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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

We've been hosting the True Men Blog at two blog sites and it's time to roll them into one site. It's been a challenge to take care of both sites.

We've decided to go over to WordPress.

We're so thankful that you've followed this blog faithfully over the last 10 years or so. Please head over to The True Man by Ed Blonski to continue to follow our blog!

May God richly bless you as you begin a new year!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Noble Fir Parable

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. – Psalm 19:1
This is the story of the Blonski family Christmas Tree 2006.
Up to that time my family and I have been going to a Christmas tree farm and cutting down a fresh Christmas tree – usually a Douglas Fir or a Noble Fir.
That year, we were spending our first Christmas in Southern California. After doing some Internet searching, we could only find Christmas tree farms that offered trees like a Monterey Pine to cut down. Firs are grown in Oregon or Washington State and are cut and shipped to the farms and lots around Southern California.
We loaded up the family van with, well, family, and went off to one of the farms in the area. When we got there, we beheld a sight of hundreds of Monterey Pine Christmas trees. And while there was a distinct smell of freshness in the air, it didn’t really smell like a Fir does – and thus, to me, it didn’t smell like Christmas.
Then we found out that these trees were available to cut fresh, however we were not to do the cutting, the employees at the farm would cut the tree we pointed out.
After a serious discussion about this, we decided that we would forgo the cutting of the tree this year. We just didn’t like the look of the trees there. So we ended up at a “lot” establishment. It was just about sunset. Christmas music was blaring out of the loudspeaker. Bright white lights lit up the hundred or so Noble Firs on the lot. All pre-cut – it was claimed - a couple of days ago and shipped on the back of truck here.
We found a nice little tree about five feet tall. It looked and smelled wonderful. We took it home, set it up and decorated it. We had Christmas music on. We had family around. We reminisced about Christmases past as we put up each ornament – one for each year of my wife and I’s marriage.
It was much later, after the kids went to bed. I was sitting in my chair, listening to Christmas music on the stereo. The lights from the tree providing a soft, mellow glow, when I noticed it.
There, at the top of our small but beautiful Christmas tree, was one lonely branch standing straight up. And it was in the shape of a cross.
That little tree reminded me of just what it is that we are anticipating celebrating in five months.
Christmas is about the birth of the Savior who would one day die for the sins of the world. While this tree doesn’t really tell the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – because you can only find that story in God’s Holy Word as special revelation – it does point to the story. It is a beautiful, Noble Fir of a parable. No star on top. No angel. Just a simple little wooden cross that reminds me that Christ was born to die to forgive my sins and give me eternal life.
Ó 2006 True Men Ministries, Inc.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

God's Path

It was hot. So very, very hot. And humid. Temperatures were expected to reach 100 and they met and surpassed that expectation. It was about 105 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. We drove about a half-hour north in relative comfort, air conditioning and comfortable seats in the SUV. Then we reached the turn-off and parked the car at the trailhead. The adventure was about to begin.
We shouldered our backpacks. I was carrying the food and the camp grill in addition to my tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear and clothes. I estimated that my pack weighed in at about 50 pounds. Thankfully, I had a good, well-made hiker’s backpack and the weight was evenly distributed and the shoulder straps were well padded.
I had been looking forward to this trip for about a year now. I had planned on taking a group of 10 men to the mountains of Idaho for four days in July which would include a servant-event project and a couple of nights of wilderness camping. As it turned out, only two men ended up going with me from the Midwest and we met another guy in Idaho. I wasn’t disappointed, though. It was the perfect group for my first attempt at this kind of Advance (because True Men don’t retreat).
So there we were. The four of us at the trailhead, with water and backpacks, ready to hike up into our campsite. It was very, very hot but I was very, very excited. I felt a little like Moses heading off into the wilderness, or John the Baptist, or even Jesus – all who trekked off into the wilderness to commune closely with God in His creation.
Our initial hike was relatively easy. We climbed a little bit, over a hill and then into a meadow that followed the river. The meadow was about a mile long and it was flat and the hiking was easy going.
We came to the end of the meadow and a pretty big hill loomed in front of us. Looking up I could see the dusty trail ascend in switchbacks all the way to the top and over the hill out of sight. We began to climb. It was a steep climb and I began to breath pretty heavy. It was more rough going that I thought it would be.
I had been preparing myself, physically, for this trip over the last couple of months. I went to the gym nearly every day and walked on an inclined treadmill for 45 minutes, lifted some weights and then rode a stationary bike for 45 minutes. But walking and riding in a gym is not exactly the same as shouldering a fifty-pound backpack and hiking up a steep trail in 105-degree heat with the sun pounding down on you.
About three-quarters of the way up this hill, I began to have doubts that I was going to make it. I found myself simply looking at the trail in front of my feet, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. I was praying that I wouldn’t fall back down the hill. I was also praying I wouldn’t fall over due to a heart attack!
As we crested the hill – which felt more like a small mountain to me – the trail leveled out and after a five-minute walk we came to a ledge. We were about 250 feet above the river overlooking our campsite. We dropped our packs and sat down, drinking water and, in my case, tried to catch my breath. As I looked over the campsite, two competing thoughts were going through my mind. The first was how beautiful this scene was and how great God was in creating all of this. It felt as if He had created this just for me and just for that moment in time. The second thought was how foolish I was to think that I could attempt this hike! Up to this point I had been more geared to sitting behind a desk and a laptop. What was I doing out here in the wilderness? Thankfully, the first thought won the competition!
After about 15 minutes, we again shouldered our packs and made our descent to the river. That took about another 45 minutes. We walked out of the wooded trail into another meadow and crossed that to the river’s edge. We had to ford the river to reach our campsite.
We took off our shoes and socks and proceeded to walk across the river, which was about fifty feet across here and about two feet deep.
As hot as the air was, that was how cold the water was. I guess about 55 degrees and that was shockingly cold on bare skin!
Crossing this river looked like it was going to be a “piece of cake.” But a wise person once said that phrases like “a piece of cake” are considered famous last words for a reason. That was the case here.
I wanted to put my feet on the large, smooth rocks, as it was easier on my feet than the small, jagged, sharp rocks. But when I would step on the smooth rocks, I found that they were so slippery that I couldn’t keep my feet or balance when I did! I would end up in the water on my back if I tried to do that. So instead of being able to put my feet where I wanted to, I had to put them where I needed to. That was not the easiest or most comfortable path, but it was the safest and, ultimately, driest path. Along the way, I could rest my feet on the large, smooth rocks, but I couldn’t walk on them.
I’ve found that life is much like this. After forty years, I can see an easy, smooth path for my life that I would love to follow. But I really can’t. God has called me to follow Him and that path is often filled with small, sharp, jagged rocks. It makes for less comfort but much more safety. I can stop and rest at the smooth parts, but I cannot stay there and I cannot live there. Most of the time I would like to be able to live the so-called easy life. Get up when I want to. Spend my day as I want to. Not worry about money so I could do the things that I want to do when I want to do them. Not have responsibilities, cares, or worries. But that isn’t how the life of a true man or woman of God is lived. Because God has called us to be His own man or woman, we are to follow Him on the paths that He leads us on. We are to follow in His footsteps. And those steps were made by nail-scarred feet two thousand years ago. The Son of God still leads us today and it isn’t along a path of large, smooth stones. It can be a path of small, jagged rocks. It can be a path that isn’t easy by the world’s standards. But God’s path that we follow is the one that will lead us to the fulfillment of our faith in Christ – eternal life along “white shores; and beyond them, a far green country under a swift sunrise.” [Adapted from the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King]
After about a half-hour I finally reached the far shore of that river and 10 minutes later I was setting up my tent at our campsite. It was an ordeal crossing that river – and I would cross it three more times before heading out of the wilderness – but I’m glad that I had the experience.
© 2015 True Men Ministries

