Tuesday, May 26, 2020


Matthew 25:21
    "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

                The moving truck was fully loaded, we said our goodbyes, and we were off. After 21 months of ministry at Cavalier Baptist Church in Cavalier, ND, our assignment was complete. It was time to hand off the baton to the new pastor and move on. Our journey was a long two-day adventure, as we made our way from near the Canadian border in North Dakota, through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and into Michigan and our new home. It involved many hours on the highway, with me driving the moving truck and Suanne following behind in the car.

                Driving a large truck is a new experience for me. I had driven the same sized truck up to Cavalier from Mankato, MN, a journey of about eight hours. On that occasion, the traffic was light and the route straight forward. Driving the truck to Michigan was a different story. There was more traffic and more twists and turns along the way. On any long journey, I am thankful for cruise control. I can set my speed and then focus on other things. That was true on this occasion as well. On each leg of the journey, I set the cruise control and allowed the truck to do the work.

                I am very thankful that for most of our journey the speed limit was 70 mph. I can still remember the days when 55 mph was the max. It seemed like it took forever to get anywhere. Although our 1000-mile journey was still long, it would have been much longer if I had been required to drive at 55 mph. Throughout our journey, at regular intervals, I was passed by other vehicles that far exceeded the posted speed limit. Some gradually overtook me, while others zoomed by as if I was standing still. This is not a new occurrence, but it always irritates me. It is one of those little things that we have come to accept as okay, even though it is not.

                We have all done it, including me. We have all fudged on the speed limit at times. We justify our action by thinking that the police will not stop us for going 5-10 mph over the limit on the freeway, so we use the extra speed to get to our destination a little faster. We excuse our speeding because we are in a hurry or road construction has delayed us and we need to make up the time. It is very easy to rationalize this minor infraction.

                As I was driving, and routinely being passed, the thought came to me about being faithful in little things. There is a spiritual trap that all of us fall into from time to time. We are adamant about being faithful in the big things of life, but we are laxer about the little things. We have come to believe that the little things really don’t matter. Going 10 mph over the speed limit isn’t a big deal, or is it?

                It is the little things in life that eventually form our habits. Gradually, a little at a time, we adjust our attitudes and actions, until we find ourselves in a very different place than we expected. Someone once pointed out that a one-degree variation in an airplane’s flight pattern can mean missing its destination by 100’s of miles.

                Jesus pointed out the danger of over looking what we see as the little things in life in His Sermon on the Mount. He highlighted that our thoughts and attitudes are just as powerful as our outward actions. He said that harboring anger toward someone is no different from murdering them or harboring lustful thoughts about someone is no different than committing adultery. James picked up on this in his letter, when he reminded us that our sinful actions begin with what goes on inside of us. Then he reminds us that to break the law at one point is just like breaking all of the law. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)

                My point in all of this is that little things matter. In the parable of the talents, Jesus pointed out that being faithful about the little things is important to God. It is the little things in life that eventually make up the big things. Being intentional about being faithful in the little things is the pathway to true faithfulness in everything.

Ephesians 5:15
    Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise,



Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

                Most people relegate faith to some kind of religious feeling. I was watching a TV show last night where the main character commented that he was going to make sense of a particular situation, not by faith, but by science. His comment highlights the bias that faith belongs exclusively to religion and has no place in the rest of the world. But that understanding of faith is completely wrong.

                Every human being exercises faith on a daily basis. We are hardwired to live by faith, we just don’t often recognize it. The question is not, do we have faith, but in what are we placing our faith. Unconsciously we place our faith in a variety of things on a regular basis. For example, every time we board an airplane, we are placing our faith in the laws of aerodynamics. Every time we get in our car and head out onto the highway, we are placing our faith in the other drivers abiding by the rules of the road. Our faith is tested when things don’t go the way we expect them to go. When that happens, we experience a wide range of emotions; anger, disappointment, fear, apprehension. If our faith is strong, we quickly overcome this temporary setback. If our faith is weak, we change our behavior to avoid those objects of our faith that have disappointed us.

