Many years ago we were living in Bloomington, Indiana home of Indiana University which has a world-renown music department.  I recall attending two graduate piano recitals within a couple of weeks of each other with a professor who has amazing musical gifts. After the second recital he pointed out the subtle difference: Both were technically perfect but one played with emotion; coaxing out of the instrument color and texture, tone and vibrancy. The distinctions were significant and you might guess which one we enjoyed the most.

Life in the Household of Faith can become plain and technical unless we give it special attention. We dare not allow our gatherings to become perfunctory or superficial. The primary way to avoid becoming mechanical or routine in our worship is to become a participant; to get involved. Each one of us has an obligation to serve one another – worship and service are inseparable.

The beginning of a new school year is a great opportunity to get involved in worship – to challenge each other to follow Jesus better. There are all kinds of ministry opportunities with both children and adults, music and media, teenagers and guests. Find your place in the Household of Faith to coax out the color and texture, tone and vibrancy of life with Jesus.

“Breaking News!”


Tragedy.  Trauma.  Terrorism.

Frustration.  Fanaticism.  Fear.

Accusations.  Anger.  Anarchy.

It seems as if every day the headlines announce a new wave of destruction, deception, and death.

Opinions are a dime-a-dozen. After listening to, watching, and reading the news for the past 36 hours I’ve become convinced there are more opinions than facts.

The other observation is even the facts seem to change – almost as quickly as the opinions.

In the middle of all this horrific violence, how should Christ-followers respond? Here are some thoughts:

  • Evil is alive and well. Satan’s job description is to “steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10)
  • Jesus gives life – full of meaning and purpose. (John 10:10)
  • Every single human life is valuable, sacred – and worth protecting. (Genesis 1:27 & Psalm 139:13)
  • God loves everyone. No matter the color of skin or what language they speak or whether or not they just shot someone. God loves liberals, conservatives, socialists; pro-life and pro-abortion supporters. Every member of the LGBTQ community is loved by God. And He loves them so much He died for them. (Romans 5:8)
  • The “breaking news” is that the world is broken. But our hope is in God who is our fortress and protector in times of trouble. We take refuge in Him. (See Psalm 37)

C.S. Lewis wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”


Perry Parson shared this story with me and I wanted to pass it along for Father’s Day!

My first sled was short with faded lettering and one broken board.  Mom bought it for my brother Lynn and me at the sale barn.  Lynn and I struggled all winter to have fun with that sled.  But the sled was so short that we couldn’t “belly-drive” it.  Instead each of us had to squeeze up while sitting on our rear and steer with our feet.

We must have complained about the short sled, because next Christmas we were given a brand new, five-foot-long sled.  It had new shiny varnish and a painted brand name that you could still read.  And it was long enough that I could lay down on it on my stomach and my feet would just barely hang over the end.

Lynn and I decided that we would try both of the sleds that very afternoon.  And instead of staying on some of the smaller hills on our farm, we pulled the sleds a mile down the road to get to the Vincennes road hill: a steep hill with a wicked turn halfway down that curved sharply to the left.

Lynn and I took turns with each sled the rest of the afternoon.  One of us would “belly-drive” the long sled while the other one would try to make it down the hill with “Shorty.”  That little sled would do fine until the curve.  And then, no matter how much I would lean to the left, it would never make the curve.  Having to sit up just raised the center of gravity too high.  I couldn’t make that curve and would just flop over.  But “Long-boy” was a different story.  A running belly flop start sent me flashing down the hill.  And dragging the left leg would pull me around the curve, flying down the road to the little town below.  By the time “Shorty” had dumped Lynn and he had picked himself up, “Long-boy” was already at the bottom and I was beginning the walk back up.

