was a few years ago when my mother fell.  She could not get up on her own and my brother was gone to work. She laid on the floor for a few hours before he got home and found her.  She was never again the same after that.  It really affected her as I am sure it would have any one of us.

This passage from Ecclesiastes rings true in my life.  I have family and friends, but they are not always with me 24/7.  But I have JESUS who is always there, always watching, always ready to come to my aide.  What a feeling of security I have in that.

And don't think that you will not fall.  We all do.  If not physically, then morally.  We need someone to pick up up and dust us off and to give us an encouraging word and to send us on our way. 

How about you?  Are you trying to go it alone? Why?  Give JESUS a chance in your life. Do it today!

Blessings All!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

No Fine Print

I have been reading and studying Galatians now with my Sunday School Class *The BEST SS class...EVER.. by the way* and one thing that has struck me about the whole situation there in Galatia...

Paul has written this letter to the Galatians for the purpose of addressing an error that had been growing there.  Namely, there was a group of Jewish people who stated to the Christians there that Paul really had the Gospel wrong...and if not entirely incorrect, he was off by a magnitude.  That is, since Jesus was Jewish first, His followers, to be true followers, must first become Jews before they became a Christian. Not only that, not only did they need to become Jews, but they must also follow all the Jewish laws and customs even after they because Jews and followers of Christ.  After all, they reasoned, since Jesus was Jewish, his followers must also be exactly the same.

This was bad news for the Gentile believers.  Now they needed to change in order to express their faith. They needed to change in order for God to accept them. The males needed to become circumcised and both sexes needed to follow the old law and all the food laws and the thousands of other laws and regulations which Jesus himself railed about.  Paul was not about to take this affront to the Gospel that was approved from the Lord Jesus and from the original Apostles in Jerusalem which Paul met with on more than one occasion.

It appears to me that this same problem is cropping itself up in today's church.  I hear many people say that they have the "secret" to being a Christian.  They have a word which could bring enlightenment and peace of mind. They and only they, seem to have a special word from God himself which was given only to them.  It would really benefit you to listen to them to see if they can help you out on your path to enlightenment.

I laugh at that, because truthfully, we have all the knowledge, all the tools, all the information that we need to find salvation.  And as we, who are Christian KNOW, it  is found in no one else but Jesus Christ Himself.  Salvation can only be found through HIM. (John 14:6 for example). Salvation is not a is a person. The one who died for your sins on the cross.

The Bible is our sole source for truth.  And one thing I thing I have discovered...there is NO FINE PRINT in the BIBLE.  It is straight forward.  It presents God and His plan.  It is the rock upon which I base all my actions for faith and action...for life.  Read it yourself and you will come to the same conclusion.

So if anyone comes up to you, or if you hear and read anything about someone who has a "secret" they want to share with you...beware!  Laugh in their face, turn on your heals and walk away.  Because you know the real 'secret'...God does nothing in shadow or riddles or codes.  He is LIGHT.  He is transparent. What you see...what you know..what you read in the Bible, God's the TRUTH, the whole TRUTH and nothing but the TRUTH. Amen?

Blessings All!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Show No Favortisim

Show No Favoritism

Galatians 2:6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message.

As I read Paul's writings, I do get the impression that he was not the easiest person with which to get along.  This verse along with some others seem to confirm that suspicion. And then I am struck with the inevitable reality that we probably are much more reasonable and much easier to get a long with.  We are not so argumentative or brash and I wonder if that is right or wrong.

In our society today, you will be branded, labeled if you will, by others as being think-headed, stubborn, prejudiced, racist, homophobic, narrow-minded, simple, minded, stupid, ignorant, unreasonable and just plain wrong, if you disagree with them.  Who wants to be labeled as that?  Apparently Paul had no problem with that. Why? Because he was absolutely convinced that he was preaching the truth and that truth was the difference between eternal live and eternal death. Then I ask myself, "Is that really how we are today?"

Why wouldn't we be? Why shouldn't we be?  If the difference truly is the difference between life and death, and we really, truly believe that with all our heart, then I submit to you, more people should not like us.  More people ought to be calling us names and spitting in our faces.  If we truly are communicating the Gospel message, then where is the hate?  Where is the opposition? Where is the name calling in our lives?

The big thing now a days is tolerance. Not tolerance for differences of opinion, but tolerance of sin.  Sin is bad.  It is the thing that separates us from God.  If sin did not exist, we would not have any problems at all.  It is all because of sin that we need to sometimes be harsh in our communication of the Gospel message.  'Nice' just does not cut it all the time.

