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DAN’S 50TH SPIRITUAL BIRTHDAY

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It was April 6th, 1968 and 7-year-old Dan had a conversation with his mom that night before bed that would change every day of the rest of his life. The conversation was about God, and what Jesus came to earth to do for sinners who would call upon Him for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. It was a divine appointment and Dan went to bed but couldn’t go to sleep without settling his relationship with God. That night young Dan prayed and made a decision to follow Jesus for the rest of his life.

The next day was Palm Sunday and something had definitely changed. From that day onward Dan never doubted he was a believer and all his future decisions should be made in light of that fact. Everything felt different. He was constantly conscious of the change that had happened and what it meant both now and forever. Even young Dan had become a new creation, old things had passed away, all things had become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Young Dan grew older and has lived a whole life since that life-changing event. Older Dan has done a lot of things through the years that his God has not approved of. When older Dan did, he lamented his sin and went to the Savior for forgiveness, resolving to do better. By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, older Dan has had significant victory over sin, as the gospel promises to all believers (Romans 6 and about 200 New Testament verses). Older Dan has set his thoughts and affections on the things above, not on the things of the earth (Colossians 3:2).

Older Dan has been battling stage IV lung cancer for over five years now, given months to live several times. These five years have been the time of his life, spiritually. The nearness of God is evident and His presence is sweet. Dan would rather not have cancer and seeks to be healed by His great and powerful God. But He wouldn’t trade the blessings during the trial for anything.

In the scriptures and now, many became believers and could pinpoint a pivotal time when they believed. They knew when they were born, and they knew when they were born again. And many grow up in a believing family and just grow up as believers. The important thing is to repent and believe!

Today I (older Dan) am going on a personal retreat for a few days to celebrate 50 years of walking with God. Maybe this reminds you to celebrate your own walk with God too, or maybe to make new efforts to draw near to Him.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2018 in Inspirational, Uncategorized

 

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PEOPLE IN THE SLOW LANE

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My lovely wife was messaging with our founding Pastor’s wife yesterday and they had an interesting conversation about life in the “Slow Lane.” This saintly lady now in her 80’s helped build a church from meeting in a home to thousands. Can you imagine how busy life was raising several kids and building this church? And she wasn’t a wallflower either, she was in ministry and touched the lives countless ones for decades.

But time passes, and her husband is gone, and she lives alone in the house they shared for years. She remembers the fast lane but rides in it no more. She lives in the slow lane now. But the Lord loves people in the slow lane and has much eternal work for them to do, even if it is slower work now. In the Bible and church history, there are countless examples of the elderly and infirmed being mightily used by God to touch lives and build His kingdom while running their final lap of life.

Life really is like a race with a starting gun, laps of doing life, and a final lap, then the finish line. We maybe could think of life divided into a race of four laps. Whatever age we die, divided by four. Some of us may know very well we are on our final lap, maybe even can see the finish line! Some are on the final lap and have no idea they are on the final lap. The finish line is referred to in the book of Hebrews:

…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

We will all cross that finish line and reap what we sowed in this life, whatever that is. In the western world, it is so easy to let the tyranny of busyness get the best of us. Lots of our busyness is good, legitimate activities of faith and family and just doing life. But most of us look at our lives now and in the past and would declare it “too busy.” Some get things under control, slow down, and life has more meaning. For some of us, age or health gives us a little help slowing down, and we can then learn to appreciate what the Psalmist talked about:

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

I have been experiencing this since being diagnosed with Stage IV terminal lung cancer over five years ago. I have been chemo almost continually for over five years, and all the things that means. Life has slowed down! It can be discouraging to look back at a productive life and life now and wonder if one is really worth taking up space anymore. Rest assured, God still has you here taking up space because your life and time, however short or slow, has great meaning to Him and others!

So back to our beloved lady living alone, with a slower, certainly more lonely and quiet life. What can she do in the big picture of things? Well, I have been the recipient of her prayers and encouragement over and over. Her timely contact with me has lifted me up during very discouraging times, repeatedly. I treasure and look forward to another verse or word of encouragement from her. And she prays. We all tend to value Christian service we see, and should. But we tend to forget or maybe value less Christian service we do not see.

