Showing posts from April, 2013

When You Go Through the Valley of Baca (Hardship)

"Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain also fills the pools. They go from strength to strength—every one of them in Zion appeareth before God."
--Psalm 84:5-7(KJV)

Some time ago, after I'd preached on this verse, my friend, Jim Burmeister, loaned me a casette tape by Jack Hyles on the "The Valley of Baca."

Now, Jack Hyles isn't exactly my type. He's a snortin', yellin', narrow minded, independant, fundamentalist Baptist preacher. (Actually, he was that -- but a few years ago, he went home to glory, his rough edges have been sanded off and he's probably a Wesleyan now!)

However, driving to the hospital, ol' brother Jack really preached a good sermon to me -- snortin' and yellin' all the way. My heart was blessed. "Even though he's dead, yet he speaks."

Basically, there were two points:

1. Everybody, sooner or later…

20 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Day

1. Take the day for granted. Fail to recognize that it is a special gift from God.

2. Focus on the problems rather than the possibilities.

3. Complain! Complain! Complain! You can always find something to gripe about.

4. Recount the ways others have mistreated you and throw a pity party.

5. Forget to say "please" and "thank you." Be rude.

6. Don't take time to pray. There is not peace for an "un-centered" heart.

7. Cram every minute full of busy activity. Eliminate margin (breathing room.)

8. Criticize and belittle your family members. As Disraeli said, "to belittle is to be little."

9. Spend the entire day watching television. Contentment will evaporate as you vegetate.

10. Count your burdens rather than your blessings. Focus on the negative rather than the positive.

11. Be sure to whine when things go wrong. Whining is the cry of a shriveled soul.

12. Lose your temper! Let it explode in angry tirades.

13. Be a perfectionist. Refuse to be happy unless …

A Prayer for Seeking God's Will

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. 
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end. 
Nor do I really know myself, 
and the fact that I think I am following your will 
does not mean that I am actually doing so. 
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. 
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. 
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. 
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, 
though I may know nothing about it. 
Therefore will trust you always
 though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. 
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, 
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
-- Thomas Merton

Preach to Yourself First

"Take heed, therefore, to yourselves first, that you be that which you persuade your hearers to be, and believe that which you persuade them to believe, and have heartily entertained that Savior whom you offer to them."
--  Richard Baxter,  in The Reformed Pastor

Feed the Goose!

A while back, I awoke in the middle of the night with an  inspiring thought racing through my mind.

"Honey, wake up!" I said, "I just had a marvelous thought!

""Hmmnn? Whuzzat? Marvelous thought?", Cathy mumbled.

"Do you want to hear it?" I asked eagerly.

"Sure, might as well, now that I'm awake." said Cathy.

"Feed the Goose! We've gotta Feed the Goose!"

"What?? You woke me up from good sleep for that? What do you mean -- feed the goose?"

"I don't know, but it's a wonderful thought!" I beamed.
"Go back to sleep," said Cathy.
But my mind kept racing. . .
Feed the goose. Feed the goose. What in the world does that mean?

Then the light clicked on in my little brain -- aha! If you have a goose that lays golden eggs, your most important job is to feed the goose.

Don't get so busy gathering the eggs that you forget to take care of the one laying them!

What is your mission in life? What are you …

Did You Know Jesus Was an Avenger?


This Tent Had Dreams of Greater Heights


Our Deck This Morning


Pat Summerall Passed Away

When I heard that the great sports announcer, Pat Summerall, passed away yesterday, I was reminded of his beautiful testimony of God's grace in his life.  As a guest on the 700 Club a while back, he spoke candidly about his alcohol addiction, and how Jesus changed his life.

"Well, to take me from where I was, and the life I was leading, to the life I lead now with the church and with the Lord and with Jesus Christ, it's a total, total turn-around."

Rest in Peace George Beverly Shea


All Rivers Run into the Sea

A clapboard congregation
sings heartfelt doxologies
hammered out on an
untuned upright piano
with thirteen missing keys.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Haunting canticles
in a cavernous cathedral.
Echoes of praise
ring from pipes
when songs have ceased.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

An orchestrated blend of rock and blues.
A collection of redeemed sinners
who've tasted grace.
Ancient lyrics dance upon the screen,

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

And which is true worship?
Which is good and right?
Which is met with heaven's smile?
In which does God delight?

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

My Waffle Wedded Wife


Half Mastings

The flags in town are half mast today. It seems we've had more than our share of "half-mastings" recently.

The flags represent our hearts -- they're at half mast too.

As the flags go down, our prayers go up.

Brennan Manning on Friendship

A friend is someone who stays with you in the bad and good weather of life,
guards you when you are off your guard,
restrains your impetuosity,
delights in your wholeness,
forgives your failures,
does not forsake you when others let you down.
The friendship of Jesus enables us to see others
as he saw the apostles:
flawed, but good children of the Father.

