James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
School has started. Young students look into the tunnel of education and shudder at the length of time they will spend in it. Older students see the end of the tunnel and cannot wait to burst out the other side.
Most students live for the breaks. They count down the hours until the end of the day. They count down the days until the weekend, the weeks until Christmas, and the months until the summer.
Finally, after the required hours by the state are completed, each student receives a bit of paper. They walk across a platform to their families’ and friends’ cheers, leaving education behind.
At least, that is what most students think when they graduate. Whether it is high school, college, or graduate degrees, we are all tempted to believe that our time of learning is ended, or at least at a standstill.
And then, what our grandparents told us would happen, happens.
Life hits us.
And, we realize that if we are going to survive this life event, we must learn.
Education gurus say that the most successful people in the world never stop learning. However, they never tell us what these successful people learn or where they learn.
Many people are continually learning but have the wrong teacher and gain the wrong knowledge. These people could end up bankrupt, divorced, or in jail. These had the best intentions. As the phrase goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
We have a choice when life hits us: to whom will we turn to gain knowledge and wisdom? Will we turn to those who do not have wisdom, or will we turn to the One who possesses all knowledge?
Jesus told his disciples to learn from Him because they would find rest for their souls through Him. When we turn to God for wisdom and help, He gives us what we need. As a bonus, by turning to Him, we get peace.
Psalm 150:6 “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.”
I love the county fair. The bustle. The noise. The odors. The tastes. The sights. Excitement grows in me as the fair approaches.
My fingers also start twitching.
Members of Calvary Bible Church and I spend the county fair making balloon animals, painting faces, and giving away Bibles. Last year, we made 750 balloon animals. We painted more faces than we could count. One of my volunteers got cramps in his fingers.
The culmination of our time is our church service at 10 am by the French Toast Breakfast. We eat great food. Then we worship our Savior in the middle of His creation.
By Sunday evening, I am exhausted, sitting in my chair and staring at a blank wall.
You might say, “There are many fun things to do at the fair. Why spend your time in a hot building, wearing out your fingers?”
Jesus has done so much for us. He died to save us from our sin. He rose from the grave, conquering death. He provides hope, peace, endurance, and comfort through hard times. We can know what true love is. We can have the relationship with our Creator that we were created for. We can be assured that our God will never leave or forsake us. We have assurance, because of Jesus, that we will live forever with Him on a new earth, in perfection.
We want to praise Him for all that he has done for us. We can praise Him in three ways.
First, we can praise Him by thanking Him for all He has done. We will do that Sunday morning for our church service, as our guitarist leads us in worship.
Second, we can praise Him by telling others what He has done for us. We will do that Sunday morning also. But, we will also do that at our booth as we give out free Bibles and talk to those who walk by.
Finally, we can praise Him by showing others what He has done for us. We will do that by making balloon animals and by painting faces. He showed us love. So, we offer that love to others.
We hope you can stop by. If you do, plan on telling us something God has done for you.
Genesis 2:22 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”
I should first admit that I am not perfect.
Are we clear on that fact?
I have officiated numerous weddings and have made my fair share of mistakes. However, I do have my list of “please, never do this” from weddings I have attended. Would you like a sampling?
If you want more of my list, you will just have to ask me to officiate your wedding.
Do I have a point, other than allowing myself the emotional space to heal from the lack of cake? Yes, marriages are important events that should be taken seriously.
A couple is vowing before God and the guests to enter into a lifelong covenant where each will strive to reflect God in their relationship to the world around.
A married couple is able to reflect God uniquely. As they pursue oneness in all areas of life (mentally, physically, sexually, emotionally, spiritually), using their strengths to build up the other, they can reflect who God is.
God is one. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally God, but functionally different. Each uses his functions to perfectly complement the other as their united purpose is achieved.
Nothing else in creation shows this, except for a marriage which is seriously lived out.
All married couples should be in awe of this fact, as we all realize how many times we do not reflect God.
Now, back to wedding ceremonies.
Because of the seriousness of the covenant, as a reflection of God Himself, a ceremony should not just be a party. It should be sober look at a commitment.
But, yes, it is also a party. So, please, don’t run out of cake.
Genesis 1:24–26 “And God said, Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so.”
At first, our dog’s name was Taffy. But, we felt awkward calling her name throughout the neighborhood the first time she ran away. So, we changed her name to Daisy. We soon grew callous to calling that name throughout the neighborhoods.
Yes, she brought her share of frustrations. However, we loved her. We bought her when I was three, and she died when I was in college.
What a hole she left in our family.
Okay, I’m going to creep out onto a theological limb that might break underneath me.
Many people ask if their beloved pets will be in Heaven one day. And they want an answer. However, I cannot give them one.
None of us have been there yet, so we cannot say from experience. The Bible is silent on the subject. I cannot fill in what has not been revealed.
However, we do know several things. First, God created everything. God created humanity as different from animals and set us over creation to care for it.
Second, we sinned and decided that our truth was better than God’s, sending all creation into a death spiral. What was designed as peaceful coexistence became mutually assured destruction.
