Category Archives: Christian Living

Hold on loosely…

My wife and I have been recently reflecting on the concept of storing up treasures here on earth, and she eloquently beat me to blogging about it, but I feel the need to add some of my own thoughts…

The preacher at my wife’s grandfather’s funeral, reminded us to hold on to things loosely here on earth, because you can’t take any of it with you. This was not some earth shattering teaching that I hadn’t heard before, or something that I really felt I had a problem with. But upon further reflection, I have been taken back to the beginning of our marriage and it’s humble beginnings…

In June 2005 we were married. I was going into my senior year of college and a full-time internship at AEGON. My wife worked at Farmers State Bank as a personal banker. We rented a small two bedroom apartment, but it was enough. We didn’t have a lot of stuff nor did we need a lot of stuff. Three plus years and two kids later with a third on the way, we are starting to collect a lot of stuff. Not that “stuff” in itself is bad, it’s the worldly aspirations to store up treasures on this earth that is bad.

Would I like to drive a newer vehicle? Have a faster computer and laptop? bigger garage (to store “stuff”)? finished basement? fenced in lawn? snowblower? etc, etc… of course I would. I would like to have all that “stuff”, not because I need it, nor because I feel like it’s some status symbol, but because they would all make my life more convenient.

But what is at the root of wanting a more convenient life…

God has used the words of a humble preacher in Southwest Nebraska to kick me in the behind and to remind me to stop finding contentment and convenience in the things of this world, realizing that I will not be towing a U-Haul with me when I pass on. Praise God for his simple lessons that he teaches us in this life to bring about change and more godly living.

"Don’t Be Afraid to be the Church"

I wrote these words on the top of a page in my study bible at church last Sunday prompted by Pastor’s Todd’s sermon. I have been pondering them all week.

Who defines the Church?

The Church is not and was not the idea of man, it was God’s idea from the beginning. God has carefully laid out his instructions for reaching the lost and the gathering of believers in the Bible. The entire book of Acts is devoted to the formation of the early church. Our church is devoting the entire summer to a teaching series of “What the Church is all About”.

What does it mean to be afraid?

A quick look in the dictionary can define this word:
1) filled with fear
2) having feelings of aversion or unwillingness in regards to something
3) filled with regret or concern

Why are we afraid to be the Church?

I think part of it stems from the fact that our culture has inundated us with their values of being timid and not defining absolute truth. We’re so afraid that we might offend someone by being “The Church” as defined by the Bible. As a result the American church, for the most part has become rather ineffective at doing what it is supposed to be doing.

I have been attempting to embrace the challenge laid out by our pastor “to not be afraid of being the church”; to dig into his word, be courageous, kind, and clear on our stances.

Let’s stop pretending to be God’s church, and let’s be God’s Church!

"Released"

This past Sunday at First Family Church, Pastor Todd finished preaching through the book of Isaiah, with sermon title “Released”. It was incredibly insightful. Here’s the link to the audio: “Released”

We had just finished a 5+ month series through the book of Isaiah and the character traits of God where we, as a church body, have been challenged to be “Captured by His Character”. We were challenged on week one of the series to drop our preconceived notions and biased versions of God and develop a biblical view of God.

We look at many different character traits: Holy, Judicial, Redeeming, Sovereign, Chastening, Restorative, Loving, Transcendent, Responsive, Exclusive, Faithful, Personal, Truthful, and Victorious.

God has been pressing on my heart that my understanding of God, should change someone’s life. Pastor Todd wrapped up his Series with a summary statement, that “Gods attributes release me to action”.

Oh…if I could just live every moment of every day as thought I truly believe He is who He says He is! What a holy spirit empowered life I would be able to live!

God’s Calling on Our Lives

What is God’s calling on my life? I wish it were simple, written on the clouds for me to plainly see. A recent conversation with a dear friend of mine really inspired me to pray about God’s call on my life. God’s calling on my life seems a mystery at times, that’s why I think it’s useful for me to look at his calling in my life from two perspective: present & future

Where is God calling me today?
Today, God is calling me to be a godly husband, to raise godly children, and work at my job as if serving the Lord. God’s calling on my life at this time has led me to work for an Investment Bank in Des Moines, live in Ankeny, IA and attend First Family Church. He’s called me to be more involved at FFC in my service to Him. These things are easy answers, because God is calling me to be faithful in where he has me today.

But where is God calling me tomorrow? next week? next year? five years from now? And how do I prepare myself to be “usable” and “flexible” for whatever his calling may be on my life? I think I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no easy answers to these questions, just a simple response is required on my part: “Stay Close to the Lord”. I don’t really think I have an answer for where God is calling me five years from now or even next year. I just know that he is calling me to prove myself faithful in what he has entrusted me.

