Category Archives: 2015

God is a Loving Father

One of the most powerful pictures of God that we see in the Bible is the one that portrays Him as a loving Father who wants nothing but the best for His children. As Christians, we believe that once we accept Christ as Savior that we are adopted into the family of God. John 1:12 says, “…as many as received Him (Him referring to Christ) He gave the right to become children of God.”

Seeing God as a loving Father, and understanding that a loving Father always wants the best for His children, is fundamental to our ability to know and understand how God wants to work in our lives. I believe it is also the key to trusting God during confusing circumstances. At the First Baptist Church in Oswego we have started a study called, “Experiencing God.” Our focus is getting to know God so that we can do His will. We meet each Sunday night at 6:30 PM, just in case you would like to join us.

I’m going to try and post something each week from our study, and this morning I wanted to begin by sharing this quick excerpt. I hope you find it encouraging today!

According to 1 John 4: 16, “God is love.” This does not say that God loves, though He does love perfectly and unconditionally. The Scripture says that God’s essential nature is love. God will never act contrary to His nature. You will never experience God expressing His will except in a demonstration of perfect love. God’s kind of love always seeks His best for each person.

If we reject His best, He will discipline us. However, the discipline will come from a heavenly Father who loves us and who will do whatever is necessary to bring us to a place in our lives where we can receive what He wants to give us (see Heb. 12: 5-11). God does bring discipline, judgment, and wrath on those who continue to live in sin and rebellion against Him. Even this discipline, though, is based on love. “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12: 6).

Because His nature is love, I’m confident that however He expresses Himself to me is always best. Many other verses describe His love toward us. For example: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son” (John 3: 16), and “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3: 16). Your confidence in the love nature of God is crucial. This has been a powerful influence in my life. I always view my circumstances against the backdrop of the cross, where God clearly demonstrated once and for all His deep love for me. I may not always understand my current situation or how things will eventually turn out, but I can trust in the love Christ proved to me when He laid down His life for me on the cross. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God forever convinced me that He loves me. I choose to base my trust in God on what I know— His love for me— and I choose to trust in Him in the midst of the confusing circumstances I may be experiencing.

What If God Was One of Us?

Back in 1995, Joan Osborne released a song posing this question, “What if God was one of us?” You probably remember the song and like me you can sing along with the main lyrics, “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home.”

It was a good song, but every time I hear it, I wonder how many people really stop and think about the implications of that question? And do they realize that according to Christianity, God was one of us?

The central message of Christianity, the message we celebrate at Christmas, the message that makes Christianity different from other world religions, is the message that God was one of us. It’s the message coming from heaven when the angel said to Mary and Joseph they were to name their child Immanuel, which meant, “God with us.”

It’s also the message Jesus, the early church, the Gospels, and the disciples proclaimed and believed. In John’s Gospel it is made clear in the very first chapter that God became flesh and lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ. This is what the disciples believed and taught. John 1:10 says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.” In verse 14 it says, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth.”

Even those that wanted to kill him, the chief priests and teachers of the Jewish law, give us historical evidence to believe this was the message being proclaimed. Remember when Jesus was on trial and Pontius Pilate was debating on what to do with Jesus? He found no fault in Jesus. He was willing to let Him go, but the Jews were outraged because Jesus, being a mere man, was claiming to be God, claiming to be the great “I am” from the Old Testament. According to Jewish law that made Him guilty of blasphemy, which was punishable by death.

This message of Christianity, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the fact that He being a mere man was also fully God, is the message of Christmas. I can’t tell you how many years it took me to really wrap my mind around the message that we celebrate at Christmas. However, I can tell you that once it resonated within me, once the magnitude of this event, once the truth behind the person of Jesus Christ was revealed to me, it changed my life. It became truth that I have decided to stake my future on.

When all the evidence is examined, from both the Bible and history, Jesus either was who He said He was or He lied. So today I want to pose to you the question, “What if Jesus was telling the truth and God was one of us?” What if He came to this earth in the form of a man and tried to communicate with us? Would you care what He had to say? Would you believe His words to be true? Would His words affects the way you live? What if He tried to tell you how to treat other people? What if His teachings went against your selfish nature? What if His teachings went against everything you had been taught, everything you believed to be true? What if giving up your old way of life to follow his teachings meant leaving some things behind?

