Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Got Them Re-solution Blues?

Ever notice how the coming new year's resolutions are reminiscent or, as is often the case, poorly disguised copies of last year's resolutions? While that might speak to the futility of making resolutions at all, I think it shows a certain tenacity in the human spirit to make things right, to get things right -- (i.e. the things we really find important) at least in our own worlds.

I know there are detractors who find the whole resolution thing a waste of time. Their thoughts, I would assume, stem in part from the seeming artificiality of picking a date like January 1 of the new year as the definitive moment to initiate some radical change. Why wait until the first of the year to engage in something you feel is so important? What's so special about the passage from one year to the next when it comes to major life decisions? Their questions are valid.

Well, in truth there's probably nothing inherently significant about picking New Year's Day as the day we shed our old selves to take the reins on what lies before us. Still, it seems a good time to keep our word, start exercising, stop procrastinating, eat better, read more, go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, meet new people, stop smoking, put the TV remote down, attend to our appearance, make more blog comments, drink less or not at all, start saving money, learn a new skill, volunteer, let go of grudges, get organized, learn how to cook, travel more, forgive others, curtail Internet usage, pay off debts, let go of bad relationships, take responsibility, learn some self defense, face down fears and insecurities, and/or keep a journal.

Maybe Cary Grant, the film superstar of years gone by, was on to something when he spoke to our making of resolutions and the way we so quickly let them go. His philosophy was "never to make a resolution which won't be as important on the ... tenth of July as it is on the first of January."

All the best to each of you as you consider the open slate of the year ahead -- and what you'd like to do with it.

You can share your radical resolution(s) or your anti-resolution philosophy with us by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Presence

This is the time of year when many in the world stop to share gifts, good deeds, and kindnesses with one another. Bell-ringers remind us to give from our plenty to those less fortunate; tantalizing price-cuts hold the promise of an even more gift-laden Christmas morning; joyous greetings between strangers bring smiles that warm the night. All seems right in the world.

Yes, it's Christmas time, and everything is a little brighter.

But there is a down side to this season too, especially when the desire to give loved ones all the "latest and greatest" leads to spending money not yet earned. It can make an otherwise bright season one that becomes an inane competition. Nerves frazzle as anxious shoppers wind through parking lots, searching for a spot, any spot. Empty store shelves remind last-minute shoppers that procrastination this time of year can backfire in a big way.

Yes, it's Christmas time, and everything is a little more stressful.

The familiar melodies of heartwarming Christmas carols remind us this season is about way more than presents. It's about family and friends sharing their lives -- breaking bread together, singing songs boldly and sometimes out of key, and laughing heartily with one another.

Yes, it's Christmas time, and it's time for family.

But we'd be kidding ourselves to think it's the same for everyone -- the good times, that is. There are those who know an empty spot on the floor where the tree should be. There's the beloved spouse who brought such life into the season and who now is gone. There are the children who've moved away with kids of their own. There are others -- the newly single -- who grapple with life as the one they loved and counted on has walked away, tearing apart their heart and their marriage.

Yes, it's Christmas, and it's a time for loneliness.

There is perhaps no greater gift we can give than our presence. With that in mind, let's gather our family around us and rejoice. Let's seek out those among us who are alone, those who struggle, and those who need a friend. Let us gather them into our family, for these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let's give them our time and remind them of God's presence in their life.

Yes, it's Christmas, and we can make it wonderful for someone else.

A few more days and Christmas will be here. Is this year just another replay of years gone by? Do you find yourself falling into all the predictable ways of doing things this time of year like you always do? Maybe there's more to Christmas than we realize. Maybe it's all about being there for someone else.

Take a moment to share what it is about Christmas that's most meaningful to you. You can do this by clicking here to share your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Holiday Driving Can Be Distracted Driving

With the coming of cell phones much has been written and discussed about distracted driving. Most of us have had the experience of the car next to us drifting into our lane, causing us to honk, brake, swerve and comment sharply on the driver's erratic moves, only to discover he or she was looking down at a cell phone -- presumably texting. This would be classified as distracted driving.

It's possible this will be an experience you have one time or another in the coming weeks.

We have also probably witnessed the driver in front of us engaged in an animated conversation on the phone, gesticulating passionately about the call. Soon the car seems to be following the gestures: weaving, bobbing and faking like an NBA guard. This too would be classified as distracted driving.

Not long ago I experienced a different kind of distracted driving. I was on a lengthy road trip and purchased an audio book for the cruise home. I was so engrossed in the book I failed to notice the gas gauge in my rented vehicle. When I finally did I pulled into the nearest gas station and put 11.49 gallons into a tank that holds 11.5. That was distracted driving.

Men, we all know what it's like to see others who are driving while distracted, but the truth is we may drive that way ourselves. We prove that it isn't always possible to give our full attention to two tasks at one time.

Thus I am advocating we give our full attention to the most important tasks at hand, especially those that involve our family.

When the woman in our life desires a conversation, it's not enough to mute the TV. Instead, we need to turn it off and give her our complete -- and undivided -- attention.

When our child asks for help with homework, we need to detach ourselves from our football game and give him or her our full consideration.

Let's show the most important people in our lives how much we value them and give them our full attention, especially now, during this time of year, when God gave so much attention to us.

What distracts you during the Christmas season? Is it any different than at other times of the year?

You can share your thoughts by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

'Tis the Season to be Thankful

With Thanksgiving on the horizon next week, it seems only fitting we should be thinking about what makes us thankful.

Here are a few comments we've received recently from people using Lutheran Hour Ministries' many resources:

For The Lutheran Hour, one listener had this to say about Rev. Gregory Seltz's message:

"This message was immensely enjoyed. In our days of hectic, frantic scurrying about to no purpose, I love the call back to reality from the Word. I am very new to the ministries of The Lutheran Hour. It has been the proverbial 'shot in the arm' for me. Please keep up the good work. May God bless your efforts to His glory."

And then there was this,

"Your message today was very pertinent, and you also speak to contemporary times in the language of today. I was also impressed with the Q & A regarding the saints. The explanation was very good and pertinent in light of the Catholic Church's naming a new saint just recently. I also heard you this morning on my program "Worship for Shut-ins." I wish The Lutheran Hour would be on TV, as my radio in Michigan does not function very well without a special antenna."

