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Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. Psalm 116:15 (NIV)

 [To my readers: On February 11, 2012 my father suffered a stroke which weakened him physically and took away his speech. The search for a cause of that stroke revealed stage four cancer in his body. For the next several weeks my father battled the cancer as well as the effects of the stroke. On March 22, 2012, just 11 days after his 85th birthday, Dad won his battle with cancer and was ushered into the presence of his Lord Jesus to join those who have gone before us.

The words that follow are my tribute to my Father. A tribute I was honored to share with those of us who gathered together to celebrate his life. May you be challenged and blessed by these words.

Since that time, I’ve taken time away from my writing to regroup, deal with some personal issues, and rest. It’s time to re-enter the world to share what God has laid on my heart. I pray he will give me the strength to balance life and writing so that you will be blessed by the words I am given. May the God of Heaven richly bless you. Amen.]

How do you sum up 57 years of memories in a three to five minute speech? The easy answer to that of course is…you can’t! It’s been so encouraging to hear your stories of how Dad influenced your lives; to hear how many of you will spend eternity with Jesus because of the ministry Dad had to you. There aren’t too many 84 year old men who can relate to someone who is 14 one minute and a 70 year old the next.

Dad, Pastor Max, Grandpa Max, was more than a father to me, especially in these later years. He was a mentor, a friend and one of my main cheerleaders whether I entered the pulpit or faced some new challenge in life.

Over the last eight years I had the honor of having breakfast with Dad nearly every Wednesday, in our usual booth at ‘Our Place Café’. You know you are a regular when you show up at a restaurant and your coffee is hot and poured, your eggs are done just the way you like them and the servers greet you by name. Wednesday mornings will never be the same.

One of the memories I have growing up was the role of music in our family. We were by no means the Von Trapp Family but mom worked hard to get five rambunctious pastors kids all singing on the right page…usually. We learned to sing on our 90 mile trips over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house. Mom taught us to sing in harmony.. Dad taught us the importance of living in harmony. Together they taught us the vital importance of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

While Mom had an ear for music, Dad had a love for music. They are not the same. On one occasion I remember Dad being asked, not so graciously, to refrain from singing with us since we were practicing for Sunday night church and he was throwing us off key.

Dad had a song in his heart even though it didn’t always come through his lips as well as it left his head. Nothing could quench the song in my Dad’s heart. Anyone visiting his Face Book page knew his love for music, and especially the old hymns. I helped him publish his last hymn. Even though he couldn’t talk and was weakened from the stroke, he knew exactly which hymn to put on his page.

Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus

There is never a day so dreary, there is never a night so long, but the soul that is trusting Jesus will somewhere find a song. Wonderful, wonderful Jesus, In the heart he implanteth a song, A song of deliverance, of courage, of strength, in the heart he implanteth a song.

I share that story because the chorus we just finished singing [Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace. I’m going to see my Saviors face; Heaven is a Glorious, Heaven is a Marvelous, Heaven is a Wonderful place.] was the last song my Dad sang this side of heaven. That was the same day that he called us four sons together to tell us that his time would be short and how much he’d enjoy our company for the remainder of his stay here on earth.

57 years of memories. 57 years of lessons Dad taught me. Some I’m still working on. Others I’ve forgotten, but some of the biggest lessons still ring true in my heart.

Lesson One: You can always come home. I think each of sons and at least one grandson took Dad literally on that by moving our families into his house. Looking back I don’t think Dad was inviting us to move our families into his house. He was teaching us though that no matter how many mistakes you’ve made and how much you struggle with life, Jesus always welcomes you home with open arms.

Lesson Two:  Jesus forgives ALL sin. Too often we like to categorize sin by saying “Your sin is worse than mine’ or this sin isn’t as big as that sin. Dad showed me, especially in these last years that forgiveness was for ALL sin, ALL the time.

 Lesson Three: Listen to the Spirit and follow his lead. Dad often told me the story of a time when he was prompted by the Spirit to make an unexpected stop at a friend’s house. A stop he didn’t want to take but a stop that resulted in several major events. People found Jesus. People were sent into ministry. Broken families were healed. All because of that one time when Dad chose to listen to the Spirit.

4. Lesson Four: God has forgiven you. Have you forgiven others? Have you forgiven God? It’s so easy to get angry when we are mistreated. It’s so easy to hold a grudge, refuse to forgive and promise retaliation. Those things only keep us imprisoned. Dad inspired us all to love and live freely.

There were many other lessons of course. Too many to mention. But perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from my Dad was never verbalized by him. In fact, if he were here today he’d probably not agree with me. You see, my Father was, to me, an example of my Heavenly Father. Don’t get me wrong. Dad wasn’t perfect. He ate too much ice cream and took too few walks. He confided in me some of the struggles in his own spiritual life. But he gave me a clear picture of my Heavenly Father because of his unconditional love for me.

In church circles we talk about a God who is our Heavenly Father. A Father that loves us regardless of what we do or say or think. While that is true, it’s sometimes hard to find a good example of that in our world. When we are young and afraid we look to our Daddies for support. As we grow older and struggle with life and things don’t work out the way we planned those closest to us may fail to support us because we don’t meet their expectations. No so my Dad.

