Category Archives: Ministry

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!

A Unique Friendship

October 4, 2015

Many of you know that a dear childhood friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Unless the Lord touches his life, Wes has only a few months to live. In fact, he is already spending most of his day in bed. Although I have experienced the death of many good friends and family, I was not prepared for the emotional impact that Wes’ cancer has had on me. I can hardly think about it without tears and sometimes I cannot speak because of the emotional grip on my vocal cords.

As I thought about it, I realized that Wes as been a very close friend of mine for all of my life. We first met in the Nursery Sunday School class in the church we both grew up attending. We were youth together in that church, including participating in many church activities and ministries. We went to high school together (although Wes was a year younger than me). We attended college together, carpooling the daily drive for most of those years. I worked on the family farm of Wes’ family and we even worked the same part time job together, cleaning the shop floor of an Oldsmobile dealer.

Wes and I were both married about the same time in life and both felt called to be pastors. We both attended seminary (although we went to different schools) and our kids are about the same ages.

About two years after I was called to pastor in Devils Lake, ND, Wes was called to pastor in North Dakota too (an Evangelical Free Church in Wilton). Then, when I came here to be the pastor, it was not long before Wes moved his family to a rural church near St. Cloud. Wes was the pastor there for 24 years before resigning about a year ago.

In all those years, Wes and I shared many phone calls, visits, letters, emails, sermons, and most of all the common challenges of pastoring similarly sized churches. It is no exaggeration to say that Wes and I have shared life for 60 years. We have shared life more closely than most brothers ever have a chance to share life. When I thought about it this past week, I realized how truly amazing that gift from God was for me.

I went to see Wes on Friday. Our 2½ hour visit flew by. We talked about the life we have shared. We talked about heaven and the amazing life that heaven promises to us. I read to him at his request and as he grew tired, I read to Wes from the Bible, II Corinthians 4 and 5. “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands… so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life…God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” As I finished that last verse, Wes said AMEN. You see, that is the Good News, Jesus took our sin, so that we might receive His righteousness and the hope of an eternal home in Heaven. What a hope! Amen, thank you, Jesus!

Denominational Alphabet Soup

September 13, 2015

Every group has its own “inside” lingo. That is to say, all groups talk about things in a kind of linguistic shorthand. We talk of the US (United States) and the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). More locally we refer to the F-M RedHawks (Fargo-Moorhead) and NDSU (North Dakota State University).

Church groups do that too. Our church belongs to the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention), the DBC (Dakota Baptist Convention), and SVBA (South Valley Baptist Association). Within the SBC we have two national boards that lead out in missions and evangelism; NAMB (the North American Mission Board) and IMB (the International Mission Board).

The alphabet soup gets even more complicated when we refer to annual offerings taken to support these important mission boards and outreaches. Sometime in early spring, churches are encouraged to promote and receive the AAEO for NAMB (Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for the North American Mission Board). This offering supports church planting and ministry across North America (including staff, church planters, and ministries in our DBC (Dakota Baptist Convention). Then around Christmas, SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) churches are encouraged to promote the LMCO for IMB (Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for the International Mission Board). Here the money is used to support international missions and missionaries around the world.

If you are quite observant (or familiar with SBC traditions) you will note that there is one other annual offering. This is a special offering for the ministry of each local state convention (in our case, the DBC – Dakota Baptist Convention). Usually received in September, this offering funds ministries that are more local. This offering for the DBC is the Baker State Mission Offering (BSMO).   (See today’s bulletin insert for more details about the Baker State Missions Offering and how it is used across the Dakotas.)

It has been the tradition of SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) churches to promote prayer for these ministries as well as the offerings. This is also true for our DBC (Dakota Baptist Convention) BSMO (Baker State Missions Offering). So, along with an opportunity to give to the BSMO, you are encouraged to pick up a prayer guide (at the bulletin table). The prayer guide will make DBC ministry more personal. (The date for the Week of Prayer for the BSMO was Sept. 6-13, but it can be used anytime.)

Pick up a copy of the prayer guide, pray for DBC (Dakota Baptist Convention) ministries and ask the Lord what He wants you to give to the BSMO (Baker State Missions Offering). And, along the way, we will try to keep the “alphabet soup” of insider talk to a minimum and God’s Kingdom talk to the maximum.