For LHM's long-running float in the Tournament of Roses, we heard this:

"This is a personal thank you for your participation in the Tournament of Roses, thus keeping 'Jesus' in this grand event. The Lutheran Hour float about Jesus was the shining best. People cheered and stood as this went by. My heart reacted and there were tears in my eyes to still have this float in this day and age. No trophy was needed, nor would do. What an exquisite application of artistry and talent and divine message."

And from a retired schoolteacher who attended the parade,

"Thank you Lutheran Hour Ministries for your wonderful float in the Rose Bowl Parade! We attended the parade for the first time and were so excited to see your float proclaiming the Gospel message for all to see. After the parade, when the floats were on exhibit, many people stopped to take pictures and I heard parents reading the John 3:16 passage to their children."

We received these comments for Pastor Klaus' and his Daily Devotions:

"I just wanted to say how thankful I am for Pastor Klaus' daily message. Each message talks about Jesus. How beautiful! Although I am not Lutheran, I am a child of Jesus Christ. And for that I am thankful. I thank our Lord and Savior for using Pastor Klaus in such a way to take every day things and apply them to what is important: salvation."

And here's another:

"I am a daily listener of Rev. Klaus' Daily Devotions and have for almost a year now. I live in a nursing home in Festus, Missouri. And I do, indeed, listen to Ken's devotions over my first cup of coffee. His devotions help get my day off to a good start. You could say that his devotions are part of my spiritual breakfast. Along with my eggs and toast, I get fed twice!"

And for Men's NetWork Bible studies, we received this remark:

"You have labeled them under 'Mens NetWork,' but we are using them for our Wednesday night service, which is a worship service with Communion, but it is more like a glorified Sunday school class. The sermon is usually about 45 minutes long and is open for questions throughout the service. I do not know where the sermon will end up. I simply start it, and we see which direction it goes. I call it an 'interactive sermon.' The video series fit right in and work great. We go through the discussion guide questions, and that takes about 45-55 minutes. We move into the service of the Sacraments and have Communion. The Wednesday night service has grown from around 25 people to 47 last week. Not bad since we average around 75 on Sundays. We also have a hot meal after the service, which invites a lot of fellowship. Service begins at 7 p.m., and we usually are leaving by 9 - 10 p.m. I have men and women, young families to 95-year-olds. We have been enjoying them and using them."

Did you get a chance to use any of LHM's resources in 2016? If so, drop us a note and tell us about it. We'd like to hear from you.

You can share your thoughts here: click here!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Putting One Foot in front of the Other

I don't know if it's age or routine or what but I don't get outside to walk quite often enough these days. I remember periods in my life when going for a walk just to go for a walk was an anticipated and almost daily occurrence. The chance to brush off the cobwebs in the open air was a welcome respite from the stale oxygen of closed spaces. And there was always a feeling of rejuvenation at the end of my trek, with a renewed focus on whatever the day held next.

I might add too that the particular peregrination of which I speak is unaccompanied. Absent are cell phone, headphones and a playlist of jams, and/or any other device that distracts or preoccupies your thoughts.

Rest assured, you can do without them for a while.

Evidently, not a few creative types have found walking a healthy pursuit, with a dedicated allegiance coming from those who write for a living. Authors from Dickens and Thoreau to Orwell and Nabokov were fond of practicing the simple art of ambulation in their quest to vent their minds and inspire their creativity.

"There is something about the pace of walking and the pace of thinking that goes together," said Geoff Nicholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, in a BBC interview. "Walking requires a certain amount of attention, but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking. I do believe once you get the blood flowing through the brain it does start working more creatively. Your senses are sharpened. As a writer, I also use it as a form of problem solving. I'm far more likely to find a solution by going for a walk than sitting at my desk and thinking."

So, do you ever feel like your brain's not firing on all cylinders? Is your thinking sometimes dull and uninspired?

If so, put on your favorite pair of kicks and see where you end up. You may find the fresh air and open spaces therapeutic in ways you never imagined. (And remember, leave the gadgets at home.)

Do you have any favorite treks you make to clear your head and sort out your thinking? You can share your thoughts here: click here!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Time Is Here

This coming weekend Lutheran Hour Ministries and the Int'l Lutheran Laymen's League kick off a yearlong celebration honoring 100 years of Gospel outreach throughout North and South America and around the world. Festivities take place this Friday evening to Sunday morning, October 21-23, at Union Station in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Bringing Christ to the Nations and the Nations to the Church has been the theme of LHM's work for years, and by God's abundant grace we've been able to connect with people far and wide, taking His message of love and salvation to a world bound in sin and in need of a Savior.

To highlight the impact LHM has had on others, a few comments from those using our resources is in order. For instance, we released an illustrated children's booklet of rhymes that relates to kids who Jesus is. It's been a big hit. The booklet is entitled Do You Know Who Jesus Is? Here's a note from a church that ordered 350 of them this month.

"These were purchased to use in layettes that will be donated to a local hospital as well as 'bags' that are provided to children who are brought to a local shelter for children in crisis. The bags contain personal hygiene items, as well as 'comfort' items the children can keep, so they have something of their own, especially since they are often removed from their homes with only the clothes they're wearing. We've looked at several places for books to put in the bags and to add to the layettes that are given away. Unfortunately, most books are so expensive they're cost prohibitive to include them in the multiple bags/layettes we provide. Your books really help. Do you happen to have others that might be appropriate? We would love to have something written for toddler-age children!"

And this from a woman who ordered 125 of the same booklet,

"Our grandchildren like it so much we thought we would give one to all their cousins for Christmas, even though we aren't Lutheran. Then I thought about all the children that trick or treat in our subdivision, so I ordered them to hand out with the candy. We pray our Lord will anoint these booklets, so the children in the neighborhood will come to know Jesus and His love for them."

Here's one of many comments we receive on our Daily Devotions, written for years by Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus for The Lutheran Hour.

"I just wanted to say how thankful I am for Pastor Klaus' daily message. Each message talks about Jesus. How beautiful! Although I am not Lutheran, I am a child of Jesus Christ. And for that I am thankful. I thank our Lord and Savior for using Pastor Klaus in such a way to take everyday things and apply them to what is important: our salvation."

