As my basketball coach, my dad used to frequently say that in order to be a good player, you had to be a student of the game. You had to pay attention and always be learning, or you could not get better. He would talk a lot about “basketball IQ,” often frustrated that intelligent people did not always make intelligent players. He would preach, “You have to be a student of the game. Are you a student of the game?“
Of course, I find myself telling my kids the same thing. Silas (#22 above) and Noah (#22 below) both finished their seasons recently. Whether with them or with Levi and Zoe, whose seasons finished a couple of months ago, I am regularly reminding them of their need not only to practice the fundamentals of the game but to better learn the fundamentals of the game by watching basketball. If you do not know the game well, you cannot play the game well.
Similarly, but much more importantly, if you do not know the Lord well, you cannot follow and worship the Lord well. Are you a student of the game?
Really, though, life is much more than a game because what happens in this life matters for eternity. And, the only knowledge sufficient for eternal life is the knowledge of the gospel. Thus, are you a student of the Word? Do you know the Lord according to His Word and seek to follow and worship Him according to the standards of His Word?
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will preach through Psalm 145 on “Learned Worship.” We will consider five ways to learn right worship. God defines what is right, and knowing Him and knowing His Word will allow us to worship Him rightly. Otherwise, we go through the motions in vain, at best, dishonoring His name and destroying our lives.
Are you a student of the game? Your success depends on it. Are you a student of the Word? Your salvation depends on it.
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.
Unfortunately, Marsha and I were not on top of things enough to put together a Christmas card this year, so this is our insufficient attempt to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
We are thankful for God’s continued grace, mercy, and provision in our lives – especially the good news of the gospel – that God sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to take on flesh, live a perfect life, die on the cross for our sins, and rise again to defeat sin and death for all eternity. We pray you experience a closer walk with Him this coming year and prioritize Him above all else.
Merry Christmas! “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). His name is Jesus. Praise the Lord!
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 me as a child and like me still today, my children are far from perfect. One of the things that frustrates me most as a dad is probably one of the same things that frustrated my parents most when I was growing up – when an older brother teases his sibling(s). Marsha and I tell Noah and Levi often what we expect of them as the oldest brothers who have professed faith in Jesus Christ. They are to set an example and be kind to their siblings. Sometimes they do well. Sometimes they sin. They are just like I am.
No doubt, though, things go much better in the home when big brothers are kind and helpful. I am sure that was the case when I was growing up, too, although I rarely recall moments of kindness and helpfulness coming from me. As a prideful, foolish teenager, I was anything but the good brother my two sisters needed me to be. I pray I am and will do better now, but what a wasted opportunity from my childhood! I blew it.
Thankfully, my sisters still love me, and my parents did not send me off to some far-away military school (though my dad did threaten that at least a time or two).
There are countless stories of big brothers who have had incredible impacts on their siblings, whether it is because they helped raise them, provided for them, protected them, set great examples for them, and/or continuously encouraged them. Everyone wants to have that kind of brother.
Even I, as the only boy and the oldest brother, often wished I had a brother. What I did not have biologically, though, I did have spiritually, particularly when I was in college. Furthermore, I continue to have such men in my life – men who set godly examples, lead well, and encourage me greatly.
JESUS IS SUPERIOR
What we all long for in a big brother, Jesus is (and so much more). On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue our sermon series through Hebrews – “The Journey of Faith” – and preach through chapter 2 on how “Jesus Is the Better Brother.” He is the One who does everything we could ever want and need a brother to do – He pursues, provides, promises, performs, and purifies.
Jesus set the example of how we are to live. Jesus provides for our needs and builds us up. Jesus sacrificed His life and took the punishment we deserved when He died on the cross for our sins. Jesus won the victory over Satan, sin, and death. Jesus brings us to the Father when we trust in Him. Jesus changes our hearts and lives. Jesus never leaves us nor forsakes us. Jesus is the only One who can do all of this. He is the better Brother. Jesus is superior.
WE NEED TO BE BETTER
While none of us is Jesus, we can and must be better. We do so not by thinking we can be Him but rather by turning toHim. As He changes us from the inside out, He helps us do better in obeying His Word. He does indeed make us more like Himself, helping us to love the Lord our God with all that we are and love others as we love ourselves. Let us be better by asking Jesus to change us. Let us be better by asking others to hold us accountable. Let us be better by recognizing that God’s Word is the standard for how we are to live. Let us be better by being in the Word, serving in our church, and being disciples who make disciples.
We have not yet arrived. We need to be better. Lord, help us!
We have had a great time with family in Illinois this week. I love my job and can think of no other job that I would want more. But, I am beyond grateful to the Lord for vacation, as it allows me to spend uninterrupted time with family that I never get otherwise. Praise the Lord for my church and for my family!
A few weeks ago, a couple of our kids gained a sudden passion for drawing. While they have certainly drawn pictures many times before, this was an interest at a whole new level. Multiple times each day, they would be drawing various pictures, asking for ideas, requesting more drawing notebooks, showing off their work, and having a lot of fun. In the current age of so much digital entertainment, this desire to draw with a pencil is quite refreshing to me.
Now, I am unsure how long this new hobby will last, but it is a reminder to me that, when we are passionate about something, we prioritize that passion. Even when outside on a beautiful day (like in the above picture), we would find our kids drawing. Proof of interest is seen through actions.
