Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A clean slate...

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)

A clean slate. That’s what a new year is like. A chance to start over. An opportunity to do things differently.

But so many don’t. They just keep living like they’ve always lived. And they get the same results. Year after year they live in bondage to their habits and hates and fears.

I want to challenge you this new year to make changes that will allow you to serve God more fully.

Forgive. You have been forgiven. I’m assuming you’re a believer. So forgive. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Let the past be the past. Go to your aggrieved friends. Seek peace. Pursue reconciliation.

Forget. Stop focusing exclusively on your past. What’s done is done. The good stuff and the bad. Forgetting what is behind, press on. Seek God. Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Let Him show you what He wants for now, for today, for this new part of your life.

New. That’s what you are in Christ. Live like it in 2009.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Caroling, caroling, here we go...

Caroling, caroling, there we went! Christmas night the family went strolling (ok, we drove) around town terrorizing people with joyous noise! Actually, we didn't sound too bad. No one threw anything at us (except cookies at one house...thanks Bill and Lorene). We had a great time. At the last house, as we were walking away, I heard the guy say, "I don't think I've ever been caroled to before." Pretty fun!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

End of an era?

I read this on Phil Vischer's blog shortly after posting the Veggie Christmas song...

And now for the day's bad news… an era has ended at Big Idea. 2/3's of the staff of Big Idea Inc. was let go yesterday, shrinking the company down to just 11 people. All that remains is the marketing team, one designer (Ron Eddy), one director (Brian Roberts), and Mike Nawrocki. The rest of production, including old-timers like editor John Wahba and music maestro Kurt Heinecke, are all gone. Ron Eddy, the very first designer I hired way back in 1996 to launch a team that at one point totaled 30 people, now has the distinction of being Big Idea's first designer, and last designer.

The layoffs weren't a surprise for any of you following the news about Big Idea's parent company. Entertainment Rights has been flirting with bankruptcy for the last six months, and recently revealed they only have enough cash to survive through January. So drastic cuts were in order.

As for Big Idea, VeggieTales video sales peaked nearly 10 years ago and have been steadily declining ever since. Classic Media squeezed profits out of VeggieTales not by innovating, but rather by reducing costs, renegotiating distribution agreements, and then pushing as many videos into the market as they possibly could. The kids video business has been in steady decline for more than a decade (mirroring VeggieTales decline), and the prior owners of Classic did nothing to seriously address this decline. While putting VeggieTales on NBC was billed as a strategic move to grow the audience and ministry, it was, in reality, part of the former owners' effort to sell their company. It worked. Entertainment Rights, blinded by the "dazzle" of TV deals with NBC and movie deals with Universal, grossly overpaid for Classic Media and Big Idea, and, as a result, is fighting to survive with $200mm+ of debt and a market capitalization of less than $20mm. (Astonishingly, the total value placed on Entertainment Rights, Classic Media and Big Idea by the stock market today less than what Classic Media paid to buy VeggieTales out of bankruptcy back in 2003.)

I could write a whole book about the strategic blunders that have resulted in the loss of a quarter-billion dollars of value for Entertainment Rights shareholders, but that really isn't the story here. The real story is that any sense of the original team behind VeggieTales was lost yesterday. Big Idea is now a logo only, representing a marketing team, and Mike. (Okay, and Ron and Brian. But Mike remains symbolically as the "face" of what Big Idea used to be.)

There are a couple more videos in production, which, apparently, will be completed and released. What beyond that? Who knows. God is good, and he will accomplish his goals in his timing, according to his perfect will. If God has additional ministry in mind for the cucumber and tomato I created in a spare bedroom in Chicago 18 years ago, I believe it will still come to pass. The sad thing today is that a bunch of good friends are staring down a Christmas season in a tough economy without jobs. But God knows that, too, and he has a plan for each one of them.

Let's keep them in our prayers this Christmas.

Really dumb...

A few years back, I had the opportunity to join a friend in jumping off a 30- or 40-foot railroad bridge into murky water. Really dumb, right? Shouldn’t be done even if your friend insists that it’s fun. I knew that to be true going in. I’d heard Joni Eareckson Tada’s story, seen it on film. She dove into a lake and hit her head on a rock just beneath the surface, a rock she could not see because the water was murky. She broke her neck and ended up paralyzed for life, confined to a wheelchair, unable to do most things for herself. (She is, I must say, able to do some really remarkable things, but she is paralyzed.)

I thought of Joni as I clung to that railroad trestle staring at the rushing water below. I knew I’d hit the rock my friend had missed for years. I’d die or be crippled for life. Every ounce of sense within me screamed, Don’t jump into murky water!

I jumped anyway. It took me a half an hour to summon enough stupidity to overcome my perfectly rational fear, but I jumped – twice. The second time was only slightly less terrifying than the first. It was not fun.

I’m reminded right now of the redneck’s famous last words. You know what they are, right?

“Hey, Bubba! Watch this!”

I have no desire whatsoever to jump off a bridge into murky water again. For that matter, I don’t have the slightest yearning to jump off anything other than a diving board or the edge of a pool into any kind of water. (Maybe out of a canoe into a fairly calm river or a calm lake.)

I don’t like doing things I know to be really dumb. It’s really dumb to do really dumb stuff knowing that it’s really dumb. Doing really dumb stuff is how you end up in the back of an ambulance in great pain.

Just had to get that off my chest.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas special...

I hope you enjoy hearing my eldest daughter playing "Angels We Have Heard on High" with our church organist. They played this duet during worship Christmas Sunday 2008. I think they did a great job. (I might be biased.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Smelly streets...

I probably wouldn't have noticed this news story if I didn't have a friend who lives in Ankeny, but here it is. Tone's Spices donated 9 tons of garlic salt to the city to use in combination with regular road salt to melt the ice and snow that coated the thuroghfares of it's Iowa hometown. Problem is people are getting hit trying to scoop the stuff up for their dinner. (I made that last part up.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lacking peace?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.”

- Isaiah 9:6-7a

When I am lacking peace, especially at Christmas time, the Lord brings this verse to mind. Jesus came to bring peace. He is the Prince of Peace. The question then becomes, am I allowing Jesus to rule as Prince in my life? Do I submit to his governing of my life and mind?

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Perhaps those areas that feel chaotic or stressed are the very places I am trying to control by myself. May you and I, both, allow the Prince of Peace to rule in our lives this Christmas and on into the new year!
- Guest Blogger, Susan

I want "real"...

