Yesterday, September 17, we had Chemo infusion number six. Everything went very well. Lois’ blood pressure is down – that’s a definite answer to prayer. The Dr still wants to see the BP closer to “normal” but we were all relived to know that prayer (and the medication) is working.

Lois had no discernable side effects to the infusion. She does get an IV bag of minerals (we laughingly call them her “rocks”) and she eats two Tums every hour to boost her calcium. At least once per hour (the infusion takes a little over four hours) Lois grabs the “tree” holding all the bags of fluids and drugs and goes for a walk. The Drs and nurses are amazed that she isn’t experiencing side effects. It’s another opportunity to give God credit.

On the way home (an hour and 45 min drive) we stopped to see my Mom, Clarice, who is doing better than we expected at the Manor House Care Center in Sigourney, IA. Lois kept moving once we arrived home and is doing well this morning.

We respond with a personalization of Philippians 1:18-21 from the Message:

“So how are we to respond? We’ve decided that we really don’t care about the cancer; whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time the subject comes up, Christ is proclaimed, so we just cheerfully go on!

And we’re going to keep that celebration going because we know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through Lois will be done. We can hardly wait to continue on this course. We don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to Lois in this cancer journey only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether she lives or dies. Cancer hasn’t defeated us! Alive, she’s Christ’s messenger; dead, she’s his bounty. Life versus even more life! We can’t lose.”

Thanks for praying for and with us!


“But I don’t like hot carrots!” Brady, our 6 yr old grandson was protesting his Mom’s declaration that he needed to eat six carrot slices from the bowl of homemade beef soup that he’d been working on for some time.  He kept on thinking of reasons he needed to get up from the table: 1. Dada (that would be me) needed to see the trophy he’d won at recent pedal-power tractor pull.  2. There was a note in his backpack from school. (Mom had already seen that one.) 3. He needed to go to the bathroom.

Mom would not be distracted and insisted that Brady eat six carrots from his soup bowl. I was sitting next to him and he asked me to eat them for him! I declined the offer. Finally, after some angry tears, he ate the carrots.

We each face things we don’t like. Last night for Brady it was hot carrots.  Pastors and church leaders always face tasks, situations and people we don’t like. And, like Brady, we often procrastinate, protest and seek distractions as try to avoid those “hot carrots.”

Maybe you can relate to the pastor who detests keeping records and receipts in order to get reimbursed for mileage and expenses. Or the elder who avoids returning the phone call from the lady who always complains about the temperature at church. Or the pastor who declines nursing home services because he remembers how it smelled when his grandfather was a patient.

Delaying the inevitable usually makes the situation worse.

Last night we tried to explain to Brady that the carrots wouldn’t taste any different from the rest of the soup ingredients but logic didn’t matter. It rarely does when we’re trying to avoid “hot carrots.”

Every day I face tasks, situations and people I would rather ignore.  Although I’m 47 years older than Brady, I’m still learning to face the “hot carrots” right away. Procrastination just makes things worse.

Putting off the phone call I don’t want to make or postponing answering the email that I would rather ignore, seems to impact everything else that needs to get done. Like you, I can always think of something that must be more important than the expense report. (Where is that trophy, anyway?)

As followers of Jesus – and especially as leaders – we are called to obedience and faithfulness in the enjoyable as well as in the unpleasant. It takes self-control and self-discipline to take up the cross and follow; to bear the burden. Taking care of “hot carrots” is not suffering but it is necessary.

People are watching us.  Our families are watching us.  Most importantly, God sees and hears us as we protest and seek a way out of doing what we don’t like. Deep down we all know the “hot carrots” go along with everything else in the bowl we do like.

Stop procrastinating. Eat your “hot carrots!”



by Jerome Van Kuiken

“The Trinity is the cross upon which the mind is crucified.”  This warning from Russian Orthodox thinker Anthony Ugolnik highlights a basic problem Christians face.  I confess belief in the Trinity:  that God is both one and at the same time three.  But can I make any sense of this confession?  Can I explain my belief to others – as a pastor, to my congregation?  As a friend, to my  friend who is a Jehovah’s Witness?  As a father, to my daughter Hannah?

As a matter of fact, Hannah had the Trinity explained to her when she was only four years old – but not by me.  Driving home from church one Sunday, I was startled when a voice from the car seat behind me recited, “It’s a shamrock.  It’s a metaphor: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; one God, three persons.”  Astonished, I realized that Hannah had picked up these lines from the VeggieTales video Sumo of the Opera, which had a spot about St. Patrick!