There was this comment on GodConnects, a set of 12 videos that explain the chief doctrines of the Christian faith and includes accompanying discussion points and related Scriptures for study. It's hosted by Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, the Speaker for The Lutheran Hour.

"I wanted to commend you on the great study, GodConnects. We are using it for our adult vacation Bible school at our church and neighboring Lutheran retirement community, which is Concordia Senior Living in Oklahoma City. Keep up the good work: 'Well done, good and faithful servant!'"

The following comment was prompted by work LHM does in Africa:

"I'm a Congolese Lutheran Christian based in Lubumbashi (Katanga Province, southeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo). I heard and met people working with LHM during one of my missions in Nairobi/Kenya. As a result, I expressed our need of seeing LHM being operational in our country. Lutheran Hour Ministries is wonderful in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ worldwide. I am persuaded your presence in this vast country would be highly appreciated and productive, as it will bring Jesus to many families and the latter to the church."

Staff and volunteers from LHM have presented hundreds of workshops and seminars over the years. Here's a response from someone who attended a MISSION U workshop presented by Bruce Sutherland, a ministry resource manager for LHM.

"Bruce Sutherland did a wonderful job of presenting the MISSION U 201 materials to us. He was very knowledgeable and personable, and the personal experiences he shared about dealing with 'tough questions' certainly resonated with our group. I heard only positive feedback about Bruce and his enthusiasm.

"We live in a diverse university community and perhaps must deal with those tough questions more regularly than those in more homogeneous communities. Bruce gave us actual scenarios as to how we might deal with the real questions that arise, and charged us to do our 'homework' to develop our own answers. I especially appreciated the fact that he taught us to deal respectfully with those who disagree with our point of view, rather than slamming them with the Law."

There was even this note we received on our building:

"I am from Benton, Arkansas. I am 83 years old. I was visiting a daughter in St. Louis. While driving by your headquarters building on two occasions, I was blessed to see your large lighted Christmas message in front of your building. It was wonderful, inspiring and transported the true message of the Christmas season. God bless you for your message. If you will advise where to send a contribution for your cause, I will do so."

Has LHM impacted you or your congregation in a positive way, over the years? Have you listened to a sermon from The Lutheran Hour, participated in one of our many Bible studies, read one of our topical booklets, attended one of our outreach-focused workshops, listened to or read a devotion in Spanish, or even joined us for a convention in years gone by? If so, drop a line and let us know about your experience.

We'd love to hear from you!

You can do that by clicking here and sharing your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Time Has Come (or Nearly So)

It's a little (all right, a lot) depressing to think of modern campaign tactics: all the negativity, the politics of fear, the misinformation, the bloated half-truths. Back in the '60s when I was a kid, politics seemed a tad more noble, a little more civil. Candidates spoke more eloquently about the positive changes they would make; they even showed respect for their adversaries. Throwing mud at other candidates was classless, a sign of desperation. And it was those ads that stood out as being less than savory, less than the way individuals contending for a high civic office should act.

Sure, it was all probably naïve, contrived and artificial. But at least I had the impression I didn't have to hold my nose to vote, reluctantly pulling the lever for the lesser of two or three evils. Campaign seasons -- and the elections that follow -- now give me the impression we're just putting a new crop of horrible, self-interested people in office because, well, that's all we have to choose from.

Reminds me of the comment I saw recently, probably on Facebook: "We've got 300 million people in this country and this is who we've got to vote for?"

I wonder if that's why the U.S. Congress typically has such low public approval ratings. Maybe that's why government comes across as a necessary evil.

The apostle Paul once wrote a letter to the believers in the Washington D.C. of his time. In Romans 13 we read, "Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:3-4).

I love that phrase: "He is God's servant for your good."

As the 2016 presidential election nears, let's pause to give thanks for God's gifts to a broken world, I want to start by giving Him thanks for our government. No, it isn't perfect. We have imperfect people doing imperfect jobs. But God has a very important purpose for our government: maintain law and order and thwart those who would bring disorder, crime and chaos. A government for the people can offer its citizens the chance to live peaceable lives, a society where they can follow their beliefs freely in a society without restriction. I encourage you to join my prayers that God will uphold our leaders, guide them to just decisions, protect them from vanity and deception, and give them clarity and purpose.

Please share your thoughts about our government and the election process. You can share your thoughts here: click here!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Smell of Books

With fall's arrival my mind turns to books and reading. If there's a hint of early color to the leaves outside, my thoughts are redirected all the more. By the time there's dew on the grass, frost on the pumpkin, and steam when I speak, it's full-on book mode. It's at this time that self-absorbing reveries increase as summer's exuberance wanes, against cooler temperatures and the more meditative frame of mind autumn ushers in. With this mental shift, the world of literature takes on a newfound significance, inviting me to remember why I love to read in the first place.

And while I'm at it, the smell of books is a beautiful thing too, isn't it? Any book lover can tell you, often in terms waxing poetic, about the exhilaratingly rich oxygen that exudes from the printed page. This is especially true of those careered volumes that have lived a few years on a book shelf, be it a public institution or a private library. For the lucky book-handler wandering the stacks, there's the serendipity of discovery; the joy of cradling the chosen tome; the tactile sensation of locating a particular passage; and then the realization that he has but one choice: a nosedive into the book's spine for some rarified air.

Odd perhaps, but for the like-minded, it's one of life's little pleasures.

Clay tablets, papyrus manuscripts, vellum parchments, books: what's your favorite thing about books (besides reading them, of course)?

Do you have any special connection with books that seems out of the ordinary? If so, let us know what makes a book tick for you.

You can do this by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Gridiron Clock

We're moving headlong into fall now! Labor Day festivities wrapped up yesterday, and football is back. High school games have begun; college pre-conference season games are underway, and the NFL kicks off with a bang as the Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncs host the Carolina Panthers at Mile High Stadium this Thursday night.

I always wanted to play football when I was a kid. I dreamed of being the star running back on the team, my name echoing out over the loudspeakers as I ran for touchdown after touchdown. But there was one problem to this pipedream: I was thin and scrawny. Consequently, I ended up on the sidelines, playing tuba in the marching band. Only later did I learn that for every glorious minute on the field the football team spent hours grinding through practice and working out.