Every once in awhile the scripted dialog on a TV show gets it right. In this clip from ER, the guy who's dying tells the not-so-sure-about-God chaplain what he truly needs, what he desperately wants.

"I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real Hell...I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness, because I am running out of time!"

My friend, the way to forgiveness is Jesus. The way to reconciliation with God - same Jesus.

Snow in Las Vegas...

My cousin who lives in Las Vegas sent me a link to this crazy picture (AP) from Las Vegas. Here's what he wrote about the snow...

The snow was kind of dramatic for us...all departures from McCarran airport cancelled tonight, so not good for all the stranded tourists who can't even rent a car and drive home to California, since I-15 is closed and no one is allowed to drive to California!!! A snow day for Thursday, virtually unheard of here -- schools are closed! 8 inches of snow on the ground in Henderson! 3.6 inches or so of snowfall recorded at the Nevada Weather Station at the airport. A rare and historic day for us. The Boulevard Mall, near where I live, had to close at 6 p.m. tonight in the middle of the holiday shopping due to a power outage that was still out when I watched the 11 p.m. news. Fortunately for me, my home didn't lose power like many others in neighborhoods close by. The branches in my back patio space are all sagging to the ground under the weight of the snow!!! Unreal. I think the worst is over, though and things will get back to normal fairly soon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On whom do you rely?

"Does being an EMT make you rely more on man's wisdom than on the power of God for healing?"

That's the first question a friend of mine asked of me this morning. It wasn't meant to be spiteful. He just wanted to challenge me, to make me think through the implications of my second job. The questions kept coming.

"Have you laid hands on people and prayed for them in the back of your ambulance?"

I have prayed for nearly every patient under my care as an EMT. I have, on occasion, done so out loud. My training, if anything, has helped me understand better the limitations of man's medical knowledge and skill. God has to work or nothing's going to happen.

"It could lead to ministry."

Yes. It could. I hope and pray that it does more and more. I do know this. I am on friendly terms with many strangers with whom I have only had emergency medical contact.

Enough for now.

Monday, December 15, 2008

God's good plan...

God has a good plan for my life. It is to make me more and more like His Son Jesus. That’s what God’s Word says.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30, NIV)

God is working on me. Every day he’s doing more. Every interaction with others he uses to shape me. Every problem builds His character in me. Every encounter with His Word is pointing the way toward Christ-likeness.

Have I arrived yet? No! I am a child of God here and now, but I am not all that I will be. I’m still living. I’ll only “arrive” when I leave this world and enter paradise.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2, NIV)

“Arrival” at perfect Christ-likeness happens when we see Christ face-to-face. It’s still true, though, that God is working on me.

He’s working on you too if you’re one of his. Every day the Father conforms you more and more into the likeness of his Son. He uses every interaction with others to shape you. He allows problems to build your character. He points the way toward growth through every encounter you have with Him through His Word.

You are God’s special project. I am too. How cool is that? We are valuable to God. The always-has-been-and-always-will-be cares about the just-starting-to-be. The immortal loves the mortal. The one who has it all chooses to invest in those who have nothing to offer him but themselves. Amazing!

God thinks I’m worth investing in. God thinks you’re valuable. God loves us. Let’s serve him with everything we have.

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Accordion music...

I posted this video of my daughter trying her hand at the accordion a while back. It has been viewed more times than any other video I've posted. It's kind of fun. Hope you enjoy!

I would've never guessed...

I made a quick stop at a QuikTrip for gas the other day. (What else could I do? The brand demands speed.) As the then overpriced fuel was flowing through the hose into my Sienna's tank, I glanced at the side of the pump. There I found this warning...

WARNING: QuikTrip gasoline is not intended for use in aircraft engines.

Who knew? I thought I could pull my Cessna Citation up to the local convenience store and fill 'er up! Crazy! Oh the things companies have to do to avoid a lawsuit. It's okay, QuikTrip, I won't be filling up my gas cans for a run to the airport anytime soon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Give the gift of Argonia...

My burritos were too hot to eat right away, so I created a Facebook gift app while they cooled. Now you can give pieces of my favorite town away to your friends. If you're on Facebook, you can go to Argonia Stuff now and pass your favorite business or church along to someone. Of course, you might have to unlock a few things before you find that perfect gift for your loved one who has everything except the Overflow Storage.

Just like us...

"Elijah was a man just like us."

We don't really believe those words. We elevate Elijah to superhero status. He was great. He called down fire from Heaven. God listened to him.

"Elijah was a man just like us."

I suppose it's because his story is in the Bible that we "worship" this man, idolize his faith. The fact that his story has survived for thousands of years means he's greater than great. But, really, it doesn't.

"Elijah was a man just like us."

I think we're going to hear some stories in Heaven about people who had great faith just like Elijah's. We'll be amazed at their great feats. We'll wonder why we never heard of them before. They'll be people just like us.

"Elijah was a man just like us."

The only possible difference between you and the prophet you elevate is your trust in God. Elijah trusted God with all his heart. That's why fire fell from Heaven. That's why it didn't rain for three years when he prayed. He trusted God. He believed God.

"Elijah was a man just like us."

Do you trust God? Do you believe he can do great things? You will do great things for God that will be told throughout eternity. Go do what you've been called to do.

(The verse I quoted is James 5:17a.)

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The modern icon of cola greatness...

I went to Argonia Mart yesterday to buy my Pepsi for the week. As I approached the appropriate shelves in the far corner of the store, I spotted something I'd been waiting to see for days. The new Pepsi logo has arrived in small-town USA! Stacks of 12-packs were festooned with this new icon of cola greatness...and now you know.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dekker is going to kill me...

Every time I think I've caught up, Ted Dekker puts me behind. I finished reading whatever the last book he put out was and at the end of it I found a list of "coming soon" books. He even gave me a teaser, a few words from the first chapter, to make me want to read these not yet available books. What's a fan to do? I haven't even read the Chosen and Infidel graphic novels! Aaaaaaah!

Books I know Dekker will release next year...

Kiss, with Erin Healy
BoneMan's Daughter

Have mercy on me Ted! Give me a chance to catch up!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What do you want?

“…the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NIV)

Isn't it true that we all seek teachers who will give us what we want?

