Meanderings of a Minister


For Better or For Worse

A number of years ago, a Washburn Rural High School Junior from Topeka made a terrible decision that God used for amazing glory.  Perhaps you read the story in the papers after Joe White, and three friends, decided to try to act out some of the stupid stunts they had seen in a movie appropriately titled for a beast of burden not normally known as intelligent.  During a night that involved drinking and false courage brought upon by the encouragement of “friends”, Joe jumped from a moving vehicle only to end up with a brain injury that made him totally have to relearn everything he had known in life.  In addition to the brain injury, he also suffered paralysis of his right side which, being right handed, required him to relearn even the motor skills needed for basic bodily functions.

I met Joe White at Super Summer, our denomination’s youth camp, in Salina, Kansas.  He spoke to the kids about his dumb decision, which he called stupid.  He told them to be safe and don’t do it.  Never, never, never, never do it.  He struggled to complete sentences and got sidetracked at times, but was able to communicate the basic message that he was thankful for this episode because God had used it to get his attention so that he could find out about Jesus and accept Him as his personal Lord and be saved.  He wished he had known Jesus before and did not have to go through it, but he always has a smile on his face when talking about Jesus.

Why do I tell you his story?  Simply because most of us are fair weather friends when it comes to the Lord.  If life gets tough, we want instant delivery.  If we lose something, we pray for it to be returned.  Many of us even go so far as to get mad at God for anything that happens not in accord with our wishes.  Joe White praises God even though he will always have to have an adult escort wherever he goes.  He loves God even though he cannot raise his right hand.  He is dedicated to Christ even though he often can’t remember what he started to say or do.  Do you?

What is there on your list for life in the future that you could not love God without?  Let me ask it a different way.  What is there in your life that you are not willing to give up to Him?  Your children?  Your health?  Your job?  Your income?  Your retirement?  Your reputation?  Your position?  Your house?  Joe would say not to hold on to something so tightly that you cannot keep and lose something you cannot afford to lose.  Jesus said it this way:  For what does it benefit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?



Joy Check Up
May 26, 2017, 2:57 pm
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In 1 John, John wrote to his readers and hearers about how to have joy in the Christian walk.  They were struggling and had forgotten the “good” part of the good news.  They had lost their joy for a number of reasons.  As you read through this list, you might stop and ask if you have lost your joy in serving Jesus for a similar reason.

In 1 John 1:4, John said, “These things we write, so that our joy maybe made complete.”  What was causing his hearers and readers to need their joy to be made complete?  I am glad you asked.

(1 John 1:5-7) First, his readers were struggling with the effects of sin in their lives.  Some struggled with living in sin as a normal way of life.  They may have figured that they were saved and had been forgiven of their sins (which is true), so it did not matter how they lived (which is not true).  As they sinned, the Holy Spirit would not leave them alone, but convicted them of sin to draw them back to God so that they felt no peace or joy.

(1 John 1:8) Others struggled with fearing that they might sin in the future and God might deny them entrance into His presence or His Kingdom.  They thought that they had to be perfect in order to earn God’s forgiveness and love.  Because they lived with this fear each day, there was no joy or peace in their lives because they could never really truly know that they are accepted and included in God’s family.

(1 John 1:10) Still yet others struggled with believing the sin of their past was forgiven.  Every time they looked in the mirror, they remembered the words they had spoken in anger, the money they stole, the promise they had broken or the life they had taken.  Since they remembered it, they figured God did as well and that they would never be free from the guilt and shame that caused them to want to crawl under the table and hide.

In the middle of all of this incredible amount of tension, weight and pressure, John dropped a truth that we often quote, but seldom actually stop and listen to.  What is that truth?

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

You might be tempted to think, “Wait!  What?  That seems too easy!”  It could not be simpler, but it is not easy at all.  This verse is written to believers.  We are told that we need to confess our sins.  What does confess mean?  It means that we need to first agree with God about our sins.  What does God think of our sins?  They are foul, horrible, evil, and in stark opposition and an offense to His holiness and goodness.  They are so foul that they cost the life of His Only Begotten Son.  So, we must agree with Him about our sins and the evil that produces them in us.

We must also agree with Him about the need to turn away from those sins and to trust in God for His forgiveness and grace.  Notice the parts.  First, turn away from the sins.  There is no such thing as confessing sins with any semblance of an intention to continue in them.  Next, we trust in God for His forgiveness.  And then we must trust in God’s grace to carry us through.

So, how is your joy right now?  Is there something that you need to confess to God?  You don’t need to go to a priest or pastor, just talk to God and agree with Him about your sin, turn away from your sin, trust your life to God’s direction and agree with God that His grace is sufficient for your forgiveness and deliverance.  That is way to joy.  At least in the first part of 1 John.