That is pretty much what happened to this man. If you have time, please listen to his story. If you don’t have time, make time.

Birthdays – The Good and Bad

I want to thank everyone for wishing me a happy birthday, and since it has been a while since I have posted anything on my website, I thought I would share what is on my mind today.

First of all, I will say that I am happy to be 44 years old. I am grateful for the fact that God has given me some good health in the midst of some circumstances that actually cause many to die early. I will say however that if I make it another 44 years, I will probably be more than ready to go. 😉 The old body isn’t as young as it used to be. I find myself needing naps and coffee on a daily basis. There was a time when I laughed at my grandpa for taking a daily nap after lunch. I totally understand now.

Looking back I have had a lot of good birthdays shared with family and friends. Most of them have been joyous occasions, while a couple of them have been not so joyous. Only two years ago we were planning my dad’s funeral on my birthday and about 24 years ago we were having cake and ice cream in the intensive care unit at KU medical Center. I think I received over 200 cards that day from family and friends and strangers wishing me a happy birthday and a speedy recovery from my accident.

Looking back if I had to pick out my best birthdays and my worst, I suppose the two that I just mentioned would run a close race for the worst. It was hard to watch my dad’s life slip away and it was hard to find any joy in the midst of the news that I would never walk again.

I suppose that my birthdays reflect a lot about how life really is. We have bad days and we have good days. Ups and downs. Mountains and valleys. Or whatever you want to call them. Through it all God has blessed me with many different people who have been there to encourage and support, and I suppose all of my experiences have helped me to become the person I am today. I feel blessed to be where I am, 44 years old, married to a girl I had a crush on back in eighth grade, and perfectly able to enjoy the simple things in life.

Now…the best birthdays!

There are a few birthdays that really stand out. (A surprise 30th party from the people in Fredonia. A birthday cookie from my sister, who misspelled happy birthday.) But if I had to pick the best, the best ones had to have been the ones when baseball is all that really mattered. I remember birthday parties at the farm when I was about 11 and 12 years old. Several of my friends from school, as well as several of the friends I played baseball with during the summer would come out to the farm and we would play baseball all day. Man, those were the days! Watching the Little League World Series this week has reminded me of how simple life was back then! Wouldn’t it be great to be 11 and 12 again! Those of you that remember our 12-year-old VFW All-Star team, I am pretty sure we could have won it all!

I guess I don’t really have a point to my rambling on today. As I sit here today and think about past birthdays, I am reminded of how life does have its ups and downs, its good times and bad. However, it has also given me the opportunity to get to know many great people and I am humbled by the number of you who have wished me a happy birthday today! God bless you and may you find happiness in the midst of your own life journey.

Consider The Lilies

consider_the_lilyI’ve never been a big flower guy. With the exception of a large sunflower or two, my garden was always full of vegetables. The sunflowers I did grow were edible, and they were the variety that would grow 12 feet tall. I suppose it is kind of a man thing to want to see how big some things will grow.

But several years ago, while I was doing the garden at the Cherry Street Youth Center in Chanute, I had the idea that I would plant several different types of lilies and have the children paint a series of Bible verses on stepping stones. As the lilies grew and bloomed each year I would be sure and have the children read the Bible verses lying on the ground beside the lilies.

The stones read as follows:

Luke 12:27-31 (NKJV) ~ 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? 29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

Every year as the lilies bloom I am reminded that God will take care of us. God is a provider. It does us no good to worry and fret over the details of life. God knows what we need and He knows what we don’t need.

Jesus said we should consider the lilies at times when we are overwhelmed with life. All they do is simply grow in the place where they are planted and display the handiwork of God at the appointed time. God gives them everything they need to fulfill the purpose for which they were created. So today I would invite you to do as Jesus says and, “Consider the lilies…”

Big Things From Little People

Some of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned have been reinforced to me by little people. It was almost as if God used them to put an exclamation mark at the end of these lifelong lessons. Those of you who have heard me speak or read my book will recognize these stories, but I felt compelled to share these with the world this weekend. Please help me pass them on.