H’s Visit

August 30, 2015

I knew H’s visit would be helpful, but I am surprised at how helpful it has already been for me. (H is one of our IMB partners working in Southeast Asia. He is here because he knows Steve and Janice and because some of us are planning a Christmas trip to Southeast Asia to work alongside Steve and Janice for a week. H is giving us an orientation to ministry there and some training to help us be more effective when we go.) Here are some of the things that have impacted me so far.

God is at work and our prayers have been part of His work. More than 10 years ago, Pastor Lon led our church to adopt an unreached people group, the Khmer of Vietnam (also called the 3K people). For several years, Lon and Kheng led our efforts, our prayer and went several times to Southeast Asia to share the Lord with some in our adopted people group (they were even arrested once) . Sometimes I felt like we were just a very tiny influence in a huge mass of people. We knew of others also reaching out to the Khmer of Vietnam, but mostly we just prayed and supported Lon and Kheng. As H shared his journey, I could see how his ministry is indeed an answer to our prayers.   We did not know his name or his family, but the Lord knew and was preparing him to be an answer to our prayer.

I was encouraged to continue 3 Story Evangelism. (I hope you know what I mean, if not, ask and I will tell you more.) As H taught last night, I was challenged again to listen to other’s spiritual story. We need to learn where other people are spiritually. Knowing that will help us recognize what the Lord is doing in their lives. He always meets us where we are. He comes to us. He does not expect us to reform our lives in order to find Him. (Life reformation comes AFTER we meet Him.) I need to do better at listening to others and understanding their spiritual condition.

I was challenged to help others move in their spiritual journey. What can I do to help others take a step closer to Jesus? Can I answer a question? Can I share something the Lord has done in my life that would motive them to seek Jesus? Can I share a Bible story or biblical truth that they need to know? If I pay attention to my walk with Jesus, He will prepare me to help them take a step closer to Jesus too.

In the end, point people to Jesus, not to me. Yes, I am a pastor and yes, I want to help people. But in the end, I am not a savior. Jesus is the Only Savior. They need to find Him. If my pride, my selfishness, or my insecurity gets in the way, I can distract their focus on Jesus. I need to be sure that my witness points to Jesus, not to myself or even to our church.

I am glad that H was here. I was greatly challenged. How did his message and his life challenged you?

What we believe makes a difference

August 16, 2015

For some reason (I don’t know the reason) I was awake a 2 AM this morning. As I lay in bed half asleep, something I had read and memorized many years ago came strongly to my mind. I recited it over and over thinking about what it says and the deep, biblical meaning in each phrase. I decided I would give it to you today, a gift of truth that can guide and change your life too.

It was written by H.C.G. Moule, a New Testament Greek scholar and Anglican Church Bishop who lived at the beginning of the 20th century. In his “Morning Act of Faith” he captured important truth from God’s Word.

A Morning Act of Faith

I believe on the Son of God, therefore I am in Him,

having redemption through HIs blood and life by His Spirit.

HE IS IN ME and all fullness is in Him.

To Him I belong by

creation, purchase, conquest, and self-surrender.

To me He belongs for all my hourly need.

There is no cloud between my Lord and me.

There is no difficulty inward or outward which He is not
ready to meet in me today.

I believe I have received not the spirit of fearfulness,

but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

The Lord is my keeper.

It is so important that truth should guide our thinking and our choices. This must not be a “personal or individual truth” but truth from God. Truth that will be a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (see Psalm 119). Truth that will keep us on the right path when many around us are walking the wrong path (see II Tim 3). Truth that will calibrate our conscience and teach us right from wrong (see Exodus 20). Truth that will set us free. Free from the guilt and burden of our sin and free to serve and glorify our Creator (see John 8).

Here is a suggestion that I give you from my own years of wanting to follow Jesus… take these words from the Handley Moule and memorize them. Speak them to yourself as you begin a day. Let each powerful, biblical idea impact your life that day for God’s glory. And, it is a great summary of truth to think about at night when sleep seems to be just beyond your grasp.

Journey Off The Map

August 2, 2015

Our adult VBS class will look at the book of Daniel and see how trusting God helps us face the unexpected future – Our Journey Off The Map. Today’s Baseball Chapel Handout also comes from the book of Daniel and emphasizes the integrity of Daniel and his Jewish friends, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego. These men obeyed God even when their lives were at stake. Here are a few of the highlights from their story.

