Friday, August 31, 2012

Glory Story

As heat is to fire. As wet is to water. So is glory to God.

Glory can be defined as tangible evidence of God's presence here on Earth.

Often times I find myself picking up my jaw off the floor and mopping up drool puddles that result in me observing glory.

A picture painted not by human hands, but by the sun setting in the west.
A harmonious sound resonating peacefully after the last chord is played.
A sentence that all but literally jumps off the page with powerful words.
A brisk breeze cooling off the heat of the day as the moon rises in the east.
A flicker of light straight up in the sky may be from a star that has already died.

Whatever it may be that makes us say "Wow!" it is there for glory.

It is evidence that we are not alone. God, who is the Creator and Sustainer of it all, gives us these glimpses of Himself. We are in awe because of the beauty, but this is but a fraction of the whole of God.

In Exodus 33, Moses asked God to "Please show me your glory." God's response? He told Moses to hide in the rocks while He walked past. Then God covered Moses with His hand so he could not see His face. The full glory of God is far too much for us here on Earth. We can not handle His perfect, pure face while we are still here. But, there is hope!

We get to see glimmers and glimpses of who God is while we are here. The Bible is the Glory Story showing us how we can be one with God. Along with that, He has given us opportunities to use our gifts to go to great lengths and capture His glory.

Three of my favorite forms of capturing God's glory are:


I am including three links to three friends who seem to be doing this daily.

Jenny Snipstead is a kid with vocal cords and fingers that create an outlet for what goes on inside her head and within her heart. Also listen to the song Watchman.

Steven Gnam is a tall guy who hikes, bikes, and skis with a camera in his hand all across the land. Originally from Whitefish, MT. We met through Young Life. He is cool and captures God's glory in a special way that you can hang on the wall.

Lori Willey is a mother of one of my best friends, Sam. She has a way with words, a way with people, and a way with salsa. This link takes you to the place where you can buy the book that chronicles their "Story of Glory."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Comfort of the Presence of God

I like to be comfortable. Don't you?

This week I moved up to Fargo, ND. I don't like change, so this was a big deal for me. The cities have been all I've ever really known. All of my family lives there, a good portion of my friends are there, and the cities-- I love Minneapolis.

For the past few weeks I had been throwing around the idea of not going to school this fall. It would have been so easy to stay where I was. I was living with my brother and his family, working as a full time nanny, and hanging out with friends on a daily basis. I was comfortable, and I liked that. But I knew God was calling me to something else. Something more. And whatever He has in store for me, I knew it was in Fargo at this point in my life. (Yes, you may ask, "But why North Dakota??" I ask myself that quite often as well...)

As I was on my way up last weekend, making the big move all by myself, I was listening to a podcast with Francis Chan. He was preaching on 1 Peter 4:12, and something he said towards the end really grabbed my attention:

"Why do we need a Comforter is we're comfortable? It's in these times of danger and uncertainty that we realize we're okay...we sense the presence of the Lord." 

God took me out of my comfort zone up here. I know quite a few people, but this is all new and very strange to me. But He took me out of that comfort to make me rely on HIM.

"...I am with you always, to the end of the age."--Matthew 28:20b

God is always with you, no matter where you are at the moment. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Helper, and He will never leave you. In the face of trials or hardships of life, cling to the fact that Jesus was ultimately uncomfortable for you (really, can you imagine a more uncomfortable way to spend your Friday than hanging on a tree with nails in your hands and feet?). Trust in Him for your salvation, your peace with God through the forgiveness of sins, and let that peace penetrate to your very core.

Jesus said this life would not be comfortable for His followers. That was a promise! So in the midst of life's craziness, rely on God and cling to Jesus.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In Awe of Creation...

Two weeks ago, I was driving across eastern Montana and into North Dakota. The further I drove, the drabber the terrain got. And the further I drove, the less I was interested in looking at anything but the road ahead. In my opinion, there wasn't much to look at. Not much beauty.

And then, as I was an hour north of Williston, the sun started to shine through the clouds, on it's way towards setting. I rolled down my window, grabbed my camera, and tried to stay on the road while I shot this picture.

But even in seeing this, I thought, 'Wow, the sunsets are really pretty, too bad the rest of the scenery isn't…' (If you're from North Dakota, I'm sorry! I'll try to redeem this later!)

The next day, I got up and rode with a friend to Fargo. And along the way, I started to see the scenery a little differently. I started to see little ponds, and abandoned farms, and forgotten history on hillsides. And I'd think, 'Oh that'd be a sweet picture.'

A couple of days later we headed back across the land of North Dakota. And I started to get curios about the things I was seeing, and the stories they might hold. I was beginning to see beauty in the little things scattered throughout the expanse we travelled.

As I parted ways with my friend near the end of North Dakota, I started to have an incredible time with God, reflecting on all which He has done for me. As this was happening I started to notice all of this beauty around me… It was awe-inspiring.

I continued into Montana and drew closer to the mountains, and I was only more and more awed at how beautiful God has made creation to be! 

This week I'm working on the edge of Flathead Lake. It's really great. The beauty is incredibly evident.