If we want to be told we're basically good by nature, we'll seek out "basically-good" fluff on Sunday morning. If we want to be told that our particular besetting sin isn't really all that sinful, we'll seek out a "you're-not-all-that-sinful" preacher to tickle our ears. If we want rules, we'll find a legalistic prophet to tell us what to do. If we want to hear the truth, we'll seek out teachers who are committed to truth-telling even when it's unpopular.

So the question I have for you is this: What do you want?

Before you answer that, let me tell you the truth. Only the truth can set you free! Freedom is why I choose to follow Jesus, why I choose to base everything I believe and say on God's Word, why I choose to pursue the truth. I hope you'll join me in pursuing truth and the freedom that comes with it. If you choose not to pursue the truth, if you choose to pursue false teaching for whatever reason, you will remain in bondage to sin. You may find a false sense of security in false teaching, but you will not find freedom.

So now you can answer my question: What do you want?

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008


This Kendall Ens sketch, "Cold," depicts well this day. It is 21.7 degrees at 1:00pm with a strong northerly wind bringing the wind-adjusted temp to 6 degrees. Brrrrr. Oh...and it's snowing.

Do it now...

I'm a bit of a piler. (Not sure that's a word. What I mean is I'm a person who piles things, a passive-aggressive procrastinator.) I (sometimes) open the mail and if it doesn't have to be done NOW!!! I stack it. Wouldn't really be a problem except that when you stack bill, you sometimes miss deadlines. Checkbook balancing is kind of a headache too when you have to catch up with three or four statements. I pile other stuff too. My jacket and work stuff by the door. Magazines by my bed. Drives my wife batty sometimes.

So why am I telling you all this? First, because confession is good for the soul and second, because I'm turning over a new leaf - at least for this week. My new motto is, "Take care of it now!" I processed the mail today and have a form that is due back to my health insurance provider in five days ready to be signed by the chairman of trustees whom I've already called and asked to stop by. I've sent out reminders to several friends about a few important tasks. I was supposed to do that two weeks ago, but I kept putting it off. I found my reminder to remind people when I was deep cleaning my office yesterday. I almost threw it out! And I wrapped Christmas presents today...ALL OF THEM!

No more least not the long-lasting kind that go stale. I hope I can do it...NOW!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A cask of what?!?!

I was called upon to serve as a reader at a high school scholar's bowl competition tonight. Just six questions into the varsity team's first round was this query:

"In what Edgar Allan Poe story are the main characters named Montresor and Fortunato?"

Player four on the "east" team buzzed in quickly. His answer:

"The Cask of Armadillo!"

I kept a straight face. Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Poe would've loved it.

Grab a hanky...

A friend sent me a link to this film short. I watched it. I think everyone needs to. So here it is. Grab a hanky and watch. (Approx. 16 minutes long.)

Should we talk about doctrine?

So since doctrine can be used as a weapon and since Jesus hated it when that happened we should never talk about doctrine, right?

I don’t think that’s what my friends were saying when they made their statements, but there are some who think that way.

There are some who don’t want to offend, so they just keep their religious views, their beliefs to themselves. There are some who, if they mention it at all, downplay the seriousness, the destructiveness, the deadliness of sin. There are some who make doctrine warm and fuzzy and nice and, in many cases, false. It seems to me that they do this because it feels good to be tolerant and fit in and be applauded by the masses.

Paul predicted that teachers and hearers like this would show up eventually.

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4 we find these words of prophesy: “…the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (NIV)

And Paul’s solution for times like this?

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2, NIV)

In a nutshell, Paul says talk about doctrine.

The fact that doctrine can be used as a weapon necessitates discussion of doctrine. If we don’t talk about true doctrine, what Paul calls sound doctrine, we allow false doctrine to win the day. And we can’t allow that. Truth and error is life and death. When unsound doctrine is accepted, people are damned. Forever damned!

So listen carefully. Potential misuse does not require complete disuse. We must talk about what we believe. We dare not remain silent.

So speak the truth we must, but without using the truth as a weapon.

That’s harder than you think. Judging others ruthlessly is easy. Condemning those who differ with you…piece of cake. Criticizing sinners…no problem at all.

I’ve done all those things. How about you? Easy, right?

You want a challenge? Try obeying God’s instruction on this matter. He demands patience and care and kindness. He commands gentleness and love and mercy.

Let me show you all those things from the Bible.

We already read Paul’s words from 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” (NIV)

See it! Patience and care are required by God when you or I speak the truth. Even when we correct or rebuke, we do so patiently and with great care.

Earlier in this same letter, Paul talks to Timothy and to us about God’s way of teaching the truth.

“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26, NIV)

What do we see here?

In addition to patience and care, truth tellers are to be kind to everyone. They are to gently instruct those who oppose them. Why be kind? Why be instruct gently? So that people ensnared by sin can hear the truth and in repenting of their sin escape the devil’s traps.

Can I insert something important real quick? Beating people over the head with the truth is like pounding a nail into a board. Your harsh delivery only serves to drive their false beliefs deeper into their minds and hearts. Defensive people don’t escape the devil’s deception, they dig in and fight for their right to be wrong. People are won to the truth by gentleness and kindness not by gruffness and cutting remarks. The church today is driving people away from Jesus with all their ranting and raving and picketing and politicking.

Paul gives further instruction in Ephesians 4:11-15.

Talking about Jesus, Paul says: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (NIV)

The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are charged with building up the Christ so that there is unity and with protecting against error. They are to do that by speaking the truth in love.

Patience. Care. Gentleness. Kindness. Love. These attitudes when speaking about doctrine not only free people from Satan’s snares, they also grow the faith of believers. They make Jesus-followers more secure in their convictions. They mature Christians, making them more and more like their Master who showed so much patience and care and gentleness and kindness and love toward those caught in sin.

The religious folks criticized Jesus because he ate and drank with sinners. He ignored them and just kept eating and drinking with them, loving them and gently guiding them into the truth. They followed him.

Perhaps we ought to follow our Master’s example. More people might be interested in him. And that’s what mature believers want most, isn’t it? More people interested in Jesus.

So listen to what James 2:12-13 says to us.

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (NIV)

The mercy God showed us in Jesus ought always to be in our minds when we speak about doctrine. It is by grace that we have been saved. Our good works did nothing to secure our place in God’s family. We were and are completely dependent on mercy.

