Have you ever put your hard-earned money in an investment that resulted in a partial loss or total failure?
Early in our marriage, Judy and I invested a large sum of money in a venture that we were sure to make a great return. Many of our friends were also convinced this was a money-maker, so literally hundreds of thousands of dollars were invested from people in the Grand Rapids area. All of us were excited about how this new opportunity could make life economically easier.
Then the bombshell exploded and the company went bankrupt, leaving each investor with nothing but a piece of paper with an empty promise.
My mother lives in a comfortable mobile home next to my sister Jan, and brother-in-law Tony. My father passed away five years ago, leaving Mom alone after nearly 65 years of marriage. Mom is a relational person, so Dad's absence has forced her to develop a happy life alone.
Recently my sister and brother-in-law went on a two-week trip to Iceland, Finland and Estonia. I was concerned about my mother being alone so I called two of my brothers and arranged for one of us to be with her during that two week period.
I flew into Duluth on a Sunday night and stayed with her until the next Saturday morning. The time with my mom created memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Family reunions seem to change every year. I knew it was going to be a difficult one this year, because two of my precious siblings are now in heaven. We definitely were aware of their absence and I found myself struggling to keep back tears. Now it's just me and my three younger, fun-loving brothers to watch over this crazy clan. We are very blessed to have lots of young moms and dads, and they've produced the cutest little people you have ever laid eyes on.
I've written about Lucas (my adorable little grandnephew) before, but he seems to have worked his way so deep into my heart that I can't resist writing about him again.
Just recently my husband and I were invited to our friends’ home for dinner. We have been looking forward to this for a very long time. They are former restaurant owners and the dinner was amazing.
I don't know about you, but I love after dinner conversations. The fun, off-the-wall stories lead to laughter and very entertaining subjects, and this conversation proved to not only be entertaining, but an insightful spiritual lesson as well.
Our hosts told us how stray cats would often come to their home looking for shelter and provision in the dead of winter. Those cats must have had pretty good intuition about where to go, because this tenderhearted guy eventually built them a shelter in the barn complete with a heater. He also would call them to the porch for dinner in hopes of forming a friendly bond with them and to win their trust.
I am a very forgiving person and can overlook people’s mistakes and shortcomings. However, I find it more difficult to trust people when they refuse to take responsibility for their actions.
I grew up in a family of five children. Mistakes and bad decisions were always forgiven, but excuses were not tolerated.
When Dad told us to complete a work project, he expected us to do it. If it was not completed, he wanted to know why. If our reasons made sense he gave extra time to complete the project, but if we gave him excuses it resulted in extra work. More excuses equaled more work!
I have two wonderful friends named Win and Mike who have a ministry to pastors called, Downtime Ministries. Both are avid outdoorsmen who have experiences in the wild most men dream of having.
Win owns a salmon fishing boat that he docks in a slip in Pentwater, MI. Both Win and Mike live in their Pentwater homes the entire month of August, and Win fishes nearly every day. When he is not fishing with family or friends, he is taking pastors and Christian leaders out on the big lake.
This is a huge blessing for pastors like me, because a regular fishing charter would cost $600-$800 per trip. Win and Mike offer their services free of charge to pastors, plus they allow some of our family to accompany us.
Recently I had the privilege of taking two of my granddaughters salmon-fishing on Lake Michigan. When the day came for our fishing trip the weather was beautiful and the water was calm. We left the dock at 5:30 am, and we were fishing on Lake Michigan by 6:15. It didn’t take long for the fish to bite. Sarah was up first and she experienced how difficult it is to fight a fish of over 20 pounds, and over a football field away.
She struggled with the fish for about fifteen minutes and lost it not far from the boat. She was disappointed and we, of course, felt bad she was unable to land the fish. However, there was positive fishing action to come.
Before the trip concluded, Sarah caught a 17 pounder, Amanda caught a 17 and 12 pounder, and I caught a 15 and 3 pounder. It was a great day of fun and excitement for all of us.
Win and Mike also made it memorable because they treated the ladies just like their own granddaughters.
