Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Online Missions Trip

Tim Schmoyer is a Youth Pastor here in Minnesota. He's got a GREAT idea for an Online Mission Trip, February 1-14, 2009. On February 15th, his group will begin using Dare 2 Share's new curriculum, The Gospel Journey Maui to continue reaching students for Christ. I LOVE this idea. If you are a youth pastor, I'd highly encourage you to consider joining the Online Mission Trip.

Better yet, why just let our students lead in this area. I've got a church full of adults who have latched onto social networking too. So, adults . . . let's join the revolution! Scripture calls very few people wise, but it does tell us that he who wins souls is wise (Proverbs 11:30). Our world needs Jesus today, as much as ever. May you take the challenge, and let your light shine for Christ.

You can find out more at

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Joseph - The Stepfather of God

I'm preaching a series of sermons at Woodbury Community Church right now called What Child Is This? A Season of Discovery. Each week we take a look at a different character from the Christmas story. Last week we looked at Herod: The King Who Missed Christmas. This week's message is entitled, Joseph: The Stepfather of God.

When I think about Joseph's life, and the task that he had given to him by God, I'm blown away. Long ago, I heard a song by Michael Card entitled Joseph's Song. I'd forgotten about that song until I started researching this sermon. The words are so powerful, and I think that they communicate many of the emotions and thoughts that must have been going through Joseph's mind when he discovered that he would be the stepfather of God.

I won't have time to play the song, or show the video on Sunday, but here is a YouTube video of the song. May it prepare your heart for the message on Sunday.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

To The Ends of the Earth - Woodbury Community Church Missions Blog

To The Ends of the Earth, the new Missions blog of Woodbury Community Church launched today. Check it out by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Walt Mueller Has Written An Excellent Post . . .

Walt Mueller has written an excellent post on sexuality and the Kingdom. This one is important for youth workers, pastors, teachers, and parents to read. Check it out HERE.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Congo Opportunity

Several years ago I watched the film Hotel Rwanda, and I was deeply moved. The Rwandan genocide was something that I, like most Americans, largely ignored. I dont' want to make that same mistake again.

I'm in Nashville right now, just getting ready to fly back after spending a weekend with youth workers at the National Youth Workers Convention. Last night I caught Fox's 24 movie event, in my hotel room. In the film, Jack Bauer rescues a group of African children from being recruited to be child soldiers in a war that leads to ethnic cleansing. It was good to see Fox trying to shed some light on a very real problem in our world.

Friends, there is another genocide taking place in our world today. This time it's in the Congo. And, you can make a practical impact on what is happening there. World Relief is working with local churches and ministries to try to provide help for those who have been impacted by this genocide. Pleae take 4:43 to watch this plea for action from Lynne Hybels for action in Congo, and please take some more time to pray about what you can do.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fire and Nice - Ministry in Minnesota

Minnesota has been our home for the past 7 1/2 years. I love this state. I love the people of Minnesota. And, I love the churches. One of the things that amazes me about this area is the number of influential churches and the number of national church leaders that have emerged from the Minneapolis/St. Paul regional area. Christianity Today recently ran a feature article on ministry in Minnesota. Many of the men talked about in this article are friends of mine. They are people who couldn't be more different in how they understand some theological nuances, and yet most of them are passionate about reaching their world for Jesus Christ.

If you want to understand ministry in Minnesota, and if you want a better understanding of some of this generation's "hot-button" theological issues, then the article Fire and Nice: Minnesota's Twin Cities are home to a collection of influential churches is an article you must read. You can find the article HERE.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Good Night's Sleep

Psalm 4:6-8

6 Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?"
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.

7 You have filled my heart with greater joy
than when their grain and new wine abound.

8 I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.

Have you ever had a time in your life when it seemed like peaceful sleep eluded you? Maybe the stress at your job was keeping you from being able to keep your eyes shut throughout the night. Maybe you've had terrifying dreams that make sleep anything but peaceful. Maybe it's wondering how the bills will be paid, or worrying about a wayward child, or maybe it's just good 'ole insomnia. If that's you, Psalm 4:6-8 have to encourage you.

David knew that while the world searched in futility for peace apart from God, true peace could only be found in God. His joy was not dependant upon circumstances. The protagonists in this passage are content and find joy when their business (grain and new wine) does well. David's peace was deeper. And, he could truly lie down his head and sleep in peace because he knew that God was watching over him.

Struggling with peace?

Maybe it's time to let others in on the secret. Ask a close friend to be your prayer partner, lifting your pain to the Lord. Perhaps keeing a journal of how you are feeling would help. As you keep a record of God's faithfulness in written form you have somewhere to look back to when the doubts arise. God is faithful and will sustain you in the tough times. May you sleep in peace, tonight!

Dear Heavenly Father,

Peace sounds awfully good about right now. In our uncertain world, You are the only one who can truly satisfy. Forgive us for the times that we try to find peace apart from You. And, thank You that we can rest in the assurance that You are watching over us 24/7, 365 days a year.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sacrificial Giving in Tough Economic Times

Psalm 4:5 - "Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD."

I love thinking about the Lord, and how He responds to us. He must chuckle sometimes at the lack of trust that we put in Him. He has shown us time and time again that He is faithful, and for whatever the reason we struggle to believe that He is there, that He knows, that He cares, and that He is not surprised. God is worthy of our trust. And, He is worthy of our sacrifices.

The other day I was talking with someone who has had a history of making great sacrifices to the Lord. This person was grieving because he was no longer able to sacrifice the way that he had in the past. Uncertain economic times mean different things to different people. While some people are concerned about not going on the vacations that they used to go on, or that they would have to wait a little longer to purchase their luxury vehicle, this person was upset because he couldn't sacrfice to the Lord in the way that he once had. God knew his heart. And, I believe that God was more than satisfied by the way that this man lived his life. The man was trusting the Lord that a day would come when he'd be able to sacrifice like never before. Then he began to think that maybe he could sacrifice in ways that he hadn't before. He started to think about new ministries, new ways to serve God by serving others, and about the time that he spends with God. And, he was energized.

What do you sacrifice for the Lord? Does your life show that you are prioritizing your relationship with God above all else? If not, sacrifice that which gets in the way and trust God. He wants to do great things in you. And, He wants to show you amazing things.

Dear Heavenly Father,

To You we owe our lives and everything we have. You have demonstrated what true sacrifice is all about. You gave Your Son so that we might experience forgiveness and life everlasting. Help us to honor You in all that we do.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, September 22, 2008

How the Father Sees You

Psalm 4:3-4

"3Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him. 4In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent. Selah"

We had our small group this evening and were discussing Galatians 2. It's an interesting chapter of Scripture, where Paul tells the Galatian believers that they are justified by faith alone in Jesus Christ, not by works. In Galatians 2:20 the Apostle Paul talks about being crucified with Christ and that he no longer lives, but that Jesus Christ lives in him. What a beautiful picture of how God views us. When our Heavenly Father looks upon us, He sees us with the eyes of a Father, looking down in love towards His children. He sees us not for who we were, but for who we are in Christ. He sees Jesus Christ dwelling in us. That is special. It means that we have been set apart for God's pleasure.

In Psalm 4:3, David reminds us that God has set apart the godly for Himself. He has a special calling on those who follow Him. Let's remember who we are in Christ. And, let us remember that God wants the world to see Him dwelling in us.

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are a patient, and a loving Father. Thank You for your forgiveness and grace. Thank You that You see Jesus when you see us. You see Him dwelling in us. Help us to yield control of our actions, emotions, decisions, and all that we are to You.