A balance? Absolutely!  But if I were to err, I must err toward the Truth as I see it in Scripture. Everybody who is searching for the truth, has a right to hear it.  I believe the truth of the Biblical message.  I believe in the truth of the Gospel and I believe in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.

How about you? Are you communicating the truth of God's Word?  Are you really communicating the Gospel message?  And many friends do you have that aren't Christian? How many names have you been called? Hmmmm?

Blessings All!


Monday, January 17, 2011

The 9 Fruits: Part 4

I Want it NOW!

Galatians 5:19a The acts of the flesh are obvious...
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The 4th fruit we will talk about is forbearance. It is also known as patience or longsuffering. In the Greek and in the Hebrew this word conveys the notion of not getting all that you a good way.

I think of all the fruits of the Spirit, this is perhaps, the one that we could all use more.  I mean, just think of how this one fruit could change the way we do ministry or how we live our life.

I mentioned this one time before, so if you remember it, sorry, but its just too funny not to mention again.  I once saw a calendar with a picture of a baby orangutan and he was looking up to the sky and shaking his little hairy fist..."I want patience", it said "and I want it NOW!". Many jokes have been made of this because it is so universally needed.  Everyone will recognize their lacking of it in their own life.

In reality however, it is seldom funny.  It is seldom not needed.  And if you listen to the news on any given day, you can identify rhetoric which is laden with impatient harshness and over the top judgmentalism. We could all use a great big dose of it...and you know it.  Just ask my wife.  She will tell you how much I need it!

However, this fruit just does not stop at not saying harsh words and controlling the tongue.  Paul means that the Holy Spirit goes further...much further.  He goes straight to the heart.   Like God who has forbearance and patience and does not give everyone what they truly deserve, but is merciful and loving, so we, as Christ's ambassadors, must exercise the same.

So as my wife said just the other day when talking to someone who did her a wrong...she said she stopped before saying anything and said a short silent prayer..."Lord please show me how I can show YOU in me when I talk to the person."  It is that simple.  Give it to the Lord.  Remember what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit,  "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."  He will not leave you . He will not abandon you. He will be with you till the very end.

Blessings all!


Monday, January 10, 2011

The 9 Fruits: Part 3

The 9 Fruits
Part 3: Peace

Galatians 5:19a The acts of the flesh are obvious...
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

"The word "peace" comes from the Greek word eirene, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word shalom, which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by the outward circumstances or pressures."  (Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Rick Renner)

Paul started out almost all of his letters with "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ".  He did the same with the Galatians, but he went a step further as well.  He gave them the reason of the grace and peace..."who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father".

Paul was addressing the Church in Galatia.  It was a church that was characterized by many things, but 'peace' was not one of them.  It was a church in conflict since Paul left after he planted them during his missionary journeys through the area. Paul was indeed announcing to them that the fruits of the Spirit, which they should have already possessed, was not one of the things that he saw, but it was a state which he had hoped they would one day attain.

The Bible says much about peace in general, but it says many more things about a particular type of peace...the peace of God.  This peace is promised to all who trust in the Lord. "But wait!", you might say. "Didn't Jesus say that he didn't come to bring peace?"  True. So how do we reconcile this fact?  I think Jesus was talking about peace with the world.  He said to not expect peace that the world gives, because as his disciples, we would be treated as he was treated.  He did not know peace with the world and neither would we.  However, we would have the peace that comes with a right relationship with God.  It was the only peace we would experience, but it would be more than enough.

When Jesus came, he told his disciples it would be better for them that he would go away, because then the Father would send the the paracleton...literally, the 'beside caller...the one who walks besides us..The Consoler...the Comforter....the Holy Spirit.  The disciples did not know what Jesus was talking about at the time but they did now.  Paul elaborates that this Comforter...this Hold Spirit gives us gifts which the Father has bestowed on the Disciples of his Son.  Peace was one of these 9 gifts.

Imagine what a precious gift this was in a world full of violence.  It was, as Paul stated in his letter to the Philippians, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  It was a gift beyond compare.  A rest, a comfort, a total release of anxiety because we do not need to worry about our salvation.  Whatever happens, whether we live or die; whether we have much or are wanting; whether we are liked by the world or not, we still have Jesus.  We can hold fast to that promise no matter what.

How about you?  If you are a Christian, do you realize what a precious gift that the Holy Spirit has given you?  Do you realize that you already have the Peace of God?  Many do not. But it's never too late to experience this.  Give your anxieties...all of your insecurities over to Him.  He cares for you.

