Category Archives: Cultural Issues

Feeding the Poor

October 11, 2015

Feeding the poor is something that has been on God’s heart since the beginning of Israel. When God delivered the descendents of Abraham from slavery in Egypt, He gave them laws upon which to build their nation. Among those laws were provisions for the poor to collect food from the fields alongside those who owned and worked the fields. (Remember the story of the book of Ruth?) As the nation matured, giving financial help to the poor and disabled was an important part of their life of faith.

Among the first generation of Christian believers, remembering the poor was an important part of living out their trust in Jesus (see Galatians 2:10). In fact, Paul’s final missionary journey among the churches he helped to establish was in part to collect an offering for the believers in Jerusalem who were poor (see Acts 24:17). This journey to bring money to the poor ended up in Paul’s arrest and eventual trip as a prisoner to Rome. Helping those who are poor has been important in God’s economy from the very beginning.

There could be lots of other biblical references that underline this principle, but if we assume its truth, there is still a vexing question. How do we do it?

At first glance, it might seem that we just hand over some of our money (or food or other resources) to those who do not have enough. Is not that what Paul did, took up an offering and then delivered it to the people in Jerusalem who needed it? I am not so sure.

While it might seem to be a nice gesture, just handing someone some extra money is not as helpful as it might look like. Like many things in life, really helping people is not so simple. Even God’s gracious forgiveness is not just handed out, it was purchased by Jesus on the cross. Forgiveness was costly. Its cost helps us to understand its great value. We do not take our forgiveness for granted when we think of the cost.

In fact, if we look a bit deeper, we see that even Paul’s collection for the poor in Jerusalem was not just handed out, it was delivered to the church leaders. Paul put the gifts from Christians all across Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia into the hands of church leaders. They were the ones who knew best how to use it to help the poor.

We can do that too. Our Global Hunger Relief funds will be used by missionaries and other church leaders all around the world to help the poor. While I am not wise enough to go to Southeast Asia or Africa and distribute financial help to relieve hunger, we have missionaries and churches who can. They are on the scene. They know what to do. They see the need first hand. This money goes 100% into the hands of church leaders who are in place to serve. It is our chance to equip them to meet those needs.

Global Hunger Relief is important. Let’s do it!


September 20, 2015

As I wrap up preaching through Proverbs, chapter 30 has several themes. I suppose I could address each theme individually, but instead I will preach from the verses that describe the four small things that are “extremely wise.”

Still, there is another description that causes me to pause and think.

Proverbs 30:15-16

The leach has two daughters.

Give! Give! They cry.

There are three things that are never satisfied,

Four that never say, ‘Enough!’

The grave,

The barren womb,

Land, which is never satisfied with water

And fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’

While I realize that it is possible to be satisfied with things that are not as they should be and that dissatisfaction does motivate us to healthy and beneficial change. Still, it would seem that Agur (the writer of Proverbs 30) is encouraging us to be satisfied. He promotes satisfaction by pointing out four things that are NEVER satisfied. Four things that none of us would consider admirable and desirable: the grave, a childless woman, the thirsty desert, and a blazing fire. I really do not think any of us would want to be like either of those four examples.

It draws me back to the beginning verse, “The leach has two daughters. Give! Give! They cry.” In my mind, it begs the question, Am I always wanting God to give me something? Is my connection with God about getting from Him? Getting forgiveness. Getting abundant life. Getting things I want. Getting my way in relationships. Getting help with my problems. Getting, getting, getting.

When I stop and think about it, it is not a very attractive picture (and neither are Agur’s four other pictures). Do I really want to be a spiritual leach?

How about turning that around. How about asking God a very different kind of question. What can I give? Who can I serve? Where am I needed? How can I help?

The more I think about it, the more Agur’s words sound like Jesus. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25) Agur gives us a warning, Jesus gives us an invitation. Both show us the path to the kind of life God intends us to live.

Labor Day Theology

September 6, 2015

I suppose there are few holidays less “spiritual” than Labor Day. If you, like me, know little about the history of Labor Day, here is information from the US Dept. of Labor (

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. In l884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in l885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.

Although this history is very man centered, I am convinced that all work is indeed spiritual activity. I am often reminded that in His creation of mankind, God gave Adam work to do. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:12) This work was not a curse, nor a punishment, but a blessing and an opportunity to co-labor with God. God creates, mankind cares for His creation. In fact, this principle can still guide our actions and plans.