In Jesus' Name,


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Delusions and false gods

Psalm 4:1-2
"1 Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer. 2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah"

This morning I preached a sermon entitled The Church That Can't Stop Worshipping, at Woodbury Community Church. In the message we looked at five components of the heart that truly worships God. We discoverd that the heart of worship is a heart of humilty, obedience, sacrifice, allegiance, and love. When we talked about the heart of allegiance, we talked about God's desire for us to love Him, and no other gods.

How many of us have been guilty of pursuing other gods? I know that I have. In my dellusion, I've allowed myself to believe that something that was created by man could be more desirable than God. David, who asked God to answer Him when he called, recorded God's answer. God asks all people how long we will love our delusions and seek after false gods. I don't want God to have to ask me that question anymore. I, for one, want to be among those who say, "I have left my delusions and false gods once and for all. I have seen what the world has to offer, and it has come up empty compared to You."

May you demonstrate a heart of allegiance today!

Dear Heavenly Father,

It's easy to allow the world to crowd out Your voice. We don't want to do that anymore. We desire You, and want to live for your glory. Thank You for purusing us even during the times that we have failed to pursue You.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Prayer First

Psalm 3

1 O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! 2 Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him." Selah 3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. 4 To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah 5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 6 I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. 7 Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. 8 From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. Selah

I love Psalm chapter three. It's a beautiful picture of the trust that David has in his God. No matter how many foes David had against him, he felt the presence and assurance of God's deliverance. When he was facing overwhelming odds, David rested in the truth that he could go to God in prayer, and that God would answer him.

Where do you go in the time of your great stress? God wants you to trust Him. He wants you to come to Him before you go to anyone else. This week I faced a situation where I needed God's wisdom. Instead of going to Him, I went to people. I talked about the area where I needed wisdom. I asked for opinions on what I should do. I got no shortage of good answers. But, I should have gone to God first. When I finally turned the situation over to Him, God answered. And, God answered in the most unexpected way. He loves to do that. As great as the opinions were that I received, none were as good as God's ultimate answer.

Like David, you can trust God with all of your stress. Give it to Him today, and wait to see how He answers.

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are a strategist like no other. While we make plans, You know the future. While we stress about decisions, You know the ultimate outcome. While we wonder where You are, You say, "I am here." Help us to come to You first. Help us to trust You with every area of our lives. You are our Ultimate Salvation and the only Hope we have. Thank You for always being there.

In Jesus' name,


Friday, September 19, 2008

Who is Your Refuge?

Psalm 2:10-12 - "Therefore, you kings, be wise; warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."

King David loved his relationship with the LORD. He was chosen by God to lead his people. From the field to the Kingdom, David walked with God. And, David experienced God's blessing. This chapter has shown us the awe that David had to be called a Son of God. And, this chapter reminds us of the God who lifts up and the God who tears down. David concludes by warning his enemies to serve th LORD with fear and trembling. He reminded his enemies of the special relationship that he had as Israel's king. And, he reminds all of us of an incredible truth at the end of verse twelve.

Blessed are all who take refuge in Him. Where do you take refuge? This week has been one of the most uncertain financial weeks in the history of our country. Just today, President Bush announced emergency measures for government to come in and bail out banks and financial institutions who had written countless bad loans. Our refuge must never come from governements, or finances, or relationships, or any other thing other than God. He is our Refuge. He is our Strength. Put your hope in Him today!

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are our Rock. We can depend upon You for everything. Help us to trust You when the world feels like it is falling apart. Help us to call out to You. You promise to show us great and mighty things when we do. We long for You.

In Jesus' Name,


Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Am Your Father

Psalm 2:7-9 - "I will proclaim the decree of the LORD : He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery."

There is a great scene in The Empire Strikes Back, which will to me always be the second film in the Star Wars film franchise, where Darth Vader reveals to Luke Skywalker that his is his father. I remember sitting in a movie theater as a ten-year-old boy being blown away that revelation.

In Psalm 2, David reveals what God told him. Imagine the awe that David must have felt as the God of the universe declared to David, that He was his Father. The shepherd boy, was now a child of God. And, the shepherd boy's Father, would make the nations of the earth his inheritance.

If you have trusted in Jesus Christ to be your Savior, then you too are a child of God. The hope that you have for eternity includes heaven, which is better than anything that this earth has to offer. May you declare your love for your Heavenly Father today!

Dear Heavenly Father,

You have given us more than we deserve. To be called a son or daughter of God is a thrilling thing. Thank You for Your matchless love. You are worthy of our praise and adoration. We love You.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It Is God Who Exalts!

Psalm 2:5-6 - "Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill."

It's election time in the USA, and for the first time that I can remember, it seems like this election has been going on since about the time the last one ended. As a nation, I believe that we will engage in a collective sigh of relief when this election is over.

As a fan of talk radio, and as a man who now spends an average of two hours per day commuting to work, I've listened to quite a few opinions on this election. I'm constantly amazed when I hear people talk about candidates like they are the Messiah. Our country has experienced a couple of extremely volatile days on Wall Street. I listened yesterday as one announcer said that we were about to face the worse crisis in the American financial system since the Great Depression. It wasn't five minutes later that a caller phoned in to say that if Obama is elected president this will all go away. Another caller phoned in and said that if McCain is elected president this will all go away.

There are those who are convinced that if the candidate from the party that they do not endorse is elected that our country will be destroyed.

And, it reminds me that we need to pray for our leaders. The expectations that are placed upon leaders is unrealistic, and difficult for anyone to live up to. King David, while writing a Psalm that included a stern warning to his enemies revealed a truth about God. God knows who the next leader of the United States will be. God knows who the next leaders on every nation on earth will be. And, God will be exalted no matter who is in power. While peoples of the earth have rejected God for centuries, God continues to reign. He may be mocked by human beings, but God is the one who is ultimately in charge. Don't put your hope in leaders. Put your hope in God. He is the only Hope for ours and every nation.

Dear Heavenly Father,

You chose King David to be the ruler of the nation of Israel. He was insignificant, even to his own family; a shepherd boy whom you made a King. Help us to place our ultimate trust in You, not in people. May You give us wisdom as we make all the decisions in our lives.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, September 15, 2008

Who Are We?

Psalm 2:1-4 "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. 'Let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.' The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them."

Casting Crowns may be my favorite Christian band. I love their lyrics. I love the fact that the band started as a youth ministry band. And, I love the fact that the band is still doing youth ministry on a daily basis. Their song Who Am I? reminds me of these verses.

In Psalm 2:1-4 we find the Psalmist talking about the futility that comes when we conspire against the Lord. He is obviously speaking about the enemies of Israel in this passage, but he may as well be speaking about anyone who conspires against the Lord and the Lord's plans.

When we were in the process of discerning where God would have us spend the next chapter of our lives when we were transitioning from Wooddale Church to a new ministry, my wife and I put certain limits on God. We were willing to go wherever it was that God wanted us to go so long as it meant that we didn't have to move, our kids could stay in the same schools that they attend now, and our life wouldn't be inconvenienced too much. Talk about arrogance. We were trying to manipulate our lives so that they would work out how we wanted them to instead of asking God what he wanted for us. When we finally completely yielded control of our plans to God, He took over. Our plans were in vain. God had something so much better planned for us. We just had to trust Him to reveal it.

The beautiful lyrics for the song Who Am I? are shown below. Reflect on the power of these words today.

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours

I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
'Cause I am Yours
I am Yours

Dear Heavenly Father,

We don't want to be like your enemies, who willfully plot against You. We want to be people who seek to live every day for Your glory, and for Your renown. Help us not to be people who live for our own vainglory, but for You. Thank You that You love us like You do. We choose to stand for You.