This experience offers a solution to our problem of thinking and speaking about God.  Ugolnik is right: we can’t fully wrap our minds around the Trinity.  After all, we’re talking about God!  But metaphors, symbols and such give us ways to talk about the Trinity so that people get an inkling of what we’re saying.  In the spirit of St. Patrick, then, I offer here a sampler of word-pictures of the Trinity, meant to help those caught between a shamrock and a hard place.

Not Separate, But Equal. The logic behind the shamrock metaphor goes like this: just as one shamrock has three look-alike leaves, so the one God has three persons who are alike in character, power, and glory.  Roman Catholic theologian Elizabeth Johnson takes this idea a step further by comparing God with DNA.  The shape of DNA is a double helix: two strands of genetic material woven together to form the building block of all biological life.  Now imagine DNA with an extra strand, Johnson says – a triple helix that’s the greatest source of life ever!  That’s what God is like: three equal persons who together give life to everything.  Word-pictures like these fit well with Bible passages that describe Christians as being baptized in the one name shared equally by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19); equipped equally by the same Spirit, Lord, and God (1 Corinthians 12:4-6); and blessed equally by the One on the throne, his sevenfold Spirit, and Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:4, 5 NLT).

Different Can Be Good! But just because all three members of the Trinity are equal doesn’t mean there aren’t differences between them.  A favorite object lesson for children compares the Trinity to the yolk, white, and shell that make up an egg.  Longtime Methodist evangelist and educator Jon Tal Murphree uses the illustration of a musical chord composed of three different notes.  The Bible itself teaches that God the Father planned our salvation, Jesus Christ died to purchase it, and the Holy Spirit applies it to our lives (Ephesians 1:3-14; 1 Peter 1:2).  We’re also told that the world comes from God the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2), and by the power of the Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30).

A number of metaphors from church tradition beautifully picture how the different persons in the Trinity and their various roles work in harmony for our good.  Do you like to talk?  Then maybe you can relate to this metaphor:  Psalm 33:6 reads, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (ESV).  The Hebrew word for “breath” in this verse is the same word translated “Spirit” elsewhere.  Also, John 1:1-3 speaks of Jesus as “the Word” by whom everything was created.  So in Psalm 33:6, you have the Speaker, the Word he speaks, and the Breath/Spirit by which he speaks – a biblical picture of the Trinity at work.

Do you ever talk to yourself?  Do you ever answer back?  If so, then you and your thoughts are having a conversation within your mind or spirit.  It’s as if you’re more than one person while you’re in dialog with yourself.  You can probably see where I’m going with this: in the Trinity there is God (the Father); there is his Spirit, who knows his thoughts (1 Corinthians 2:11); and there are his thoughts themselves, which the Bible identifies with Jesus, God’s Wisdom (Proverbs 8:22-31; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30) or his Idea (John 1:1, Cotton Patch Version).

Do you enjoy nature?  Yet another metaphor envisions God the Father as the sun, which reigns over the earth from the heavens above with great power and such splendor that we can’t even look directly at it (1 Timothy 6:15, 16).  Christ is the sunlight that comes down from heaven to earth, making life and sight possible (John 1:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Hebrews 1:3).  The Holy Spirit is the invisible heat and energy given off by the sunlight.  All this may change what you think of when you sing, “You Are My Sunshine”!

Do you like working with your hands?  My favorite metaphor views Christ and the Spirit as the two arms and hands of the Heavenly Father.  The roots of this metaphor run back to Isaiah: In Isaiah 53:1, he calls Christ “the arm of the Lord.”  Later he pictures God as carrying the people of Israel out of Egypt (63:9), and links the Holy Spirit with God’s “glorious arm” (63:11, 12 ESV).  In the beginning, God’s two hands worked together to fashion the universe.  Now God’s two arms are opened wide, inviting prodigal children into the Trinity’s embrace.  Differences between the members of the Trinity only serve to unite them to each other and us to them.

Personal Matters.  The members of the Trinity are equal, different, and united as one God.  But they are also three persons.  The movie Bruce Almighty and the TV show Joan of Arcadia missed this point: they both portrayed God as only one person who plays different parts.  This incorrect understanding of God is called modalism, and if it were true, then there would be no interpersonal relationships within the Trinity.  But look what happens at Jesus’ baptism, for instance:  God the Father speaks, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, and Jesus obeys, all at the same time (Matthew 3:13-17 and parallels). There by the Jordan River, we see all three persons of the Trinity acting in relationship to each other.