Third, God loved us and sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
Fourth, this redemption was not just for humanity but all of creation. Paul, in Romans 8, relates that all creation is groaning for the return of Jesus Christ when he will usher in eternity.
Fifth, through our faith in Jesus Christ, eternity will not be in Heaven but on a remade earth. What God started in the Garden of Eden, He will finish forever.
So, no, there will not be animals in Heaven. But, there will be animals in eternity as we live the life that God created us to live among his perfected Creation.
Will Daisy be there? I do not know. The Bible does not say. However, I know that eternity will be perfect and that there will be no disappointment or tears. I am willing to trust God with the rest.
1 Corinthians 4:16 “Therefore I urge you to imitate me.”
Whenever the house is silent, I start wondering what is happening. Three children under the age of six are never quiet unless they are doing something terrible.
Well, one day, I heard nothing. Silence. I started to stand up to assess whatever damage was being done. Then, I heard giggles.
My two oldest, ages five and three, were toddling down the hallway wearing my wife’s and my boots. Every step was a struggle. They swayed, they tripped, they fell. But they were so excited to wear our boots.
Children love imitating their parents. They enjoy wearing their shoes and their clothes. They enjoy pretending to be parents to their toys or their younger siblings.
As the child grows, this imitation grows as well. Instead of imitating out of enjoyment, a child imitates without thinking. They will naturally imitate our words and our habits. Unfortunately, they seem to pick up the bad things we do much easier than the good things we do.
Jesus told his disciples, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 18:3).
Jesus’ statement refers to our humility, faith, and simplicity. But, it also refers to how we view Him. As children, we should love to imitate Jesus. We should love to pretend to be Him and treat those around us with love and respect. We should love to show humility and self-sacrifice because He did. We should love to speak in ways that reflect Him, instead of our depravity.
As we try to imitate him, we will be like a little kid toddling down the hallway: swaying, tripping, and falling. We do not easily wear His shoes. But, when we fall, Jesus helps us get up and encourages us to keep trying.
Hopefully, as we grow in spiritual maturity, we will imitate Jesus without thinking because we have spent so much time trying to imitate Him. We will naturally imitate Him in our words and our habits. Thankfully, because Jesus was perfect, we will not pick up any bad habits from Him.
One day, after spending our lives trying to imitate Jesus, we can turn to someone younger and urge them to join us in imitating Jesus. We can give them strength and encouragement. That, too, is imitating Jesus.
Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
This past week, the Sample family popped up our pop-up camper. The endeavor always includes a bunch of dust, bugs, and squeals. The kids are ecstatic, and we are about to pull our hair out.
But, the small amount of stress and kid-wrangling does not overpower the joy that the camper brings: the great outdoors.
If any of you are avid campers, I apologize for what I am about to say.
I like glamping. Glamping is when you camp in style. Our pop-up might not be a fifth-wheel camper, but it has all the amenities we need. And, since we have the amenities, we can enjoy nature without being drowned in worries or discomfort.
Again, if you are an avid camper, I apologize for my weak spine. Hopefully, you will agree with what I will say next.
Enjoying nature is essential. I yearn to leave the confines of town and bury myself in the fresh air, surrounded by open spaces. Amid nature, I find God.
Now, I am not saying that God is in nature. He is not contained in a tree or a flower or a cloud.
I am saying that God has revealed Himself in nature. He created everything that we see. Not only did He create all things, but He designed all things to show who He is. No one can spend an hour in a forest without realizing that someone created those trees. Someone designed the intricate patterns of moss. Someone programed the instincts of birds and other animals. Everything screams the realization of a creator.
These plants and animals also show God’s character. He is the one who clothes them and feeds them. He cares when a sparrow falls to the ground. He brings life to barren land. When tragedy comes, he shapes it to benefit those under his care.
My faith expands when I leave the man-made streets and buildings and am surrounded by the creative result of God’s will. Not only is my body refreshed by fresh air, but my soul is refreshed by reflecting on who God consistently is.
This summer, I hope that you can immerse yourself in nature and spend time reflecting on our God.
Leviticus 26:4 “I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit.”
Praise the Lord! We have rain! As the drops fall, the ground almost seems to be sighing with relief. The leaves of the trees are unfolding with joy. Flowers are blooming. Spring is here.
While my allergies are complaining, I enjoy the smell of spring. The green grass, the new leaves, the colorful flowers, and the other signs of spring bring about a sense of hope. While we have been surrounded by death through fall and winter, that death is not the end. New life sprouts out of the decay of the dead.
Spring reminds us of the hope that Jesus offers. The Apostle Paul writes that everyone is dead in their sins, like plants during winter. This deadness dooms us to destruction like I remove dead branches from trees, or like you might till up dead weeds from your garden. While we experience destruction through death, sin, and suffering, we will ultimately experience destruction in an eternity separated from the life-giving God.
However, God sent rain. Jesus, His Son, came to earth to live among our deadness. He ultimately died for us, spilling his blood like rain. Anyone who comes under the blood of Jesus is reborn. New life sprouts from the decay of the dead.
We can experience this life now in a personal relationship with God, a relationship that brings the blessing of love, hope, and peace. We will ultimately experience this new life in eternity with God on this earth, basking in perfection with no more death, sin, or suffering.