In Jesus' name,


S.H.A.P.E. and Spiritual Gift Inventories

I preached a sermon yesterday at Woodbury Community Church entitled The Church That Can't Stop Serving. It was a part of our sermon series entitled The Church Has Left The Building. Many of you have requested copies of the S.H.A.P.E. Inventory which I talked about in the sermon, and a Spiritual Gifts Inventory, which I also talked about. Those inventories are now available, for free, on the Woodbury Community Church web site. You can find them by clicking HERE.

If you've never taken a Spiritual Gifts Inventory I’d encourage you to take the Spiritual Gifts test first. The Woodbury Community Church resource page features an inventory that comes from this website: If you would rather take the inventory online, you can do so at the website. It is free to take the test, and the website produces a printout of your results.

The S.H.A.P.E. form is best completed with another person. I’d encourage you and a close friend, spouse, etc. to take it together. Print out a copy for each of you. Talk about each section as you go through the inventory. Ask your partner for input on some of the things he or she sees in you, and offer your partner the same. But, it is up to you and the Lord how you ultimately answer the questions. The last question deals with designing a ministry around your personal S.H.A.P.E. I’d encourage you to take some time to pray about what that might be and come back to that question a day or two after starting the process. The S.H.A..P.E. form works best in the context of allowing God to speak to you through the process. There is a great companion book that you can purchase on S.H.A.P.E. It’s called S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose in Life by Erik Rees. You can read more about it HERE. The S.H.A.P.E. form was developed by the pastoral staff of Saddleback Church several years ago and has been a huge blessing in ministries that I have been involved with over the years.

I’d love to hear what God reveals to you as you go through this process. Drop me an e-mail at and let me know how God is using this process in your life.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sin Will Be No More!

Psalm 1:6 - "For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."

The Psalmist talked about the judgment that would come to those who don't follow Christ in Psalm 1:5. In this next verse he talks about the ultimate outcome of the way of the wicked. It will perish. Sin will someday be no more. And, I, for one, am glad. I think if we were honest, most of us would say that the word wicked describes us far too often, and we long for the day that our sin nature will be no more.

Isn't it good to know that God is watching over the way of those who seek to follow Him? And, isn't it good to know that if we have trusted in Jesus as our Savior and Lord that He no longer views us as wicked but as righteous? If you haven't taken the time to reflect upon God's grace in your life, do so today.

I ran across a story on the internet this past week about a man whose life was transformed by grace. It's the story of Harry Monroe, and after reading his story, I did additional research on him. I opened my sermon with it this morning with what I had learned about Monroe's life. I hope his story will bless you.

Harry Monroe’s life was a wreck. The Detroit native had been imprisoned for counterfeiting in the late 1800’s. Upon his release from prison, he traveled to Chicago. He had lost his dignity, his friends and family, and his very will to live. Monroe had not lost his will to drink. After a night of drinking, he decided to walk into Lake Michigan and drown himself. On his way to the Lake, in a drunken stupor, Monroe wandered into a new ministry in what used to be the Pacific Beer Garden. It was now called the Pacific Garden Mission. Sarah Dunn Clarke and her husband George had purchased the building for the purpose of reaching the down and out in a tough Chicago neighborhood. It was Evangelist D.L. Moody who suggested that they keep everything in the name of Pacific Beer Garden except the word Beer. So they renamed the property, and those who used to travel to the bar to forget their problems, now traveled to the mission to find hope.

Monroe didn’t know just how much his life would change that night. He slept through the entire message as the preacher spoke. Colonel Clark took pity on the man, and gave him a bed for the night. When he woke up, Monroe didn’t know where he was. Clark told him about his wandering into the Pacific Garden Mission the night before and began to share Christ with Monroe. The ex-con came to faith in Jesus Christ. And, for the first time in his adult life, Monroe had hope.

His life was a testament to the grace of God. He would later preach from the same pulpit that Clark spoke from, and upon Clark’s death, Monroe would become the superintendent of the Pacific Garden Mission. When Monroe died it took all day for the people to pay their respects. A newspaper editorial described him as one of the most useful men in Chicago! What made the difference in Monroe’s life? The world would not have missed a drunk, but God took his life and made him a masterpiece. And, the Pacific Garden Mission? Founded in 1873, the Mission continues to operate in Chicago on Chicago’s south side today. Their radio program, Unshackled, which is a dramatization of the testimonies of people who have been saved by grace is heard on over 1800 radio stations around the world in English, Spanish, Arabic, Romanian, Russian, and Polish.

Monroe’s story, the stories of thousands of others touched by the Mission’s work over the past 135 years, and your story and mine, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ could be summed up in Ephesians 2:8-10, which says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Dear Heavenly Father,

We will never be able to thank You enough for the grace you have lavished upon us. May we no longer walk like the wicked. Help us to chase after You. You have shown us the most excellent way. Give us the strength to walk in Your ways.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Sad End of the Wicked

Psalm 1:5 - "Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous."

All week long, we've been looking at Psalm one. Verse five continues to tell the story of those who are wicked. They will face judgement. Scripture is full of references that speak of this judgment. It will be awful for those who have rejected Christ. I don't want anyone I know to be counted amongst the wicked at the judgment seat of Christ. When Jesus talked about this event he said that he would separate those who have accepted his gift of salvation from those who have not. This passage in Psalm chapter one seems to parallel Jesus' teaching. And, it should compel those of us who know Christ to share His message of love and forgiveness to the world around us.

I was talking with someone recently who said, "I've only got so much time on this earth. Who cares if people make fun of me for my faith. I want to bring as many people to heaven with me as I can." It's a good perspective. Share your faith. You never know whose life will be changed for eternity.

Dear Heavenly Father,

It is humbling to think that You would allow anyone to spend eternity with You. We have repeatedly made choices to reject what you desire for our life. Help us to have the courage to share with others of Your great love and forgiveness. Help us to care enough about those who don't know You that we would be willing to risk our petty human "reputations" to share Your love. Help us to open our mouths, and may Your Spirit speak through us.

In Jesus' name,


Friday, September 12, 2008

The Wind

Psalm 1:4 - "Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away."

As I write this devotional, Hurricane Ike is working it's way to the Texas coastline. Residents of Galveston Island, Texas have been issued a stern warning from the National Weather Service that states that they face certain death from flooding if they remain in their homes. This has been an intense hurricane season. Our thoughts and prayers are definitely with the people of Galveston, Houston, and all other areas affected by Ike's path.

Today's verse talks about the wind. Wind is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. The destructive force of the wind has blown away houses, reduced barns to timber, turned over trucks and brought large waves that have devastated cities and towns. Wind is also used in nature's agricultural process to blow away the chaff. It takes away the dead leaves from trees. Wind spreads seeds so that plants can reproduce.

The Psalmist compares the wicked to chaff. Yesterday's verse showed quite the contrast. When speaking of the righteous, the Psalmist tells us that they are like a tree planted by springs of living water. Their leaves do not wither and fade. The end result for those who would live a life that ignores God? Their life produces that which in the end is worthless.

Billions of people will go their own way
Ignoring the call of the Spirit today
Living a life built upon their own goals
To the detriment of their very own souls

May we not live our lives just for us
Missing the joy by making a fuss
Like children we think we know better than You
Help us grow up and see that's untrue

The wind will not blow us off course if we stand
Secure in Your presence with You hand in hand
We long for the day that the battle is through
Until then for You may our lives stay so true.

Dear Heavenly Father,

We don't want to be like those you describe in Psalm 1:4. To be wicked in Your sight is a terrible thought. And, yet we know that our righteousness is described in Your Word as filthy rags. When our hearts long for the world, more than they long for You, remind us of these verses. Remind us of the hurricane like force with which our enemy comes at us, seeking to drive us hopelessly off course in our walk with You. Thank you, that You are more powerful than any storm that Satan can throw at us. We trust You, and You alone with our lives, our salvation, and every situation that we face. We love You. Help us to live our lives in a way that honors You.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, September 11, 2008

True Success

Psalm 1:3 - "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers."

