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.
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!
Photo: Viktor Hanacek
It started out like any ordinary day. I finished my personal devotions, looked over my checklist and headed out on the snowy road, so thankful for 4-wheel drive.
The trip to the airport was slow - cars in the ditch...accidents - but I felt very peaceful. So, I just began to pray for people who have been on my heart. The peace seemed to increase. I hate to admit it, but usually by now...in this type of situation...my heart begins to race and my fingers start tapping the wheel...but not today. It's different today.
So thankful to find a parking space, I go into the terminal where my friend is waiting. It seems like each time we fly together it's an adventure and this trip is no different.
Our fight's delayed by the weather and the odds of making our connection are almost zero. We now have a choice to make - do we trust The Holy Spirit to get us to our destination tonight...knowing that we may be stuck in Minneapolis? Or do we just go back home and fly out tomorrow? We looked at each other...smiled and said, "Let's go for it!" The agent said, "So, you're gonna go for the adventure!" We replied with a hopeful, "Yes!"
Between de-icing the plane and plowing the run way...it didn't look good, but I was still peaceful. When we landed our gate wasn't ready. Still calmness never left. Finally, we deplaned and I asked my friend if she could wait for my carry on while I looked for a cart ride. Our gate was on the other side of the terminal.
The only cart there said 'Out of Service' on it. It looked hopeless...yet, I wasn't.
I started talking with a girl holding a sign that said 'Wise'. I asked if she thought an agent could call to see if they would wait for us. The 'Wise' girl said, "What's your gate?" She called the gate agent herself and said that she'd take us there with Mr Wise.
We now have 7 minutes before our flight leaves. We all board the 'Out Of Service' cart and as we race through the airport....I ask if she’s an angel...she smiles and says, "We're taking a shortcut,” and pops us - cart and all - in a special elevator.
We're dropped off in 4 minutes where the gate agent is waiting for us. The 'Wise' girl refuses a tip, and says, "This is a special service cart."
Jesus looked at them and said,"With man it is impossible, but not with God, for all things are possible with God."
Yes! Even peaceful adventures, and perhaps an angel or two!
After hunting with Josh and Jordan for the week, they returned to Michigan and I stayed another week for the firearm deer season with my son, Aaron.
We both began our hunting journey when Aaron was 12-years-old; he is now thirty seven. We have hunted together nearly every year for a one-week period. We are not only a father/son team, but also true hunting buddies. We have similar temperaments so we work and play well together.
The first five days of our hunt were quite disappointing, but yet totally awesome! Here’s what I mean. We saw very few deer and none with horns. That was disappointing because Aaron had many pictures of large bucks on his trail camera. We know they were somewhere in the woods, but they chose to be active at night rather and during the daylight hours.
That made the other part of our hunting experience more important. Our meals, trips to town and conversations created deeper relationship and understanding. Aaron has been actively taking online classes to finish his college business degree while working in his demanding job. I had the opportunity to understand the pressure he was under and how I could pray for, support and encourage him. All of us live busy lives and are often consumed with the things we encounter in our world. Hunting trips slow us down and cause us to listen to one another.
Aaron is a fabulous father, loving husband and wonderful worker and friend! However, when we hunt together he only has to be a son, and I get the privilege of fathering him for one week.
That’s why it is so important to be fathered by God: we need to hear His words of affirmation, encouragement and counsel through prayer, worship and reading the Bible. Earthly fathers partner with Father God in rearing their children by giving them purpose and identity. I had the opportunity to experience our heavenly father's intervention in both our lives. I now know how I can more effectively support Aaron in his stressful life.
Dr. Dobson recently addressed an audience concerning his three decades of ministry in Focus on the Family. As he concluded his message he passionately exhorted the grandparents and parents to pray for the next generation. Family Christian values are being eroded in our society and we must stand in the gap for the next generation. Time with my son helps me pray more effectively for him.
The last 2 1/2 days of our time together included Aaron’s two boys, Ezekiel (9) and Isak (8). Their enthusiasm, creativity and energy created a cloud of joy in the cabin. This was their first experience hunting with Dad and Grandpa.