But is there anything more or better someone can do for someone else than pray? To intercede and connect heaven with someone in need is the height of Christian service and love. If you take some time to go to the Almighty, Eternal God and petition Him on My behalf, you have done the greatest single thing you can do for me. Sometimes you hear a phrase similar to, “Well, all we can do is pray.” Well, that is saying a lot! And for many in the slow, final lap of life are right smack in the middle of the calling of a lifetime: the calling to pray. Our great warrior lady on her final lap calls it Battling in Solitude.

Dear reader, do you find yourself in the slow lane stage of life? There is much eternal work for you to do. It may not look like much to others, or it may, but prayer, words of encouragement and dispensing of wisdom from life is priceless. In many cases, our work in the slow lane is the best and most important eternal work we will ever do. Be encouraged, be inspired, dear warrior. Heaven is waiting for your final push in this final lap of your life. Run in such a way that you may win (1 Corinthians 9:24).

We will conclude with a quote from our godly woman:

“I love the inner court and my quiet time. This is my assignment after a busy life, prayer, and intercession. God has given me a great heart for suffering and I feel it is to let us feel a little of what he feels for his precious ones.”

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2018 in Inspirational, Uncategorized

 

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THOUGHTS ON BILLY GRAHAM

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Today is Billy Graham’s funeral. Coverage starts at 10:00 am eastern and the actual funeral at 12:00 noon, eastern. You can access the funeral and coverage here. As an American baby boomer, I have known about Billy Graham most of my life. All my life I’ve met people who committed their lives to Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade or while watching one on TV or listening on the radio. I’ve watched many crusades on TV and was blessed to attend two in person. I remember in my teenage years I thought this or that preacher was better than Billy Graham. Maybe some of them were, at least in their specific calling. Anyway, as I’ve occasionally watched youtube videos with Billy Graham preaching from the 40’s to the 2000’s, what a preacher!

For decades I have enjoyed reading various biographies and autobiographies about great people of God over the past 2000 years. Generally, I find older life stories more inspiring than American Superstar biographies. I bought Just as I AM, Billy Graham’s autobiography at half price books for $2 which was a bargain because the book is huge.  Because I assumed it was an American Superstar biography it sat on the shelf for some time. Then as I was looking for a good book to read at our annual Erickson resort time two years ago, I chose Billy’s book. Here is a link for the book.

I was not prepared for my reaction to that book. True stories of great men and women of God often move me and inspire me for better. I have wept over a few. Didn’t think that would happen with Billy. It did. I devoured that book, often getting up and leaving the group setting at the resort to finish a good cry. What was that all about? I just couldn’t get over how God could use one man who said yes to anything God asked of him. Of course, many others said yes and have spent their lives supporting this great Evangelist. I think a lot, I always have. I can’t help but wonder what I missed in this life by not being attentive to the Spirit, maybe saying no when I should have said yes. I can’t go back but I can resolve to listen better and do better during the time I have left.

As I read the book I was so taken by how “All in” Billy Graham was since his late teens. His wife Ruth was said she never met anyone who desired to please God more than her husband, Billy Graham. Can your spouse or someone close to you say that of you? Later in life, he was quoted as saying he might have said “yes” too much and should have studied and prayed more. But I think it ended up a job pretty well done.

Consider his commitments when he was around 30 years old. He had three full-time jobs simultaneously. He was president of Northwestern College in St. Paul MN, the very first full-time evangelist on staff with Youth for Christ, and had just begun the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. And as if that wasn’t enough, right during that time he had the infamous Los Angeles Tent Crusade that went far longer than planned and put him on the national map in a big way. Any of the above is exhausting. Only God could give Billy the ability to do all this at once. It boggles the mind.

Not long after the BGEA began, Billy took whatever staff he had by then and asked them to all go aside for an hour or two and write down common things that can go wrong with an organization like theirs and with staff like they had. They parted and came back together with predictable answers: Money mismanagement, various sins, becoming about Billy instead of Jesus, and the like. In response to this, the BGEA immediately put together safeguards, strict ones to avoid all the pitfalls that can plague a ministry. Things like checking Hotel Rooms of Billy and the Staff before they settled in to make sure nothing evil was planted and that any questionable media was simply disabled. Money policies was a biggie, as well as Jesus getting the glory instead of Billy. Those same policies continued on for decades and have obviously served the staff and organization well. What strikes me about the ministry is how much of it stays the same through the decades. Same commitments to their cause and same commitments regarding how they accomplish their goals.