As a result of these things occurring in the last couple of weeks, I've had a lot of times being in awe of creation. And in turn, times of being in awe of my Creator. 

A question: 
Is it more typical for you to see things, as I did at first in North Dakota, as just drab? 
Do you more typically see things as awe-inspiring?

I've been learning these last couple of weeks, God created me to be filled with awe and wonder… And when I allow myself to be, I grow in awe and wonder at who my heavenly Father is. 

May you also be filled with awe at creation, and through it, be filled with awe of our Creator!

Monday, August 27, 2012

That's Crazy

Last Friday, my good friend Heidi flew from Minneapolis to Bismarck to spend the day with me. While spending a couple of hours sipping some tea from Starbucks, we overhead a group of middle-aged women talking about belly button piercings. My eavesdropping skills weren't on target that day, so I have no clue why these women were discussing them. But after overhearing those three words - "belly button piercing" - Heidi and I joked about getting a belly button and nose piercing . . . Well, actually, we only half-joked. It would have been fun. And the rebellious girls that live inside both of us kind of wanted to go through with it. It definitely would have been a crazy move on our part.

Crazy: being out of the ordinary; to an extreme degree. (Thanks, Merriam-Webster.)

Flying nearly 500 miles for a 6-hour visit - yeah, that could be considered crazy. Getting a nose piercing or belly button piercing - yeah, that could also be considered crazy. But what about some of the things God called His people to do?

Think about it: the LORD told Hosea to marry a prostitute.
"When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, 'Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD." - Hosea 1:2
Marry a prostitute? Have children with her? What?! Do you think Hosea might have thought - or even told Him - "Lord, You're crazy!"? But there's more.

Think about it: the LORD told Ezekiel to lay on his left side for 390 days and on his right side for 40 days.
"As for you, lie down on your left side and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel on it . . .For I have assigned you a number of days corresponding to the years of their iniquity, 390 days; thus you shall bear the iniquity of the house of the Israel. When you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah; I have assigned it to you for 40 days, a day for each year." - Ezekiel 4:4-6
Lie on my left side for 390 days? And then my right side for 40 days? What?! Do you think Ezekiel might have thought - or even told Him - "Lord, You're crazy!"? But there's more.

Think about it: the LORD told Isaiah to walk around naked and barefoot for three years.
"At that time the LORD spoke through Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, 'Go and loosen the sackcloth from your hips and take your shoes off your feet.' And he did so, going naked and barefoot. And the LORD said, "Even as My servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and token against Egypt and Cush, so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old, naked and barefoot with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.'" - Isaiah 20:2-4
Naked? Barefoot? What?! Do you think Isaiah might have thought - or even told Him - "Lord, You're crazy!"?

Sometimes the LORD calls us to do crazy things. Things that are out of the ordinary. Things that seem to go to an extreme degree. Things that simply don't make sense to those around us. And yet, we aren't called to only do what He commands if they are within our understanding of "normal" - we're called to be obedient no matter the cost. Even if it means other's perceptions of us.

Did you notice that with each of those three Biblical examples, the LORD had a purpose? So too, the LORD has a purpose in the crazy thing or things He has called you to.

It might not make sense. You might tell the Lord He's crazy. You'll probably wonder why on earth He told you to it. Question - but be obedient. Know that the LORD always has a purpose. And always remember that He is with you on every step of the crazy path.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

You Could Be Sick... and Not Know.

"And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" 

The Pharisees were religious leaders who strictly observed Old Testament law and therefore believed themselves to be righteous. Yet, Jesus' judgment of them was harsh: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!... you outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matthew 23) The Pharisees were sinful, quite sinful, but they didn't see it. Obviously. Here they are pointing fingers, asking the disciples "Why in world are you hanging out with sinners?"

Jesus could've responded, "Ok Mr. Pharisee, who do you think I should eat with? You?! You're a sinner too you know... dummy." But Jesus' response to this pointed question is actually quite shocking. He answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." He didn't point out to the Pharisees that they too (like all Pharisees, Publicans, Samaritans, Jews, etc) were sinners in need of the Physician. Why?

Seeing a physician means medications, needles, scalpels, wound debridement, bone-setting, etc. A healthy person has no need of such interventions. Only those aware of a terminal illness would willingly, and humbly, subject themselves to a physician's care.

The Pharisees were blind to their sin. Jesus wasn't going to instruct a fool or cast His pearls before swine (Prov 16:22, Mt. 7:6) by wasting His time with them. Contrarily, could it be that the tax collectors/sinners were aware of their need for healing? Could it be that Jesus sought to spend time with those whose hearts He knew would respond to His love. This observation leads me to two questions:

1) Am I constantly aware of my need for The Great Physician? Or do I, like the Pharisees, measure myself based on my works instead of my heart?
2) Do I spend time with 'sinners'--those who's hearts are in tune with their need for a Healer? Both in friendships and in witnessing/mentoring, these are to whom I am called.