Modalism lies behind the illustration that the one God is three in the same way that I am one person who is a husband to my wife, a father to my daughter, and a pastor to my congregation.  The popular object lesson that compares the Trinity with water can run the risk of teaching modalism, too.  Just as H2O can be a liquid, solid, or gas, so the illustration goes, God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  But we don’t usually think of H2O as existing in all three states at once.  So as not to mislead people, the best way to use this object lesson is to have a glass of cold water with an ice cube in it and plastic wrap over the top to catch the water vapor.  That way, all three states are present at once, just as all three persons are present at once in the Trinity.

How can we illustrate the fact that the one God has, not just three parts, but three persons?  Grotesque images of a three-headed monster or Siamese triplets joined at the heart come to mind!  But Scripture gives us some better ways to picture God as three persons.  In Genesis 1:27, God creates human beings in his own image.  What is that image?  The very next lines say that God created them as male and female, then commissions them to have children (1:27, 28).  Genesis 2:24 follows up, telling us that husband and wife join together to become one flesh.  How does marriage “image” God?  It shows us how two persons can be united as one by their love for each other, a love so powerful that it takes the form of a third person – a child who is itself for nine months united as one with its mother.  Like every other metaphor, this one has its limits: each member of the Trinity has always existed, and God is not a sexual being. But as long as we respect the metaphor’s limits, it can help us see how three persons can be united as one God.

Another classic illustration based on family relationships draws on the story of Abraham.  Genesis 24 records how Abraham sends his most trusted servant to get a wife for his son Isaac.  The servant travels far and returns with the lovely Rebekah.  In the same way, God the Father sends his Spirit into the world to bring Jesus, the Son of God, the church as his bride.

This emphasis on God as three distinct persons has begun to influence popular culture.  The Matrix film trilogy included the characters Neo (a young man who fulfills prophecy by saving his people), Morpheus (a father-figure to Neo), and Trinity (a young woman who helps Neo and even brings him back from the dead).  Likewise, William Young’s bestselling novel, The Shack, allegorizes God the Father as a black woman and the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman alongside of Jesus.  As with modalism, though, we have to be careful not to push things too far.  If modalism falls into the trap of claiming, “1 God = 1 person,” the opposite trap is to think, “3 persons = 3 Gods.”  This trap is tritheism, or “three god-ism.”  In Geoffrey Chaucer’s book The Canterbury Tales, one character tells a tale that shows the trouble with tritheism: Long ago and far away, two warriors fell in love with the same girl.  The warriors chose to settle the issue with a duel.  On the morning of the duel, the first warrior went to the temple of Venus, goddess of love, and prayed that she would give him victory so he could win the girl he loved.  The second warrior prayed to Mars, god of war, for help in defeating his rival.  The girl herself prayed at the temple of Diana, the virgin goddess, saying (more or less), “O Diana, you know I really don’t love either of these guys!  Please work things out so I can stay a virgin and devote myself to your temple.”  You see the problem: how can three different gods with three different specialties and agendas ever agree as to the outcome of the duel?  The result is divine gridlock!  The Trinity is not like that: the three persons together make up only one God with one plan, one will, and one moral character, who together share one life in such a radical way that each person of the Trinity doesn’t exist on his own, but only in relationship with the other two.

One Last Word About the Three.  Along with my other roles, I also teach theology at a Bible college.  Each year, I ask my students if they’ve ever heard a sermon on the Trinity.  Very few tell me that they have.  If belief in the one God as three persons is a vital part of our Christian faith, then why aren’t we proclaiming it more?  I suspect that part of the problem lies in our own uncertainty about how to understand and explain our belief.  It’s my hope that the metaphors I’ve shared will equip us all – pastors, teachers, parents, and the rest of us – to think and speak more clearly about the One who is, as the hymn says, “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”


And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:7

Wednesday, September 3, started off with lab work and then a 90 minute wait for the CT scan. Unlike many of the patients around us, Lois didn’t struggle with drinking the “glow juice” but the area was crowded and we ended up sitting on a window ledge for a long time. At 11 am we found a cafeteria serving baked potatoes with all the fixins’ and Lois was relieved to be able to eat something.