When I listen to Billy’s preaching I can’t help but appreciate the simplicity of the message he preached and his faithfulness to that message. It is a little different than some of the evangelistic preaching today where the word “repent” is an endangered species. Its ok to talk about the blessings offered by a generous God to those who will come to him. And salvation is free, sort of. We can’t do anything to earn it but the package deal comes through faith, and repenting of sin. Following the examples of Jesus and the apostles, the subject of repenting is front center at the beginning, not somewhere down the road. It’s like full disclosure with no fine print. Coming to Jesus is free and it costs everything.

Anyway, there have been great men and women of God who have come and gone through the centuries. Many of them would fit well in Hebrews 11, the great faith hall of fame. Of those listed in Hebrews, it is said regarding them: “Of whom the world is not worthy.” I think we have witnessed a near century of another one whom the world was not worthy, Billy Graham. Who will be next to give their all? Are you all in? Is there one reader who knows he or she is called to more and needs to step forward? Remember this exciting promise that applies to you!

 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9).

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2018 in Inspirational, Uncategorized

 

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WORDS WITH FRIENDS

Investing in friends pays lifetime dividends. They say in order to have a friend you need to be a friend. This is true if you want that friend to be the real deal. When a crisis hits in our lives we find out who our real friends are. In the cancer community, it is well known everywhere that patients are almost always surprised at who steps up to help and who does not. My experience is no different. Often a more recent acquaintance surprises the patient with their devotion and self-sacrifice to help their friend in their time of need. On the other hand, lifetime friends can all but disappear causing one to wonder what that friendship was based on if anything. Someone I don’t even know may leave a message on Caring Bridge that they pray for me every day. And then I may run into a longtime friend that has little idea at all what updates there might be in my battle. This is not a blog to be critical. Frankly, I have often been the longtime friend of those going through rough times that didn’t step up. But there is something about being in the fire for year after year that makes a person compassionate. When someone is in the midst of hard times, I now feel it deeply. God has done a good work in me, the hard way.

I have been abundantly blessed with good friends. I don’t know of anyone in a similar situation that has more prayer support and other support than me and my family. I don’t take this lightly and give thanks often for my good fortune. Recently the cancer I have been battling for over five years reared its very ugly head again and I am fighting for my life. And recently, friends have sent me timely, encouraging messages to lift me up when I and my family are down. I thought I would share a small portion of these encouraging words with you today. Put yourself in my situation and think of how these “words with friends” have blessed me.

One of my greatest cheerleaders is someone I have known for over 40 years, and I have watched this person walk with God no matter what has befallen them in this life. Often her messages to me are a lifeline, just in time. She concludes nearly every encouraging message with these life-giving Bible verses:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5,6).

Another friend, whom I seldom see, recently sent me these encouraging words:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13).

One of the best friends a man could have has insisted on visiting me regularly to encourage me and pray with me often. He recently sent me this:

God is the same yesterday today and forever and is with you as He was with Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego!

I attend a prayer meeting every Friday evening and the leader is someone I have known only for a short time. A few weeks ago he dedicated the entire prayer meeting to me and my family. Throughout the night the Spirit of God spoke through him with incredible words of life, often using Bible verses to do the praying.

He has sent me some texts recently with these words:

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12).

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).

One of my anthem songs during this battle with lung cancer and all that lung cancer entails, like breathing challenges, is a popular worship song in churches right now. It is called, Great are You Lord, but has a phrase that moves me every time I hear it:

It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out your praise to you only…

I wrote a blog on this song. Follow the link to read it. Anyway, another great cheerleader who tirelessly encourages us reminded me of this song in a text. She also has sent numerous timely Bible verses, especially during some really down times recently.

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4).

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2).