Dear Lord,
Show me my sin today and every day. Open the eyes of my heart, that I may see my life next to your holy standard. Heal me. I look to you alone for redemption and sanctification. Remove my sin. Make me holy, like you. Lead me to sinners. May my closest friends be those who see their need for the Physician. May my heart be to share you with 'sinners', not blind fools. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Be. Know. Do.

All too often I lose my balance.

Last week this happened when I stepped on a rock. Part of my lower leg touched the ground in a way it was not designed to touch. Ankle equals sprained. Losing my balance has drastically affected me this week.

This week has been tough as a result of losing my balance. I am moving slower than normal. There is a nagging pain. People notice a difference and ask concerned questions. I feel like a different person.

All too often I lose my balance.

Jesus calls us to follow Him.
Who we once were has been transformed into something (someone) new.
We have a new identity, someone God desires us to be.

Jesus tells us some important stuff.
We are to love God and our neighbors with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
These are the two most important commands we are supposed to know.

Jesus gives us instructions.
Leave your life of sin. Go and make disciples. Remain connected to Him.
Life has an endless list of things we can do.

All too often I lose my balance.

Some days I'm more concerned about what I know. 
Other days all I focus on is the list of things I want to do.
Then there are days where my main objective is to simply be.

To walk with Jesus while remaining balanced, I need all three.

Be a part of the Family - the Father's love adopts you.
Know that Jesus has paid the price for sin - He is your hope.
Do what He tells you - follow the Holy Spirit's leading.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Want to Be Clean!

For the past few days I have been absolutely miserable. I will spare you the details, but it has been bad. I hate being sick. I have felt terrible, unproductive (as I really should be packing to move north this weekend!), and just disgusting. With all this down time it has given me plenty of time to think, and the topic of my thoughts has been leprosy.

No, I don't have leprosy.

Leprosy was the most dreaded disease in Biblical times, caused by unclean habits. It was quick to spread and usually incurable. If anyone touched a leper, he or she was almost sure to get the disease as well. Leviticus tells us how leprosy was treated: "He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp" (Leviticus 13:46). 

As the disease was so contagious, the only way to keep it from spreading was to isolate the lepers completely. The leper was cast into exile, separate from the pure. He tore his clothes to show extreme agony and grief. His head was bare to express extreme humiliation. He would cry, "Unclean! Unclean!" so that the pure would keep away and not risk contracting the terrible disease themselves. 

Unclean. This word has really gotten to me over the past few days. Synonyms are "filthy" and "impure". This led me to Isaiah 64:6, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away."

WE are called unclean. Even our "righteous acts", the good that we try to do, are considered unclean. Everything about us is unclean. We need to be separated from the pure. Our sin does that-- we are separated from God.

However, the story doesn't end there. In steps Jesus! He said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17). Good news, because that's all of us. Christ came for the unclean, those who are "sick" with sin. Every single human falls into that category. 

In His death on the Cross, Christ took on all of our sin, all of the filth that separates us from God. He took all of that upon Himself, and He carried it to the grave. And when He rose again, He left it there! And now, by faith, we accept His righteousness in place of our sin. We trust in HIM to make us clean, instead of trying to rid ourselves of the filth in our own strength. And we are no longer unclean, no longer exiled from God. By faith, we stand perfectly clean before God. How cool is that!

"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed." -- 1 Peter 2:24

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lack of Friends?

This last week and a half, I've had the blessing of seeing many different people whom I enjoy fellowshipping with. I've realized I am incredibly blessed to be in a church where I feel at home, and an area where people care about me and make sure I'm included in their lives. In this realization, it also came to my attention, I have become spoiled in a sense because of this. I've forgotten what it's like to not have close friends, or a support group around me. There was a time in my life when I was geographically surrounded by Christians, but I was intensely lonely, because I didn't have any companions. I remember nightly, literally crying to God for intimate fellowship, where I could be me, and just fit. All praise to God, after about a year of praying for this, He moved me twice, and answered my prayer. 

In this last week and a half though, I've been reminded of many different individuals, in many different places, who are in the place still, of crying out to God for companions. As humans we have an intense desire for friendship. And I've been challenged, because I know it's not always going to work for others in the way God worked it for me. As in, "just move until you find a group of people whom you fit with." Whereas God does do this from time to time, as I am a testament to, I believe it's more a statement of where a lot of local churches are failing. And to be blunt, I'm not seeing this in just one geographical area or one local congregation. But in the Church as a whole around the country. 

So what's happening? Why aren't people feeling connected with others? Why are friends so hard to make at church?

Could it be because we're selfish? 
Possibly, looking out for only our own interests and not the interests of others? 
Or per chance, it's because we are pridefully counting ourselves as more significant than others?
Maybe it's just, we don't feel we have time.
Or we already have too much plugged into us, taking our energy.

For the last few weeks, I've been challenged repeatedly by the Holy Spirit, to grow in this area. And honestly, it's hard. But from my own experience, I know it is far harder to be the one crying every night to God for companionship. It doesn't take much to show interest in others lives.

What is the solution? Philippians 2:1-8 and Romans 15:1-7 have a bit to say about this.

