Monday, December 31, 2007

Faith in Difficult Circumstances

Psalm 119:134 - "Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts."

Sometimes it tough to be a Christ-follower. I was meeting with a former student of mine earlier today. He's home from college on his Christmas break. He talked to me about the difficulty of walking with Christ on his campus. He is constantly made fun of because of his belief in Christ. The guys on his college campus are constantly trying to get him to reject his faith and lower his standards. He spoke with me about how hard this has been.

And, he reminded me of today's verse. He is clearly being oppressed. That oppression has made it difficult for him to keep walking in his faith. His way of dealing with this has been to be in constant prayer, to e-mail close friends asking them to pray, and to hang out a lot with one Christian friend. He told me that God recently answered his prayer. He has a new roommate, has found a good church, and is growing in his walk with Christ.

Before he left I told him that God is seldom early but He is never late. God answered his prayer in God's time. That meant a lot to this student.

As you go through hard times, remember that God is there. Keep following Christ, even in the dark times. He will come through, in His time.

Dear God,

Today is the last day of 2007. It's hard to believe that another year has come and gone. Help us to walk faithfully with You. Help us to obey Your commands. Help us to reach out to You when we feel like life is too tough. And, help us to always remember that your ways are worth following.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sending You A Little Christmas

My wife just showed me the coolest music video. It was recorded by my cousin's niece. Her husband is in Iraq, and they didn't get to spend Christmas together this year. She and her Dad recorded this video to express her love to her husband as they spend Christmas apart. This is so incredibly cool. Enjoy!

A Fresh Start!

Psalm 119:133 - "Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me."

I love this verse! David's call for God to direct his footsteps is followed by his declaration that he wants no sin to rule over him. Talk about a powerful twosome! Think about what your life would look like if you really let God direct your footsteps? Would it change things? Would you be living your life differently? If so, then maybe 2008 is the year to allow God to begin to direct your footsteps. Better yet, start today. On December 30, 2007, let God be the One who directs your life.

New Years Day is a natural time for people to reflect upon their lives. They take a look back at the prior year, take a look forward, and if they are smart; they take a look within. What does your look within say to you? How are things with you and God? How are things in relation to sin? David pleaded with God not to let a sin control him. Do you know why he did this? Because, David understood what it was like to be controlled by sin. He had done terrible things that he was ashamed of. We all have. As you enter 2008, how about asking God not only to direct your paths, but to help you gain victory of a specific sin? A friend I have says that we all have at least three sins that continually creep up in our lives. For some it's pride. For others lust. For some it's jealousy. For some it's lying. What is it with you? Tell God. Admit to Him that it's wrong. And ask him to give you a fresh start.

I had the privilege of preaching in my church today. After one of the services an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked if I believed that God could forgive him for his sins? I told him that God could absolutely do that, and that God wanted to do that. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Scripture tells us that God separates our sins as far as the east is from the west. We read that our Heavenly Father, who is Almighty, can actually forget our sins. He chooses to do so. When He forgives us, we are clean before Holy God. So, start fresh. Ask God to give you the victory. May no sin rule over you in 2008!

Dear God,

It's easy to let sin rule our lives. We don't necessarily think that we are running toward sin, but left to our own, we do. Help us to not let sin rule our lives. Help us to allow You to direct our paths. Do Your perfect work in our lives.

In Jesus' name,


College Students and Revival

Becky Tirabassi has written an encouraging article about college students who are seeking revival. It's worth the read. You can find it by following this LINK.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Beautiful Promise

Psalm 119:132 - "Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name."

There are thousands of people around the world who make a habit out of claiming the promises of Scripture in their prayers to God. Maybe you are one of them. I know that on many occassions I have been one of them. There is nothing wrong with praying this way. In fact, it is a beautiful way to communicate with God. Just make sure that as you claim God's promises in your prayers that you are not making God out to be some kind of a cosmic genie who will grant your request because you have followed the correct formula in getting His attention.

That said, Psalm 119:132 is a beautiful promise of God. And, David, prays like one of those people who like to pray asking God to deliver on God's promise. The promise is that God always has mercy on those who loves His name.

That is not to say that God will not at times, correct us. Mercy is sometimes giving us what we can't see that we need. Mercy is not always the easy way out.

Aren't you glad that we have a God who acts in perfect mercy? When He lavishes us with His mercy, it is an act of love, not judgment. His mercy, as freeing as mercy can be, may sometimes feel like punishement. God had mercy on King David when He confronted David with his sin through the prophet Nathan. He also had mercy on David when he allowed the ruddy teenage boy to defeat the warrior/giant Goliath. These are two very different ways of showing mercy, but they ultimately led to a deeper walk with Christ and a better life for David.

God will always act with mercy to those who love His name. Are you a child of God today? Do you love His name? Rejoice that God is acting with mercy towards you today. Not the least of which is the mercy of salvation.

Dear God,

You act in perfect mercy towards Your children. You are the Beautiful Redeemer. Thank You for redeeming man. Help us to reach out the world around us with Your perfect love.

In Jesus' name,


Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm Preaching at Wooddale This Weekend

I'll be preaching at all of Wooddale's contemporary services this weekend. Please keep me in your prayers as I speak. If you are in town, I'd love to see you there. I'll be speaking on Saturday night at 5:15, and Sunday morning at 9:00, 10:15, and 11:30. If you are out of town, you can watch at 10:15 and 11:30, Sunday morning, by following this LINK.

Lessons From My Dog

Psalm 119:131 - "I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands."

About 1 1/2 years ago, my brother Randy phoned to let us know that he and his son had become allergic to the new dog that they had bought. He knew that our son Chris wanted a dog for his tenth birthday. Chris was now nearing eleven-years-old, and there was no dog in his horizon. Randy asked if we would consider taking their dog, as a gift, for Chris. We did. And, wow, did our life change.

Dogs are a tremendous responsibility. There are vet bills, and kennel bills. There are late night runs to pick up dog food, because we need to make sure that Muffy (that's our dog's name) gets fed. There are walks in the neighborhood to make sure that Muffy gets her exercise. There are endless games of fetch. She loves to run after a tennis ball, and will do so as long as someone is willing to throw it to her. Then there are the unexpected runs through the neighborhood, when Muffy flies through the front door because it's been kept open too long. She loves the game of run away from my owners, and see if the rather large dad in the house can catch me. At least, that's what I think she calls it.

One day, when Muffy was still a puppy, and wanting to wake up at 5:30 AM, I decided to take her for a walk. We wanted the kids to stay asleep. So, I started the walk. Her little legs were running ahead of me. She wanted complete control of where we would go. I had decided to take her on a two-mile loop through the neighborhood. She had other ideas. So, I went with it. We walked, and walked and walked. 6 1/2 miles later we arrived at Wooddale Church. It's a drive that I take almost every day of my life. But, until that point, I had never walked it. It was the furthest Muffy had ever walked.

