John 6:68 (NIV) “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’”
Recently, I took a trip out of state with my family. Travel with three kids under seven years old is always a bit hairy. When travel in unfamiliar cities is added to this mix, stress is increased exponentially.
At the beginning of the trip, my youngest son decided to share his bronchitis with my middle son. Thankfully, our doctor called a prescription into the nearest pharmacy to us, two states away. I helped my wife put the kids down for the night and then jumped into the vehicle to get the prescription.
After squeaking through the doors before they closed, I typed the return address into my phone so I would not get lost. It was dark. The streets were unorganized and busy.
I could give all the excuses I wanted. The truth is: I ignored my GPS, and I took a wrong turn.
Suddenly, I was not going where I needed to be going. I did not know where I was. I did not know how to get back.
Thankfully, my GPS does a great job of redirecting me. I was glued to that map for the rest of the trip and safely deposited the medicine in my wife’s hands.
So often, we forget who has the words of eternal life. We start listening to the culture, to the government, to our friends, to our family, to our church. We listen to music, movies, books, and magazines. We model our lives after all those things and do not get fulfilled. We look at our lives and wonder where we have ended up.
We could make excuses. We could talk about the busyness of our lives. The uncertainty of our lives. We could talk about priorities. We could talk about health issues. We could talk about expectations.
We could talk about everything in this life that distract us from looking at Jesus Christ, the One who has the words of eternal life. Through the Bible, He provides directions for us as we navigate the crazy, confusing life we live.
We could talk about those distractions. But instead, we should refocus on the one giving directions and follow him so we can safely arrive home.
1 Corinthians 15:17 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins….”
Rumor is that Albert Einstein said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” According to this definition, we, as humans, are naturally insane. I’ll own it. I catch myself doing things that the generations before tried and proved unsuccessful. I do the things my wife has shown me do not achieve the results I want. Yes, I am insane.
Hopefully, we notice our insanities and outgrow them. Hopefully, we learn from history and break the cycle of actions that have been proven destructive.
But there is one insanity that humanity has willingly claimed for over six thousand years. We have tried to work our way into eternity by our strength. Religions have come and religions have gone, all based upon the belief that we can achieve our salvation. However, none of these religions worked. None of these religions solved the root cause of the human condition but merely doomed humanity to an endless cycle of doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting different results. Insanity.
Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the Garden of Eden, choosing to supply for their own perceived need instead of trusting the God who declared he would provide for all needs. They broke the single commandment given and, in the process, declared God a liar. From that moment on, each human has been born a sinner and has willingly chosen to sin.
Our sin separates us from our creator for all eternity because a holy God cannot have sin near him. His very essence drives it away.
People try to return to God’s favor through good works, religious rituals, and family association. However, all this good does not clear away our sins. Our sins separate us from God, and all the good we might do does not change that fact.
Enter Jesus Christ. He introduces something different: He never sinned. Instead, He took our sins on Himself and died in our place, so whoever believes in Him and His sacrifice will be forgiven and guaranteed eternity with Him. He calls us to give up on the work we try to do and rest in what he did.
Why join humanity in their insanity when we could join Christ in His life?
Daylight Savings Time
Hosea 6:3 “Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us…like the spring rains that water the earth.”
My least favorite Sunday is Daylight Savings Sunday. I am honest about that. My family knows this. The church I serve at knows this. Now, you know it.
Sleep is rare already, especially with three kids ages six and under. Having an hour ruthlessly torn from my bare-bones sleep bank is cruel and unusual punishment. For the days following this emotion-shattering day, my body always feels betrayed by the clock. Everything I think is true is denied. I am surrounded by faithlessness and falsehood.
We live in a world where we want to be surrounded by steadiness and uniformity. We want to know that life will continue without pain and disruption. Unfortunately, Daylight Savings Time comes around every year.
But so does cancer.
We live in a chaotic world, despite trying to place a veneer over it. We grasp onto foundations that we hope will hold us steady when the earthquakes of chaos roll through our lives. But unfortunately, those foundations do not hold.
