Here are some family highlights from the past few months…
The Only Two Things I Really Dislike About Living in Callaway County
I love living in Callaway County, and the reasons I love living here (family, church family, the community, the schools, etc.) are far too numerous to list and explain. Praise God for this great county in this great state in this great country! Truly, this is a great place to live.
No place is perfect, though, and sometimes that reality sets in more than others. The two things I truly dislike about Callaway County have been on my mind lately for the reasons you will see below.
1. DISTANCE FROM EXTENDED FAMILY
Since nearly all of my family lives in Minnesota, I do not get to see them nearly as often as I would like. Also, one of my sisters, my brother-in-law, and two nieces live outside Chicago. Thankfully, they make it to Callaway County at least a couple of times each year, and we visit them, but we still do not see them nearly as often as I would love to see them.
My grandmothers (pictured below) are dear to me, and I wish I could see them weekly, not to mention a lot more often than once every year or two. Same for my aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Well, the distance from family (not the fault of Callaway County) is the biggest thing I dislike about living here. The second thing is very much the fault of this county, though (or at least people making some important decisions).
2. GRAVEL ROADS
I absolutely despise the high volume of gravel roads in Callaway County. We are unable to open our windows in the summer time because the dust from the gravel roads west of where we live is so overwhelming. And, we do not even live on a gravel road, but the roads southwest and west of us are gravel. Furthermore, many people in Callaway County live on gravel roads, and I visit a lot of people. If you have a tire business, this would be a great place for you to live because vehicle tires surely cannot last very long with all the gravel travel.
You might think, “Well, this is a farming community. Of course there are a lot of gravel roads.” Consider, though, that there are subdivisions on gravel roads in this county! There are roads where dozens of homes exist, and yet those roads are gravel. Regularly, there are gravel trucks and road graders “fixing” our roads. I never thought I would long for asphalt so much!
Now, you might be wondering why I am writing such a post. Despite my venting and complaining above, particularly about the gravel roads, I write this to say – this county must be pretty great if those are really the only two things I can think of that I sincerely dislike. And, one is not even the fault of Callaway County but just the reality for me (and some others like me).
So, if you can put up with some gravel dust but want to be around great people in a conservative county with good family values and good churches, consider moving to Callaway County. The cost of living is low (I would be happy to make it much higher for paved roads 😉), and the location is actually really good (rural and yet close to Jefferson City, Columbia, and the Lake of the Ozarks).
Gravel roads stink, but other than those, Callaway County does not. Praise the Lord for my home where I have now lived longer than any other place in my life!
Don’t Love Isolation
Our dog, Lottie, spotted a turtle walking across our driveway yesterday morning and was immediately curious. After watching the turtle slowly advance toward the house, Lottie decided to check it out for a quick sniff. Then, as the turtle remained still, Lottie proceeded to lie down and rest in the turtle’s company.
This is not unusual behavior for our golden lab. She does not love isolation but rather is always interested in the company of others – humans, other dogs, other animals, etc. While she gets plenty of alone time when the kids are at school and Marsha and I are working (and Lottie is “guarding” our front yard), she never chooses alone time when opportunities for company are available. If anyone in our family is outside, whether paying attention to Lottie or not, she will be right there. Busy doing something else? No problem – Lottie will lie next to you.
I believe we can learn a lesson from a lab here. Yes, there are times when we need to be alone, and some people need more alone time than others. Even Jesus “often withdrew to deserted places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). We ought not love isolation, though, but rather should long for the company of others. This is especially true if you are a follower of Jesus, the One who created you to live in fellowship with Him and with His church (i.e. see Hebrews 10:19-25).
Labs love to be around others. This is one of their characteristics and one of the reasons, along with their loyalty, that dogs are traditionally called “man’s best friend.”
Christ-followers love fellowship and worship with other Christ-followers. Our care and concern for one another is what proves our relationship with Jesus, as He said, “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Loving others requires relationships, and good, loving relationships require time together.
Do you love being with other Christ-followers? If you are a Christ-follower, the answer can only be yes. If you are quick to answer no to that question and/or you are trying to justify your lack of desire to be around other believers on a regular basis, please examine your heart and your faith to make sure you have truly surrendered your all to the Lord.
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands” (John 14:15), and He certainly commands our faithful commitment to a local church (i.e. see 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Ephesians 3; and again Hebrews 10:19-25).
In Matthew 16, Jesus founded the church. In Matthew 18, Jesus established the church’s authority. In Matthew 28, Jesus commissioned the church. And, throughout the book of Acts and church history since then, Jesus has grown the church through the power of His Holy Spirit, the partnership of His people, their proclamation of His gospel, their perseverence in the midst of persecution, and His continued provision in keeping His promises.
Please understand, the church was and is Jesus’ idea, not our idea, and there is no plan B. Thus, it is not possible for a genuine follower of Jesus to lack in his or her desire to be in fellowship with a local church. Sure, circumstances will arise (sickness, military deployment, temporary work requirements, etc.) when involvement becomes inconsistent, but the desire will always be there. The commitment to return will be obvious. Otherwise, saving faith is surely missing, is it not?