She was panting by the time we reached the church. As good as the exercise was for her (and for me) she was exhausted. Her mouth was agape. Her tongue was out. She was panting. She was desperate for some water. She had even lapped some up in puddles along the way. She was also ready for a break. I held her in my arms when we arrived at Wooddale. I found a bowl and filled it with water. She lapped it up. I filled it again, and she lapped it up again. As I held her, she was content. She just wanted to relax.

In Psalm 119:131, David talks about opening his mouth and panting for the Lord's commmands. He paints the picture of a thirsty animal, who won't be satisfied until his thirst is quenched. It's the type of passion that God wants us to have for His Word. He desires our worship and adoration. He desires our time. He wants us to want Him.

And, just like my dog was satisfied with water, and being held in her master's hands; so will we be satisfied as we are held in our Master's hands. In John 4, we read the story of Jesus and a Samaritan woman, who is drawing water from a well. Jesus tells her that He is thirsty. She offers Him a drink. In the climactic verses of the text, Jesus says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)

Christ wants to satisfy your longing soul. Three chapters later, in John 7:38, Jesus said, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

May you have streams of living water flowing in you.

Dear God,

We tend to chase after so many different things to find satisfaction in life. Help us to remember that true satisfaction can never be found apart from You. May we experience the streams of living water that you talked about in John 7:38. May the satisfaction in our lives, make You look good to the world around us. May we be satisfied with nothing less that You, and You alone at work in us.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, December 27, 2007

A New Year Brings New Opportunity To Fall In Love With God's Word

Psalm 119:130 - "The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple."

How would you like to have a resource available to you that gives answers to life's most perplexing issues? How would you like to hold wisdom in your hand? How would you like to be given understanding that comes straight from the hand of God? You can. And, most likely, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that. In simple words, King David speaks of the magestic treasure that is, the Word of God.

So, how are you doing with the Word? Are you spending time reading it? Are you taking the time to study it? In an earlier Psalm, David wrote, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple" (Psalm 19:7).

The benefits for reading God's Word are fabulous. Just think about it - it gives light, or discernment. It gives understanding or knowlege. It revives the soul. God's Word is lifechanging.

Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Next week, all across our land, people will be making New Year's Resolutions. This year, make sure that one of your resolutions includes spending time with God, every day, in His Word. It will change your life.

Dear God,

Your Word is good and brings with it knowledge and understanding and peace and hope. It brings reproach and teaching. It brings clarity. Thank You for the gift of Your Word, Your very breath. Help us to trust in you. Help us to walk in the light of Your Word. Help us to passionately pursue You.

In Jesus' name,


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Beautiful Laws

Psalm 119:129 - "Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them."

Have you ever thought about God's law as being wonderful?

I've heard people say that they thought God's law was restrictive. I've listened to them try to rationalize away their sin by saying that God's law was old fashioned, outdated, or simply didn't apply for today. And, yes, I have heard people also talk about how wonderful God's law is.

It's usually people, who for years tried walking in the ways that the rationalizers talk about, who reach rock bottom and say how they wish they would have walked in the way of God. Walking in God's law is not an easy thing to do. It's a path that is describe in Scripture as being narrow and treacherous. The road looks tough, and carries with it a weight that makes those who choose to carry it look foolish in the world. But, the end of walking this road is eternity with God.

God's law doesn't save you. That's His Grace. But, His law protects you. Thank God for His protection today, and make it your desire to learn about and obey His law today.

Dear God,

Thank You for Your beautiful law. Help us to remember just how wonderful Your law really is. It protects us. It glorifies You. And, it is perfect. Help us to obey You.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Incarnational Ministry

Today is the day that we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Some 2000 years ago, God came as a baby. There is a great article in this month's Leadership Journal about living a life of incarnational ministry in the garbage dumps of Mexico City. I am going to require every student that travels with us on a short-term trip to read this article. It is a powerful story for any Christian to read on this Christmas day.

Enjoy! You can find it by following this LINK.

Christmas Gold

Psalm 119:127-128 - "Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path."

Merry Christmas!

Because the Psalmist does something unique with these two verses, I need to deal with two verses today instead of one. Throughout Psalm 119, David's statments in each verse have been able to stand alone. Each verse has contained it's own sentence. Psalm 119:127-128 must be taken together, because they are one complete thought.

Earlier today, our son Chris came into our bedroom to wake us up. It was a little after 5:00 AM. In our family, our children are allowed to wake up any time after 5:00 AM on Christmas morning. Last night, after the kids went to bed, Cyndi and I loaded the tree with the gifts that we bought our children. They opened gifts from each other and extended family yesterday. Cyndi and I have trouble sleeping on Christmas Eve, because we are as excited as our kids about what treasures they will open up under the tree. We want to see their faces as they open the gifts. We want to hear their excitement.

We had a wonderful time as Mom, Dad and Chris as he opened his gifts. Breanna was next. She woke up around 6:30. Then, Jeremey woke up at 7:00. Zachary is still asleep. As I type, Breanna and Chris are in the middle of an intense game of Electronic Monopoly. Jeremy and Mom are putting together his new Viking Legos. And the house is abuzz with noise.

We treasure this time of the year. And, we enjoy the gifts. But the gift we enjoy the most is Jesus. We really do. We have tried so much to focus on Christ this Christmas season. To reflect upon His gift to us. Like King David, we want to value Christ, His Word, and His desires for our life more than anything else. Can you imagine what our lives could look like a year from now if everyone in our family sought to seek Christ first in everything that we do? What would that do in your life? Would it change anything? Would we involve ourselves in different activiies or pursuits? Would we continue doing what we are doing?

As you celebrate today, think about what gifts Christ desires from you. And, offer them to Him. You'll never regret it.

Dear God,

You are better than anything that this world has to offer. Help us to remember to pursue You and Your Kingdom ahead of anything that this world has to offer. And, thank You for the gifts that You have provided to us today from Your good and gracious hand.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas From Our Family To Yours!

Merry Christmas from the Schulenburgs! May God bless you richly as you look forward to serving Him in 2008.

It's Time

Psalm 119:126 - "It is time for you to act, O LORD; your law is being broken."

In today's verse, the Psalmist declares to the Lord that it is time for God to act. He was frustrated by what he saw going on in the world around him. His enemies were acting with total disreguard for God and His law. But, God was not beholden to David. God will act when God will act. That's just the way that God is. We can ask. We can plead. We can beg. But, God works in His time.

Today is Christmas Eve. Now, we know that Jesus wasn't really born on December 25th. It was probably some time in the spring. But, Christmas is the time that we celebrate Christ's birth. As you think about how God works in His time, think about the time that He choose for Jesus to come to earth as God in the flesh.

God could have chosen any time for His Son to come. Why did He choose the time that He did? Christ's coming, His death, and His resurrection ushered in the new covenant. If you are a Gentile believer today, celebrate God's inclusive covenant this Christmas. You live in a unique time. The Kingdom of Heaven has been opened up to you. For 8,000 years God's covenant was reserved for a particular people group. Today, His grace is extended to all who place their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. God has placed you on this earth for such a time as this. He wants you to trust in Him. It's your time. Call out to Him.

Dear God,

Thank You for the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for the new covenant that came through Jesus. Help us to not only know You, but to make You known to the world around us. Thank You for allowing us to live in these days. Now, may we please You with our lives. Take our lives as our gift to You. Use us as You wish.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Godly Discernment

Psalm 119:125 - "I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes."

When I was in high school, Bob Whitney, who was the senior pastor at Fox Valley Bible Church (my home church), preached a sermon that forever changed my life. It was entiled, Making Those Tough Decisions. I remember listening as he preached and thinking that God was speaking directly through Bob to me. After the service was over I ordered a cassette tape of that message.

I was looking through some old boxes the other day and saw that cassette. It brought back some good memories. Why? Because in the span of a few years I would choose the college that I would attend, what I would major in, and who I would marry.

I'd love to tell you that I remember all of the points of Bob's message. I don't. I remember that he talked about prayer, reading the Bible, and the importance of Christian friends.

In today's verse, David talkes about discernment. How do you make life's toughest decisions? How do you discern between right and wrong? If God isn't a part of it, your decisions will not be the best. God wants to be a part of the process. We have the ability to choose the opposite of what God wants us to do, and to be fair, every one of us would have to admit that we have done that way too many times. Let Christ be a part of your decision making process.

In James 5:5-8 we read, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."

Dear God,

Thank You for the discernment that You offer us. You are the source of truth. Help us to remember to heed Your words and wisdom, and to follow Your path.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Deal or No Deal

Psalm 119:124 - "Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees."

A couple weeks ago I was one of 10,000 Minnesotans who braved -2 degree weather to stand in line for auditions for the popular game show Deal or no Deal. I made it two hours. My foray into game show auditioning came on a whim. My wife said, "You should try! You'd probably make it." (I think 9,999 other Minnesotans had similar conversations.) So, I went. I hadn't put on any layers of clothing, and was freezing the entire time. When I finally left the line, I was booed by all of the hearty souls who were continuing to wait in the freezing cold. One in 10,000 odds just weren't enough for me to merit staying out there.

Those who did stay in line were hoping to hear that they had made it. And, they were hoping to some day be standing in front of Howie Mandel, the comedian/host of Deal or no Deal and hear him say, "Deal, or no Deal?"

On the game show, contestants are constantly wondering if they are being offered a good deal or a bad deal. In life, God only offers the best deal. David begged God to deal with him according to His love. God has done that to all of us. Perfect God, gave his Son incarnate to this world. We needed this gift. Apart from Christ we are hell bound. Why? Because we are not good enough to merit God's salvation. He gave us Christ so that we could experince God's love. God has dealt with us according to His love -- His perfect love.

This Christmastime, allow Christ to take over your life. Your life will be eternally better because of it! Don't know how to offer Christ control? Then the prayer below is for you today. Pray this prayer silently and genuinally to Christ today.

Dear God,

I don't deserve Your love. There is nothing about me that deserves to be forgiven. Thank You for dealing with me in Your righteous love before I was ever born. Today, I ask You to forgive me of all of the sin that I've ever committed. Take over my life. I declare to You that Jesus Christ is Lord of my life. I believe that He can forgive me and that I will live forever with Him because Jesus not only died, but rose from the dead for me. Thank You, Jesus, for being the child that was born in the shadow of the cross. Thank You for this time of the year.

In Jesus' name,


Friday, December 21, 2007

Our New Van!

Here is the new van that God provided for us today! Thank you to some very special friends that made this possible.

Worth the Download

Zondervan's award winning, The Bible Experience, is one of my favorite Christ-centered products of the past couple of years. It's the entire Bible read by a group of actors and actresses and done so in a beautiful way. You can download the Christmas Story, from The Bible Experience, for FREE on iTunes this week. It's available through next Monday. It would be worth downloading and listening to with your family this week. In a time of the year where it can be easy to lose sight of the Christ of Christmas, listening to the story is a great way to remember what Christmas is all about.

Two more downloads worth checking out on iTunes this week are the songs Hallelujah Chorus by the London Symphony Orchestra. It's also a free download through next Monday. This is a fabulous rendition of Handel's masterpiece.

Finally, one more freebie is the song Ding Dong! Merrily on High, as performed by the choral group Chanticleer. This all-male classical choral group is unbelievable. I know, kind of crazy, youth ministry and the London Symphony and Chanticleer don't really go together, but hey, it's on your iPod, and that works with youth ministry:>)

Spiritual Cataracts

Psalm 119:123 - "My eyes fail, looking for your salvation, looking for your righteous promise."

When I was growing up my Dad struggled with some eye problems. One of those issues was cataracts. I remember at least on cataract surgery. As a child, I didn't understand what was happening to Dad. I was scared that my Dad was going to go blind. He had a detached retina at one point, and going blind was a very real possibility. I remember thinking, "I wonder if he'll ever see my children. I wonder if he'll be able to view my wedding. I wonder how he will work. I wonder how he will get around the house."

God was faithful. My dad's surgeries restored his sight. Sometimes we need spiritual eye surgery. In the midst of daily life we can lose sight of God. It's easy to wonder how God is working in our lives. It's easy to lose faith. Maybe you've wondered if God really answers prayer. Maybe you have wondered if God is playing some kind of cruel joke on you. I assure you, He's not. God doesn't do that.

When preparing for a mission trip in college, my team leader told our team, "God is seldom early, but He's never late." When you feel like God isn't moving fast enough, the way that you want Him to, or in a way that is fair; remember that He is God and you are not. He hasn't forgotten you. But, He knows what is better for you than you do.

In Psalm 119:123, David admits his own weakness. He can't see God. He begs God to help him seethe salvation that can only be delivered by the hand of Almighty God. It's okay to ask God what He is doing. But, continue to trust. God's plan will work out in your life in His time.

I've been a bit uptight in recent months because the van that my wife drives has been falling apart. It has 170,000 miles on it, no heater, transmission that needs to be replaced, no a/c in the summer, and the ABS system is on the fritz. I've been driving the van for the past couple of months because I worry about her driving it in the winter. We have been praying for about a year for God to help us in our van situation. I would have loved to have had something within 24 hours of that prayer. God knew better. I was ready to rush to a dealer and take a loan with funds that we don't have. It would have been disaster. We have prayed and prayed about a van, and God has provided one. In about an hour, Cyndi and I will be picking up our new used van. It's a gift from a friend that God has blessed. He called us a couple months ago and said that he'd like to help with our van situation. We told him we'd like to try to drive our van until it died. It has become more and more apparent that the van is going to go. And, God, through a friend, took care of our needs. He's seldom early, but He's never late. When I struggled to see God's hand moving, it was moving. This is the seventh time God has provided a vehicle for our family. He is good, and His love endures forever.