The guys on the football team and those of us in the marching band took our separate paths. Each day we both practiced, honing our respective skills. But Friday nights we came together, each ready to take the field in his or her own time, bringing glory to our school, and a little to ourselves. Even now, on Friday nights when I drive by a high school and see the stadium lights and hear the drums pounding, it takes me back.

Life seems cyclical, doesn't it? These days I find myself in a somewhat similar situation with my son. He's finished high school now and is in college. I'd love to be there with him, enjoying all his experiences -- the struggles as well as the triumphs. But both of us have a different path to take: I'm off to work each day, while he's pushing through his college course load and forging plans for his future.

Like the marching band and the football team, we'll end up doing our stuff apart, in the future. But I can encourage him from the sidelines with my thoughts and prayers. I'll look forward to those game times when I can take my place on the sidelines, and cheer him on.

But life presses on, and the chances are not far from slim that I may not be there for some of his greater achievements, especially if they happen later in his life. The differences in our ages being the determining factor on that issue.

Football with its start in the late summer-early fall of the year has a way of marking in our minds that sense of transition we feel with the changing seasons. In fact, the next Men's NetWork blog you'll read will be one day short of the first day of autumn. How quickly time flies. How helpless we are to do anything about it.

How do you feel as you watch your children "spring up" before your very eyes? Do you have any special or innovative ways of staying a part of their lives, especially as they move beyond your household?

You can let us know by clicking here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Checking Our Presets

I was thinking about all the tiffs between people that, seemingly, have no end. Sometimes even finding the origin of the dispute is an exercise in futility. What happens at the human micro-level, of course, plays out between groups of people and extends even to the hostilities shared between nations. It reminds me of a bit of dialogue fashioned a while back by that American master, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain. In it he relays a bit of homespun conversation between Huck Finn and Buck Grangerford in his timeless classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The gist of it is Huck trying to ascertain how the long-running blood feud between the Grangerfords and the Sheperdsons all started -- and why it keeps going.

Huck begins the conversation:

"Did you want to kill him, Buck?"

"Well, I bet I did."

"What did he do to you?"

"Him? He never done nothing to me."

"Well, then, what did you want to kill him for?"

"Why, nothing -- only it's on account of the feud."

"What's a feud?"

"Why, where was you raised? Don't you know what a feud is?"

"Never heard of it before -- tell me about it."

"Well," says Buck, "a feud is this way: A man has a quarrel with another man, and kills him; then that other man's brother kills him; then the other brothers, on both sides, goes for one another; then the cousins chip in -- and by and by everybody's killed off, and there ain't no more feud. But it's kind of slow, and takes a long time."

"Has this one been going on long, Buck?"

"Well, I should reckon! It started thirty year ago, or som'ers along there. There was trouble 'bout something, and then a lawsuit to settle it; and the suit went agin one of the men, and so he up and shot the man that won the suit -- which he would naturally do, of course. Anybody would."

"What was the trouble about, Buck? -- land?"

"I reckon maybe -- I don't know."

"Well, who done the shooting? Was it a Grangerford or a Shepherdson?"

"Laws, how do I know? It was so long ago."
"Don't anybody know?"

"Oh, yes, pa knows, I reckon, and some of the other old people; but they don't know now what the row was about in the first place."

Hmmm. While our mental defaults might not be as entrenched -- or trigger-happy -- as that of Buck Grangerford, it's still easy to go through life with a preset frame of mind.

As you consider your own positions on various issues, is there anything you can say you inherited from your forebears -- good or bad?

Care to divulge?

You can let us know by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Someday, Maybe

This spring in Forbes magazine, Dan Hesse, former Sprint CEO, was asked by writer Robert Reiss what CEOs and presidential candidates can learn from ancient Greek philosophers. Hesse referred to a tome he read in college as an undergraduate: The Republic by Plato. It was the first book he read that shaped his views on leadership. Here is their interview:

Reiss: "What are the leadership lessons you learned?"

Hesse: "First and foremost, that it's a privilege and a responsibility to lead. Socrates talks about how a good ship's captain is more concerned with the sailors than for himself, how the good leader is more concerned with the welfare of his subjects than for his own.

"Second, great leaders bring people of different skills and walks of life (the aristocracy, the producers and the soldiers) together for the common good.

"Third, good leaders are always learning and constantly seeking the truth, and that the value of uneducated opinion pales when compared to facts or the truth.

"Fourth, that leadership needs to be earned, that leadership should only be bestowed on the 'best,' or most virtuous person. Justice is the first and most important of the four virtues, it enables the other three-temperance, courage and intelligence."

Reiss: "What is the relevance of a book written 2,400 years ago to our presidential election or business leaders today?"

Hesse: "Plato describes how the same qualities that make a person lead well make the organization or state function well (that an organization functions much like a person). A just person is in balance. They are educated in science, the arts and in sport, and healthy in body, mind and soul. Socrates argues that women, if provided the same education, are as capable of being fine leaders as men. A just person must lead the state, and the state must be in balance between the interests of all of its citizens, the workers, aristocracy and military if it is to function well. A leader who creates or foments class warfare is extremely dangerous, and this behavior can lead to tyranny or dictatorship. Plato asks how the tyrant 'tries to rule others when he cannot be master of himself?' Even though tyrants or the greedy gain physical possessions, Plato describes them as unhappy, as 'the most miserable.' Tyrants can exist in governments and in companies.

"The Republic helped shape my view that business leadership is a vocation, that how a business is led impacts the lives and livelihoods of so many people -- employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers and the communities served by a company, and this is why Corporate Responsibility is important of and by itself, not because the ends might justify the means (in reputation or brand). The openness, intelligence, civility and quality of the dialogue and disagreements between the participants in these Socratic debates are also important to foster within companies, in our political campaigns, and in Washington.

"Our founding fathers created the United States on Plato's principles, which had been developed further by political philosophers like Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. Plato said that the best leaders often don't seek to be leaders -- they don't seek power. George Washington was practically 'drafted' to be our first president. The idea of a couple of open party conventions where the most virtuous or best person is 'drafted' is an interesting idea whose time may have come."

Interesting ... "drafting" the most virtuous -- the most capable and qualified candidate -- to lead our country.

If only that were the case.

Well, someday, maybe.