We live in a world that loves to measure how successful people are. It's usually based upon accomplishments, or financial resources, or perhaps their family. But God measures success differently.

Psalm 1:3 continues to tell the story of the blessed person. We know from yesterday's reading that the person that Psalm one describes is the person who takes delight in the Word of God. Verse three describes the results of living a life for the glory of God. The man or woman who lives their life in such a way is compared to a tree that is planted by streams of water, doing what trees were created to do. The person is bearing fruit. Because the tree is planted by the stream, the leaf of the tree doesn't wither. If our lives are planted close to God, our lives won't wither either. We will be more alive than ever when we live our lives for His glory.

The verse ends with the words whatever he does prospers. Wow! Now that is an amazing promise. Those who live lives that are grounded in the Word of God, seeking after His desires, will experience true success. Want to prosper? Pursue that which God is passionate about!

Dear Heavenly Father,

You give us an awesome promise in Psalm 1:3. Help us to have the faith to believe that You truly do want us to prosper. Give us the perspective to know that prospering doesn't necessarily mean monetarily. Your definition of what it means to prosper is very different than many of ours. Help us to adjust our lives to your definition of prospering.

In Jesus' name,


The Gift of Meditation

Psalm 1:2 - "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night."

I love the way that the book of Psalms is put together. It's 150 chapters are written by a number of different people. But, there is a harmony in the Psalms. There is a love for the law of God. There is a love for God. And, there is a love for the study of the Word of God.

Ancient Hebrew people would not have had ready access to the Word of God, as we do today. There were no printing presses. There were no Bibles that sat on a shelf collecting dust. When the Psalmist speaks about the blessed man, he speaks of the love that he has for the Word; a Word that was hidden in his heart.

The Hebrew people studied the Word of God in the context of community. It was usually studied at the local synagogue, or perhaps the temple in Jerusalem. The person who takes the time to meditate upon God's word, day and night, is a person who is in touch with God's plan for living. Want to understand God's will for your life? Meditate upon His Word. Want to understand how to live in a world of darkness? Meditate upon His Word. Want to know how to be a better husband or wife? Meditate upon God's Word. Want to know how to be a better parent? Meditate upon God's Word. Want to know how to handle finances? Meditate upon God's Word. Want to know how to make decisions about elected officials? Meditate upon God's Word. Want to know how to live life by the Spirit? Meditate upon God's Word.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. So, how is the meditation going? I hope you'll give it a try. Allow God to speak to you through his holy Word. It will change your life.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Your Word has revealed much to us. Help us to remember that. Help us to be people who meditate upon Your Holy Word. Help us to go to it for direction, encouragement, equipping and rebuking. Help us to adjust our lives to Your will for us.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Psalm 1:1 - "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers."

It's been a long time since I've written a devotional. I thought I'd start back up today. And, I thought I'd go back to the Psalms.

Do you feel blessed?

It's a hard question, isn't it? Chances are, if you are reading this blog, and have the ability to understand it, you are among the most blessed people financially on earth. You have been given the opportunity to receive an education, know how to navigate your way around the Internet, and you are most likely wealthy enough to afford a computer and access to the web.

But, financial and educational blessing isn't the type of blessing that Psalm 1:1 is speaking of.

Why is it that most western Christians equate the blessing of God with material things? Is it possilble that some of the most blessed people on earth are among are planet's poorest inhabitants?

But, I digress. We are introduced to the beautiful Jewish songs, poems and prayers that make up the Psalms with a beautifully crafted verse.

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers."

Have you ever walked in the counsel of the wicked? It's a miserable experience. God has a wonderful plan for every person on planet earth. He desires that we would know Him and the power of life in Christ. But, Satan fights against that message. Called in Scripture "the prince of this world" (John 14:30) and "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4), Satan tries his best to decieve us all into believing that we don't need Christ. May we not listen to his counsel for "the father of lies" (John 8:44) is the source of the counsel of the wicked.

The Psalmist also tells us to not stand in the way of sinners. In other words, we need to be people who do not live like those who go about sinning. Standing in the way of sinners carries with it the idea that we are trying on their way of life. Now, don't get confused here. We're not called to be pious people who think that we are better than anyone else. Romans 3:23 is clear that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But, those of us who have been touched by God need not run back to sin. He gives us the strength to walk away from a life that dishonors him. We are not blessed when we try on the lifestyle of those who are still living in sin.

The Psalmist concludes this verse by warning us not to sit in the seat of scoffers. When I was a youth pastor, I used to hear stories all the time from teenage girls who had been hurt deeply by what other people were saying. A scoffer is someone who ridicules another person. They make fun of you for one thing or another. The Psalmist warns us not to scoff at the things of God. In other words, don't follow the crowd and don't join in their mockery of the Divine or those who have been created in the image of the Divine.

When we do the opposite of those described in verse one, we are blessed. So, my friends, will you join me in walking in the counsel of the godly? Will you join me in standing with the redeemed? Will you join me in sitting in the seat of those who bless others? Let's start a revolution in godly living.

Dear Heavenly Father,

You have called us to a higher standard of living. Thank you! Thank you that you provide a way for us to live in a world that seeks to dishonor you. You have shown us clearly in your word what it means to live as a child of God. Thank you that we experience blessing that is deeper than any monetary gift when we honor you. Help us to honor You with our lives.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

John Challis Passes Away At Age 18

John Challis is one of those beautiful stories of courage in the face of death. He passed away today at age 18. Here is his story:

Thursday, August 07, 2008

CCCC Church Planting Movement

The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC) recently produced a video on church planting that is fantastic. God is doing a special work within the CCCC. This video highlights the church planting movement within the denomination, specifically in the Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Los Angeles areas. I know that many of you who read this blog have considered church planting. Let me encourage you to prayerfully consider doing so with the CCCC's. It's a wonderful denomination that God is truly doing a great work in. Check out the video and see for yourself.

Church Multiplication and the CCCC (Long) from CCCC USA on Vimeo.

Off To Michigan!

Our family is going on vacation tomorrow to Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference in Muskegon, Michigan. We go every summer, and it is a highlight for us. Maranatha is located on the shores of Lake Michigan and is absolutely beautiful. There is great programming for children-adults. I'd encourage you to check out the website for Maranatha by clicking HERE. I've attached Marantha's promo video to this post.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Baptism Sunday!

Today was a special day at Woodbury Community Church. Once a year we have an outdoor service at Carver Lake Beach in Woodbury. Today was that Sunday. It was awesome! It's so special to worship outdoors. We sang songs that we believe to be true about our God. We dove into the Word of God and looked at Mark 6:30-52, which talks about an incredible day that Jesus spent at the Lake. He fed 5,000 people, walked on water, you know - a typical day in the life of Jesus. And then, we baptized seven precious people.

Baptisms may be one of my favorite parts of being a member of the Body of Christ. It's beautiful to listen to people share about how they met Christ. It's awesome to hear people publicly confess their faith in Jesus Christ.

After the baptism, we ate. One of the fun parts of being part of a smaller church is the church potluck. It was great to talk to my brothers and sisters in Christ. It was sweet to meet new people. It was special to see God's church in action. John Kimball, one of our church members took about 40 pictures of the day. I've included a few with this post.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Is Our Gospel Too Small or Too Big?

The folks over at Preaching Today have started an audio podcast entitled the Preaching Today Talk. They are doing a great job interviewing pastors, theologians, and some of today's leading thinkers about a variety of topics. They have chosen a very important topic for the first series of talks. It's all about "Getting The Gospel Right."

