Opening Prayer ~ Power and Authority

Holy God,
all authority and power resides with You
for You are power and authority;
sovereign over all creation.
You are mighty and merciful,
full of grace and truth.
You are the very breath we breathe.
You are our life.
No heart beat goes by without Your knowledge and guiding hand,
and what a wonderful place to be –
in Your hands.
We do not have enough words or the capacity to glorify You as You deserve,
so we ask
that Your Spirit may intercede for us
and through us
so that Your praises ring loud and clear.
To You be all glory, honor, praise, worship and thanksgiving, through Christ Jesus our Lord,
Amen.

Jonah

Below is my newest article for the Buffalo Center Tribune. I am now on a new schedule. Instead of the 2nd and 4th weeks of the month, I will be publishing an article every other week. Not a huge change but it will mean the opportunity to write more often over the course of the year 🙂 To God be the glory!


I realize that we have just finished Christmas, but I am going to say that “L” word anyway: Lent. There, I wrote it. I feel better now, like a huge weight off my chest (sorry, that sounds like I am laying it on thick). Anyway, Lent is coming soon with Ash Wednesday on March 2. Why in the world is this guy talking about Lent in January? Well, the reason I am mentioning Lent is that I am excitedly working on my midweek preaching series through the book of Jonah. You mean the guy who got swallowed by a whale? Actually, the Bible says a “big fish”, but that is just splitting hairs, back to my point.


I have always liked Jonah because he is more like us than we sometimes care to admit. He is a prophet; someone who claims that he fears God (at least that is what he told the sailors on that stormy sea). But yet, Jonah repents (runs away) from God when God commanded him to preach a message to a people that he (Jonah) did not like. Most God-fearing people repent from sin, not God. But admit it, you have run away from God’s call more that you care to admit. You do not have to answer that right now – back to Jonah. Jonah finally goes to “those people” after being vomited up on a beach following a three-day stint in the belly of a big fish. Jonah preaches the message of judgment but is fearful that God will be merciful if “those people” repent. “Those people” do repent and God is merciful, and Jonah is angry. “SMITE THEM, O GOD. THEY DO NOT DESERVE MERCY.” And the story continues, but I will save the rest for Lent.


Sorry to leave you hanging, but my point here is not to advertise Lent (which I am kind of doing) but rather to draw your attention to an important truth: Living in the belly of a fish is smelly and miserable. Well duh, I don’t need a pastor to tell me that. Actually, you kind of do, because if you are running away from God, life does not smell like roses, despite what you may say. Life is miserable and stinky because running away from God never turns out well for the runner, just ask Jonah.


And so, instead of running away from God, run to God – not stopping to smell the roses but smelling them along the way. This does not mean life will be easy. This does not mean that you will always enjoy everything God commands you. What this means is that you will be part of God’s perfect and sovereign plan – a beautiful painting yet to be revealed, even if you do not understand it. But when you see that painting someday, through Jesus Christ, it will all make sense and thus God will be glorified. Do not try to create your own painting; your own story but be part of God’s story; God’s painting. Get out of that fish’s belly you are in and trust God. I promise you; you will not be disappointed. Amen.

Year In Review

The following is a fun little year in review that I wrote for our church newsletter. But first, a little context for those not familiar:
~ My call process began April 13, 2021
~ We moved into the parsonage on August 20 during a freak, massive rainstorm that sent water into our basement and garage, and more during the upcoming week. All is good now.
~ My first Sunday was our 125th anniversary celebration.
~ Children? There are a lot here in this small town and church 🙂

So there you have it. Hopefully that did not ruin the poem for you. Enjoy and to God be the glory 🙂


On April the thirteenth my year began,
As God prepared me for my new clan.
With interview one and interview two,
We would soon move in and need a canoe.
But God’s sovereign will would not be denied,
With us to B.C., He was our great guide.
And then it began on a big weekend,
So many years, to God I commend.
We worshipped as one and dwelt in God’s Word,
With Jesus as Lord, the Gospel was heard.
And the children, wow, we do have a lot.
And our teachers, wow, lacking they are not.
Our town is small but always big in heart.
What a great place to get a brand-new start.
And there’s more to say, but now it is time,
To end this silly poem and quit the rhyme.
And so, I thank my God for everyone.
God’s amazing love cannot be outdone.

Happy New Year

That’s pretty much it – wishing you a blessed 2022. And for my resolutions? Well…none of the typical clichés but rather to continue following Jesus and placing my trust in him in all things and in all circumstances. I fail a lot but my God is faithful. And I thank God for that.

But what else…

~ There will continue to be articles from the Buffalo Center Tribune.

~ There will continue to be random poems.

~ There will continue…

…well, you get the picture. It’s a new year but the same me. So there you have it. To God be all glory in 2022.

Amen!