We ate fresh salmon that evening with Sarah and Amanda. When the ladies left for home, I told my wife, “This was a perfect day for me.”
Sarah is now off to college in Chicago and Amanda is starting her junior year of college in Grand Rapids. Who knows where their future will take them? One thing is certain – whenever we see Lake Michigan we will all remember our fishing trip together.
Take every opportunity you can to create memories with loved ones and friends. As we grow older these memories bring smiles to our faces.
The apostle Paul also encouraged us to cherish one key memory in II Timothy 2:8:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.
This memory reminds us as Christ rose from the dead, so shall we who have received Him as Lord and Savior.
Focus on this memory and make memories with loved ones a priority.
Photo: Augustin Pinero
Have you ever whispered to yourself anything like the following?
*I’ll just go back to drinking again. I mean, I can’t turn to God, what else do I have?
*I’ll just go back to a bad relationship. I know this relationship is harmful to me, but God doesn’t love me. Where else could I go?
*I’ll just go back to my poor thoughts again. I can never seem to get a handle on this problem. God’s tired of hearing my excuses by now. So I will dwell on these harmful thoughts like I always do.
*I’ll go back to those old friends, back to the place I used to hang out and to the people I used to hang out with and to the people I used to run around with. I’ll go back to all the harmful stuff I used to do.
*I’ll run to my favorite coping mechanism because that’s where I’ve always gone for fulfillment and satisfaction. That’s where I’ve always gone to feel better. And even though I never find fulfillment or satisfaction there, and even though I always feel worse there than before, at least it’s familiar territory. I’ll go back to what I know.
There’s good news for all of us failures.
After His resurrection, Jesus appears to Peter and the other disciples. They had fished all night and had a long night of nothing.
Jesus asked a rhetorical question: How’s that working for you?
Jesus already knew they hadn’t caught any fish and that returning to their old ways was fruitless. So He offered a solution.
Jesus called out, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you’ll find some.”
You can almost hear the sarcasm coming from the boat, “Oh, the right side! We didn’t think of that, did we?”
They listened to the voice and threw the net on the right side, and boom - the greatest catch ever! They couldn’t haul the net in because of all the fish.
Let’s personalize this.
Have you gotten discouraged in your Christian walk? Have you returned to old, toxic living that has produced a whole night of nothing?
Jesus knows exactly what you are looking for and exactly where you can get it.
Right now Jesus is asking you the same question He asked Peter and the disciples. Jesus is looking at your familiar patterns of living and asking, “How’s that working for you?”
Once we affirm the reality our life is not working for us, God is able to restore us.
As long as we deny our situation and continue to think what we’re doing is great and fun and satisfying, and that we are running the show, then we are still under the power of the deceiver.
“Put your net over there.”
He says, “I know exactly what you are looking for, and I know exactly where you can find it. You find what you are looking for when you follow Me.”
Peter’s response was immediately to go to Jesus. In fact, he couldn’t wait for the boat to get to shore; he leapt overboard and swam to shore. Jesus’ answer to Peter and the disciples’ failure was to make breakfast and eat with them.
Jesus isn’t mad at you for your failures. He invites you to return to Him. Peter denied Jesus three times and Jesus, again at breakfast, asks Peter three times if he loved Him.
Jesus knew He couldn’t count on Peter, but the good news was Peter could count on Him. He could turn Peter’s weakness into his strength.
Peter went on to be the focal leader in the early church. His response to his cowardice at the crucifixion was to go back to the familiar. Jesus intercepted him after a night of nothing.
If you are tired of living for nights of nothing, return to Jesus, where you’ll find forgiveness, hope and new vision for your life.
Psalm 77 was written by Asaph. He laments over the distress of his life (vs. 1-2). He cries out to the Lord and it appears as if God does not answer his plea.
Asaph inquires in verses 7-9, “Will the Lord cast off forever? And will he be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” [NKJV]
Asaph knew the truth well. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder why the answer did not come. Asaph’s affliction brought the man of God to his knees. When in great distress, he had to choose to call upon the Lord for an answer.