In a day and age when I believe that we have made the Gospel something that it is not, I believe that this topic is of utmost importance. You can listen to D.A. Carson's take on the subject by clicking HERE. Once you do, you'll be shown how to download the podcast directly to iTunes. Scot McKnight has also contributed to this conversation. Enjoy, and may your mind be stimulated.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The 30-Day Leviticus Challenge

Park Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts is one of the nation's oldest churches. In an area of the country where most people have left the church, Park Street Church stands as an exception to the rule. The church's steeple prominently rises above Boston Common as a beacon in the city. Recently, Park Street's pastor encouraged his congregation to take the 30-Day Leviticus Challenge. The results are fascinating. You can read about this awesome experiement HERE. The article also has a link to Park Street's church blog. There is some great information located there. Check it out HERE.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Live from New York. . .

I am presently at the Annual Conference for the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference in Buffalo, New York. It's the denomination that Woodbury Community Church, the church that I'm privileged to serve as a senior pastor, is a part of. Many people simply know this denomination as the 4C's. I've got to tell you, I'm impressed. What a joy to be a part of a denomination that so boldly declares the inspiration and inerrant Word of God.

Yesterday, as part of our business session, I listened as a number of pastors shared why their churches had left their previous denomination to join the 4C's. I don't remember a time in my life where I remember holding back tears concerning denominational affiliation. These men talked about joining the 4C's because their prior denominations either refused to recognize the authority of Scripture or because of an embrace of the homosexual platform. These were churches that loved homosexual people but could not condone a homosexual lifestyle, in denominations that had long given up loving the homosexual enough to call them to a holy lifestyle. What a joy it was to watch their faces as they described the love and the acceptance that they had found in the 4C's. You can learn more about the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference HERE.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nice Review of What's The Deal With. . .

Youthworker Journal has a review of my book What's The Deal With. . . in their latest issue. You can read it online HERE.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kudos to the Evangelical Free Church of America

I was ordained as a pastor in the Evangelical Free Church of America in November of 2001. At the time of my ordination I had just left the EFCA church that I served as a youth pastor at for 5 1/2 years and began ministry in a church of a different denomination. I've kept my credentials with the EFCA. This past week the EFCA held their national conference. They did something that few denominations have had the courage to do. They revised their doctrinal statement. What was the major issue that the EFCA was hoping to address? Was this in response to liberalism creeping in the denomination? Was it due to gay clergy? Was it due to an embrace of open theism? No. The document, which had been first published in 1950 needed to be touched up. The denomination needed to take a look at contemporary issues in theology and reaffirm their doctrine for a new generation. I've phrased it poorly. This article does a great job truncating the issues. Check it out HERE.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Billy Graham Interviewed by Woody Allen

I'm doing some research today for my Sunday sermon. One of the stories that I'll tell in Sunday's sermon is about Billy Graham's encounter with gangster Mickey Cohen. Cohen was the most notorious gangster in Los Angeles in the 1940s. He eventually went to prison. Upon exiting prison in 1955 some extraordinary events took place in his life. Cohen was befriended by Bill Jones, a fomer criminal himself. Jones had come to Christ, and he told Cohen about Cohen's need for Jesus. Cohen prayed to receive Christ. He would eventually fly to New York to go to a Billy Graham crusade. While there, the gangster became uncomfortable as Graham talked about what it means to truly follow Jesus as Lord. Cohen was not willing to live a life of surrender. He did want to get his picture taken with the famous evangelist, Billy Graham. So, he stuck around for the entire message, and after the crusade had his picture taken with Billy. As soon as he flew back to Los Angeles he quit hanging out with the two Christian men (Bill Jones and Jim Vaus, a former gangster that had worked for Cohen) that convinced him to go to the Graham crusade in the first place. When Bill Jones confronted Cohen about his renewed contact with the mob, Cohen said, "You never told me that I had to give up my career. You never told me that I had to give up my friends. There are Christian movie stars, Christian athletes, Christian businessmen. So what's the matter with being a Christian gangster? If I have to give up all that - if that's Christianity - count me out."

I think there are a lot of people like Cohen in this world today. We're probably all guilty of it to some extent. We want all of the benefits of being a Christian, but don't want to pay the cost.

So, I was doing this research today when I ran across these two videos from youtube of Billy Graham being interviewed by Woody Allen years ago. These are fantastic! And, they illustrate just how difficult it is for some people to give up control of their own life and yield that control to God. Interesting that years later Woody Allen's arrogance would destroy his own family as he ran off with his own adopted daughter. I'm praying that some day Woody will come to faith. There really is truth in what Graham says in this interviews. (The interview is in two parts. It won't take more than 12 minutes to watch the entire thing.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My New Book Now Available For Preorder

My next book, entitled When I. . ., is now available for preorder from Zondervan or Amazon. You can order it HERE or HERE . I'm really excited about this one. It's a finish-the-sentence book that will keep teenagers and adults talking for hours. The book will be available in Christian bookstores everywhere in January of 2009.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Woodbury Community Church Sermon Podcast Now Available!

The weekly sermons at Woodbury Community Church are now available via podcast. To subscribe to the weekly podcast click HERE. You will need to have iTunes on your computer to subscribe. iTunes is free software that enables you to listen to music, watch video, etc. on your computer.

You can also subscribe to the weekly sermons via e-mail. To do this follow this LINK. I hope the sermons will be a blessing to you.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What Everyone Wants and Few Find

Sermon preached on Sunday, June 15, 2008 by Rev. Brian D. Schulenburg,
at Woodbury Community Church, Woodbury, MN


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

JOHN 15:9-12

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

JAMES 1:2-4

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”



Well, it’s Father’s Day. And, according to all of the advertisements that I have heard on my car stereo and my television, I am supposed to want the perfect gift this year. And, that perfect gift has been described to me as all of the following via commercials this week. I want a new cell phone, gift certificates to Auto Zone, Checker Auto Parts, Buffalo Wild Wings, Target, the Home Depot, Best Buy and Radio Shack. I also want a brand new digital TV, the bigger the better, and according to the ads I’m going to be just fine with my wife charging for that TV on a brand new credit card, because, after all, she’ll be getting the best deal, and that will mean that she’s really in love with me. The ads also say that I want the perfect Father’s Day lunch, which can only be had at certain restaurants. But, the ads have also told me that what Dads really want is a brand new grill so that they can cook lunch for the family, all by themselves. Dads, aren’t you glad that we at Woodbury Community Church have it figured out and that we got you what you really wanted? A David Olson CD! (We gave away David Olson's Beloved CD in this service. David is our Worship Leader.)

According to the National Retail Federation, families will spend $9.5 billion to honor their father’s this year. That is $7 billion less than they spend on Mom’s, but still a significant investment. I read an article in the Star Tribune yesterday that said that more than 40% of you will take Dad out for a meal, spending an average of $20. Others will choose clothing (37 percent), gift certificates and gift cards (33 percent), electronic items (19 percent) and sporting goods (13 percent).

While I’m sure that the gifts that I have heard about over the past few weeks would bring happiness to dads all over the world, I’m not sure that the happiness would last. In fact, if someone could give the gift of happiness and could guarantee that the happiness would never disappear, that person would be a very rich person. Because, according to Blaise Pascal, “Everyone, without exception, is searching for happiness.”

Given the choice of being at a wedding or a funeral, 100% of you, would choose the wedding. We like being happy.

Last week, we began our summer series, entitled, “Got fruit?” And, we talked about the fruit of the spirit that we know as love. If you recall, I said last week that love is the relentless pursuit of the lifting up of others. We talked about love, because it is first in the Apostle Paul’s list of nine Christian virtues that he called the fruit of the Spirit. In other words, these virtues are the direct result of the Spirit’s work in your life.

