July 13

Well before I go on vacation this week, I thought I would write a bit about how we can draw close to God as we talk about in our service yesterday.  There are many ways to draw close to God.  Spending time praising him is a good start.  Praise takes many forms from using our talents (singing, dancing, musical instruments, painting, etc.) and all of them when used for God and for his glory will help us draw close.  Meditating on who God is another way.  Sometimes this is done by listening to the radio while going about our daily activities (driving/riding in a car, while doing housework or homework, etc.).  Maybe you draw near to God by reading a good book or watching an encouraging movie.  Maybe attending or watching a worship service.  Giving, whether it be our time, talents, or money, is another way that people draw close to God.  Just do not treat it as an obligation or routine.  God condemns people in the OT that “worship” God with sacrifices but their hearts are far from Him.  Enjoying the gifts God has given us and using those gifts to help and bless others is another way of drawing closer to God.  I also know that spending time outside enjoying the beauty of nature helps me focus more on Him.  Of course this list of ways to draw close to God would not be complete without adding, prayer, time reading and studying God’s word, and listening to God.  Sometimes our prayers only speak to God without allowing our hearts to pause and listen to His response back to us.
I am sure that this list is not complete, but take several these practices and disciplines to help yourself come back into the presence of God.

July 6

Well next week is the start of my vacation.  And for those of you who go on vacation, especially camping, it takes about a week of planning; making sure all that you need to take with you is gathered, the menu planned, the gear loaded.  It again reminds me of the message from Sunday.  We need to make sure we have given God a place in our lives.  Not just lip-serve, but a real, tangible, and first place in our life.  God will not be happy in second place or given the hand-outs left over.  Make sure God is at the center of all you do.

June 29

I was talking with some pastors this morning.  And the topic we were discussing was weariness, both in ourselves and in our churches.  And to tell you the truth, I have been getting more and more weary these last few weeks.  I even put on our church’s marquee the verse from Matthew 11:28, Come you who are weary – find rest.  And I think the specific area where I personally feel the most weary is finding the right words to say.  Many times people look to me to find answers.  And to tell you the truth, I do not have all the answers.  I don’t always know what to say.  I do not know many times how to express my feelings without wondering if I will offend somebody.  Everyone has an opinion out there and in today’s culture often people have turned their opinion into facts.  And if you say anything that is different than their opinion, they are offended or put off.  We as a culture are starting to discount other people’s opinions if they are contrary to our own.  Not too long ago, differences in opinions were a good thing and by debating and considering each other’s opinions we grew in our understanding of each other without conflict or dismissal.  We allowed differences of opinions without malice or ill will toward the other person.  Now people are so polarized this does not happen often.  And yet it is so important to see where people are coming from.  See things from another perspective or viewpoint.  Otherwise we will remain in conflict with little hope in sight.

June 22

I hope you all had a wonderful Father’s day yesterday.  I just want to thank all the father figures in my life.  My two wonderful grandfathers who are now in heaven.  Dr. Biberstein, one of my professors in college who really helped guide my life during that stage.  And most importantly to my father, who has shown me love, encouragement, guidance, strength, and wisdom.  He has been there for me my whole life and I am grateful God blessed me so much by giving me such a good father.  If I give my sons half of what he gave me, they will be beyond blessed.  Thank you dad for showing me a bit of what my heavenly Father is like.

June 15

Like I said in my message, Habakkuk 3:17-18 has become one of my favorite verses down through the years.  It is ultimate trust.  It is like a wedding vow to remain faithful in sickness and in health.  It is very easy to follow God when things are going well.  When you are not struggling financially and hardships are few, blessing and praises easily flow from our lips.  But when things are tough, when we worry where our next paycheck is coming from, when bills pile up and we wonder how we can make it through, joy is not often to emotion we experience.  I have experienced several times in my life when I was unemployed and looking for jobs to support my family and I.  Those were dark times; times of crying out to God; times when I had more questions than answers.  But they need not be that way.  “Through the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, thought there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I WILL REJOICE IN THE LORD, I WILL BE JOYFUL IN GOD MY SAVIOR.”  How could Habakkuk say this?  Re-read his entire book and you will find out.  And then read the last verse once more.  Habakkuk had such confidence because he followed a confident God who will take care of EVERYTHING in our lives.

