My Crown

A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a wife who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones” (Proverbs 12:4). I praise God that I have a crown – and no rottenness in my bones. While I might not have many other crowns, if any, I have been blessed for nearly 20 years with a wife of noble character.

Last month was “pastor appreciation month” for many churches across our country, and in my 8+ years of pastoring Richland Baptist Church, our church family has done an amazing job of expressing appreciation. They are a joy to serve and minister alongside, and we praise God for our church family!

The reality, however, is that I would be a terrible pastor (though I am far from great anyway) if not for my amazing wife. If not for all she does for me, for our kids, in our home, in children’s ministry with our church, in so much behind the scenes for our church, etc., I cannot fathom how I would begin to keep up with the demands of pastoral ministry.

I do very few household chores because Marsha is always on top of things. Instead, when I am home, I am able to devote most of my time to hanging out with Marsha and the kids, having fun, and relaxing. Furthermore, with five kids, there are what seem like constant needs for rides to various school events, activities, practices, games, etc. Marsha handles the vast majority of those.

During church services and activities on Sundays and Wednesdays, Marsha is practically a single mom as I try to keep up with everything. Yet, she never complains.

Phone calls and emergency requests come up during inopportune times, but Marsha is always supportive, prayerful, and helpful.

Unfortunately, though, I often take her for granted. Our kids do, too. Shame on us! Instead, we need to embrace and live out the words of Proverbs 31:28-29 – “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also praises her: “Many women have done noble deeds, but you surpass them all!”

I praise God for Marsha! In her, God has blessed me with an incredible wife, an excellent mother to our children, and a faithful partner in gospel ministry. She surpasses all others!

Thank you, Marsha! No blog post, thank you note, gift, or anything else could ever be sufficient in expressing how much I appreciate you and how much of a blessing you are to our family, our church, and me.

A man who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). Praise the Lord for His favor!

Family Picture in front of U.S. Bank Stadium in August 2021 #skol

Memories in Minnesota

Our family cherishes the memories from vacation, and our trip to Minnesota was no exception. We had a great time with my side of the family. Praise the Lord for family and the time we have together! Here are just a few of the highlights (click on any picture for the full view)…

Vacation with Creation

When I go on vacation, I love to enjoy God’s amazing creation. I like to spend a lot of time outside, doing active things with my family. We did a lot of that last month during our annual vacation with Marsha’s family, and we had a blast.

Here are just some of the pictures from our trip to southeast Missouri, although there were a lot of moments we did not get pictures of because of jumping off cliffs and climbing rocks…

Family Time in Illinois

Last month, we had a great time hanging out at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Illinois and doing a day trip to Chicago. We do not see our nieces, my sister Stephanie, and my brother-in-law nearly as often as we would like, so times like this are sweet. Here are just a few pictures from our trip…

My Word Isn’t Enough

Each month, I take Zoe on a daddy-daughter date. Usually, our dates involve eating out and doing something fun, like playing basketball, going to a ballgame, playing at a park, or even the annual daddy-daughter dance.

Recently, though, our date did not go as planned. What I had promised Zoe was supper at a local high school softball game (yes, she loves to eat concession stand food, and I kind of do, too). As we were getting ready to go to that game, though, I learned that COVID-19 restrictions would not allow us to attend. Then, my back-up plan fell through. Thus, I ended up taking her to her team’s basketball practice early to shoot around, and that was it. Yes, our “date” involved shooting hoops and nothing else. Chalk that up as yet another father failure for me. Thankfully, though, Zoe was very gracious and still acted like it was fun (or maybe she even thought it was fun). Still, not the kind of daddy-daughter date about which one brags to their friends.

WE ALL FAIL

Do you ever say something like, “You have my word,” when making a promise to do something? Most of us have likely said that or something similar, and if we are trustworthy people, our word can go a long way.

Still, we are sinners who cannot always keep our word. We fail. We make mistakes. We misread situations. We make plans that fall through. We make promises that, even with the best intentions, we fail to keep. Even when our failures are not the result of sinful dishonesty (I did not lie to Zoe about our date, but rather I failed to plan properly and was caught by surprise.), our failures are still failures. We are not big enough or strong enough or smart enough or powerful enough to make continuous guarantees.

We all fail.