Their ability to sit still and be quiet was limited so we brought them into the hunting blinds for short periods of time. One afternoon Isak was with me for about an hour when he frantically whispered in my ear, “Grandpa, I can’t sit any longer, I have to move.” That was the end of our hunting for the day.
In a few years the boys will mature and have their own archery and firearm equipment. They will join Aaron and me in new hunting adventures. They will develop the skills and disciplines necessary to enjoy and be successful at this sport. Also, new levels of relationship will be developed that will span another generation. My time with Aaron has now created a three generation legacy.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
We must set aside time for our children and grandchildren. We must also invite others outside of our biological family into our lives who have not had the privilege of growing up in a healthy, loving family. Remember, we honor those we spend time with.
Block out quality time this Christmas season for your children, grandchildren and your spiritual children who look up to you as a model for the Christian life. The end result will be JOY: J - Jesus first, Y - yourself last and O - others in between.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Grandsons Josh and Jordan
I recently returned from a two-week deer hunting trip in Fairchild, Wisconsin. Five years ago our son Aaron purchased forty acres of prime hunting property and recently built a beautiful cabin by the river that runs through the land. The purposes for this two-week getaway were three-fold.
1. I promised my two oldest grandsons a week of bow hunting with just them and me. This was special grandpa and grandsons’ time.
2. After my grandsons returned to Michigan, I stayed a second week to enjoy the firearm deer hunting season with my son, Aaron. Aaron and I cherish this time of year. We have hunted together for a week or more each year since he was 12-years-old.
The hunting season brings us together, but it is the total experience that energizes and encourages us. Also his two boys Ezekiel (9) and Isaac (8) joined us for the last three days.
3. I love deer hunting so I get a chance to connect with family in something I love to do.
Each day I pray this prayer over my family members:
Lord, I pray for good health, favor, success, purpose, peace, protection and revival. I pray that each will develop the character qualities of the fruit of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
I also pray for divine appointments with each family member where I can interact with them by listening to their concerns and dreams and to speak words of life and encouragement into their lives.
This trip was a divine appointment for each family member I was with for this two-week period.
During the first week of bow hunting I had the privilege of being with Josh (22) and Jordan (21). This was their first hunting trip experience. We planned the trip well in advance and they had some great success.
Jordan harvested a large doe the first evening we hunted, and the next day Josh shot his first deer, a spike buck. During the last evening of our hunt, Jordan put down a beautiful 8-point buck.
Our policy is that when a deer is shot with a bow and arrow, the shooter is to return to the cabin until all have finished their hunt. Then we all go together to track the deer. Most of the time you have a clear blood trail but sometimes the deer bleeds internally and tracking is difficult.
Jordan shot both his deer through the heart and Josh shot his deer through the lungs. However, all left a very sparse blood trail to follow. The excitement of working together and tracking each deer climaxed with tremendous joy when we found each animal, especially the large 8-point buck!
We celebrated the harvesting of each deer with a special dinner at the cabin, and a drive to Applebee’s in Eau Claire after the large buck was found and dressed out.
We had devotions together and shared our lives with each other. We watched movies, laughed and revealed sides of our personalities that were not visible in casual conversation and contact.
Josh texted me the day after he returned to Michigan. This is what he said:
Love you, Grandpa. I had a great time with you the last week: a week I will never forget. We now have a deeper connection with one another.
I am not a perfect parent or grandparent. I have, and will, make mistakes with my family. I don’t want to come across like I’ve got it all together. I’m merely sharing with you my journey in parenting and grandparenting.
The great motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar said, “Love is spelled t-i-m-e.”
During this holiday season ask God to give you divine appointments with members of your family. Spend time with them to understand their world and speak words of life and encouragement into their lives. The Christmas season is a great time to slow down and connect with loved ones.
Let’s take the words of Moses seriously in Psalm 90:12
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Time with family is never wasted.
Next week: Family Focus, Part 2
Photo: Patryk Sobczak
In the 1980s and 1990s the Rocky movies were very popular; all of us love it when an underdog achieves a seemingly impossible goal.
In Rocky IV, Rocky flies to Russia to fight their boxing champion, Drago. The sole reason for this fight was Rocky’s desire to avenge the death of his dear friend, Apollo Creed.