Turn with me to Galatians 5:22-23, and let’s read again this passage in which Paul lists the fruit of the Sprit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Today, we talk about something that is much deeper than happiness. It’s joy. And, in order to understand it, we need to practice what I like to call the indispensable principle. That is, before we go to the Word of God, we must first go to the God of the Word in a word of prayer. Why? Because, we cannot understand the deep things of God, apart from the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Let’s pray.

Dear God,

You have called us to a journey this summer that involves taking a deep look at the fruit of Your Spirit. Today, we talk about something that everyone wants, but only a few find. Lord, God, help us to find the joy which you offer. Help us to live for You. May Your Spirit be our guide today.

In Jesus’ name,


The word joy is found all over Scripture. We are told, according to God’s Word, that joy is one of the markers of a follower of Jesus Christ. But, sometimes it seems as if that joy is elusive.

To His disciples, in John 15: 9-12, Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

In Philippians 4:4 we read, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

Jesus wants us to be people of joy. So, what is it? Joy, I mean. How does one define joy? I told you last week that joy is not the same thing as happiness.
Happiness comes from the Latin word hap which means chance. It’s the same place we get the word happenstance from. Happiness, therefore, is based upon our circumstances. Joy is not. The Philippians passage that I read you was written when the Apostle Paul was in prison. In a short book, written in the darkest of days, Paul uses the words joy and rejoice nineteen times! Joy is deeper than happiness. It does not depend upon our circumstances. Joy is truly a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life and can be with us no matter the situation.

I like to define joy this way: Joy is the result of living our life with God’s priorities. I’ll say it again – joy is the result of living our life with God’s priorities.

C.S. Lewis, the great author, theologian, and professor once wrote, “All that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – [is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

Oh, that we could get what it is that Lewis is talking about there! How many times I have sat in my office counseling a man, woman, or child whose life is a mess because they have chased after everything but God! Want joy in your life? Chase after God! And, chase after God’s priorities.

There is a direct correlation between the love that we talked about last week, and the joy which we speak about this week. Back to John 15. Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

How do we remain in Christ’s love? Is Jesus saying that if we walk away from Him that He walks away from us? No. But, we are not abiding in his love when we walk away from him. He tells us that we remain in his love when we keep his commands. In other words, we’re not going to feel very loved when we are disobeying what God has called us to do. In 1 John 2:6, the apostle John, perhaps thinking back to Jesus’ words in John 15, wrote, “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.”

There is a beautiful and mysterious thing that happens when we live as Christ. We experience Christ’s joy in us. He wants us to follow Him so that his joy may be in us and our joy may be complete.

Last year, in a rather dry time in my own devotional life I made the conscious decision to meditate upon one verse from Psalm 119 each day for 176 days straight. My devotional life was never very consistent. When I did this, I made God the priority. My life began to change. It was during that process that we began talking with Woodbury Community Church. It was during those days that I experienced a joy in my Christian life that I had never known before. When we honor God, His joy is made complete in us.

I read one of Mother Theresa’s famous quotes this week. She said, “One filled with joy preaches without preaching.”

I love that. When we are walking with Christ, and His joy is dwelling in us, we are reflecting his priorities and our lives begin to radiate Him. We begin to change our world. And, we experience joy like never before.
I’ll never forget sitting in my office with a man who had decided to leave his wife. She had been faithful to him despite his numerous affairs throughout the years. The man had begun to believe the delusion that life without his wife and with other women would make his life better. He reasoned that he deserved to be happy. He just wasn’t happy in his relationship with her. No matter how I tried to reason with him, he was impervious to spiritual things. His heart had become so darkened that he could not even see the misery that he was in. There would be no joy found in walking away from his family. Fleeting happiness? Sure. But, joy? No.

Joy is the result of living our lives with God’s priorities.

Like Paul, the Apostle James wrote about joy sometimes coming in the valley of despair. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” So, again we see that joy isn’t determined by our circumstances. Joy is the result of living our lives with Gods’ priorities. And, it’s in those circumstances, that are difficult and which seem to offer little hope, where joy really does its work. Nehemiah, who God tasked with rebuilding the walls Jerusalem’s destroyed walls, said at the end of Nehemiah 8:10, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I can think of few places where joy would have been as absent as that of a Nazi Concentration Camp. That is precisely the place where Corrie Ten Boom and her family found themselves during World War II. Their crime? Loving the Jewish people, and providing a safe haven for dozens of Jews. Corrie would go on to survive the Holocaust. Her family would not. She has long been one of my heroes. Corrie died in 1983, but people who knew her described her as a woman of incredible joy. I had occasion to hear Corrie speak a couple of times when I was growing up, and those are memories that I will never forget.

While in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, Corrie and her sister Betsy were together. Listen to the excerpt from a letter that Corrie wrote in 1974:

“My sister, Betsy, and I were in the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbruck because we committed the crime of loving Jews. Seven hundred of us from Holland, France, Russia, Poland and Belgium were herded into a room built for two hundred. As far as I knew, Betsy and I were the only two representatives of Heaven in that room. We may have been the Lord's only representatives in that place of hatred, yet because of our presence there, things changed. Jesus said, ‘In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ We too, are to be overcomers bringing the light of Jesus into a world filled with darkness and hate. Sometimes I get frightened as I read the Bible, and as I look in this world and see all of the tribulation and persecution promised by the Bible coming true. Now I can tell you, though, if you too are afraid, that I have just read the last pages. I can now come to shouting ‘Hallelujah! Hallelujah!’ for I have found where it is written that Jesus said, ‘He that overcometh shall inherit all things: and I will be His God, and he shall be My son.’ This is the future and hope of this world. Not that the world will survive but that we shall be overcomers in the midst of a dying world. Betsy and I, in the concentration camp, prayed that God would heal Betsy who was so weak and sick. ‘Yes, the Lord will heal me,’ Betsy said with confidence. She died the next day and I could not understand it. They laid her thin body on the concrete floor along with all the other corpses of the women who died that day. It was hard for me to understand, to believe that God had a purpose for all that. Yet because of Betsy's death, today I am traveling all over the world telling people about Jesus.”

I believe that it was in the same year that Corrie wrote that letter that she had a remarkable experience. After speaking about God’s forgiveness and the love that God has for us, a man approached her. She knew this man’s face. Inside, all she could feel at the moment was hate for the man. He had been a guard from the concentration camp where Corrie and her sister Betsy had stayed during World War II. He told Corrie that he had been struck to the core by what she said and asked if she thought God could forgive him, and become his Savior. One author writes:

“In herself she could not offer that forgiveness. The Lord had put his finger on
something which was preventing her from becoming more 'Christ Like.' She
remembered the command of Christ to love your enemy and to forgive
seventy times seven the person who has wronged you. As Corrie Ten Boon
prayed that Jesus would give her the strength to forgive the man, she felt a
sensation begin in her heart and flow through her hand as it touched his. Then she heard herself saying, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, I forgive you.’
The man fell at her feet and wept a prayer of thanks. Jesus Christ was
continuing to transform Corrie Ten Boom to be Christ Like through adversity
and through shining his light on those dark areas of her life which were not
pleasing to him.”

Corrie understood that joy didn’t come from circumstances. Her joy flowed out of a commitment to Jesus Christ. Her joy was a byproduct of the Holy Spirit’s work in her life. True joy is the result of living your life with God’s priorities. May you choose to live your life in such a way!


Saturday, June 14, 2008

You Were Made To Love!

I've decided to post my weekly sermons to this blog. I hope that they will be an encouragment to you.

