Turning Little Things into Big Things.

24 Nov

Yesterday at church we had a family of 4 visit for the first time. In fact, they came to the morning worship service and then returned last evening for our annual Thanksgiving dinner. It seems they had a good time and even joined in when it was time to clean up after dinner.

Someone asked how it was they decided to visit Village Green. The husband said that they were out walking in their neighborhood a couple of weeks back and they ran into a neighbor who was an “older gentleman.” He didn’t recall his name. But this neighbor said, “you’ve got to try my church!” And they did.

I don’t know how God will lead from here. There are a lot of things that go into someone feeling like this is “the church” for them. For now, I am most encouraged that one of our older saints invited this young family to his church! This neighbor didn’t worry about age differences. This neighbor didn’t worry about being too forward. He was just being a neighbor, saying “I’d love to have you worship with me.”

An invite may seem like a little thing. But it’s a big thing in the hands of God. “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58).

I hope to find out sometime who it is that invited these new friends because I’d just like to thank him for being faithful!

Red Letters and Homosexuality

22 Oct IMG_0244.JPG

“…but Jesus never talked about homosexuality…”

I’ve heard this comment several times recently by people, some Christians, who are trying to reconcile the shifting cultural ethic on sex, gender and sexuality with the Church’s historical teaching.  It seems to be used as a phrase that gives us permission to dismiss the clear teaching of all God’s Word.  After all, the reasoning goes, if Jesus didn’t address it, it must be up for grabs!

1.  This argument shows a lack of grasp on the nature of God’s Word.  Believe it or not, the red words in our Bibles (the words of Jesus) don’t have more authority than the rest of God’s Word.  That may sound blasphemous, but let’s think about it.  Jesus didn’t write down his own words.  We have the writinigs of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The words of Jesus are words recorded by people who were led by the Spirit of God.  The same Spirit directed Moses in writing the Law.  He also directed Paul in writing Romans and 1 Corinthians.  And He directed John in writing the book of Revelation.  If we had words of Jesus on homosexuality, or any other issue, we would expect to see agreement, if the Word of God is the Word of God.

2.  The teachings of Jesus are often confrontational.  He taught things that were counter-cultural.  He had no problem going after the religious leaders when they got it wrong.  If He had a different teaching from the accepted teaching of the religious community, we would expect to read it in the Gospels.  Its very absence indicates that He had no different view on human sexuality than that of the faith community around him.

3.  Jesus never contradicted the Law and the Prophets, in fact He applied them in even stronger and clearer terms.  We see that over and again in the Sermon on the Mount.  In teaching against hypocrisy and judgmentalism, Jesus did not lower the bar of holiness.  Instead He raised the bar.  Jesus said it wasn’t enough to be against murder, because anger against another is the same heart condition (Matt. 5:21-26).  It wasn’t enough to love your neighbor, because holiness demands that one love his/her enemy (Matt. 5:43-48).  It wasn’t enough to be free of adultery, it is the lusting heart that stands condemned (Matt.5:27-30).  And it goes on and on.

Jesus never excused sin, or explained it away.  He never redefined it.  He just insisted on 3 things from those who love God:
1.  When dealing with sin, we have to see ours first!  We have to be honest about our own failures and our own need for grace.
2.  We are invited to depend on the grace of God and the gift of forgiveness in Christ.  With that, we have to offer the path of reconciliation to others.
3.  We are compelled to live in growing holiness.  We aren’t to deny the ethic of personal holiness taught in Scripture.  That is exactly what the leaders of the day were doing.  This growing holiness will shape the inward condition of our hearts and minds.  It will also shape our outward lives, aligning them with the desires and direction of God.

If we want to know what Jesus thought about sexuality, we have to know what God thinks about it.  If we want to know what God thinks about it, we have to look at the whole teaching of Scripture.  Read Genesis 2:23-24; Leviticus 18; Matthew 5:27-30; Matthew 19:6-12; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6 & 7; Revelation 21:8. These teachings are written over a period of about 1500 years, by many different authors, to many different cultures and places, yet there is amazing unity in them concerning sexuality. There is no reason to think they don’t also speak truth to our culture today.

In another blog, I’ll try to address how we can and should live redemptively in a world with a different sexual ethic.  I’d love to hear any ideas you have about that.

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.


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Facing the rain!

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Headed into the storm in Spencer, Iowa.

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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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?

marshkins01

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