What Could Go Wrong?

13 Oct IMG_0174.JPG

Last Saturday evening I was with a bunch of fellow North American Baptist pastors and wives at a retreat at the Miracle Lodge.  The lodge is a great meeting place on the grounds of the Ironwood Springs Christian Camp near Stewartville, MN.

There were about a dozen of us outside enjoying the crisp fall air, while sitting around the campfire.  We had enjoyed the day together and had gotten pretty comfortable with one another.  I think it was Greg Henson, the new Sioux Falls Seminary president that got the ball rolling with stories about the past.  It wasn’t long and we were sharing all the dumb things we did that God had to save us from.

After a couple of stories, a common question began being inserted into about every tale.  And that question was, “What could go wrong?”  Let me give you a few examples of how it went.
“The leaves were wet and wouldn’t burn, so I dowsed the pile with gasoline…” and then someone popped in with the question, “What could go wrong?”
Here’s another…”we had our friend lay stiff as a board and we picked him up by his outstretched hands and his feet and we carried him over the campfire…” “What could go wrong?”
Or, “they stacked the wood for the campire about 4 feet tall…” “What could go wrong?”

As I think about it now, I realize this is a really good question to ask before you do something stupid.  Although for young men in the 20’s, I”m not sure it would matter.  If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to think with you about how this question might apply in areas that are even more important than physical safety.

In our spiritual walk:  “I’m too busy to stop and pray today… What could go wrong?”, Or “my  life is too busy to spend time with God’s people worshiping him… What could go wrong?”
In our relationships:  “I’m too frustrated to be nice with my spouse… What could go wrong?”  “Work is too hectic for me to get to my son’s game… What could go wrong?
In our finances:  “I want this too much to save for it… What could go wrong?”  “I can’t afford to give generously to the God who has given all this to me… What could go wrong?”
In our witness to others:  “I don’t have the time, energy or the skill to tell someone about Jesus… What could go wrong?”

With some reflection and openness to God’s leading, this question could make us stop and think about what we’re about to do and think again about the long-term consequences of the daily choices we make.

Now, this question could also be used by some to keep them from stepping out in faith.  We might choose safety and security, always fearful of moving forward because something terrible could happen.  But even that has consequences.  And that is why we need God, the Word and other believers to help us discern what is wise.

So, the next time you’re tempted to pour gas on wet leaves, or pour an unkind comment on an argument with your wife, ask yourself, “What could go wrong?”

Here’s your comment assignment:  I’d like to hear when you should have asked this question.  Or about a time when you did ask it and it stopped you from doing something stupid or destructive.  Thanks for reading and sharing.

7 Life Lessons Learned on a Motorcycle.

24 Sep

So, this last June, I was given the opportunity for an adventure.  This adventure took me 4934 miles on my motorcycle.  It was a solo trip from the Chicago area to California and back.  I took 5 days to get to California, spent 8 days there with family and then rode 4 days home.

I went through Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.  I encountered wind, sun, rain and hail!  I saw prairie, wildflowers, desert, mountains, snow, wildlife and roadkill.

Along the way, I learned and relearned a few things that really enriched my life!  Here they are.


Facing the rain!


Headed into the storm in Spencer, Iowa.


Beauty all around.

1) Needing people isn’t bad.
In Iowa I needed to be rescued, as the hail came down, horrendous winds blew and my motorcycle got stuck in deep gravel.  You can read about that here.  Needing someone helps me see the grace and love of God at work.


Warming the hands in Colorado.

2) Stop to warm your hands.
The Colorado mountains were cold!  I was on a schedule and didn’t want to stop, but my hands were demanding that I hold a hot cup of coffee.  I stopped.  And in stopping I was able to enjoy the beauty of the mountains around me.  Taking care of myself forces me to stop and see what’s around me.


Feeling small in the midst of the majesty of God’s creation.

3) Enjoy the scenery, but stay focused on the road.
Don’t look at the river in the valley too long unless you want to be in it.  It’s tempting to stare at the cool things on the side of the road.  But on a motorcycle, you end up driving where your eyes focus.  We can enjoy this world and the things of this world, but if we get sidetracked, we’ll become another tragedy.


The loneliest road in America.

4) Alone doesn’t have to mean lonely.
Those days, I shared my joys and thoughts with God.  I am a pretty social person.  But the quietness (if you can call motorcycle engines and wind buffeting the helmet quiet), gave me a great sense of God’s presence.  Along the way, people asked, “you’re traveling all that way alone?”  I answered, “nope.”  “Jesus is with me.”  And I meant it.


Trusting in the direction of others.

5) Take advice from someone who’s been there.
A couple of times, I ran across riders that had been where I was going.  They gave me better directions.  They warned me of when to get fuel.  They told me of the condition of the road and weather that was coming.  One guy saved me about 4 hours of travel by giving me an alternate route.  That was invaluable.