Alicia – Give What You Have to Give

It was a struggle learning to live with paralysis. Not only could I do very little for myself, but I also felt I could do so little for other people. This bothered me because I felt I had nothing to give to anyone. I had always based my self-worth on what I could do physically for myself and for others.

During my third summer at home, I rolled down the street to the city pool. My mission was to give out flyers telling about a Bible school we were hosting at church. While I was sitting by the pool, the cutest little eight-year- old girl I had ever seen came walking up to me. She had brown eyes, brown hair, and a smile that made me feel blessed to be alive.

Alicia stood beside me, talking, asking questions, and smiling from ear to ear. We talked for thirty minutes; then she jumped back into the water. I watched as she swam and splashed, but then I looked away to talk to some other kids. When I turned back, she had disappeared. Next thing I knew, Alicia stood beside me, smiling. She had that I’m-up-to-something look on her face. She had slipped a Butterfinger onto the armrest of my wheelchair.

As she ate her own Butterfinger, she seemed to realize I needed help to eat mine.
“Do you want me to feed you?” she asked.
“That would be great,” I replied.

Fortunately, I love Butterfingers, but for her, I think I would have eaten a can of worms. I’ll never forget how special I felt to know that Alicia willingly took some of the money she had been given and used it for me, knowing she would never get it back.

I went home feeling blessed to be alive. Alicia had unknowingly proven to me that life’s greatest gifts are often the small things and that giving what I had to give was more important than what I had to give. I couldn’t give much to others physically, but I could give to others mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Miranda – Look Beyond Your Limitations

Although I could never be used for the things I once took so much pride in doing, and often saw myself as worthless, the truth was, I was not worthless. I just needed to stop focusing on all the things I could not do and look for things I could do.

During my first year tutoring fifth-graders, I met Miranda. Miranda had a cute little smile and the biggest heart in town. She also had a sense of humor and a unique way of looking at things.

For her science project, she and I decided to make a solar cooker out of a cylinder-shaped Quaker-oatmeal container. She cut one side of the container off, leaving the two ends and about two-thirds of the body intact. On the inside, she lined it with aluminum foil; and on the center of each end, she poked a hole just big enough to stick a wire through.

For several days, we loaded the cooker with hot dogs and marshmallows. We kept track of the temperature outside, the amount of sunshine, and the time it took to “brown” our hot dogs or melt our marshmallows. We tried cooking with no lid on our oven versus cooking with a lid. Toward the end, we even added a thermometer to record the temperature inside the oven.

As Miranda became comfortable around me, she said and did whatever came to mind without fear that I would be offended. I liked that because I didn’t want kids to feel uncomfortable around me. I wanted them to see that although I had physical limitations, I was just a normal guy.

One day while we were working on her project, the wind blew Miranda’s papers everywhere. I felt helpless as I watched her hurry around the yard picking up papers. She ran back towards me, picked up my hand, and put all her papers underneath it. With a sheepish grin, she said, “You make a good paperweight.”

Finding things I was useful for became a fun game we played the rest of the year. She discovered my lap made a good shopping cart to carry all her stuff. My feet made a doorstop when nothing else would hold the door open.

This was my first experience working with a child on a science project, but we were both rewarded. Miranda earned a gold medal in the science fair, and I learned that if I would look beyond my physical limitations, I could find many new ways to be useful.

Sierra – Trust God Even When You Don’t Know Where He Is Taking You

One positive thing I could see from being paralyzed was that in many cases it actually helped me build relationships with the kids. They were curious to know why I couldn’t feel them touching my arms or legs. Seems like I answered the question, can you feel this? a half million times. They were also fascinated by how I could blow and suck in a straw to make my wheelchair move. They were even more interested when I started giving them rides on the back.

The driveway at Cherry Street was no more than seventy feet long, but long enough to go full speed and give the kids a wild ride. For each passenger, I drove at top speed toward the chain-link gate at the end of the drive. When I reached the gate, I would suck on my straw to stop, then turn around and drive back to where we had begun.

One day as I was giving rides, a kindergarten girl starting running towards me from across the playground. She obviously thought riding on my chair looked like fun, but she didn’t know my rules. I allowed only one rider at a time, and everyone had to wait in line. The girl on the back, Sierra, was older and knew my rules; so when the younger girl got close, Sierra stiff-armed her. I should have stopped or slowed down, but I didn’t. I kept going.