As the sun began to set, Lynn and I realized that we needed to head home soon.  But we each wanted to take “just one more ride.”  So we hit upon a plan.  We would use “Long-boy” as a two-man sled.  And being the older and larger of the two, it was decided that I would lay down first.  Then my brother took a running start and belly flopped onto my back.  As I gasped for my breath, we started out slowly, then picked up speed.  And struggling to hold on, Lynn grabbed on to me, pressing both my legs against the deck of the sled.  I struggled to get my left leg loose but I couldn’t get it free.  And so we did not make the turn.  Instead we shot straight across the road and plowed into the shallow drainage ditch along the roadside.  When we hit the frozen gravel piled along the edge of the road, “Long-boy” came to a sudden stop.  But Lynn and I did not.  In an instant I became the sled!  We continued sliding onward for another ten feet or so until we stopped.  I had snow inside my coat, under my shirt, and even behind my glasses, which somehow had stayed on my face.  I pushed Lynn off me and tried to clean my glasses.  We lay there laughing in the snow, enjoying the thrill of the ride, excitedly retelling to each other what had just happened.

As I sat up, I noticed that my heavy winter coat was open.  At first I thought it has been unzipped during the ride.  But instead, the coat was cut completely through.  And so was the shirt beneath.  Only the long Johns underneath the shirt were uncut.  Then we saw that we had slid through a trash pile someone had dumped along the roadside.  Digging through the snow, we found the jagged bottom of a broken mayonnaise jar.  If the coat had been thinner, or my layering of clothing less, it would have been my stomach that had been slit open.

We slowly walked home, pulling our sleds.  We were thankful for how fortunate we had been and wondered what would happen when Mom and Dad saw my clothes.  We were especially fearful of how our father would react.

Dad was a factory worker who dropped out of school in the 9th grade to help bring in money for his parents during the Great Depression.  And because of the Depression, he developed an attitude of  “pinching every penny until Abe Lincoln squealed.”  His lack of further education had also limited his wage earnings.  He worked long hours for every thing he brought home to his family, from new sleds to new winter coats.

As we came nearer to home, we were trying to decide what to tell Mom and Dad about our day, especially about the coat.  We thought that he would be angry and we were worried about what our punishment would be.  Should we lie?  Should we say the the Vincennes Gang attacked us (There was no gang of boys in a town of 30 people!) or some other far-fetched tale?  But my brother, who did not have a torn coat, said we should tell the truth.

We went inside the enclosed back porch, and dropped our snowy boots and coats on the floor.  Then we entered the back door into the warm kitchen.  Mom was at the oven, getting ready to serve the evening meal.  Dad was in the bathroom, at the front of the house, washing up for supper.  We hurriedly told Mom what had happened to the coat and finished just as Dad entered the room.

As I heard Mom retell our story, I braced for what I thought would come.  Dad looked at each of us, a frown on his face.  I thought he would explode!  Instead, he slowly said that coats could be replaced but his sons could not be.  I always knew that my father loved me, but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how deeply.  He valued us much more than any earthly possession, knowing where the true treasures of life were.

After that day I would like to say that I always was careful not to cause my dad any problems, money or otherwise.  But being a self-centered, forgetful person, I can’t say that happened.

Our heavenly Father also loves us.  But His love is even greater than any earthly father.  He can see all the sin we have committed, all the sin we will commit, how often we will turn from Him, or hurt Him.  And yet He still sent His Son to die for us.  We need to remember this daily, ask the Lord for forgiveness, and consistently strive to do His will.

“‘ … for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.”’ — Hebrews 13:5b.

Listen to me. Please?!

I shared this yesterday morning as we introduced our four week series, “I Pray.” I wrote it on May 22, 2008 when we learned the cancer in Lois could not be removed and she had less than 2 years. Since I was in a hospital waiting room I couldn’t pray out loud, so I wrote this which is loosely based on Psalm 5.

Daddy, Daddy, Listen to me. Please?!

Daddy I need help making sense of all this. My brain hurts, my heart hurts, I can’t even cry anymore.

I really need you. I feel like my whole life has been broken into pieces – a thousand piece jig-saw puzzle with no picture on the box.

Forgive me, Daddy, for all the times I’ve insisted you do what I want – to make things come out my way. That’s never worked. I realize that now. I know you’ve forgiven me, but I’m still sorry.

