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?

HEAVEN: The Reality

January 10, 2016


1)   Pause for one minute and engage your imagination to think about Heaven. Describe what comes to mind.

2)   Do you know for certain – without any doubts – you will be in Heaven when you die? How?

3)   Jesus is preparing a personal place for you in Heaven. How do you respond to such a promise? What kind of emotions and thoughts come to mind?

4)   If you knew for certain that you would be in Heaven tomorrow, how would today change?


I admit it. Sometimes I get caught up in the hype of churches having 10 Christmas Eve services; top contemporary Christian recording artists as guests, and production teams making custom videos.  It’s easy to get caught up in the “bigger is better” trend.

And I love technology. It’s a constant battle to exercise self-control to keep from up-grading my phone every six months and to resist the temptation to get the “latest and greatest.” Advertisers do a great job of making us think we need the newest version.

On top of the first two, I love to eat! One of my favorite shows is “Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives” and I’ve come close accepting Guy’s challenge to spread some of that pesto on a flip-flop. The ability of the camera crew to capture everything but the aroma drives my salivary glands crazy and certainly increases my appetite.

But here is what I’m learning: The biggest, the newest, and the most appetizing is not reality; 99% of my life is lived in the ordinary, the mundane, and the routine.

Yes, we have mountain-top experiences when God speaks and moves in ways that are almost indescribable. Yes, we sometimes find ourselves in the valley when God carries us through grief, despair, and pain. But life is lived mostly on the plain – in the rhythm and routine of family, work, and worship.

God meets us in the ordinary.

I sense God speaking, moving, convicting in the quietness of my drive from home to church; when I’m praying at my desk; as I’m visiting someone in the hospital; while I’m listening to a friend. That’s what my ordinary looks like and it’s in those times when I most consistently meet God.

Will you expect God to meet you in the ordinary? Listen. Wait. Be still. He is there and He is not silent.

May we each meet God in the ordinary – as we serve, worship, study His Word, and challenge each other. May we encounter His powerful presence in our work – whether it’s building a house, preparing a meal, or driving a truck. May we experience His fullness in our marriages, families, and friendships. God is already there in all the mundane and routine. God meets us in the ordinary.


Christmas Eve we were all singing by the light of the candles we were holding. I was on the front row because TJ, Levi, and I were leading the service which was coming to a close. As we sang, Sarah, Natalie and Bo – my three youngest grandchildren – came and hugged and stood with me. That made my Christmas for 2015!

I am thoroughly enjoying being the pastor for Northgate Church in Ottumwa. In some ways, the past year has been difficult as I’ve been reminded of all the ways Lois partnered with me in being a pastor. But God is gracious; I get to work with a gifted associate pastor and there are several Godly couples I’m learning to call on when being a single pastor might be awkward.

The big transition this year was for Kari Beth & Jeremy, Sarah & Natalie. They moved to LeClaire, IA when Jeremy received a promotion from John Deere which required a move to their headquarters. I am fortunate its only 2.5 hours away and I don’t think we’ve gone more than three weeks without seeing each other!

Tri State camp was in July and once again I had the privilege of leading staff as we asked God to use us in the lives of over 100 teenagers. I am continually amazed by the transformation I witness both in the lives of campers and staff.

In August I took some time off after a conference in Colorado Springs and met sister-in-law Beth & Bill for ice cream and then drove over the mountains to visit my Aunt Harriet and cousin Sue in Montrose, CO. On the way home I stopped and spent a day in Abilene, KS visiting the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

In October I once again participated in the CareGivers Forum in Green Lake, WI. CareGivers is a gathering of people who run retreat and counseling centers for pastors and missionaries and I’ve attended this annual conference since 2006. Even though I no longer work as a pastor-to-pastors, I do remain in contact with many of those people and find great value in the fellowship and encouragement as well as the networking.

I still live five miles north of Joy and Tony and their four boys and see them often. Brady, Broc, Brandt, and Bo are very active boys – there’s always something going on. I watched at least three baseball games a week from May-June!

Peter lives in West Des Moines where he is on staff at Lutheran Church of Hope in their IT department. We try to get together about once every six weeks but both of us are tied to church schedules so we sometimes default to long phone calls.

This year I have watched God work miracles in people’s lives as He turns chaos into order; depression into clarity; confusion into direction; grief into comfort; and darkness into light! I am so grateful to be a witness to His power.