Dear God,

Why do we ever doubt you? You are not slow in keeping Your promises. Thank You for Your provision. Thank You that You have given us a gift that is greater than any vehicle, any amount of earthly treasure, or any thing else we could imagine. It's the gift of Your salvation. Help those who may read this blog and not know You to put their faith in You. You are worth trusting in. You are our God. You are our Father. You our our Savior and our Lord. We love You.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, December 20, 2007

As You Wish

Psalm 119:122 - "Ensure your servant's well-being; let not the arrogant oppress me."

Do you want to know the best part about being a pastor? It's that part of my job description is that I am a servant of the Most High King. It's not just the job description of a pastor, though. It's part of the job description of any child of God. You and I get the privilege of serving Christ! And, there is no better Master.

Lest you think that being a servant isn't all that great, consider this. We all serve someone or something. Those who do not serve Christ, serve Satan. They may not know it. They may be passive servants. But, they are servants nonetheless. And, he is a master that is terrible.

So, servant, how do you feel about your job today? Are you ready to work? Are you ready to do your Master's bidding. In the film, The Princess Bride, Wesley is a servant boy to a beautiful maiden. Every time she asks Wesley to do something he responds with the words "as you wish." The narrator of the film says, "Every time Wesley said, 'As you wish,' he was really saying, 'I love you!'"

It's true as Christians too. When we say, "As You wish," to God, we tell Him that we love Him. Get to work servant! And let your answer be, "As You wish!"

Dear God,

You have treated your servants with more favor than any of us deserve. We are not worthy of Your grace or Your forgiveness. We are not worthy to be called sons and daughters of God. Thank You for Your extravagant love.

In Jesus' name,


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Justice Man!

Psalm 119:121 - "I have done what is righteous and just; do not leave me to my oppressors."

Any superhero fans out there? I've always been a sucker for superhero movies. (I know, this combined with my last post about the Settlers of Catan officially qualifies me for the biggest geek club.) I think my all time favorite superhero is Batman. He's just a regular human being, who decided to devote his life to pursuing justice. If I had the chance to create my own superhero I think he'd be called Justice Man. He'd fight injustice around the world. When children are sold into slavery, he would go in and rescue them, and then he'd punish the captors. When women are stolen from their villages to go into the sex slave trade, he'd rescue them and put their captors behind bars. He'd be a little bit like Gary Bauer of the International Justice Mission. Bauer's organization exists to do just the kind of things that I'd picture Justice Man doing.

So, when it comes to your life can you, like David, say that you have done what is right and just? Are you living a life that makes God look good to the world around you? Are you honoring and obeying God in your daily life? Is He your top priority? When He is, everything changes. You become a Justice Man type person. One who is committed to seeing the needs of others met before your own. Commit some time today to learning what it is that God is passionate about and pursuing those things. If you need some help, read about The International Justice Mission by following this LINK.

Dear God,

We want to be people who seek righteousness, your Kingdom, and justice. Help us to be a light to the world around us. And help us to reflect your mercy to all that we see.

In Jesus' name,


Play Settlers of Catan Online for Free!

I love vacation! I'm enjoying some time off work for the next ten days, and filling my time with family, work around the house, and some games! I just found a new site last night where you can play my favorite game, The Settlers of Catan, for free! It's called XPlorers on the site, because of copyright laws. Check it out : HERE. And then, if you want to play a game, e-mail me and we'll set up a time. (That's my wife, my aunt and me playing Catan at Thanksgiving time. It's a fun game.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Psalm 119:120 - "My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws."

It must be a terrifying experience to find yourself in the very presence of God. I've read authors who use words like awe, fear, naked, vulnerable, scared, peace, and hope, to express what they feel that it might be like. David uses the words, My flesh trembles in fear of you. That's quite a picture, and it is an appropriate picture of a holy reverence for our God.

God is our friend, but He is also God. And, we ought to always be in awe of Him. So, today, take some time to think about what it is that gives you a sense of awe for God. And, think about what you would do if right now you found yourself in His presence.

Dear God,

You are holy, and You call us to be holy. We tremble when we think about being in Your presence, and yet, every moment of every day we are in your presence. Helpu us not to live our lives in a spiritual fog. Help us to be aware of your presence in our lives every at all times.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, December 17, 2007

I'm Feeling A Bit Drossy

Psalm 119:119 - "All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross; therefore I love your statutes."

Okay, I admit it. In all of my years of education, I was never taught what dross is. So, for those of you who are like me, here it is from Webster's dictionary: dross

Main Entry: dross
Pronunciation: \ˈdräs, ˈdrȯs\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English dros, from Old English drōs dregs
Date: before 12th century
1 : the scum that forms on the surface of molten metal
2 : waste or foreign matter : impurity
3 : something that is base, trivial, or inferior

So, how would you like to be treated like dross today? I'm in the camp that says, "No thanks!" To be thought of as the scum that forms on the surface of molten metal, or as waste, or as impurity, or as somthing that is base, trivial, or inferior is not what I want for myself.

But, it's what I am. Who of us can truly claim to be anything more? I am wicked. I choose sin all too often. And, my God loves me. He hates the scum. He chooses to discard it. And, He helps me get rid of it in my life. Any of us who are followers of Christ know that we were once lost in sin, and now are a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" We love Christ because He first loved us. He reached out, when we didn't deserve it. He reached out when we should have been thrown out. God is so good!

So, today, may you love God's statutes. Hold fast to Him. Hold on to His arms. He loves you.

Dear God,

Thank You that You can take my sin and forgive it. You want to discard it as far as the east is from the west. You want to help me live life to the full. Thank You for your perfect and steadfast love. Help me to show it to the world aroudn me.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hope in the Midst of Homelessness

Psalm 119:118 - "You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their deceitfulness is in vain."

On Friday night we took about 50 people downtown Minneapolis to serve the homeless. One of the young men that we met when we were there really enjoyed our group. He clearly had some experience being around Christians. He knew the worship songs that we sang, and even requested that we sing the song God of Wonders. And, he was clearly destitute. He's living on the floor of a shelter. He's unemployed. He has broken relationships with his parents, his relatives, his friends. What a lonely place to be at Christmas time. I invited him to Wooddale Church and told him that he could catch a city bus to our church. I never thought I'd see him again.

Today, when I walked upstairs after our senior high class, there he was; in our cafe. I approached him and welcomed him to our church. He had been to Wooddale's 10:15 service, and he loved it. I took him to meet Chad Erlenborn, our Young Adults Pastor. He had a good visit with him. I went to worship at our 11:30 service. When I walked out, the young man met me at the steps. He clearly wanted to talk. I had a meeting with our student leadership team at 12:45, so I invited him to the meeting. We do a Bible Study at our meeting, and I asked him if he had a Bible. He didn't, so I offered him one of our graduation Bibles that were left over from last year's baccalaureate service. He was thrilled. He was rubbing his Bible throughout the meeting like it was something that was precious to him.