Made it to the goal!

Made it to the goal!

6) Know where you’re going.
We need goals!  Goals in life give us a great sense of accomplishment.  This picture can’t show how truly happy I was to see that sign!  We all need to know when we’ve made it.


bugs, bugs, bugs…

7) Start everyday clean.
No matter where I stopped, every morning I had to wipe down my bike.  Each evening, it was covered by dust, grime and bugs from the day before.  And in Nebraska it’s bugs, bugs, and bugs!  It’s no fun riding a dirty bike.  So most guys take a towel and wipe it down.  As we live in this world, we all get dirty.  We need to start clean.  Start each day honest before God – letting him clean you for a new day.

I thank God for the lessons.  Please comment!

Which of these is the biggest challenge for you right now?  Which of these have you learned from your own experience?  If you’ve done something challenging, what lessons would you add?

Also, please subscribe and share this blog with others who might be encouraged too.

One Big Reason Christians Need the Church

7 Aug

“Make disciples of all nations.”

“You are the salt of the world.”

“Bear one another’s burdens.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Love your enemies.”

The call God has placed on us is that of influencing and impacting our world. We are on mission to get people unstuck and walking toward the Savior. And the job is too big! It is too big for one person.

But together, with the leading of Christ and the power of the Spirit, it can be done.

This video reminds me of the power of Christians when we work, serve, sacrifice, pray, grow and influence our world together! Let’s pull together to save some.  It also reminds me that the longer we try to do things on our own the more people we’ll miss out on reaching.

One thing that distracts and disappoints

31 Jul

envyIt leads to frustration. It keeps us from enjoying our lives. It drives us toward extremes. It fosters anger. It spurs many to walk away from God’s purposes on their lives. It destroys faith. It breaks down love. It is ENVY.

David spoke about it in Psalm 73. Verses 2-3 read,
“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
       My steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious…”

Envy takes root in our lives when we first, have expectations that aren’t based on truth. Second, we get envious when our view of life values the temporary over the eternal. And third, we get envious when we take our eyes off God and we focus on the lives and experiences of others.

What is the answer? David continued in verses 16 & 17,
“But when I thought to understand this,
     It seemed a wearisome task,
     Until I went into the sanctuary of God;”

Get with God. Worship Him. Listen to His Word. Let Him give you His perspective. And then decide what David decided.

In verse 25,
“And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”

And in verse 28
“But for me it is good to be near God;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    That I may tell of all your works.”

During the summer months, our schedules change. And in the midst of all the new activities, travels and experiences, it is easy to let go of the One who is our everything! In Him is contentment and peace. In Him is joy everlasting. I encourage you to drop everything and get back to the sanctuary of God. Sit in His presence and the presence of His people. Reflect on His goodness and benefits. Express to Him your devotion.  Let Him be your everything again.

1 Reason We Don’t Have to Earn It

8 Jul

grace-def-1I had a brief conversation this morning with a friend who believes in God and Christ. The conversation started with his question, “Do you hold to some sort of judgment day?” I replied, “yes I do.” I continued, “God has given us too much, not to hold us accountable.” He thinks there is one too. But then he said, “I just can’t get past the thought that I have to earn it.” I encouraged him, “our rescue from judgment has to be by grace.” What is interesting is that just this morning, as I reflected on a sermon by John Wesley, I wrote in my journal: “Your grace gave me life. Your grace gives me life each day. Your grace has given me faith to believe. Your grace has given me the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blood of the covenant. Your grace guides me. Your grace teaches me. Your grace confronts and corrects me. Your grace seals and secures me in faith. Your grace is my hope. Your grace is my joy. Be praised, O Lord of grace.” There are reasons it has to be by grace that we find resolution and peace with God. 1. All we do is tainted. Nothing we do is with unmixed motives. You know the phrase, “happy wife, happy life.” It reflects our problem. Even when we try to do good, we often do it for our own benefits. We obey road laws, so we don’t get a ticket. We please God so we don’t get punished. That’s not love. That’s not real righteousness. 2. We are at best, inconsistent in our goodness. We may do good things, but we don’t do good in every area all the time! Why? See number 1. 3. Jesus’ death would have been in vain. If his death didn’t pay for our forgiveness, then it was no gift, but a horrible mistake. Actually, there is only one reason we don’t have to earn it! Because we can’t. So, grace is not something to be preferred. Grace is our absolute need. How do we learn to live in the grace of God? 1. We begin to recognize and thank God for the daily graces that He gives to all humanity. All anyone has is a gift from God. 2. We trust that Christ’s death was sufficient to pay for the sins of humanity, and therefore was great enough to cover my sins. 3. We live in the grace of God daily, yielding every gift He’s given us back to Him for His pleasure. Judgment day will still come. But we won’t have to face it with fear. What makes grace hard for us to trust in? How are you blessed to by the grace of God?