Asaph’s affliction brought him back to the place where he began to encourage himself by looking back and remembering the past moves of God. He recalled how God had delivered His people from the mighty Egyptians. Nothing could have been bleaker than four-hundred years of slavery under a Pharaoh who ruled with an iron fist. Pharaoh had slaughtered children and treated God’s people like dogs.
It was a desperate time, but God saw their distress and answered him powerfully, just as Asaph wrote:
The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; The depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunderwas in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your waywas in the sea, Your path in the great waters, And Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. [Psalm 77:16-20, NKJV]
If there ever is a time to look back at God’s blessing over our country, now is the time. Racial unrest is at an all-time high. The shooting of 12 policemen in Dallas that resulted in five deaths, and the 3 officers killed in Baton Rouge has brought the United States to its knees once again. We have been in dire straits before and it was the goodness of God that brought spiritual revival to get America back on course.
Charles Finney was one of the key evangelists who ushered in the Second Great Awakening in American in the late 19th century.
He describes the spiritual and moral condition of the people of Antwerp, New York in 1868. He was scheduled to hold revival meetings in Antwerp; he arrived early to assess the town’s spiritual condition. It was unlike anything he had ever faced. Antwerp was hardened, fallow ground. It was a town so dark that even the great evangelist found himself affected. As he rode through the village, he was gripped by terror he couldn’t easily explain.
Here it was, springtime, and the neighbors should be delighted to be outdoors greeting one another, yet the air around him was filled with the constant sound of profanity.
Finney was appalled to see how the people treated one another. The environment was toxic! Nearly every man went about cursing, swearing and damning one another. Finney felt he had entered a town that resided on the borders of hell itself.
What happened in Antwerp and the surrounding area? Revival broke out!
In his first meeting, Finney boldly called out the town’s sins while letting loose his whole heart upon them.
“I told them they seemed to howl blasphemy about the streets like hell-hounds, and it seemed to me that I had arrived on the very verge of hell.”
Every man and woman in attendance became painfully aware of their guilt before God. Surprisingly, no one was offended. Instead, they broke into tears and repented of their sins and received forgiveness through Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Finney preached boldly with words, but he displayed compassion clearly with tears.
The Holy Spirit flowed mightily through evangelists like Charles Finney to change America. In Finney’s meetings in Rochester, New York, over one-hundred thousand people were born again. The entire city was changed in a matter of months.
We too can look back at what God has done – not just in biblical history, but in our own nation’s history. You can do it personally as well. Look back at the times when God moved on your behalf. Don’t live so present-minded that you forget all God has done for you.
Go back to the day you were saved. Go back to when you were healed. Go back to the moment of breakthrough and start to praise Him that He will do it again.
In 2016 I changed my approached for my devotional life. I have journaled since 1987, so I decided my focus for 2016 would be to review all my past journal entries.
It’s amazing how God has revealed Himself to me and how I have grown in intimacy with Him. My entries have changed from the third person to the first person pronouns. If that is confusing, let me explain.
Holy Spirit has taken me on a journey in intimacy. I used to write entries by using “he” or “him”, which was like reporting information or counsel. As I progressed in my journaling, Holy Spirit began speaking to me through my own pen in the first person of “I” or “you” - I am writing His words to me personally through my own pen.
This freaked me out at first, but over the years this has become a standard way of communicating with me. Now that I have explained how Holy Spirit talks to me, I want to share a key entry with you from December 19, 2015.
I want to talk with you about a dream you had that woke you up last night. You heard a child screaming in the woods behind your house. You called 9-1-1 to report what you were hearing. Then you took your gun with you into the woods, with your flashlight searching for the screaming child.
As you followed your flashlight, you came across a demonic creature that ran on all four feet. It was hideous and was tearing flesh off the child’s limbs while it was still alive. The child was screaming in excruciating pain. When the flashlight revealed the beast it vanished quickly. Your first emotion was anger; you wanted to blow the animal away.
You brought a blanket with you in case the crying child needed assistance. You were aghast at the child’s physical condition, the severity of its wounds needed attention quickly for its own survival. You wrapped up the child and gave it to the emergency crew. Then you woke up.