After the meeting, I took this man to lunch. He ate like he hadn't had a good meal in days. And, he talked. And, he talked. And, you get the idea. He told me about his life. He shared with me about living with his father, and not knowing his mother until a few years ago. He talked about going through treatment for addictions to meth and crack cocaine. He talked about losing the love of his life. And, he talked about his on-again-off-again relationship with God. And, his story reminds me of today's verse. He has rejected God's truth, over and over again throughout his life. And, God has continually called him back. The young man is afraid that he's lost any chance of reconciliation with God. After all, his family is through with him. There are no more chances.

So, is this young guy without hope? No. God will continue to give him chances. Eventually the chances run out, but as long as the young man has breath, God has left room for the young man to humble himself and come to Christ. He's not sure that he can do it. But, he's taking the first step. He wants to come back to Wooddale again next week. I didn't give him money. I bought him a lunch and a Bible. He didn't ask for funds. He came to church today because he is at the end of his rope. There is no where else to turn. May today be the day that he finds his way back. God is there, running toward him. I hope he'll find his way back to God's arms.

Dear God,

It's so easy to forget all that You have done for us. It's easy to think that we know what's best for our lives. You love to work in our lives in marvelous ways. Help us to grab hold of You, and help us to never let go.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, December 15, 2007

When God Intervenes

Psalm 119:117 - "Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees."

When I was a teenager my brothers, Randy and Kevin, and I went for a drive. Randy was the driver and Kevin was in the front seat with him. I was in the middle seat of our family's station wagon. While we were riding along the road, enjoying ourselves, a drunk driver came barreling down the road and hit our car head on. It was quite a collision. As our car was impacted by the drunk driver's car, I felt my body moving forward, as if I was going to end up in the front seat, or worse yet in the windshield of our car. It was then that I felt two strong hands push me back.

When the shock of the event was over, I said, "Thanks, guys, you saved my life!" to my brothers. The replied, "What do you mean, we saved your life?" I said, "You pushed me back when I was heading towards the windshield."

"We didn't touch you," they replied. "My hands were on the stearing wheel," said Randy. "Yeah, and mine were on the dashboard," replied Kevin.

I'll never forget that moment. It's been over 20 years, and I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a moment in my life where I believe God directly intervened to make sure that I was safe. I can't explain whose hands those were that pushed me back. But, I know that I felt them. And, I know that my God is certainly capable of intervening in a situation like that. It may have been an angel. It may be that my brothers really did push me back and in the frenzy of the situation didn't realize it. But, God is ultimately the reason that I'm here today. And, in light of that, I owe my life to Him. And, that's just one reason.

God has sustained my life over and over again. Many times I am unaware of His intervention. But, I am quite well aware of His eternal intervention in my life too. It's because of the death of Christ on the cross that I can have the hope that David had, that God upholds, and God delivers. He has upheld my life, both physically and eternally. And, He deserves glory, honor and praise.

Dear God,

To You is due glory, honor and praise. You are the Sustainer of life. Thank You for each and every day that You give us. You are our Rock and our Redeemer.

In Jesus' Name,


Friday, December 14, 2007

When Hopes Are Dashed

Psalm 119:116 - "Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed."

This evening I'll be taking a group of about 50 people into the inner city of Minneapolis. It's our annual Senior High Christmas Party. We meet at Wooddale Church, make sack lunches, and then go to deliver them to the homeless men and women of our city. As we spend time with these men and women, our student's lives are changed. They are challenged by the plight of these people. Their hearts are broken as they hear the stories of what has brought humanity to such a desperate spot. And, my heart breaks as I see the hope that so many of our students have in their eyes, absent from the eyes of the vagabound.

Tonight's party will teach a valuable lesson. The lesson is that sometimes life can be tough. But, it also teaches that God is present even in the most difficult of circumstances. David cried out for God to sustain him in life's most difficult days. He was afraid of losing his hope. There is a key word in David's cry. It's the word, "my." David wanted to hold onto his hopes. What David knew, and we must know too, is that sometimes God will replace our hopes with His. There are times when God won't give us what we want because He wants to give us what His hopes are for us! And when that happens, look out!

The hope that is absent from the men and women that we will see tonight will not remain there for all of them. For some, tonight will be the day where a little glimmer of hope emerges. They won't know why. They won't know how. But, it will begin to build. And, it will be because of Christ. As they see Christ in our students, some will be changed forever. And, as our students see Christ in some of them; the destitute, the downtrodden, the bum, they will remember the words of Christ, ". . .when you did it for the least of these, you did it unto me."

Dear God,

Give us hope; Your hope. May we find those whose hopes have been dashed and help them to experience Your mercy and grace. May You be pleased by what You see in us.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, December 13, 2007

By Evil You Were Caught

Psalm 119:115 - "Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!"

I wish she would have listened
I really wish she had
That all those things that glistened;
Could really be so bad.

It's just a night with friends
In the city that never sleeps
She slipped into the Benz
And now her mother weeps

Where have you gone little girl?
Acting all grown up
The events that are about to unfurl
Because of the contents of your cup

It's just a drink
He said with a wink
And you listened and obeyed
The strangers voice instead of the one who sat by your bed and prayed

The dizzying feeling;
It overtakes
The joy it is now stealing
Realizing now, your friends are fakes

Too late, darling- it's morning now
And all the evening's brought
Is regret and remorse and wondering how
By evil you were caught.

By evil you were caught.

"The biggest difference between you now and five years from now are the people you meet, the places you go, and the books that you read. Choose wisely. Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of God."

Dear God,

A generation of people have bought the lie that they don't need You. We have substituted the glory of the Christ for the passion of the world. Help us to remember that the world's excitement is fleeting. Help us to cling on to You. We want no regrets when our lives are through. Use us, please.

In Jesus' name,


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An Anchor Worth Putting Hope In

Psalm 119:114 - "You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in Your word."

What do you hope in?

For some, the answer to that question is obvious.


Where does God fall on that list? To David, God was hope. He was the only hope that David had. When David faced the world, God was his refuge. In other words, when David felt like life's storms were difficult, he could hide away in God's arms. God would be there for him in the most difficult of times.

He called God his shield. A shield defends a soldier from an enemy's attack. It protects the heart, and other vital organs. God offers us protection; not just physical protection, but spiritual protection too.

So, David put his trust in God. But, he also placed it in the Word of God.

Today, I was talking with several students who shared with me their doubts that God is there. They shared about the trials that they were going through in life. They shared about their fears that they might abandon God. When I pressed them on the time that they spend with God, each one of them mentioned that they spent time praying to God, but that they didn't spend time listening to God. They didn't spend time reading God's Word. They didn't have an anchor to hold onto in life's darkest days. God has given us His Word for encouragment and correction. He has given us His Word to illuminate our way in life. He has given us His Word to understanding Who God is, and what it is that God expects of us. He has given us His word for instruction in righteousness. Hold onto His Word. Let God speak to you through it. And, celebrate that you have something worth putting trust into.