When I reached the gate, I sucked on my straw to stop, but nothing happened. My feet hit the gate, it swung open, and we headed for the street. I didn’t realize it, but while reaching for my chair, the younger girl had grabbed the tube that connects the small computer to my driving straw and pulled it off.

Sierra used to sneak up behind me and turn my wheelchair off just for fun, so I hollered, “Turn the chair off! I can’t stop.”

It was April 1. She thought I was April-fooling her. I panicked when I realized she didn’t believe me. My mother had taught me to look both ways before crossing the street, so I did. I thanked God no one was coming, then swallowed hard. I had no control over where we were going.

Instead of going straight across the street and hitting the curb, my chair started turning slowly to the right. I looked all around for padded walls or giant marshmallows, but the street was lined with cement curbs and vehicles. The only way we were going to stop was to crash, and at full speed we were going to crash hard.

Sierra was still hanging on behind me, but we were now headed up the street, right down the middle. The brick street we were now traveling down went straight ahead for about four blocks before coming to a T. It was not level. It sloped down toward both sides. At the end of the first block was a large drainage ditch where all the excess water ran off. My chair veered to the left toward the opening that led to the ditch.

In a matter of seconds, an endless number of possible outcomes flashed through my mind. The slope of the street caused my chair to veer sharply to the left, and before I knew it, we crashed into the side of my own van. It was a miracle. We were stopped, I was still in my chair, and Sierra was untouched! She was now convinced I wasn’t April-fooling her, so she reached up and turned off my chair.

My footrests had absorbed the majority of the impact. As I looked around to assess the damages, I noticed my feet were sitting nicely on top of the running boards. My shoes didn’t have a scuff on them. Sierra ran back to the youth center for help.

When I went back inside the building, I found Sierra and asked, “Where did you think I was taking you?”

She said, “I don’t know. I thought you might have been taking me to my friend’s house or something.”

As I thought about Sierra’s response, I realized she did not know where I was taking her, but she trusted me because she believed I had a place in mind. I immediately thought of those moments in my hospital room and that inner voice urging me to trust. The lesson for me was clear. I needed to trust God with my life like Sierra trusted me for a ride. I needed to remember He has places in mind, even when I don’t know where He is taking me.

Justin – Live for God’s Purposes, Not Just Your Own

Being in a wheelchair and working with kids was never in any of my life plans, but as time passed, I began to like the many new ways I had found to be useful. God was using me for purposes I never imagined, and I found it fulfilling.

A few minutes into a class I was teaching at Cherry Street, I asked Justin to read the Bible verse in Matthew 4:4 that says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” I was shocked when he read, “Man does not live to breed alone. . . .”

I started to correct him, but decided it was best not to draw attention to his mistake. The room was full of fourth- and fifth-graders, and I did not want to spend the next ten minutes teaching them about breeding. Inwardly I was laughing hysterically, but as he read on, the words seemed to be an exclamation mark on the end of a long lesson God had been teaching me. Satisfaction does not come from getting what we want physically; it comes from getting what we need spiritually.

I had always thought living out my dream and having a relationship with the right girl would fill the emptiness in my heart, but I was wrong. In giving up the things I wanted out of life in order to give of myself to children, I had received something in return that I had never had when all I lived for was my own purposes. I received the sense of satisfaction I had always longed for.

So as Justin read on that day, I realized his words were for me; there is more to life than just “to breed alone.” Life is not about my getting everything I dreamed of; it’s about my fulfilling God’s purposes for my life.

Renee – Serve Others Joyfully and Willingly

Being paralyzed and being a youth minister, I required a lot of help from others to do my job. During the four years I worked in the small town of Fredonia, Kansas, I often relied on the kids. Over time I began to see that Renee was one teenager I could count on to help me do just about anything. Never did I ask her to do something and see her respond with anything but a smile . . . except one time.

We were at a weekend youth conference. It was early Saturday morning, and we were pressed for time. After my friend Kevin sat me in my wheelchair, I went outside our hotel room with the van keys on my armrest. My plan was to have one of the kids help me into the van while Kevin finished getting himself ready.