Is there anything you care to add concerning our prospects for the coming election?

If so, you can drop us a note by going to the Men's Network blog and clicking here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

So What?

Over the years I have become fairly cynical about what I read, watch and hear. I do not believe there is such a thing as "unbiased" media. In today's world most media conveys a specific point of view, agenda, or call to action. The same "news" story reported on five different channels will deliver five different conclusions. Corporations and governments alike employ a cadre of media specialists to provide "spin," so their point of view is portrayed as fact.

Over the years I have looked for the "So what?" in what I hear, see or read, especially in the media.

I define the "So what?" as an action or attitude that the author wishes me to adopt.

For example, when watching a car commercial, the "So what?" is that I be moved to purchase that vehicle. Those so whats are easy to spot.

Ads promoting the lottery offer the "So what?" that you will be a hero to school kids as you spend your money on the lottery, which funds education. Some of these ads leave me feeling as if I am a terrible person who hates kids if I don't plunk down my dollars for them -- at least once in a while.

Now to all this some of you may be saying to yourself, "So what?"

The "So what?" I want you to think about is to become a critical consumer of media. Too often we accept everything we hear or read without thinking objectively about it. We buy into the adage that "If it's on the Internet, on the national news, or in the newspaper, then it must be true ... at least mostly." This also applies to hearing it from "live" sources as when we wholesale accept something because we heard it from a friend or family member. Suffice it to say, critical thinking should a close companion, a very close companion.

As for me, I read the fine print, look for the angles, and will not send money to Africa because someone died and named me in his will.

This whole critical-thinking thing is something worthwhile to pass along to the next generation too. The world's awash in hyperbole and trivial nonsense, and this schlock is targeted (as it has been for years) at the very young as well. For impressionable, young minds the world is full of choices like never before. Some are of value; many are not, and it's a huge help if by our input and experience we can help them see the difference.

As any guy knows, some of the priceless benefits that come with age are the lessons gained from our hard-won experiences. But let's not let these life-changing gems remain with us. Be sure to pass them on when you get a chance, but do so tactfully, in small, steady doses. As we all know, it's good medicine for those who hear it, but for some it may be hard to swallow.

Thinking outside the box is a skill worth working on. Are you a critical thinker? Have you found yourself resisting staid and worn-out kinds of "knowledge" and, instead, going deeper, digging past the fluff and surface noise, to get at a more reasoned sense of an issue -- whether it's politics, theology or science?

So what does all this matter? Well, it can matter quite a bit when what's pawned off as true and real is a semi-sophisticated spin of dubious details and questionable facts -- something we're all getting an ear full of this election cycle.

Heard anything that's made you ask "So what?" lately? If so, let us know by going to the Men's Network blog and clicking here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


The Fourth of July is at hand. It's time to celebrate our freedom, but freedom from what?
Or maybe the question is freedom for what?

I remember my teenage years when all my friends were craving the freedom of adulthood: freedom to go where we wanted, when we wanted, and especially freedom to stay up as late as we wanted. Then too there was the freedom to follow our dreams, embrace our desires, be who we wanted to be, away from our parents' rules and responsibilities. Man, we didn't know what we were thinking.

Actually, in hindsight, it sounds a whole lot like Adam and Eve in the Garden. They declared their independence from God and His rules, and just look at the world today. Humanity still follows its own dreams, embraces its own desires, shuns God's rules and responsibilities and, in the end, struggles desperately against the consequences of countless reckless decisions.

Several months ago, two men were driving through Yellowstone National Park and picked up a bison calf that was all alone. They put it in their SUV and drove it to the ranger station. They meant well, but the rangers said they had now contaminated the animal with their scent, and it would be rejected by the herd. Since it would slowly starve to death, without a mother to nurse it, they had to put it down. It really appeared like the two tourists had made a reckless decision that doomed the young calf.

But there was more to the story. Deby Dixon, a wildlife and nature photographer who frequently shoots photos in Yellowstone, had seen that calf two days before the two in the SUV stopped to help. It had already been orphaned or somehow separated from its mother. Dixon wrote, "I do not condemn the people who picked up the orphaned calf. I understand and know that they thought that they were doing the right thing. These tourists could not have known that the bison calf was an orphan and that no other female bison would adopt and care for it. They could not have known that the calf would die, as nature intended, despite their efforts."

I agree with everything she wrote except three words: "as nature intended." That is not what "nature" intended -- at least not nature's Creator. That is the curse that fell on creation when Adam and Eve declared their independence from God's command. Little did they know the bondage to sin and its addictions they would bring on themselves, and all the rest of us: their descendants. And now the creatures of the world suffer right alongside mankind from the folly of our declaration of independence from our Creator -- whether it's a bison calf, a gorilla in the Cincinnati Zoo, or our pet dogs and cats when they get cancer, epilepsy, and diabetes. Yep, it's quite a legacy we've inherited from our first parents' independence day (see Romans 8:19-21).

But wonder of wonder, God didn't just abandon us to our self-destructive declaration. He promised to send His Son to save us, and to restore that shattered creation. Like us, creation longs for that day when Jesus Christ will return and set it free. That day will be a new day of true freedom and liberty as Jesus sets all His creatures free from suffering, pain, death and a meaningless existence. At that time He will free us believers from all our trepidations, anxiety and fear, from guilt, self-doubt, and death.

No, it is not independence from God that gives us true freedom and liberty; it is the dependence of faith on God, in our Savior Jesus Christ, that frees us. It's just as Jesus said: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).

How free do you find yourself as the Fourth of July approaches?

Stop by the Men's NetWork blog and let us know. You can do this by clicking here.

Have a happy Fourth!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

If Today Was Your Last Day

We've heard plenty of health scares in recent weeks: doctors found a bacterium immune to all known antibiotics and are afraid it will pass along its immunity to other, more dangerous bacteria. There's the frightening news that the Zika virus is being carried by another kind of mosquito that hunts further north than the original mosquito. And now the killer bees are back.

One recent morning Alex Bestler, 23, decided to walk a trail near Mesa, Arizona, with a friend. They stuck to the trail but suddenly found themselves under attack. While the friend ran for help, thousands of bees swarmed around Bestler. When park employees arrived, they tried to rescue him to no avail; they couldn't get close before they too were driven off by the insects.