So as you can see, just a timely Bible verse can change a day. Anyone can do that. Of course, Caring Bridge is a wonderful tool for encouragement and I have hundreds of loving comments from people who care. Many of these dear people I don’t know very well or not at all. Wow. Here are a few recent one’s messages:

  1. Praying for all of you. The enemy is on the run. Fleeing, and as he flees he drops his lies into our lives, but we know the Joy of the Lord is our strength.

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord!

Love you all greatly.

  1. This verse makes me think of you Dan: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8. Praying.
  2. Dan, just a simple note with the hope and desire of bringing a measure of encouragement your way. As your family and friends continue to shower you with love, prayers, and support we are reminded again and again that all is in His loving hands. So as you find a moment to sit in the quietness of this day and hear the soft whisper of Jesus, be strengthened by His words and be comforted by His promises.

Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,”

  1. May the Lord bless you and keep you, Dan, may his healing hand rest upon your lungs and entire body. May the peace that is beyond all of our earthly understanding guard your heart and mind. And may goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life. May the blessings of the Lord continue to uplift and encourage your family daily. In Jesus name, I ask these things, Amen.

As I said, there are hundreds of similar words of hope on Caring Bridge and in my email and message box. I know by picking only a few of the wonderful words with friends I have received recently I have left many out who blessed me beyond measure when they took the time to write a text or message. God knows your kind deeds and how He led you to do what you did, just in time!

Dear friends, when someone we know is in the depths of a fiery trial, it is hard to know what to do about it. We all want to do something, but what? There are many things we can do, but as you can see from these examples, a quick word of encouragement has staying power and accomplishes the good it is meant to do. Thank you for your kindness to me and my family, and spread the love to others!

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2018 in Dan's Battle with Cancer, Uncategorized

 

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CANCER RISES AGAIN

 

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Its been awhile since I’ve written about my ongoing cancer battle. For some time I wrote on it regularly and those blogs were among my most read. I guess lots of people can relate to having or knowing someone fighting this horrendous disease. I have some back blogging to do on this subject but thought I would start with where I am now and what life is like.

For two years I have been on an oral chemo. This, along with the prayers or God’s people and His mercy, has given me a pretty good run. The cancer never completely disappeared, but was under control and behaved itself pretty well. The chemo had the least side effects of all the chemos I have taken in these five-plus years. Life had its limitations and certainly wasn’t what I would call normal, but the new normal was a blessing.

Then the scans started showing something was up. The October 2017 can was inconclusive but different. We thought we would just keep on as we have been and see what the next scan in three months looked like. In the end of December, I had another scan that was decidedly bad news. The cancer was on the march again! To see how aggressive it was and then what to do about it we waited another month for another scan at the end of January. That scan showed significant growth in my lungs in just four weeks. My left lung looked about half full of cancer, and my right wasn’t as organized but well on its way too. Time to change something! But not much time to do it!

Medically speaking I am running out of options, having taken 10 medications in five years, nine of them considered chemotherapy. Every time cancer spreads again, one can’t help but get a bit emotional. Is this the end, the beginning of the end? One wants to talk strong and have great faith, but when you start to actually feel the cancer, it’s not that easy to do. So something needs to change and soon to save my life. We’ve been here before and our God has been faithful to add year after year of blessings in the midst of the difficulties.

This past Tuesday, February sixth, I spent six hours receiving the hardest chemo I’ve ever been on. For those who like details, its Cisplatin and Gemzar. If you read about the side effects, they aren’t pretty! Because of the steroids and other medication they give you at the time of infusion you usually have the first few days go pretty well until the meds wear off. Well, I felt ok for about two hours after the infusion and then crashed! Lying in bed I could hardly move and certainly couldn’t eat. I added anti-nausea after anti-nausea to the three-day anti-nausea they already infused in me. Finally, after several hours, I asked for some applesauce and began crawling out of it.

Since then, in the past couple of days, “Chemo brain” has come back with a vengeance. If any of this doesn’t make any sense, I blame it on that! Being on chemo is like having a 24 hour a day hang-over, at best. You basically sign up for being sick for however long you take it. I completely understand why people give up so often. I have been there several times and only an act of will and faith in a generous God keeps me going.