On Fire

A brush fire in Southern California is cause for sprinting into action and getting it under control and putting it out as quickly as possible. And that’s a good thing when lives and property are in danger.
Having lived in Southern California, I have a new perspective on brush fires and forest fires. California is a big state. It has a big population. California does just about everything “big”! Including, it seems, fires. Hundreds of thousands of acres can be burned to the ground in a handful of days. Millions of dollars’ worth of homes and property are destroyed in a matter of hours.
Recently, a new company was formed to “up the scale” of fighting these fires. In the past, helicopters have been used to drop water or chemical retardants on the fires. This new company has bought a fleet of jets to do the job. Modified passenger jets that can hold ten times the amount of water or chemicals to drop on a fire.
There are times when forest fires are good things – set off by lightening they can burn out underbrush and revitalize the soil so other plants and trees can thrive. But when a fire is set accidentally at a construction site by an acetylene torch or, worse, set on purpose by an arsonist, fire departments and the forest service work fast and furious to put out the dangerous blaze.
This got me to thinking about being on fire for the Lord. There comes a time in every congregation’s or national church body’s life when a person or a group of people will really be passionate about the Great Commission. They will be “on fire for the Lord” to get the Gospel message to as many people as possible. Most often, they will employ creative and innovated ways of telling the Good News about Jesus.
91 years ago three pastors were ignited by the Holy Spirit to bring the Gospel to the city of St. Louis and beyond through a new medium. It had never been tried before. There were plenty who said, “we’ve never done it that way.” But in 1924, the first broadcast of KFUO AM radio began and the result was hundreds of millions of people who have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ ever since.
Each congregation of the Christian Church has people like these three pastors. Yet there are others who act like the California fire departments! They swiftly and strongly try to put out the fire of innovation and creativity that is used to tell the Good News about Jesus is new ways.
I say, that as long as God’s Word is heeded, let these people burn! Don’t try to put out the fire that obviously comes from the Holy Spirit. Each generation needs to be reached with the ageless Gospel of Jesus Christ in new and fresh ways. When you see someone on fire for the Lord, encourage him or her. Don’t try to put the flames out!
© 2015 True Men Ministries

Friday, August 7, 2015

Role Models

There are many “role models” for us in the Bible. In the past I’ve led a men’s study on the life of King David. The book of Acts tells us that David was a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). That is the goal of this True Men Ministries’ men’s study – to find ways that we can become “men after God’s own heart” through the examples in the life of David. Of course, sometimes those examples will be of the nature of “what not to do” – especially his parenting style with Absolom and his infidelity with Bathsheba. I led this Bible study on the life of David because he is very much an “every man.” Most men can see a little of themselves in David.

I’ve also been exploring Peter as a role model for men. Considered a giant in the Church – with over 1 billion Christian considering him as the founder of the Christian Church (as the first pope). One of the things that intrigued me about the Roman Catholic’s view of St. Peter is that they promote him as the first pope and such, but seem to conveniently overlook that Peter had a “foot-shaped mouth.” Peter is a great role model for men today because he had many of the “down to earth” qualities that many men have today. But Peter also was used greatly and powerfully by Christ in this world.

Yet another man who could serve as a role model for us today is John the Baptist.

John the Baptist is a difficult character to present to men as a role model. The reason is because there is very little we know of him that men can really relate well to. Sure, we know from Matthew 3 that his birth was foretold by an angel – but how many men today can claim that? He was born to parents that were quite old – some men may be able to relate to that. We know that he was a relative of a very famous person – and I suppose that some men could sympathize with that situation. But after that, all we know of John the Baptist was that he was supremely faithful to his calling from God to prepare the way for the Messiah. While that is an excellent goal for men today to strive for, it is also very intimidating – leading me and, I’m sure, other men to say, “I could never get to that point in my faith life.”

Yet, I believe John the Baptist could be an excellent role model. This is from an article in the September/October issue of New Man Magazine (and can be found here: http://www.charismamag.com/life/men/5329-an-obedient-man ), written by Roger C. Palms:

John the Baptist came preaching in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah (see Mal. 4:5; Matt. 11:14). He wore hair-skin clothing and ate locusts and honey (see Matt. 3:4). He was a man on a mission sent to prepare the way for Jesus. A lone voice, John cried out not in the big cities but in the desert. He didn't do it for headlines; he did it to make a people ready to meet Jesus so that "all people will see the salvation sent from God" (Luke 3:6, NLT).

John's mission was from God, who gave him the message. John knew who he was and who he wasn't. He said: "'I am not the Messiah'" (John 1:20) and "'Someone is coming soon who is far greater than I am'" (Matt. 3:11). John was not a self-promoter.

How many men confuse the message and calling of God with their own sense of importance? If our birth was announced by the angel Gabriel, would we still say, "'He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less'" (John 3:30)? Or would we go around boasting about who we are? John could have done that. Instead, he was obedient. He stepped aside for Jesus and God gave him the opportunity to baptize and announce the Messiah (see Matt. 3:13-16).