Authenticity…

I am attempting to embrace Pastor Todd’s message on the Truthful Nature of God from Sunday morning. I have been unable to get the word “authentic” out of my mind. It has caused a lot of self reflection, as well as inspection of the American church today.

I realize that often I live in fear of other people’s opinions. I am afraid of what others may think… am I going to offend them… am I going to turn them away from the gospel…? I realize that these fears are tools of the devil to make us ineffective in our witness for the gospel. 2 Timothy 1:7 states that “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” My prayer is that God would make me authentic in all that I would do. That I would lay down all pretense in my life, and allow the truth to truly set me free. God wants truthfulness in our lives, and He will respond to the authentic heart!

I want to rise up and meet the challenge that Pastor Todd laid out for us to adopt a lifestyle of authenticity. Oh… if we as the American Church were to follow Christ and relate to one another with true authenticity…how effective would the church be? Would we model the early church in the book of Acts? Would we see the miraculous healing of the sick? Would we see the great revival that the American church so desperately needs today? A church without fear, that authentically, unapologetically preached the word of God, not in ritualistic pretense, but because the word of God is the very power of God to save the souls of the lost who inhabit this earth.

Authentic is the only way to go!

The Importance of Godly Fellowship Part II

I have been once again thinking about the godly fellowship of believers in Christ. This has caused me to reflect on my own personal relationships with others. A verse that became very real to me in High School was Proverbs 27:17, which states – “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” My good Christian brother, Brian Hanneman, and I would often use this verse as an accountability verse to one another. As Christians we have a high calling towards “sharpening” one another.

What is the principle behind “sharpening”?
Sharpening typically involves using a harder metal to grind away the rough edges to bring the knife to a more refined useful edge.

What does sharpening look like in the Christian life?

I tend to view sharpening as the refining of your thoughts and actions. The idea in this proverb is that men and women a like are sharpened by the interaction with other believers. Sharpening may look like a word of encouragement or discourse regarding doctrine, but sharpening may be a little more painful, because, for the object being sharpened, it requires a vulnerability to allow yourself to be improved. It might require the grinding away of that which makes you dull (sin, selfishness, etc.).

Why is sharpening necessary?
I believe that sharpening is necessary because of the great commission. We are called to be a beacon of light to the lost, to give those who have not heard a reason to hope. We are called to put on the armor of God, including the sword of truth. That sword of truth is the word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says that that “word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I want to be able to hold forth the word of God as something living and powerful and something that reaches beyond the external. Something that pierces the heart of man, stirring within those hearts the knowledge of sin and unrighteousness that brings a man to the depths of his soul, longing for salvation. I want to go through the sharpening to be effective for Christ’s church.

Which brings me to some application questions. Do we desire godly fellowship that sharpens one another? Are we willing be dig that deep? Are we willing to be that vulnerable?

To all three, I would answer “yes”, but practically applying all three is the difficult part!

God’s Provision

I asked my wife for a blog topic for today and she mentioned God’s provision. I would say if there is one way that God has consistently made himself known to our family, it’s through His provision. My wife and I have been married since June of 2005. I was taking a few summer classes before my senior year of college, and Angela was working at a bank in Marion, Iowa. We found out about a month after we got married, that we were expecting our first child. Here we were newlyweds, expecting a child to be born on spring break of my Senior year of college. God continually made himself known to us throughout those nine months of preparing for a baby. He taught us to be faithful to Him and He would provide all of our needs. Throughout the next year, I was able to hold a job and finish school, Angela was even denied short-term disability insurance that pays for maternity leave, but God still met our desires for Angela to be able to stay at home once our son, Abel, was born. God was faithful in meeting all our needs

My wife and I were consistent “tithers” in the church, but at times my heart was not right about it. The Lord has had to do a mighty work in me to show that he was in charge of every aspect of my life, even the finances. Over the last couple of years, my wife and I have had unexpected expenses pop up, but it always seems like we had enough to cover them. From time to time, some larger unexpected expenses would pop, $600 car bill here, new tires there, etc, and “somehow” God always brought in the extra income. There are countless examples in just the past few years alone.

One verse that has brought conviction in my life is the following:

Malachai 3:8-10 – “Will a man rob God? Yet your are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now is this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

Everything that we have is from God; so when we refuse to return to him a part of what he has give, we rob him, plain and simple. This verse hit me hard. Selfishly we reason, but it we could only use those extra dollars every month we could pay off……fill in the blank….