Dear God,

Your Word truly is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths. Help us to trust it. Help us to trust You. Thank you for never giving us reason to doubt You. You are magnificent, and You are good. We are blessed.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Psalm 119:113 - "I hate double-minded men, but I love your law."

Woah, David, harsh language here! Does God want us to hate anyone? No, he doesn't. But, the point that David is trying to make is that people who live with their feet on two sides of the fence make him sick. And, I think that we can all agree with that.

In fact, we could probably agree that it's ourselves that make us sick more than anyone else. Why? Because we all have times in our lives where what we display is straight up hypocrisy. David did it too. In fact, there are times throughout the Psalms where David talks about hating the things that he does. Paul talks about it in the New Testament when he talks about doing the things the he doesn't want to do. David isn't so much being a judge in this verse, as he is talking about his heart's desire to live a holy life.

Loving God's law helps us become people who live holy lives. For us, it means paying attention to God's Word. It's taking the time to read what it says and apply it to our lives. I hope you'll do that this Christmas season.

Dear God,

Help us to stay away from hypocrisy. Help us to be committed to loving You and Your Word with everything that we are. Thank You for you perfect love.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, December 10, 2007

Faithful to the End

Psalm 119:112 - "My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end."

Great Christians throughout the ages have sought to be people who stay faithful to God to the very end of their lives. King David spoke of keeping God's decrees to the end of his life in Psalm 119:112.

In 2 Timothy 4:7-8 the Apostle Paul wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

I'm 38 years old, and I pray that I will be one who was found faithful to the end, in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I love seeing the lives of older Christians who have walked with God throughout their lives. I love listening to senior citizens as they talk about their faith journey with Christ. And, I love hearing the stories of Christian leaders who continue to pour their lives into the work of Christ, even when they could have easily retired years before.

Several years ago someone told me the story of Billy Graham's final crusade in Sacremnento, California. Graham knew it would be his last crusade in the state of California. His Parkinson's disease was robbing him of the ability to continue to travel the globe, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The people of California also knew that it would be Graham's last crusade in the state. So, many Christians volunteered to be counselors at the Graham crusade. One of the volunteers was a pastor. On the first night of the crusade, the pastor had an opportunity to pray with a man who was making a commitment to Jesus Christ after a life of alcohol abuse. The pastor stayed until 2:00 AM, talking to the man.

After his conversation with this new believer, the pastor decided that he would drive through downtown Sacaremento to see if there was anyone that he could share Christ with. He saw no one, until he came to the State Capitol. On the steps he saw what appeared to be a homeless man. Feeling led to share Christ with the man, the pastor parked his car and walked up the steps of teh Capitol building. When he came upon the man, he noticed that the man was bent over and his lips were moving. He said, "Sir, may I help you?" The old man looked up at the pastor and said, "No, son, I'm fine, I'm just praying for this great city." Instantly the pastor recognized that the old man was Billy Graham. Here it was, 2:30 in the morning and Billy Graham was outside of his hotel, on the Capitol steps, praying for the city of Sacremento. Billy said that he just couldn't sleep. He needed to be in prayer. He then asked the pastor to join him in prayer.

Billy Graham has been faitful to the end. It's what God desires of all of us. May we each be found faithful!

Dear God,

We want to be faithful to You until the end of our lives. You have demonstrated what it means to be faithful, and You call us to be like You. Help us to live lives of faithfulness, as you have shown us.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, December 09, 2007

That's My King

I love this.

A Christian Heritage

Psalm 119:111 - "Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart."

I grew up in a Christian home. So many times I say that and don't really think about what it is that I'm saying. It's true. My parents are both Christians. All of my siblings are followers of Jesus. My grandparents were Christians. All of their children were Christians. And, that is really amazing. I have a Christian heritage. There are far too many times that I take that truth for granted.

David understood the importance of a godly heritage. He said that God's statutes were his heritage forever, and that they were the joy of his heart. What would it be like to see all of your children, and all of your children's children choose to walk with Christ? My parents are seeing that happen. And, that has to be a delight. So, how does one experience this blessing? God doesn't make any guarantees that this will happen to anyone. I wish we could all know that our children and that their children would walk with Christ, but we can't. I do however believe that David's statment about God's statutes being the joy of his heart give a glimpse into how Christian heritages happen. When children see that their parents actually live out God's passions for their lives, they are more inclined to follow Christ. They want to see that the faith of their parents is genuine. I know that I did. And, what I saw in my Mom and Dad was a genuine joy in the Lord, and a genuine love for each other. I saw it in my grandparents too. And, it's what I want my children to see in me.

Dear God,

We want to follow You and experience the joy that can only come through knowing and loving our Savior. Help our children to see us genuiely walking with You. Help them to see our love and fervor, our devotion for You. And may our children, and our children's children, walk with You forever.

In Jesus' name,


Prayers for New Life Church and Youth With A Mission

I've spend almost the entire day at Wooddale Church today. I arrived early for a special event and taught a class this afternoon. I was also at our evening service. But, my heart was with the people of Colorado, New Life Church and Youth With A Mission. What a difficult 18 months this has been for New Life Church. Please keep this church, and it's members in your prayers. If you haven't heard the news (and I'm assuming you have) a gunman fired bullets at around 1:00 this afternoon, killing one person injuring three at New Life Church. This is the same church that is still healing from Pastor Ted Haggard's (the founder of New Life Church) resignation after admitting to agregious sin. God is working in mighty ways at New Life, and I believe that so much of what they are going through is spiritual warfare. Keep this precious part of the bride of Christ in your prayers.

Pray also for the students and staff at Youth with a Mission in Arvada, Colorado, who are also dealing with the aftermath of a shooting last night in which two staffers were killed by a gunman. The body of Christ has a beautiful way of pulling together during tragedies like this. Pray for the family or families of the gunman or gunmen involved.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Holiness When The Traps Are Set

Psalm 119:110 - "The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts."

Turn to your right and find? Temptation! Turn to your left and what's there? Temptation! Look straight ahead or turn around and what do you find? Temptation! And, you can feel trapped. Some people just give in. "After all," they say, "I'm just going to eventually succumb to the temptation."

It doesn't have to be that way.

Beating temptation begins with realizing the source of your temptation. Satan is doing everything that he can to make you stumble. He is continually setting traps for God's people to fall into. When we recognize, like David did, that temptation comes from the evil one, we are better positioned to fight.

The second step is to recognize that we beat temptation by knowing and using the Word of God. Remember way back at the beginning of this series through Psalm 119 we looked at how a person walks in purity? (verses 9-11)It's by living by the Word. We need to hide it in our hearts.

The third step is to flee when we see it. And, expect that when you flee one temptation that another is waiting around the corner. The more you say, "No," to sin, the stronger you become. That is, as long as you recognize that your ability to say, "no," is because of the power of God working in you.