Therefore we patiently, carefully, gently, kindly, lovingly, mercifully speak the truth.

That, my friends, is a tall order. I have failed to live up to that high standard many, many times. I have been impatient. I have lacked compassion. I have spoken in anger. I have scolded people. I have been unkind. I have used unloving words. I have shown less grace than Jesus has shown me. I have used doctrine as a weapon.

While all of that is true of me, I’m not going to stop doing what God’s told me to do. I’m not going to stop speaking just because I’m likely to mess up again. The truth matters too much to be silent. People’s eternal destiny is at stake.

Friends, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep teaching the truth as patiently, carefully, gently, kindly, lovingly and mercifully as I can with God’s patient, caring, gentle, kind, loving, merciful help. I’m going to keep speaking the truth in love so that you may be built up in the faith and become mature. I’m going to continue to gently instruct all whom God sends my way so that, with God’s help, some will escape from the sin-trap the devil has them in.

Will you join me in that? This isn’t just about preachers standing in the pulpit on Sunday morning, you know? You can speak the truth in love on Monday. You can gently instruct on Thursday. You can obey this command with great patience every day of the week. You can! Really!

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Church of the what!?!?!

I could not believe it when I found this jersey (with the description below) on the internet...

Yea, Brethren, open now your books to Revolutions 53:12. When Sunday morning rolls around and the spousal unit says "Why don't you ever come to church with me?" Face it: You know that you pray at the church of the bicycle, and this is no false idol. You figure anything that can get you 100 km down the road for the cost of a bean and cheese burrito is worth praying toward. In fact, I think they otta make you reverend. Maybe you should hold forth on Sunday mornings at the front of your flock. Before the meek inherit the earth let them grovel on your wheel a bit. Halleluiah!

Made by

Doctrine as a weapon?

I’ve had a couple of conversations about doctrine over the past week or two…maybe it’s been three since the first one. In both situations, close friends have said something like this: “I hate it when people use doctrine as a weapon.” Two different people. Two different times. Same idea.

Strange, don’t you think? These guys live hundreds of miles apart and as far as I know they’ve never met, yet they say the same thing. Bizarre! Must be listening to the same people or reading the same books or something. Two people don’t just come up with the same thing all by themselves. Not usually.

Anyway, their “doctrine-as-a-weapon” words set me to thinking. All sorts of questions flooded my mind? What did they mean by what they said? Is this kind of hatred godly or not? Have I ever used doctrine as a weapon? Do my words unnecessarily offend others? What does the Bible say about doctrine? Is it useful or harmful? What is doctrine?

That last one was asked of me as I talked to my wife about these conversations. I had to confess that I didn’t know the precise meaning of the word.

Do you?

I looked it up. Doctrine, according to the Encarta Dictionary is – first definition – a rule or principle that forms the basis of a belief, theory, or policy or – second definition - a body of ideas, particularly in religion, taught to people as truthful or correct. Webster’s New World Dictionary says doctrine is (a) something taught; teachings or (b) something taught as the principles of a religion, political party, etc.

So doctrine is the rules, principles, beliefs, teachings, ideas that the members of any group hold to be true or correct.

Can doctrine be used as a weapon?

I think we all know the answer to that question. Yes, of course doctrine can be used as a weapon.

Al Queda believes all infidels should convert or be killed. Violence and terrorism is the result. The KKK says everyone who’s not like them is inferior. They’re continually stirring up hatred and bigotry.

Doctrine, even the Christian variety, can be taken to an extreme and used to judge others harshly.

Anyone heard of Fred Phelps? He wields the Bible’s clear teaching on the sinfulness of homosexuality as a two-fisted battle axe. He shouts out his lies. “God hates fags!” Oh the damage he does to the name of Jesus. He slams shut the door for so many who could be saved.

Doctrine has been used as a weapon for thousands upon thousands of years.

The religious folks of Jesus’ day got after some of his disciples because they casually plucked a few kernels of wheat as they walked through a field on the Sabbath. “That’s work!” they shouted. “Bad boys! You should know better than to harvest on the Lord’s day.”

I’m serious. It’s in the Bible.

“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.’” (Matthew 12:1-2, NIV)

Mark records Jesus’ reply. In part our Master said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28, NIV)

A short time later – Matthew has it on the same day – Jesus was criticized for healing on the Sabbath.

Luke tells the story this way: “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’

“Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

“Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’

“The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’

“When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” (Luke 13:10-17, NIV)

Crazy! Judging someone – the Son of God no less – for doing good? Come on, guys! What are you thinking? Why are you using the doctrine of the Sabbath as a weapon?

God gave man a day of rest for his benefit. He blessed the Sabbath day. He commanded God’s people to keep it holy. That’s true doctrine. You can’t read the Bible and miss the idea of the Sabbath rest. It’s all over the place. It’s one of the Ten Commandments for crying out loud.

But in seeing that rule, you have to be careful not to use it to cruelly judge others. (I’m talking to you.) Do not openly criticize those who do things on the Sabbath that you would never do. Don’t even mumble about the things your daddy taught you under your breath.

Let God be the judge.

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” Paul asked Roman believers. Then he said, “To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

“One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.” (Romans 14:4-6, NIV)

Ok, we all see it. Doctrine can be used as a weapon. Beliefs can be used to judge others harshly and I think it’s safe to say that we should hate it when that happens. Jesus hated what the Sabbath police were doing. He rebuked them sharply.

That answers at least one of my questions. Hatred of the wrong use of doctrine is godly. We’ll answer another question next time.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sprucing things up online...

Things are a-changing on the web. Check out these updated websites that I design and maintain...

Argonia Friends Church (Rev Nov 08)
City of Argonia (Rev Dec 08)
Evangelical Friends Mission (Rev Aug 07)
World Renewal International (Rev Nov 08)

I've been asked to redo EFC-MA's site, but that won't happen until 2009.

Waste more time...

"I don't want to waste too much of our time, but I think we need to pray."

I was blown away when I heard those words come from the mouth of a godly friend awhile back. I know no offense was intended and the prayer time that followed was good, but the words shocked me.

Prayer a waste of time? Facebook maybe. Blogging perhaps. But surely not prayer! If praying is wasting time, then I say, "Let's waste MORE time on our churches and our neighbors and our families and our world!!!"

What are you waiting for? Go "waste" some time now!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

You shall be saved or...