If yo are not a Christian...if you do not believe that Jesus died for your sins, how much peace do you have?  Is your life full of worry?  Do you long for the rest and peace that trusting in God provides?  Why don;t you start by reading the Bible and see if the evidence there might not convince you?  Try reading the Gospel of John first.  If you don't want to read the first chapter (I always believe it is better) why not try chapter 14 first?  This chapter will give you  a taste of how Jesus love his disciples and how he took care of them.  Great stuff.

Wherever you are at, I encourage you to read the Bible.  I am not concerned where you start or how much of it you read.  God is in every word.  You will know it once you start.

Blessings All!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The 9 Fruits: Part II

Part II: Joy

Joy: Greek word, chara. (Pronounced Kara)

Galatians 5:24a But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy....

Again we find that the Biblical concept of Joy goes way beyond what our definition would be today.  It is not necessarily just a feeling of happiness, although that is part of it.  Paul here is bringing into the equation both the Old Testament concept of Joy and the contemporary meaning in Greek society as the original hearers would have understood it.

First, let's look at some of the ways that this word is used in the Old Testament.  This is a small sampling.  There are many, many views of Joy in the Old Testament and New Testament alike.

1) Rejoicing in the Lord because of His deliverance.  (1 Samuel 2:1)

2) A feeling of Joy and rejoicing because of the Lord's Provision. (Psalms 4)

3) Righteousness given by the Lord brings joy.  (Psalms 97)
4) The feeling one has because the Lord will justify His People, but will punish the wicked. (Isaiah 65)
5) The feeling of security one has because the Lord is taking care of them. (Zechariah 10)

The New Testament likewise uses the concept of Joy in a full way as well.  Here are some examples.

1) The Joy one has when they are with the bridegroom. (Cf. Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19; Mark 2:20; Luke 5:34; Luke 5:35)
2) The Feeling we have when we have belief and faith. (1 Peter 1:8)
3) They rejoice when the suffer trials because of identification with Jesus' sufferings and the fact that he will  come again.. (1 Peter 4:13, Hebrews 10:34)
4) They have joy in the HOPE we have in Jesus. (Romans 12)
5) The Joy that is felt...even in the unborn, when in the presence of Jesus. (Luke 1:43-45)

The point here is that there are many nuances to the word JOY.  All of these are used to define the 2nd fruit of the Spirit.  The people that Paul was writing to would have realized each of them.  We must not allow our narrow definitions and concepts of the words to limit what the Spirit gives.

It is also important to remember that Joy, in our human condition is limited.  However, as a fruit of the Spirit, it is not limited.  So while we experience the Joy as  a fruit of the Spirit now, we will fully realize its scope when we meet the LORD face to face.  At that time, our joy will be made complete.

May all of you who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ experience the fullness of Joy that the Lord has given to each of you.

Blessings All!


Monday, January 3, 2011

The 9 Fruits: Part 1

The 9 Fruits
Part I

Galatians 5:19a The acts of the flesh are obvious...
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Love! Joy! Peace!  They sounds so new age when they are said alone, but the Holy Spirit did not leave
them standing alone and Paul, mindful of that, sets these words as a counter to the warning he stated
about the flesh. The works of the flesh are bondage to sin, Paul warns but to know someone of the Spirit
of God, you need to know what kind of actions will be characteristic of such a person. We will examine
these characteristics in parts.

Part I. Love

It is important to realize that Paul was not talking about these in the vacuum of the World, or in the
way the world perceives these words. Paul was talking about them in the context of Christians filled
with the Holy Spirit. People who by name and action belong to the Lord Jesus Christ and do not follow
the ways of the flesh. Paul previously stated what those people are characterized by and their fate as
well. No. Paul indeed was talking here and giving us insight into the heart and character of a True

Love: Greek word, agape (ah-gah-pay). In the Greek New Testament text there are 3 words used for LOVE. Philos, eros, and agape. There is a 4 word, Stego, which is not used in the Biblical text, but in Greek
contemporary writings.
Phileo means 'brotherly-type love'. We get our word for the Pennsylvania city of Philadelphia directly
from this word. The City of Brotherly Love.
Eros, you can well imagine the direct English translation of the meaning of this word.  From it we
derive 'erotic' love and lust.
Stegos, likewise we have Stag. No, not the deer, but one of the more archaic meanings, like in Stag
Party..a social gathering of men only.

'Agape' most Christians have heard about. It means love in a selfless and self sacrificial way. It is
love that is unconditionally given. Love that is always given and never taken. It is the very love that
Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter..."Love is patient, love is kind. It does not
envy, it does not boast, it is not proud..." It is the love the we, as humans can not hope to exhibit
apart from the spirit of God, for as John said, 1 John 4:8 "Whoever does not love does not know God,
because God is love."

