This Sure is Different

If I were to say that this year has been “different” you would probably accuse me of understating things. But it most certainly has been different. I mean just in church life alone things are, well, quite different. In our setting, we were online only for eleven weeks. That isn’t as much as some others, I know, but still one of those Sundays included Easter Sunday. Could you ever dream up a scenario when the Church would not be able to gather in person on Easter Sunday? I couldn’t. We have been forced to redevelop our online presence, a task that thankfully I was able to easily integrate. But now as we near the end of the year, are we looking for something else that is different? I have plans in 2021, don’t you? The idea of being in a crowd again, a concert, a restaurant without this strange vibe in the air. I look forward to that. I refuse to call this the new normal; this is different.

Now it feels like we have been in this holding pattern for a while now. I know that I have offered some of the same prayers to God without any dramatic conclusion reached. I mean don’t you just long for those moments when you say amen and things just change. I believe He can do it. I believe God is in control of what we would call normal life, or when things change. But still isn’t it nice to feel like there is progress? Isn’t it fun to look at the results and admire His work?

This last week I was in the book of Luke chapter 1 in the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were servants of God, serving in the temple, and blameless. They were leading people closer to God and doing a great job of it. Yet, they had this strange vibe hanging in the air over them– Elizabeth was barren. That was not just a personal tragedy, but it was a public disgrace. In these days it was disgraceful for you not to be able to have children. And it is obvious that they had prayed for this for a long time, but now when we meet them they are old. (or well along in years, as Zechariah wisely chooses to be a little gentler with his description about his wife) When all human possibility is exhausted, God sends an angel to interact with Zechariah. And what did he say? He said “God has heard your prayer.” And he goes on to tell him that he will have a son, John, who will play a key part in the story of the coming of Jesus Christ.

Trust God for your story

God has heard your prayer! I was so encouraged by that because this year has gone on for a long time. I mean I saw one of those advertisements for an ornament and it was a dumpster fire. Different is no longer fun. I want something that feels different from this — let’s call it normal even. And prayers, after a while, lose a little bit of their passion because, let’s be honest, we start to accept where we are. Zechariah had. I mean that ship had sailed. He wasn’t going to have kids now, he was old. Who wants to have kids when they are old? Well, God has different plans than we do and they are much better than we could ever dream.

This is an encouragement for all of us fed up with the different. Hang on. God has heard your prayer. And while they might not get answered in the time or manner you would have them, it doesn’t mean God is distant. I don’t know how long this whole pandemic thing goes. But God does. And even if I don’t get to do the things I plan on, it doesn’t mean God isn’t loving. The story in Luke tells us that God had a perfect plan for a specific moment in history. Trust him for your story.


For a sermon on this passage, go to

New Horizons: Time to Write Again

It is interesting to look back at how this blog started.  I was a youth pastor on Cape Cod and there was so much going on in my brain that writing was a natural outlet for it.  It was a real fun thing for me to build a little following, make a few cyber connections, and learn something along the way. For a whole year I wrote one post a day!  That is quite the pace.  And then things changed.  I moved to a new place and encountered some difficult days.  The horizon seemed dimmer.   It was like I was shut off; my mind had things it still wanted to say, but I lived in almost a numbed silence.   I didn’t even know how to move ahead.

2017 – New Horizons

Just recently I picked up my notebook where I jotted down blog post ideas.  Some of them were really funny. But that exercise encouraged me again.  I realized that my mind was sharper when I was writing on this forum.  I think that it actually helped me express things that God was doing in me.  It made me think creatively and put ideas out there, whether anyone looked at it or not.

Therefore, I am going to be doing some work on this blog in the coming days, sort of fine-tuning where it is I want to take it in 2017.  The concept is still the same:  There is nothing wasted in life.  The only difference is that my kids are now older, I am older, and the things that cause me to think now are just a little more refined.  And when I say that, it is not like some really aged piece of cheddar or anything.  I mean God is maturing, challenging, and expanding those things that I thought I had figured out.  That is exciting!   I want to share my heart, the things I care about, and hopefully some encouragement for people who might track along with me.  No, I don’t have it all figured out.  But I believe that all that was cut off in my difficult times has actually grown into something quite beautiful.  And for those new horizons, I thank God.


God is Known Here

It was a few weeks back that I was sitting in my office asking the Lord to illuminate the passage I was supposed to preach on Sunday.  It didn’t take Him long to challenge me with a question.  I read Psalm 76:1 which says, “In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel.”  And it was there that the Spirit of God asked a question “Am I known here?”

God is known here
A picture one of the kids drew after the sermon from Psalm 76

I was very quick to dismiss this question, to be honest.  Do I know God?  Yes, I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior years ago.  But I had to stop for a moment because while that is where that relationship begins, it is not where it ends.   If I just stop there, I run the risk of getting comfortable with a mediocre Christian life that just gives God leftovers of my life and not the very best.  Knowing God is something that we continue to grow in every single day of our lives.  There is a treasure chest filled with things about God that we will never see the bottom of in all of our digging. But that is not the end of it.

Is He known in me?  Is He know through me?

 Verse 1 says that in Judah, God is known.  That is a powerful statement to make.  Wouldn’t that be an amazing testimony if we could say that in Battle Lake, God is known?  What would it take for God to be known in the town you live?  I mean, really known.  Just like every small town in America, there are many churches here.  But really knowing God is different than just knowing about God.

And where God is known, His name is great!  His name is great whether we acknowledge it or not, but when we worship Him, exalt Him, put Him as first among all others – His name is great to me and His name is great through me!

So I ask the question today:  Is God known in you?  Is God known in your hometown?  What will it take?  What part do you play?

Nothing Wasted

I was listening to talk radio yesterday on my way back from a meeting.  The content of the conversation was revolving around the recent snow we received and the debate over when to cancel school.  On the one hand you have people who say that it makes more sense to cancel it than to have a day of school with only half the students — this one man said that he felt like it was a wasted day.  That got me thinking about Sunday morning here.  We had our worship service in the midst of a snow storm.  There were about 20 people here; was that wasted?

I just cleaned you up!
I just cleaned you up!

In the framework of life there are many things that feel wasted.  I feel like I might say something to my kids all the time and they still miss what I say.  I know in youth ministry I would have phone calls that would make me want to throw my phone against the wall.  It is frustrating to see someone go so far in their faith only to turn so far backwards in an instant.  It is in those moments that I wonder how effective my ministry really is.

When there are deep issues to deal with in any arena of life, it can make us weary.  Even Paul in the book of Galatians got a little frustrated with the people.  They had heard the Gospel and had receive it.  So, why were they living in the old way again?

“I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.”  Galatians 4:10

I think we all have days like that.  Whether it is with my ministry or with my own family, I sometimes look at all that goes on and wonder “what am I doing here?”  “Why do I even bother with this?”   But when the dust settles I always end up landing right back where I began; with a deep sense of purpose in this life.  I know that things won’t always go my way — in fact, if they do go my way I start to wonder if I am missing something.  What I do know is that there is no such thing as “wasted efforts”  if my efforts are done under the empowerment of God.

So what does that mean for you today?   You will never have this day again.  So let’s not waste it.  If today is not a good day from your perspective, perhaps it is time to look for ways to praise God.  I know I have a hard time being grumpy when I stand before the God who knows my heart. I know for me I will continue to press on in the challenges I face knowing that God is not wasting anything — including what I perceive as my time.

Trust the God Who Knows

Let me do it!
Let me do it!

We are short-sighted people.  What I mean is that we tend to forget all of the positive things when one negative thing shows up.  This is not too surprising given the way negativity seems to overcome our lives.  The car starts everyday with no incident and you don’t notice it at all.  But when the car doesn’t start and you are late for work, well let’s just say that car has been cursed.   I was driving back to church one time when the back suspension of my car literally broke in half.  I had driven that car for probably 7 years and it had always been reliable.  It was just that the break down came at a bad time.

God has been faithful to us again and again.  He has been faithful to us in the positive situations and the negative situations.  No one should have known that any better than the Israelites around the time of Moses.  They had been in slavery and God delivered them out of it.  Except they started to question God’s motives in it.

“That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud” – Numbers 14:1

Can you imagine the sound of that?  If the whole community was wailing, it would be quite the sight.

“All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in the desert! Or in this desert!.” – Number 14:2

People who are stuck in their ways do not see things any other way.  If you had been in Egypt all your life, even if you were a slave, that would be the only life you had ever known.  There is comfort to the prison.  But God was actually taking them to a better place if they would only trust Him!

The next verses show a discourse between Moses and God with God replying to Moses “I have forgiven them.”  God is so gracious to us, even in our grumbling.

It would be helpful for us to learn a bit from this because their grumbling did prevent them from entering into the promised land.  Our job is not to know how it all turns out, but to trust in the God who does know.   The path might not always be easy, but consider the alternative to walking with God!  I would rather wait on Him than wait on myself.

Are God’s arms too short?

It is all in His hands
It is all in His hands

It seems there are impossible circumstances and people all around us.  In ministry I find the challenge is to balance out ways to help someone and be realistic about the results.  It is those times when our faith is increased because it is something only God is able to do.

There is a story in Numbers 11 about Moses and Israelites.  Naturally they are being an impossible group of people to lead because they are taking the blessings of God (freedom from slavery, daily food to eat) and complaining that they are not good enough.  Really?  Do you guys even remember what slavery was like?

But it was an impossible scene and God was not pleased with the people.  Moses heard the complaining and he also grew increasingly angry.  God decides he is going to give them meat to eat for a whole month and, as He tells them, “the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it.”  (I would add “and you will like it”)  Moses, as the rational leader that he is, wonders how God is going to provide so much food for so many people for so much time.   God answers Moses with such graciousness.

“The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?  You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” – Numbers 11:23

It seems every day is a new day to question how God is going to take care of a situation.  These are opportunities for Him to get the glory and for us to stand back and praise Him.  I know of lives that are in complete shambles, but we are seeing God’s work in lives in the smallest, yet most profound ways.  I have seen situations where our own family has been wondering how we would pay a bill and God has reminded us that His arm is not too short.

The arm of God is not too short.  It is so wide and powerful that He knows every part of the vast Universe .  His arm is wide enough to climb the tallest mountain,  leap over the oceans, and yet still find each hurting heart right where they are at.  God’s arm proved to be just the right length too as Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, spread His arms on the cross to do the impossible.  He took sinful man and God back together again!

May you be encouraged today in whatever you face.  God’s arm is not too short for whatever you face today.

Looking at Our City With Love

Since the day I moved to this city I have been praying for God to give me a love for the people here.  This is not about gimmicks.  Instead I am freshly aware of the call on us as the church to care for the souls of the people in this community.  We have a God-given job to care for these people.  One of the things that has really stirred my thinking over the last few months is a video from our current Christian and Missionary Alliance president.  It is only 11 minutes long and would be worth your time.  I believe God wants to do some new and amazing things with His church.  We just need to wake up!

What was your favorite part?  I have a few things that stick in my mind.  What about you?