Son, this is the interpretation of your dream. The child is society today; the creature represents foul demons unleashed from hell. My precious children are being attacked by this evil army. Many are being eaten alive and are screaming for help. Son, go after them and blow these demons to hell by the authority of My word.
You are in a war where the enemy’s intentions are clear: to destroy people, particularly those who are ambassadors of the gospel. Hear the people’s cries for help, and do not look at their behaviors and decisions; they are pawns of the evil forces that relentlessly attack them. This demon represents the movement in America that has veered away from its biblical foundation and embraced secular, unbiblical principles that are eating away at our nation.
Like the child, the United States is in horrible condition. Only the Christians can save it, but the wounds incurred will affect what this country will be able to do in the future.
Revival is hearing My voice through prayer, meditation, and the reading of scripture, and then going to rescue people who are being eaten alive by the forces of darkness. 2016 will be a year to attack and confront the enemy.
Love, Holy Spirit
Decide for yourself it this was just a dream or a warning. Prophetic voices are being heard throughout America of impending judgement for the sinful lifestyles and practices she has embraced. The solution is repentance.
II Chronicles 7:14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
[Based on Jimmy Evans’ book, Our Secret Paradise]
Marriages are ending in divorce at an alarming rate. Over 50% dissolve in divorce and many couples choose to live together bypassing marriage. Disillusionment among the younger generations has reached an all-time high concerning marital commitment and happiness.
The formula for a successful marriage is simple - biblical relational skills, plus realistic expectations, equals a successful marriage.
The number one cause of divorce will surprise most people. It’s not infidelity, too much time at the office, neglect, etc. The number one reason for divorce is disappointment. Couples set unrealistic expectations on one another that assure failure.
Luke 14:25-33 teaches a valuable lesson concerning marital union. The passage focuses on the cost of following Christ. Before saying yes to Jesus as your Lord and Savior, count the cost. Two illustrations are given that show the importance of this principle.
First, verses 28-30 describe a man building a tower, but unable to complete it.
Second, verses 31-33 describe another illustration of counting the cost. A king with ten thousand soldiers must carefully weigh whether he fights against an army of twenty thousand.
Marriage also has a cost that must be considered by a couple before they say I do. Let’s take a look at the marriage vows. Truth-telling is illustrated in the vows with these reality statements: for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or health, etc.
The reality in marriage includes worse, poorer and sickness. Feelings then become secondary to commitment.
There are three unchangeable realities in marriage. We all have hurts, we all have quirks, and we all have ignorance of the opposite sex that only marriage will cure, and it will take many years for this ignorance to be erased.
Marriage really heals us if we do it the right way. Actually, we marry our healer. Men are to be like Christ, or the anointed one to their wives. Every woman needs to hear these words from her husband: You’re worth fighting for.
Women are to be like the Holy Spirit, or a man’s helper. Every man needs to hear these words from his wife: You have what it takes, or I believe in you.
Many marriages do not work because they have a consumer mentality. “I bought it, it’s broken, and I want another one.”
“You’re screwed up, I don’t like it, and I want another spouse.”
The gardening mentality views marriage as a long-term commitment. “It’s sick so I will fertilize, water and prune it.” In other words, I will commit myself to the healing process.
Another way of describing a successful view of marriage verses a failure in marriage is a renter’s mentality verses an owner’s mentality. If there is a serious foundational problem, the renter will not spend the money, time and effort to correct the structure. An owner looks at it differently: I will live here the rest of my life and pass this home on to my children.
The temporary inconvenience is overshadowed by the long-term view.
Marriage must have that kind of commitment to weather the storms and challenges of life.
Do you have a gardening or consumer mentality in your marriage? Are you a renter or owner in your relationship?
Please evaluate where you are, and if your answer is a consumer or renter, I hope you will consider becoming a gardener and owner.
Commitment builds the atmosphere for marriage to work. Be a triumphant realist and always believe you and your spouse will enjoy your marriage ‘til death do you part.