John made this clear when he was talking about unbelievers who proved themselves so when they were no longer involved in local fellowship with believers in the church: “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us” (1 John 2:19).
Those who love Jesus love His church and thus love being with His church. Those who do not love the church and isolate themselves from her prove themselves to also not love Jesus.
Do not love isolation. Follow Jesus and love His church. If this is a struggle for you, pray for the Lord’s grace, mercy, and help. He desires that you walk with Him and find fulfillment in Him. The church is part of His plan for that to happen.
Learn a lesson from Lottie, and do not pursue isolation. Pursue the company of those who love Jesus and will thus love you and help you to grow closer to Him. All glory be to Christ!
Obeying When You Don’t Feel Like It
As a dad, one thing I have never said to my kids is, “If your heart is in it and it feels right, do what I tell you to do.” Rather, I expect them to obey me, whether they feel like it or not. If you are a parent, I am sure you are the same way, right?
When I recently asked my kids to help me load my truck with chunks of concrete and asphalt (from the piles of dirt in the picture above), I did not expect they would jump for joy and celebrate the chance for manual labor on a muggy day. Still, I needed some help, and it was good for them to help me.
Granted, we can make mistakes as parents because we are sinners and far from perfect. Still, we give our children instructions and expect their obedience because we are trying to teach them right from wrong, educate them on the value of things like hard work and discipline, want what is best for them, and know (usually) better than they do what they need.
To an infinitely greater degree, of course, our Creator knows what we need. He knows what is best for us and has given us His Word to guide us. For His glory and for our good, He expects our obedience, and that expectation is not contingent upon our feelings. Because we are sinners who do not always have a great attitude, there will be plenty of times when we do not feel like obeying God. Will we obey anyway? Will I? Will you?
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Ezra 7 on “Reclaimed Obedience” because God’s Word is essential for all of us. We must look to the Lord and depend on the Lord for growth in our obedience to the Lord.
No, we will never, on this side of eternity, be perfect in our obedience. Jesus alone was and is that, and He died on the cross for our disobedience and brokenness. He took the punishment that we all deserve for our sinful disobedience. Then, Jesus rose from the dead and conquered sin and death for all of eternity. By turning to Him for forgiveness and salvation, we can and will live with Him forever.
One of the clearest and most important evidences of that salvation is growing obedience to the Word of God, both when we feel like it and when we do not. As the Holy Spirit of God transforms us and shapes us, too, we will grow in our desire to obey. By the grace of God, though, we will learn to obey even when the desire is lacking.
Will you seek and trust the Lord to help you be like Ezra, who “determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10)? No matter how you feel, as God to help you obey Him in all things.
Wondering through Winter
For various reasons, this has been a strange start to 2021 for our family. Like always with all people, there have been ups and downs, so that is not really unusual. I have found myself wondering a lot, though – wondering what is next, wondering what to do with seemingly important decisions, wondering what to do with not-so-important decisions, etc.
I have to be careful that I do not just wonder my way through winter and beyond. Instead, I am reminded of my need to pray more and wonder less because when my mind gets to wondering more than praying, I tend to worry about things that could be. That is not only unhelpful, but it is sinful.
Jesus said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
Recently, our dog Lottie has had some mysterious health problems. She was sick enough that we brought her to the vet and were even concerned she might not survive. Still, we are not sure what is wrong with her, although she has drastically improved, thankfully. There were a few times, though, that when I went to check on her, I wondered if she would be alive. Never did I imagine I would pray much for a dog, let alone this much, but it is better to pray than to worry.
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Those requests even include care for our dogs, right? I believe so.
Shortly before Christmas, I had COVID-19. Then, Marsha and Zoe got the virus, but Noah, Levi, Silas, and Micah all tested negative. The combination of all those things led to the boys missing a few weeks of school and the kids spending a lot of extra time at home in isolation from others. Marsha and I found ourselves wondering – how do we navigate all of this? How do we communicate with others what we are doing, why some are in quarantine and some are not, etc.? What will people think? How will people perceive our actions? What if they make wrong assumptions?
Yes, I prayed a lot but not nearly enough. I found myself wondering and then worrying far too often. What does wondering worry accomplish? Nothing good.
If I spent as much time in prayer as I did in wondering worry, I would make wiser decisions, be a better leader and communicator, and be more faithful to the Word of God. Imagine if I spent far more time in prayer!
There are more and more examples I could give of my failures, but hopefully, I have shared enough to both challenge and encourage you to give your worries and fears to the Lord. Seek Him through His Word. Rely upon the work of His Spirit in and through your life. He is sufficient, and if you truly know Him, He will never leave you or forsake you. Thus, we need not ever worry when we can always turn to Him.
Fall, here we come!
Fall has arrived, and this is my favorite part of the year because the weather is great, football is fun, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. Here are some pictures from the last couple of weeks…
We hope you are having a good start to your fall, too. Are there any ways we can pray for you? If so, please let us know. May God bless you as you seek to honor and live for Him!