This is not just an Old Testament insight. Colossians 3:22-24 says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

The Bible tells us that believers should do their work directly for the Lord. HE is the one who will reward us in the end. Whatever my job; be it chosen, forced, paid, or volunteer it can be done so that the Lord Jesus is honored by my work.

I think we need a revival of sorts in our jobs – whatever our job may be. We must ask the question, “When Jesus looks into my heart as I do my job, does He see an offering to Him, or toil grudging given to my earthly boss?”

All of our labor, from the Bible’s point of view, is holy, sacred and an offering fit for the King of the Universe! Now that is worth celebrating on Labor Day!

How does this happen?

August 23, 2015

I was shocked to read in the newspaper yesterday a story about the arrest of a RedHawks baseball player early Friday morning. He apparently admitted to drinking, marijuana use and performance enhancing drug use without a prescription. The newspaper reported that the RedHawks management would investigate the matter and take action they deemed appropriate. In the end, the player arrested was released from the team yesterday.

Although I did not know this player personally, I was stunned by the situation. I have great respect for the management of the RedHawks and for the players I know personally. This sad situation affects a lot of people and I know some of them quite well. I prayed for them through the day, asking God to guide them in their responses and words as they deal with these matters.

In a more detached way I also thought about the traps of sin that all of us face. As you probably remember, my “favorite” definition of sin is “trying to make my life work without God.”   How does a baseball player get caught up in illegal drug use (or even legal drug abuse) and the lure of performance enhancing drugs? The short answer is that he is trying to make his life work without God.

If we decide that we do not have a place in our lives for a Heavenly Father, then we will grab on to those things that will give us what we think we need. Alcohol and marijuana give us a feeling of peace and block out the stress and disappointments of daily life. Do I need a Heavenly Father if I have alcohol? If baseball is my source of significance and wellbeing, then is there any doubt that performance enhancement will draw me into its web?

BUT the good news is that we do not need to try to make our lives work without God. In fact, if we will turn back to Him, He promises to receive us. If we confess our sins, He promises to forgive us. If we believe in (trust) Him, he promises to give us eternal life. We do not need to try to make our life work without God, we can invite Him in and He will bring with Himself the life that we are looking for.

That life is not found in baseball performance, the best jobs, the perfect family or marriage, the successful business or a big bank account. Life is found in Jesus. As John tells us, “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:3-4)

We were never meant to try to make our lives work without God. Instead, we were created for a connection with Him. Have you found life in Him?

Everyday Wisdom

June 14, 2015

When I was growing up, we had three sets of clothes. We had our “Sunday clothes” or as some might still refer to them, “our Sunday best.” We wore these only on Sunday to church and once in a while for special occasions.

Then we had our “school clothes.” These we wore to school and other times when we needed to look presentable. But once we were home, they came off and we wore our “everyday clothes.”

“Everyday clothes” were not special, but they were the clothes we liked best. We could play, work, ride bikes and do whatever we wanted in our “everyday clothes.” They were the clothes we wore most often.

In somewhat the same sense, the wisdom of the book of Proverbs is an “everyday wisdom.” It is not wisdom only for special occasions or unique situations. Rather, it is wisdom that works in everyday life.

Trust the LORD, He is involved in our daily lives and plans.

Hard work brings success, laziness invites poverty.

Words are important, be careful what you say.

Watch out for pride, be humble and quick to take advice.

Parenting is important, do it well.

Adultery and sexual sin will destroy your life if you let them entice you.

Be careful who you let influence your life.

How you live with your neighbors is important, treat them with respect.

One’s inner life (one’s heart) is of great importance, watch over it.

Friends and family are important to us.

Plan and save, don’t borrow and loan.

Riches are not as important as they might seem.

Be generous and kind to the poor and those less fortunate than you.

Notice how practical these everyday ideas are? That is why ignoring wisdom from God’s Word and making decisions about everyday life based on the world’s values is so dangerous. Once we make a choice, we belong to the consequences of those choices. There are no “do over’s” in everyday life.

That is not to say that the Lord does not forgive and redeem. He will always receive us if we turn to Him. We can bring our broken lives to Him and find a new start. BUT, the consequences of our decisions live on, even after forgiveness and grace.   How much better to LISTEN to God’s wisdom and make good choices in everyday life.   “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” (Proverbs 3:1-2)

Memorial Day

May 24, 2015



General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

The 30th day of May 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance.