Just as grass cannot do anything to earn rain, so we cannot do anything to earn the new life Jesus offers. All we can do is admit that we are sinners and that nothing we do will save us. Then, we ask Jesus to save us. As the Apostle Paul says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
The moment we do that, the blood of Jesus Christ is showered on us. We are saved for eternity and can have a personal relationship with God.
I am so grateful for spring and the promise of new life.
Mark 11:9–10 “Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’”
If you come by our house in the evenings, you might step right in the middle of a dinosaur attack. You see, my son, David, is obsessed with dinosaurs. He must borrow as many dinosaur books from the library as he can. While he can identify by name a tyrannosaurus rex, a diplodocus, a triceratops, and a velociraptor, he is quickly adding more identities to his mental map.
As I said, if you come to our house in the evening, you might enter a dinosaur attack. David and Grace might be chasing me around the house as dinosaurs, seeking their prey. Thankfully, they do not catch me very often, or I might not be around to write this article.
David tries to convince his sister that he is the tyrannosaurus rex and that she is the velociraptor. But she doesn’t buy it. They both must be T-Rex’s.
The tyrannosaurus rex is known as the “king of the dinosaurs.” While we do not know much about this dinosaur, we know what a king is.
To label something a king, we say that they are better or more important than all the others. The others follow the king or run away to a different jurisdiction. That’s my role in the dinosaur hierocracy: I run away and hope I am not eaten.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus entered Jerusalem as king. We celebrate this occasion on Palm Sunday. Some churches have a procession of kids waving palm branches. Some churches have plays or special readings. Some churches do nothing.
Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week. Jesus enters Jerusalem as king at the beginning. At the end of the week, Jesus walks out of the tomb alive, proving that he is truly king.
If he is king, what is our response? We either follow him, or we run away from him. There is no middle ground. Too often, we say that we are his followers, but in reality, we are running away from him with our lives, words, and actions. If we followed him, we would reflect on him with our lives, words, and actions.
Which is it?
Jesus is king!
Philippians 3:10 “I want to know Christ.”
St. Patrick’s Day is here! O’Neill has revitalized their green clover in the middle of the intersection. They have planned many activities. People will be wearing green, while others might sport some orange. Bars will be packed. Dances will be held. And many people who will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day will not even know who St. Patrick is.
First, he is not a saint. The Roman Catholic Church has never officially canonized him.
Second, he was not Irish. He was born a Roman in modern-day Scotland.
Third, he called himself “a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers.”
After Irish pirates captured him when he was 16, his apathetic faith became strong. His belief in Jesus Christ carried him through some long, dark days. When he was 22, he escaped slavery and traveled back to Britain, committing to live out his faith. He joined the ministry and returned to Ireland as a missionary to those who kidnapped him.
He was forced to carry a dagger for safety because of the threats on his life. The local tribes did not appreciate his telling of Jesus Christ. After many years of service, the king of Ireland converted to Christianity, and much of the nation followed.
The Irish left the pirating lifestyle through Patrick's influence, changing their culture completely. They tried to live according to Jesus’ ethics rather than whom they used to be. Their change was so drastic that the nations around took notice.
Patrick’s passion and teaching were focused on Jesus Christ. As you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, consider the following prayer that has been attributed to him and try to live it practically:
"Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Romans 12:9 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
We celebrated Valentine’s Day several weeks ago. Whether married or not, many couples endeavored to show love to their significant other. Some people gave flowers. Others splurged on a romantic dinner. Maybe you bought a card. Someone, somewhere, might have written a song to their love.
Perhaps, you did not do anything because Valentine’s Day is a commercialized holiday centered around making money for Hallmark.
Whatever you did (or did not do), why did you show love the way you did?
We all have ways that we like to be loved. However, sometimes our lover does not feel love in the ways that we do. To show love sincerely, we must step outside our box and into his or her box.
Gary Chapman wrote The Five Love Languages about this concept, detailing several ways to show love.
1) Words of Affirmation. These people want to hear praise and encouragement. If someone speaks critically, they will feel the criticism deeply. Many people feel awkward about verbally expressing love. However, those needing Words of Affirmation need those sentiments voiced.
2) Acts of Service. We love these by helping around the house or providing a hot cup of coffee. While this form of love can be straightforward to meet, those with busy lives tend to push acts of service to the side because they do not have the time.
3) Gifts. The gift does not have to be expensive, but it cannot be bought on a whim. The gift must have thought behind it: a reason that it was given. Some might consider the one needing gifts as high maintenance. However, a little gift can go a long way.
4) Quality Time. Love is when someone takes the time to stop their busy life and engage in meaningful conversation. They want the television turned off, and the cell phone put away.
5) Physical Touch. Research shows that physical touch is necessary for anyone’s health and well-being. These people want to hold hands, hug, or have a simple pat on the shoulder when talked to.
Each love language is valid. If we genuinely want to love someone sincerely, we should seek to love them in the way they need, for the glory of God and the good of our relationship.
Pastor of Calvary Bible Church, Neligh, NE. Missionary with RHMA. Husband to Maggie. Father to Grace, David, and Daniel. Saved by Jesus Christ