Why does God seem to like us needy?

2 Jul

God chooses weak things and makes them weaker still so He may reveal Himself to the world.

Have a listen: http://www.villagegreenbaptist.org/messages/adventure-series.html

Why I Love Iowa Again

30 Jun



Years ago, my wife and I lived in Aplington, Iowa.  I was the pastor of a small town church.  This time I was just passing through on my way to see my kids in South Dakota on June 16th, 2014.  I was on my first day of a motorcycle trip from Illinois to California.  As I approached Spencer, Iowa, all I could think about was that about 27 years ago we named our new Scottish Terrier, Spencer after the name we found on the map.

The weather was changing as I approached.  I put on my rain gear and battled a pretty strong wind from the south.  As I got to Spencer, it was dark and raining.  I filled up with gas and looked a weather radar on a gas station tv on the north end of town.

I turned back to the A & W to sit for a bit.  After about an hour, I checked my phone and it looked like the heavy stuff had moved north of highway 18.  That seemed to give me a window of opportunity.  So, I quickly loaded up and moved out.  The road was wet, but clear.  As I got about 5 miles out of town, the wind shifted.  It now was moving out of the north.  And it was strong.

Gusts were blowing me into the oncoming lane.  Occasionally, it just about lifted me out of the seat.  It was about then, that I regretted losing those 65 pounds.  I looked for a wise place to pull off.  Although some might think it was too late for wisdom.  There were a few farms, but I really wasn’t ready to be an uninvited guest.  One more big gust and then rain began to fall.  I had to stop.

To the right, I saw a red steel building with an awning on it.  I turned to the right, into the wind and into the deepest gravel I had ever seen.  I got all 900 pounds of motorcycle down the driveway and moved it close to the building.  The rain really began to fall.  I parked the bike in the gravel and jumped under the awning.

The wind was so strong, I was sure it was going to knock my motorcycle off the stand.  So, I went back out to try and move it.  Everytime I tried to go forward or backward, the bike sunk deeper into the gravel, until the gravel was holding it up without the kickstand.  It wasn’t going anywhere.  “I think we have another problem,” I said to myself.

It was about this time that I heard a loud bang.  I looked up and saw huge pieces of ice falling from the sky.  I grabbed my helmet and thought of the potential newspaper headline, “Motorcycle Riding Pastor, Killed by Hail.”  I put on the helmet and hid back under the awning, just hoping the cover would hold.  (see the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2f2IK8vEoE)  The hail bounced off the building and all around the bike.  But no strikes!  It was at this point, I knew I was going to need some help.  After the hail stopped, I tried to flag down a couple of cars, to no avail.  Finally, I gave in and called 911.

The dispatcher asked where I was.  I looked around for some indication and then I saw it, “The Shrimp Shed.”  I said the words haltingly, thinking maybe I had been transported to Louisianna.  No, it was the Shrimp Shed, and it was Iowa.

It was on this phone call, my love for Iowa returned.  The operator explained that it was a busy night and since I was safe, they would call back when someone was on the way.  Just a few minutes later I got the call.  Someone would be here soon.  He showed up just as the downpour started again.  We loaded my bags into his car.  His name was Dan Heissel.  He was off-duty, but decided to come out and rescue me.

On our ride to a hotel, he asked what my plan was.  After getting dry and warm, I figured I would call a tow truck in the morning to help me get my bike free from the gravel and on my way.  He encouraged me to call dispatch in the morning and have an officer take me out.  And then he gave me the dispatch number and his own personal cell number.  He assured that if an officer couldn’t take me out, he would be happy to come over and help.  “Wow, I love Iowa, I thought.”

I slept as long as I could and about 6am, I finally called dispatch.  A young officer went out to look at the bike and then came to the hotel and picked me up.  His name was Spencer.  “Well, that fits,” I thought.

At the hotel, I had been talking a 79 year old Harley guy from Wisconsin, named Brad.  When officer Spencer showed up, Brad asked if the two of us would be able to get the bike out without help.  Spencer looked a little worried about that prospect.  And Brad jumped in his car and followed us out the Shrimp Shed.

There the bike stood, just like I left it the night before.  I put the key in and it started right up.  The three of us grabbed the 900 pound monster and together we pushed and pulled to break it free of the gravel.  I got it loaded up and said good-bye to my new friends.  I stopped for breakfast a few miles away and there the mayor gave me some advice on which roads were open.

As I travelled north toward I-90, I got a text.  I stopped to look at it.  It was Dan!  He had driven by the Shrimp Shed to check on things and saw that I was on my way.  He wished me safe travels.  It is true that God puts people in your way to help you out.  But it is also true that it takes people willing to be part of what He wants to do.  In Iowa, I found a few of those people.  Officer Spencer, Dan and Brad (from Wisconsin) are why I love Iowa again.


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