I know you will protect us from the wicked evil in this world but I feel as if I’ve been overcome by the noxious fumes of confusion and deception and now I’m wandering around these hospital hallways in a fog. I can’t see where to go. I know I shouldn’t be afraid – but I am. Afraid of tomorrow let alone next week or next year.

So, I’d like to come into your study. I’ll quit talking.

I just need to be near you; for you to protect me. You don’t have to talk to me but if you do I’ll listen carefully, I’ll do my best to follow your instructions, because I know it’s the only way I’ll get through this.

Daddy, I need a hug – to be reminded that you love me just the way I am.

One in a Million

A father once said, “Son, you’re one in a million!”

The son replied, “Dad, I know you meant that as a compliment, but it means there are 1500 guys just like me in China!”

Late Sunday afternoon, May 15, we learned Don Callison, a man who was one in seven billion went home to be with his Lord. After a tough journey with cancer, Don’s life on this earth ended and his eternal life began.

We could search the entire population of the world and not find another man the caliber of Don Callison. Who can measure the value and impact of a life lived at full-throttle for Jesus? Only in the last few months, as the cancer took its toll, did Don slow down physically but spiritually and intellectually he was sharp – even as recently as my last visit on April 8th.  For every question I asked him about his health, he asked two about my ministry. It was never about Don; it was always about others – and mostly about pointing them to Jesus.

Don’s enthusiasm for the Gospel was highly contagious; his sense of humor disarming and his persuasive skills unequaled. I’m sure God has a record but there’s no way for us to count the number of people who packed their bags to serve at Echo Ranch Bible Camp in Alaska or on the mission teams to Russia. And those are just the short-term missionaries. The Holy Spirit used Don’s wit, sarcasm, and captivating smile to provoke many to give up promising state-side careers to move to remote places all over the world so they could share the Good News of Jesus, the Christ.

I’ve watched people add zeros to checks because Don had the bravado to say out-loud, “You can do more than that!” Few people realize what God did through Don’s vision for the Christian Union Triennium project which ended in June 2013 and provided funds for five radio stations, 8 clean water wells, and 1600 solar powered radios!

I first met Don in August 1990 and I am a different person because of our friendship. Over the years we did several things together but from 2008 on we were especially close as we spent many weeks each summer traveling promoting missions.

He taught me how to follow Jesus better. I know of no greater compliment. He was one in seven billion.

I will miss him.

The Danger of Individualism

I will never forget the all-nighter I had with God in 1983. I strongly sensed God was leading me to sell the bookstore our family owned – something I did not want to do. (Owning and managing a bookstore was a dream my Dad and I had shared and talked about since I was 9 yrs old.) Dad died in 1980 and his estate was bankrupt. We had worked for three years to pay bills and dig out of debt and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Then God and I had an all-nighter. I remember talking to a friend and mentor the next morning. He encouraged me to seek counsel from at least three God-fearing friends. He said, “It’s all too easy to act as an individual but God created us to live in community – so seek the advice of those you’re in community with.”

There is Biblical precedent:

In Acts 6 we find the record of the Twelve gathering all the disciples together to choose seven who would be responsible for the “daily distribution of food.” The decision was made by a group.

There is also the account in Acts 13 where we find the church at Antioch agreeing as a group to set apart Paul and Barnabas and send them off to spread the Gospel.

There are certainly situations when God speaks to us as individuals about sin, people, and circumstances that apply to us as individuals. We should test those things against the Word of God (see 1John 4) and respond accordingly.

When our decisions have implications for more than ourselves, we should be careful. Our individualism, selfishness, personal agendas, and desire for control often become the very things that cause us to be deceived.

The disaster of individualism often begins with “God told me . . . “

Yes, I did sell the store. Everyone I sought out agreed it was the wise thing to do.

“Miss Lillian”

The first missionary I remember meeting was Lillian Dickson, a short, stout woman who could tell spell binding stories about far-away places. As a seven year old, I sat in rapt attention and listened to tales about an island off the coast of China called Taiwan where many people were hungry, homeless, and needed clothes. dicksonI’ve met well over a hundred different missionaries since, but “Miss Lillian” is the one who impacted my life the most.