In six weeks I will have another scan to see if there is any improvement. I will probably know it before then if I start breathing better and coughing less. I really desire your continued prayers. I realize I have probably asked for more than my share for the past several years and don’t take it lightly that so many of you have responded faithfully and helped keep me alive.

Incidentally, for those who don’t know, I have been able to write and publish two books in the past two years of the lesser chemo. The first one has sold well and is called The ABCs of the Bible. The second, just out this December is called Praying the Psalms. You can see them and order them by following the links on the names.

Though I am more conscious than ever of the joy that awaits the believer after this life and long for it, I still find myself wanting more time here. Some of the kids are still home,  the ones that aren’t are precious to me and I don’t get to see them as often but love it when I do. And those two grandtwins! I have a lovely wife whom I treasure every minute of every day…and that’s just about how much we are together! And I am doing in-depth Bible Studies and have more books in the works.

I wonder when I see the energy people my age have and wish I had some of that energy. If you can get up in the morning and do all your responsibilities of the day with strength, bow and thank your God. As they say, you don’t realize what you have until you don’t! To struggle with, well, everything, really makes me long for just the normal strength of someone my age. You can pray for that too.

Anyway, I have gone on long enough. Just wanted to give you a brief peek into my world right now. God bless your, dear ones! We are so thankful for you!

For more of my cancer story, go to the right of this page and click “Dan’s battle with Cancer.”

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2018 in Dan's Battle with Cancer

 

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ETERNITY ON OUR EYEBALLS

 

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I have been studying Hebrews for some time and have about 100 pages of notes so far on the beloved epistle. Some of the themes of Hebrews are mentioned elsewhere but go deeper in Hebrews. And some of the themes are unique to the book of Hebrews. I am presently studying chapter 11, the faith chapter.

Yesterday verse 16 jumped out to me as it spoke of those faithful to God to the end of their lives:

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

The longer I live as a believer, the more convinced I am that one of the secrets to success as a disciple, is to live with eternity in mind. I am reminded of the gifted theologian, pastor and revivalist, Jonathan Edwards who lived in the 1700’s and what he once said:

“Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.”

Whenever I sign one of my books, The ABC’s of the Bible, I include a verse in Colossians:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2).

Most of us spend way too much time with our minds on earthly, temporary things. Of course we live here and must think of these things some to be productive people. But we probably can each evaluate our thought life and honestly agree that we could and should spend more time with our minds on things above than we presently do. Our text in Hebrews talks about believers desiring a better country. It is helpful and important to realize and become convinced of this—that the next life is better than this one…and a lot longer too. Life in heaven is better than life on earth.

I often think of laying up treasures in heaven as similar to preparing for retirement—perhaps a kind of spiritual retirement, loosely speaking. For retirement a person sacrifices some of their funds that they could spend now, for later. You might say they defer some gratification and set themselves up to be gratified later. Later in Hebrews 11, Moses is the subject, and his willingness to wait for later for his rewards:

He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward (Hebrews 11:26).

Some say being saved from our sins costs us nothing, some say it costs us everything. I think the latter is more accurate. Jesus told us we must take up our cross daily and follow Him. The cross is costly, people die on crosses.

So, returning to the retirement illustration, in retirement preparation we forgo some pleasures now to be better set for retirement later. In the Christian life it isn’t all that dissimilar. If a person preparing for retirement doesn’t sacrifice some on the way, they end up retirement age poorly prepared for living their later years. In a similar way, if we live only for this life and make little or no effort to prepare for the next, we may be very disappointed when the next life comes, and it surely will come! A disciplined preparation for later is a wise idea both for retirement here, and for our inevitable transfer to the next life.

Opportunity abounds in this life to enjoy ourselves, often partaking in what the Bible calls sin. And sometimes good things can get in the way of a faithful walk with God, taking time away from the better things. But stamping eternity on our eyeballs and looking at everything in life in light of eternity makes a major difference in how we live our lives. I have used the terms lesser things and greater things for some time in describing how we live this life. There are lots of bad things and good things we can invest in our days we have been given in this life. And then there are the better or best things. Each day we decide what this day will look like for eternity and on judgment day. It is largely up to us how we live today, and whether it will have any eternal significance. Are we going to live today for lesser things, or greater things? Are we going to continue to get caught in the fast life and keep squeezing God out of our lives? Are we going to give God the leftovers or are we going to give Him our best? What are you going to do today that matters forever?