If our eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us. Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time.

By order of JOHN A. LOGAN, Commander-in-Chief

As Christians we are called to remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us. We call that remembering time the Lord’s Supper. As we share the Lord’s Supper, we remember what Jesus has done for us.

As Americans, we are also called to remember those who have purchased our freedom by their personal sacrifice and dedication. We call that time of remembering, Memorial Day. Memorial Day is more than a break from school or a vacation day from work. Memorial Day is a call to remember that freedom is NOT free. It is often very costly and that cost was paid by those who themselves did not benefit from its purchase.

Today we give honor and appreciation to those who have gone before us and who paid, often with their lives, for our freedom as Americans. We also appreciate and thank those who even today are taking up that same cause. Those who are willing to stand in “harm’s way” for the freedoms we hold dear.

Finally, I want to challenge us as believers to be the ones to purchase spiritual freedom for others. By sacrificial giving, by sharing our faith, by going to unreached people, by dedicated prayer, we can help purchase spiritual freedom for those who need it most. What a privilege!

Congrats To Our Grads

May 17, 2015

Just yesterday Ewumbua Monono and Romi Gomez were awarded their PhDs at NDSU. Ewumbua’s degree is in agriculture and Romi’s is in statistics. What a great milestone for these brothers. They have worked hard and made lots of sacrifices. Their efforts are made even more outstanding since they accomplished this as international students. Ewumbua’s homeland is Cameroon (in Central Africa) and Romi’s home is in Benin (in West Africa). I hope you will congratulate these brothers on their graduation and learn a little about what is next for them and their families.

Just two weeks ago, Kayla Brottlund graduated from the University of Mary in Bismarck with her Masters degree in occupational therapy. Right after her graduation, Cory, Kayla and Ava moved back to Fargo – back home. Next for Kayla will be 6 months of fieldwork in her profession, followed by a certifying exam. Then she becomes a fully qualified occupational therapist. Congrats to Kayla for this accomplishment and recognition of her hard work. Next time you see Kayla, give her your congratulations.

We have one other graduate in our church family, Nick Nguyen. In just a couple of weeks (May 31), Nick will graduate from Moorhead High. To celebrate his graduation, the Nguyen’s will have an open house for Nick on Saturday, May 23. I hope you can take the time to congratulate Nick and ask him about his plans for next year. (I’ll give you a hint…he will continue to play soccer at the college level.)

Next Sunday, May 24 between Bible study and worship, we will have a special time to recognize our graduates and enjoy a cake in their honor. It is not an elaborate event, but it is one way to honor their achievement. Please plan to join us and be sure to extend your congratulations to each one.

Through the years I have often thought that Jeremiah 29:11-14 has some great words for graduates.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD. “

When we come to crossroads in our lives, we want assurance that the Lord is with us and involved in our lives. These verses remind us that all we need to do is call out to Him, and He promises that we will find Him. It is a great promise to graduates, but not just to graduates. It is a great promise to all of us. Have you sought the Lord with all your heart? Today would be a good day to renew your commitment to that quest, or to begin.

National Day of Prayer

May 3, 2015

Since 1952, every American President has been commissioned to set a National Day of Prayer “on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.” In 1988 the law was amended so that the National Day of Prayer would be held on the first Thursday of May with the stated intentions that it would be a day when adherents of all great religions could unite in prayer and that it may one day bring renewed respect for God to all the peoples of the world.

On a more personal level, for a few years, I was a member of the group that organized and promoted our local National Day of Prayer event. Several of those events were held at Island Park Gazebo and involved leaders from many church groups in our metro area. This year, the local National Day of Prayer event will be held at the Holiday Inn (6:30 PM) and a special guest will be Lisa Crump, Senior Director Prayer Mobilization on the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

I can remember when I was helping to put together National Day of Prayer events, I promised myself that I would attend them, even when I was not a leader. But I must admit that I have often been absent from those local observances. Sometimes the day would come and go and I would not even remember it was the National Day of Prayer.

This year I intend to be different. I am planning to attend, would you like to attend with me? I am not going to listen to a good speaker (although I expect Lisa Crump will be a good speaker). I am not going to support local leaders (I do not even know who they are). I am not going to network with local Christians (although I expect I will see some people there who I know). I am not going because I feel guilty (although I must admit to a bit of guilt because of my past absences from this annual event). I am going because I want to join with others and pray for our country.