God has really had to do a work in my heart, because I know that my selfishness longs to be in control of things (especially the finances, since I graduated with a degree in finance). The truth is God’s math is different than ours. It doesn’t make sense to us humans with finite minds and with finite resources, how we will have all of our needs met. But the truth is, we serve an infinite God with infinite resources and nothing is impossible for God.

Please note that God’s provision:

  • Does not equal my “wish list”
  • Sometime means sacrifice in our lifestyle
  • Leads to a greater understanding of his character

The Importance of Godly Fellowship

My wife and I met at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. There was one thing that permeated every aspect of the campus: godly fellowship! Like all Christian Liberal Arts schools, Northwestern claimed to have this type of fellowship, but after living there I experienced it first hand.

Reflecting back, its hard to pinpoint exactly what made the fellowship of believers on campus so great. Was it the required chapel, biblical classes, Christian professors, Sunday Night campus praise and worship? Now that I’ve been away from the campus for a while, I think I’m starting to understand. It’s not one aspect or the other, it’s the combination of everything and the relationships and fellowship that follow.

From Wikipedia I found the fellowship information on koinonia. Koinnoia is a Greek word that means “communion by intimate participation”. The essential meaning of the word koinonia embraces concepts conveyed by the English terms community, communion, joint participation, sharing and intimacy. Koinonia can therefore refer in some contexts to a jointly contributed gift. The word appears 19 times in most edition of the Greek New Testament. In the New American Standard Bible it is translated “fellowship” twelve times, “sharing” three times, and “participation” and “contribution” twice each.

This godly fellowship does something to foster spiritual growth that no man-derived method of spiritual discipline can ever hope to recreate. I am a small group, “Lighthouse”, leader at First Family Church in Ankeny since last September. During this time, there has been some really neat relationships developed within our group. My wife and I are again feeling that same tight-knit community of believers that reminds us of our days at Northwestern, and that we experienced when living in the Cedar Rapids area. Godly fellowship is such a beautiful thing, and all Christians should strive for it and cherish it.

Acts 2:42 – “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship (Koinonia), to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

The Joys of Marriage

June 4, 2005 was a great day in my life. The joy and love experienced that day are almost inexpressible. That day I married my best friend and love of my life. Today, it’s hard to imagine not being married. Being married has consumed my life, it effects every single aspect of my life. I’ve learned a lot in the almost 3 years of marriage that we have had.

1) Marriage doesn’t allow room for selfishness
2) Marriage requires a lot of work

My wife and I were not naive of the commitment we were making or have any false impressions that married life would be a breeze. But marriage requires something that’s not natural as humans, sacrificing for others. It’s like there is a tradeoff…the more we are willing to sacrifice for one another, the greater the reward in marriage. I just pray that I will be a more sacrificial husband, and model the love that Jesus Christ shows for his church to my wife.

As far requiring a lot of work, it’s easy to let the cares of this world and the day to day things of life (kids, work, church) take hold of your time. When I say that marraige requires a lot of work, I mean that it requires a lot work to set aside the time necessary to have a healthy thriving marriage. Work also requires getting “dirty” sometimes, some discipline, being willing to do things that you may not necessarily life for the benefit of the marriage (similar to corporate work). Lord, give me a heart that desires to “work” at my marriage!

I love you Angela!

Finding Contentment….

What is contentment? Are we supposed to have it? Is there some aspect of discontentment that is healthy? What does it mean to find contentment? These are the thoughts that have been running through my head all day. I think they were spurred on by some conversation with some friends last night about “what really drives me”.

I have found contentment with where God has placed me and what he has me doing. God has given me a good job that I enjoy. He has placed my family in a good home and good church. God has blessed my family financially and met all of our needs. I have found contentment in God’s provision for my family.

But…God puts in me a sort of “godly discontentment”. A discontentment that acknowledges that we are created to be so much more. I never feel completely fulfilled in my job. Since professing Christ as my Lord and Savior my sophomore year in High School, he has put in me a deeper longing that can’t be satisfied in merely human work. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but I think that it stems from the fact that we are spiritual beings designed to worship a spiritual living God!

I think another aspect of discontentment comes from that fact that we live in a sinful world, in a sinful fleshly body. The earth is not the home of Christians, and sin is not our desire. Yet we battle and toil on a daily basis, but ultimately our discontentment should turn us to longing for the second coming of our Lord and Savior.

Here is something that I hang my contentment on:

Romans 10:9-11 – “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be save; for with the heart a person believes, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed”