Tuesday, April 24, 2018


                I have been spending time recently sorting through my collection of baseball cards. I had collected baseball cards when I was a kid. I really had not taken it too seriously. There was something exciting about opening a new pack of cards and seeing what I got. When I open those packs, I was looking for two things; the bubble gum and Cleveland Indians. Those were the most important to me. The rest would get thrown in a box or attached to the spokes on front wheel of my bike. (some of you will understand) Today, I cringe at the Mickey Mantle cards I destroyed. If only I had known!

                In the mid-80’s, I started collecting seriously. I had a friend who collected, and he gave me the courage to jump in again. We would trade cards, with the goal of making a complete set for each year. We would also talk baseball. In those years when I actively collected baseball cards, I knew the players. I paid much closer attention to what was going on. I didn’t just read the final scores in the paper, I actually paid attention to the box scores.

                Somewhere in the mid-90s the price of a pack of cards increased to the point where I could no long justify buying them. Periodically I would buy some, just for fun, but I didn’t indulge regularly. I introduced my boys to baseball cards, but they never caught on, so my collecting days came to an end.

                Now, as I face a major move, I have to decide what I am going to do with my collection. I will keep some of it for sentimental reasons. A small portion I will take to a dealer to see if there is any value left in them. The majority will go on a garage sale table. I have been organizing them in order to hopefully entice someone to buy some of them. When I was actively collecting, there was value in baseball cards. Today, not so much. Their value is determined by the value others place on them. They have no intrinsic value of their own.

                My baseball card collection is an illustration of how we approach life. We tend to collect and hang onto those things that we think are of value. Some of those things have intrinsic value. Most of those things don’t. They only have value for a time; which is often temporary and fleeting. Had I sold my baseball cards a number of years ago, I could have reaped a nice prophet. Today, I will be lucky to earn a few dollars.

                When it comes to material things, the ultimate end is not all that important. The things of real value are not material, but spiritual. The material things of this world are given to us from God to be used and enjoyed, but not to be held onto and hoarded. There is an expiration date on the value of all material things. God wants us to pay attention to those things that have real eternal value. We can boil this category down into two sets; those things that enhance our relationship with God and those things that enrich our relationships with others.

                The most valuable thing that we can hold onto is our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That is the gold standard for everything else in life. Paul made that clear in Philippians 3:7-11.
    But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

                As Paul looked back and evaluated his life, he realized that all of his accomplishments were of no value, if they were not linked to his relationship with Jesus. What really gave value to his life was growing deeper in his relationship with Christ. Everything else was just baseball cards in a box.

                The second thing of real value is our relationship with other people. When Jesus was asked what was of the most value in life He included our relationships with others. Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40) God created us to live in community with Him and with one another. When we invest in the lives of others we invest in eternity.  

                I guess the real lesson I have been learning while sorting baseball cards is the need to put things into perspective. The real value of those baseball cards was not in the cards themselves. It was in the fun of discovery, of sorting and organizing, and of the comradery of sharing the experience with others. Once they were all collected and neatly stored in a box, their value diminished.

                In life, the real value is in the journey. Each experience is a gift from God that He wants to use to shape us as people and to draw us to Himself. Part of God’s gift is the delight we experience as we face each new adventure. If we try to hang onto those experiences, they lose their value. The real value in the material blessings that God has given us is enjoying them and using them for His glory. If we make material things an end in themselves, they lose all of their real value. They become baseball cards in a box.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018


                It seems like we live in the land of never ending snow. Just about the time the roads get clear and the grass emerges, we get another blast of winter. Our latest dump of 12 inches of snow and blizzard conditions on April 14-15 is being depicted as a historic storm. We know that this cannot keep up forever (we hope), but this really seems like the endless winter. It reminds me a little of “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” where it was always winter but never Christmas.

                In the face of endless winter, the word that best describes the attitude that we need to develop is perseverance. At the end of clearing your driveway for the 12th time, it would be tempting to give up and move to Arizona. That may work for some people, but the majority of us are stuck right here. So instead of giving up we need to push on. This past Sunday was a good example of perseverance. Even though we had to cancel two of our three worship services, we did gather in a time of amazing worship together.