“Is This Really What Jesus Told You Guys to Be Doing?”
May 19, 2017, 2:55 pm
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This is the question that Matt Casper asked Jim Henderson in the book, Jim and Casper Go To Church.  Casper is an atheist and was traveling to visit churches with Jim Henderson, a retired pastor.  The purpose of their visits was to get the reaction of the atheist to what the churches were doing.  At the end of their visits, and prior to writing the book, Casper asked Jim this very question, “Is This Really What Jesus Told You Guys to Be Doing?”  While I certainly do not agree with many of the ideas contained in the book, this question has not left me.

For many of us today, we have gotten to the point that church is somewhere we go to pay someone (or many someones) to do something to us.  It is basically seen by many as simply another service we seek (no pun intended).  We look at our weekend errands and see things like:  1.  Go grocery shopping.  2.  Drop off the dry cleaning.  3.  Get the computer worked on.  4.  Wash the car.  5.  Go to church.  But isn’t the Christian life supposed to be much more than just being able to check a block off of a list of duties?  If it is, then what are we supposed to be doing?  Isn’t it good enough to just go to church and give our money?  Isn’t it enough to endure a sermon that is longer than I would prefer (and even without complaining!)?  Isn’t it enough to say I was there?  I mean, many people don’t go to church at all!  I have to be better than them, right?

While some people might be able to get away with looking at Christianity like this, I simply am not able.  When I think about what God sacrificed to make salvation available to me, I can’t help but thinking there must be more than just Sunday services.  What about living a life that shows how grateful I am to Him for doing so?  Like Paul in Romans 7, I think, “Wretched man that I am!  Who can set me free from the body of this death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Romans 7:24-25a)  What about learning to live free of the entanglements of sin?  What about developing in intimacy with Him?  What about seeing Him transform all areas of my life right down to the thoughts and intentions of my heart?

As important as even these thoughts are, there has to be even more, right?  I mean, doesn’t God want me to make a difference in His world so that others can know Him as well?  Yes, I need to give to support His work, but what about telling my story to people so they can hear about life with Him?  What about taking actions to correct wrong?  What about alleviating suffering, meeting needs and lifting people up?  What about letting my light shine before men so that they give glory to God (Matthew 5:16)?  What about making an actual difference (James 2:14-16)?

With all of this in mind, I am challenged to think about the summer that is already upon us.  For many of us, this is a time of turmoil and uncertainty as we step away from the routine of school, work and civic activity, but this does not mean that we should shut our hearts down or put our hearts on hold from God.  This can be a time when we have additional time to invest in God’s activity in our world.  This can be a time that we spend with friends at cookouts and ball games and can provide an excellent opportunity to get to know them and their struggles and do something to help.  This can be a time that we can involve ourselves in ministry more than normal.  It can be a time when we spend more time in prayer, bible study and devotion to God.  Why not take the time, this summer, to make a list of ways you would like to grow in your relationship with Christ and begin now to take steps towards that growth.  Who knows?  You just might find yourself where you would like to be.  And if you are looking for a place to plug in and serve, just ask.  There is plenty of ministry for everyone!



Children’s Book or Serious Question?

In the book, What If He Had Not Come?, David Nicholson has undertaken the task of updating a well-known story that has captivated everyone from children to theologians for many years.  The question is:  what if Jesus had never come?  What would change?  Before you jump to the conclusion that it is just churches or religious stuff that would change, Nan Weeks first suggested that many other things would be affected including:  hospitals (most were started by churches or Christians), shelters for homeless people (most have Christian roots), retirement homes (mostly started by Christians as well), etc.

The pictures in this version are simple and yet effective at helping the reader picture what the main character goes through when being faced with the situation if Jesus had never come.

While I received the eBook of this title, I am sure that board book version would be just as helpful and durable for many readings which could even lead to a family tradition.

Nicholson’s version also comes with a discussion and study guide for those interested in using this to study together as a family or in a Sunday School setting.

This book will certainly help to focus the minds of young children on the real reason for which many families celebrate Christmas.

*This ebook was provided for review by BookLook*



My Bible Adventure: Much More Than A Book of Children’s Bible Stories

I recently received a copy of My Bible Adventure Through God’s Word.  I anticipated being a bit underwhelmed by yet another simplified and dumbed down children’s Bible, but I was completely pleasantly surprised.  This Bible is so much more than that!

First, you actually get some Bible.  Many of these Bible books don’t actually give you any Bible.  They just give you a pre-digested version.  This one actually gives you some text.  Additionally, the book gives you an explanation or commentary on the Bible passage.  It is written on the child’s level, but does not assume the child needs things so watered down as to not be recognizable.

After the commentary, comes a prayer that you can pray with your little one.  You can either have them read it and pray it or, as we do with my 7-year old daughter, you can pray the prayer together.