Apollo and Drago had a promotional fight that ended with Drago beating him mercilessly, which resulted in his death. Rocky felt responsible because he did not stop this fight before Apollo was fatally injured.
Rocky is driven by guilt and anger to train and prepare himself to fight this seemingly invincible foe. Everything is against him: size, strength, his wife’s refusal to support him and the hostile crowd in the fight arena.
Without going into a play-by-play description of the fight, the end result was a victory for Rocky. The hostile crowd was gradually won over to Rocky because of his determination to fight to the death.
At the end of the movie Rocky says these words to the crowd:
During this fight, I’ve seen a lot of changing, in the way you feel about me, and in the way I feel about you...I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!
How do we really change our attitudes and behavior?
Some of you have been nurtured in a non-christian culture where generational sins have been passed down to children, grandchildren and great grandchildren: unforgiveness, prejudice, promiscuity, lying, homosexuality, gambling, unwholesome speech, substance abuse, etc.
When Christ comes into our lives as Lord and Savior, He wants to change this behavior and replace it with His character, which is expressed in the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Repentance is an about-face. Before Jesus entered into your life, you had your back to Christ, going your own way. When you received Him you repented and made an about-face and began walking toward Christ. As you focused on Jesus, your character began to change.
Romans 6:11-14 gives us the formula for lasting change:
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourselves to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
I underlined all the commands in this passage because change begins with a mindset of obedience. Once the mind is focused properly our actions must follow suit.
These verses tell us we can make the right choices because we are controlled by God’s Spirit and not victims to our circumstances.
Now that you know this, act in accordance to who you are: a child of God with His Spirit living in you. (Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 2:12)
This truth brings about real change.
Photo: Paula Vermeulen
A couple of weeks ago my husband Keith noticed a group of big turkeys wandering around in our backyard. He wanted to be a good neighbor to our wild friends, so he put corn out back for them. They've gotten used to finding it there. So, when the snow came and buried it by about ten inches they got ticked and I sure heard about it!
I woke up to this loud noise outside my bedroom window. The turkeys were yelling about their provision being buried. They dug at the snow that hid their food, but couldn't get to it! After a while I watched about 13 of them struggle in the deep snow, as they headed back into the woods…stopping once in awhile to look back longingly to where their provision was once so easy to get to, but now was buried from their reach. I desperately wanted to tell them that Keith would be back from his trip soon with more for them, but I knew they wouldn't understand.
Watching this made me think of Jesus' disciples, when He was crucified and then buried.
Jesus had walked with the disciples for three years, teaching them about how to receive supernatural provision. I'm sure they knew as long as He was around...every need would be met. But then one day their source of provision was out of their reach...He was buried and they couldn't get to Him. Though Jesus tried to convey to them what would happen - and that He would be back - I don't think they really understood. They must have cried out too, like those frustrated, hungry turkeys. "What happened? Our source is gone and our provision is buried!"
I'm sure they struggled in the depths of their sorrow, as they turned to walk away from the tomb....longing for what once was. The great news is that Jesus did come back to remind them of all the promises He made concerning their supernatural provision. He told them to wait for the Holy Spirit who would remain with them and who would continue to bring the provision that Jesus had stored up for them.
Don't be like those frustrated turkeys, giving up and walking away. WAIT! Wait for the One who promises to bring fresh provision stored up for you.
My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Photo: Alex Talmon
Have you ever had one of those weeks where the demands were greater than your ability to meet them? Last week was like that for me. My commitments were on overload causing the week to disappear in endless activity.
In addition one of our dear elderly couples lost their daughter to a stroke. I was asked to do her funeral on Monday. This was a hard funeral for me to officiate because I did not know the family that well. I went to the Sunday night visitation and gathered as much information as I could so my comments would be personal and comforting to the family.
I stayed up late Sunday night to write out every detail of the service, as well as prepare a biblical message that brought comfort and clear presentation of the gospel. I tried to accommodate the family by sticking to their wishes.
Personal comments were given by a sister, brother and son; special music was provided by a son and daughter-in-law. The deceased lady was obviously a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and friend to many.