The 12 Gospel Days of Christmas

The following is my article for the Buffalo Center Tribune for this week. It is a poem I published here last year but thought it was worthy to share again. To God be the glory


The following is a poem that I wrote for the end of the twelve days of Christmas last year, 2020. I share it with you now – before Christmas – to prepare your hearts for the Good News of Jesus. For you see, Jesus is more than the “stuff” of Christmas. Jesus is God incarnate; love made manifest; forgiveness; salvation; mercy and Life. Jesus was born in a stable FOR YOU and FOR ME. Christmas, not just twelve days but every day, is about Jesus. And so, to the glory of God, I present you this poem:
My true Love doesn’t give me things like partridges or turtle doves, French hens or pipers piping, dancing ladies or egg-laying geese. My true Love does not give me silly things like these. My true Love, Jesus, gave to me…
(1) Instead of a partridge in a pear tree, I have a Savior who died for me.
(2) Instead of two turtle doves, I have His love that came down from above.
(3) Instead of three French hens, I have the faith to boldly pray my amens.
(4) Instead of four calling birds, I have His inspired, infallible, inerrant holy Word.
(5) Instead of five golden rings, I have a Spirit-renewed heart that sings.
(6) Instead of six geese a-laying, I have confidence that with Him I will be staying.
(7) Instead of seven swans a-swimming, I have a joy that is more than brimming.
(8) Instead of eight maids a-milking, I have His promises fulfilled that He’s not bilking (yes, that’s a word – and used correctly).
(9) Instead of nine ladies dancing, I have a place in His holy court, at whom I won’t be just glancing.
(10) Instead of ten lords a-leaping, I have security in His hands in which I have safekeeping.
(11) Instead of eleven pipers piping, I have the sure and certain hope that my tears He will be wiping.
(12) Instead of twelve drummers drumming, I have excitement that my Lord Jesus will soon be coming.

My true Love gave me everything I need, for all that I need is Him. And all that YOU need is him as well. Merry Christmas and Amen.

Samuel

The following is my article for the Buffalo Center Tribune that was published this week. I hope you enjoy it. To God be the glory.


I would like to introduce you to someone. His name is Samuel. Samuel has been visiting our home for about four years now. He shows up every year starting December 1 and returns home after Christmas. Each morning when my kids wake up, Samuel is hiding someplace different, so the fun is searching for him. This morning (December 1) he was sitting on top of our grandfather clock because, well, it is time (see what I did there?).


I know what you are probably thinking: Well, isn’t this cute. He’s talking about his Elf on a Shelf. And you would be wrong. Samuel is not an elf; he is our Shepherd on the Search. The search for what (or whom)? Samuel is on the search for Jesus. Each morning when the kids get up, they are searching, not just for, but with Samuel. You see, Samuel does not report back to Jesus on whether they have been naughty or nice, but rather, reminds us that because we are naughty, Jesus was born for us. He was born to die on the cross and rise from the grave for the forgiveness of our naughtiness. And that is what Christmas is all about. Now, I could easily say, “Amen” and end this article right here with that statement, but I am not done.


What are you searching for this Christmas? Are you searching for some normalcy after a pandemic-stricken year seemingly stole Christmas last year? Are you searching for that perfect gift? What is the object of your searching? What is getting your focus? The world has seemingly hijacked Christmas with its materialistic ad campaigns filled with stuff that you simply “must have”. And thus, the world tries to define the object of your searching. But really, can you honestly remember what you got for Christmas 10 years ago? Five years ago? Last year? I cannot remember, but I do remember what God gave me 2000 years ago. God gave me Himself in Jesus Christ, and let me tell you, that is the gift that keeps on giving. It keeps on giving because I keep on being naughty. No, I am not unique in that sense for you/we are all naughty, all sinners in need of a Savior. And the searching is not because Jesus is playing some cosmic game of hide and seek. The searching is our reminder that Christmas is more than we think. It is not about worrying that some elf or shepherd will report back to Jesus with a list of your naughtiness. No, rather Jesus is full of grace and mercy. That is Christmas. It is all about Jesus FOR YOU.


So may your Christmas searching shine the light of hope that through faith in Jesus, you have everlasting life. Keep your eyes firmly fixed on the baby in the manger and see a love like none other, for God IS love. Amen and happy searching.

Alone

It is not good for one to be
alone.
Oh, my God, how I long to be
known.
Known by brothers and sisters,
Connected in Christ,
For we are stronger together,
Let me say that twice.
It is not good for one to be
alone.
Alone I am vulnerable.
Alone I am weak.
Alone I am indefensible.
Here I do not misspeak.
It is not good for one to be
alone.
But even though my brothers and sisters are distant –
for now,
I am never truly
alone.
For through Jesus’ blood,
and his life,
my sins he did
atone.
Oh God, my God,
thank YOU that I am never truly
alone.

Nothing Like It

The following is my article for the Buffalo Center Tribune. It was inspired by 1 John 3:1 – the text I preached on All Saints Sunday, November 7. To God be ALL glory!