Nothing in this world will provide safety. Nothing is immune to the core problems that plague us. Everything is fragile. Everything brings pain.
I’m sorry. I misspoke.
Even on Daylight Savings Sunday, though the clock may lie, the sun still rises. No matter how we manipulate the things of creation, the God who created is still in control. Even though our sin has created a chaotic world, God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24). And every day, despite the pain and disruption around us, he proves his goodness repeatedly.
Paul writes, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). God’s faithfulness, more consistent than the rising sun, is a foundation that will never be shaken. One day, the sun will not rise. The stars will fall from the sky. Even then, God’s faithfulness will shine bright. Jesus, our Savior, will appear on that day of utter chaos. Everything that is wrong with this world will be made right. The followers of Jesus Christ will live forever on this earth in perfection.
That truth is the foundation that will weather any earthquake that plows through our life.
Marriage and Activities
Genesis 2:24 “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
Statistically, a couple has a greater chance of divorce at three different stages of their marriage. Most divorces happen in the first year. The second most divorces occur in the seventh year. The third most divorces happen at twenty-five or thirty years. We can imagine the reasons for the one-year and seven-year divorces. Why would a married couple divorce after spending much of their life together?
Unfortunately, many married couples believe the lie that their children are more important than their spouses. So, when the children move away, the married couple is left in an empty house with a spouse they do not know anymore. Or, even worse, a spouse they have grown to hate through years of neglect.
I can see it. I look at marriages around me and wonder how they can sustain the pace. Both parents work. When they aren’t working, they chase their children around to activities and sports: sacrificing time as a family and time as a couple on the altar of their children’s whims.
We as parents can make excuses about how these activities are great opportunities, how sports teach character, how our child needs everything on their schedule so that they can get a scholarship, etc.
However, we must realize that our children need parents who love each other. When a child sees their parents kissing in the kitchen, they have security. When a child sees their parents work through issues and love each other despite hurts, they realize they are also valued. When a child sees parents modeling a godly relationship, they will want that same relationship.
An engaged couple stands before an altar and vows to love each other until death takes one away. We must guard that vow, not allowing anything to take it away—not even our kids and their activities.
So, when was the last time you went on a date? When was the last time you told your child that he couldn’t do an activity because you needed to spend time with your wife? When was the last time you told your daughter that she could not play a sport because you needed time as a family?
Are you willing to do what it takes to stay together so your child can thrive?
Psalm 51:7 “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
I enjoy sitting inside on a cold winter day: sipping hot chocolate, reading a good book, and watching snow lazily float to the ground.
Unfortunately, what I enjoy doing only happens sometimes. Life is too busy. Though I might get snowed in, my computer and correspondence never stop. And so, I miss life’s simple pleasures, and another opportunity to reflect on God’s gracious ways slips by.
Instead of being a time of joy, snow becomes a drudge. Instead of reflecting on the wonder and mystery of the tiny crystals, I reflect on how my to-do list will be changed. Instead of pausing to consider the spiritual elements of snow-covered landscapes, I wonder how I can fit in snow removal.
This is how life often is. God presents us with an opportunity to slow down and reflect on his ways. In response, we work harder being focused on our busy schedules and seek to remove that which he sent to drag us back to him.
Instead of hunkering down, stifling groans when we think about the atrociously fluffy whiteness, maybe we should pause and allow the falling snow to draw our eyes upward.
While we might not like this symbol of winter and childhood innocence, God paints a vivid picture of his salvation every time he sends a snowstorm.
Winter starts brown and dirty. Death is everywhere, from trees, to grass, to flowers, to the raspberry bushes my brother gave me. Then, one morning, the ground shimmers as the sun peeks over the horizon. Death is covered. The brown turned white under clean, fluffy snow.
Yes, that snow will melt one day, revealing the deathly brown underneath. But, as the snow melts, necessary nutrients brought by that snow seep into the ground, providing new life.
That is what God does for us. Like freshly introduced winter, we are dead in our sin, destined to rot. But we have hope. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, all who believe in Jesus and his death have their sins covered, like snow covers the ground. And from that covering comes new life.