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2018 in eternity, Hebrews, Inspirational, Uncategorized

 

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BECOME A STUDENT OF THE BIBLE

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I have been a zealous Bible student for most of my life. Bible study comes easy for me, it is the highlight of my day. I realize studying the Bible doesn’t come as easy for everyone, but I would like to share some thoughts on why study the Bible and some of the benefits one quickly realizes when taking time out to listen to our God through His words in the Bible.

Most of the chapters of the Bible are 20-40 verses so it takes only about 2-4 minutes to read one of those chapters. Of course it is best to not just quickly read through a chapter, but it is better than nothing! Ideally, we also spend some time meditating on the words, consider how they apply to us, and spend some time praying about what we have learned.

The book of Psalms has much to say about the words of God, calling them precepts, commandments, laws, words, etc. One of my favorite chapters of the Bible is Psalm 119 which has 176 verses, and nearly all of them talk about the words of God. Many of the verse reveal the benefits of the word of God in our lives. For instance:

I have hid Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11).

Are you having trouble overcoming temptation or sin? Feed on the purifying words of God, and become stronger against temptation.

The very first verse I remember memorizing at about age nine is similar:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word (Psalm 119:9).

Trying to fumble your way through life and wanting some direction from God, some understanding of His will? Here is some help:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

The words of God shine on us and are a lamp to show where we are in life and how we are doing. And they also are a light showing us future ways to go.

Need faith? There is help in the words of God:

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Notice the word, hearing? Try not just reading the Bible, but listening to it via an audio Bible. There is something good that happens when you audibly hear the words of God.

The apostle Paul was a great fan of believers becoming students of the Bible, enumerating lots of benefits in 2 Timothy 3:15-17:

  • They are able to make you wise for salvation through Jesus Christ
  • They teach you
  • They rebuke and correct you
  • They train you in righteousness
  • They equip you for every good work

The devil has always been a busy devil. As he sees time pass and the end nearing, he really is stepping it up. One of his ways to deceive believers and unbelievers alike is to mess with doctrine. He whispers to us to tolerate things God hates and condemns. He makes millions believe they, or even nearly all people go to heaven when they die. He confuses the way to forgiveness by making up other believable methods of salvation. And he seduces us to become so busy that we seldom study our Bible. Being a student of the Bible protects us from his lies and false doctrine. Why waste an entire life believing wrong things? Just become a student of the Bible and learn the right things.

Again, it takes little time to start reading the Bible every day and meditating on it. Think about it: Most of us are up and awake for around 16 hours every day. Shouldn’t we spend some of that time with the One who made us, has plans for us, sustains us and saves us? Is there anything more important than connecting with God every day?

The words of God can be depending on now and forever. What He has said won’t sometime become old news and untrue. This is important to us believers. If His words are eternal and He is eternal, He can and will back them up now and a million years from now.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8).

Why not spend some time reading and meditating on those eternal words today?

 

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2018 in Inspirational, Uncategorized

 

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MY FIRST LOVE

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On Wednesday mornings I have finished a study for men on Genesis and now we have jumped to Revelation. I love the book of Revelation and have read it regularly for decades. I can honestly say that every time I have gone back and read it, I have gone deeper and learned more from its vast well of mysteries and mysteries revealed. 3

In chapter two and three there are seven letters from Jesus to seven churches. These churches all differ in what they are good at and not so good at, so are a good representation of all believers and all churches. The first church Jesus dictated a letter to the church in Ephesus.

The Ephesian church was established in the mid first century, some say by Paul, some by John the apostle. Regardless, both Paul and John served there as well as Apollos and Aquila and Priscilla. Several decades later Jesus Himself addressed the church through this letter in Revelation.

After describing who this letter is coming from, Jesus, He then begins to compliment the Ephesian church for many things they are doing right:

I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary (Revelation 2:2-3).