I laugh every time I pass this sign on my way to my parents' house near Kansas City. The message is intended to be a message of hope, but for me it's just plain confusing. If you read it like I do, it says there are two possible outcomes to accepting Jesus Christ.
  • Outcome 1: Be saved.
  • Outcome 2: Regret it forever.

What's a guy to do? Accept Jesus and risk eternal regret? Sure you could be saved, but what if you get outcome 2?

Thankfully, there are not two possible outcomes to believing. The Bible is clear that outcome 1 is the only possible outcome for those who believe.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31)

Remember this...

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” (2Corinthians 9:6-10, NIV)

All words about money should be as God-focused as these. Too often talk about giving is money-focused. Paul’s talk is different. He takes everyone’s eyes off the money and puts them on God.

The apostle joyfully reports the good news about giving. God honors those who give generously. Sow generously. Reap generously. God loves cheerful givers. God is able to make all grace abound to you. God will supply your needs as you give to meet the needs of others.

Those truths aren’t just for the folks in Corinth a couple thousand years ago. Trust me on this. These are promises. God never breaks promises. He will honor them. They’re for you and me…today! God still honors those who give generously. God still loves cheerful givers. God is still able to make all grace abound to you. God will supply your needs as you give to meet the needs of others.

What did Jesus say? “…do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33, NIV)

God takes care of the needs of those who put him first, those who follow him wholeheartedly, those who are God-focused rather than money-focused.

Are you that kind of person? Do you faithfully give what you can? Have you ever given more than you thought you could? Are your offerings to God and to the poor given cheerfully? Has God failed you?

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Fear kills faith...

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:14-17, NIV)

How's your faith? The tendency for so many people is to cut back on giving when times are shaky. Even when there's plenty in the bank, folks get cautious. They hold back because they don't know what the future might bring. They focus on their own needs and forget the poor.

I heard on the news that the Salvation Army in Wichita is expecting $500,000 less in donations than last year. At the same time, more people than last year are approaching them for assistance. People aren’t giving. And it's not necessarily because they don't have. Some aren't giving because they're afraid they won't have.

Is that you? I hope not. I'd hate for you to be living in fear. Fear kills faith. Live trusting God. Give trusting him.

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Main Entry: id·i·ot*
Pronunciation: \ˈi-dē-ət\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French ydiote, from Latin idiota ignorant person, from Greek idiōtēs one in a private station, layman, ignorant person, from idios one's own, private; akin to Latin suus one's own
Date: 14th century
1) usually offensive: a person affected with extreme mental retardation
2) a foolish or stupid person

I hear the word 'idiot' tossed around an awful lot these days. It's used to belittle the guy who cuts us off on the highway and the gal who disagrees with us. I wonder, do we really mean idiot when we say idiot? Do we intend offense?

Jesus warned - in Matthew 5:22 - that anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Perhaps we should be more careful in calling others idiots.

*Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Normal-No-More infomercial...

After hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of work, my eldest daughter's speech class project is finally done. I think you'll agree that all the time and energy put into this short film was worth it. If you don't agree, please don't comment.

Pirate Christian radio...

Three links away from my blog I found this interesting Christian radio station. It's operators describe it like this:

Pirate Christian Radio is an online radio station that is free from the scurvy plagues of pop-psychology, goofy fads, self-help, pietism, purpose-drivenism, the prosperity heresy, contemplative mysticism, seeker-sensitivism, liberalism, relevantism, Emergent nonsense, and the sissy girly Oprah-fied religiosity that is being passed off as "Biblical Christianity". This station proclaims "Christ crucified for our sins" and exalts and defends THE historic Christian faith.

Click here to visit the site and listen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Phone a sheep...

Have you ever wondered what happened to all those old phones with cords and rotary dials?

Evidently some of them were put out to pasture...literally.

Call me crazy, but I think "Baa Bell" might be making a comeback.

State your problem...

There’s a verse in the book of Philippians that tells us just what to do with the stuff that bothers us so.

Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

“Do not be anxious about anything.” That’s a pretty tall order. There are so many things in this world to worry about.

“Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my! Loans and tee ball and bills! Oh dear! Lines and tivo and boys! Oh no!” (My apologies to the folks in Oz.)

How can we not stress just a bit?

“Do not be anxious about anything.”

All anxiety belongs to God. You are his child. He cares for you.

“Do not be anxious about anything.”

Instead, “in everything, by prayer and petition…present your requests to God.”

Problems with relationships. State your need. Problems with school work. State your need. Problems with finances. State your need. Problems at work. State your need. In everything – that leaves nothing out – state your need.

“This guy at work is making my life Hell. How do I deal with him?”

“God, I’m struggling with geometry. Help me to remember what I’ve learned.”

“Here are our bills, Lord. How are we going to pay them?”

“My wife doesn’t understand your love and it makes her angry. How can I help you help her know your grace?”

By prayer and petition present your requests to God. Prayer is the state your need part. Petition is the trusting question part.

You caught the important word, right? Trusting. Trusting even when life doesn’t make sense. Trusting even when questions fill your mind. Trusting even when stress threatens to undo you.

State your need and ask trusting questions. Prayer. Petition.

And do it all with what? With thanksgiving, right? I love how God snuck that phrase into this set of instructions on prayer and anxiety and all.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

In a bad situation? Pray. Give thanks. In good times? Pray. Give thanks.

And what will be the result of presenting all this to God with thanksgiving?

Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.” (NIV)

Peace is God’s promise to all who are not anxious about anything, to all who present their requests to him with thanksgiving. You want to live without fear? You want to be free of worry? You want to live anxiety free? God’s told you how. In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. That is the path to peace – peace so amazing it will blow your mind.

Are you ready to take God at his word and put what you’ve learned into practice? It’s time to act. It’s time to take our problems to the Lord and get that peace that passes all understanding. You want that right? You’re tired of losing sleep over troubles you can’t seem to fix. I know I am.

So pray and petition God. State your problem to him. Ask him trusting questions. Remember, no complaining. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Now give thanks. God is in control. He can handle what you’ve given to him. Give thanks for the work you know, by faith, he’s going to do. Give thanks in your circumstances.

You can take this with you wherever you go. You can obey God’s word every day this week. You can bring every need to him, stating it to him and trusting him to deal with it. You can thank him for his goodness and care. You can have peace.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Remember those in chains...