Here's the passage from Philippians:
2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And from Romans:
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

As the Holy Spirit has been at work in my heart, convicting me to be more aware and action oriented in this area of life, these verses have been excellent to read repeatedly. I would encourage you, if you are doing well in putting others before yourself, well done! And if not, please do not grow discouraged, but see this as an encouragement towards growth. 

What can we do to help each other?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Remember How It Ends

I admit it: I jumped on the Hunger Games bandwagon this past winter. When some of my middle school Bible study girls were excitedly talking about the movie release and informing me on what exactly was The Hunger Games, I thought to myself: "Oh boy. New craze. Sounds ridiculous, disturbing, and depressing." Not until my older brother confessed to reading the entire book in one night did I begin to think that maybe there was something to all this. I don't remember how quickly I consumed the book (or maybe how quickly it consumed me), but I read it. When I finished, I was furious. That being said, when the movie came out on DVD this past weekend, Jordan and I decided to seize the opportunity and rent it from the Redbox.

Although I knew how the movie was going to end; although I knew who was going to live and how various awful deaths occurred, it didn't stop me from getting anxious during the movie. It didn't stop me from closing my eyes at scenes that made me scared. It didn't stop my heart from racing with the tension on the movie. In fact, in between bites of popcorn, I commented to Jordan: "Knowing how it ends doesn't make watching it any easier."

Whether you've read The Hunger Games or seen the movie doesn't really matter to how you can relate to this blog post. Think of any high-action movie you've seen more than once. Or another book you've read turned into a film. You may know how it's going to end -- but that doesn't mean the action falls flat or the intensity loses its zing.

Our lives are a little bit like that, aren't they? God's Word tells us how it's all going to end: how Satan will be destroyed, how Jesus will come back and rescue His people, how those who trust in Him will dwell eternally with Him in a new heaven and a new earth:
"And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. . . .Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . and I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.' And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'" - Revelation 20:10; 21:1-5
But that knowledge doesn't necessarily make living life any easier, does it? Knowing how this story of earth and our troubles is going to end doesn't take away the anxiety and fear of our current situations. Why do you suppose that is?

Maybe it's because the pain is so great we can't take our eyes off of it. Maybe it's because we hold onto the burdens ourselves, rather than entrusting them to the only One who can do anything about them. Maybe it's because we lack faith in the Lord and place it in ourselves instead.

Whatever difficult situation you find yourself in: remember Who wins in the end. Keep your eyes focused on Him. And when the present seems to much to bear, remember His promises. You're not alone.
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" - Romans 8:31

Sunday, August 19, 2012

“A Lineage of Grace” Book Review/Insight


These women all have different stories, but they have at least two things in common: They trusted God with all their heart and they are in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

I had read most of the stories of these women before in the Bible, but I never stopped to really think about their situation or the story from their point of view. Francine Rivers wrote in depth historical fiction novellas of each woman based on what God says in the Bible and the culture at that time. These women were not perfect, nor were they necessarily accepted by others. They made mistakes, yet God in His mercy used them in His perfect plan because they trusted Him.

Reading these novellas helped me to realize that God doesn’t want me as His child because I am a good person or because others accept me. No, He wants me because He loves me. And He has a marvelous plan for my life if I surrender it to Him. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary all could have walked away from God’s plan, saving themselves from disapproval from others, but they chose to trust God. They realized that in their difficult circumstances God worked in and through them as He walked with them each step along the way in those hard and confusing times.

Hebrews 11 defines faith for us, and gives us amazing examples of faith. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.” As it continues on and goes through the examples of those who showed great faith, it doesn’t seem like they earned a good reputation from those around them at the time – they were probably considered to be crazy or a disgrace or embarrassment. But that wasn’t what was important – what was important was pleasing God, and earning a good reputation with Him. And as we look back to their examples, we see their great faith and strive to have such a faith.

There may be situations or circumstances in your lives that you don’t understand. Maybe God is prompting you to do something you are scared to do, you don’t understand, or even something that would cause your friends to leave you. I encourage you to Trust God, to seek Him and His Will, to seek to please Him, not this world. And remember, to know God’s will for our lives, we need to know Him, to be so close to Him that we feel His heart beat, that His hearts desires are ours.

I also encourage you to read these novellas by Francine Rivers, or look at the stories of these women in the Bible and study their example of faith, and to know that you are not alone. We all are in this faith journey together. God has given us examples in His Word to encourage us, and He has given us brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage each other in our faith. If you are low on Faith, get into God’s Word, ask Him to increase your faith, and find a Christian friend to encourage you. If you are overflowing with Faith, I encourage you to share that faith with others – Christians and non-Christians. And let our Marvelous God work in and through you life that He may be glorified. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pondering II

 This post is a follow up to a previous post, titled Ponder, in which was discussed the importance of meditative reading. You may recall the quote, "We should spend 50% of our time reading the Bible in meditative reading. Stop, listen, consider, and pray." The purpose of this successive post is to present one (of many) ways to study the Bible. 