Dear God,

Thank You for giving us the tools that we need to say, "no," to temptation. Give us the strength to continually walk away from the temptation that comes our way.

In Jesus' name,


Friday, December 07, 2007

My New Book Was Released Today

It's been a long time coming, but What's The Deal With . . . is now available. You can read more about the book, see a sample of the product, or purchase a copy HERE. I received my author's copy a couple of days ago and am delighted with the final product. Many thanks to the folks at Zondervan for putting together such a great finished product. Thanks too to Greg Stier, of Dare 2 Share Ministries who so kindly agreed to write the forward to the book.

This book tells the story of Pizza and God Talk, a ministry that we began several years ago to answer the theological questions that high schoolers have. (Students basically gather together twice a month to ask any question they want about God, the Bible, spirituality, other religions, etc. The deal we have is that students have to answer the question first, then an adult can. We see 50-80 students come every time we have one of these events.)

After telling the story, I've included 500 of the questions that our students have asked throughout the years. A lot of my friends have asked if the answers are in the book. They're not. That would be a theology book, and there are many people more qualified to write that than me. What I wanted readers to see was the real questions that students are asking today. More than that, I'm hoping that parents, youth pastors, Sunday School teachers, and mentors will go through these questions with students. The book will open up discussions about deep theological issues. Because there are no answers, it will require those engaging in the questions to go to the Bible to see what God has to say about the issue. I am praying that God uses this book to draw people into a deeper walk with Him.

In the past few years hundreds of youth workers (thanks in great part to Greg Stier telling the Pizza and God Talk story at Dare 2 Share events) have talked with me about starting Pizza and God Talk ministries at their church. Many don't know where to start. This book will help. Pick 2-3 of these questions a night and discuss them with your students. The questions will lead to further questions, and before you know it, students will be coming up with their own questions.

Some people are afraid of starting a ministry like Pizza and God Talk because they are afraid they won't know the answer to the question. Not all answers are knowable. We will find out some of them when we get to heaven. But, I have seen God use students, time after time, to give an answer to a question that I wouldn't have known the answer to. It is beautiful to see how God works, and humbling how He uses our students to teach us. I hope you'll pick up a copy of the book and see how God can use it in your sphere of influence.

God bless!

Continual Awareness

Psalm 119:109 - "Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law."

He negotiated with world leaders. He led men into battle. He led a nation to the throne room of heaven with his bold worship that some saw as undignified. He was a hunter, who was often times the hunted. He was the King. And, his life was one incredible adventure.

In Psalm 119:109, David talked about his constant adventure. He was constantly taking his life in his hands. What David should have realized was that his life was completely in God's hands. And, maybe that's what he is trying to say here. Either way, David was aware of the fact that he had a responsibility as a follower of Yaweh to follow God, no matter what was happening around him.

Have you ever been at a spot in life where it seemed like your world was falling apart? Have you ever been at a spot where chaos was abundant? Have you ever been at a spot where you wondered how God would work in this situation? It's in those moments that it can be easy to forget about God's law and go with your own instincts. We need to continually rely upon God and His Word as we face life's trials. No matter what happens, be mindful of His presence and His desire for your life.

Dear God,

Life can get a bit chaotic at times. And, in those times it can be easy to doubt You, or forget about You. Help us not to make that mistake. Help us to live in daily awe of Your powerful presence in our lives. And, help us to live out Your desires.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Gift for God

Psalm 119:108 - "Accept, O LORD, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws."

In just a few weeks we'll be celebrating Christmas. One of my favorite parts of this holiday is the giving and receiving of gifts. I love watching my children's eyes light up when I find just the right gift. I really love watching Cyndi's eyes light up if I've found the perfect gift for her that particular year. And, you know who else I want to please with my gifts? God.

David did too. In Psalm 119:108, he asked God to accept the praise from his mouth. Our praise is a gift to God. And, God has the right to accept that gift or reject that gift. Have you ever thought about God rejecting your worship to Him? It's a humbling thought. But, Scripture tells us in many places that God looks at our hearts. When we worship Him, he expects us to worship Him with hearts that are pure. Are you striving to do that when you offer God prayer with your mouth? I hope so.

As we go through this Advent season, give God your best. Prepare your heart to worship your King. O Come, Let Us Adore Him. He is Christ, the Lord!

Dear God,

You are our King. You deserve worship from hearts that are pure. Help us to worship you with pure and true hearts.

In Jesus' name,


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Word to the Suffering

Psalm 119:107 - "I have suffered much; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word."

There are lots of times in my life that I feel sorry for myself. I don't like the way that certain things have turned out. Or, I don't like something that I have, or am jealous of what others do have. But, when I really think about it, I haven't suffered much in life. I have it pretty good.

Others aren't as fortunate. I know that there are those who read my blog every day who feel like David. They fell like they have suffered much, and they have. Life has thrown a cruel curve ball in their direction, and the pain has been so deep. Maybe you feel like you need God to preserve your life today. I want to encourage you to share that with someone that you know, and someone that you can trust to pray for you. God created you to live in community with others. He wants to lift you up. He wants you to spend time saturated in His Word. Read Scripture with a friend. Pray together. If there is no one else around, pick up your Bible and read it alone. Pray, like David, to the God who cares.

As good as my life has been, there have been times where I have felt surrounded by darkness. Tomorrow, I'll be teaching self-esteem at Eden Prairie High School. I share with the students about a time in middle school where I was so depressed, that in my immaturity I wanted to take my life. God surrounded me with quality people who showed me love, and taught me about God's love on a deep level. My parents were some of those people. My sixth grade teacher, Miss Bingham, was another one. She had our entire class memorize Psalm 139 that year. I call Psalm 139:16-18 the Bible verses that saved my life. They say,

"You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!"(NLT)

The verses taught me about God's great love, and His plan for me. Year's later I would learn Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'" I love that great verse of hope.

God hears the cry of the suffering. He loves You. Bring your suffering to Him.

Dear God,

It's not easy to go through suffering. But, You know that. Because, You have suffered more than any of us every will. Help us to remember Your love, your tender compassion, and Your gooddness, even in our storms. Thank You for even our suffering.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

To Take An Oath . . . Or Not

Psalm 119:106 - "I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws."

What would it take to get you to do what David did in Psalm 119:106? Before you answer that, let me tell you about the biblical oath. In an article in Christianity Today Magazine, dated February 23, 2007, Ted Olson, writing about Minnesota U.S. Representative, Keith Ellison's taking his oath of office by placing his hand on the Koran, talked about biblical oaths.

Check out what Olson writes about oaths:

"There are different kinds of vows and oaths in Scripture, but many passages suggest they're all dangerous. In the most troubling example, Jephthah, in exchange for a military victory, swore to sacrifice the first thing that walked out his door, and it turned out to be his daughter (Judges 11). Both he and his only child knew there was no alternative. "If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge," God had commanded, "he shall not break his word" (Num. 30:2).