That is worth remembering.
So, next time snow comes, grab a cup of hot chocolate and instead of grumbling, let us reflect on God’s amazing grace.
Mark 6:34: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”
Have you ever felt rushed? Hurry seems to be an epidemic in US culture. Everyone is rushing here and there. Trying to get lists done and appointments completed. Unfortunately, we pass on this syndrome to our children by encouraging them to participate in every activity. Soon, they are running around ragged, and we are running, trying to keep up.
I’m not pointing fingers. Goodness, I rush everywhere. I have my calendar planned out for the upcoming week, detailed down to fifteen-minute increments. I need to be this scheduled so that I can have time for my family in the middle of funerals, counseling, sermon preparation, community events, lunch meetings, etc.
So, yes, I am fully submerged in the “hurry” lifestyle.
Being busy is not a bad thing, necessarily. What is bad is when busyness, or hurry, takes over and we forget our real priorities.
There have been times when I have barreled through my to-do list, rushing from one event to another, and someone stepped into my schedule that I did not plan. Inside, I am frustrated because I have so much to do, grumbling because of the weight of “hurry.”
Then, I remember Mark 6:34 and become convicted.
Jesus was going through a busy time of ministry. He and the apostles were tired and were seeking some rest. On the way, he met a crowd of over 5000 people. He could have been irritated and frustrated because they were not in his appointment book. He could have snapped at them and told them to leave, to come back another day.
Instead of all those feelings, he had compassion for them. He realized that the people in front of him were more important than his schedule. He shared with them God’s love and God’s truth, in addition to feeding those 5000 with five loaves and two fish.
With Jesus as our example, we should embrace every opportunity to step away from our schedule and interact with people. Perhaps it means regularly going to church on Sunday. Perhaps it means chatting with the cashier or the bagger. Perhaps it is allowing time for important conversations with our children.
Whatever it is, may we slow down and have compassion.
God with Us
Matthew 1:23 “’The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”
I had a long day. I just wanted to sit in my easy chair and read my book, which has been on loan for about two months. I really wanted to finish that book.
I sat in my chair with a sigh, picked up my book, and opened it with anticipation. Then, my daughter skips into the room.
“Daddy! Let’s play something!”
I know I should be eager to play with my daughter. That is what good dads do. However, that day, I just wanted to sit in my chair and read my book. I was tired, and I wanted to finish that book.
I looked at my daughter in all her excitement. I looked at my book in my anticipation.
I looked at my daughter. I looked at my book.
And then, I remembered what season we were in.
Christmas is about Jesus Christ coming to earth, born of a virgin—God becoming a man. All so that He might live and die to lead us into a relationship with Him.
God with us.
Every day I live, I am reminded of the amazing truth that I have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. I can know him intimately, and he knows me thoroughly. Through this relationship, I have hope, peace, and love. Through this relationship, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am accepted by my God and will live forever with him.
Every day, I have the privilege of growing this relationship through the study of the Bible, prayer, and fellowship with His church.
Every day, I am in awe that I do not have to earn this relationship. All I had to do was believe in Jesus for my salvation and receive Him as my savior.
I looked at my daughter. I looked at my book.
If I want my daughter to have the relationship with God that I have, I need to model it for her. God is with me. Therefore, I need to be with her.
I looked at my daughter. I closed my book. And played with her.
Colossians 3:14 (NIV): “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Halloween time! Neligh gets abuzz in the weeks leading up to this day. Houses are decorated. Activities are planned. Kids plan their costumes. Parents wonder how crazy their kids will be after the candy.
We could talk about the history behind Halloween, but we’re not going to. What makes Halloween fun is the costumes. Every child gets to pick something different every year. And they choose that costume for a reason. A child’s character pops out through his costume.
Several years ago, I subbed for third grade on Halloween. So, I was able to help with the Halloween Fashion Show. Every child was so excited. As soon as the costume was put on, even the most introverted child began to glow. Sure, the costume might have been a superhero, zombie, or witch. I did not see the outfit. I saw a child that desperately wanted to express who they were.