II Tim. 2:15 instructs the Christian to "study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Pondering the Word of God includes studying. This is a skill which matures throughout the life of a Christian. Outlined next is a resource many Believers have found extremely helpful for systematically studying Scripture. 

Observation, Interpretation, Application (OIA) is an excellent, yet simple method for studying the Bible. Quickly summarized, observation is pulling obvious facts out of the text, interpretation is discovering what the text means, and application is finding how to personally apply the text. (Dust off all those handy Bible resource books you got for confirmation and put them to use!) Here is a great resource to better explain the OIA method.

Diving deep into the Word of God yields rich rewards. Regardless of how you study God's written Word, I pray you won't be satisfied with simply reading the text. After you commit to digging deeper, I pray you will:
1) Ask the Holy Spirit to "guide you into all truth", opening your heart to His hidden treasures.
2) Dig deep. Use resources to help you better understand the historical, geographical, cultural, lingual, etc, setting.
3) Ask the Lord for grace to apply and live out His truths.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Leaving Life. Living Life.

Three months of my life have flashed before my eyes like a snow leopard.

If you don't understand that analogy, watch the Discovery Channel documentary "Planet Earth." 

Now, back to the point. 

In roughly 100 days, give or take a few weeks, the life I knew that was finally becoming "normal" was flipped upside down and everything has changed. 

In May, my tassel was turned, diploma earned, and I shook the hand of a doctor without a stethoscope at a big ceremony. (Sigh of relief.)

Three weeks later, I was married and staring at a fully loaded Uhaul. 

After living in Minnesota for four years and finally starting to understand what it means to "go Up North" - I moved back to Montana with my wife.

It seemed like life had just started to make sense. 
It seemed as though the friends I was with were starting to dive deeper daily. 
It seemed very odd to be leaving the life I'd come to know. 

Upon arrival in Montana, the welcome was warm, the mosquitoes did not swarm, and Emily and I started fresh and new. Having just left close friends and caring family we had some adjusting to do. There were (and still are) many adventures to be had, but that's not the point. 

The point is - after leaving life it is time to be living life.
In Matthew chapter 4, you can read a story where Jesus walked the shores of Galilee early one morning and saw a couple fishermen. He simply told them to follow Him.
What did they do?

For about two seconds they considered the fact that they were leaving life

Then Jesus explained that they would be following Him. He gave them a new job; fishing for men rather than fish. 

So they did what they had to do.

The started living life

We all at some point will be leaving life and end up somewhere new living life

In John chapter 8, Jesus told a woman who was caught cheating on her husband to "leave your life of sin."

A little while later, in John 10, Jesus told some really religious people that He came "that they may have life, and have it to the full." 

Are you at a point where it is time to be leaving life and start living life?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Inferior to the Superior?

The song that has been running through my head as of late is "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)" by Matt Redman. If you haven't heard it, please take a listen!

Scripture, especially the Psalms, repeats the saying "bless the Lord" many times. But wait, how can we, as sinful men, bless the Lord?

"It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior."--Hebrews 7:7

I get that. The Superior--God--blesses the inferior--us. I can see there everywhere I look. God is the Great Provider and Benefactor and gives us what we cannot provide for ourselves, and also what we do not deserve. He helps and strengthens us. God is so good!

But then how can we, as the inferior, bless the Lord? David's songs were full of those words, as are many of the praise songs that we sing today. I cannot help or strengthen God because He is the Helper and the One who provides us with strength. I cannot provide anything that He can't provide for Himself.

The saying, "bless the Lord" literally means, "You are blessed". Our acknowledgement of this does not somehow make God bigger or stronger, but is an act of worship-- of recognizing that he is worthy of praise. "Bless the Lord" is a statement of awe! It is recognition that He is the One who blesses.

So today, in the midst of your crazy life, take time to ponder what it means to "bless the Lord". Whether you are hurting or life is great, God is still good. A line in this song is, "for all Your goodness I will keep on singing". His goodness is not dependent on us.

I often play the "glad game" (from Polyanna) when I am down--finding something to be glad of in every situation. In the same way, we can find something to "bless the Lord" for in every situation. I know many of you are hurting, but we can bless the Lord always, may we never forget, for His Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love in sending His Son to the cross for each one of us. As we bless the Lord for all of His provisions in our daily life--food, water, shelter, family, friends, etc-- let us remember the greatest provision of all: forgiveness in the blood of Jesus! But really, there are 10,000 and more reasons to bless the Lord!

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." --Psalm 103:1-2

Monday, August 13, 2012

God Doesn't Love Like Us

Three months ago yesterday, I became a mom. The past three months have consisted of talking to more strangers than I ever have in my life, more laundry than I ever conceived possible in a week, and more joy than I ever thought my heart could hold. Do I love being a mom? Absolutely! I love Ezekiel's smile that takes up his whole face. I love his baby grunts, coos, and babblings. I love cuddling with him in the afternoons as we both doze off for a nap. I don't even mind his dirty diapers.