My Dad walked me through some of the darkest, loneliest days of my entire life. He showed me love, forgiveness and acceptance when my choices disappointed him. Sometimes those choices were unintentional, sometimes they were the result of my own bull-headed Scandinavian heritage. Regardless of the choices I made, I learned that my dad loved me.  I’m proud of my Dad and I know he was proud of me.

I had supper with my dad shortly after he entered Parmly Life Points Care Center. It was a Saturday evening and I was preaching the next morning. I was talking with him about my sermon and from time to time he’d try to interject some scripture I should use.

 The gentleman across the table asked me, “Is your dad a pastor too?”

I smiled, “Yep, he’s been a pastor for…over 60 years.”

Dad corrected me very clearly, “67 years” He said slowly, “But God shut me up!”

I remember putting my hand on his shoulder and saying, No Dad, God hasn’t shut you up.

And so, I close with a request. Please help keep Dad’s message alive. His voice is now directed towards praising the Savior in heaven. But while his voice may be silenced here on earth, please keep his message, the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the message of grace, alive by showing others the patience, care, understanding and love that he showed so many of us.

Don’t shut up the message of Pastor Max.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” John 14:8 (NLT)

The word Father had a completely different connotation to Philip in his day than it does to us today. The term ‘Father’ was much more than a symbol. It conjured up in the minds of every Jew a man that was honored, revered, feared and loved all at once. He was the essence of stability, love, consistency and trust. 

Philip was seeking what each of us wants in life. Someone that could be trusted to do what he said he’d do. Someone in whom they saw power and intimacy and leadership and sensitivity. Today, everyone has the same longing deep within them. We all long to have someone in our lives we can count on to be, do and say what they say they will. 

My apologies for a moment to the women reading this post. Mothers too have a powerful influence in our lives. But to get the full essence of Philips request we need to realize the immense influence of fathers in the emotional, physical and spiritual development of each of us. 

In the same way we need to realize that the ‘father’ that Philip sought is still being sought by many today. While it’s impossible for anyone to fulfill all the qualities of our heavenly Father, it’s imperative that we as fathers strive to work towards that goal.

So, what does our heavenly Father look like? Watch Jesus.

Ask the woman who was guilty of adultery. Remember, she wasn’t accused. She was guilty. Jesus makes no effort to exonerate her. He doesn’t argue her guilt at all. He simply says she was not condemned. What a Compassionate Father!

Question the man who lived his entire life rejecting God. That is, until his dying breath on the cross when he begged Jesus for mercy. Moments later he joined his Savior in Paradise. What a Merciful Father.
Ask the blind man who spend his entire life in physical darkness only to be misunderstood when Jesus gave him sight. What an Understanding Father!

Listen to the father of the seizure ridden boy as he tells the story of how Jesus healed his son and how, that night, he and his wife slept soundly for the first time in years. What a Sensitive Father!

Hear the story the paralytic by the pool recount. He’d given up any hope of healing. His disability started out being physical but grew to the point where it was emotional (I’ll never make it to the pool. I’ll never be healed) and then spiritual (even God has forgotten me). Then Jesus came. What an Encouraging and Healing Father!

Max Lucado states, “Faith begins when you see God on the mountain and you are in the valley and you know that you are too weak to make the climb.”

It’s during those dark times in our lives that we echo the words of Philip. I don’t understand all that’s going on. The future scares me. Just show me the Father and I’ll be okay.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Daddy, God of all creation. Thank you for being the kind of Father I need for all time. When I feel weak and am unsure I can go on, help me to see Jesus so that I can see you. Amen.

When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers. Matthew 6:7 (CEV)

Two men prepare to enter the sanctuary. One walks boldly to the front. Well dressed and confident he lifts his eyes to heaven and begins to talk. Those around him listen carefully and are impressed with his words. He is, to them at least, obviously a very spiritual man. A few in attendance nod in agreement to his words. Others hope that one day they too will be able to pray like he does.

The second man goes largely unnoticed. He walks, almost stumbles as a drunk, towards the front. His chin rests on his chest. He dare not look up. He quietly finds a place in the corner pew. A few give him a passing glance and look away. He’s recognized but not acknowledged. It’s been years since he was here. It’s been longer than that since he’d prayed. Looking at the floor he looks for the words. They don’t come. How did he get here? More importantly, how can he come back? Will God even accept him?

Finally he speaks. His words go unnoticed for they are quiet, humble and simple words. “Oh God…I’m sorry,” was all he could muster up to say.

Jesus says the second man, not the first will have his prayer heard. The pious prayer, the lengthy prayer full of theological mumble jumble may impress men, but not God. Listen to your prayers sometime. If you talked with your lover the way you talk with God what would your love relationship be like? If during your times of passion with the one who means more to you than life itself you said the same words, in the same tone as yesterday and the day before and the day before, would you be sincere?

There are some that say God doesn’t answer prayer, that he’s distant, uninterested or that their prayers never go beyond the ceiling. The sad thing is, they are probably correct. For unless we have a personal relationship with Jesus, the Father can’t hear our prayers, unless they are sincere, heartfelt prayers of repentance. They are meaningless babble.

