Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Book Recommendation...

What if life’s transitions are there to remind us that God is present before, during, and after these periods? In The Land Between, author Jeff Manion uses the biblical story of the Israelite’s journey through Sinai desert as a metaphor for being in undesired, transitional space. After enduring generations of slavery in Egypt, the descendants of Jacob travel through the desert (the land between) toward their new home in Canaan. They crave the food of their former home in Egypt and despise their present environment. They are unable to go back and incapable of moving forward. The Land Between explores the way in which their reactions can provide insight and guidance on how to respond to God during our own seasons of difficult transition. The book provides fresh biblical insight for people traveling through undesired transitions (e.g. foreclosure, unemployment, parents in declining health, post-graduate uncertainty, business failure, etc.) who are looking for hope, guidance, and encouragement. While it is possible to move through transitions and learn little, they provide our greatest opportunity for spiritual growth. God desires to meet us in our chaos and emotional upheaval, and he intends for us to encounter his goodness and provision during these upsetting seasons.
I found the book to be very refreshing and challenging. It helped me see God's perspective on my own times of transition.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wake Up To The Risk! 3 - 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. (v.10)

Sometimes we think about the risk involved in giving. If I give some of what I have, doesn't it stand to reason that I will have less? Isn't it possible that I can run out of what I'm giving away? If giving is losing then that would be true but when Christians give, they give out of a supply that God provides. Our giving is done with the element of faith which says, "I can't out-give God." And, it's true! God always has more for us to give. There are a few words in this text that really stand out. They are God's verbs, his action in our generosity; "supply," "multiply," and "increase." In other words, out of the resources that God has available to him, i.e. "EVERYTHING", he will supply what we give away, he will multiply what he gives us to give away in proportion to how much we freely release. Then, when we step back to look at the result, we see an increase in effectiveness because he stepped in to bless the giving from the very start. His work in us is so much better than when we try to go it alone, giving from what little we have rather than from the rich supply he gives us to give.
Lord, help me to realize that the supply you have for me to give is already in my possession. Give me the courage to give it and the faith to trust that you will delight in multiplying my capacity to give. Help me see how you are at work in my life to increase my effectiveness for your kingdom's work. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wake Up In The Solitude! 6 - Luke 4:1-44

"And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.'" (v.42-43)

These words from today's text come right after Jesus taught and healed many on the busy day before. He got away to a quiet place the next day but not for long. People chase after Jesus as though they could posses Him and keep Him for themselves. Do we blame them? They had never before witnessed God's blessings so greatly. Yet, with His blessings, Jesus would also teach us his generous ways, that He belongs not only to us but to all. His kingdom knows no human boundaries. I think sometimes we forget that Jesus must be preached and His ministry extended EVERYWHERE! He's not just for our church gatherings and quiet personal devotion. We can't just keep Him here for ourselves.

Lord, for the sake of all people, fill me with a passion like you have, to spread the Word without limits. Amen.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Wake Up To The Conversation! 3 - Psalm 34

This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD encamps

around those who fear him, and delivers them.

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! (v. 6-9)

This poor man... I know that I can be guilty of self pity from time to time. "Poor me" echoes through my mind when I think about my trials. Then I often feel ashamed, knowing that so many others face things far worse than I do. Well, that's when the poor man needs to cry out. God will indeed save us from our troubles and give us a new perspective on our situation. It comes when we "fear" him, "take refuge in" him when we "taste" his goodness. I like to remind people that the fear of God has two ends of the spectrum. On one end is the fear that makes us tremble at His wrath and power, the fear of his righteousness in the face of our poverty. The "poor man" or the OLD mann as I like to say, is oriented toward fearing God this way. He knows what he deserves. But on the other side of fear is the amazement of something too wonderful to fathom. God, is his grace and love has brought his wrath down on the Sacrifice and extended forgiveness to the poor man and made him a NEU mann. The NEU mann is oriented toward a fear that hold out his hands to the extended arms of God. He is oriented toward a fear that worships the amazing God of Grace and Glory. So, do you want to see the "poor man?" Look in the mirror and realize that you can call out, you can fear God and lack nothing when he saves you.

Thank you lord for hearing my cry to you. Teach me to fear you in worship for you have made me NEU in Christ. Amen.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Wake Up To The Conversation! 2 - John 15:1-17

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you."
There are some very important words in these 3 little verses that need our attention today...
Jesus is the vine... He is the living God and our life as a Christian flows from him to and through us because we are branches.
The Father is the vinedresser... He is looking for fruit in the lives of all Christians.
In me... These verses talk about Christian people. The words, "in me" denote a relationship with Christ whereby life, his life, his righteousness, flow from him to his people.
The branch that does not bear fruit... This is not a dead branch, it is a living one. Remember the words "in me". Yes, Christians can have a living faith and go through periods of fruitless living. What does the vine dresser do?
He takes away... Here's where the most accurate translation is helpful. The Original Greek DOES NOT SAY "he cuts off". Here's an excerpt from Bruce Wilkinson's book, The Secretes of the Vine. Bruce was having coffee with a vineyard worker in California who explained it this way. "New branches have a natural tendency to trail down and grow along the ground. But they don't bear fruit down there. When branches grow along the ground, the leaves get coated in dust. When it rains they get muddy and mildewed. The branch becomes sick and useless." Bruce asked, "What do you do? Cut it off and throw it away?" "Oh no!" he exclaimed, "The branch is much too valuable for that. We go through the vineyard with a bucket of water looking for those branches. We lift them up and wash them off. Then we wrap them around the trellis or tie them up. Pretty soon they're thriving."
That's a great illustration to ponder. In our struggle to contend with the OLD mann, even the NEU mann will experience fruitless periods of time. That's when the world's dust and dirt needs to be washed so that the branch does not die.
Now, there's still some controversy around this interpretation. After all, the vinedresser is looking for fruit and there will come a judgement. James says, "Faith without works is dead!" Lying in the dirt of worldly living will eventually kill us. Dead, we would fall from the vine and from the life he wants to give us. When a Christian examines himself, as we do before communion and preferably every day, we confess our sins and repent. God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us. he "takes us away" from the dirty ground and lifts us up.
Branches that produce fruit are pruned... Our lives need the attention of the pruner's knife. It doesn't kill the branch to get rid of some of it's useless and weak parts, rather it allows more life from the vine to invigorate and produce more excellent fruit. Missionary and Martyr, Jim Elliot used to say, "he is no fool who loses what he can not keep to keep what he can not lose."
You are clean because of the Word... It is God's Word that made us clean through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need God's Word to daily keep us in a clean condition.
Lord, thank you for keeping me alive in Christ. Thank you for cleansing my in His blood and bringing forth fruit in my life. During those fruitless times I pray that you will forgive me and make me strong. Cut away, with your pruning knife, the OLD mann, so that the NEU mann is strong and bears much fruit. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Wake Up To The Conversation! 1 - Luke 11:1-13

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." And he said to them, "When you pray, say..." (v1-2a)
What follows these verses is, of course, the Lord's Prayer. But the reason I want to focus on the verse and a half before it is that we see the disciples and Jesus in a very special moment together. The disciples want Jesus to teach them something that seems really basic. After all, by this point in their lives, a group of Jewish men should know "how" to pray. But there's really more to this. I think the disciples were looking to learn to be more intimate with God in prayer. I think that's what Jesus modeled for them. As parents, many of us made the pledge, at the Baptism of our children, that we would make them disciples of Jesus. We promised to teach them. I pray that all of us would take the opportunity to help our children take their prayer life to a more intimate place with God. I ask, are we modeling that for our children? Would they ask one day, "Dad/Mom, teach me how to pray like you do."
Lord Jesus, So that I may be ready for this task of teaching my children, teach me how to pray. Amen.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Wake Up to Wisdom! - Day 7 - Psalm 119:89-176

"Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light to my path." (v. 105)
Well, how could I not pick this classic verse for my focus today? It's a short verse and a simple, short application for me today. If I'm living in a dark, uncertain world, why wouldn't I take the light I need? All kinds of dangers and traps abound. God's gracious Word exposes those traps. But not only does it illumine the dangers but also the path ahead.
Lord, lead me in the light of your Word, For Jesus' sake, Amen.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Wake Up to Wisdom! - Day 6 - Psalm 119:1-88

Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise;
then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me,
for I trust in your word. (v. 41-42)
The more time I spend in God's Word, the more He teaches me about His love. I really need to know it so that I can handle the taunting I get on a consistent basis. You wanna know who's picking on me? That's right, the enemy we read about on day 1 of this reading plan. Satan, (the Bible calls him "the Accuser"), would just love for me to be discouraged. He wants me to believe that God doesn't care about me. Or at least, get me to focus on the unlikely, no the impossible, prospect of my measuring up to what he wants from my life. But God's promise to me is rock solid. I'm his child! I've got an answer for the one who taunts me.
Lord, hear my prayer. Let your steadfast love come to me, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wake Up To Wisdom! - Day 5 - Isaiah 55:1-13

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
(v. 10-11)
These amazing words from the pen of the Prophet Isaiah tell me that there is a powerful reason to spend daily time in the Word of God. He's taking the "NEU mann" I am in Christ and causing spiritual things to happen in my life. He's making me grow! His clear prophetic word to ME is that He's going to accomplish something in me that will come to pass as I receive the Word with a ready and open heart. There's a purpose for which He sends His Word to me. Will He use it today to encourage someone else? Will he expose any traces of the "OLD mann" that He wishes to purify? Will He challenge me to greater boldness? He will not send it to me as an empty exercise just for "devotion time" but to make some things happen today!
Gracious God, make my heart ready and fertile for the heavenly rain of your Word. May it bring forth flourishing fruits and accomplish the purpose for which you have sent it today! In the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wake Up To Wisdom! - Day 4 - James 1:1-25

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (v. 22)
This whole reading for the day is great! I've only quoted verse 22 but I urge you, as with all the readings in this series, read the whole thing every day.
As I pondered this today, I thought about the instability in the world. These are difficult times for God's people. It's no time to be "double-minded"(v. 8). That's when the instability of the world matches the instability of the "OLD mann". The results can be a catastrophe! Verse 12 tells us that we are blessed when we remain steadfast under trial. The answer for the growing "NEU mann" is to be daily in the Word of God. That's not to say fulfilling the daily obligation to read or hear it. In this little letter we are reminded that "hearers only" deceive themselves. The OLD mann can "hear" the whole counsel of God but the NEU mann does it! What is God telling you to "DO" today? Let His Word be a call to action!
Father in heaven, thank you for the amazing guidance of your Word. Teach me not just to hear it but to do it, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wake Up To Wisdom! - Day 3 - Proverbs 3:1-35

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." (v. 5-6)
The "OLD mann" seeks to be wise in his own eyes. but leaning on this understanding can be disastrous. Human wisdom simply will never measure up to our need. The world is filled with crooked and deceptive paths that lead to places, people, and situations that will trap us in the tight hold of sin and death. The Bible teaches us that wisdom from God will literally "save" us. That's why it is commended to us as a priceless treasure. Get all of the wisdom you can from God. As that store of wisdom grows in the "NEU mann" it enables an ever-increasing trust in God that can take powerful authority over our whole heart. These little verses speak so clearly to our need.
Gracious Lord, I trust you. Cleanse away any remainder of the "OLD mann's" heart so that my whole heart trusts you completely. The "NEU mann" does not need to lean on his own wit and clever understanding. It's worthless without the wisdom that comes from you. Fill my heart to acknowledge you in all my ways and I will take the straight paths you set before me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wake Up To Wisdom! - Day 2 - 2 Timothy 3:1-17

"But understand this, that in these last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be...having the appearance of godliness but denying its power." (v 1&5)
In today's reading, I thought that the last part of the reading would be the part that would naturally draw my attention, since our focus at church was being in the Word. It's "useful" and "profitable". But this first section really made an impact on me. I shutter to think of my own tendency to deny the power of godliness even as I live for all the world to see that I'm a pretty decent guy. The "OLD mann" can fake it especially in these last days but the "NEU mann" won't deny the power of God at work in him, he will rather embrace it. My own confirmation verse, Luke 11:28 says, "Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it." To keep it, isn't an outward show, it's embracing the power of His Word internally. God has also been laying on my heart that the Church has really, significantly reduced the meaning and power of "fellowship". We've turned it into, "hanging out with my Christian buddies." While there's nothing wrong with this kind of social life, it can have the form of fellowship but deny the real power of Biblical Christian fellowship. Read the "one another" commands of Scripture and you'll see what I mean.
Gracious God. I beg you to help me see and embrace the power of godly living to make it authentic and effective in my own life, especially in these last days. In Jesus name, Amen.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wake up to Wisdom! - Day 1 - Ephesians 6:10-24