Being a mom has taught me many things: yes, the typical things such as how to most efficiently change a diaper before getting sprayed, the perfect water temperature for Zeke's bath, how to best take care of those fast-growing fingernails. But it's also taught me a lot more about love. It's taken a familiar Bible verse about love and given it new life, new meaning in my heart. Like many of you, it's probably one of the first Bible verses I ever committed to memory and have heard countless times since. And unfortunately, it often loses its "wow" factor because of these things.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." - John 3:16 (emphasis mine)
I'll be honest: as much as I love my parents, brother, husband, in-laws and friends - I don't know if I could give up Ezekiel in exchange for their lives. I'm not sure that I would let my son suffer excruciating pain, humiliation and death for those that I love. As a mother, it would break my heart to see the son I love so much experience so much pain.

Thank goodness God doesn't love like us.

God's love is incredible. It's mind-boggling. It plain doesn't make sense. Because He didn't just allow His beloved Son to suffer excruciating pain, humiliation and death for His friends and family; for those who loved Him in return. God allowed that pain, humiliation and death to happen to His beloved Son for those who hated Him; for those who were His enemies.
"God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8 (emphasis mine)
Take a moment today and consider the love that God has towards you. He loves you so much He let His Son die for you. You didn't deserve His love or His life. And yet He gave . . . He gave because He loves you. He gave because He desires you to spend eternity with Him in heaven. He gave because He doesn't love like we do.

Thank You, Father!

Friday, August 10, 2012


Two months ago today, while honeymooning with my beautiful wife, we received a message from Ben; telling us that our dear friend Jeremy Erickson had passed away.

Three days ago, while making lunch with my beautiful wife, I received a phone call from my mom; informing me that grandma Ragnhild Herset had passed away.

In the midst of the craziness that the summer of 2012 has become, I've learned a little bit about the weight, the depth, and the reality of the four-letter word loss.


Four little letters.

One word which carries so much emotion.

We don't like it when someone dies. That's not the intended purpose of Creation. God created us for life. Yet sin has changed the course of life forever. Christ died in our place, so we might have life after death. But, we who are left must still deal with the loss of one we love.

Through the grief and mourning, four phrases have filled my mind while I've wrestled with loss.

Lament is the path we ought to walk through the pain.
Open your heart to those mourning alongside you.
Sit in the reality of the loss instead of avoiding what is to be processed.
Share sweet memories with friends and family who are tasting the bitterness of loss.

As I've dealt with loss for the first time, the learning curve has been steep.

The heaviness has tried to hold me down.
In the depths it has been dark.
Reality doesn't seem so real.

But, dealing with loss has brought be back to the cross. In the hopeless feelings surrounding death, glimpses of hope come when I'm with Jesus.

Seeing the faces of friends and family dealing with the same death, I've gleaned wisdom from others; I'm learning how to lament. My heart has been opened to people who deeply care. Seeing the need to battle my natural tendency to become more and more busy, God has helped me process the pain while stopping to simply sit. Sweet moments of laughter flow during times where memories are shared.

Before Jer went Home, he wrote a lot for us who were going to remain here. In a blog post on March 17th, 2012 titled Lament: God-Ward Grief Jer wrote the following:

"Along the way we find that lament is one of the most direct paths to the true praise we know we have lost. For in lamenting God’s absence, we come to recognize his presence; in lamenting the pain of death, we come to the hope of resurrection. Lament in the hands of Jesus becomes more than the path to worship; it is the path of worship, and by it, the Lord is praised."

While we journey through this life, we don't know how many days we will live.

Whether you've been there or not, understand the possibility of the inevitable.

Death brings loss.

When the Lord calls someone Home to be with Him, there is a bright celebration taking place while; here there is a dark time of mourning over our loss.

By God's grace we have hope.

We may learn to lament.
We can take the risk of opening our hearts.
We can stop to sit in the reality of it all.
We share memories with others.

Living in the shadow of loss brings us a little closer to the Light of Life, that is Jesus Christ. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Unforgettable, That's What I'm Not.

"Gone but not forgotten."

Those were the words that were inscribed on a tombstone that my dear friend and I found while meandering through a graveyard. This man died in the 1800s. I can't remember his name, and I'm sad to say I doubt anyone else can either. He's gone, and he's forgotten.

As humans, we like to think that we're permanent. We like to make ourselves at home. However, another Rockfordian died in a car crash the day after my post last week, so death is fresh on my mind. Two deaths in one week. Whoa. I did not know this young man personally--being three years older than me--but it hit close to home. Literally.

With so many deaths in such a short period of time, it has really gotten me thinking about our permanence in this life. And really, we have none. We're not permanent. In the grand scheme of eternity, we are nothing. However, there is a constant in life.

"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever."--Isaiah 40:8

That includes us. We wither; we fade. But the Word of our God-- the written Word in Scripture, and the spoken and living Word in Christ (check out John 1!)-- is permanent. Every law in Scripture is permanent. Every promise in Scripture is permanent. The sacrifice of the Cross is permanent. The forgiveness proclaimed in His resurrection is permanent. The love of God is permanent. HE is permanent.

And God knows that we're not.