Finally, Maricopa County Sheriff Sergeant Allen Romer arrived at the park, jumped on a park utility task vehicle and raced to Bestler's location. Two rural metro fire fighters helped him load Bestler onto the UTV and remove him from the scene, still covered with bees, while the swarm pursued. They distanced themselves from the swarm and arrived at a waiting emergency vehicle where life-saving measures were begun. Unfortunately, Bestler died after arriving at Desert Vista Hospital. Medical staff and sheriff's detectives estimate he had over 1,000 stings.

Experts say the so-called "killer bees" have migrated from Brazil into the American Southwest. They are actually Africanized bees. They look like normal bees and are no more poisonous, but they're much more aggressive and more likely to attack in swarms which relentlessly pursue their target.

What gets me about these bee attacks is how they strike without warning. Construction workers and people mowing lawns have been attacked and killed by swarming bees as well.

Every morning when I wake up I take for granted my life will go like normal -- as will the lives of the people around me. But these stories remind me that my life -- or theirs -- can be altered or ended without warning, at any moment.

Every time we hear of a person killed in a car accident, a heart attack, or a violent crime, we need to stop and see ourselves, our loved ones, and the people around us at work and in our community. We need to live with more purpose, more understanding, and a greater sense of urgency in sharing our faith. They may not always be tomorrow. Today may be their last day -- or ours.

Thankfully, all of us who have been given faith in Jesus will be ready when our last hour arrives. But what about those who don't trust in Jesus? For their sake we need to remember the urgency of our Lord's call and get busy!

Whether it's killer bees, malicious viruses, or some other scourge, they're just subtle reminders that there are no lifetime guarantees when it comes to the number of our tomorrows.

What do you think about when something like killer bees make the headlines?

Visit the Men's NetWork blog and let us know. You can do this by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Nation Remembers

As we approach this Memorial Day weekend, I wonder how many of you are like me. I never served in the military, nor did any of my brothers -- or my cousins, nephews or nieces. That was my parents' generation.

All but one of my mom's brothers served in the military (he had TB and couldn't serve); my dad and all his brothers served in WW II and Korea. We even lost one in battle. My dad's brother Roland died from wounds he suffered on Iwo Jima in February 1945. Dad learned about it the night before his confirmation.

I remember walking into my grandma's living room and seeing the row of pictures on her wall. All six of her sons in their dress uniforms. It made a huge impression on me. I also remember she had a kind of shrine in place for Roland. Looking at his picture as a kid, I thought he was so grown up and old. But in reality he was around 20 years old when he died: the same age my son is now.

That's why Memorial Day always makes me pause for a moment and remember how this special day has a somber edge to it. I can't think of it as just the weekend that kicks off summer.

If Memorial Day doesn't have that kind of personal connection to you, then just consider world events which show how important it is that young men and women are willing to answer the call to protect our country. In so doing they sacrifice their precious time, their strength, and sometimes even their lives to defend us.

It would be nice if it didn't have to be that way. It would be great if young men and women didn't have to leave their families to fight for us, to suffer physical, emotional and mental trauma that can last a lifetime. It would be wonderful if none of them had to give the final sacrifice and never come home. But evil is real, and there are definitely people who want to attack our way of life.

That's why this Memorial Day needs to hit home. We need to remember and honor those who made great sacrifices so we can live free. To honor them we need to make our lives count; we need to make sure their sacrifices weren't in vain.

Of course, this honor due is even more important in the case of our Savior: the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all. The deaths of the men and women we will honor this coming Monday protected our earthly freedom, but Jesus laid down His life to protect our eternal liberty, to pay the price for our sins, to guarantee us eternal life in a perfect world where sin, crime and the ravages of war will be no more.

What's Memorial Day mean to you? Are there those you know who've paid heavily for their acceptance of the call to serve in the military? Are you one of them?

This coming Monday, Memorial Day, our nation honors the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. May God bless them richly.

Take a moment and join us on the Men's NetWork blog. You can do so by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Compassionate Judge

Twenty-five hearings ago the defendant had been charged with driving under the influence. Now he stands before Judge Lou Olivera as he confesses he had lied about a recent urine test. This same judge has been tracking this man's progress in a veteran's treatment court program. Up to now he has been lenient, but now he has no choice.

The sentence is 24 hours in jail. But this isn't just an ordinary defendant. He is Sgt. Joseph Serna, a former Special Forces soldier who served four combat tours in Afghanistan. He was almost killed three times. One was a roadside bomb; another was suicide bomber. In 2008 his armored truck left a narrow dirt road and ended up in a canal.

As his vehicle filled with water Serna struggled to free himself but was unable. He recalls: "I felt a hand come down and unfasten my seat belt and release my body armor. Sgt. James Treber picked me up and moved me to a small pocket of air. He knew there was not enough room for both of us to breathe so he went under water to find another pocket of air." Sgt. Treber was unable to find that air pocket. Serna was the sole survivor.

A decorated Green Beret, Sgt. Serna was awarded three Purple Hearts and numerous military awards, but found adjusting to civilian life difficult. He turned to alcohol and now, in addition to battling PTSD, he struggles to stay sober.

After the hearing Sgt. Serna is led to a waiting car. To his surprise the driver is Judge Olivera himself. Afraid the night and day in jail will trigger Sgt. Serna's PTSD, the judge personally drives him to the jail, comes into his cell, and sits down on his cot. The whole night they sit together, talking about their experiences in the military. Later, Sgt. Serna described it as "more of a father-son conversation. It was personal."

Judge Olivera commented about Sgt. Serna and the veterans in his program: "They have worn the uniform, and we know they can be contributing members of society. We just want to get them back there."

Reminds me of our divine Judge who set aside His royal robes, came into our world, and spent a lifetime with us. He accepted our verdict as His own and took our place on the cross. Jesus' blood has purified us from our sins and He sent His Spirit to restore us, to make us contributing members of His church, to be a blessing to the people into whose lives He sends us. He promised to never leave us nor forsake us, "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b).

I wonder, remembering the compassion of our merciful Judge, how can we not find courage and motivation to keep up the good fight against sin? And in wonder and gratitude for His great sacrifice, how can we but spread the story of His love to our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances?