I enjoy a good cup of coffee. Wait, that’s not a strong enough statement so let’s try this again: I REALLY enjoy a good POT of coffee, or two. There, that sounds better. You see, I am writing this article at 9:30 AM and I have already finished my first pot and now thinking about my next cup, which will come soon. But also, those who know me well know that I am a first-class coffee snob. I have a local roaster that I buy from, and I do not mind paying a little extra for good coffee. I am not rude, though. I will drink what my host puts in front of me, but I am very picky about what adorns my coffee bar at home.

And this coffee snobbery is on display in my office. One sign reads, “Coffee gets me started, God keeps me going”. Yes, there is a humorous truth here but theologically, many holes can be punched through this. Then there is the sign that reads, “C.O.F.F.E.E. – Christ Offers Forgiveness For Everyone Everywhere”. I like this because this has Gospel (and coffee) written all over it. But there is one more sign – one that I almost feel guilty about having, as it is borderline sacrilegious: “Coffee – Liquid that smells like fresh ground heaven”. Once again, there is a certain humor to this but truthfully, there is nothing that can be compared to heaven – not even coffee (yes, I actually wrote that).

You see, as good as coffee is, or anything of this world, nothing can be compared to our awesome God. 1 John 3:1 says this, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…” The phrase “what kind of love” has the sense in the Greek of “from what country are you from”. John writes this because there is nothing that can be compared to God’s love. There is nothing that can be used in this phrase: “[blank] is like God’s love.” When someone encounters God’s love, it is a love that is so different, so foreign that it should lead someone to say, “Wow, you are not from around these parts”. And that is what John is saying here. God’s love is not like the world, yet, we try to show love to one another using worldly ways and then saying that is God’s love. God’s love is shown and known only through Jesus and him crucified for your sins and raised for you. God’s love is perfect and complete. God’s love is pure and holy. God’s love is like nothing the world has ever seen for God’s love makes YOU His children. No other kind of love can do that.

Yes, there are many fantastically awesome beautiful things of this world (coffee), but nothing that comes close to God – who made all those fantastically awesome beautiful things (coffee). From what country are you from? Through Jesus you’re from the Kingdom of God. And that is a fantastically awesome beautiful truth. To God be all glory, always and forever, Amen.

Combine Ride

The following is my most recent addition to the Buffalo Center Tribune. To God be ALL glory!


I went for a combine ride last week. [Yawn] – that is what I can hear many of you doing right now, along with saying, “Big deal”. Well for me it was a big deal, for this was my first time in a combine. That’s right, I’m fifty years old and grew up in a small farming town in west central Minnesota, but I had never ridden in a combine. I have seen my share of farm machinery in action. I have spoken with and know my share of farmers. I have heard the stories. I am acquainted with the ebbs and flows of the farming community. Rural life is not foreign to me, just the actual riding of the equipment, but now I have gotten a sip. And that sip was enough to fill me with awe. It was not just the fancy combine that literally drove itself, or that fancy tech that knows where we’ve been and what needs to be completed, along with moisture percentages and yield rates. What captivated me was listening to my “chauffer” talk about his passion for farming. I saw and heard his joy for this vocation. He loves his job. And there are so many people out there that just do not understand who farmers are, what they do and what they mean for all of us. I am not saying that I fully understand now; that I could drop my current vocation and become a farmer tomorrow, but with that sip I received last week, I am motivated even more than ever to share the awe that I experienced and learn more myself.


But there is something else that I have sipped that has filled me with more awe – something I want to share with you now.


Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

[Psalm 34:8-10]


You see, just one little taste or sip of the grace of God through Jesus Christ, will open your eyes to a kingdom that is beyond words. It will reveal an awe that will blow you away. Just one little taste and one little look will change you forever. Try it, you will not regret it. For you see, just as one short ride in a combine showed me a brand-new world; giving me a desire to learn more, tasting and seeing God’s grace for sinners will change you or enliven you. It will fill you with awe and give you an appetite to taste more.


And so, taste and see that the Lord is Good. Taste and see and be reminded. Taste and see a brand-new life. Taste and see and know you are and will always be loved. Taste and see and be forever filled. To God be the glory through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wading in the Word: Open doors

As I was wading in the Word this morning, these verses from Colossians splashed me in the face:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Colossians 4:2‭-‬4 ESV

What got me wet this morning was Paul’s request to pray for him; that God may open doors for the Word. We pray with our children every night and go down the “list” of people in our lives. We thank God for our many blessings. We recount our day. We praise Him. But one thing I have not done was pray for God to open a door for the Word as we go about our days. Paul was in prison and had a captive audience (so to speak); the guards who were guarding him. But why not us? We encounter people nearly everyday and thus, when we encounter them, there is an opportunity for the Word – whether they are a believer or not. Pray that God opens a door for the Word, but also pray for that holy nudge to walk through that door. Pray also for the faith and courage to share the Word, but all the while, giving glory to God.

Holy God, open doors for me this day to share Your Word of life. Give me that nudge to walk through and the words to say in that moment. To You be all glory, honor, praise and worship, through Christ Jesus my Lord, Amen.