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     I have learned many things as a pastor and am sure I will learn much more.  One of the main things I have learned is that people do not like talking about… death and dying.  People would rather talk about anything else, just not that topic.  However, death is part of life and it is something that we all must face.     Are we prepared for death?  Death impacts us all.  As I think back on deaths in my life, two come to mind immediately.  The first is that of my Aunt Betty.  I had worked for my aunt on the farm (my first paying job) and other various jobs and she and I had a close relationship.  My grandma, cousin and aunt were going over to Owen-Withee to get a ham in December of 1982. They were making a left-hand turn and a truck driver did not see them turning and hit the car.  My grandma and cousin survived but my Aunt Betty did not.  It was my first experience with death that I can remember.  It was made worse by an event that happened at the funeral home the ... Read More »

Are You Willing to Put Off Your Old Self?”

     One of my favorite books is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  It was first published in 1937 (yes, the movie came much, much later) and since then has become one of the most popular books ever written.  It has never been out of print and it has won numerous awards.     The Hobbit was written with a strong theological basis.  It is very much a Christian book because Tolkien was very much a Christian author.  As you read it, one of the best places to see this foundation at work is within the theme of moral and spiritual growth.      James Stuart Bell in The Spiritual World of the Hobbit writes: “One core concept of Christian doctrine is that human beings are born with a fatal flaw – something that’s broken in the core of our beings must be fixed before we can become the people God created us to be.  This defect is often defined as ‘sin’ or our ‘sinful nature.’”      God is the one who ultimately fixes us, of course, and God does so in a dramatic way.  Because of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, we ... Read More »

“Am I Like A Monkey?”

     There are numerous television shows about hoarding and the number is predicted to increase.  Why do people hoard?  Another growing business is storage facilities.  People do not have enough room so they pay for storage to store their excess belongings.  Sometimes it is necessary but most of the time it is just because we have accumulated too many possessions.  Is it greed?  Why do we do it?  Do we not want to let go?  We do the same thing with our finances, afraid to let go and give back to God.       You may have heard the famous anecdote about how people catch monkeys in India.       “Long ago, an insightful hunter figured out that monkeys are selfish creatures, so he created a method of capture that takes advantage of that nature.      First, the monkey hunter cuts a small hole in one end of a coconut – a hole just big enough for the monkey to fit his hand in – and ties a long cord to the other end.  Then he puts peanuts, banana chunks, or some other enticing treat into the hole, places the coconut in the ... Read More »

“We Don’t Need to Fight Critics” BY RICK WARREN 

So I replied by sending this message to them: ‘I am doing a great work! I cannot stop to come and meet with you.’ Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply” (Nehemiah 6:3-4 NLT). Negative people will distract you. You know God has given you an important assignment. But these naysayers tell you that you’re the wrong person. You’ve got the wrong idea. You’re doing it the wrong way. Take Nehemiah, for example. Nehemiah wasn’t a pastor or a priest. He was a businessman. Israel had been taken captive by the Babylonians. The Israelites had been in exile for 70 years — and then the Babylonians let them go home. Jerusalem had been destroyed and was defenseless. Nehemiah got a big idea. “I’ll rebuild my city. And I’ll start by rebuilding the wall to protect it.” He encountered instant opposition. Israel’s enemies didn’t want to see Jerusalem defended. Leaders realize that every opportunity comes with opposition. I’ve never done anything in my life that wasn’t opposed by somebody. Opportunity plus opposition equals God’s will. Nehemiah’s enemies tried all sorts of things to ... Read More »

“Building Fences or Building Bridges?”

“If a brother or sister believer hurts you, go and tell them – work it out between the two of you.  If the person listens, you’ve made a friend.”  Matthew 18:15 (The Message) “You can’t go wrong when you love others.  When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.”   Romans 13:10 (The Message) Once upon a time, there were two brothers.  Their father had a large farm and when he became too old to work, he called his sons to him.  “I am too old to work anymore,” he said.  “I will divide my farm in half and give each of you one-half  I know that you will always work together and will be good friends.” When the brothers first started farming on their adjoining farms, they were the best of friends and would share everything together.  Then, one day, there was an argument between the two brothers and they stopped speaking to one another.  For many years, not a word was spoke between them. One day, one of the brothers was at his house when a carpenter came to his door and said, ... Read More »

“Spiritually Dead or Alive?”