Sermon preached on Sunday, June 8, 2008 by Rev. Brian D. Schulenburg,
at Woodbury Community Church, Woodbury, MN


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”



Introduction – Last week you welcomed our family to Woodbury Community Church in such a special way. We felt so loved as you gave us a reception after church with all sorts of great food. You even served at least three different types of fruit juice. So, this morning, I thought I’d return the favor. I have with me a bunch of different types of fruit juice. Anybody thirsty? (I gave out bottles of apple, orange, grape and cranberry juice. After each bottle I asked what type of tree, bush or vine that the fruit juice came from. Then I gave out a bottle of fruit punch and asked what type of tree that came from. I then drew the parallel to the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. I told the congregation that God expects us to be like a fruit tree that bears nine different types of fruit, not just one. We don’t get to pick and choose. I can’t say that I want patience without love, etc. I originally saw this idea used by Leith Anderson, pastor of Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, MN in a staff chapel devotional.)

The fruit of the Spirit, which I speak about, is a very familiar concept to followers of Jesus Christ. Many of you memorized the verses that talk about the fruit of the Spirit when you were a child. They are found in the New Testament book of Galatians. Turn in your Bibles with me to Galatians chapter 5, as we read verses 22 and 23.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Are you ready to dive in?

My prayer for the past month has been that God would use this summer series to challenge us, equip us and conform us more into the image of Jesus Christ. Join me in prayer.

Dear God,

Today we begin a new series. It would be easy for us to say, “It’s summer time. I’m ready for a break,” and to believe that we deserve a pass on attempting to grow closer to You. But, when we do that, we give Satan a foothold. It would be easy to say, “I know all about the fruit of the Spirit.” and to think that there is nothing new for us to learn on the subject. Help us to come expecting Your Sprit to teach us. Soften our hearts to those areas that You need to tweak in our lives. Encourage us when we encounter a virtue that we are displaying. May Your Spirit change us, and may our lives reflect Your desires.

In Jesus’ name,


It was the Apostle Paul, who penned the words which make up our summer’s text. He wrote the words to the church at Galatia. He could have just as easily written them to any other church in the ancient near east world. And, he could have written the words to us. They are as applicable today as they have ever been.

Galatia was located in the central region of modern day Turkey. If you were to book a trip to Turkey today, you’d most likely board a plane from Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport and then fly to Chicago. From there you would board a plane headed for Paris, France. Then you would catch a flight to Istanbul, Turkey. From Istanbul you would drive across the country until came to the highlands of central Anatolia. You see, Galatia was not so much a city, as it was a region. The Galatian believers that Paul wrote to were those people who lived in the Galatia region. The capitol of modern day Turkey, Ankara, is located in this region. It was also the capitol of Galatia.

One of the things that I love about travel to other parts of the world is when you get to see the regions that are mentioned in the Bible. Last summer, I took an unexpected trip to Istanbul. My mother and father were on their first ever mission trip. Mom became ill in Istanbul, and over the course of a couple of days it became apparent that Mom would die at the American Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey. My father asked if I could fly out to be with him. I caught a plane in a matter of hours and for three weeks lived in Turkey. God was good. My mother, who was in a coma the first few days that I was in Turkey, was here last Sunday. As she recovered, I took a little time to explore the sites of Istanbul. While not in the location that Galatia was located, Istanbul still has incredible history located within the city. Mosques, some that used to be Christian churches, litter the landscape. Istanbul is called the City of Mosques because of the enormous amount of mosques located in the city. Within the city lies Haggia Sofia, the site of three of the seven church counsels that took place in the middle ages.

Why the history lesson? Because it’s important to understand the culture and the people to whom this book was written. The Galatians first received the Gospel from the Apostle Paul. It was on his first missionary journey. In fact, Paul visited the region of Galatia on all three of his missionary journeys. On his first journey, in Acts 14, we read that the crowds had to be restrained from sacrificing gifts to Paul and Barnabas as if they were gods, because of Paul’s, through the power of the Holy Spirit, healing of a lame man. The crowds assumed that Paul and Barnabas must be gods if they had the power to heal the lame. The story is seen in Acts 14:8-23. Verses 18-19 record the outcome of the story. Paul tried to persuade the crowd that it was not through his power but by God’s that the man was healed. Read with me Acts 14:18-19.

“Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.”

In Acts 16:6 we read that Paul, on his second missionary journey, became sick when preaching in Galatia, and that the sickness required him to spend more time in the city. Therefore, in God’s sovereignty, Paul spent longer in Galatia than he had planned. Sometimes God’s plans are different than ours. He can even work in our sickness to accomplish His purposes. The Galatian church was important to God.

And, so these words, which Paul writes are important too. Want to know how a Christ-follower lives? He lives as one who is controlled by the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit produces fruit. Not just one type of fruit, but you are like a fruit tree that produces nine distinct virtues. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Before we dissect this passage, I want you to hear it in its broader context.

Galatians 5:13-26 – “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Spiritual living is not natural. The result of living in the flesh is a life that gratifies the flesh. The sin nature and the life of the Spirit are in conflict with one another, according to Paul. There is freedom that comes from living the life that God has called us to live. Paul wants us to know that freedom, and it begins with love.

Did you catch what Paul said about love in 14? He said, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

So, the first fruit that Paul lists in this group of nine is love.

Love is a word that we hear thrown around all over the place today. In his video, “Flame,” pastor and teacher Rob Bell says, “What’s the deal with this word, ‘love?’ I mean I love my wife and I love tacos?” Bell goes on to talk about three different Hebrew words that were used for love (ahava, raya, and dod). Many of you have heard the three most common Greek words used for love (phileo, eros and agape). In English, we have one word that is used and confused in many different ways. Paul used the Greek word, agape, as he described the type of love that a follower of Jesus Christ was to display. Agape was the type of love that was always used to describe God’s love for us. It is a holy love. It is a love that always asks, “What can I do for the other, not what can they do for me.” When I was a youth pastor, and I taught series on relationships, I would talk about this as being a “for you” love and the Greek word eros being a “for me” love. Most love relationships are built upon a “What can this person do for me,” not “What can I do for this person” type of love. And therein lays the problem.

Two years ago, a young man and young woman in their early twenties stood before me in a church. The room was filled. Their parents, grandparents, friends, and relatives had gathered for their wedding day. They were committed to entering their relationship as husband and wife in a holy covenant that was to be held high and esteemed.

Listen to these words from their ceremony.

Caty and John, you are about to assume mutual relationships and responsibilities, and to pledge to each other your undying devotion and faithfulness. From this day forward you will no longer be two, but one flesh. Your paths will be parallel. Your responsibilities will increase but your joy will be multiplied if you are earnest in your relations with one another.

By coming into the presence of God you recognize that this commitment you make this day is not only a legal contract, the papers for which will be kept in secured files, but is also a bond of union made in heaven.

With this in mind, John will you receive Caty as your wife and bind yourself to her in the covenant of marriage? Will you promise to love and honor her in true devotion; to rejoice with her in times of sorrow; and be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?

If so, you will answer, “I will.”

Caty, will you receive John as your husband and bind yourself to him in the covenant of marriage? Will you promise to love and honor him in true devotion; to rejoice with him in times of sorrow; and be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?

If so, you will answer, “I will.”

Then we came to their wedding vows. I said, "John and Caty, if you desire to share your vows with one another, your guests, and your God, please join hands and repeat after me.

I guided John through his vows. . .

I John . . . take thee, Caty . . . to be my wedded wife . . . to have and to hold . . . from this day forward . . . for better for worse . . . for richer for poorer . . . in sickness and in health . . . to love and to cherish . . . till death to us part . . . according to God’s holy ordinance . . . and thereto I give thee my love.