I absolutely did my best to put together a meaningful service, but somehow I felt empty when it was all over. The only reason I can attribute to this empty feeling is weariness. Tiredness clouds my vision and plays games with my emotions. When this happens I have to step back and distance myself from all the activity. I ask myself four essential questions to get perspective:
- Did I give my best?
- Did I deliver a clear gospel message?
- Did I give support to the family and guests at the service?
- Did I do what God asked me to do?
The answer to all these questions is yes.
Fatigue makes the good things you do seem irrelevant and incomplete. I Corinthians 3:7 reminds me that neither the one who plants, nor the one who waters is anything, but only God makes things grow or gives the increase.
The seeds I planted are now God's responsibility to germinate and bring a harvest. The thing I need to remind myself repeatedly is: If I've done my best, then rest.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
God only requires faithfulness and giving your best.
When my kids were small it was often hard to keep an eye on them every moment. It seemed like they were in their own little world most of the time, even if I was just a few steps away. No matter how hard I tried though, they always managed to fall down, scratch a knee or get hurt somehow.
My children are all grown now, but one night while watching the film Love Comes Softly, I was reminded of the reality of hurts and pain in all our lives and how we can sometimes question His love for us when that happens.
In this film a young pregnant widow is taken in by a wonderful godly man who lost his wife. He marries her in order to care for her and to have a mother for his young daughter. After being together for about 6 months a fire nearly takes her new husband's life.
She can't hold back her fears, hurt and anger toward God any longer. Her frustration rises and she yells at her husband, "How can you love a God who allows bad things to happen? The death of your wife, and now this!"
He gently takes her hand and leads her to a spot where he daily meets with God to pray. His response to her angry questions make this movie worth watching.
He says, "I love my little girl with all my heart and even though Missy can be right beside me she can still fall down and get hurt. It's not about me allowing that to happen, it just happened. So, I'll pick her up and carry her and comfort her and care for her until she gets better. God doesn't say we'll never get hurt or fall down, even when we are close beside Him, but He does promise that He will pick us up and carry us, comfort us and take care of us until we are strong again."
If something in your life has knocked you down and you are hurting today, remember that you have a Loving Heavenly Father who wants to pick you up and carry you in His arms and comfort you until you heal.
Because My child has set their love upon Me, I will deliver them; I will set them on high, because they have known My name. They'll call on Me and I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble; I will deliver them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them My salvation.
Photo: DTS Creative Community
The busyness of life seems to be waiting for me when I wake up in the morning. The thoughts of everything that needs to be done are like a bunch of playful cats ready to pounce on my mind and keep me distracted from doing what's really important.
I usually have 10-20 emails waiting for responses and house duties that never end, along with outside responsibilities and people who need attention. So, to find a quiet place to meet alone with the Lord is a must!
Distractions come in many forms. An urgent phone call....an appliance breaks down, but distractions often accomplish the goal of getting us off track.
A lady I knew welcomed a homeless kitten into her house one day. It seemed harmless enough, but after her husband died she continued to take in more cats, until one day a concerned neighbor called the authorities, because the woman now housed 25-30 cats in her home. She was more involved with these stray cats than nurturing healthy friendships. The beautiful home her husband had provided was now a smelly and unhealthy environment.
We need to be aware of even little distractions that can get our attention and pull us away from our first priority. When I put the Lord first and take time to read and mediate on His Word my day goes so much better and I carry peace in my mind instead of cluttered thoughts, which can leave me frustrated and unproductive.
God wants to be our first love and priority. Like the tender-hearted cat lady, one little distraction can pull us totally off course and open us up to even more distractions; when this happens we can find ourselves in unhealthy situations. The sad thing is that it was obvious that the woman was lonely and needed companionship, but she settled for the company of cats....when she could have had the fellowship of a loving Heavenly Father.
Next time a distraction seeks your attention....ignore it....find that quiet place with the Lord, so He can embrace you with His Love, soothe your mind and meet your every need.
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all things will be added unto you.
Photo: Todd Quackenbush
On October 24, I celebrated my 64th birthday. The Bible describes our lives as a vapor because it is so short.