Sarah – that’s not her real name – is a Chinese follower of Jesus. I heard her story a few days back when Vic Mitchell came to talk to our youth group about the persecuted church. Sarah was an editor of an underground Christian newspaper that surreptitiously circulated to persecuted believers in her home nation. The words she published encouraged her brothers and sisters to remain strong in their faith.

One night, government operatives broke into her home and kidnapped her, taking her to a secret location where she was offered freedom if she would sign a statement refuting her faith and indicting her friends. She refused to put her hand to the document and suffered for her choice. She was burned with cigarettes. She was tortured and beaten. She wondered if she should sign and be done with it. She prayed for strength to resist the temptation and God answered in an interesting way.

Sarah was forced to walk all night long with heavy leg irons around her ankles. The rough metal of the cuffs cut into her skin and she began to bleed profusely, leaving a trail of blood on the cement floor of her prison. She looked at the crimson streaks on the floor and remembered Jesus’ death. Surely, she thought, he left a trail of blood when he walked to the cross. This idea gave her the strength to endure not only that night, but the many nights of torture and forced labor that followed. She held joy in her heart as she made thousands of Christmas lights to be sent to America.

This Christmas as you celebrate with your family around your sparkling tree, remember your Chinese brothers and sisters. Pray that they would have the strength to remain strong in the face of fearful circumstances. Thank God for his provision of a Savior for them and for you.

(Click on the picture at the beginning of this post to download a wallpaper picture that will remind you of your persecuted brothers. To download other images in various resolutions from Voice of the Martyrs, click here.)

You've got problems...

I’m going to take a wild guess. Some of you have problems in your life. I’d say all of you have problems, but I suppose somewhere in this world there’s someone who has no worries and it’s as likely as not that they’d be someone I know as someone I don’t. So my guess is some of you have problems.

Maybe they’re relational troubles. Marriages a prone to crises – there are men and women involved after all. Parents and teens tend to see things differently – at least once in awhile. Teachers misjudge students’ attitudes and students their teachers’ motives. Employers expect a lot of their employees – sometimes more than anyone could possibly do. Employees are sometimes lazy – doing just enough to get by.

People are people wherever you go. You’re going to see your share of problems if you’re around people much. That’s a fact of life in a fallen, sinful world.

Maybe your trials are not relational at all. Some students have difficulty at school in math or English or chemistry. Tough decisions must be made at work all the time – they go with the territory. Paychecks tend to be issued three days after the bills are due. Health issues are cause for concern with great regularity – look at our prayer requests. Inclement weather wrecks havoc on field work at harvest time and planting time.

Troubles always cropping up. Hang around long enough and they’ll find you no matter what your station in life. That’s a fact of life in a cursed, decaying world.

“In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33, NIV) That’s what Jesus said. Trials – part of this world. Sorrows – part of this world. Difficulties, persecution, tribulation, pressure, affliction, anguish, burdens, battles – all part of this world.

“In this world you will have trouble.” But Jesus said more than that. “But take heart!” he continued, shouting it out for all to hear. “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)

That’s good news, isn’t it? It’s not the good news – you can be saved from Hell through faith in Jesus – but it ranks right up there with the best news available to man.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus can handle your problems. Relational difficulties. Spiritual issues. Financial woes. Strong temptations. Health complications. He dealt with them all when he walked the earth as a man. He can deal with them now. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. At least that’s what my Bible says. Check yours.

Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (NIV)

Let me ask you a question or two.

Has Jesus helped you in the past? Think back over the past month or two, the past year or so. Go back as far as you can recall. Hasn’t your Savior come through for you time and time again? Has there ever been a problem too big for him? Think!

If he’s handled all your circumstances past, why aren’t you trusting him with your circumstances present?

I’m asking myself the same question. God’s seen me through tough times in the past. He proved himself faithful over time. He has never failed me, never forsaken me, never ever, ever, ever walked away in the middle of a storm. Not once has he let me down.

I’ll bet it’s the same for you. How could it be otherwise? He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Hey! Future problems? He’s got those under control too. So trust him.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

95% is a lot...

Vic Mitchell, a friend who works for The Voice of the Martyrs, came to speak to our youth groups last night. His presentation on the persecuted church was wonderful and awful. I cried silently for a fellow pastor in China. I hurt for "Pencil" who starved to death rather than stop preaching the good news in prison. My heart ached for Sarah as she was kidnapped then beaten. At the same time, my spirit soared. These men and women showed me what faithfulness looked like.

This morning, I pulled on the "Pray for China" prayer band that Vic gave me last night. I've prayed for my brave brothers and sisters numerous times as the band has flopped around on my skinny wrist, it's touch reminding me to cry out to God. This silver LiveStrong knock off is doing it's job.

A believing friend asked me about the Chinese characters on the band this afternoon. I told her about our beaten and battered relatives in Christ. I told her that 95% of the world's Christians have little or no freedom to worship as they please.

"So we're only 5% of the church," she said.

"Yep," I affirmed. "We in the West are only 5%."

Only 5% of the church can publicly proclaim the good news. Only 5% can meet together on Sunday morning without fear. Only 5% do not suffer grave consequences when they choose Jesus.

Pray for the persecuted church.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Intruder...

From the slightly demented minds of the Neifert girls comes this YouTube release, The Intruder, complete with original music and dental floss special effects. Pretty low-budget, but loads of fun.

With friends like these...

I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking about a good friend of mine over the past couple of days.

Russell was a member of my first church in Indiana. He was a great guy. Can’t say enough good about him. He loved Jesus, cared about the truth. He was dedicated to the Bible, studied it regularly, was faithful to the church, seldom missed a service. In the ten years I was at Arba Friends, he was absent from fewer Sunday morning worship services than I was. His family was all there. He had no reason to go traipsing across the nation on vacation, so he stayed put. Sat with his wife, Maxine, near the front on the right side in the same pew every week.

I mentioned that Russell was a good friend, right? We were friends, but Russell and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. On important things like Jesus is the only way to salvation or God created all things, we were two peas in a pod, but on just about everything else, on nearly all the little stuff, we differed. It wasn’t that either of us was promoting heresy, we just had opposite opinions on trivial stuff. If I interpreted a passage one way, Russell saw it another. If I thought worship should change in any way, he thought I was out of my mind. With Russell and me my black was his white and his black, my white. I saw gray. He saw burgundy.

