Shortcuts (10/22/2017)

Our congregation just concluded its Annual Apple Butter Boil. We cleaned, cored and prepared 45 bushels of apples during the past week. We spend Saturday slowly cooking them down in ten kettles to make over 600 quarts. As I think about this process, I realize there’s a much faster way to do it. Now, don’t get me wrong. The apple butter we made is delicious. We just need to speed up the process. After putting a lot of thought into it, I have the perfect way to make instant apple butter. (more…)

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Being Disciples of Christ

On Sunday, October 8, approximately 70 people gathered to wrestle with the question, “What would it look like to be sold out to Jesus and be a dedicated disciple?” The meeting started with prayer and worship followed by discussing the following information:

Discipleship Requirements

Disciples of Jesus must:

*Believe the Bible is the true, inspired Word of God – even the verses we don’t like.

*Be devoted to reading the Bible and praying daily.

*Be obedient to the teachings in the Bible at all times.

*Be part of the discipleship group and not try to “go it alone.”

*Be supporters of other disciples – not judgmental or critical. We aren’t in a contest.

*Be willing to be misunderstood, ridiculed and even rejected by other people – even Christians.

*Allow Jesus into every part of our lives.

*Grow spiritually. People progress at different speeds – but we must progress.

*Quit making excuses about why they can’t do what God calls us to do. (more…)

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Practice Bigger (10/8/2017

My wife, Stephanie, and I have a riding mower that we use to mow our lawn. Regular maintenance is required if we want to keep it operating properly. This includes keeping the proper oil level in the engine. The section of the owner’s manual titled Adding Oil gives the following instructions:

“1) Place the tractor on a level surface and engage the brake pedal lock. Stop the tractor engine and remove the ignition key.

2) Clean the area around the oil level dipstick, dipstick tube, and the oil filter cap to prevent debris from entering the crankcase.

3) Remove the oil filler cap from the left valve cover and slowly pour in oil. Fill the crankcase until the oil level reaches the “Full” mark on the dipstick.

4) Reinstall the oil filler cap by screwing it securely into the valve cover.” (Cub Cadet Model 2206 Owner’s Manual)

These instructions are easy to understand and laid out step-by-step. All I have to do is what the manual says to do.

The truth is I don’t think I really need to follow the manual. My yard wasn’t created level so it’s OK if I park the mower on a hill to check the oil. There’s no need to worry about cleaning around the filler cap before I put oil in the engine. A little bit of dirt in the engine won’t hurt. It really doesn’t matter if I put the filler cap back on because the oil is down in the engine anyway. Most of it will stay in there. Besides, my mower is special. It was created to be different from all of the other mowers so the rules don’t apply to it. (more…)

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Serve and Receive Bigger (10/1/2017)

In fall of 2005, I was invited to join a group of Brethren who were going to Uganda and Sudan. Our main objective was to help the New Sudan Council of Churches erect a building in Southern Sudan. I had no doubt God was calling me to go on this trip so I spent weeks getting the necessary immunizations, taking care of paperwork and gathering supplies. I was told that no matter how much our group prepared to carry out our agenda, we should be ready for things to move slowly or to change at any moment. Uganda and Sudan aren’t like the United States.

A few days before we left, my father asked: “What will you be doing there?” I responded with, “We’re supposed to help build a compound but I don’t know anything else.”

Dad: “Where are you going to sleep?”

Me: “We taking tents but some of us might be able to sleep in huts. I’m not really sure.”

Dad: “What kinds of food are you eating.”

Me: “I don’t know.”

After getting these three responses, my dad just stared at me. His mouth didn’t speak any words but his face said, “Are you crazy?” I was OK with this. I was so certain God wanted me to go that I was prepared to face whatever came my way, even if it meant never returning home. I actually wrote letters to my family, gave them to a friend and asked him to distribute them if I didn’t return. Praise God the trip went well. Although we did experience some delays and changes in itinerary, our group was never in danger. (At least not that we knew about anyway.)

I returned home and went back to work in the family business, which was going through a very difficult time financially. We did our best to pull through and thought at one time were going to make it. However, things just kept getting worse.

One day I snapped. I let loose on God. “Why are you letting this happen? You know how hard we’re trying? When we pray, we feel that we keep getting signs to keep going? Are we not hearing you?”