We have been given so much. Yet we often pay only the slightest attention to what we possess, to what He's done, to who we are supposed to be in Him. Perhaps we value God's grace too lightly. Maybe we don't value it at all. Would it do us good to remember the sentence we were under, and how we are saved only because of the willing Substitute we have in Jesus, who took our place for us.

Are you emancipated? We hope so. You can share your thoughts on the Men's NetWork blog by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Last week our son finished his first year in college. The experience has changed him. He's more independent, more mature, more articulate -- and as my wife and I discovered when helping clear out his dorm room -- a little more determined that cleanliness is not next to godliness.

But his first year of college definitely changed him just as his high school years changed him, and grade school before that, and preschool before that. But I have to confess his year at college changed me too. It made me realize how precious my time is with him and my wife; it made me revisit my past -- and reexamine where I am today -- and where I am going. It made me more resolute to do more to serve the Lord and the people He has brought to me.

Looking back over my life, I realize every situation and every person I've encountered has changed something about me: my perspective, my understanding, and my empathy towards what other people go through. Hopefully, each experience has drawn me closer to the Lord and made me a little wiser. But part of that wisdom is grasping how little I really know and understand.

Come to think of it, this process of changing is basic to being human. But God describes Himself in a very different way:

* "I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6a).

* "God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?" (Numbers 23:19).

* "You remain the same, and Your years will never end" (Psalm 102:27).

* "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17).

I find this very humbling. I change because I am a lowly, limited creature. I am surrounded by great mysteries that I seek to grasp, but the harder I try the more I realize how much is beyond my puny mind's abilities. But there are no mysteries for God. He knows all things, perceives all things, understands all things. What a vast difference between God and mankind. When it comes to intelligence, perception and foresight, I'm a whole lot closer to a chimpanzee, a sheep, or a dog than I am to God.

Yet most of the time I don't keep that healthy perspective about my true place in the universe. Instead, I'm terribly arrogant. I think I know what is best for me and for the people around me. I'm still reaching for the forbidden fruit like Eve, my mother. I'm trying to be like God -- instead of being content to be the creature He made me be -- a creature made to trust Him with all his heart, soul, mind and strength!

That's what I see around me: people who dare to sit in judgment on God and condemn Him to justify themselves. Listen to this quote from Richard Dawkins; it's from his book The God Delusion:

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously, malevolent bully."

How arrogant and foolish! But that's the same thing Job did throughout his book. He thought he had his problems all figured out. If he could just have a face-to-face with God, he would be able to enlighten the Lord, and God would quickly see His mistake and make things right. It was only when Job glimpsed a tiny bit of God's vast wisdom in the whirlwind that he got snapped back down into his place as a lowly creature.

* "I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ... therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:3, 6).

Job was reminded of his origins -- something God had to remind Adam of when he ate the forbidden fruit: "You are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19b).

The wonder is that God still cares about arrogant lowly creatures like us. He loved us enough to send His Son as our Savior.

Yes, I am changing. I find great peace when I quiet my mind and realize I am God's humble creature, and He is my magnificent Lord, Creator, God, and Father. It is changing my prayers too. Instead of thinking I'm smart enough to know exactly what God needs to do to straighten out my life and the lives of the people I care about, I admit I don't have a clue what is best. I can present our challenges and struggles to Him, and thank Him for His promise to love us, provide for us, heal us, and guide all things for our good.

Yes, change is good for us humans. And it's even better for us that God doesn't need to change.

You can share your thoughts on the Men's NetWork blog by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Our Truth and God's Truth

Thanks to Christina Aguilera, I finally figured out one possible way to bridge the generation gap between my generation and the next.

Monday night on The Voice she told two of her singers, "You need to find a way to bring out 'your truth.'" In our culture, truth is relative, personal and individual. Like Aguilera says, each person has their own truth. Maybe that helps explain our cultural confusion over things that seem so obvious to me, especially what to do with public restrooms and transgender people.

And that is where the generation gap comes in for me. I have to admit this relative truth makes no sense to a dinosaur like me. I'm a Boomer, and I picked up the "modern" perspective of my parents. For me right and wrong is absolute, it doesn't change because a number of years have gone by and our culture has blurred the lines on what is truth and what is falsehood.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that Jesus claimed pretty much the same thing, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6a). If He is the Truth, then anything different than what He says is falsehood. Again, in the Sermon on the Mount He asserted, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17-19).

That's why I find myself getting so aggravated when I hear people try to legislate a new morality -- in direct contradiction to the morality God has laid out in the Bible. But that's my generation gap. And it won't help me witness to my child's generation if I stubbornly hold to my absolute truth and try to convince them of their absolute mistake.

Aguilera helped me realize something. She is right. Everyone has his or her own truth: she does, I do, and God does. If there is any such thing as "absolute truth," it is only a valid concept because it is God's truth, and He is the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of this universe who never changes. And that is where I was mistaken in my understanding of absolute truth. For some reason I thought I could separate absolute right and wrong from God. But apart from God, there is no truth. His unchanging truth is determinative of what actual truth and falsehood is. He created us humans in incredible wisdom and undeniable love. He knows how we tick. He knows what is good for us and what will harm us. He did not set forth His Commandments, or rules, or guidelines to limit our self-expression, but rather to protect us from self-delusion and self-destruction.

I can acknowledge that each person has his or her own definition of truth and falsehood. But the only real question is this: Whose truth really matters in the end? I can tell you it isn't the opinion of a group of people, or a generation. It isn't the thinking of a circuit court of appeals, or a state supreme court, or even the United States Supreme Court. It is the will of the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the entire universe. We will all have to stand before Him one day and give an account of our lives. And then our own simplistic thoughts of right and wrong will all melt away, and only His will stand supreme over all creatures.

But there I go with my absolutes again.

Maybe I don't have to force the next generation to admit my viewpoint is right and theirs is wrong. Instead, I can talk about individual truth in a nonjudgmental way, then share God's truth with them.

Truth. Do you find truth to be a moving target in your life? What's your basis for determining if something is true or not? Does it require physical evidence, some sort of verification? Is taking God at His Word sufficient -- the old "God said it. I believe it. That settles it" frame of mind.