The Qur'an, by contrast, assures readers that "God does not take you [to task] for what is thoughtless in your oaths" (5:89). Help the poor or fast, and you're expiated.

The scribes and Pharisees in Jesus' day adopted rules in an apparent effort to protect the faithful from rash promises: Oaths "by the temple" weren't binding, for example, but more specific oaths "by the gold of the temple" were (Matt. 23:16ff). Jesus condemned such game-playing and issued a far more expansive rule: "Do not take an oath at all. … Let what you say be simply yes or no" (Matt. 5:33-37). In this, he echoed the Law of Moses: "If you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin" (Deut. 23:22).

Irenaeus, Tertullian, and other early church leaders considered Jesus' command to be a ban on all oaths, while others like Augustine concluded that Jesus was using hyperbole to condemn abuses. After all, Augustine noted, even Paul took oaths (e.g., Gal. 1:20). Luther, Calvin, and other Reformers sided with Augustine, approving of civil oaths that didn't abuse or profane the name of God.

Which leads us back to those oaths of office. A week after Ellison and his Congressional colleagues took their oaths, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez began his third presidential term by promising to nationalize the economy and expand socialism. "I swear by Christ, the greatest socialist in history," he declared.

Does his oath constitute profanity?

Does Congress's oath?

Ellison didn't actually take the oath of office on the Qur'an after all. And others didn't use the Bible. Those photos of members of Congress with their hands on the Bible are actually staged reenactments. The House of Representatives takes its oath of office in unison, without holy books at all. So do those photos bear false witness? Maybe.

We could parse Scripture to codify hard rules for oaths, but then we're right back to being confronted by Jesus.

Maybe we're supposed to be less interested in oaths than in becoming a community of truth-tellers. As Philo said, the more emphasis one puts on swearing, the more "the swearer shows that there is some suspicion of his not being trustworthy."

So, oaths are serious business. David's oath to follow God's righteous laws revealed that he was so serious about being one who walked in the ways of God. David knew the consequences of making an oath and not keeping it. Maybe that's why God called him a man after his own heart. God wants us to commit to living holy lives. David's oath is not prescriptive for Christians. In fact, I agree that Jesus would rather us not make the oath, but commit to being a truth teller. May God fill us all with a passion for following Him, no matter the cost!

Dear God,

Help us to be people of our words. Let us be men and women whose yes is yes and no is no. Help us to be people who live our lives as people after your own heart.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, December 03, 2007

God's Navigation System

Psalm 119:105 - "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."

It was one of the top Contemporary Christian songs of the 1980's. Amy Grant's Thy Word, shot to the top of the charts as the CCM darling of the 80's belted out the words to Psalm 119:105 in the form of song. I remember singing along with the song every time it came on the radio.

There is something beautiful about the words of Psalm 119:105. It's a vivid description of the value that comes from allowing the Word of God to be your guide as you walk through life's journey.

This afternoon I spent time with a teenager whose life has spiraled out of control. We went to Teen Challenge, a faith-based drug recovery program. I loved watching God work in this young person's life. As the admissions representative talked about Teen Challenge, she said that Teen Challenge is first and foremost a discipleship program. People who enter treatment at this facility are saturated with the Word of God. Teen Challenge has one of the highest success ratios in the country when it comes to treatement of substance abuse. Why? Because, they recognize that living in the world requires God's navigation system, the Bible, to make right choices in how to live.

Let God's Word be your navigation system as you go through life. He will never steer you wrong.

Dear God,

You have provided the way for us to know how to walk through our life's journey. Help us to stay in tune with Your global navigation system. Thank You that You love us like You do.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hating Evil

Psalm 119:104 - "I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path."

If you've been reading this blog over the course of the past week, you have read about paths. David talks about the concept of the right and wrong path quite a bit in this section of Psalm 119. He concludes this section of the Psalm by once again talking about his hatred for choosing the wrong path.

So, how are you doing on choosing paths this week? As a youth pastor, I often draw upon David's analagy of paths while talking with students. This week I've had that conversation several times. It seems like the high school years are a time where students are constantly faced with choices that have the potential to shape their future for good or for bad. I hate it when I see students knowingly make the wrong choice. It breaks my heart to see students caught in a web of destruction.

Please join me in praying for students today. It's Sunday, and tomorrow all across the country, millions of junior high, high school and college students will head back to class for yet another week. Pray that they will make wise choices. Pray that they will dig deep into God's Word to discover His best for their lives. And, pray too that you will continue to follow Christ's precepts, and that you'll grow to hate the wrong path.

Dear God,

We want to follow Your precepts. Help us love You and hate sin. Help us be prayer warriors and true counselors for students who are facing huge choices in their lives. Thank You for your patience with fallen men.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, December 01, 2007

My Favorite Orchestra

I was checking out some YouTube videos with my kids today, and found out that I have a new favorite orchestra. Check them out:

Christmas Cookies and The Word

Psalm 119:103 - "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"

We're decorating for Christmas today. In a few hours our home will be transformed. A Christmas tree will stand where a living room chair now sits. Nativity sets will go up. Our railings will be decorated with greenery. Lights will be up throughout the house. And, a wonderful aroma will invade our home as some of the dishes we only prepare at Christmas time will be baked. I love this time of year.

Honey was the sweetener of choice in ancient times. It was a delicacy, and the taste of honey brought pleasure to the mouth. As I read today's verse, I thought about the treats that will come out of our oven. I love the Christmas cookies and coffee cakes. David picked one of his day's greatest delicacies to compare the Word of God to. And he said that God's Word was of greater delight than any of it.

A while ago I was interviewing a young woman for a position that we had open at Wooddale Church. As we conducted the interview we asked her to share her view on various doctrines. When we came to the doctrine of Scripture she began her answer by saying, "I believe that the Bible is the most beautiful book ever written." I loved her answer. She was the first one that I had ever heard in any interview setting (or ordination council for that matter) refer to the Bible as beautiful. She understood what David was talking about in this passage. God's Word is more than just the breath of God. It is beautiful. It is delightful. It is powerful. It changes lives. And, it's worth devoting significant portions of our life to.

I've asked you several times over the past few days to spend time in God's Word. I hope you'll do it. It's the tradition of many people during the Christmas season to read through the various tellings of the Christmas story. I'd encourage you to try that. Read through the familiar story (I really like Luke's telling of it, in Luke 1-2) and see if you can learn anything new. Ask God to reveal something new about His nature or about His love for the world. And, revel in the beauty of God's Word. It's sweeter than honey, and better than Christmas cookies:>)

Dear God,

You are truly amazing. You have provided us with Your Word and we are grateful for that. Thank You for sending us Your Son. Thank You for this time of the year where we can reflect on You. Thank You for life's little pleasures like honey and Christmas cookies. We love You.

In Jesus' name,