I saw a child who was grieving and wanted to be strong. I saw a child who usually faded into the background but had a great sense of humor. I saw a child who felt forgotten but might change the world one day.
Costumes are ironic. We put them on to hide, but they show our character more blatantly than in everyday life.
As followers of Christ, we are called to wear a costume daily. We are to put on attitudes and actions that show whom we are called to be. Paul, in Colossians, describes some things we are to put on: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). A few verses later, he adds “love.”
None of these attitudes and actions come naturally to us. But, as a follower of Christ, we need to be those things. So, we willfully put on those attitudes and actions, even when our circumstances try to take those costumes off. But the more we wear them, the more those attitudes change us. Soon, we realize that the costumes we put on showed who we wanted to be and whom we would become.
Wherever we are, whomever we are with, whatever is going on, we are to show Christ in us and through us. May our costume clearly show our character.
Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
I was sitting with a group of pastors at a restaurant in western Nebraska. We swapped stories and laughed.
The oldest pastor among us told of something that had happened to him a few weeks before. He was walking down Main Street, enjoying a lovely Fall Day. Unfortunately, he overlooked a freshly poured square of concrete. There were no warning signs posted. There was no caution tape.
After his third step into the cement, he noticed it was wet. Three deep footprints stood starkly in the smooth, fresh cement.
The workers were livid, as you would expect. He felt miserable and apologized. And then left quickly. The next day, he went back to the scene of the crime. The cement was smooth again. All signs of his footprints were wiped away.
I could not help but reflect on my own life. Every day I live, I walk through areas that I should not. I leave horrible prints on what should be a perfect square of my life. We all do. We all sin.
We carry those footprints in our lives. We leave footprints in the lives of those around us. We feel others’ footprints in our own. We begin to define each other based on those footprints. “Oh, do you remember when John Doe did that? I could never trust him again.”
But there is someone who removes those footprints. He comes into our lives and smooths out the imperfections, leaving no trace behind.
This person is Jesus. He died on the cross for our sins. Scripture says: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as wool.”
When we turn to Jesus in faith, receiving Him as our Savior, he removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.
Humanity may still be stuck in the past, remembering our footprints and actions. But God sets us free. In His eyes, there are no footprints. We do not have to be defined by our actions. We are defined by Jesus Christ.
Psalm 46:10 (NIV) “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
I never played organized football. I only experienced backyards and empty lots in my glory days. This is probably good because I am not athletic. The only significant plays I made were because the opposite team forgot I was there. When they remembered, I did nothing.
Don’t get me wrong: I loved playing football. I loved the feel of the ball in my hands. I loved the adrenaline of trying to sack the quarterback. I loved the swoosh of the ball in the air.
Just don’t ask me to throw the ball or catch it. Stick me on the line and let me be. Maybe if the opposing team forgets about me, I’ll be able to sack the quarterback.
Playing backyard football taught me some good lessons. One of which is listening.
Before every play, we gathered around the quarterback and listened. We received our assignments and tried our best to follow through. Some of us did better at the follow-through than others.
The players that did not listen ruined the plays. The chronic non-listeners stopped being put in essential places.
Life is so much like football.
Every minute of every day, we have choices to make and plays to run to reach our goals. In those choices, we can pretend to be independent, trying to take on the opposing forces on our own. However, that never works. Just like a rogue player on a football team ruins the game.
Instead of independence, we can stop and listen. God says: “Be still and know that I am God.” We are to step into the divine huddle, put aside our ideas and broken schemes, and listen to our Leader's directions. And then we follow them.
We may disagree with the plan. We may even be vehemently opposed to the plan. However, He is God. Acknowledging that fact demands that we admit He knows better than us.
We humble ourselves in stillness, listening to His direction. Then, knowing that He is God, we run onto the field and work the play. For His honor and His glory.
Pastor of Calvary Bible Church, Neligh, NE. Missionary with RHMA. Husband to Maggie. Father to Grace, David, and Daniel. Saved by Jesus Christ