“Hurry up and wait” seemed to be the word for the day as we waited in the oncology clinic for another 90 minutes.  Both Drs. Iyengar and Halfdanarson walked into the exam room at different times and started with similar words: “Finally we have some good news!”

The CT scan showed the tumors have not grown and some of them even look smaller.  It shows the liver is smaller and in the physical exam it definitely feels softer. That, combined with best numbers yet on the lab work, is evidence that the cancer is no longer increasing.  For us – and you – it is evidence of answered prayer!

Once again, a suspicious spot showed up in the lower lobe of the right lung but even if it is cancer, the chemo treatments should be attacking it as effectively as the cancer in the liver and the Drs. are not overly concerned.  If the spot is still visible when the next CT scan is done, there will be more discussion about what to do.

The Oncology Drs. sent us right to the Infusion center for another round of Chemo. For the next four infusions there will be no change in the Chemo cocktail.  The infusion process took until 5:30 pm and Lois had no reactions this time. Another answer to prayer!

We waited to leave the Infusion Center until everyone was comfortable and Lois was all hooked up to the fanny pack chemo pump which will continue to push drugs into her system for 46 hours.

Going to Iowa City will remain on our calendar every-other week for the foreseeable future.  On October 29 Lois will have another marathon day of testing and the combination of Chemo drugs will be re-evaluated.

Because you have so wonderfully shared in the tough news we have dealt with since May, we wanted you to also share in our comfort. God is in control. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow but we rejoice in His presence and help today.  Again, thanks for praying!


Great Communicators develop and continuously sharpen skills that enable them to both convey and receive information so that it is understood and acted upon when appropriate. Becoming a great communicator is hard work and people striving to be effective in this area put in a lot of effort as writers and speakers and especially as listeners.

Great communication is extremely important for fully devoted followers of Christ because we have such an incredibly important message. As the Body of Christ and as individuals we need to make an extra effort to communicate with excellence.

Here are some ideas that might promote better communication in our churches:

1. BECOME A SKILLFUL LISTENER. Sometimes we get confused and forget that without listeners, no communication takes place. Turn off the radio and TV. Look at the person talking. Take notes when appropriate. When possible, repeat back to the other person what you think you heard and allow them to correct you if needed. Feedback is the best test for effective listening.

2. DISMISS PRE-CONCEIVED CONCLUSIONS. We do this a lot by entering into a conversation or even sitting down to listen to a message and assuming we know what’s going on. Maybe the conversation with my friend starts off with a statement about how much gas costs and I assume he will complain about his small paycheck instead of listening and learning about the new website to help people find the lowest price. Instead of listening to the money-saving information, I’m thinking about my “speech” on how to be satisfied with what he has.

3. STOP THINKING THE WORST. This is a very significant challenge for a lot of Christians. We have this propensity to assume the worst. If someone in authority leaves a message on our voice mail, we assume that we’re in trouble. Or if a person we’ve had a disagreement with speaks our name in a conversation on the other side of the fellowship hall, we assume they are bad-mouthing us. Why not try thinking the best? When we see a friend from church eating by herself in a restaurant, why do we assume her marriage is in trouble? Instead, maybe we should consider the possibility that her husband loves her so much he’s taking care of the kids tonight so she can have the evening to herself!

4. STAMP OUT SELFISHNESS. “Look out for number one” seems to be the slogan of our culture. We talk about “my rights” and get red-in-the-face angry when someone even suggests that we might be wrong. The opening line of Rick Warren’s best-selling book, Purpose Driven Life, ought to be emblazoned on our T-shirts and worn daily; “It’s not about you!” The example Jesus left us with is one of self-sacrifice – not exactly a popular concept, but we still need to practice this spiritual discipline. If I can set aside my selfishness for just one conversation I might discover how to reach out to someone who is really hurting.

5. INJECT SOME HUMOR. Not the patronizing or destructive statements we normally laugh at because they are cruel but true humor that begins with being able to laugh at myself. Most of the humor on TV is done at the expense of someone else but we need to begin to look at the common situations in life and see where we can laugh with each other and not at each other.

6. DON’T CREATE TRIANGLES. Conflicts do occur – it’s one of the realities of life. How we handle conflict speaks volumes about our character and Christ-like-ness. To trianglize means that when person A has something against person B, instead of going directly to person B to get it straightened out, person A goes to person C to complain and malign person B. Person C then feels they must tell person B what A has said and then person B goes to person D and person C goes to person E and the triangles continue to form. This is very destructive in the Household of Faith. We MUST learn to practice Matthew 18 and go directly to the person we have a conflict with and get it worked out. When this is practiced Biblically it sometimes means that people need to come under the discipline of the church for refusal to forgive and move on.

