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!

Fathers Day Tips

June 21, 2015

I do not know Dr. Randall Flanery but I like his tips on being a dad. If Flanery is not a believer, he certainly has captured a lot of biblical wisdom. What do you think? (These tips were taken from compuserve.com.)

Being a dad is no easy task. It’s one that requires men to be made of steel and velvet so they can be both strong and nurturing. Psychologist Randall Flanery, who is an associate professor of community and family medicine at Saint Louis University and the father of 10 children, has devised a top 10 list on how to be a great dad.

Dr. Flanery says, tongue-in-cheek, that his tips worked great on seven of his kids. In other words, when it comes to parenting, no one is perfect and there are no guarantees.

Top 10 Tips on How to Be the Best Dad

  1. Run a benevolent dictatorship.
    “Some parents find it hard to assert their authority. They try to appeal to reason when sometimes what the situation calls for is ‘No,'” Flanery says.
  2. Be friendly, but not a friend.
    Parenting requires a higher standard of behavior than being a friend. Dads need to be concerned about what is good for their children, not just what they want.
  3. Admit when you’re wrong.
    It sends out the right signal that Dad is big enough to acknowledge his mistakes and move along.
  4. Remain firmly flexible.
    Your children are growing and changing all the time. While your family values should remain consistent, a 5-year old needs different limits than a 10-year old.
  5. Stick around, even when they don’t want you to.
    One of the jobs of adolescents is to pull away as they struggle to become more adult. One of the challenges of being a parent is to love them in spite of it.
  6. Ask questions.
    “But don’t expect to always get answers,” Flanery says. “Just asking the question is enough to start children thinking.”
  7. Don’t take it personally if they express unhappiness.
    Children are likely to complain if they don’t get their way. Shrug it off.
  8. Know that parenting is 24/7, and then some.
    “Being a parent is unrelenting. There’s no time off; you don’t get to check out.”
  9. Keep in mind that who you are is more important than what you buy them.
    “Who you are seeps into their pores and goes away with them long after they’ve forgotten whether or not you’ve taken them to McDonalds,” Flanery explains.
  10. Laugh.
    When they’re little, they’ll break your back. When they’re bigger, they sometimes break your heart. So learn to take the bitter with the better, and laugh.

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)

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?

Roofing Project

May 31, 2015

Some of you know that last weekend (Memorial weekend) Joel assembled a team together to put a new roof on their house. The Peck’s house is not very big and most of us who worked on their project thought the job would be quicker than it eventually turned out to be. But Tuesday night at about 9:30 Leap, Hiep and Joel drove the last nail and the job was done.

Here is the way Katie said it on a facebook post yesterday”I cannot begin to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the great guys who came out to help us re-shingle our roof last weekend. It turned out to be the longest long weekend project ever but it was made all the better by the support, kindness, dedication and love you all showed. I can’t wait to bring this baby into this family, knowing that she will have so many wonderful men in her life. And thank you to all the families who shared your dads and husbands over the holiday weekend. You guys NAILED it!”

The honor role of workers included: Leap, Dan (and Dane), Matt (and Jonah), Michael, Ron (Joel’s dad), Mitch (Joel’s coworker), David (Joel’s uncle), Hiep, Scott, and of course Joel.

One of the challenges during the project was the threat of rain. In fact, twice during the 4 days it did rain. But, Joel and Leap were wise enough to plan for the rain and there was no damage to the house even when the roof was only partly finished. Good job!

As I reflected on the roofing experience at the Peck’s house, here are some lessons I noticed.

Be careful about assumptions and expectations. I expected the job to be easier than it was. My expectations were unrealistic and made the work more difficult for me.

Do not give up. In the middle of a job, it is tempting to quit. Don’t quit.

Working together is the way to go. We need the help, encouragement, partnership and expertise of others. Don’t do it alone.

Helping is important, even if I do not do as much as someone else does. It is not just quantity of work, presence also matters.

Ice cream cake at the end is great. Don’t be afraid to build in a reward for a job well done.

I am seldom sorry when I help someone with a challenge. It really does feel good to help.

Good friends help each other and they really do do it because they love, not because they are obligated.

I agree with Katie…THANKS everyone who could help for a job well done.

Memorial Day

May 24, 2015

THE ORIGINS OF MEMORIAL DAY

FROM THE HEADQUARTERS GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC

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.

Baseball Chapel Begins

May 10, 2015

Once again, Baseball season is approaching. This will be my 12th season as the Baseball Chapel Leader for the FM RedHawks. In my 11 years with Baseball Chapel I have met some wonderful people and have been blessed that you, my church family support me so wholeheartedly. THANKS for allowing and encouraging me to invest in this unique ministry. You have made adjustments to accommodate my Baseball Chapel responsibilities and have prayed for me and the folks I share with during the summer.

One of the primary ministry responsibilities for Baseball Chapel is to provide a chapel service on Sunday at the baseball stadium. Here in Fargo, most Sunday games begin at 1:00 so I get to Newman Outdoor Field a few minutes before noon. I have a 10-15 minute devotion time with each baseball team sharing with the players who chose to attend and give out the weekly Baseball Chapel Handout. Then I stop and talk with the umpires for a few minutes and as time allows I visit with others who work at the stadium. It is a very busy hour for me at Newman Field before each Sunday game.

Much less hectic and therefore more enjoyable is the Wednesday Bible study time. Just after the team finishes batting practice, I set up in one of the upstairs suites for 30 minutes of conversation and Bible study with any of the players who want to come. This is a relaxed time where we can talk about any subject of interest to the players and where we can focus on God’s Word and its application to life. In many ways, it is like our adult Sunday School class each week, an opportunity to share life, pray together and give the Bible priority attention.

There is one other aspect to Baseball Chapel ministry for me. Namely, I support and encourage 7 other Chapel leaders of teams in our American Association. I keep in touch with these guys, read their reports, pray for them and answer their questions through the season. I share this ministry with the Chapel leader in Grand Prairie Texas, Arnie Knecht. Arnie is not a pastor, but he is a GREAT Baseball Chapel leader. His walk with the Lord is a wonderful encouragement to me and to the other Chapel leaders in our American Association.   I have met some great leaders in Baseball Chapel and Arnie is one of those great leaders. I hope I am half the blessing to Arnie that he is to me.

The theme verse for Baseball Chapel ministry is Colossians 1:28. “We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching with all wisdom so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” Pray with me that by God’s grace we in Baseball Chapel will fulfill this high calling.