I have found that praying with other believers who come together for the purpose of praying is a great blessing and uplift in my life. To let them put into words what my heart feels, is enriching to me. To put my faith to work renews my trust in God. To stand with other believers generates hope for our nation and its future. To know that even if there are many in our country who have no time for prayer, there are also many who will make prayer a special priority.

The theme verse for 2015 is “Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.” (I Kings 8:28) God has promised that He would hear our prayer, the question is, will we pray?

Friendship or Fellowship

March 15, 2015

Lately, I have been thinking about the difference between friendship and fellowship. In many ways, I suspect we often think of them as the same. I am not so sure that is a good connection to make.

When I think of my friendships I think of the people I met and enjoyed their company at pivotal times in my life. As a young boy I had friends. Some of them are still my friends today. When I started graduate school in Denver, Karon and I developed friendships with a few other couples in similar stages of life and with similar responsibilities. In our first pastorate in Devils Lake, with new babies added to our family, once again Karon and I found friends in similar stages of life. It seems like friendship is a combination of personal connections, common life situations, and shared experiences. I am not sure that friendship can be created. It can be discovered, it can be cultivated and it certainly can be lost, but I do not think we can be commanded to make a friend of a certain person. In fact, the more I think about it, the more good friendships are like gifts from God. They are more rare than we might like and very precious when we have them.   Since we are on the subject, is there a friendship that you need to cultivate, appreciate, and encourage in your life right now?

How about fellowship?

When I think of fellowship my first thought is the meaning of the Greek word we usually translate as fellowship. That word might more accurately be translated as partnership. In fact, in Philippians 1:5 the NIV does use partnership as its English translation.

When we read the New Testament we see that fellowship is a reality of life in the church. Fellowship with the Spirit brings us into fellowship with each other (see Acts 2:42; Philippians 2; I John 1:3, 7). It is not optional nor situational. We who believe are partners because of our common bond in Jesus. Being connected to Jesus means I am connected to others who are connected to Jesus.

If I contrast partnership and friendship I notice right away that fellowship is much broader and less personal. We can have fellowship, without friendship. The demands of friendship are more personal, the demands of fellowship are more godly. Fellowship will not happen without godly love, forgiveness, grace and compassion. Yes, those are part of friendship too, but they tend to happen more naturally and with less discipline. Fellowship requires choice, commitment, selflessness, and respect. All of these we give because of JESUS, not because our partner deserves it. Fellowship is a choice we make, friendship is a gift we receive.

These are my thoughts…what do you think about friendship and fellowship?

Asking For Money

February 15, 2015

A few years ago there was a frequent and popular criticism of the church, namely, that the church was always asking for money. In response to that criticism, some churches scaled back the offering. They decided not to pass the offering plate during worship services, but instead, to put an offering box of some kind in the church building and encourage only members and regular attenders to give. I can understand that response to criticism.

Here at TBC, we did it differently. We decided long ago (about 15 years ago) that we will ground our offering in the teaching from the Bible. Each Sunday, before the offering, we would read a passage in the Bible that teaches the importance of giving. In fact, we would emphasize that giving is a very important part of worship. We did this, not to get more money, but because it was the biblical thing to do.

Our informal theme verse for this is II Corinthians 9:6-8. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

Cheerful, faithful, generous, sacrificial giving is very good for us and very honoring to God. It is one of the ways we put our faith into action and discover that God really does give us what we need to abound in every good work (the good works He wants us to do). Giving is NOT a way to get something from our Heavenly Father, but it is a way to say, “we LOVE You.” It is a way to say, “we TRUST You.” It is a way to say, “We want Your Kingdom to come, Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

It is my observation from I Corinthians that this attitude about giving has been a part of the church since its very beginning. We give, not so that others will see and praise us, but so that we can put our love for God into action. We give because the Father first loved us. We give because we love one another. We give because we are challenged to “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.” We give because the Father gave us His Son to be our Savior.

As we think about giving today, can you see how giving has grown in your life? No, do not compare with others. Do not think about the amount of your giving. Instead look into your heart. Do you see cheerful, generous giving there? Can you look back on your life and notice how God has taught you about giving? What is the next step for you in this important part of your spiritual life? What needs is God calling you to meet? Where can you be more generous?

Your pastor,

Dude Garrett