                Our endless winter is a picture of the spiritual climate of the world we live in today. The hearts of so many have gone cold and they have turned their backs on Christ. Many people are lamenting the state of the church and the prospects for the future. Some just want to close their doors and hold on until Jesus comes. But that is not God’s plan at all. God’s plan is that we will persevere in the faith with the goal of thriving, not just surviving.
                We need to remember that no matter how spiritually dark and cold it seems the church of Jesus Christ will prevail. At the very birth of the church, Jesus made that promise, at a time when it seemed impossible. Peter had just confessed that Jesus is the Messiah; a powerful statement of faith that Peter did not fully understand. In response that Peter’s confession, Jesus made a promise.
    Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:17-19)

                The rock that Jesus was referring to was not Peter, as such, but Peter’s confession of faith. It is upon that confession that Jesus is God’s Messiah that the church has been established. For over 2000 years the world has been trying to snuff out the light of the Gospel but the church remains. The church is still a major influence throughout the entire world. The victory over sin and death has been won by Christ, and His church will prevail.

                Although Satan knows that he cannot overcome the church as a whole, he also knows that he can neutralize individual believers. By discouraging and immobilizing individual Christians, Satan can hinder the effectiveness of the church. That is his main strategy. He is more than willing to let Christians believe in the ultimate victory of the church, while, at the same time, planting the seeds of doubt and discouragement about the local church and even the individual’s faith. He begins to whisper words of discontent into ours. “I know that the Church universal will survive, but will our church survive?” “I know that The Faith will prevail, but will my faith endure?” These are the seeds of doubt that Satan is constantly planting in our minds. The Bible’s answer to those doubts is perseverance.

                Perseverance is not holding on until Jesus comes. Perseverance is pressing forward even when it seems like we are making no progress. Perseverance is holding onto the light of the Gospel even when the world seems so dark. Perseverance is leaning into the strength and power of Christ, even when our own strength is waning. Perseverance is determining to keep going and not give stop until we cross the finish line.

                Paul, Peter, and James all tell us that perseverance is the pathway to ultimate victory.
    Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:1-5)
    For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
    Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

                Every distance runner knows that perseverance is the key to doing your best and finishing well. There comes a time in every race when the runner wants to give up. It is at those very moments when perseverance takes over and the strength to continue returns. So it is with our spiritual journey. There are many times when the race gets hard and exhausting. It is at those times, when we feel our weakest, that we need perseverance. As Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us, it is at those times that we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and press on toward the goal.
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

                Right now, our winter seems to be endless, but we know that spring will come and summer will prevail. Right now, it seems like the cold and darkness of sin is winning the battle for people’s hearts, but we know that the truth of Christ will prevail. So, in the face of seemingly endless winter, persevere!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


                We live in an ever-changing world. Things are changing so rapidly that it is difficult to keep up. The pace of change is illustrated by the dizzying development of technology. The first iPhone was introduced in 2007. In just 11 years we are up to the iPhone 8. Smart phones today can do as much, if not more than the laptop I am writing on and may have a greater storage capacity. Almost daily we are being bombarded with the next advancement that is right around the corner.

                Technology is only one small aspect of the enormous changes that we face. Societal norms are changing at unprecedented rates. Changes that used to take generations are now taking years and even months. Things are changing so fast that about the time we figure out what is going on it is passé.

                The different generations handle change is different ways. The older generations that are used to change being slow and gradual tend to resist rapid change. The younger generations that have known nothing but rapid change tend to take things in their stride and embrace each new thing as it comes. But every generation has its limits. Too much change too rapidly often produces overload, which can lead to emotional shut down.