If Jesus addressed me, would He be able to come up with so many good things? Some thoughts on His commendations:

1. I know your works: In Evangelical churches much effort is made to not be too works minded. There is some merit in this, however the pendulum can swing too far the other way and indeed often does! We are told repeatedly in the New Testament we will be judged by…our works! It is popular to quote Ephesians 2:8-9 about being saved by grace through faith, and thank God for these truths! But seldom is the next verse included, verse 10:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus TO DO GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

We are not just saved from hell and we don’t just automatically get raptured when we believe. We are saved to spend the rest of our lives doing good works.

2. Your toil: The only comment I have on this is, would I describe my efforts for the gospel as toiling, or at my convenience? Toiling suggests hard work with sweat and achy muscles in mind!

3. You cannot bear those who are evil: Generation after generation we seem to have a sliding scale of what evil is. But there is really only one definition: God’s definition. And we find that all over the Bible. So the question is: Do we tolerate evil in our own lives, those we have authority over, and in our church? Jesus said not being able to bear or tolerate evil is a good thing. Much is said about tolerance these days, but have you noticed that it is usually about tolerating what the Bible calls evil?!

4. You tested those who call themselves apostles and are not: Do I know the scriptures well and am I in tune enough with the Holy Spirit to recognize the difference between truth and error? If I have been a believer for several years, has my knowledge of the holy increased proportionally?

5. You are enduring patiently: How is my patience? How is my spiritual endurance? Do I keep plugging along in my quest for living right NO MATTER WHAT? Or is my faith a faith of convenience? Taking up our cross daily (Luke 9:23) is not convenient! People die on crosses!

6. You have not grown weary: This isn’t just talking about general life, it’s talking about working, toiling for the gospel and for His name’s sake. Question: Am I even doing enough in my life for the gospel to even get weary? If I am weary at times, is it because of working for the gospel, or just because I am too busy?

7. You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans: The Nicolaitans were famous for what some now call “greasy grace,” or “easy believism.” The Nicolaitans thought the grace of God was so powerful that they didn’t have to live right; they didn’t have to abstain from sin. After all, it’s all under the blood! The net result was that grace was basically a license to sin. Paul had something to say about that attitude in Romans 6:1-2:

What shall we say then: Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Jesus said we are to HATE an attitude like this. Yet when we casually say we sin every day in thought, word or deed, are we not dangerously close to the same attitude? We are often told we should love for the sake of Christ, and this is very true. But we are also called to hate for the sake of Christ. Do I hate falsehood? Do I hate all evil? Or do I just dislike it some, or maybe even like some of what God calls evil? A friend of mine used to tell people who couldn’t quit sinning, “You just don’t hate sin enough! Paul leaves no doubt what attitude we should have toward what God calls evil: Abhor what is evil, hold fast to that which is good (Romans 12:9). Not much room for tolerance there!

8. You have abandoned your first love: This suggests there has been a replacement of sorts. Have there been times in my life when I was more on fire for God and His purposes on earth? Has my once hot love cooled off and been replaced by something else? Has busyness gotten in the way of toiling, patient endurance, true discernment, loving good and hating evil? Is my Christian life bearing fruit or does it look more like I am just in a type of Christian club that demands little of me? Am I as different from unbelievers as Christ would have me be? If not, am I going to continue falling farther from my First Love, or is today, the first day of the rest of my life going to be a pivotal day and the beginning of a better me? Am I going to count myself done with lesser things and devote what remains of my life to greater things? Much of our lives is the choices and priorities we make. As Joshua once said, “Choose this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15).

 
 

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QUIET TIME

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If you don’t have time to read this blog through, you are probably the one who needs to.

Quiet Time…even the words bring a bit of refreshment, don’t they? Especially for those of us with…kids! I am leading a weekly discipleship group for men using the book Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden. I really recommend this book for those who want to establish a solid foundation for their faith, and also for those who want to take it to the next level. It is 25 lessons on things like being a disciple, Sin, Grace, The Holy Spirit, Money and all kinds of good things like that. The chapter we are on this week is called, “Quiet Time,” and I would like to share a few thoughts about having a Quiet Time as a regular discipline in our Christian lives.