June 8

I love the sermon I mentioned in my message, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.  I dislike “scaring people” into heaven (or out of hell as the case may be).  Fear is however a motivator many times to get us out of our “comforts”.  Fear of dying from a heart attack or high blood pressure has motivated many people to a healthier lifestyle.  Fear of catching a virus has put masks on our faces.  And certainly fear of hell has lead to many conversions, rededications, and recommitments.  Unfortunately fear is usually temporary- as are many of the changes it inspires.  So the lasting impact is lessened.  This is another reason why preaching on God’s love is so popular.  Love typically inspires more long lasting impacts.  However, I think we need to occasionally need to preach and teach about a God who will not allow sinners into heaven and will indeed send them to hell.

June 1

I did not do justice to my sermon yesterday in light of all the racial unrest in this country over this last weekend.  Police brutality, protests, riots, looting and unrest has been in our nation and on the news.  I could have devoted my entire sermon on Micah 6:8 instead of the last 5 minutes.  To tell you the truth, I really do not know what to say about the whole situation.  I cannot understand the fear, hatred, oppression, and biases that blacks and other minorities feel because as a white man I have never had to deal with those frustrations, let alone experience them on a daily basis.  I do not know what they have been through because I have never experienced it myself.  I have never been pulled over because of my skin color alone.  I have never had people look at me in disgust because of where I lived or grew up.  I do not know the fear of wondering if some cop will abuse his power if I say or do something to defend myself.  Yet they live in that world.  A world of bias and prejudice and degradation.  They want to be heard.  They not only want to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God, they also want justice for themselves (which too often they do not get).  They want mercy.
This is a dark world.  And as I concluded in yesterday’s sermon, we need to be the light.  Be the light to these who are looking for is.

May 18

I totally forgot about posting here last week like I normally do and I even forgot about adding last week’s sermon (Mother’s Day) to the website either.  Sorry for that.  I know there are some people who frequent this website and this blog to listen to the sermon and read the devotion here.  And since I missed last week, I want to again wish all the mothers out there (including both my mother and my wife) a happy Mother’s Day.  They deserve all our love and respect.
Today I have been encouraged by a lot of little things.  Taken individually they are a snippets of good news but added together they have made my morning bright.  So my encouragement to you is to thank God for the little things in life that He has given us to make our day better.  As the old hymn says, “Count your blessings; name them one my one; Count your many blessings see what God has done”.

May 4

Today is “Star Wars day” because of a slightly twisted line from the movie, “May the force be with you” changed to May the fourth be with you.  May 4th.  And the idea of the the line in the first place was a reliance on a mystic cosmic force that controls your destiny.  It is the same kind of thinking today.  I am not sure if any of you saw this commercial on TV yet, but it is a total pro-science/anti-God commercial about saving the world from this pandemic.  Watch it and see you if had the same reaction I had.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xl0tEfLve1U.  After watching this commercial myself, I looked over at my wife and gasped.  Science will win? Trust in science and it will succeed?  Stop putting your trust on other things (like God) because science is better?  Do not get me wrong in saying that God does not work through science.  I know many people who God has gifted with insights and wisdom in scientific ideas.  But science will not save us.  God is just as capable of confusing the research of scientists as He is of giving wisdom to cure it.  We should not think that a cosmic force or science will save us.  Only God can do that.  May the Lord be with you.

April 27

One of the key messages in Joel that I was not able to bring out in my sermon is the phrase “Day of the Lord”.  Normally when we think of the day of the Lord we think about the end time prophesies of Jesus’ return to earth and the final battle between good and evil.  But if you look carefully, Joel uses the phrase to refer to events in his own day.  So in essence we are all living in the day of the Lord.  God’s timing and order of events both now and in the future are known only to him.  We may get hints and minor details here in Joel.  But just as this swarm of locust time is unknown, sometimes we have to understand that the time of the end events are unknown.  We need to be ready.  I am sure when the end time events start to play out, we will understand more about what the Bible predicts about and every thing the Bible says will happen will happen.