WORSHIP IS A LIFESTYLE
Our relationship with God is no different. If we sincerely love Him and want to know Him more, then we prioritize our relationship with Him. We seek Him through His Word, walk with Him in prayer, and talk about Him with others. Simply put – we worship Him. Followers of God are worshipers of God.
And, worship is a lifestyle. We who know God worship Him not just on Sundays with our church family but every day as individuals, as families, and as friends. We worship Him not just in good times but also in the difficult times. We worship Him not just when thinking about His love but also when thinking about His justice.
Unlike other hobbies and interests, though, the worship of God by a true believer of God never goes away. Sure, there are times in our sinfulness that we might struggle and times when we stray from the path on which we are called to walk, but we will never abandon worship like a hobby in which we no longer are interested. Those who do abandon the worship of God (whether privately or publicly) prove their supposed faith to be illegitimate. The Apostle John made this clear when talking to believers about those who are no longer involved with a 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).
WORSHIP IS A PASSION
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will finish our sermon series through Micah – Walk Humbly. I plan to preach through Micah 7 and share two reasons God alone is worthy of worship. He is always worthy, whether we feel like worship or not and whether we recognize and understand His worth or not.
Everyone worships. We worship that about which we are passionate. Who or what are you worshiping? Sometimes people worship evil things like false gods, drugs, alcohol, pride, selfishness, etc. Sometimes, people even worship good things like family, careers, sports, hobbies, etc. When a good thing becomes a god thing, though, it becomes an evil thing.
Sure, you might be passionate about a lot of good things, and that is okay. If that passion surpasses your passion for knowing and following (and worshiping) God, though, you will never be satisfied. You will always long for something more, something better. Only Jesus can fulfill our hearts and satisfy our souls, as we were created to worship Him with our greatest passion and commitment. Anything less will leave us empty.
What about you? Do you desire to worship God? Do you prioritize worship – both as an individual Christian (through prayer, Bible study, discipleship, evangelism, etc.) and also as a faithful member of a local church? If not, what needs to change in your life so that right worship – the worship of the Lord our God as a daily lifestyle – is prioritized?
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.
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…
Do you notice anything off about the picture above? Yes, that trailer is supposed to be hooked to that tractor. That trailer was hooked to that tractor, until one of my children (who will not be revealed in this post) was messing around on the tractor and disengaged the hydraulics. Apparently some other things were done, too, causing said-child to retreat in fear of the wrong that was committed.
Perhaps no one would find out, though. After all, when someone comes to move the trailer back into place for our Sunday morning outdoor worship celebration, he will hook the trailer back up, and no one else will be the wiser. So, nothing was said to Marsha or me about the trailer parked unhooked behind the tractor.
A little later, however, while all five of our children were playing outside, they noticed the tractor rolling down the hill. At least one of them wondered, “Who’s driving the tractor?” Oh, no one was driving that tractor. It was now helplessly rolling down the hill.
Praise the Lord that none of our children were near it when this happened, and no one was hurt or killed! Praise the Lord that no other vehicles were in the parking lot, and no damage was done! Praise the Lord that the tractor came to a perfect stop at the end of the gravel lot, and nothing bad happened! God’s mercy and grace are all over this story.
SIN HAS CONSEQUENCES
Well, God’s mercy and grace are all over this story, that is, until I walked outside the next morning for my (usually) very-enjoyable morning walk. Mercy and grace were not words that would describe my initial attitude toward my children when I saw what had happened.
When I first noticed what you can see in the above picture, I thought, “Why in the world did someone decide to use the tractor and then leave it down there? And, who was it?” That thinking was only for a moment, though, because I quickly realized it must have been something my children did. That was all that made sense.
How did this happen, though. When did this happen? How did my wife and I not know? How are all of our children still alive? Are we the worst parents ever? Do we have the worst children ever?
When everyone was awake, my wife and I questioned our children and quickly learned the truth, including the fact that all five of them knew who was guilty and knew what had happened. None said a word, however. No one told us, somehow thinking we would not find out and/or that it would not be a big deal if we did.
A John Deere tractor that our kids were playing around rolled 200 feet down a hill!
Needless to say, Marsha and I had a long, serious conversation with our children. Furthermore, they proceeded to lose a lot of privileges, and we hope they have learned their lesson.
You see, sin has consequences. In this case, disobedience and disrespect could have led to someone being killed, and death is the ultimate curse and consequence of sin.
THERE IS HOPE
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on how we can “Find Hope in God’s Judgment” (Micah 4). Yes, sin has consequences. Yes, God judges sin. Yes, we all deserve the devastating eternal death that is the curse of sin. Yet, there is hope.
We are all sinful, but we can still be hopeful, hopeful if we know and follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The only hope that conquers sin and death is the hope of the gospel. Do you have this hope? Do you rejoice in this hope? Do you find satisfaction and contentment in this hope? Are you daily living for the God of this hope?
Like our children, we all deserve much greater consequences to our sins than we have received. The fact that we are still breathing, despite our countless failures and rebellions, is living proof. We deserve death but by trusting in Jesus’ death in our place and by believing in His resurrection from the dead, we can have life and have it abundantly.
Look out for the consequences of sin. Look out for God’s certain judgment. Look out by looking up (to Him). Look out by looking back (to the cross). Look out by looking forward (to eternal life). Only then will you have the hope that never dies.
P.S. – “Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land” (Ephesians 6:1-3).