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20 years ago I officiated at one of the most difficult funerals I’ve ever had to do. I was pastor of a small church in a small town in NW Wisconsin. We were a close knit church family and I was more of a friend than a pastor to most. That’s one reason this funeral was hard. It was hard enough to mourn the loss of a five year old boy, but when that boy was the son of a close friend, it was almost unbearable.

How do you answer the ‘why’ question? How do you answer the ‘Where was God’ question? It’s often said, especially when a young person dies, that ‘they died too soon’ but in reality, God has every day of our lives planned There are no early deaths, no surprises in heaven.

Life is short. Live it with excellence. Never forget the lessons learned from your past, but let Jesus remove the guilt and shame. Whatever your past, it should be a stepping stone to the future, not an anchor holding you back.

Don’t wish for tomorrow because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Rather, trust your Father to bring the things of tomorrow to you in due time. The wisdom God gave you from yesterday’s lessons empowers you to face the challenges of tomorrow.


I remember it vividly. I’d had my eye on a certain truck at the local car dealership for some time. I couldn’t afford it, but had all sorts of good ‘ministry’ reasons to buy it. Finally I went in to talk to the dealer. He gave me a deal I chose not to resist. A deal that was right out of my budget range. You don’t get deals like that everyday! I signed the papers and drove it off the lot, completely ignoring the knot in my stomach. God never yells. God’s soft voice is often drowned out by the voice of desire.

Fast forward…i remember watching the repossession guy hooking my truck up to his truck and watching my dream truck being pulled away down the street.

Today is the first day of 2019! Many will be making resolutions to lose weight, eat better, spend more wisely and the list goes on. Goals are good. Plans are good. But the missing ingredient in many of our planning sessions is the ultimate question of ‘Where is God in my plans?

Each week we say the ‘Lords Prayer’ at our church. Each week we say “thy will be done” but in reality, our hearts are saying ‘my will be done.’ When our hearts are in tune with God’s heart our plans will naturally gravitate towards his desires and not our own.

Make 2019 the year that God shows himself mightily to you because you are close to his heart. Draw close to him and he’ll draw close to you.


Back in the 1990’s there was a clever marketing campaign which, I believe, was a true attempt to remind people of our original calling: To live by example the good news of the Gospel as personified in the life of Jesus Christ.

Many a T-shirt, can cooler, visor, and bracelet were sold with the initials, WWJD. Today, the question is as valid as it was then. What would Jesus do? I doubt he would lash out at Caesar for his handling of the Roman Empire. Judging from his treatment of the woman guilty of adultery, I”m guessing he would not condemn those who live a life contrary to God’s original plan for family.

Jesus Christ found the perfect balance between reaching out to the ‘deplorables’ while at the same time standing for the standards of his Heavenly Father. How unfortunate that 2000 years ago people of ill repute sought Jesus out and today they tend to scoff, run or hide from the mere mention of his name.

Now more than ever, we who are ‘little Christs’ (the original implication of the title ‘Christian’) ought to strive with every word, with every action, with every attitude, to exemplify the life of the one who called us from darkness.

Be a light. Shine like Jesus did.


The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-19

wonkaIn ‘Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” there are a couple of instances where ‘Willie’ implores certain misbehaving children to come back, or to stop some activity. It’s humorous because he makes no effort to stop the child. He simply asks them to stop and leaves the ultimate decision up to them. Each child to whom this admonition is given refuses to listen and finds themselves in some predicament needing rescue…and expulsion from the tour.

We can laugh at those antics and choices, but we also need to be aware of the truth exhibited in human nature. The Old Testament story of Noah and the Ark is similar. In Luke 17:27, Jesus is quoted as saying “In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all.”

Will it be the same for us? Paul says that we are without excuse in our refusal to follow God. He has shown us through the heavens (which we have explained away as chance); He has shown us through his Word (which we have labeled as irrelevant stories and information); He has shown the ultimate example through his son Jesus Christ (who we executed, not because of his crimes, but because of his refusal to follow the status quo).

One of the last things Jesus told his disciples is that someday he would return for us. The Apostle John tells us more details about this when he says that every eye will see him and every knee will bow before him, regardless of whether they believe or not.

So we are met with two challenges. First of all, will we reject the offer of eternal life with Christ because we’ve refused to accept his free gift? No one will go to hell because of their sin. That was taken care of on the cross. However, we will go to hell for rejecting the free ticket to heaven.

The second challenge is for those of us who know we will enjoy eternity with Christ. Right up until the day Noah entered the Ark he pled with people to accept God. Will we do the same? Will we pray for our enemies and plead with those we love to come to Christ? Or will we simply watch them continue on a path of self-destruction and utter the words of Willie Wonka “No. Stop. Please Don’t.”

There will be many who will mock us during our walk on earth, just as they did Jesus. How will you respond?

PRAYER: Father God. Thank you that I can know I’ll spend eternity with you. Give me the passion to reach others and the opportunities I need to share Jesus. Amen.

*Photo courtesy of Google Photos


the easy pathThere is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12

When I was in high school I remember leaving my girlfriend’s house and heading home. I was one of those first nice days of early spring and even though it was well past sunset, I decided to take the long road home. There was a road, well, more like a path through a section of woods that I decided to try. This path was a favorite ‘stopping point’ for high school couples. I was never plowed, so it was closed in the long winter months.

I noticed some tire tracks so I decided it must be open and turned cautiously down the road. At first, it was nothing but mud and ruts. The tire tracks stopped and it was obvious that whoever had been down this road had turned back…but not me.

As I rounded the curve I began to have second thoughts. Then my headlights showed what appeared to be clear sailing over a smooth level bed of snow. What I didn’t know, but would soon find out, is that the snow covered a thin layer of ice incapable of supporting the weight of my car. I came to a stop. There car refused to go forward or backward. I realized I was stuck so I opened the door to get out. When I did so water and chunks of ice flowed in. I closed the door, opened the window, climbed over the car and jumped to safety.

The next day we called a tow truck and had the car removed from the water and ice. I learned a valuable lesson that day. The road that looks smooth isn’t always what it appears to be. Sometimes the rugged road of ruts and mud is much safer.

Life is a lot like that road I traveled. Sometimes we struggle to get through the mud and ruts and shout with glee when the road ahead appears to offer smooth sailing. Then, we find out that smooth sailing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

It’s no wonder that Jesus warns us about tough times ahead. It’s no wonder that New Testament writers encourage us to rejoice when we go through trials. The narrow, rugged path is often best because it forces us to rely on God to see us through.

The world screams at us to look for the easy way out. The age of entitlement tells us what we deserve and it’s always good…at first. But God’s ways, even though they are hard, are always the best ways.

Be encouraged. Whatever struggle you are going through now isn’t meant to defeat you. Rather, it is brought into your life to make you stronger and to show you how strong your God really is. God’s way isn’t the easiest way, but it’s always the best way.

PRAYER: Father God. Even though it’s hard to do, I thank you for the ruts in my road because they remind me I’m much safer with you than I am on the road the world tells me is easiest. Thank you for the strength I receive through Jesus Christ and your Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

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