When Renee came out of her room and I saw that she was ready, I asked her to take my keys, unlock the van, and let the lift down. From the look on her face, you would have thought I had asked her to tear down the engine and reassemble it. She reluctantly took the keys and started towards the van. Her friend Tasha walked alongside her. It was obvious they did not want to open my van, and they were whispering back and forth.

I was surprised at Renee’s seemingly bad attitude towards doing this simple task, because she was a great example of what a servant should be. She was a hard worker, she was one of only a few who consistently stayed to help clean up after meals, and she rarely complained. I had no idea what was wrong with her. Maybe she was having a bad day, or maybe I had done something to make her mad.

I watched as they carefully opened my van. Soon I discovered the reason for Renee’s reluctance. She and her friend had put toothpaste on all the door handles. I had foiled their plan to initiate my friend.

I laugh every time I think of this story, but I am also reminded of the huge difference in the way people serve others. There are some people who are like Renee. You can ask them to do something for you, and they almost always do it with a smile. You can tell they really want to help, and they consider it a privilege. But there are also some people who are not like Renee, and they have a bad attitude towards serving. Sure, they might do the task, but they do it reluctantly, often making sure someone hears how much of an effort it was for them to do the good deed.

Through being paralyzed and needing to be served by others, I realized that I had learned how I should serve others. Being a good servant is all about attitude. It involves being humble and putting the needs of others ahead of our own. Philippians 2:5–7 says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.”

When I think of Renee, I’m reminded to serve others willingly with humility, a positive attitude, and a smile—never reluctantly.

Christian – Learn from Your Experiences

In the fall of 1999, I watched a little boy named Christian climb onto the monkey bars. He climbed up the ladder, grabbed a hold of the bars, and “monkeyed” across. When he reached the end, he let go of the bar above him without taking time to position his feet on the bar beneath him. As he let go, his feet slipped and he fell backwards over another bar, scraping his backbone. When he finally hit the ground, he turned and looked up at the bar in disgust. I could almost hear his thoughts: “That hurt. I’ll never do that again.”

At this point in my life, I was working full-time as a tutor and youth minister. My family had enabled me to live in my own house, and I was making enough money to be off Social Security. I had accomplished much since becoming paralyzed, but I had been pondering why some things in life have to hurt so badly.

As I watched Christian experience the pain from his fall, I realized there were a lot of things I’d done that I would never do again because they hurt or cost me something: diving without thinking of the consequences, trying to date two girls at once, hammering a nail into an electrical outlet. My list goes on. I also realized that if some things did not hurt, we would keep doing them over and over and might never learn from them.

Webster’s defines an experience as “the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation in events or in a particular activity.” In my book, that means something happened, you either saw it or were directly involved in it, you were somehow affected by it, and you learned something from it. I found it interesting that the definition implies we are to gain knowledge through our experiences.

As time went on following my accident, I began to see that whether something is your fault, someone else’s, or it just happened, painful experiences often serve important purposes. They give us knowledge that we can use to help ourselves or help others.

Sarah – Find Joy in the Simple Things

In the spring of 2005, two neighbor girls were playing next door with the kittens. MaKenzie, age seven, and Sarah, age six, were no strangers to the six-hundred block of South Malcolm. They knew who lived in every house, and they knew the name of every dog and cat on the block. They had never really ventured into my yard to talk to me, so I took this as my chance to befriend them.

They were wearing roller blades, and I knew if they had any reservations about being around a guy in a wheelchair, I could fix that by pulling them behind my chair. A few laps up and down my driveway and I was certain we would become buddies.

Somehow I went from being the “train engine” to the guy who was “it” in a game of tag. The girls were laughing and teasing me, saying, “You can’t catch us! You can’t catch us!” I decided that flattening one of these girls would not help me make friends with them, so I chased them on the driveway, knowing I would always be “it.”

Playing with the girls and taking walks to the park became a daily ritual. There were countless wheelchair rides and more games of tag. Even after they learned I could not catch them, I still had to be “it.” As summer turned to fall, our time outside diminished. Many of our games gave way to paints and colors and animal charades.