When they were served the royal food, they were determined not to compromise. “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way” (1:8).

They did not cave in to peer pressure. “…but the official told Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you’” (1:10).

They respectfully dealt with their overseer and offered an alternative. “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see” (1:11-13).

They were wise and tactful. “When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact” (2:14).

They praised God and gave Him the credit.   “I thank and praise You, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, You have made known to me what we asked of You, You have made known to us the dream of the king” (2:23).

When threatened to be thrown into a furnace, they had faith that God could save them, but understood that He might choose not to. “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (3:16-18).

In the end, it is always best to obey God. Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise Me will be disdained” (1 Samuel 2:30b).

Join us for VBS this week and learn more about trusting God as we Journey Off The Map.

God the Forgiver

July 26, 2015

There are some verses in the Bible that we simply MUST know. The truth they convey is so important and so practical, that without them, we would surely wander down the wrong road of life.

Some of those MUST KNOW verses are personal. That is to say they are different for each person. Our personalities, our unique experiences, and our specific needs are addressed in the Bible and once we discover what God has to say to those personal needs and challenges, we hold onto those words for LIFE. They are our personal MUST KNOW verses. What are some of your personal MUST KNOW verses? How have those verses helped you?

But, there are some verses that are MUST KNOW verses for everyone. They address needs we ALL have. They speak to a universal condition. These MUST KNOW verses keep us from wrong turns and faulty logic.

One of those MUST KNOW verses for everyone is I John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

This is a MUST KNOW verse because all of us need God’s forgiveness. John said it this way, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1:8) I must face reality. I am a sinner. In finding forgiveness my part is to CONFESS. Admit I am a sinner. No excuses. No explanations. No blame. I will never find the forgiveness I need if I do not confess my sins.

Confession is humiliating. It usually comes out of brokenness and failure. It is always personal and often specific. I must call my actions SINS, when God has called them sins. But, confession is also freeing, releasing and welcome. When I confess, there is a fresh openness in my life and in my heart. Confession is good for the soul because it sets us up for God’s forgiveness.

God says IF we confess, then HE forgives.   His forgiveness is faithful, we can depend on it. He will forgive without any strings attached. I can count on God’s forgiveness, my part is confession, His part is forgiveness.

God’s forgiveness is also just. My sins have been punished, their debt is paid. It was paid by Jesus on the cross. He died the death my sins deserved. So, when God forgives me, that forgiveness is righteous because the debt of sin is covered by the death of Jesus on the cross.

Finally, when God forgives, He also purifies. He makes us clean. He works in my life to make forgiveness active and effective. It makes a difference.

Can you see why this is a MUST KNOW verse? Have you experienced God’s forgiveness? If not, there is no better day than today. Confess and receive His forgiveness.

True Freedom

July 5, 2015

For many years (more than 40 years) one of my guiding verses comes from John 8:31-32. “To the Jew who had believed in him, Jesus said, ‘if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.   Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”

Those who heard Jesus make this statement were affronted. “We are Abraham’s descendents and have never been slaves of anyone,” they challenged. We who live in the United States might reply in similar words, “We are Americans, we are already free.”

In response, Jesus made it clear that he was talking about a different kind of freedom, freedom from slavery to sin. Jesus claims that He can set us free from bondage to sin. AND, He can give us a permanent place in God’s family, the family of our Heavenly Father.

In John 8 Jesus’ discussion turned into an argument (at least a one sided argument) with the Jews who heard Jesus’ words, calling him demon-possessed and picking up stones to kill Him.

As I reflect on this story from the gospel of John, I see a lot of parallels to our time. God has given us His Word (including the things Jesus taught) and if we will live in the way His Word says, we too will be freed from slavery to sin. That freedom comes from Jesus’ forgiveness, but it also comes from making choices/decisions based on the truth in God’s Word (“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” II Tim 3:16).   When we live our lives according to God’s Word, we can live freed from bondage to sin.

However in today’s American culture, we think freedom is to opportunity to do whatever we want, without consequences. We also think that we can take away many unpleasant consequences to our choices by simply changing laws and forcing silence on those who disagree with us. We think we can make our own freedom from sin, by simply denying that such sin exists.