-- Brennan Manning

Stress Test

Just finished readingStress Test, a medical thriller written by Richard L. Mabry.

It's the tale of a promising young medical doctor, Matt Newman, who finds himself kidnapped by thugs at 2:00 a.m., bound and thrown into the trunk of his car.  A hair-raising escape from certain death, leads to a back alley fall and a severe head injury.

When Dr. Newman awakens, he is shocked to discover that he is the prime suspect in a murder investigation.  Falsely accused by the police, and still pursued by the bad guys, the young doctor finds himself in a frightening fight for survival.

With help from his capable and attractive attorney, Sandra Murray, Newman discovers faith, love, and the purpose of life.

(A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publishers for review on this bog.)

Purchase here.

How to Get Things Done

I discovered long ago, that a wish or desire is not enough to get something done. Every accomplishment starts with an idea, of course -- but the idea, alone, won't make it happen.

Even a very strong "want to" won't bring the follow through. If you want to get something done, you have to dosomething about it ahead of time!

1. What Gets Scheduled Gets Done.
Not long ago, I shared a great vacation idea with my wife, Cathy. "Hey, we should go to Florida sometime!" (I think our long winter had something to do with that inspiration.)

"When are you thinking we should do this?" Cathy wondered.

"I dunno. Just sometime next January -- or maybe February . . ."

Cathy replied, "Well, the only way that's going to happen is if it gets on the calendar."

For years, I said I wanted to author a book, but never seemed to have the time to write it. Last year, I actually did it.

Here's what made the difference.  I put" book writing" on my …

How's Your Bible Reading Going?

I received an unexpected phone call from Darrelyn Tutt yesterday that helped "jump-start" my Bible reading program.

At the beginning of the year, I had enthusiastically launched an aggressive effort to read the Bible through in 90 days (give or take a few, when you factor in the "zag" days.)  This endeavor was inspired by a little guide, For This Reason: God's Word in 90 Days, written by Darrelyn, a poet and pastor's wife from rural South Dakota, and director of Inkwell Ministries.

Well, I did great for almost three weeks -- then bogged down due to a busy schedule, travel and a number of other excuses.  For the past couple of months, I've been floundering in my Bible reading -- grabbing little snippets and morsels from here and there and calling it good.

And yesterday, Darrelyn called me on it.

"Hi Pastor Mark!  I'm just checking in to see how your 90 Day Bible Reading Plan is going."

"Oh, yeah. . . that was a wonderful plan. . . gre…

Rural Ministry the Way Jesus Did It

"We’ve got to put roots down in a neighborhood and do it the way Jesus did. That is ‘come follow me.’ When we are way too small to get involved in large projects by ourselves, we’ve got to get people in the neighborhood involved in humanitarian outreach programs. There are people out there who really would like to have opportunities to help and work."  -- Ruth Tucker

A Matter of Trust

I recently had the opportunity to readA Matter of Trust, a fascinating crime mystery written by Lisa Wiehl and April Henry.  This book is a page turner, featuring newly widowed, Mia Quinn, who is forced to return to work as a prosecuting attorney, following her husband's sudden accidental death.

 Almost immediately, she finds herself neck-deep in detective work,  investigating the murder of her colleague and trusted friend, Colleen, as well as the tragic suicide of a bullied teenager.

While unraveling these mysteries, she also is forced to navigate a perplexing personal life.   As a single mom, Mia experiences a teenage son who shuts her out, a daughter's terrifying episodes at night, a demanding, politically ambitious boss, an annoying investigative partner, enormous financial stress caused by her late husband's secrets, and an estranged father who "gets religion" and re-enters her life.

Wiehl's writing reminds me somewhat of John Grisham and Harlan Coban, w…

Live for the Long Haul

You were designed to live for the long haul!

 With that in mind, it's vital to keep the big picture in mind. Most of us get so caught up in the minutia of the moment, that we forget to look beyond our current circumstance.

 Most of today's pressure points aren't really that important in light of the bigger scheme of things.

 The next time you're worked up about something, ask this question, "Will it really matter ten years from now?"

That question will put things in perspective for you.

 A long haul life requires some long range thinking.

 What are you willing to sacrifice today for a greater gain tomorrow?
 What habits today will destroy your health and/or relationships tomorrow?
 If you continue in the same direction and at the same pace as you are going today, where will that lead you tomorrow?
 If your money management patterns today continue, what will your financial picture be tomorrow?
 What does your spiritual condition today say about your spiritual…

A Prayer in the Darkness

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. 
Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, 
so that nothing may frighten or worry us, 
for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, 
Your will through all things. 

--  By Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Trouble Posting

I've had trouble posting on my blog for the past few days. . . working on it.