One Sunday I remember looking out at the congregation after making what I thought was an excellent point only to see Russell scowling at me. I mean literally. Brows furrowed. Lips scrunched up. The whole bit. It threw me off my rhythm. I stumbled in my delivery. What had I said? To this day, I have no idea. I seldom looked Russell’s way again while preaching.

On another Sunday morning near the end of my time at Arba, I finished my sermon and stepped down from the platform to go to the door to do the “nice sermon” line thing. Russell stopped me as I came abreast of his pew. “That sermon was a bit long, don’t you think?”

Without thinking I shot back, “Yeah, and you used to complain about my sermons being too short.”

I smiled and Russell chuckled. “Yes, I guess I did.”

I wish everyone could have a friend like mine. Friends like Russell are great. Really! They challenge you. They make you think. They are a gift. Thank God for your contrarian allies.

That’s what Russell was to me. He was on my team even as we argued. He loved Jesus and suspected that I might too. So he put up with me and my new fangled ideas without a lot complaining. When he did let a small gripe slip from his lips, I listened. He was an influencer at the church. Most generally, what he said went. And he was a godly man. He’d been following Jesus longer than I’d been alive.

I don’t know why, but I wanted you to meet my friend. I’m thankful for Russell and look forward to meeting up with him in Heaven where he's gone to receive his reward.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Satan's inconsistent lies...

Humans have an innate desire to appear consistent with prior statements we make, but Satan or his demons will tell you whatever lies you are most likely to believe, such as:
  • You don’t need to be forgiven and an eternity in Hell is not the consequence for your sins - he’ll point you to the culture or any number of liberal churches that teach a false Gospel.
  • You can’t be forgiven - your sins are too great - he’ll be glad to reinforce that with grace-less churches.
  • You can earn your salvation - he’ll send cultists or false teachers your way or send you their way.
  • There is no God - he’ll send you to the culture or teachings that the universe came from nothing, life came from non-life and evolved to what we see today, forgiveness is not necessary, that these random evolutionary forces invented religion and the concept of God, etc.
  • God is here to make you prosperous and solve all your problems in this life. Don’t worry about eternity.
  • That all religions lead you to God.

[Satan will] do anything to keep you from the truth: You are a sinner in need of a Savior. You can’t fix or forgive yourself. You need to trust in Jesus and what He did for you on the cross.

He hates you and hates your soul and wants to keep you from Jesus. If you have been saved by Jesus, then he wants to distract you to make you ineffective for the kingdom or to make your ministry ineffective.

"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)

-Guest Blogger, Neil

Trying to say no...

Mark Hoover, pastor of Newspring Church in Wichita, did not want to come to Argonia Friends Church. That's what he admitted during worship Sunday morning. He explained that he doesn't usually accept outside speaking engagements because he doesn't like to be away from his congregation. God just wouldn't let him say no to this request. Mark confessed, "I planned to send Mike my standard, 'Sorry, I can't because I'm in the middle of a series,' email early on, but God wouldn't let me do it."

I understand Mark's desire to be with the part of the church God's put him in. I love the part of God's church that I've been assigned to lead. I miss my special brothers and sisters in Christ every time I'm away on a Sunday morning. I love them so much.

Well, I suppose you've figured it out: Mark said, "Yes." (I'll have to admit that I was a bit of a persistent pest.) He agreed to come to Argonia not because he wanted to, but because God said, "Go!" I'm glad Mark was faithful to obey.
Mark blessed our church this weekend with great messages about Heaven. We all left Sunday's worship service excited about our eternal Home and even more excited about the people God brought our way because Mark was here.

Thanks, Mark! Thanks for being sensitive to God's leading.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More on The Shack...

I've heard good and bad about the book, The Shack, from friends and family members. Some give rave reviews. Some not so rave. Here is a doctrinal talk about part of the book. Mark Driscoll, from Mars Hill in Seattle, does a great job of pointing out error. If you like this, go to the church's website or Mark's blog. Lots of good stuff in both places.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Back in the 90s...

Had a great time tonight with Mark Hoover from Newspring Church. He's in Argonia teaching at our church on Heaven.

The funniest thing he said came in the middle of a serious story about leaving his father-in-law in Texas after a stroke. He talked about how he called a doctor friend in Wichita as he headed north, asking his friend if there was anything he could do. The physician said to call him back in a bit.

Then Mark said, "This was back in the 90s when cell reception wasn't as good as it is now. There were lots of dead spots."

I heard snickers - I mean I literally heard them - throughout the sanctuary. Argonia - and most of the territory between here and Wichita - is cell hell. You can't get good reception most of the time no matter who your carrier is. The Verizon guy asked, "Can you hear me now?" here and got no reply.

Anyway, what Mark had to say the rest of the time was great! He's coming back tomorrow night and then he's preaching on Sunday. Can't wait.

The trumpet will sound...

I’m on call with Argonia EMS two or three times a week. For twelve hours at a time, more if I’m working a double shift, I wear an EMS uniform shirt and carry a pager on my belt. My portable radio is never far from me and I’m ready to drop everything and run for the ambulance barn at a moment’s notice should the need arise.

The need seldom arises. Most of the time, a day on call in Argonia is like any other day. Get up in the morning. Get ready for the day. Eat breakfast. Go to work. Eat lunch. Work some more. Come home. Eat supper. Get a test page and go off call. That’s normal. Most on-call days are call-free, but I still have to be ready to respond when it’s my turn to serve.

Most of you, I know, are not officially on call for anything, but you understand being ready to respond. You have a cell phone. When it rings or beeps or whatever it does, you’re ready to respond. You’re ready to answer the call or reply to the text. You have an alarm clock. When it rings or beeps or whatever yours does, you’re ready to respond. You’re ready to jump out of bed and smash the nasty thing. You have a child. When he yelps in pain or she cries for help, you’re ready to respond. You’re ready to comfort or correct at a moment’s notice. You have a job. When your boss asks you to do something, you’re ready to respond. You’re ready to say, “Yes, sir! Right away, sir!”

One day, in the not-so-distant-as-you-think future – Jesus predicted it – a trumpet blast will sound.

“At that time,” he said, speaking of the earth’s final days, “the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:30-31, NIV)

Paul refers to this final clarion call too.