Between 1959 and 1972 “Miss Lillian” was in our home many times.  She led “The Mustard Seed,” a ministry in Taiwan that cared for hundreds of adults and, over the years, thousands of children. Reader’s Digest featured an article about the “Littlest Lady With the Biggest Heart” in 1962 which launched annual trips to North America for speaking tours to raise money for the mission work. Dad coordinated many of those tours.

When Dad died in 1981, “Miss Lillian” called to offer condolences and soon had me smiling at the memories of my duties when Dad and Mom took her to various churches to speak. As a ten year old, it was my job to carry the giant Los Angeles telephone directory, which she sat on in the car, into the church so she could stand on it when she spoke. Unforgettable!

Don’t ever pass up the opportunity to get to know a missionary. You never know how God might use that person in your life – or in the lives of your kids and grandkids.


January 24, 2016

Discussion Questions

  1. As a Jesus follower, think about the conversation you will have with Jesus before you enter Heaven. What thoughts or emotions come to mind?
  2. Do you believe you’ll be given the benefit of every doubt as you talk with Jesus? Do you fear that conversation? Why? Why not?
  3.  We believe this conversation with Jesus will be grace filled and wonderful – we should not be overcome by guilt or fear this moment. However, we also believe Jesus will ask us to give an account about how we used our MOAT (Money, Opportunities, Abilities, and Time). If that conversation happened today, how have you invested for eternity in Heaven?
  4. Being as open and honest as you can, beginning today what would you change about how you’re using your MOAT?

Already But Not Yet

I can’t believe how fast time moves: today (January 21) would’ve been Lois’ 63rd birthday. Instead, she is already in Heaven basking in a City which is indescribably beautiful. I am fully confident she is with God, not because she was good; not because she helped scores of people; not because she prayed with people to accept Christ; not because she was a great wife, mother, and grandmother. Lois is in Heaven because Jesus redeemed her from sin and evil and she accepted that gift of salvation and followed Christ. In the end, Lois received the desire of her heart: to be with the God and Father of her Lord, Jesus Christ. She is experiencing all the wonder and fulfillment of Heaven.

When we think about Heaven, we often repeat Paul’s words, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21) But what does that mean? We live in the tension between the already and the not yet. We know God has prepared a personal place for those who have placed their trust in Him; it’s already done. But we are not there yet. Our loved ones who have gone ahead of us are embracing and enjoying the total presence of God in the very place that God intended for them from before the beginning.

Not one of us is immune to death; apart from the return of Christ, every one of us will die. Death comes in many forms: old age, chronic illness, accidents, cancer, or some unforeseen sudden failure of a critical organ in our body. Death is coming. But we are living between the already and the not yet.

As Christ-followers we have the opportunity (or obligation?) to respond to death in a way that is Biblically informed; an attitude which sets us apart. As Believers we know that death is not the end – it is actually the beginning. We know that death is not to be feared because to be “absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2Cor 5:8). We know that eternal life as joint heirs with Christ is to be valued far more than all the riches this world could possibly offer.

Whenever the negative emotions creep in, I remind myself that I am not on the throne, God is! His power and grace and mercy and presence are what I need – and I need that far more than I need Lois! Do I miss Lois? Yes. But I fully recognize that this journey isn’t about me. It’s all about God – the maker of the heavens and the earth; the great Giver who sent His only Son to pay the price for my sin; the Master of the universe who cares so much about me that He knows my every thought. So I center my thoughts on Him and live between the already and the not yet.


January 17, 2016


1) If someone would take a close and objective look at your life what would they identify as your treasure?

2) In what area(s) of your life might you be acting/thinking like the “Rich Fool” in the parable Jesus tells in Luke 12?

3) Beginning today, how will you use your time, abilities, and finances to make deposits in God’s Kingdom account?

4) What changes can you make to sharpen your focus and aim for Heaven as you make decisions, establish priorities, and manage finances?