Tuesday, March 26, 2019


Psalm 42:1
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.

                I have never seen anything like it before. Suanne and I were driving home from having dinner with some friends in another town. It was early evening and the sun was low on the horizon. At that time of the night, I always become very watchful for deer along the side of the road. We were following a railroad line in northern Minnesota, heading back to North Dakota, when I caught sight of a couple of deer grazing along the railroad cut. As we get closer, it turned out to be a dozen. Not much farther down the road we came on another large group of deer. This time we counted 40! We began counting in earnest and by the time we hit the North Dakota border, we had counted 115 deer. If that wasn’t enough, just on the other side of the border, we came upon a field with at least 100 deer grazing! It was an amazing sight.

                When I was a boy growing up in northeastern Ohio, seeing a deer was a rare and exciting experience. To see three or four deer together in a field was amazing. My experience yesterday blew away every other experience I have ever had of seeing deer. The experience that I have had that comes the closest is when we were in Custer State Park, in South Dakota, and saw the buffalo herd. Seeing a field covered with deer was beyond anything I have ever imagined.

                It has been a long winter here in North Dakota. Now as spring is beginning to make its presence felt, the world is coming alive again. In addition to the many deer that I observed as we drove, I also saw two Bald Eagles, a Peregrine Falcon, and a fox. The animal kingdom is coming alive, even if the snow refuses to release its grip on the countryside.

                There is something about the coming of spring that revives us as well. Through the long months of winter, we endure. We go about our lives with determination, but also a certain heaviness. But when spring arrives, it is like a weight is taken off of our shoulders. Our spirits are lifted. There is more bounce in our step. We begin to shed layers of clothes like animals shed their winter coats. We start to feel freer and our spirits rise.

                When I saw all of the deer out in the field, I thought of the opening line of Psalm 42. The deer have been living in survival mode for a long time. As the snow melts and the temperature rises, they are revived. In a similar way, the long winter can drain us emotionally and spiritually. We can slip into survival mode, putting our heads down and enduring life. We long for a spiritual spring, a renewal of our sense of God’s goodness. It is time to awaken from our winter hibernation and encounter our world again. Early spring gives us an opportunity to refresh our spirits before the busyness of summer takes over again.  

                Our world is coming alive. Soon the grass and fields will be green There will be new life all around us. Just as our physical world is coming alive, so it is time for us to come alive spiritually. It is time to let the warmth of God’s light to penetrate our hearts and melt away the hardness caused by the harshness of our world. It is time to see our world through fresh eyes, with hope and joy. It is time to revel in the goodness and the grace of our God.

2 Corinthians 4:6, 16-18
    For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

    Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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, March 19, 2019


Matthew 6:19-21
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

                This morning in our men’s Bible Study, we looked at Ecclesiastes 2. The passage outlines all of the ways that Solomon sought to find meaning and purpose in life. In the end he declared, “This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Solomon’s conclusions about life are pretty depressing and demotivating. When a person lives life only for themselves, in the end, everything is meaningless.

                We live in a world that has bought into Solomon’s philosophy, whether they recognize it as such or not. The prevailing feeling today is that life is ultimately meaningless, so live for the moment and experience as much pleasure as you can. We are only cosmic accidents that have no real purpose. Purpose is something we create for ourselves. When our life is over, it is over.

                Jesus put a very different perspective on life. He raised our collective eyes from what is temporary to what is eternal. He made it clear that we were created with both purpose and meaning. We were created in the image of God. We were created to experience and reflect His glory. And we were created to live in relationship with Him forever. Our life is not limited to 60, 70, or 80 years on earth. This life is only the prelude to eternity.

                When we begin to look at life from an eternal perspective, it changes everything. Our life has meaning and purpose because what we do now will make a difference for all of eternity. If we choose to invest all of our time, energy, and resources into the pleasures of this temporary world, we will lose everything in the end. That is what Solomon discovered. But if we choose to invest our time, energy, and resources into making a difference for eternity, we will gain everything in the end.

                Suanne and I spent this past week visiting family in North Carolina. While we were there, we celebrated my Dad’s 91st birthday. There were four generations present at the party. Earlier in the week, my brother Paul shared information with us about our heritage, going back multiple generations. All of this reminded me of the legacy I have been given and the legacy I now have to pass on to the next generations.

                The greatest investment we can make is not in pleasure, possessions, or power. It is in people. The only thing that will last for all of eternity is people. All of our stuff will pass away. All of our accomplishments will fade away. But the investment we make in others will pay dividends for eternity. That is why Jesus said to invest in that which cannot be destroyed or taken away.

                All of us leave behind a legacy. For some that legacy is hollow and meaningless. But for those who have placed their faith in Christ and have invested their life in service for Him, their legacy continues to bare fruit. Our life is not a meaningless blip on the timeline of history. It is an opportunity to build an eternal legacy to the glory of God.

Friday, March 8, 2019


As I walked along the snow-covered street, with the snow crunching under my feet, a flurry of shadows passed across my path. I turned to look, but I could not see them. Then I heard them, the chirp of small birds resting in the branches of a bare tree.

                At lunch, I looked out the window and there he was, a small black and white chickadee flitting from tree to tree. I had not seen any small birds in our back yard all winter. I thought, where have you been?