When Christmas came, Sarah brought me some drawings and a card she had made. They were not in an envelope. She had wrapped them with Christmas wrapping paper.
The card read, “Dear Kevin, you bring me great joy when you try to run over me. Merry Christmas. Love, Sarah.”

As I read Sarah’s words, I was reminded that it is the simple things in life that often bring the greatest joy.

James: Live with It
I was sitting in the backyard at my mother’s house, enjoying the warmth of the summer sun. My youngest brother, James, was playing in the sandbox beneath a nearby maple tree. As I sat there watching him, a bird flew by and pooped on my shoulder. I was a bit disgusted with the bird, yet thankful my head had not been hit.
Immediately I hollered to James, “Come here!”  He responded like a typical three-year-old and simply asked, “Why?” 
I did not want to tell him, but I did not want to lie either. I knew James loved to help me with things, so I said, “Because I need your help.”
He put down his toys, brushed a little sand off, and waddled over to me. I said, “Do you see that stuff there on my shoulder?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Will you wipe it off?”
He reached towards my shoulder, and just when it looked as if he was going to wipe it off, he froze. His eyes met mine, and he said, “Kevin, what is that?”
Hesitantly I said, “Uh, well, a bird flew by and dropped this on my shoulder. I’m pretty sure it’s bird poop.”
James jerked his hand back, wrinkled up his nose, and exclaimed, “I’m not touching that!”
I knew Mom would help me, so I said, “Then go get Mom.”
James looked at me and sternly said, “Okay, but if she doesn’t want to wipe it off, then you’re just going to have to live with it!”
Mom came out of the house to remove the mess, but my brother’s words had penetrated my soul. It seemed as if through him, God was reminding me of one of the first things we learn in this world as children. When we can’t change a circumstance, we have to learn to live with it.
At the time this happened, I had been paralyzed for two years. The doctors had said there was no chance I would regain the use of my arms or legs. I had been praying a lot to walk again. I had done everything I knew to do. I had fasted, called for the elders of the church to anoint me with oil, memorized and repeated healing promises from Scripture, called prayer lines, and even traveled to a healing crusade.
Seeing no physical change did not change my belief that God could heal me, but it was discouraging, and I was struggling to accept no. I did not want to learn to live with paralysis. I wanted God to remove my unwanted circumstance so that I could continue living my life as I had planned.
Over time James’ words took on a double meaning. Not only did I need to learn to accept my unwanted circumstance, I needed to learn to really LIVE despite the unwanted circumstance.

The Power of a Storm

The other night my wife and I were talking with my former basketball coach. He was at Lowe’s picking up a piece of guttering because a storm was approaching. We parted quickly and went our separate ways. On the drive home a tornado warning was issued. We were well south of the tornado, so we parked until the storm passed. After arriving home I sent a Facebook message to his wife. I wanted to be sure they were safe and to know if he repaired the guttering in time. At the end of our conversation, she made a statement that spoke to me. She said, “Sometimes all we can do is wait out the storms.”

My mind immediately began to think of the many times in the Bible when Jesus talked about storms. You probably remember the story of the disciples being stuck in a boat with Jesus during a bad storm. The wind was causing the waves to come up over the edge of the boat. They were doing everything they knew to do in order to keep their boat from sinking. Eventually they realized they were powerless against the storm. In desperation, they decided to wake up Jesus. Jesus then spoke to the storm. Immediately the wind stopped and the sea was calmed. The disciples’ response was much like mine would have been, “What manner of man is this who has power over the wind and the sea?”

During his famous sermon on the Mount, Jesus told of the wise man who built his house on the rock and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. When the storms came, when the rain and hail beat upon their house, there were two different outcomes. The wise man’s house did not fall. It stood up to the test of the storm. It wasn’t because his house was FEMA approved. It wasn’t because he had read about the three little pigs and decided to use bricks instead of conventional stick framing. His house stood up to the storm because he had built it on the right kind of foundation.

If you look beyond the words of the story Jesus told about the wise man and the foolish man, you will understand that Jesus wasn’t really even talking about houses. He was a master at using earthly examples to teach spiritual principles. The house was only used to represent the life that we build for ourselves. The storms represented the storms of life. The rock represented the everlasting word of God. The sand represented the ever-changing doctrines of this world. Jesus wanted to make it abundantly clear that if we do not build our lives on the right kind of foundation (the Word of God), then it will not stand up to the storms of life.

Growing up in Kansas, I have always been well aware of the power of a storm. I’ve seen huge trees uprooted in my yard, a large branch thrown through my van window, a roof peeled off our barn. I’ve witnessed pieces of buildings and farm equipment scattered across the ground like tinker toys thrown on the floor by a three-year-old. I’ve helped clean up the mess after barns that had stood for 100 years were blown from their foundations and completely destroyed. It’s no secret that a storm can be damaging, destructive, and sometimes devastating. Storms can leave everything in its path in a complete mess.

Sooner or later a storm will come along to test each of us. Trials and problems and circumstances will beat down upon us like the wind, rain, and hail beats down on a house. Sometimes the trials and problems and circumstances will be damaging, even devastating, leaving our lives in a complete mess. Storms have the power to take everything we have built for ourselves in an instant, leaving us with what seems like nothing, sitting powerless in a sinking boat, knowing there is nothing we can do about it.

If you happen to find yourself in a situation like that today, or tomorrow, or whenever, I want you to remember this. In Jesus we have a Master who has power over the storms. In an instant He can speak to your storm and give you peace. He may make you wait out the storm. He may let you try everything you know to do, as He did the disciples. He may even wait until you feel completely powerless, but rest assured, at just the right moment, He will speak to your storm.

Thankful for the Storm

Since church was cancelled the wife and I took advantage of this snowy, Sunday, Kansas morning and laid around. It’s extremely rare we have a morning we don’t have to be somewhere.

She started watching “Fault In The Stars,” but at the beginning of the movie I could not keep my eyes open. All I wanted was to sleep. “Why wasn’t she watching this in the living room,” is all I could think. (In 5 months of marriage I’ve learned it’s best to keep some thoughts to myself.)

By the end of the movie, I could not keep my eyes dry. A young man and woman suffer through an awful battle with cancer and … (well, I’d say more but I can’t give away the ending.)

Anyway, it made me think about how short life can be and how every once in a while we need to “stop” everything. Stop and enjoy the simplest blessings of life, like having someone to watch a movie with and share life with.

You know, I wonder if this isn’t why God originally planned “a day of rest?” So we would “stop” everything. Stop everything and do nothing but be thankful for His blessings. According to God we should do this weekly. We should schedule time like this into our lives.

You know, it’s too bad it took a snow storm to cause me to stop and appreciate one of the best things in my life. But when I think about it, sometimes that’s exactly why God allows “storms” into our lives.

Life Will Trash Your Trophies

4212_webAt one point in my life these trophies were my most prized possessions. I proudly displayed them on top of my dresser. When they became dusty, I meticulously cleaned them so they would once again become shiny. When the top of my dresser was no longer large enough to hold all of my trophies, I made a large bookcase during shop class at school to better display them.

My first trophies came from T-ball and Little League. Later, at the age of 11, I started entering free-throw contests sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. I earned my way to the state championship two years, winning the state championship once. That same year I earned a most valuable player trophy in a baseball tournament. I remember we lost our first game of the tournament, then worked our way back through the losers bracket to beat Iola twice in the championship round.

As I look back to my childhood I have such great memories of earning these awards. It was one of the greatest times in my life. How much fun it would be to go back to those carefree days, back when our purpose in life seemed to be nothing more than to play ball and have fun.

These trophies represented who I was at one point in life. They held a place of honor in my room and in my life. My sense of purpose and self-worth seemed to come from them. I realize now that life is not what I thought it was at age 11.

This picture was taken before I married and moved last year. Here I am 30 years later wondering what to do with something that once held such great value to me. Do I leave them in the same plastic tub they have been piled in since high school or trash them? Somehow, I doubt my wife wants them proudly displayed on our dresser.

As I contemplated what to do with my trophies I thought about a quote from James Dobson’s book, “When God Does Not Make Sense.” I read it not long after I became paralyzed and I recommend it to anyone who has endured or is enduring a tragedy or hardship. It is almost as good as my book, “Learning to Live With It”. (Ha, Ha). All joking aside, he wrote something I will never forget, “If you live long enough, life will trash your trophies.”