Great Communication is hard work. But when we make the effort to really listen, drop our pre-conceived conclusions and think the best instead of the worst; when we take ourselves out of the center and use genuine humor to disarm our defensive emotions; then we are able to practice the principles of forgiveness and enjoy New Testament fellowship.


If you are in ministry, you are going to face opposition from the Devil. If you get up in the morning and you don’t face the Devil head on, right at the start of the day, it means you’re going in the same direction. He is opposed to everything you stand for. He hates anybody who’s sold out to Jesus Christ. He will do anything he can to defeat you.

So how do we fight this spiritual battle? Here are six essential steps.

1. Acknowledge the adversary. Realize Satan is real. Peter tells us, “Be alert, be on watch. Your enemy the Devil roams around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Be firm in your faith and resist him because you know that your fellow believers in all the world are going through the same kind of suffering.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Whenever you’re being spiritually attacked, just remember: Welcome to the club. It’s proof that you’re a believer. It’s proof that you’re making an impact. The more of an impact you’re making, the more the Devil is going to fight you. You never outgrow it. It just gets more intense.

2. Accept Jesus’ authority. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:19) The Bible says if you are a believer, you are given the authority of Christ in spiritual warfare. You have the right to fight back. You have the right to bind and to loose.

3. Put on the armor. The famous passage on armor is Ephesians 6:11-17: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the Devil’s schemes. Have the belt of truth buckled around your waste and the breastplate of righteousness and have your feet fitted with the Gospel of peace. Take up the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” You’ll notice six pieces of armor in the passage.

* Truth
* Righteousness
* Gospel of peace
* Faith
* Salvation
* The Word of God

Every piece of this armor is mental preparation for battle. That’s what the armor is all about. You need to put on truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God mentally before you do ministry – whether you’re preaching, leading a Bible study, leading worship, or counseling a grieving member of your community. Why? You expect that you are going to be attacked, so you need your armor on first.

4. Aim the artillery. Spiritual warfare takes place primarily in our thought life. When somebody is opposing you in your ministry, they’re not the real problem. The problem is the thoughts the Devil’s giving them to oppose you. The problem is not that person. The problem is what they’re acting on. You always act on what you think. They’re getting thoughts from the wrong source. There are only two sources for thoughts. When we get thoughts from God, we call it inspiration. When we get thoughts from the Devil, we call it temptation.

We have four weapons in these battles against evil thoughts.

1. The Truth. The truth, God’s Word, is our sword. It cuts through all the mustard. It gets right to the point. When you are in a conflict, the question you want to ask yourself is this: What does God say about this?

2. Humility. The more you humble yourself before God, the more power you will have in your life (James 4: 6-7). That’s just the way it works. As we minister to others, we need to continually acknowledge God’s hand in what we are doing. He’s the one who empowers our ministry. We’re simply his vessel. In humility, we find real and lasting power in ministry.

3. Faith. Without even talking to you in detail, I can tell you exactly what God is doing in your ministry. He’s doing what you expect him to do. Faith is a powerful, powerful tool. (1 John 5:4)  I don’t know why, but when I preach and I expect people to respond, they do.

4. Praise. Revelation 12:11-12 says, “They overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony. Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you who inhabit them.” How did they overcome the Devil? By the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. They were praising God. The Bible says when people praise God, “[he] inhabits the praises of his people.” Sometimes after a particular worship service, I honestly feel like Mickey Mouse could preach and people would come to know Christ. The praise has cleansed the air. There’s power in the praise of God.

5. Call on the Holy Spirit. You need to say, “God, fill me with your Spirit as I’m about to do this.” Whether you’re preparing a message, preaching, counseling someone, training your leaders – whatever you’re doing – ask God to fill you with his Spirit.

6. Avoid all distractions. If you’re going to be effective in ministry – in battle – you’ve got to focus yourself. You know what’s important in life. There are so many things that want a piece of your time. The good can be the enemy of the best.

I have one person to please and only one – the Lord Jesus Christ. And if I’m pleasing him, that’s what is going to count at the end of my life. Avoid the distractions. If you get distracted, the enemy is going to catch up with you.

So what’s distracting you from ministry?