Like which dog are you?
Our golden lab, Lottie, (and I assume most dogs are this way) has a certain, distinguishable walk when she is in trouble and a very different walk when she is not in trouble. She has a cowardly walk, and she has a confident walk. If she does something wrong and I yell at her, then she puts her tail between her legs and walks – almost crawls – in a hunched-over motion that communicates an overwhelming sense of fear and trepidation. When she knows all is well, though, her tail wags, and she has an energetic bounce to her step. There is a stark contrast between these two walks.
THE INITIAL APPROACH
When Lottie does slouch and cower in fear, she does so for good reason. She does so because she is in trouble, and she knows it. Rightly, she is fearful.
Similarly, when we turn to the Lord for the forgiveness of sins, we ought to come with a posture of shame and humility. We ought to fear His righteous judgment, which we all deserve. Unlike dogs, though, who likely do not feel bad for what they do wrong but more likely are fearful because they got caught, we need to recognize the tragedy of our sin and the resulting brokenness of our relationship with God.
Thus, our initial approach to the Lord our God should be one of shame and humility. While that posture, to some extent, should continue throughout our lives – regularly turning to the Lord in repentance and crying out to Him for forgiveness – there is indeed a difference in our posture when our hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit.
THE CONTINUED CONFIDENCE
When we surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking Him to forgive us and restore us into a right relationship with God, our hearts are changed. We receive His promised Holy Spirit and the guilt and shame are taken away. Yes, we still must repent and turn to Him in humility every single day, but the condemnation is gone. For that reason, there is a difference in our continued posture before our holy God.
Yes, we are still sinners. Yes, we still deserve God’s judgment and wrath. Yet, our faith in Jesus Christ makes possible a confidence in our relationship with God because His sacrifice satisfies that deserved judgment, and His resurrection assures our eternal victory.
“Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering” (Romans 8:1-3).
When our dog goes from a cowering posture to a confident posture, she does so because she knows all is right. She is no longer in trouble. She no longer fears my judgment and wrath. She is like a completely different dog. A fearful dog looks and behaves much different than a confident dog.
Like which dog are you?
Yes, we should always walk in humility and in the fear of the Lord. Yet, we can also walk in confident assurance because of Christ and through Christ. If we have turned to Him in repentance and faith, we can have a completely different posture than we had before.
“Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time” (Hebrews 4:16).
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 4:14-5:10 on how “Jesus Offers Better Forgiveness.” Only forgiveness found in and through Christ allows you to “approach the throne of grace with boldness.” Only His forgiveness is superior and enough to make you right with God, and only His forgiveness will enable you to walk with an energetic assurance that points people to Him.
Let us have humility and confidence because of who we are in Christ.
Summer Time before Summer
Spring Picture Highlights
Well, this has certainly been a unique spring season. While we obviously pray for a quick end to this pandemic, we praise God for the time we have been able to spend together as a family. He has been gracious to us, so we are grateful for His love and provision, our health, our family, our church family, and much more.
Here are some picture highlights from the past couple of months, followed by a video the kids did in reflecting on our adoption of Micah three years ago…
No Silly Barking
When my kids drive their remote-controlled car, our dog, Lottie, goes crazy. She chases and barks at the harmless toy as long as it moves. Never does she tired from such activity, even if it goes on for several minutes. These are just 24 seconds of evidence…
If we fail to have a gospel-centered perspective in our response to evil against us, we will be just like Lottie. We will bark and bark, and while the barking might make sense to those of us barking, it is ultimately ridiculous. Only the right perspective will allow us to see that, though.
GOSPEL PERSPECTIVE REQUIRED
When we only think about ourselves and our situation and our frustration, we will not respond to evil in a God-honoring way. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on “Living Good” (Romans 12:17-21). In that message, I hope to communicate two gospel-centered responses to evil, challenging you to respond to evil based on God’s response to you.
The gospel does that for us, changing our perspective so that we do not respond to evil like barking dogs. Sure, there are times when barking is necessary, but how often do we bark when simply surrendering our cares to the Lord is required?
“If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). If you surrender your life to Jesus Christ and ask Him to give you a new heart, He not only saves you for eternity; He changes you now. He begins a work in your heart that affects everything about you, including your response to evil. Living at peace with others because of the peace God has given you becomes a desire, a fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).
BARKING OR PEACE?
How about you? Do you find yourself constantly barking, whether outwardly or inwardly, or are you experiencing a growing sense of peace – peace with God and peace with others? If you are struggling and really just want to bark, would you consider crying out to God for help instead? Only He can give you the peace that passes all understanding, and that peace will only come when you embrace the gospel and follow after Him.
Some day, if not sooner than later, we will see our barking for what it is – fruitless futility. Yes, we should pursue justice but not apart from the perspective that justice ultimately and perfectly belongs to the Lord. In that truth, we must have peace. Praise be to God!