In Matthew 6:19-21(NIV), we find that Jesus had a similar outlook on our earthly treasures. Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Life certainly has a way of teaching us that the things we earn and achieve here only seem to matter for a short time. Start laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven, because life is temporary and if you live long enough, life will trash your trophies.

For those of you that are wondering, yes, the trophies went to the trash. But the memories and the people I shared those good times with are the real treasure.

See Yourself As Useful

During my first year tutoring fifth-graders, I met Miranda. Miranda had a cute little smile and the biggest heart in town. She also had a sense of humor and a unique way of looking at things.

For her science project, she and I decided to make a solar cooker out of a cylinder-shaped Quaker-oatmeal container. She cut one side of the container off, leaving the two ends and about two-thirds of the body intact. On the inside, she lined it with aluminum foil; and on the center of each end, she poked a hole just big enough to stick a wire through.

For several days, we loaded the cooker with hot dogs and marshmallows. We kept track of the temperature outside, the amount of sunshine, and the time it took to “brown” our hot dogs or melt our marshmallows. We tried cooking with no lid on our oven versus cooking with a lid. Toward the end, we even added a thermometer to record the temperature inside the oven.

As Miranda became comfortable around me, she said and did whatever came to mind without fear that I would be offended. I liked that because I didn’t want kids to feel uncomfortable around me. I wanted them to see that although I had physical limitations, I was just a normal guy.

One day while we were working on her project, the wind blew Miranda’s papers everywhere. I felt helpless as I watched her hurry around the yard picking up papers. She ran back towards me, picked up my hand, and put all her papers underneath it. With a sheepish grin, she said, “You make a good paperweight.”

Finding things I was useful for became a fun game we played the rest of the year. She discovered my lap made a good shopping cart to carry all her stuff. My feet made a doorstop when nothing else would hold the door open.

This was my first experience working with a child on a science project, but we were both rewarded. Miranda earned a gold medal in the science fair, and I learned some important life lessons. If I would look beyond my physical limitations, I could find many new ways to be useful. Even though I could never be used for the things I once took so much pride in doing, and often saw myself as worthless, the truth was, I was not worthless. I needed to stop focusing on all the things I could no longer do and look for things I could do.

In Ephesians 2:10 Pauls says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Remind yourself of this today. Regardless of what seems to be causing you to feel limited and worthless, God can use you to accomplish great things.

Seeing God as a loving father – willing to make sacrifices for His children

All the usual pieces were in place. I was surrounded by family and friends. Cards and letters came by mail. Everyone ate more cake and ice cream than they needed after singing happy birthday.

From the outside it appeared to be a birthday party, but as you can likely tell from the picture, my 20th birthday was nothing like it should have been. Tubes were supplying me with oxygen and food, while bars and screws held my shattered neck together. My friends opened cards for me, as my arms and legs were paralyzed.

It may have been a birthday party on the outside, but on the inside I was having one heck of a pity party. I wanted out of the mess I had made of my life. After the dust settled and most of the people had left, my father leaned over my bed and mumbled, “Happy Birthday.” With tears in his eyes he said, “I wish there was some way that I could take your place.”

Though I could not speak because of the tubes, tears began to fill my eyes. My pity party came to an abrupt end. I knew my father would do anything to fix my broken spinal cord, even if it meant giving up his own life. In that brief moment, through that one simple sentence, I caught a glimpse of my heavenly father’s love and saw the entire message of the Bible. God looked down upon us in our helpless, hopeless situation and willingly gave his life as a sacrificial offering for our sin. He became a man and took our place on the cross.

It should not come as a surprise to us that God’s love can often be seen through the love of an earthly father. Over and over throughout the Bible, God’s love for us is conveyed as the type of love a father has for his children.

In the world that we live in today it seems as if there is a lot of confusion surrounding the definition of a loving father. People’s values and standards vary greatly even within individual families. One thing we could surely all agree on though is this; a loving father is willing to make sacrifices for his children. If need be, a loving father will even give up his own life for his children.

God loves you so much that he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for you. Remind yourself of this simple truth the next time you find yourself in the midst of a pity party. It may just do for you what it did for me.
Romans 5:8 says, “God commends his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And John 3:16 says, ”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”