                All of us have an overriding faith system that we use to organize and make sense of our world. This faith system guides all of the other objects of our faith and places them in order. Let me suggest four common faith systems that people routinely rely upon. They are not the only faith systems, but probably the most widely used. They are self, science, community, and religion.

                Many people look to self as the foundation of their faith system. This is especially true in North America, with our rugged individualism. Most of us grew up in an environment that lauded those who could pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. We pride ourselves in making our own way in life, as Frank Sinatra is famous for singing, “I did it my way.” When self is the basic faith system in a person’s life, they measure everything against their own abilities and perspective. Things are deemed good or bad depending upon how they directly affect the individual.

                Many other people place their faith in science. They see science as the ultimate determiner of what is true and right. If it can be “proved” scientifically than it is true. If it can not be “proved” scientifically then it is false. For many, science has become their savior. They trust science to deal with all of the problems we face in life, from aging to global warming.

                Another faith system that is very common is community. In some Asian countries this is the most prevalent faith system. It has gained popularity in American recently. A component of this faith system is politics. People who put their faith in community are trusting the collective to guide them. They believe that whatever the majority decides, that is the right course of action. They also are depending on the community to take care of them and to supply their needs.

                Of course, one of the most dominant faith systems is religion. By nature, we are religious beings. We are constantly looking for something bigger and more powerful than we are. That something may be viewed as the God of the Bible, the multiple gods of pantheism, or the overriding force of the universe. Depending upon the form a particular religion takes, a person’s life is guided and directed in a certain direction.

                Our own experience tells us that the boundaries between these faith systems are not clear. There is extensive overlap, and most of us dabble in all of these, even when one system is dominant. It is important for us to be honest with ourselves about our own faith system. What is the dominant faith system in our life? What is it that we are trusting above everything else?

                For those of us who are believers in Christ, our dominant faith system is Christianity. At the very core of our faith system is a foundational truth. It is stated in Hebrews 11:6. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Our faith system is anchored in these two truths: God exists and He cares about us.

                We were all created with a God-consciousness. Every culture or people group on earth is in one way or another looking for God. The way that they do this is different dependent upon the culture, but the goal is the same. This is true because God has revealed His reality through this world in which we live. As Paul writes in Romans 1:20, For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

                Even though all people are searching for God, they don’t all choose the same path. Many choose a path of their own making and end up with a god of their own making. The outcome has been all of the alternative faith systems that seek to take the place of faith in God. As Paul tells us, they settled for something other than the real thing.
    Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
    They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:22-23,25

                But it is not enough to believe that God exists. We also need to believe that God actually cares about us. So many images of God are negative. God is seen as distant, uninvolved, angry, vindictive, callous. None of these images align with the God of the Bible. Although God is revealed as the final judge, He is also revealed as loving, kind, merciful, forgiving, and ever present. Out of His great love for us, He sent Jesus into the world to save us from all of the false faith systems that dominate our world.

                Science has much to teach us about our world. We have benefited greatly by what science has done for us. A strong community is a very positive thing. It gives us a sense of belonging and security. Exploring and developing our individual potential is an important part of finding our way in the world. But all of these good things will lead us astray, if they are not placed under the authority of God. To rephrase Jesus words, when we seek first the kingdom of God, all these other things will be ours as well.

                So where are you placing your faith? What is your dominant faith system? What are you looking to to help you navigate this life?

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, May 5, 2020


Leviticus 23:3
    There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.

                I realized today that I have been infected by a virus. It is not the coronavirus or the flu virus, but it is very real. It is a virus that infects much of our society, yet it goes undetected or unrecognized by most of us. What is this virus, the social pandemic lurking the shadows? It is the virus of hurry.

                We live in a society that is always in a hurry. We rush through our meals barely even tasting our food. We rush through projects so that we can get on to the next project. We rush through our days without a clear sense of where we are going. We often express our hurry with statements like, I’m so busy that I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Hurry and busyness have become the norm for life in the 21st century, at least in America. We are always in a hurry to get somewhere or accomplish some project.