The phrase “Quiet Time” is common in Evangelical circles and refers to daily coming to God and spending meaningful time with Him. Out of all the things in my discipleship group we cover, I think this is the most important chapter of all. Without daily time with God, everything in the Christian life is a little harder. Without a Quiet Time Christian maturity keeps getting kicked down the road indefinitely.

Jesus felt the need to spend time with God:

And rising early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed (Mark 1:35 ESV).

Jesus spent time connecting with God. Keep in mind, Jesus, thougt the Son of God, came as a baby and spent three decades learning, maturing and getting prepared for His ministry. Much of that prep time was quiet time with God.

Every year I take a prayer retreat out in a cabin in the woods to get away with God. I do this at a Franciscan retreat center called Pacem in Terris. The verse they base their ministry on is this:

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10 ESV).

There is something about spending time with God that makes an incredible difference in our lives. It’s a discipline, for sure, but with time becomes a healthy addiction. Some of the benefits I see spending time with God are:

  • Setting priorities straight
  • Consistency in our Christian walk
  • Overcoming sin and unhealthy habits
  • Knowing what we believe and why we believe it
  • Recognizing beliefs and doctrines that are just not right
  • It sets us up for spiritual success
  • We move on to spiritual maturity
  • We are far more equipped to be a blessing to others
  • We get to know God

Moses was interceding with God for Israel who, in spite of seeing miracles and the provision of God, thought it was ok to worship other gods. God wanted to get rid of them all and start over with Moses and make him a great nation. Moses contended for Israel and his intercession saved most of them. Then God said He would send an angel to lead them but He Himself wouldn’t go ahead with them. Moses said:

If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here (Exodus 33:15).

Moses knew they were no match for the enemy without the presence of God. And neither are we. The devil had been honing his skills for thousands of years and we have been alive for decades, at the most. We need as much of God in our lives as He will give us. And no matter how hard we try, it just doesn’t happen without regular time with Him. In John chapter 15 Jesus talks extensively about abiding in the vine. He is the vine, we are the branches, and we need to abide, remain, and cling to Him to be fruitful in our lives. It’s pretty tough to abide in the vine without spending regular time with the Vine, Jesus Christ.

But the truth is, most of us know all this and probably agree that if we spend consistent time with God we will be better Christians, to put it bluntly. We know this, but many of us don’t do this. Life is busy and there are many things, good, legitimate things screaming for our time. Along with those loud voices is the quiet voice of God also inviting us to come and meet with Him. But the loud voices often prevail. To be disciples we need to exercise something that sounds like the word disciple: discipline. Without discipline there is no disciple.

If you have been struggling with a consistent time with God, a sin, maturing in the faith and the like, why not make this year the pivotal year in your life’s story? Millions can divide their lives between the time before they spent daily time with God and after they began, and the difference is dramatic. There is a nagging verse in the book of James that reads:

Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17 ESV).

Hmm, when you put that way, maybe we should all clear some time in our schedule and do what may be the most important thing to do in the schedule. It is still early in the year, make this the one commitment you really stick to. Your life will change and soon will sound like king David:

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God (Psalms 42:1-2 ESV).

I have found the Psalms to be a great way to start my prayer engine and recently wrote a book about it, called, Praying the Psalms. If it sounds interesting, check it out on Amazon. God bless you, dear readers, as you seek Him who is easy to find and grow to maturity in Him through delightful time with Him.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2018 in Inspirational, Uncategorized

 

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NEW YEAR, NEW BEGINNINGS

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Happy New Year!

Living in Minnesota, I have little affection for the month of January. However, I love January 1. All my life I have enjoyed the opportunity to consider the blessing of new beginnings on January 1. For as far as I can remember, back to my teens, I have paused at midnight on New Year’s Eve and prayed the New Year in with thankfulness for the year passed and resolve for better things in the new year.

So I have always loved the beginning of the New Year. The only way one could improve on it would be if it were in the summer. New beginnings are a beautiful thing. Who doesn’t like another chance? No matter what a year looked like and brought to us, we have a chance to start new every January. True, some of the circumstances may remain, but we have an opportunity to…

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Posted by on December 31, 2017 in Uncategorized