"...Our struggle is not against flesh and blood..." (v.12a)
How easy it is to fall victim to the idea that my enemy is another human being! After all, it seems that there are plenty of my troubles that come from people, whether they are cutting me off in traffic, wounding my pride, or just being mean. The temptation to turn them into some sort of enemy, even for the moment, is an easy trap. The real struggle is the enemy who is aiming at my impatience, bloating my pride, or working to make me think only of myself. It's not a struggle with people but a struggle with the spiritual enemies of my eternal soul. That's why I need the armor God supplies...
  • The Belt of Truth
  • The Breastplate of Righteousness
  • Feet fitted with the Readiness of the Gospel of Peace
  • The Shield of Faith
  • The Helmet of Salvation
  • The Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God
AND... Prayer... LOTS of it every day.

Father in heaven, forgive me for the times I look to blame people for my struggles with the real enemy. Fit me with your armor and help me do battle with the real enemy. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Success and Marriage

This morning in my reading and study time I came across a startling sentence. I'll modify it just a bit so that it applys to everyone. "[A person] owes [his or her] success to [their] first [spouse] and owes [their] second [spouse] to [his or her] success." What are you succeeding at? And, are you spending your husband or your wife to achieve that success?

The bible doesn't hide the scars of even it's greatest heroes. There's a story in the life of Isaac and Rebekah that is a repeat of Isaac's parents'. This account from Genesis 26:7-11 takes place when Isaac and his wife moved to a new community called Gerar. Here's what it says, "When the men who lived there asked Isaac about his wife, Rebekah, he said, “She is my sister.” He was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “They will kill me to get her, because she is so beautiful.” But some time later, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out his window and saw Isaac caressing Rebekah.
Immediately, Abimelech called for Isaac and exclaimed, “She is obviously your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”
“Because I was afraid someone would kill me to get her from me,” Isaac replied.
“How could you do this to us?” Abimelech exclaimed. “One of my people might easily have taken your wife and slept with her, and you would have made us guilty of great sin.”
Then Abimelech issued a public proclamation: “Anyone who touches this man or his wife will be put to death!”

When you put your spouse at risk in order to protect or even promote yourself you demean his or her worth and exalt your own. While we may not face the seemingly life or death circumstances of Isaac and Rebekah, Our selfishness and insecurity can drive us to try to make impressions on people at the cost of our spouse. Are we putting in too many hours to make an impression while neglecting our spouse and children? Are we determined to make people like and respect us so much that we hide our relational poverties by drawing attention to the weaknesses and sins of our spouse rather than our own?

I've seen it from both men and women. Today's Christian woman has the pressure of displaying a piety and heightened spirituality that far surpasses the bumbling spirituality of modern males. I've seen and heard it from bunches of people, and the spiritual expectations for men are so low that any woman who isn't "suceeding" at being more spiritual than her husband faces great pressure to promote herself and deminish him in the sight of her girlfriends.

Though I've taught it for years, I'm guilty of breaking the charge I always give to men, "Don't blame your wife for your problems." Since the Garden of Eden, this has been the sinful pattern repeated by generations of men to the present day. Men try to look good too. They are driving and forceful, often very competitive. They too often point to their wife as the reason they are being held back from achievement. Men, your wife is not an "achievement hernia!" She is God's gift to partner with you for the very most important life successes. It's about faith and family. My favorite quote from a very old book on family relationships says, "This is the work of all our life that is the most divine."

Husbands and wives, I'm hoping and praying for you today. Sadly, I've played the part of the "old man" too many times. I've followed the sinful patterns of the old way of doing business as I've sought ways to promote myself. The "neu mann" is called to be different. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he or she is aiming to succeed at serving God and others. This type of success eases the burden of "impression pressure". Who needs to self-exalt? The Bible teaches us that humility is nearly like a lightning rod for the grace of God. I can't even be the neu mann apart from His grace at work in me.