“We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, NIV)

I don’t know about you, but I get excited thinking about that day. I can’t wait to fly! Can’t wait to see Jesus! Can’t wait to be with him and his church forever and ever and ever!

How about you? Are you excited?

If you’re not, perhaps it’s because you’re not sure you’re ready to respond to the heavenly trumpet, not sure you’re ready to leave this life behind. Are you ready?

In order to be ready, you must first believe on Jesus.

The Bible says on more than one occasion that believing on Jesus is God’s requirement for admission to Heaven.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NIV)

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31, NIV)

If you have believed on Jesus for your salvation, you are ready for his return. And if you’re ready, you should eagerly wait and watch for his quick arrival.

How do you wait and watch?

Paul gave these words of guidance at the end of his discussion of the resurrection:

“…my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV)

We were saved with a purpose:

To serve God by working for him.
To do good.
To love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us as much.

“…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV)

You see it? You believe on Jesus. You gain salvation by grace, through faith. Then you serve. You do the good works that God designed you to do – the good works prepared for you to do before you even knew who Jesus was. That’s how you watch and wait.

Jesus said, concerning the last days and his second coming that, “It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing [his work faithfully] when he returns.” (Matthew 24:46, NIV)

Believe on Jesus for salvation. There is no other way to enter the Father’s house.

Believe on Jesus and follow him. Serve others faithfully.

Are you ready? The trumpet is going to sound soon.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

The family...

We took family pictures recently. They were really good. Hope you enjoy seeing them.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

House in Massillon...

Ok. So I went to see House while I was in Canton, Ohio, for EFM Board meetings. It was showing in nearby Massillon. The joke running around our board before I took off was, “Hey! You want to go with Mike to an R-rated Christian horror movie?” Pretty funny, huh? The film was based on a novel by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, two of my favorite authors. That’s why I was dying to see it.

I talked three others into going with me. We headed out around 8:50pm. Would’ve been plenty of time, if I hadn’t gotten lost once. Streets in Ohio are not straight east and west or north and south like in Kansas, so I got a bit turned around. We stopped at Walgreens, got our bearings from a friendly clerk and made it to the theater – Massillon Great Escape 12 – just a few minutes late. We paid for our tickets and walked in during the final two previews. Perfect!

The movie began with an odd scene that I don’t remember from the beginning of the book, kind of a back story it seemed. I suppose the added it or moved it to the start to get intense really quickly. It was effective.

After the opening scene’s darkness and death, House settled down for a minute or two – a couple arguing with each other while lost in the backwoods of rural Alabama. We knew it was Alabama because of the map the guy was trying to read while driving. The woman was a less than famous country singer. Her husband didn’t appreciate her music much. Turned off her CD the second she started it.

So they encounter a weird police officer and a weirder accident on the highway the puts them on the road to the house for which the movie’s named. Some nasty metal objects have fallen off a truck on the dusty “shortcut” they take to make it to Montgomery on time and they end up with two flats and no cell signal. Imagine that. Must be a horror flick.

They walk up the road in the rain – a thunderstorm of course – and find this creepy bed and breakfast all lit up, welcoming them. The lobby is empty when they enter, but another couple’s names are on the guest register. They meet them soon enough as they descend the staircase from the second floor. No one knows where the B&B’s proprietors are. It’s hard to find good service in an R-rated Christian horror movie, you know.

A while later, after a short electrical blackout, the owners show up. Creepy folks they are – Betty, Stewart and Pete. The kind of folks you meet in a thunderstorm on a back road in the middle of nowhere if you’re cast in a thriller.

Soon things get really intense. The arguing couple whose accident the audience witnessed try to make a phone call from the desk phone. No dial tone. They try to leave the house. Big guy with a shotgun standing in the yard. Lots of screams and looks of horror. This is a horror movie after all.

Stuff gets really wacky after this. The gunman climbs on the roof and stomps around, scaring everyone silly. The sends a message written on a tin can down the chimney to the people he’s trapped inside. “Give me one dead body by sunrise and I’ll let the rest live.” Not the most comforting words.

So then we follow everyone as they fight with the creepy host and hostess and in separate rooms live through traumatic events from their past like their real and happening again. Jack, the guy from the original accident, in his wanderings through the house finds a young girl. Her name is Susan. She looks a bit scary, dark circles ring her eyes, but she’s friendly enough. She helps Jack and Stephanie – that’s the country singer’s name – in the end to destroy the shotgun-toting Tin Man. She tells them that light will destroy him.

I won’t ruin the ending by telling you more about the final show down or the fate of the two couples, but I have to tell you it was a good redemption story. Better than I expected from Hollywood. The movie did justice to the book. Glad I was in Canton to see it since it didn’t open at home.

After the show was over, Matt, one of the guys who went with me, said, “So that’s what an R-rated Christian horror movie’s like.” We laughed. We talked a little about the storyline on the way back to the hotel, but only a little. Chelsea said her favorite part was at the end. “That was the only good part,” was the joke. I laughed too. There weren’t many happy moments.

We didn’t get lost on the way back. No Walgreens stop. I arrived back in my room around 11:00pm and fell promptly to sleep. No bad dreams. Just a little sleepy in the morning.

And that’s it. Go see the movie…or better READ THE BOOK!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Given over...

I awoke this morning again with God on my mind. My thoughts were not joy filled as yesterday's were, but sobering. I thought of the words repeated several times in Romans 1 that speak of God's wrath being poured out on a people.

"He gave them over to..." (v. 24, 26, 28)

As I watch the celebration of Americans and think of what Obama stands for, I wonder if God has given us over to our own wishes - wishes to be left alone on moral issues like abortion and formalized homosexual relationships and to be free to pursue greater pleasure and wealth. Has God given us over to all these things in order to bring about our destruction?

"Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (v. 28-32)

God will not be mocked.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Run for Missions done...

Here's what Adam wrote after he finished his Run for Missions...

I finished the 104.2 mile "Run for Missions" from Wichita to Haviland this morning in 26 hours and 12 minutes and 10 seconds! The finish line celebration had several hundred cheering friends and spectators in front of Phillips Hall at Barclay College. Allen Smelser bravely gutted out 101.1 miles (!) in approximately 29 hours and 15 minutes. What an incredible day (and night and day)!

We've now raised over $11,500 for Missions Scholarships and rising! Praise be!

"And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." Hebrews 12:1

(A full report with lots of pictures available on Adam's blog.)