John was born of parents who were faithful to God: "Both of them were upright in the sight of God" (Luke 1:6). But both were also old. John was God's miracle baby for them. In spite of that beginning and the joy he brought to his aged parents, he was never his own. He was a man called by God and he yielded to that call. During his life, John never had the things most men want: a family, house, prestigious job and easy death in his old age.

John's death came at the whim of a powerful woman and a weak husband who did what she asked. John was beheaded during a rich man's birthday banquet and his head was brought to the revelers on a platter (see Matt.14:6-12). What did John do to get himself murdered? He told the truth to the king (see Mark 6:17-29).

"Unfair!" we cry out when a person is treated brutally, as John was. Why was he able to do that? How simple it would have been to keep his mouth shut about the king's morals. There is a way to live an easy, comfortable life—don't obey God. But John did obey God. He was faithful and for that faithfulness he was killed. John didn't invite suffering, but he accepted it.


Are you open to the leading of God even if it means that you must become less just as John did? Will it matter to you if your obedience takes you to the desert rather than to a palace? Will you always point people to the Savior? Jesus had something powerful to say about John: "None is greater than John the Baptist'" (Matt. 11:11). What an epitaph for an obedient man. What a selfless man of God. What an example for today's man.

© 2015 True Men Ministries

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tradition

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God’s commands with their own man-made teachings.” Isaiah 29:13 as quoted in Mark 7:7.

In 1914, Bayer started putting cotton in their bottles of aspirin to reduce breakage of the tablets during shipment from the manufacturing plant to the store. In the mid-1980s, however, they figured out that if they coated the tablets with Toleraid microcoating, that this would make the tablets less susceptible to breakage. Amazingly, it wasn't until January 1999 that they finally made the decision to get rid of the cotton ball in the aspirin bottle, and this only after four and a half years of testing and discussions. An eighty-five year old tradition ended, some fifteen years after it had become obsolete.

How many traditions in the Church need to also be ended because they are obsolete?

This is part of the point that Jesus makes in Mark 7. The Pharisees are critical of Jesus’ disciples because they don’t ceremonially wash their hands before they eat. Jesus’ response is in Mark 7:7, where He quotes Isaiah 29:13 (see above).

I’m all for traditions. There are some beloved traditions in my own family – cutting down the family Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving is one. Family pizza night on Fridays and Family pancake breakfast on Saturdays are two more. Then there is the “Christmas Candle” tradition that was passed down from my grandmother, to my mother, to me.

Some traditions are worthwhile and important to maintain, especially in the Church. But if a tradition is maintained at the expense of the relationship that it is meant to build and strengthen, then it is something that needs to be questioned and, just possibly, discarded.

God wants, above all else, to have a relationship with you. He cares so much – He loves you so much – that He sent Jesus Christ to die in your place, for your sin, on the cross. The traditions that Scripture establishes – such as prayer, hymn/song singing, Holy Communion – are meant to uphold and strengthen that relationship that God desires with you.

If you don’t know why something is done in your worship service, ask your pastor or elder/deacon or altar guild member. Most likely they will be able to tell you and you’ll be amazed at how it gels with the relationship that God wants with you.

But if the answer is “because we’ve always done it that way” then I say it’s a tradition that needs to be seriously questioned. You may find that even though most people feel that it’s only done “because it’s always been done” it really does point to a worthwhile tradition that nobody knew the reason for. Finding out that reason will be a relationship building exercise – and it most likely will be fun, too!

Check out the traditions in your church. I think you’ll be amazed at what you find! And if you find it amazing, share it with me by sending me an email about your tradition and the reason that you found out it is done.


Have fun and have a good worship experience!

© 2015 True Men Ministries

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Light For the Path

After a very long night, we arrived at camp. Last night was a night of flight delays, rowdy drunk guys, and closed car rental places. This afternoon was a short hike up to Fern Falls and then Shadow Falls.

Relatively few people see these two beautiful spots in the creation. They aren’t on any tourist maps. Nothing really tells you they are here except for a brown and white sign that points up a dirt road.


Fern Falls, Northern Idaho 
Shadow Falls, Northern Idaho
 
 The trails to these two falls are wide and easily traveled. Even though it was near 100 degrees, the air around the falling water is cool. After a hot walk, it is very refreshing.

On the way back down the dirt road, we pulled off to take a really great picture of the mountains and valleys around us.


 As I was looking over this sight I began to think about how great God is – it was almost as if He created this just for me at just this moment. Then I began to think that maybe God created me for just this moment and sight. Maybe it’s a little of both.

The three of us began to think out loud and I mentioned how this view is only good during the daytime. At night it would only be dark shadows, unless there was a full moon. I thought that it might look pretty cool under a full moon. But one of my companions noted that it would be scary looking.

As I thought about that for a while, I found that I agreed with him. It was then that I thought that life was pretty much the same way. It looks great in the daytime, in the light of the sun. But it’s scary when there’s no light.

Without the light of Christ in our hearts and shining on our lives, life is frightening. In the dark, walking through life is dangerous. You can’t see the trail. You might wander off the trail and off the side of the mountain, never to be seen or heard from again. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” When I remember that John 1 says that Jesus Christ is the “Word of God” this makes perfect sense to me.

Without Christ in my life as savior, brother, shepherd, warrior, friend, I wouldn’t be safe. I would be living my life like I was walking on that mountain trail at night. It would be scary and I could very well stumble and fall down the mountainside.

Hiking mountain trails in Northern Idaho is amazing. In the daytime. The views are spectacular. It is strenuous due to heat and altitude. But it is all worth it. What I mean is that it isn’t easy, but it is fulfilling and rewarding. But hiking at night is none of those things. It is foolish and downright dangerous. I found that on many parts of the trail I needed to look right in front of me to where I was going to put my foot next. At night I couldn’t do that.

It’s the same thing living life without Christ shining the way. Every day, I need to be in the Word of God so that the Word of God – Jesus Christ – is guiding me, showing me where to put my feet at the next step. I need to follow the footsteps of nail-scarred feet to get through this life.

© 2015 True Men Ministries

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Becoming God's Man

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.
Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:5-10

I was a freshman in college when I wanted to be a senior in high school.