                For example, I try to start each day with a time of personal devotions. There is no set amount of time that I am required to spend, nor is there a definite time when I must be done. Yet, many mornings I find myself rushing through my devotions rather than being fully engaged. I rush through my prayers so that I can get to my journal. I rush through my journaling so that I can get to my scripture reading. I rush through my scripture reading so I can get to my devotional reading. And I rush through my devotional reading so that I can get on with my day. There are days when I come to the end of my devotions and wonder what I accomplished.

                Hurry is our enemy is so many ways. On the most profound level it stunts our spiritual growth. Like physical exercise, we cannot rush through our spiritual disciplines and hope to gain the maximum benefit from them. By their very nature, spiritual disciplines are intended to be engaged in at a leisurely pace. We cannot truly develop our relationship with Christ on the run. Spiritual growth demands times of reflection, meditation, and listening. Our daily devotions are not a project to be accomplished and checked off of our list. It is to be a time to genuinely commune with God; to let Him speak into our lives.

                Hurry is the enemy of our human relationships. Hurry fosters the superficial. When we are consumed with hurry and busyness, we have little time to really get to know others. Building a genuine relationship with someone takes time, often unstructured time. There needs to be time to talk and to listen. There needs to be time to experience life together; to share common experiences. There needs to be time to process where the relationship is headed.

                Hurry is the enemy of our productivity. Our world continually presses us to be more productive at a faster and faster pace. Unfortunately, those two things actually work against one another. The faster we work, the less productive we become. We make more mistakes. We make bad choices that call for extra effort to correct. Hurry robs us of the purpose and meaning of our work. There is little satisfaction in our work when we are constantly rushing to get to the next project, without any time to evaluate or appreciate what we have accomplished. As a woodworker, I know that hurry makes for a poor end result. As the saying goes, measure twice, cut once. I get the greatest satisfaction, not from the projects that I threw together in a hurry, but from the projects I invested intentional time and effort.

                Hurry is the enemy of our physical health. Hurry leads to increased stress, which leads to high blood pressure, which leads to coronary heart disease. Hurry is a major contributing factor to excess weight gain. Hurry often eliminates exercise from our routine. Hurry and busyness rob us of the rest we need to function at our best.

                When God designed this world, He programmed in the need for rest. He designed us to need sleep on a daily basis. He also commanded that once a week we would slow down and rest. You could say that God mandated time to slow down. Without being legalistic about the Sabbath, we all need to schedule down time into our lives on a regular basis. God did not design us to be on the go 24/7. God designed our need for rest to remind us that we are dependent upon Him. By intentionally taking time to rest, we are affirming that we can trust God with our lives and our livelihood. Every night when we lay our head on the pillow and go to sleep, we are unconsciously affirming that God is in control of our world and it is not dependent upon us making things work.

                I wonder if God has allowed this current pandemic to occur so that we will slow down and rest. In the Old Testament, every seventh year was to be a sabbatical year; a year of rest when no normal work was done. The people had to trust God to provide, and He did. This pandemic, in many ways, has been an enforced time of rest. Many of the things that consume our time have been placed on hold. Families are spending more time together. Most people are being forced to live at a much slower pace. For many it has been hard to really slow down. They are in a hurry to get past this and get back to normal. I don’t blame them, but I would suggest that maybe they need to change their perspective. We all have a great opportunity to slow down, to reevaluate what is really important in life, and to actually rest for a time. We can waste this opportunity by maintaining a mental state of hurry, or we can take advantage of this time to get our life back in order.

                There is no vaccine against hurry, but there is a cure. It is called rest. Life is short as it is. Each moment, each experience is precious. Let us not miss the many good gifts that God has in store for us by rushing through life. When we get to the end of our life we can look back and wonder what happened, or we can cash in the dividends of a life well spent and well lived. The choice is up to us.

Matthew 11:28-30
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."