Many times, I have had folks say to me: “Pastor, I do not need to go to church.  I can worship God on my own.”  While the latter may be true, I often respond by asking: “Are you being nourished or how often are you distracted?  Regular church attendance is extremely valuable, is very important and should be practiced by anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ.  Church is not something that you do individually it is something that you do collectively.  To be a follower of Christ is not just what you do by yourself it is what you do together with other people.  There are many reasons why you should come to church regularly, such as: It Is What Jesus Did: “Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he’d been brought up and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath.”  (Luke 14:6) The Bible tells us that “as usual” or as another translation says “as was His custom” Jesus went to the place of worship.  This is also in keeping with one of the Ten Commandments which is, “Observe the Sabbath by keeping ... Read More »

Dead or Alive?

Many times, I have had folks say to me: “Pastor, I do not need to go to church.  I can worship God on my own.”  While the latter may be true, I often respond by asking: “Are you being nourished or how often are you distracted?  The following are two of my favorite illustrations about the importance of attending church: (1) A churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.      “I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time, I have heard something like 3,000 sermons, but for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them.  So, I think I’m wasting my time and the preachers and priest are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.” This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column.  Much to the delight of the editor, it went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:      “I’ve been married for 30 years now.  In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals.  But, for the life ... Read More »

50 Ways The Bible Can Change Your Life (Continued)

Want to make changes in your life for 2017? Reading the Bible can change your life in so many ways… at least 50 but there are many more ways. How can it change your life? “The Christian who is truly intimate with Jesus will never draw attention to their self but will only show the evidence of a life where Jesus is completely in control. This is the outcome of allowing Jesus to satisfy every area of life to its depth. The picture resulting from such a life is that of the strong, calm balance that our Lord gives to those who are intimate with Him.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest) 12: Choose Hope – To choose hope and perseverance is not to brush aside our grief. It is to address our pain head-on and to work through our feelings. To choose hope is to believe that happiness and joy are attainable again, despite what our grief tells us. 11: Don’t Be a Stranger to God – We live in an age where self-reliance is valued. We feel pressured to have all the answers. But the reality is, ... Read More »

 “50 Ways The Bible Can Change Your Life” (Continued)

Want to make changes in your life for 2017?  Reading the Bible can change your life in so many ways… at least 50 but there are many more ways.  How can it change your life?               “Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word.  All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.  The Scriptures train God’s servants to do all kinds of good deeds.”  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)      24:  Be Stronger Than Your Temptations –  Even you live by a moral code, you will face challenges to your convictions.  Temptation found Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  It found Jesus in the wilderness.  And it will find you – likely when you’re at your most vulnerable point.  As the author of Proverbs 6 recommended, meditating on the principles that form the core of who you are and who you should be is a great first step in resisting temptation.  The practice of reflection can be a helpful tool.      23:  Choose Your Associates Carefully – Solomon, the author of Proverbs 4, understood that the ability to distinguish ... Read More »

50 Ways The Bible Can Change Your Life (Continued)

The Bible is still the best-selling book of all time.  Reading the Bible can change your life in so many ways… at least 50 but there are many more ways.  How can it change your life? “Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  God is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort.  God comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share this same comfort with others in trouble.”  (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)      37:  Comfort Those Who Grieve –  God understands all too well why we mourn and ache after we lose someone close to us.  That’s why he promises to do something about it.  “God blesses those people who grieve.  They will find comfort!”  (Matthew 5:4) Sometimes words aren’t necessary at all.  Sometimes simply being there for another person – as a sounding board for the person’s thoughts and feelings or as a silent partner in grieving – is enough.      36:  Give God the Credit – God chooses to work through humble people because when God’s done, they will make sure God gets the glory.  They won’t claim undue credit for themselves.  ... Read More »

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