What happened was that I was 18 and graduated from my own high school. One of my best friends was a year younger than me. He went to a catholic high school in Northern Illinois. He lived across the bay from me but I had gone to a public high school. I was taking freshman classes at the local community college because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I thought I did, but it turned out I didn’t have a clue. Only today do I realize that it had a lot to do with what I was going through in my life at the time. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a good senior year of my own, but I put my heart and soul into my best friend’s senior year. I went to his senior year homecoming with a girl from his high school. I went to his senior prom with another girl from his high school. I went to his football games, basketball games, and we hung out all the time.

I didn’t know who I was. But God did. And God started me on the road to becoming His man.

After that year, I transferred to a Lutheran college and began to study for the ministry. But I still hadn’t quite figured out who I was, even if I had begun to figure out what I was going to do with my life.

In college, I started hanging out with a group of guys. Great guys. They were all studying to be pastors like me (although they were much better at the whole “going to class” thing than I was). We began to sing together and we were pretty good. It might have been simply coincidence (but then again, maybe not) that they were all from Iowa. Most Iowans are intensely proud of their state and their heritage (it must be something in the corn) and these guys were no different. I was the odd man out, being from Illinois, specifically the Chicago area (about as different from Iowa as any place could be).

I still didn’t know who I was. I was still trying to find myself. And I’m almost afraid to admit this – and I know I’ll hear it from those guys after they read this – but I was sorely tempted to try to become an Iowan myself. I saw how happy, how solid, how full of life these guys were. I wanted to be a man like that.

But it is a testament to how far God had brought me without my even realizing it that I never really went too far in becoming an Iowan. I think the furthest I got was to read a book called “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy” by W. P. Kinsella (who also wrote “Shoeless Joe” which became the movie “A Field of Dreams.”)

Instead of trying yet again to become someone else, I began to become myself. Or rather, I was beginning to become the man God had in mind when He made me.

There is something inside us as humans that deny who we are and makes many of us try to be something we are not. I suspect it has something to do with losing the image of God that we were originally created with. We lost who we were and sin makes us try to be something else.

Then a miracle happened. Since we couldn’t become who we were meant to be, God became one of us. God become human in Jesus of Nazareth. He took on flesh and blood. Then He spilled that blood and broke that flesh on the cross and took away our sin.

Jesus’ death and resurrection makes us who we are – children of God. It was and is a defining moment in our lives.

No longer do I have to pretend to be something else – a part of my best friend’s senior year or an Iowan (sorry guys!). I can be me. Pastor. Husband. Father. son (little “s”) of God through baptism.

I can be the man God has called to tell the Good News about Jesus. I can be the man who loves one woman (and has for over 24 years) as unconditionally as any human can. I can be the man who raises three boys to know Jesus, love baseball and Chicago, and I can be the man who thanks God everyday for my life. My life. Not a life I envisioned long ago when I didn’t know who I was. Not a life of trying to be someone I’m not nor ever could be.


I thank God for the death and resurrection of Jesus that makes me His man. Each day He reveals a little more about me, and that’s pretty exciting!

© 2015 True Men Ministries

Monday, August 3, 2015

Patience

What is it about patience?

I’ve played poker online. Play money only. And I like to play in 10-player tournaments. We all start out with $1500 in chips. Usually, within the first couple of hands, someone will go “all-in,” that is bet all their chips. And 9 times out of 10 they will lose. To win about 75% of these tournaments all I have to do is be patient and wait for the impatient, and mostly immature, players to blow all their chips.

But this isn’t about winning at poker. It’s really about life, I think. Waiting till all the “fluff” and “stuff” gets out of the way before you really play. I don’t pretend to know much about military strategy, but I would assume that it is the same kind of thing. There will always be someone who wants to get all he can right away and is willing to risk everything.

Maybe the mentality is that there will always be more to fill up the emptied bank account.

But life is rarely like that. Oh, a whole generation has been raised to believe that all a person has to do is deposit another quarter in the slot to replenish a “life” for a new game. But when it really comes down to it, there is no “new game.” This is the only game we’re given. And we don’t get unlimited lives – unlike most of the video games out there that have “cheat” codes that allow a “god” mode where you can’t be killed.

When I’ve played golf, sometimes I play “mulligans,” where you get to hit an extra ball if the first ball you hit doesn’t go where  you would like it to go (which often happens to me). But in “real” golf, you get no such mulligans. You have to play the ball you hit, whether good or bad.

What’s the point? I’m not sure, really. Except to say that while I may not be able to make the best with what I’ve been given, I think that God can, and does, real good with what I’ve been given. Because what I’ve been given, He’s given me and He promises to do good with it, for the sake of His son Jesus Christ.


© 2015 True Men Ministries

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Know God

“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:7

When I was about 8 years old, I lived in a house on a hill overlooking Long Lake in Northern Illinois. It was March and I was looking forward to my birthday. Winter was slowly coming to an end – it had been a glorious winter! Cold and snowy, the creek that ran in back of our house had frozen in December and we played hockey out there as much as we could.

It was a Saturday and I was walking along the bank of the creek. I kept looking at the ice, wondering if the recent warm spell had weakened the ice. I threw rocks and sticks out onto the ice – nothing happened. Finally, I got enough courage to test it myself. I slipped down the bank onto the edge of the ice. So far so good! I took one step out, then another step and – whoosh! – fell right through. Thankfully, the creek was only about 3 feet deep at that point. I sank up to my waste in the freezing water. I was pretty scared, first because I knew that you could die if you fell through ice. But then, when I realized I probably wasn’t going to die since I was only two feet from shore and in three feet of water, I was scared because my mom was going to kill me for doing something so stupid!

I was reminded of this story by my morning devotion today. It comes from Patrick Morley in his book Coming Back to God. He tells a story he once heard from his professor.

“A man was hiking on a cold winter day. He came to a river that appeared to be frozen over. Since he was unfamiliar with the area, he didn’t know how thick the ice was. Naturally, he was afraid of walking out and falling through. So he got down on his stomach and slowly inched his way out onto the ice.

When he crawled near the middle of the river, the air began to tremble as he heard a rumbling sound drawing closer and closer.

Suddenly a wagon with four horses at a full gallop shot over the crest of the riverbank, thundered across the river, then disappeared over the crest on the other side. And there he was, lying on the ice, feeling foolish.”

What can look like solid ground may not be. But then again, it may be. It pays to know the territory as best you can so that you don’t get wet or look foolish.

In a lot of ways, this is how God is. He is an amazing God, our God is. He is unfathomable. We could spend eternity trying to figure Him out and we probably never will. But the promise from our God is that we can spend that eternity trying to do that because He saved us for eternity through the death and resurrection of His Son.

We can begin today to learn more about God. He’s revealed a lifetime worth of stuff in His Word. I encourage you to open His Word today – start at Psalm 46 and begin to see just how amazing our God is.


© 2015 True Men Ministries

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Other Side of the Miracle

Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, "Ephphatha!" that is, "Be opened!" And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. They were utterly astonished, saying, "He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."  - Mark 7:31-37

12 years ago I witnessed an event that has happened only three other times in my lifetime up to that point (and has only happened twice since). I was be able to watch the Chicago Cubs in a playoff series. Baseball, like life, has its winners and losers. It has its surprises. You can be as prepared as possible and still have to rely on something completely out of your control for results.

In 2003 the Chicago Cubs had to rely on the efforts of other teams to make the playoffs that year. Combined with the Brewers defeating the Houston Astros twice, the Cubs defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates twice to earn a spot in the National League Playoffs. The Astros and the Pirates had to lose so that the Cubs could win.

You see, there’s the miracle and then there’s the other side of the miracle.

Christine was a normal college student but one day she was having trouble seeing. After her vision didn't clear, she went to the doctor. The doctor told her that there was something seriously wrong with her eyes and she would have to go home and see a specialist. The specialist told her that to save her eyesight she would have to have a lens transplant, but the lenses had to come from a person about the same age as her. Someone in their late teens or early twenties would have to die and donate their lenses so Christine would be able to see. Soon after that, there was a tragic car accident and a 16-year-old young man died. His family agreed to donate his lenses and today Christine is able to see. It was truly a miracle for Christine; nevertheless, the family of that 16-year-old young man was on the other side of the miracle.

What is it like to be on the other side of someone else's miracle? Is it a place you've been? How does it feel?

You have a God that knows exactly how it feels.

Jesus Christ was on the other side of the miracle that saved your soul. His death on the cross earned your salvation. You did nothing to earn it. There was nothing you could ever do to earn it. The salvation that Jesus earned on the cross comes to you by grace – pure and free. But it cost Jesus his very life. The author of life – through whom all living things (and all non-living things, for that matter) were made died so you could live forever.

I had a friend named Mark who died 13 years ago. He faced his own death from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Yet he was an instrument through whom God sent miracles to others. Others witnessed how he kept his faith, kept loving his Lord, kept serving his Savior. Through all that I’m sure their faith was strengthen even as Mark’s body weakened and eventually died.

I think that either you receive the miracle or you’re the person through whom God gives a miracle to someone else. Either way, God is at work and we are blessed.

The next time you see a miracle, remember the one who works it – our God and Savior who gives us life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


© 2015 True Men Ministries

Friday, July 31, 2015

Dreams

About 10 years ago, I attended a theological symposium at my alma mater Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.

I remember feeling that as I walked among the buildings that held so much promise for me when I was student in the early 1990’s, that there was so much more ahead of me. As I walked among the buildings with fallen leaves crunching under my feet, I reminisced about the past. At first I felt a sense of loss. Ten years after graduation, was I really where I thought I would be?

This was not the first time I had walked among those buildings with a sense of loss. Two years after arriving on the campus, fresh out of college, I didn’t have much hope for the future. Classes weren’t going well and I was distracted from my studies. I was thinking of giving up becoming a pastor. I felt that I missed something along the way. My life wasn’t turning out the way I had thought it would. But my life soon changed dramatically!

Ten years later, as I walked among the buildings again, I realized my life turned out better than I had hoped it would. It is vastly different from what I thought it would be, but it is so much better that I spend very little time now thinking about how my life could have been had this happened or that not happened.

This morning, as I walked over to the church office from the parsonage, the sky was dark with the remnants of a thunderstorm that had just passed. The air was thick with humidity just as it often was so long ago on my walks across the campus of Concordia Seminary. I found myself dreaming again. It has been 28 years since I first arrived at seminary. During the seven years I lived and studied among those buildings, I had dreams live and die. At the end of my time there, God gave me a new dream – one I would share with my new wife.

It has been a dream of what God could actually do with my (our) life. But it had taken almost 10 years for that dream to come into focus.

And as soon as that dream came into focus God revealed to me a new dream.

What do I want to do with my life? What is it that I want to do in God’s kingdom? I’ve been a pastor for 20 years. I’ve preached about 1000 sermons, led over 1500 Bible classes. I’ve taught Luther’s Small Catechism to 20 classes of children. God has used me to touch so many lives. I know I’ve messed up a lot along the way, but I have faith in God that He is the Almighty who can work through my messes.

I remember talking with a friend of mine about 10 years ago and he said that he felt that there was a momentous change coming in his life. He felt that God was going to be doing something in his life very soon. He didn’t know what it was. He didn’t know if it would involve a move away from where he was at the time or not (it did and not very long after that conversation). He only knew that God was going to do something dramatic in his life very soon.

That’s sort of like how I feel now. God has been preparing me for something. He’s brought me to this place in His kingdom. He has used me as His instrument of change. I feel that God is going to do it again – possibly soon but I’m not sure. I can see things working in my life, preparing me for something. Something that God will use to bring transformation to this world. Maybe not the whole world, but maybe the parts of the world that I come into contact with.

In the Bible, these kinds of moments often included God calling a person by name.

“Abraham….”
“Samuel….”
“Ananias….”

And when any of these people were called by God, they all initially responded in the same way.

“Here I am.”

Never, “Who are you?” They knew who it was! “Here I am,” takes faith. And that same faith is given to each of us through God’s means of Grace – the Holy Scripture, Holy Baptism – and strengthened through Holy Scripture and Holy Communion.

I believe God has called each one of us to be in this place “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

He’s calling you and me by name.


Through the power of the Holy Spirit, let us answer, “Here I am.”

© 2015 True Men Ministries

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Smells

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

Do you smell it? It is the smell of bacon frying. It is the smell of coffee percolating. It is Sunday morning. Worship starts in 3 hours. I amble through the kitchen toward these smells to start my day of worship. Somehow, it just wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t smell these things.

It is the smell of crunching leaves that have changed color and fallen. Of pumpkin pie spices and burning leaves. These are the smells of autumn (at least for me).

The smell of peanuts and stale beer. These are the smells of baseball, of a big-league ballpark.

The smell of pine and apple-cinnamon and mint. These are the smells of Christmas.

The smell of wine and freshly cut flowers. These are the smells of worship. This is what I smell as I stand at the altar preparing it for Holy Communion.

Smells are very powerful. They invoke feelings of seasons and events. The invoke memories (a whole episode of M*A*S*H was dedicated to this).

Smells are also part of our relationship with God. Starting in Exodus 25, God instructs his people to build a place of worship. There are specific items that are dedicated to smells. The Altar of Incense and various forms of incense would be used. Partly, I think, to have a distinctive smell associated with the worship of God. Partly to cover up the smell of all the sacrifices that would be made. But there is one more reason.

Our sin must raise a stink in God’s nose. The filth of our evil deeds. Our thoughts, our actions, must raise an awful stench to him.

How do we clean ourselves of this smell? I’m afraid it just isn’t possible for us to do this. No soap is strong enough to clean us of our sin. Oh, we certainly try. We apologize to those we wrong. Sometimes, if we’re guilty enough we will give money to the church or some charity to try to ease our conscience. But the smell lingers like smoke on your clothes after sitting around a campfire.

How can we get rid of the smell of sin in our lives? Sin has to be removed. It would be the love of Jesus Christ who “gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)


Each season has its distinctive smells, and that can help us remember that we smell pretty good to God because of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection for us. The next time you walk into a kitchen to smell the good smells there, thank God that Jesus takes away your stinking sin and makes you smell good with his righteousness.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Going Home

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. Hebrews 11:13-14

In the movie “Cheaper by the Dozen” (the 2003 remake with Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt), the Baker family moves from a small town in downstate Illinois to an affluent suburb of Chicago. The oldest son of the family, Charlie, is very unhappy with the move.

I would think that most 17 year olds would be looking forward to a move like that, shaking the dust of the small town off their feet. But Charlie and the rest of the Baker children are not happy with the new move. They liked their life in the small town.

There are a lot of stories about young men and women who dream of leaving home, of leaving their small town and making their fortunes or a name for themselves in the big city.

When I was younger, this was my story as well.

I was in high school. It was the early 80’s. I was involved with my church’s youth group and went to church pretty faithfully. I was pretty grounded in the faith. But I also had dreams and desires about how my life would be and it didn’t involve professional church work. The early 80’s was the advent of the personal computer. And I was fascinated with them. I had graduated from a TRS-80 (Radio Shack’s model) to an Apple ][+ to an IBM PC (remember those commercials with the Charlie Chaplin look-alike?). I could program fairly well in the most BASIC of computer languages. I was no prodigy like my best friend Mike, but I enjoyed computers and thought I had a future in them. My dream was to leave Fox Lake and move on to the University of Illinois and then on to MIT to pursue a life in robotic engineering.

Of course, God had other things in mind and through my passion for history and, what I would later find out, ministry, I finally did leave that small town and moved to another, smaller town. But in-between I lived in a fairly large town (St. Louis, Missouri). That’s where I met my wife, so it did turn out that a big city would be in the plans at one point.

I’ve found that as much as I looked forward to leaving my small, home town when I was younger, I looked forward just as fondly to every visit I made back there. While my home was in various other places (White Cloud, Michigan, Mayville, WI, Upland, CA), I captured a little of feelings of home when I returned. What was especially nice was returning to that home with my wife and kids – I guess it’s sort of like having the best of both worlds.

Wherever I lived, I found myself listening to radio stations from near my hometown. Listening to their weather forecasts and traffic reports –while had no direct bearing on me where I was – it was comforting in a way because they were a part of the feeling of “home.”

Yet, with all these feelings of home –whether it is the hometown I escaped or the hometown I live in now – I’m not really home, am I?  I am really a “stranger and alien.” Living out my life here while looking forward, with hope, to my home that even now Jesus is preparing for me.

Heaven is my home and I’m but a stranger here. I will be going home someday because Jesus died to take away my sin. His death and resurrection transform my time here away from home, giving me purpose and direction. But Jesus’ death and resurrection also give me hope of a better place that a one-time carpenter from Nazareth is building for me now.

Ironically – and this is a wonderful insight into how God was preparing me for this very moment in life – I made my way back to my “home town” 15 years after being ordained into the Pastoral Ministry. My first call was in a very small town in rural Michigan, then I moved to a small town in Wisconsin. Then to an affluent suburb of Los Angeles.

But five years ago, my family and I moved back to Lake County, Illinois just a few miles from my home town of Fox Lake.


Isn’t it amazing how God works?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sign of the Covenant

Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus Christ came to save all of us from sin, death, and the devil.

Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross to pay the penalty for all of my sin, all of your sin, all of the world’s sin.

Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days later – proving that God accepted His sacrifice and will raise us up on the last day. Those who have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will live eternally in heaven.

Jesus ascended into heaven and before He did He gave us this job: to make disciples of all nations.

That’s what I’ve been called to proclaim. This is what you all have been called to proclaim.

No matter what is happening in our world and in our own country – servicemen being gunned down by terrorists, high courts establishing laws, congress doing … whatever congress does, and the president du jour doing whatever he – or she – will do … it doesn’t trump (pun intended) what God has called you to do.

Proclaim the Gospel.

Use your gifts and talents to proclaim the Gospel. Proclaim the Gospel to your family and friends. Use the creation around you to proclaim the Gospel.

God says, “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13).

The rainbow is God’s sign of the covenant that He made with His creation.

It happened a long time ago. The world was in pretty bad shape. The people were finding new and more perverse ways to sin. Does this sound familiar?

“[T]he wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

“Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Genesis 6:11-12).

Of course, we’re not told the nature of the corruption, violence and evil. But it must have been as bad – if not worse – than what we are witnessing today for God to decide to literally flush the entire creation away.

So God caused it to rain. Not like the rain we had last week. But a month and a half of so much rain that it covered the entire surface of the planet – even the mountain peaks!
But God is merciful. God has compassion. So Noah and his wife, his sons and his son’s wives are all saved – along with the animals needed to repopulate the earth.
To remind them of His compassion, God told them that when they see a rainbow, they should see it as a sign of the covenant – or promise – that He will never destroy the world by water again.