Even those of us who are Christ-followers need to evaluate our prayer life.  Your Heavenly Father would rather you just talk with him than have you pray to him. I’ve heard parents pray with their children and use it as an opportunity to tell their child what he needs to do. I’ve heard pastors use the ‘closing prayer’ as an opportunity to get the last point of their sermon in. I’m embarrassed to admit that at times my prayers turn into a wandering treatise with no direction.

What would our churches, our homes, our families be like if we as Christ-followers learned how to talk with God as two passionate lovers talk during those intimate times of life? How would we change? How would our view of God change? How would we see God move in miraculous and powerful ways?

One of the most meaningful prayers I’ve ever heard was the time a friend of mine laid his hand on my shoulder and in broken words said simply, “I…I…don’t have words. God, I pray for Mike.” It wasn’t fancy. It was a prayer of love from the heart that rose to heaven like a sweet aroma to the God of the universe.

PRAYER: Father God. Daddy. I come before you humbly. I pray for me. I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I ask that you would forgive those of us who have never learned to sit and passionately talk with you. Empower us with your Spirit to have the desire to sit and chat with you so that we can see your power manifest in us like we have never seen before. In your most holy and righteous name, Amen.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

When I was in Bible College, the building we married students lived in was literally one of the oldest buildings in the metropolitan city the College was located in. The building was rich in history but definitely was showing its age. The windows seemed to do little to stop the cold northerly winds. The heating and electrical system was inefficient and, at times, non-operational. The college did everything they could to keep the building updated and safe while we were there.

A few years ago I read that they had torn down the old building and erected a new one in its place. All the years of patching and repairing and fixing and re-fixing had finally come to an end. It was just no use trying to keep the old building in use.

Now, I’m a huge fan of trying to repair and restore old building rather than putting up new ones. However, reality is, sometimes the old just gets to a point where it won’t work anymore. It’s true in buildings. It’s true in cars and it’s true in the spiritual life as well.

In our original form, in the Garden of Eden, we were perfect. That perfection went far beyond our physical appearance. It included our emotional stability, or intellect and most importantly our ability to interact spiritually with the Creator-God of the Universe.

Then sin came into the picture and everything changed. Our physical bodies learned about illness and aging and eventually death. Our emotional well-being was challenged by our view of ourselves in comparison with others and we were hurt by the offenses of others. We began to deteriorate the moment we were born!

Our Heavenly Father looked down on us and realized that just fixing us would never be enough. The damage was too great. His desire for you was so deep that he decided the only way he could restore the relationship he longed to have with you was to start over with a brand new person, inside and out.

The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus came into the world to remodel you or recondition you. He didn’t come to repair what was broken. He came to make a brand new you. The old self is gone the minute you ask Christ to forgive you of your sin.

The enemy wants to remind you constantly that you haven’t changed. He’ll bring up all the things you still struggle with. He’ll point out your flaws. His words are nothing but lies. In Christ you are a brand new Creation!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. As I stand here admiring your creation through the beauty of nature help me to remember that I am completely forgiven because of you. I’m not reconditioned. I’m not repaired or remodeled. In you I am a brand new creation. Thank you for your love. Amen.

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32

Have you ever sat and listened to someone share their passion? I’m not talking about the boring person who goes into a tirade about some issue. I’m talking about the person who is so passionate about something that their words bring life to their topic.

You sit and listen to them and are so enraptured by their words that you lose all track of time. Even if you aren’t personally interested whatever it is they are talking about, their verbal and non-verbal communication mesmerizes you to the point where your entire attitude changes.

I had that once in a small way. A professor I had was so passionate about his class that I left forever changed in my attitude about it. The class? Political Science, believe it or not! I took the class as an elective because it was at the time and day I could attend. I had no interest whatsoever in Political Science. I don’t remember the professor’s name. I don’t even remember what year I took the class. What I do remember is leaving the class with not only a new appreciation for the topic, but even considered running for local office!

Passionate people breed passion in others. It’s no wonder then, that when Jesus appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus he instilled passion in them for God. He talked about Moses. He talked about Elijah and Daniel. He smiled as he reflected on the life of David. And why not? He walked with those men. He watched them grow in faith. He felt the pain of their failure and rejoiced in their victories. When Jesus talked about these men, he wasn’t just talking about stories. He was talking about friends of his.

I imagine when Jesus talks about us he is just as passionate. Sure, we fail. Some of us fail miserably. We rebel almost daily. We worry when he says don’t worry. We get angry when he says trust. We get lonely when he says he is with us always. While we grumble and live in defeat he looks on us with pride and, yep, you guessed it, PASSION.

If you didn’t know me and Jesus was talking to you about me, once he was finished talking you’d be passionate about me. Why? Not because I’m something special in your eyes, but because I’m something special in Jesus’ eyes. When you’ve been with Jesus you can’t help but feel passionate about life.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you for being passionate about me. I confess to you that I don’t feel like I’m much to be passionate about. But I’m thankful that you love me so much. I ask that you would empower me to be so passionate about you that my passion will breed passion for you in those I meet. In your name, Amen.


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