"As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." --Psalm 103:13-14

He made us; He knows that we're fragile. And He reminds us throughout His Word that He isn't. He's strong; He's good; He's here to stay.

Let's face it--people will most likely one day forget all of us. Unless you do something crazy like Columbus or Martin Luther or Edison, most people are forgettable. After a few generations, you're gone. You're a name in a family tree. But our great God is not forgettable. He's here to stay.

So today, instead of trying to make a name and legacy for yourself, let's praise the One who doesn't have to try. Let us look to the Lord who is permanent. Let us trust in His death and resurrection. He will never forget us. And really, that's the only thing that matters in eternity anyway!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Do you really believe?

In the last few months I've been thinking a lot about what it is I believe I believe. As in, my own perception of what I think I believe. I've come to realize, through the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, I don't always really believe what I say and think I believe. The underlying question throughout these last few months has been; 

"If I really believe these things, there should be evidence in my life… Is there?"

You see, I've been in the Christian environment my entire life. And as a result of this, I've grown up with perceptions, thoughts, feelings, opinions, biases, and good morals, which I've believed made me Christian. And I'm not here to knock any of those. But they aren't where the root of Christianity lies. For the majority of my life, I lived in a way which I thought would make God happy with me. Following rules, doing the 'right' things, making sure I didn't do the 'really bad' things… All the while thinking, these made me better in God's eyes. More able to be a representative of Him.

Instead, what I was doing was declaring through my actions, "I don't need God. "My works are good enough, I don't need Jesus, or His sacrifice." As I look back, this is terrible! And if I would've understood the Gospel, I would've been horrified at my actions. But I didn't understand the Gospel, and thus I continued on, trying to please God, afraid of what would happen if I couldn't.

This is our human condition. We are sinful, and we try to make it on our own. But this is also why God sent His Son. Jesus came to save us from the trap of believing we can work our way to heaven, or thinking we make God love us more by what we do or don't do. The truth is God loves us no matter what we do. We cannot change the fact, God loves us. God loves you! He knows everything we have done, and everything we will ever do. Good or Bad. And yet He loves us unconditionally. He loves us with no conditions! Reflect on that for a minute.

It's then, as a result of this understanding, we are enabled through the freedom in Christ, to live our lives in such a way, as to bring glory to God through our actions. It's not a result of what we have done, but through the gift of God in Jesus Christ, not of man's works so that no one may boast. (See Ephesians 2:8-10)

We then, because of the no-conditions love of our Father, are enabled to live out our Christianity, doing works. But not to earn God's love. Instead, to testify of God's love. To give Him glory. To express our love back to Him. This is the evidence which should be in the life of one who believes in God. This is the evidence which should be in my life.

As I've been asking myself this question at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, it's taken on varying perspectives. Or, more precise sub-points. I've had to ask myself; 

"Am I willing to share anything I have with my brothers and sisters in Christ?" 
"Do I love my neighbor as myself?"
"Am I craving the Word of God as a newborn babe craves milk?"
"Am I dwelling more on the opinions of men, or the truth of God's Word?"

The list could go on. But the gist is, "Do I really believe?" And don't get caught thinking for a second, if you don't, or don't have a certain amount of evidence in your life, that God will love you less. His love is based on no conditions! It's easy to think, if we don't do something just right, or just as the Bible says, we will lose God's love. This isn't true. His love is unconditional. Rejoice in this! Rejoice in it by living in such a way to testify of His love, to bring Him glory, and to thank Him for His unconditional love!

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
- Collossians 3:17

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bomb Shelter

Jordan, Ezekiel and I had the immense blessing this past week of attending Family Camp out at the ARC in Osceola, Wisconsin. It's been a crazy month of travel for all three of us (Jordan could count the number of days he spent at home in July on his hands), and although the trip out to Camp was long, the week spent together and with family was a  blessing. One crazy thing did happen on Friday night; something I've never experienced at the ARC - or any other camp for that matter.

At 11:30pm, when Zeke and I were both thoroughly asleep for the night, Jordan woke me up with the news that we had to leave the lodge that we were staying in and head to the Tabernacle. A storm was coming and the entire camp was to evacuate their rooms and hunker down in a building that once served as a bomb shelter. With a siren howling, thunder booming, and a disoriented mind, I was brought to a place of fear. Although we were only in a severe thunderstorm warning, the ARC's weather siren communicated to me tornado -- which is one of my biggest fears. Ever since elementary school - when I remember crouching down in our hallway as we waited out a tornado warning - I've been freaked out by tornadoes. So, as we piled in my in-laws van for the short drive to the Tabernacle, I was scared.

As we sat in the Tabernacle, Jordan told one of his brothers: "You don't have to be scared at all. This building was built to withstand a bomb." What a comforting thought! If the shelter we had taken could withstand a bomb, there was no reason it could not withstand 70 mph winds. With that comforting thought resting on my mind, I eased into sleep for the next hour as we waited out the worst of the storm.

Isn't it wonderful that we too have a shelter from the storms of life? When we are gripped with fear, we have only to run to the arms of our Heavenly Father. He is our shelter, our place of refuge, an ever-present help in times of trouble. What better, safer place could we flee? In His arms we find not only safety, but rest.