So, whenever it rained, and they saw a rainbow, they would remember God’s love and compassion and promise.

Why a rainbow? When light shines through a prism – like a drop of rain, for example – it breaks apart into a “rainbow” of colors.


God’s Covenant of Salvation to us – signified by the rainbow - reminds us that His salvation is singular but also multi-faceted. There is only one plan of salvation – His love through the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Yet it comes to all people. It is one promise to all of us.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jenny's Story

I’ve been looking for something. It isn’t really something I lost but something I never really had. I don’t want to go into the details, but I grew up in a typical family. Nothing really out of the ordinary. But after I moved out onto my own, I found I really needed “completeness.” Its hard to put into words, actually. There was something missing in my life. Maybe you know, or have known, what I mean. Some people call it a longing, a search for meaning, whatever. All I know is that I’ve been looking for it for a long time.

After a while – I don’t know when, really – I began thinking of it in terms of what I want instead of what I need. Maybe I never actually thought of it as a need. At any rate, I’ve searched for something to fill the want. I’ve searched in places I’m not proud to admit. Sex, drugs, drink. I’ve searched in all those places for what I wanted – without really knowing exactly what it was I did want. At first I did find what I wanted in them. They filled me with something I didn’t have as a little girl. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t into hardcore stuff. Drugs were never really my thing. I wasn’t a falling-down drunk, and I only had sex with those I really loved. Pretty average stuff, really.

But after a while, I realized that nothing really satisfied me. I wasn’t really getting what I wanted. I still couldn’t put my finger on what it was, exactly, but these things didn’t get it for me.

It was about this time I started to really learn about Jesus. Now before you tune me out, hear me out. I’m not one of those who tell their story of strife and woe and then I found Jesus and he made me all better and my life is full of joy all the time! I don’t’ knock those who have experienced it like that, but it isn’t my story.

One of my friends took me to church with her one Sunday. The pastor talked about the hope that can fill a person’s life – a hope only Jesus can give. There was no flash from heaven, no fire in my belly from a massive conversion experience. But this hope from Jesus intrigued me. I went back the next week and he talked about it again. I kept going, rarely missing. What I was hearing was comforting. I heard about faith and hope and love. I heard that Jesus died and rose from the dead for me. That all my sins were forgiven. That all my longings would be satisfied in Jesus. The pastor didn’t present this as if it was some one-time, instantaneous solution, either. Jesus’ hope and peace and grace were life-long gifts. I realized that this was what I wanted. I was searching in all the wrong places. I was searching for the wrong things. It wasn’t about what I wanted but rather what I needed. Somehow Jesus knew and He gave it to me.

Is everything perfect now? It sure would be great to tell you it is, but it isn’t. Life is better, though. I have a satisfying relationship with Jesus and brothers and sisters in the faith at my church. Jesus makes the difference because He took my sins away. And He continues to take my sins away as He fills my need. My life isn’t perfect (really, what is in this world?) but it is more fulfilling with Jesus as the center of it.

©2015 True Men Ministries
In My Father’s Footsteps – a free weekly devotional via the internet. You can subscribe here.
If you would like to support this ministry, make a contribution at our Go Fund Me website here.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Philip the Deacon

They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly…. – Acts 6:5-7

You know Peter, James, John and the rest of the 12 Apostles/Disciples. You’ve heard of Mary Magdeline and the other Marys. But what about those seven guys chosen to help the Church that were called “deacons”? They are first mentioned in Acts 6. We know their names. Stephen Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas.

Stephen is probably best known for being the first person to die because he confessed faith in Jesus Christ.  All we know of Nicolas is that he was from Antioch and a convert to Judaism. We know even less about Procorus, Nicano, Timon and Parmenas.

That leaves Philip. Philip had a few adventures that are preserved in the Book of Acts. He stands as a man who can be someone to look up to as an example of someone who was called by God and followed God’s leading. 

He shared the Good News about Jesus in the villages and towns of Samaria. He was in Samaria because a guy named Saul was really putting the pressure on the Christians in Jerusalem. He lived in Caesarea and we know that he had four daughters – unmarried – who also shared the Good News about Jesus.

Philip is probably best known for telling the Good News about Jesus to a eunuch from Ethiopia. God had Philip go to this Ethiopian – using an angel to get him there. God, in a special way, lead Philip to a special meeting.

What would have happened if Philip pulled a “Jonah” and went north instead of south? That’s a question that we need to ask ourselves. What might happen if we say “no” to God’s leading? Would someone never hear the Good News about Jesus? Are you comfortable with that?

If Philip said “no” to God’s leading, the Ethiopian might never have figured out what Isaiah 53 was all about. His very soul was at stake, and most likely the souls of countless others who otherwise would come to faith in Christ as he shares the Good News about Jesus that Philip shares with him.

This is an important lesson to us Christians today. It reminds me of a legend I’ve heard.
After Jesus had ascended into heaven, the angel Gabriel asked Him, “Who is going to carry on Your work now?” And Jesus answered, “I have left it to John and Peter and Andrew and the others.” Gabriel then asked, “What if they don’t do it?” Jesus answered, “I have made no other plans.”

Christ has no hands but our hands
To do His work today;
He has no feet but our feet
To lead men in His way;
He has no tongue but our tongues
To tell men how He died;
He has no help but our help
To bring them to His side.
(Burgess, David F.; compiler, Encyclopedia of Sermon Illustrations, (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House) 1998, c1988.)

©2015 True Men Ministries
In My Father’s Footsteps – a free weekly devotional via the internet. You can subscribe here.
If you would like to support this ministry, make a contribution at our Go Fund Me website here.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Left Behind

"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. – Lamentations 3:24-25

When I was seventeen, I had the opportunity to scuba dive in the Bahamas with my family and my best friend. It was an incredible trip.

A couple of years before, I took the classes to be certified to scuba dive. These classes involved some classroom work with a textbook and tests about the effect of gasses in the blood stream, different types of equipment and safety measures. Also involved was using the equipment in a swimming pool. The tests here were a little more challenging. I had to swim the length of the Olympic-sized pool underwater while holding my breath. It took me a little while to get to the point where I could swim the length of the pool underwater with no air. I was pretty impressed with myself when I could finally do it. But the next test was more challenging. I had to put on all the scuba equipment, dive to the bottom of the deep-end, take it all off, swim to the surface and then go back down, put it all back on and come back up. Upon successfully completing this test, I was joyful that only one test remained.