                All of this rapid change has had a negative effect on our spiritual lives. For centuries, people have understood that genuine spiritual transformation is gradual and takes time. But in a world awash with rapid change, we expect our spiritual development to pick up the pace. We get frustrated with ourselves and with others when we do not see the kind of change we desire forming right away. Because of the nature of spiritual change, many people jump ship, so to speak. There are three major negative responses to slow spiritual change. The first is to shift to a different format. People look for whatever will give them the immediate spiritual experience that they are looking for. When that format fails to keep up, they jump to another, like changing your smart phone every year. The second response is to give up on spiritual change. Many people who have been disappointed with the lack of spiritual progress have decided that it isn’t worth it and have walked away from faith. The third response is to stop trying to change and just accept wherever that person happens to be spiritually. They still have faith, but it is dormant, inactive.

                Change is hard for all of us, but it is a part of God’s design for humanity. When it comes to spiritual transformation, we need to take our cues from God’s Word and not the culture around us.  For the most part, we are in far too great of a hurry, but God is not. God is patient and His timing is always perfect. The first step to dealing with change is to acknowledge that God is in charge and we can trust Him. The Psalmist calls us to stop running ahead of God. "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

                The second truth the Bible teaches us about dealing with change is to get our focus in the right place. One of the major problems with living in a changing world with so many options is that we get confused and disoriented. We are not quite sure which way to turn. In our fear of being left behind, we run is six different directions at the same time. Jesus addressed this kind of an unfocused life in Matthew 6:31-34. So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

                The next thing the Bible teaches us about dealing with change is to be careful about who sets the agenda. If we try to stay on top of the world’s agenda it will lead us into anxiety, confusing, and pain. Instead, we need to block out all of the competing voices that are seeking our attentions and tune our spiritual ears to God’s voice. As Paul teaches us in Romans 12:1-2, we need to orient our lives toward God. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

                One other thing that Bible teaches us about dealing with change is to persevere. Most lasting and significant change takes time. There will be seasons where we do not feel like we are making much progress. These will be interspersed with short times of rapid growth. Both are a part of the process God has set in motion for us. Paul state this clearly in Galatians 6:9. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

                As we face change in our lives, there are some basic principles to keep in mind. Change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same forever. Change is hard. It forces us to evaluate our lives and to move in ways that often make us uncomfortable. Change is necessary. For us to grow and mature we must change. Things that stop changing die. This is true personally and corporately. Change is a part of God’s plan for our lives. As someone once said, God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way.

Philippians 1:6
… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018


Luke 10:41-42
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

                We have just come through Holy Week, one of the busiest weeks of the year for me. As I reflect upon what happened during that week, I realize that I was like Martha when I needed to be like Mary. Martha was concerned with all of the details, while Mary was enthralled with Jesus. The details are important, but they are secondary to what is most important; connecting with Jesus.

                In my reading recently, I was challenged by the idea that we can get so caught up in serving for God that we miss connecting with God. We can become like the workaholic husband and father who spends all of his time “providing for” his family, but never spends any time with his family. It is possible that this idea is at the heart of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:21-23.  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

                When we substitute doing for building our relationship with God, we fall back into the trap of works righteousness; seeking to earn our salvation by our great efforts. But, for most of us, the real danger is that we miss out on the joy that Christ wants to gives us because we become consumed by “the work.” Martha had a genuine relationship with Jesus but was missing the joy. She saw all of what she was doing as a duty to be fulfilled, rather than an act of love in response to who Jesus is.

                Jesus clearly linked what we do for Him with our love for Him. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12) The joy in serving comes when we serve out of love for Christ and love for others.

                All of us have a particular love language; the way that we express our love for another. My primary love language is doing, as opposed to speaking. Yesterday I did laundry and washed dishes while my wife, Suanne, was at work. I found pleasure in doing those things, not because I like washing dishes or doing laundry, but because I was doing them for Suanne.

                At the end of Holy Week, I was pretty much exhausted. Even as I was entering one event, I was thinking about the next thing I had to do. I was pleased with what happened on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, but something was missing. What was missing was the pure joy of those experiences. I am afraid I was Martha and not Mary. I was too busy to enjoy God’s grace.

Psalm 46:10
"Be still, and know that I am God;
 I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."