Lastly, the Bible has a feature that I have not seen before.  It is a section called, “Take It With You”.  This is a short restatement of the key truth from the passage you have read that night.  This helps to make sure that you can remember and restate what you have read.

The book is broken up into 52 weekly readings, but we have used it nightly and it has not been too much.

I would say this Bible is usable and helpful for preschoolers up to about 8 or 9 years old.

I received this book from Book look in exchange for my honest review.



Mother’s Day Isn’t Always Candy and Flowers
May 12, 2017, 2:51 pm
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This next Sunday, we will celebrate Mother’s Day.  For many households, this will be a time of great joy as they celebrate the life of their mother.  For others, it will be a painful reminder of the fact that they never had the privilege of becoming a mother.  For still yet others, it will be a time of mourning the loss of children or the loss of their mother.  For a final section of the population, it may be a time of mourning the fact they grew up knowing no mother or of remembering the abuse of their mother.

Now that I have thoroughly depressed you about a holiday that is supposed to be a fun and light celebration of life, let me explain.  One of the most famous mothers, Mary, wife of Joseph, knew both the joy and pain of motherhood.  She knew the joy we associate with Christmas and beyond.  The Bible says that she watched as shepherds visited and worshipped her Son.  It tells of the arrival of Wise Men and the gifts they gave her Son as they worshipped Him as King of the Jews.  These were no doubt joyous times.  She also knew the joy of giving birth to Jesus’ brothers and sister (Mark 6:3).  She knew the joy of watching her children grow and mature.  Her greatest joy was in finding that her Son had conquered death and hell and the grave and had been resurrected (Matthew 28:1-7).

In addition to the joy of motherhood, Mary also knew the pain that often comes along as well.  Mary was warned by Simeon that a sword would pierce her own soul (Luke 2:33).  Mary would know the pain of having her own children reject Jesus (John 7:5).  She would know the pain of turning loose of her Son to allow Him to move out into the ministry for which He was born (Mark 3:31-35).  She knew the pain of watching her Son tortured and killed.  She also knew the pain of separation from Him as He was in the grave.

What is my point?  Simply this:  Mother’s Day may not be a time of joy and celebration for all families, but we can know a few things for sure.  First, we can know that our pain is not the first pain to be experienced as a mother or because of one.  Many others have experienced God’s grace to enable them to talk through this pain and have gone on to live for God with transformed and powerful lives.  Second, we can know that God celebrates the good with us, but also understands the pain and provides His grace to get us through it.

While most of us will not have to endure the pain of watching our child mercilessly tortured and killed, we can still know that God understands our struggles and has promised “Though weeping may endure for the night, a shout of joy comes in the morning.”  (Psalm 30:5b)



Ever Wish You Knew the Bible Better?

Have you ever wanted more out of your Bible reading, or have you ever wondered why it seems that others get so much when you get so little?  Perhaps you should do more than read.  Perhaps you should think deeply about scripture, spend time with it, replay it throughout the day, or meditate on Scripture.

I know that you might be thinking, “That is too hard or complicated!   I wouldn’t even know where to begin!”  Actually that is the very reason that Robert J. Morgan wrote the book, Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation:  Find True Peace in Jesus.  Morgan’s book is like having a master walk beside the reader to help with Biblical Meditation.  The book is a treasure trove of information, inspiration, illustration, and rumination, with absolutely no condemnation for any who have not tried to spend more or more serious time in God’s Word.

Each chapter is designed to give the reader a benefit of Biblical meditation.  In the chapter, Morgan tells the reader why they should meditate on scripture and gives examples that flesh out the ideas into actual life lessons.

In addition to the chapters, there is also scattered throughout the small volume, on the green pages, specific suggestions for how to get started.  This helps to make sure that the whole process does not seem to be just for the professionals, but puts the cookies on the bottom shelf for the rest of us.

Additionally, there is a 10-day meditation guide at the back where Morgan walks the reader through the method with helpful pointers and suggestions along the way.  Each day gives the reader a scripture, context, and some thoughts to help with the meditation process.

As bonus, at the end of the book, Morgan gives the reader an additional list of scriptures so that the process can become a habit for life.

I have been meditating on scripture for years, and I found this book to be simple, yet helpful.  I found it to be inspiring without being so far above everyone’s heads to make it unreachable.  I also found it so immediately applicable and practical that there really is no reason that a person could come away from the book questioning the importance, impact, or impassable process so crucial to Christian Growth.

This would be a great book to read on your own or with your children.  It would also be great to be used in church or in a small group setting.  It could also be incorporated into a discipleship strategy for new believers, but that is only the benefit to be had outside of the reader’s heart and mind.  Inside the heart and mind, there is no way to estimate its value or exhaust its uses.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”