While it might feel like freedom for a short time, in the end we will discover that calling slavery to sin “freedom” does not make it any less slavery. To find real freedom, we need to listen to Jesus’ teaching, seek His forgiveness, and then learn how to live in the true freedom of God’s family.

We do no one a favor by ignoring the reality of sin, nor by labeling sinful behavior as OK. But we also do no one a favor by condemning their sinfulness with indignation. Instead, we need to live and speak the GOOD NEWS. All have sinned and come short of God’s glory. But, our sins can be forgiven, we can become part of God’s eternal family. In that family, our feet can walk a new kind of life. A life that follows Jesus’ teaching and discovers true FREEDOM. Oh, may that be our message – true freedom.

Summer Hope and TBC

June 28, 2015

As you probably know by now, a group of believers have decided to reach out to the Van Raden and Riviaria Heights communities here in our north Fargo area. This outreach is called Summer Hope and is set for Aug 22 from 10:00-4:00.

The primary leadership for this outreach comes from the group, “Master’s Heart.” They have invited north Fargo churches to work with them. At this time Messiah Lutheran, Knollbrook Covenant and our church are involved. It is a big undertaking and they hope to have about 100 volunteers working together.

The plan is to provide several practical service/ministries as well as special outreach to kids. About 1000 local families will be invited to come and enjoy games; gifts of shoes, groceries, school supplies; job connections; health screening; and an opportunity to hear the good news about Jesus and be invited to receive His gift of forgiveness and life.

At this time, our part of the plan is to use our South Valley Block Party Trailer that day at Trollwood park. We will set up the bounce houses for kids and provide treats of cotton candy and snow cones too. We need your help.

It will be similar to our own “Outreach in the Park” times the last two summers, except it will be for a longer time (Aug 22, 10:00-4:00). We will supervise the kids using the bounce houses, make snowcones, spin cotton candy and talk with those who come to the event. Even if you cannot spend the whole day, can you come for part of that day and help?

There are several posters and signup sheets in the hallway for you to consider. Some are for donations (listing the items needed) and some are for volunteers that will help in the various service areas provided that day (doing setup; fitting shoes, giving out grocery bags, offering reading glasses, simple health screening, career encouragement, sharing the gospel and other opportunities).   You are certainly welcome to help in any of the areas (not just our Block Party trailer). Master’s Heart will provide training as we get closer to the date (Aug 13 and Aug 20). If you have questions, feel free to talk with me or with Milton or Sherry. If we do not know the answer to your questions, we can find out more for you.

Here’s the bottom line…there are people living all around us who need love, encouragement, forgiveness and hope. We who know Jesus can offer some of what they need and Jesus can work miracles in the lives of those who will trust Him. We can join hands with others and offer that hope. Let’s do it!

D-Day Faithfulness

June 7, 2015

“On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s troops.” (Department of Defense facebook post yesterday.)

Today, very few of those who lived through D-Day are still alive, but the memory of their heroism lives on. I doubt that many who were part of D-Day understood the great ramifications of the event in which they participated. Some leaders did, but the men who assaulted the beaches in France were mostly there simply because they followed their orders. In fact, I doubt that few of those soldiers wanted to be a part of that invasion. They knew very well the risks and the terror of war. Still, they did their duty. They were faithful.

Sometimes, I think of my Christian life in that same way. I may never know the big picture of God’s work and how I fit in. I may do my part and it will seem small, insignificant, or unimportant. But in the end, like the soldiers at D-Day, my job is to be faithful and leave the end results in the hands of the One I serve.

I began my service many years ago, and at that time, I signed over to my Savior the right to tell me what to do. Since that time, I have been responsible to do what He places before me. Marriage, parenting, pastoring, preaching, teaching the Bible, prayer, sharing my life, helping others, serving organizations, and many other responsibilities have been mine, simply because I told the Lord I would be faithful, the best I could understand His directives. I did not aspire to lead Bible studies with Chinese students, to be a chaplain for baseball or a local business. I did not set out to help start a Christian counseling center, chair the board, or be the president of a convention. I did not even know for sure that I would preach and teach the Bible (although that was something that I wanted to do).   Instead, I just said to the Lord, please use me and open the doors that You want for me.

Yes, some days I want to quit. Some days I wish I could stay home and hide from my responsibilities, but a soldier needs to show up, give his best and in the end, he must be faithful.

Will you join me in being faithful, like those soldiers 71 years ago?