The final exam for certification was an open-water dive. Finally, I was going to get out of the pool and into some real water. The test was at an old quarry that had flooded. At its deepest point it was about 40 feet. The water was crystal clear but very cold. I had to don a wet suit for this dive. I finally felt like a real scuba diver. The tests were much the same – I had to ditch all equipment at one point, surface and then go back down and put it all back on.

One of the things that was stressed over and over during the whole class was that you never dived alone. You always dived with a “buddy.” Part of the final test was that one buddy had to take off his mask and the other buddy swam above him, holding on to his tank, and guided him by his underwater compass. We were given a course and then the buddy without the mask swam on that course, with the other buddy tapped on the right or left shoulder to make course corrections. My buddy – who was my best-friend – and I passed with flying colors and our parents gave us the gift of a trip to the Bahamas two years later. After making several open-water dives in the lakes of the Midwest, we were finally going to make some real dives in the crystal blue clear waters of the Bahamas!

We were able to make two major dives on that trip. We made a dive to about 30 feet and one at about 65 feet. If that doesn’t sound like much, believe me, it was! The water was as warm as a bath and the things we saw – coral reefs, huge fish of many colors. It was a scuba divers’ paradise.

On the second, deeper, dive, I remember I had trouble getting down to that depth. Because of the increasing water pressure, you have to “clear your sinuses” to compensate. Usually you either swallow (like on an airplane) or you pinch your nose through your mask and blow. I was having trouble but my buddy didn’t and he zoomed to the bottom and started exploring. I had to work very hard to get to the bottom and then catch up with him. He hadn’t noticed that I was slow in getting down to the reef and inadvertently left me behind.

Years later, my best friend and I went our separate ways. He went off to one university, I to another. He became very successful in his career working with super-computers and writing programs for the National Weather Service that made predictions of super-storms and tornados. I went into full-time ministry. We sent emails pretty regularly, and saw each other whenever we were both home for the holidays or other special occasions. He came to my wedding and when he announced he was getting married, I was all set to go to his wedding.

It was the spring of the year I was to be ordained. He asked me to perform the wedding for him and his bride. At first I joyously accepted. Then, in talking further with him, I found out that he and his fiancé had been living together for over two years. I see the Bible as very clear that this is not an acceptable start to a marriage. But they were getting married, so I figured I could talk to them about the forgiveness of Christ as he joins them together in marriage. But then they told me that she was agnostic and her parents were atheists and could I not mention God or Jesus during the ceremony?

I’m afraid that, like the time my buddy had left me on that deep-water dive in the Bahamas, I left him behind on his wedding day. I couldn’t, in good conscience, perform this wedding. But then I chickened out and didn’t even go to the wedding. I hope that I was less mature then than I am now. I can’t help but feel that I could have been more of a positive witness to my best-friend without compromising my faith.

But I can’t go back down to that dive again. It’s over and done with. There’s no going back. I live with my regret as I think about all the time that has past and I haven’t talked with my best-friend since. I hurt him and he couldn’t forgive me. I had broken the first rule of diving – I left my buddy behind.

Jesus has comforted me with his forgiveness and has brought me to a place that I believe I can better live with my regrets. I remain open to talking with my best-friend and reach out to him still. Jesus also gives me patience to wait until my buddy is ready for me.

I’ve learned to never leave a buddy behind since then. That doesn’t mean I let sinful behavior “just slide by.” Not leaving a buddy behind sometimes means the less-than-pleasant task of pointing out sin in their life – but always for their good! Always to lead them to repentance and the forgiveness freely given by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection.

I don’t do much scuba diving anymore. However, the skills I learned I still use in my ministry and my daily, everyday life. When pressure builds, Jesus is there to forgive and relieve the pressure. And I never leave a buddy behind, just as Jesus never leaves me.

You may not scuba dive, buy you can be assured that Jesus never leaves you behind, that he is always with you no matter where you go.
©2015 True Men Ministries
In My Father’s Footsteps – a free weekly devotional via the internet. You can subscribe here.
If you would like to support this ministry, make a contribution at our Go Fund Me website here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Like Grass

All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are like grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” – Isaiah 40:6-8

“Dad! Dad! Come quick! Come look!”

My oldest son, who was seven, came running into the house breathlessly excited. I ran outside and followed him around to the side of the house.

“It’s growing! It’s growing!” I looked and indeed, it was growing! The week before I had planted grass seed and now it was starting to come up. I have to admit, I was just as excited as my seven-year-old!

That summer I worked hard on my yard, fertilizing the lawn, spraying weed-killer, and planting grass seed in the bare spots. As I was working on my lawn and getting excited about the positive results (thanks to a lot of hard work from a member of my church – thanks Ken!) Isaiah 40 popped into my head.

Americans, especially American men, spend a lot of time on something that will, in the end, wither. It reminds me of so many men that put all their time and energy into fleeting things that will not last, and virtually ignore the things that will – like wife, children and their souls.

This hit home the other night at my son’s baseball game. I keep score for my son’s team. I’m thankful my dad taught me how to keep score! As I was sitting with the boys on the bench, calling out the line-up, a father came over to his son. I overheard him telling his son that he couldn’t stay for the game because he had to get home and cut the grass. The look on the boy’s face said it all. He was shattered. His dad wasn’t going to stay and watch him play baseball.

As a dad of three boys, I’ve seen how precious, and how little, is the time a mom or dad have with their children. It really is true that they grow up so fast! I have had to constantly remind myself that I can’t procrastinate with my kids like I do with most everything else. Like grass that is “here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire,” (Mt 5:30) children are only children for a relatively short time and then they are grown up and moving out of the house. I’ll always be dad. But they won’t always be my little boys.

I enjoy working on my lawn, especially seeing the positive results of my labor. But I enjoy infinitely more playing catch with my boys on my lawn. When I do, I build a bond with them that will outlast my lawn.

On occasion I have the rare privilege of sitting with my wife and boys during worship. Because my wife and I have shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our boys, we will have more than just this lifetime to enjoy with our boys. We will have an eternity in heaven with them because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I bet there will be a pretty decent lawn there, too!

©2015 True Men Ministries
In My Father’s Footsteps – a free weekly devotional via the internet. You can subscribe here.
If you would like to support this ministry, make a contribution at our Go Fund Me website here.

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