ONLY ONE WORD IS PERFECT

God alone always keeps His word and never fails. He is the only One who is perfect, and thus only His word is perfect. Why, then, would we ever consider looking to anyone or anything else for our hope, peace, and salvation? Why would we dare think we can come up with a better plan than the plan of the One who created us? Why do we worry about tomorrow, as if something is going to catch God by surprise?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 6:13-20 on how “Jesus Is the Better Way.” I hope to share two reasons we need to trust God’s plan (in and through Jesus) for salvation and for sanctification. God is the One who saves us from our sins, and God is the one who grows us to be the people He has called us to be. His word is perfect, and His Word (the Bible) is perfect. Let us look to Him for purpose and fulfillment.

While our word can fail us and fail others, God never fails. His promises always come true. His goodness is unending.

Yes, I failed Zoe on our last daddy-daughter date, and I had to apologize. What an opportunity, though, to teach about the One who is never surprised, who is always in control, and who never fails to keep His word!

Are you looking to God and trusting His plan for your life? Before you can do that, you need to know Him and walk with Him. Praise the Lord – when we surrender our lives to Him, “We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

While we sinners are unworthy to enter there – to enter God’s presence – we can be counted as worthy when we turn to Jesus and follow Him. Thanks be to God!

Hooping it up in Crane’s Gym – Hatton McCredie Elementary School.

Because of Faith, Not Politics

When I became a Christian during my sophomore year of college, a lot of things changed in my life – praise be to God! About a year after trusting in Jesus, I began to think a lot about the kind of woman I would want to marry and began to desire getting married, particularly after I met and got to know my amazing wife-to-be. Truly, of all the things I wanted most in a future wife, genuine faith in Jesus Christ was the most important. Growing Christian faith was a non-negotiable for me, as I had no desire to marry someone who did not believe what I believed and was not committed to following Jesus.

Do you know what never even entered the equation? Politics. Never once did I consider political parties or voting history when having the initial conversations I had with Marsha about our future.

Yes, there are certainly plenty of times when faith and politics intersect, but because Marsha and I both desire to follow Jesus and live according to His Word, we completely agree on those “political” issues that are what we believe to be important (i.e. protecting the lives of the unborn, preserving traditional marriage and the family, religious liberty, caring for the vulnerable, etc.).

Are you Democrat, Republican, or Independent?“, though, was never a question we asked one another. Foreign and economic policy are not issues we discussed, not because I did not or do not enjoy talking about politics. I do enjoy it.

Faith, not politics, though, is the foundation of our unity, and I praise God for Marsha’s enduring faith in Him. I want to plead with you too, Christ-follower, to make sure faith, not politics is your reason for unity… our reason for unity.

Faith in Jesus, not politics, transcends culture and religion to form a foundation that cannot be shaken (by the grace, mercy, and power of God).

Faith in Jesus, not politics, creates a unity that is eternal (when our hearts are set on Him and not giving in to sinful temptation and division).

Faith in Jesus, not politics, is our source of hope and peace (if we have trusted the gospel).

Faith in Jesus, not politics, is our reason for joy and contentment (as we continue to trust in the gospel).

Faith in Jesus, not politics, is what unites and sustains a biblical church.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I am going to finish our short “political” sermon series – The Red and The Blue – and preach through 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 on “Unity in Jesus, Not in Politics.” Unity in Jesus is unity we ought to long for and unity we ought to sincerely seek.

How about you? Is Christian unity something you value and prioritize? Or, are you allowing lesser things to control your time and energy? Do not settle for less than Jesus has for you. Trust and follow Him, and let faith, not politics (or anything else), be your foundational source of unity.

If you find yourself unsure of whether or not you have the saving faith that is necessary for Christian unity, will you check out THE STORY?

What a week in Tennessee!

We had a blast in Tennessee over the past week, spending time with our dear friends the Fries family, followed by vacation with Marsha’s parents, sisters, and their families. Praise the Lord for the amazing gift of family and friends!

To see some photos and videos of our trip, click HERE.

Cliff jumping with the Fries family and white-water rafting with Marsha’s family were probably the two favorite highlights (for most of us) from the trip.

Summer Time before Summer

Summer officially began this past Saturday, but because of COVID-19 and our kids being home from school since mid-March, summer already feels half-over. Here are just a few pictures of us enjoying summer before real summer even arrived…

The Visible Difference between the Righteous and the Wicked

There are several differences, of course, between those who know God and those who do not. God points out a very distinct difference, for example, in Malachi 3: “So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (verse 18).