This went on until was I tired from yelling and I started to get hoarse. It lasted about 10 minutes. After I calmed down, I felt bad and asked God to forgive me.

As I processed the way I approached my trip to Africa with the way I handled our business situation, I began to wrestle with something. Why is it that I trusted God with my death but I didn’t trust him with my life? (more…)

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Have Bigger Hearing (9/24/2017)

We live in a chaotic world. Our schedules are packed with working, taking care of our homes, family responsibilities and, when we have time, fun activities. On top of this, many of us are addicted to noise. Either the television, radio or smart phone has to be pumping out some type of stimuli at all times. When our lives are so busy, can we recognize and then hear the voice of God when he speaks to us?

Jesus says it’s extremely important for us to be able to do this.

In John 9, Jesus gives sight to a man who had been blind since birth. The Pharisees didn’t like this since Jesus healed him on the Sabbath. According to their understanding of the Old Testament law, Jesus couldn’t have been sent by God because healing someone was considered to be work. God forbad working on the Sabbath.

Later Jesus confronted the Pharisees about their spiritual blindness by referencing the well-known occupation of sheepherding. Sheep farming in 1st Century Palestine was much different than it is today in the United States. A shepherd stayed with his flocks around the clock. In the evening, he led them to the sheep pen. It was typically an enclosure made of stones or thorny branches with an opening in one wall. After the sheep entered the pen, the shepherd slept in the opening to act as a gate. This kept the sheep in and predators out. (more…)

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Be A Bigger Follower (9/17/2017)

Were you were brought up going to church? If you were, did you also bring your children up going to church? If were said “yes” to either one or both of these questions, let me ask you one more thing. Is there anywhere in the Bible where we’re told to “go to church”?

No. The New Testament is clear. The followers of Jesus “are” the church.

As part of the church, Jesus has high expectations for us. Luke 9:23-24 says,23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Jesus said his followers are to be disciples who deny themselves, take up their cross daily, lose their own lives and follow him.

For those of you who were brought up in the church, were you also taught to be a disciple of Jesus? If you brought your children to church, did you also teach them to be disciples of Jesus? Many of us who profess to be Christians can’t say “yes” to these two questions. There’s a reason for this. (more…)

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Worship Bigger (10/3/2017)

If I asked you to write down a definition for the word “worship”, what would you write? We’re familiar with the word. We use it all of the time. But do we really understand the meaning and importance of Biblical worship?

Let’s look at one passage in the Bible which discusses it. John 4:1-26 tells us, “Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (more…)

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Pray Bigger (9/3/2017)

In his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, author and pastor Jim Cymbala wrote, “You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning.  You can tell how popular the pastor or evangelist is by who comes on Sunday night.  But you can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting.” While we don’t have Sunday evening services or scheduled prayer meetings, this quote makes an important point. One of the best ways to measure our dedication and devotion to Jesus is by looking at our prayer life. The more we love Jesus, the more we pray. The less we love Jesus, the less we pray.

What does your prayer life reveal about your relationship with Jesus? (more…)

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Think Bigger (8/27/17)

A rare event happened to parts of our nation on Monday, August 21, 2017. They experienced a total solar eclipse. According to, it was the first total eclipse in the U.S. since February 26, 1979. That one covered only 5 states in the northwest and the weather was bleak. As we all know from the news coverage, solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the earth and the sun. The moon then blocks the sun’s rays from hitting the earth.

The sun is 400 times bigger than the moon but coincidentally, it’s 400 times further away from the earth than the moon. This means both the sun and the moon appear to be approximately the same size when the eclipse happens.

It’s not that big of a deal to us when the sun gets eclipsed by a much smaller moon. But, for us Christians, what happens when our understanding of God gets eclipsed by small thinking? (more…)

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Faith in Action (8/6/13)

Please take a moment and reflect on the following question: How do I define “faith” in Jesus Christ?

Even though we talk about faith all the time, it isn’t so easy to define it. According to the New International Dictionary of the Bible, “Faith is trust in the person of Jesus, the truth of his teaching, and the redemptive work he accomplished at Calvary, and, as a result, a total submission to him and his message, which are accepted as from God.” Basically, faith is submitting to Jesus because we believe he is who he said he is, he did what he said he’d do and that God sent him.

This brings us to another question: What should faith in Jesus look like in our lives? (more…)

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