Then Caty made very similar vows. And after they said those words, they gave each other rings. And then at the end of their wedding ceremony I pronounced Caty and John to be husband and wife. And finally I said, “Those whom God has joined together, let no man separate."

It was a beautiful ceremony.

I would later find out that within a month, the love that brought them together began to deteriorate. Today, the young couple, married for about two years, is in the process of getting a divorce. What happened to the love?

Could it be that we just don’t understand what God had in mind? Could it be that we’ve settled? Could it be that true love is really quite difficult to show?

Bill Hybels jokes about the way that love is defined in society today. The definitions of love, he says seem so superficial. He writes that the definitions of love “seem to change with the seasons.
• Love is a gentle smile
• Love is finding someone’s space that is similar to your own.
• Love is standing up in a church service and shaking hands with people.
• Love is feeling warm and sentimental towards other believers.
• Love is the feeling you get when you are near someone attractive.
This is all lightweight, hollow stuff. The Bible cuts through all of the haze and says that if you want one clear definition of what love is, treat every person as through they were more important than you.”
I like to define love this way. Love is the relentless pursuit of the lifting up of others.

In counseling sessions with the young couple, it has become clear that the love that they have displayed in their marriage is the Greek word eros, which never once appears in Scripture. It’s Satan’s counterfeit to God’s best. Eros is where we get our English word erotic. This couple is consumed with what will make each of them feel better. Their love is selfish. And, that is so common. How many times have we heard, “You’ve got be happy. Do what makes you happy.” If what makes us happy hurts our spouse, or those that God has put into our life, then we need to forego our happiness for the lifting up of the other. Because, love is the relentless pursuit of the lifting up of others.

In 1 John 4:7-16 we read about Christian love. This time, it’s the Apostle John writing. The beloved disciple of Christ, part of Christ’s inner circle wrote to the church, these words:

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”

Jesus wants us to love like He loves, and enables us to do so because of the Sprit’s control in our lives. So, how does the Spirit control us? How do we become one who can produce this type of fruit? We daily yield ourselves to the Spirit’s control in our lives. It’s daily asking the Holy Spirit to control us. On my best days, I begin the day with a prayer that goes something like this:

“Lord God, I can live two ways today. I can live with me controlling my life, or you controlling my life. I choose you. God, take control of my actions, my thoughts, my words, and help me to see others with your eyes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

When I consciously yield the control of my life to God, I demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit.
So, what does love look like? Remember, we said that love is the relentless pursuit of the lifting up of others.

Love is also a decision. The first time I heard that concept was when I was in college and dating my college sweetheart, Cyndi. I thought I understood love. And, Cyndi and I had it! I loved loved loved loved loved her! And, nobody could tell me any different. But, I had little understanding of love. As we’ve grown in our faith, and in our years of marriage, we’ve discovered that there are days when we don’t feel very in love. I thought that I fell in love with Cyndi, but I fell into attraction with her. Love is a daily decision to honor Cyndi and more important than me. It’s relentlessly pursuing the lifting up of her, and my kids, and those that God has placed into my life.

In Mark 10, James and John made an unusual request of Jesus. It revealed the depths of their heart. Listen as I read Mark 10:35-45,

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."
"What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."
"You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"
"We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared."
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

It’s God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, who shows love in this passage. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45 has been called the key verse in the book of Mark. It is the purpose statement of Jesus’ life on earth. He came to serve. He lifted up others. Talk about the ultimate example of love being the relentless pursuit of the lifting up of others. Jesus’ death on the cross lifted us up from wrath to grace. May we lift others up!

Love is perhaps described in 1 Corinthians 13, more beautifully than anywhere else in the world. Some people think Shakespeare was the greatest at describing love. I don’t think that you can beat these words of 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a.

Listen to Paul’s words to the church at Corinth:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

Those are beautiful words. Those words can become discouraging when we think about how we love. Do you have the capacity to love with a love like that which Paul describes here? The answer is simple. No. You can’t love like this, without God’s Spirit working in and through you. Love never fails. We do. We fail to love when we try to love on our terms and not God’s. Make the decision to allow God’s Spirit to control you so that you can show His love to the world around you.

Bill Hybels tells the story of being wakened by his son Todd, at 1 A.M. He says,

“Todd, then five years old, [said], ‘Mom. Dad. I just had a nightmare.’ As soon as I awakened, my instinct was to lay very still and pretend I was asleep so Lynne would get up and deal with him. After he kept trying to get our attention, I poke her and said, ‘Lynne, Todd had a nightmare.’ I was hoping she would be so startled that her motherly instincts would take over. It worked like a charm. She jumped up and took care of him. But as I lay there, trying to doze off to sleep, I found myself thinking, ‘Oh no! This was a great opportunity to treat my wife as more important than myself, and all I could think of was me.’”

Hybels’ story could have just as easily been mine. I can’t even count the times that I have been selfish in my love for Cyndi and our kids. And, those are the people that I love the most. My selfishness has also been shown to others. I’ve entered friendships for what I thought I would get out of it, instead of trying to be a blessing to others. I’ve ignored those who most need to receive love, because it would be inconvenient for me. I’ve bristled at calls that require my time and love because it’s been inconvenient for me.

Life in the Spirit means that we relentlessly look for opportunities to lift others up.

So, what are some ways that you could do that this week?

How could you show others that they are more important than yourself?

Maybe it means –

• Offering to pay for the meal of the person behind you in line at the drive thru window.
• Offering to cut the elderly neighbor’s lawn.
• Offering to help the new family down the street move in. And then, inviting them over for dinner at your home.
• Choosing to love the democrat when you are a republican or the republican when you are a democrat.
• Providing one of the items that the Wessman’s, our missionaries coming back from Israel, need for the next year that they will be living in Minnesota.
• Purchasing an item for the Tiner care package.
• Offering a weekend at your cabin for a family that can’t afford a vacation.
• Surprising your spouse by doing the chores that they normally do.
• Putting a love note in your spouse’s purse or computer case.
• Telling your Mom or Dad something that you specifically appreciate about them.
• Giving up one of your favorite events so that you can take your child out to dinner.
• Calling a relative that you haven’t spoken to in a long time.
• Inviting a neighborhood child, grandchild, niece or nephew to Vacation Bible School this week at Woodbury Community Church.

Did you know that this week could be the week that changes the life of a child forever? Vacation Bible School is one of the most important outreach events that we offer every year. It’s a practical way to show love. Maybe you have a single parent in your neighborhood who is stressed to the max now that school is out. Offer to drive their kids to VBS. Give them a break from childcare cost for the week. Maybe God will use this week to draw that parent to Christ too.

Why do you suppose that Paul chose to call these virtues the fruit of the Spirit? I was at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts last weekend with my parents and sister. They had never visited the museum before. There is a painting there that my wife and I fell in love with on our first visit to the museum. It’s a painting of fruit. Maybe you’ve seen it. My wife loves it because she says, “The fruit looks so real. The grapes are translucent. You want to reach your hand into the painting and eat the fruit for yourself.”

And, that’s why Paul, writing through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit calls it the fruit of the spirit. Fruit is meant to be devoured. It is meant to be eaten. Our fruit is to be tasted by the world so that they can see just how good our God is.

As our ushers come forward, we are going to show a music video. It’s the song, Does Anybody Hear Her? by the group Casting Crowns. Maybe you’ve heard this song on KTIS or Christian radio. As you watch the video may it be a reminder of those in our paths who need to devour the fruit of love in our lives.

Let’s pray.

Dear God,

As we give to you, out of hearts of love, may Your glory be shown throughout our region. May You give us the eyes of Jesus so that we can see and love those in our paths whom You have brought our way.

In Jesus’ name,