SERVING AND NOT SERVING

Many claim to serve God but really just go through the motions, not really serving Him at all. What a dangerous trap that is, especially when people assume they will be counted as righteous, only to find out they are among the wicked.

When I was a teenager, for example, I considered myself to be a Christian. In fact, I considered myself to be a devout Christian. I was in church services every Sunday and Wednesday. I was actively involved with our church youth group. I read my Bible often. I prayed even more often. I talked and sang about Jesus.

I was serving God, right? No, I was not. I was not following Him and thus certainly could not be serving Him. Sure, some people may have thought I was. I even thought I was. But, everything I did was for myself. I was going through the motions in hopes of impressing girls, pleasing my parents, and getting what I wanted from God (not what God wanted from and for me).

Really, I was worshiping myself and my happiness. The lords of my heart were my pleasures and my dreams and my goals. All the while, I claimed to be a follower of Jesus and claimed to belong to Him. I did not, however, “fear God and have high regard for His name” (Malachi 3:16). Rather, I feared what others thought about me and had high regard for my own name.

Although I thought I was considered righteous by God because I was a “good person,” I was headed straight toward hell with no earthly idea.

WHO KNEW?

Living in mid-Missouri, I do not often see many of the people I knew as a teenager in north central Iowa. I cannot help but wonder, though, who knew I was living a lie? Who knew I was going through the motions? How many people did I actually fool?

Of course, I cannot accurately answer those questions, but I am confident that any genuine followers of Jesus who truly knew me then surely knew I was not who I claimed to be. I wonder why no one told me, though? Why did no one challenge me with the truth? Perhaps they tried, and I just would not listen.

One who definitely did know that I was counted among the wicked and not among the righteous, was God Himself. He knew, and, thankfully, He put people in my life during my college years to reveal His Truth to me. For the first time, as a sophomore in college, I heard and understood the gospel. I turned from my sins and asked Jesus to forgive me and take over my life.

Finally, I was made right with God in and through a personal relationship with His Son.

JESUS IS THE DIFFERENCE-MAKER

The truth is that none of us is righteous. Not on our own anyway. None of us can do a single thing to make ourselves right with God. “As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become useless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

This is terrible news! And, the terrible news is for all of us.

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). That is the good news.

Jesus is the difference-maker. He is the One who made a way for us to be righteous – counted righteous today and made righteous for eternity. If you have yet to experience the joy of knowing and following Him, would you consider surrendering your life to Him today? Check this out for a helpful summary of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

There are very few things I believe differently today than what I believed as a selfishly wicked teenager on my way to hell. What I do and how I do what I do with my beliefs, though, are drastically different. Not because I “have arrived” or figured out the tricks. No, I am different because Jesus is the difference-maker. Jesus has changed me.

I am no longer content to go through the motions and call that “serving God.” If and when I do go through the motions, God’s Holy Spirit convicts me to repent and follow Him faithfully. Daily I need His help, His guidance, His provision, His leadership, His grace, and His compassion.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I hope to preach on our “Great God of Compassion” from Malachi 3:13-18. I pray that I can encourage and challenge you to believe in and be changed by the Greatness of God.

Family Fun

Since I am not preaching Sunday morning, I thought I would take a break from my usual weekly update and share some fun stuff we did as a family the past couple months.

WE WENT ON VACATION

Both with my (Nick’s) family, as well as a few days with just us, we spent some time in Illinois and in Branson, Missouri.

THE KIDS STARTED SCHOOL

Only Marsha and Micah remain home during the week, as I am off to work, and Noah, Levi, Silas and Zoe attend Hatton-McCredie Elementary School. This is Noah’s last year there before he moves to North Callaway High School, at which time Micah will begin kindergarten at Hatton.

To see more pictures from the first day of school, click HERE.

WE GOT A DOG

Lottie is a yellow labrador who was born on June 23, 2019. She has added even more fun (sometimes) and frustration (sometimes) to our family.

To view more pictures of Lottie and her pals, click HERE.

JUST A GLIMPSE

Well, those are just a few big things we did over the past couple of months. We also had Silas in urgent care multiple times (he is better now), celebrated Papa Tony’s 75th birthday, spent more time with family, played a lot outside, ministered alongside our church family, and got on each other’s nerves.

Praise God for family!