The young man I once was has disappeared when I see a reflection of myself in the mirror. My future days on this earth are fewer than my past. If my focus was only on this life, birthdays would be dark days reminding me that this earthly life is quickly slipping away.
However, as a follower of Christ, the Bible tells me in John 3:16 that my faith in Jesus Christ assures me eternal life, the best of both worlds, now and beyond death. Eternity is becoming more real with each birthday celebration.
Many of my loved ones have entered eternity. I wish I had the assurance they were all in heaven. Many of my aunts, uncles and cousins lived life on their own terms and showed little desire for spiritual truth. My hope is that they made their peace with God, through Jesus Christ, before they died.
The brevity of life reminds me to make better choices for my time, talents and relationships – temporal things are becoming less important, eternal focus is real. The only thing I can bring to heaven with me are my relationships. Therefore, my immediate and extended biological family has become an increasing concern.
Also, the Crossfire Church family is becoming a greater priority. My job description, according to Ephesians 4:11-12, is that God gave the church “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip His people for works of service, so the body of Christ may be built up.”
In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands the apostles to “make disciples”, or disciplined believers. The legacy we leave after death will be those we have influenced for Christ. I encourage you to make the coming days, months and years count for the kingdom of God.
On October 18, I attended the Free International Missions yearly banquet at Mount Hope Church in Portland, Michigan. Free International Missions was birthed over 20 years ago by my good friend and brother in Christ, Bishop Anthony Yeboah.
Since its inception, over 400 churches in 10 African countries have been formed; sixteen-hundred pastors have been trained in his Bible school. In 2012, his beloved wife, Marilyn, died of brain cancer. Anthony’s loss has created a greater sense of urgency in his ministry. He is returning to Ghana, West Africa, to support the pastors and churches in the West African nations who have been affected by the Ebola virus. His life is in danger, but his love for God and his people trumps his fear of death.
Pastor Joe Robbe is the chairman of Anthony’s mission’s board. He spoke to the dinner guests about his trips to West Africa. He choked up with tears running down his face as he described his mission’s experiences with Free International Missions. He made this comment that challenges me, and I know will challenge you:
“Recently, my wife and I have reallocated a greater portion of our retirement account to support eternal ministry that builds God’s kingdom. In other words, I want our finances to live on in people beyond our deaths.”
I am challenged and I challenge you to live your life in the light of eternity.
Have you ever thought about how you got to where you are today? Sometimes it's good to think about how God brought you from one place in your life, to establish you in another.
The church that my husband Keith and I co-pastor is Crossfire. We believe this is the name that The Lord impressed on our hearts almost 10 years ago.
The first part of the name is Cross and represents the cross of Jesus Christ on which He willingly gave His life, so we could be restored back to our Heavenly Father. This is the foundation of our faith.
The second half is Fire and represents the presence of The Spirit of God, Who ignites passion and empowers the work of the cross in our lives.
The cross is such a beautiful picture of survival to me; I think of Jesus who literally saved my life. My home was filled with alcoholism....fear and abuse, but my Heavenly Father sent His son Jesus to rescue me....an 8-year-old child.
I grew up in a small church. I attended alone, but I felt like I had a new family. Sometimes, I was invited to a home for Sunday lunch. I loved the peace and joy I felt in their homes.
When I turned eleven the pastor shared a message that gripped my heart. It was about the love of God being an all-consuming fire and that His Spirit could awaken passion in us to live a strong and courageous life for God. So people gathered around the altar and I heard a beautiful sound coming from them as they prayed with tears flowing and hands raised.
Years before, I had asked Jesus into my heart, but I believed this was something new! As I knelt at the altar I felt the warmth of His love fill me deep inside. I let the tears fall as I lifted my hands and asked Jesus to baptize me with the Holy Spirit and fire. Something definitely changed in me. I had my very own personal survival-to-revival experience!
Little did I know God was preparing me for a life of ministry that began at 13 years of age. Now, over 50 years later I am married to a godly man and pastoring a church together with that same burning passion I felt around that altar at eleven-years-old.
[John said], "I baptize you in water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I'm not worthy to carry. He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."