Do not be mistaken. There are many types of 'love' in this world, but there is only one type of love
that will spearate us from the rest and this is the love of God. Without this characteristic, God would
not be God and we would not be Christians. So you realize how important these characteristics are? Do
not throw them aside lightly.

I leave you to ponder the words of Paul to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthains 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Blessings All!


Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Entire Law

The Entire Law

Galatians 5:13-14  You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Freedom.  It is something we all long for from the time we are born. You don't believe me? Just watch a toddler. I have had a lot of opportunity to do this not so much with my kids, because let's face it, when you are young and have kids, you are so busy just being a parent, you seldom have time to observe.  I have had more of an opportunity to observe children as my grandchildren.  I see them when they struggle to do things by themselves, but they will not ask for help. They prefer to exercise the freedom they think they have.  We do the same thing.

Paul says that we "were called to be free." The freedom that he is talking about is true freedom. The freedom to say no.  Paul has previously stated that the reason of the Law was to bring sin to light and to hold us accountable.  In that state we had no opportunity to say no to sin.  It was there consuming us like some disease eating away from the inside out.  Jesus has removed the disease; he has cured us.  Now we have a choice.  Will we use that choice for good or evil?

Just like in the Old Testament when the Lord told the Israelites,  "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live."  Deuteronomy 30:19. Read the whole chapter, it will be good. Pauls tells the Galatians to choose life. Do not use this opportunity that we have to say no to sin, to say yes to the flesh.

This is a hard thing to do isn't it? I know in my own life, this has been one of the toughest things to not only grasp but also to keep and hold.  I still mix up my version of freedom with the Lord's definition of freedom. But if we look further in the passage, Paul also gives us the key to remembering this truth.

"... serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself."   This freedom we have, if we ever get confused, is to be exercised by serving one another in love.  The whole Law, he says, can be summed up with just keeping one command. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love is funny that way.  At least Biblical love.  The love that Jesus had.  The love that Paul had and was advocating.  Love in that manner wipes out all the issues in your life that you think are insurmountable.  That is the love we need to exercise.  That is the love we need to find.  That is the love that brings true freedom from sin and guilt and the need to indulge the flesh.  It is what we need, and not us is the love that the whole world needs.

This year put aside all else and see if you can exercise this type of love everyday.  The more you do it, the easier it will become.

Blessings All!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christ is Freedom!

Christ is Freedom!

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie, Days of Thunder.
Dr. Claire Lewicki: (Played by Nicole Kidman said to Cole Trickle, Tom Cruise) Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac. Nobody knows what's gonna happen next: not on a freeway, not in an airplane, not inside our own bodies and certainly not on a racetrack with 40 other infantile egomaniacs.

We all want to be in control don't we?  It feels good. It feels right. Let me tell you right now control is not all what it is cracked up to be. With control comes the responsibility of making your own decisions and then owning up the the consequences of those decisions.  Sure we have to take responsibility for the decisions we make, but it sure is unfair for us to take consequences of decisions we do not make. So the trick is to find someone who, when they make decisions for you, they make the absolute right decisions and they have your best interest in mind.

Now when I make decisions, I absolutely have my best interests in mind, no question about it.   However, I can say with a great deal of conviction that I do not always make the right decisions.  How about you?  Have you ever made a mistake? I know I have, but I also know who hasn't made a mistake. Not one mistake. Ever. Who, you may ask?  Jesus that is who I am talking about. Jesus never made a mistake. Jesus is for us.

Paul says to the Galatians, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery"  Jesus has already done the work.  He has already made the decision and now they want to take it all back.  They want to go backward instead of forward.  They want to take control rather than releasing all control to Jesus.  Why do people do that?  It's because they want to have some control. They want to be able to exalt themselves rather than God.  This is a totally human reaction and one that is common, but it also one we must fight with all our heart.  Once we have released it to Jesus, trying to take it back again is pure folly.  I know.  Every time I have done that, the results have been disastrous.

Jesus has done it all. There is no need for us to add to it or to subtract from it.  It is perfect and complete as it stands.  It is, as they say, what it is. Let go and Let God.

I am speaking to Christians now, so if you ever find yourself wanting to take back control  from God, relax.  That is something we all want to do.  But don't do it.  To do so would deny Jesus' work on the cross.  And if you are not a Christian, and have been struggling for some time with control, relax too...and give your life over to Jesus. Make that decision and see if I am not right and this is just what you need.

In another post we will examine the issue of faith and the part that reason  plays in all this, but for now, remember faith is the end it is always enough.

Blessings all!