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust!' For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day, of the pestilience that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays wasted at noon. A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you. You will only see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the LORD, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.
'Because He has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.'" - Psalm 16:1-10, 14-16 (emphasis added)

Praise the LORD that we are never alone!

Friday, August 3, 2012

He is my Shepherd

As I sit here and think about my life, I cannot help but think of all the goodness that God has shown me over my whole life. He has carried me, guided me, strengthened me, and invited me to draw closer to Him through it all. 

My life has been full of health problems, most of the time doing tests trying to figure out what is wrong. I have had to do much waiting in my life because of it...waiting for answers, waiting for healing, waiting for God to do something. But God, in His mercy, was doing something the whole time! He was building me up to be more like Jesus. I have a long ways to go, and I cannot help but look forward to the day when I shall stand before Him complete!

I have been reading through Psalm 23 lately, and just been struck by the words that David prayed and proclaimed, for they have become my prayer and proclamation as well. The Lord is my Shepherd, I am His little lamb. He takes care of me, gives me all that I need. I invite you to just dwell on these words today, and remember what God has done in your life - and never forget! I encourage you to keep a journal of what God has done, for it is easy to overlook the little things in life that lead to something we never thought possible. Seek Him, be lost in Him, lean on the Shepherd. 

The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows;He leads me beside peaceful streams. He re news my strength. He guides me along right paths,bringing honor to His name.Even when I walk through the darkest valley,I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.You honor me by anointing my head with oil.My cup overflows with blessings. Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pain, Lots of Pain

"This world is so messed up; I don't even want to live in it anymore."

Those were the words of a stranger I met while waiting for my pizza at Little Caesar's the other night. She was hurting, and she saw that hurt everywhere she turned. 

This week, another Rockfordian (from my hometown of Rockford, MN) died; he was two years older than me. This has been the craziest year for our small town. So many people are hurting. Sometimes I'm tempted to agree with this stranger; I'm tired of all the hurt.

Then I'm reminded of a Man who felt all of this pain with such more intensity than we could ever imagine. This man was given empty praise, betrayed, traded for a murderer, stripped, beaten, nailed to a tree, and buried in another man's tomb--all within one week. He was scoffed and spit upon. He was ultimately humiliated. And besides all of this, He held the weight of all the sin of the world upon His shoulders. 

He did this for us. He suffered and died and was buried and rose again for each one of us. And in His death and new life, He offers that to us! He offers us death--strange concept, huh? He invites us to die to our old natures and to live to Him. He gives us new life in Him, just as He had new life after three days in a tomb. New life!

Let me be cautious here though: we are not promised a bed of roses; there is still hurt in the world--we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. I've felt a lot of it this year, both physical and emotional, and I know many of you have as well. However, He does provide comfort and joy. Comfort to help us through the difficult days that are stained with tears, and joy-- the joy of the LORD that is our strength (Nehemiah 6:8--good verse!)-- to fix our eyes on Christ instead of the circumstances at present. 

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." (John 14:27 ESV)

Let us fix our eyes on Christ today, and in doing so, point others to His healing embrace as well. There is a lot of hurt in the world, and the only One who can truly bring comfort is God. Point others to that peace in the midst of all the chaos. And let yourself rest there as well. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Tuesday nights for me, are generally spent at the young adult's Bible study of my church. Last night we went through the second session on fellowship from Francis Chan's Basic series. I learned a lot from it. Normally when something impacts me I journal once about it. I wrote three different entries today as a result of last nights' study! God is at work! 

One thing I've been thinking of a lot as a side thought from last nights' Bible study is, self-image. Basically the concept of how I perceive myself versus who I am in reality. 

Depending on what aspect of myself I'm thinking of, I tend to have different perspectives. 
For instance, my body image always seems to be better than reality. Whether it be my physique or mustache, somehow I visualize myself looking far dapper than I actually do in the mirror! In reality I generally need to work out more, and just stop achieving the creeper 'stache. (Maybe for you it's the opposite? Is it possible that you perceive yourself as less attractive than you really are?)

Another personal example… Ever since I was a kid I've had a bit of an inferiority complex. I've mostly grown out of it now, but at times, still believe I can't accomplish things nearly as well as those around me. Which I've learned is pure rubbish, a lot of the time. But it serves as an excuse for me to not work as hard in what I strive for. 

The reason I am telling you all this is, by not having an accurate perception of who I am, I am hindering my potential. I'm using my perceptions as excuses to be lazy and not press on toward the goal. It does something else too. It hinders fellow Christians from coming alongside me in using their gifts and strengths to build me up. 

You see, God created us to live in community. Not to be isolated. And to enable us towards this, He gave each of us different strengths and weaknesses, so as the Body of Christ, we meet each others needs. And in so doing, are witnesses to God's work of grace.

I'll be the first to say "I have a LOT of growing to do in this area!" But I pray my lack in this area would be an example for you to learn from, and grow far beyond! 

How's your self-image?
Is it Hindering or Empowering?