I began with some very hard words, and realize how fortunate I am to have such a godly wife and partner. It makes me think that I don't want to succeed at anything more than faith and family. I know without question that I would owe THAT success to my wife. But I also know that rather than cost her, it ought to bless her. Any of us could easily fail at marriage. If you are on your second, third, or whatever marriage. Now is the time to live the neu life and build where you are to make the partnership of your current marriage the one that will mark success for you and your spouse in all the most important of life's successes. It is not good for a person to go at it alone. In marriage, God has made a helper to match us on earth as He helps us from heaven and from within.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti Earthquake Relief

Have you wondered how you can make an impact in the Earthquake disaster in Haiti? Writing a check or making a donation is a wonderful way to help. I've learned that get "STUFF" to the victims is critically important. I'm learning valuable lessons about how the "STUFF" will make a strong impact for the poorest of the poor. Maybe that's why the Lord laid on my heart, a very physical response to our neighbors in Haiti. I really wanted an opportunity for people in our great community of Hudson to get up and do something to provide STUFF.

Trinity Lutheran church is teaming up with two LCMS churches in Florida to help the earthquake victims of Haiti. In partnership with LCMS World Relief and Human Care, the Florida-Georgia LCMS district and Cross International will be sponsoring a number of 40 foot containers shipped as soon as possible filled with relief supplies to Haiti.
They are collecting the following relief items:
  • Bottled water
  • Canned food with pop tops
  • Peanut butter
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Bed sheets
  • Shovels
  • Buckets
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Band aids
  • Washcloths
  • Soap
  • Good clean used clothing IF IT IS BOXED AND LABELED (i.e.; women's clothing, children’s clothing etc.) NOTE: Make sure clothing is boxed and labeled, we do not have volunteers available to box the clothing!!

You can drop off items at either Trinity Campus through the end of January.

For those of you who are not local but would like to help Trinity with this effort. There are financial needs for theis project You can mail your tax deductable contribution to...

Trinity Lutheran Church
1206 Sixth Street, Hudson, WI 54016

Write "Missions" in the memo line.

Or to make a contribution on line visit our website,, click on "Giving", go to the online giving form, enter amount on the line marked "Special" and put "Missions" in the memo line.

Join us in growing a heart for "Global Compassion"!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wise words from a friend...

Here's one of my favorite quotes from my buddy "B" on a day, years ago, when I was complaining that I always have to be the one who makes up, makes peace, confesses sin, tries harder, takes the blame, in problems at work, at home, in life...

"O.K. Mark... so, who's willing to be the 'CHRISTIAN ON DUTY' in this circumstance?" (Isn't that an awesome question?) Of course it inspired me to answer, "Sign me up! I'll be 'on duty.'" That doesn't mean that I won't suffer, that doesn't mean that things will get easy. It might get even harder or much worse. But to be on duty is a priviledge. Have you thought about what spiritual warfare you will be called up to fight?

So... who's willing to be the "CHRISTIAN ON DUTY" today? What's your answer?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Just wanted to recomend an outstanding book...

What does it take to be a "biblical husband"? Sure, many books on the market seem to speak to this issue. However, none of them has ever "put it all together" in one volume in an easy to understand and scripturally sound way--until now. The Complete Husband by Lou Priolo is the ground-breaking book that Christian men have been waiting for. In it, the author turns his years of biblical counseling wisdom to the subject of being a husband. But not just any husband. Rather, the husband that the Lord Jesus Christ wants all Christian men to be. The author reminds men that if they wished their wives came with an owner's manual, they did; it's called the Bible! Far from giving men carte blanche to order their wives around, Priolo shows men how the Bible instructs them to "know their wives." After all, wives have dreams, goals, desires--and sorrows, just like men. It is the husband's job to find out what they are and "cultivate" his wife so that she becomes spiritually fertile. The author reminds his readers that pleasing their wives does not automatically equate to the sexual arena. Men must think in terms of the whole relationship, and the whole person. However, since he is aware that sexual relations is part of the blueprint God created for marriage, he devotes an entire chapter to the subject. Above all, Priolo stresses that it is correct biblical thinking that leads to tender actions, that in turn leads to complete fulfillment in the marriage bond.

This book has personaly challenged me. The NEU mann needs to constantly look for ways to be made NEU in Christ. Marriage is such a critical part of our witness, especially to our children. May God grant his grace and favor to the further discoveries of married life. Diana is not only my beautiful bride, she is an outstanding Christian woman with amazing gifts and abilities. I thank God for the high priviledge of being her husband. I want to become the Complete Husband for her and hope somehow to be the blessing to her that she is to me!