                It is amazing that small birds can survive in this harsh climate. I know from past experience that they need a source of food and places of shelter to get out of the wind and the cold. In our home in Mankato, we had bird-feeders in the backyard that were alive with small birds all winter. They would flit from the feeder to the shelter of the pine tree. After Christmas, we would place our Christmas tree in the snow next to the feeder to give them an extra measure of shelter. That is what surprised me the other day. We have no feeders in our yard. We have seen no signs of these courageous birds all winter. But now, there they were.

                Sometimes, in the winter times of our lives, we feel like God has disappeared from the scene. We trudge through the cold blasts of trials and challenges seemingly alone. Then, out of nowhere, we catch the glimpse of a shadow crossing our path. We hear the faint sound of God’s whisper. Then He is there again in full view.

                King David often struggled with a sense of abandonment as he faced the winter times of his life. He expressed his feelings often in the Psalms. Multiple times the cry “how long” escaped from David’s lips. David knew the joy of walking with God and so keenly felt the pain when he thought God was absent. Psalm 13 is a prime example of David’s struggle to see God in the winter of his life.

Psalm 13:1-6
For the director of music. A psalm of David.

    How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
        How long will you hide your face from me?
    How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
        and every day have sorrow in my heart?
        How long will my enemy triumph over me?

    Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
        Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
    my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
        and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

    But I trust in your unfailing love;
        my heart rejoices in your salvation.
    I will sing to the Lord,
        for he has been good to me.

                During the winter times of our lives, we can feel like God is not present. Yet David reminds us that we can trust in God’s unfailing love. Even when we do not feel His presence, He is present. We can hold onto His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us.

                As I watched the chickadee in my backyard, I was reminded that he has been here all along. Just because I didn’t see him doesn’t change the reality. When God opens my eyes to see Him, He reminds me again that He has been with me all along.     

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


Philippians 4:12
 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

                We live in a society that breeds discontent. Every day we are being told that what we have is not good enough and it needs to be replaced. We are enticed by a standard of consumption that most of us will never be able to achieve. This reinforces our feelings of discontent with our life. We strive harder and harder to fill an artificial void in our lives that only expands the more we try to fill it. Solomon warned us that striving for more and more is an insatiable appetite.

Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.
This too is meaningless.
Ecclesiastes 5:10

                I have been reading a challenging book by Dr. Richard Swenson titled, “Contentment.” It has caused me to examine my own sense of discontent. I have identified for myself three main areas where discontent can creep into my life.

                I have become aware of being discontent with my current situation. This feeling of discontentment comes from the desire to be someplace other than where I am. Let me explain. When I retired from my ministry in Mankato, my wife and my desire was to move closer to our children and grandchildren. We felt that God was calling us to transition from being the full-time pastor in a local church to being an interim pastor. So, we sought an interim position that would move us closer to our ultimate destination, which is Michigan. Instead, God called us to North Dakota, the opposite direction from where we wanted to be.

                Our time here has been a great blessing, but I realized that I was constantly thinking about what was next. Instead of being content for the present where God had placed me, I was focusing my thoughts on what I hope will be the next step. The outcome was that I was not being fully engaged. God has convicted me that He wants me to be fully engaged here for as along as He desires for me to be here.

                Many of us struggle with discontentment about our current situation. We find ourselves looking beyond where we are to some ideal place in the future. The cost of this discontent is that we miss out on the blessing God has for us in the present. We literally sacrifice the present for what might be in the future. It is not wrong for us to have hopes and dreams for the future, as long as they do not rob us of the present.

                I have become aware of being discontent with what I have. This winter has been particularly cold and snowy. There have been many evenings when I have longed for the comfort of the fireplace we had in our home in Mankato. When I think about our future home, I desire to have a wood-burning fireplace. As I read in Dr. Swenson’s book, I was convicted that I was focusing more on what I do not have, instead of what I do have. The church has provided a nice house for us. It is warm and secure, and offers us everything we need right now. I need to learn to be content with what I have and not focus on what I do not have.

                Most of us struggle with this form of discontent. In fact, our entire economy is based on this kind of discontent. We are constantly being offered something bigger, better, and more advanced than what we have. The outcome is that we are not thankful for what we do have. All that we have is a gift from God. We should sincerely give Him thanks that we have a warm place to sleep and have food on the table. In 1 Timothy, Paul challenges us to put the brakes on our discontent.

    But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

                I have become aware of being discontent with my purpose. Having transitioned from being the full-time pastor of a medium sized church to being the interim pastor of a small church, I have struggled to embrace my new role. It is one thing to understand my role intellectually. It is something different to embrace it emotionally. So much of our sense of self-worth is wrapped up in what we do. If we do not see the value in what we do, we lose our sense of worth.

                God has been teaching me to not only be content with my current role, but to embrace it with joy. My self-worth is not determined by what I do, but by for whom I am doing it. God has called me to a life of pastoral ministry. The place or circumstances under which I fulfill that role are less important than my faithfulness to the task God has set before me.

                Paul encourages us to find our motivation and purpose in serving the Lord, not in fulfilling a certain role. 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. (Colossians 3:23-24) What we do does not define us. It is how we do what we do that does.

                Discovering true contentment is really a very freeing experience. It frees us to fully enjoy life right where we are. It frees us from the anxiety of longing for something that is just out of our reach. It awakens us to the multitude of God’s blessings, large and small, that He has for us right where we are.

Godliness with contentment is truly great gain!