Any thoughts on the matter? You can share them by clicking here and letting us know.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Prayer, Care, Share

There are many different ways to think about sharing the Gospel with others. Last week at our Lutheran Hour Ministries chapel service I was introduced to "Prayer, Care and Share" by Rev. Joe Sullivan, from Pacific, Missouri. No, it's not a revolutionary or earth-shattering idea, but it is a neat way to center our thinking on fulfilling this command Jesus gave us: to make disciples of all nations.

Let's face it. The sharing part is pretty intimidating for most of us. None of us wants to face rejection or drive someone away when sharing our faith. But it helps me to remember the share part comes last.

Prayer is first.

What could be easier than praying for someone in your life who needs to know God's love the way you do. (And what if you can't think of any non-Christians? Pray for God to show you someone He wants you to reach.) Then pray for that person or those people, over and over and over again.

And that brings up a really cool part of this whole thing. Normally you might think of people at work, school, or your next-door neighbors. But what if you have absolutely nothing in common with them? If that's the case, then your hobbies and interests, things you really have a passion for, can be your guide.

For instance, if you're an outdoors kind of person, you don't have to suddenly go to a really uncomfortable place like an art gallery to find someone to witness to. You can talk to your buddy at the state park, or the lake, or the campground. If, on the other hand, you get hives thinking of the great outdoors and you enjoy dance class; then there are plenty of people who share that passion too.

Whatever passion God gave you, that is a natural door to prayer, care and share.

Next, is the caring part.

That's not nearly as intimidating as the sharing part, and it's absolutely vital before we start to share. If a total stranger walks up to me and starts telling me the world is flat, I'll just think he's a wacko and go on my way. His advice or thoughts are worth about two cents to me. But if it's my tried-and-true friend telling it to me, then I'll be willing to really listen and reexamine what I always thought was true.

Caring is the investment that increases the value of the faith you have to share. Even more, when they see the difference that faith, trust and peace brings to your life -- especially in the rough stretches of your life -- they may be begging you to let them in on your secret. Getting to that level of friendship takes time, time spent together, a personal investment of hours.

And then finally, there is the sharing.

Sharing just sounds intimidating, doesn't it? It usually means pushing across a barrier or boundary you haven't crossed with that friend before. That's frightening because you don't know what's on the other side. What if your friend disagrees? It's okay. You don't have to keep pushing; you don't have to give a 15-minute speech or a half-hour lecture on the Gospel. Pray for God to open your eyes to chances to share what Jesus means to you, how He's helped you through life's rough patches.

That leads you right back to prayer and care again. Bring to God the new things you learned about your friend in the time you spent together. Pray about their concerns, their struggles, their worries. Think about similar situations in your life, and how your faith helped -- or how it would have helped if you hadn't tried to carry it by yourself.

Prayer, care, share. It's a pretty good way to knock some of the intimidation out of telling others about Jesus.

Talking to others about Jesus can be a challenge. Then again, we probably make it tougher than it is by thinking it's all about our eloquence, our encyclopedic knowledge, our personality. It's really not about us, except in how we can be a mouthpiece for Him. He will lead. He will empower, if only we will listen.

What do you think about sharing your faith? Tell us by clicking here and letting us know.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I Feel Old When ...

This past Monday morning one of the trending topics on Twitter was #IFeelOldWhen ....

Some of the tweets were pretty good:

#IFeelOldWhen "I still think of the 90s as 10 years ago."

#IFeelOldWhen "My teenager says 'nice outfit' and rolls her eyes."

#IFeelOldWhen "I realized The Simpsons came out over 26 years ago."

#IFeelOldWhen "It's time to pay my mortgage, car payment, insurance, electric bill, cell bill, Internet bill, water bill, etc."

#IFeelOldWhen "I see my old friends, and they are all married with kids."

These last two tweets appear to come from people in their 20s or 30s, which makes it rather obvious we start feeling the passage of time when we're still quite young. Elite athletes probably feel it more acutely than those of us who aren't. But eventually the relentless march of time becomes obvious to each of us.

One tweet that struck me was from an M.D.:

#IFeelOldWhen "I get to work and all the corpses to autopsy are younger than me. Boy, does that make me sad."

We Americans go to war against time and aging, throwing billions of dollars a year into anti-aging creams and plastic surgeries, but sooner or later we all have to admit it's a losing battle. Sure, we can slow our body's aging a bit with good nutrition, rest and exercise. And that is very good. It gives us more energy and, hopefully, healthy years to serve God by serving our family and neighbors. But ultimately when enough years roll along we too will grow frail and finally lose the battle.

"... You are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19b). That's what Adam and Eve's disobedience won for all of us. But that's what makes the recently completed Easter season so wonderful. Jesus' perfect obedience has won for us a glorious future, even as He is risen from the dead and lives to all eternity. One day all of us who trust His great salvation and look forward to His return will stand before Him in glorious bodies of our own. It will be a perfect, immortal body that will never wear out, grow old, get sick, or die.

I wish I would have reminded my dad of that when cancer was returning his body to the dust. He was a man of faith who knew death wouldn't have the final say, but when he felt so weak, spent and useless, I wish I would have reminded him of his glorious future when that same weary body will be raised in glory: forever powerful, vibrant, radiant, filled with strength, skill and energy.

Sure, from time to time in this lifetime all of us will feel old when .... But take heart, that feeling won't last forever.

Someone once said that youth is wasted on the young. It kind of seems like it is too, but that doesn't mean there are not remarkable things left for us to do -- no matter what our age. Certainly, one of the most important things is remembering we have a God who will renew these old bones when He calls His children home to eternity.

I like that. In fact, I'm not thinking I'm quite so old anymore.

Any thoughts on this whole aging thing we go through? If so, click here and share them with your brothers out there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Thank God for Thomas

Eight days. Eight long, maddening days. Over and over the 10 apostles told their story, "We saw Jesus! He's alive!" Still no matter what they said, their fellow apostle Thomas refused to believe. Nothing was enough: empty grave cloths, angel words, detailed stories from the women, Peter's own personal visit from Jesus that Sunday afternoon, two trusted followers walking with Christ to Emmaus, 10 of the 12 gathered in the upper room as Jesus appears to them. Nothing. In fact, it seems the more details they shared, the more Thomas dug in his heels.

Toward the end Thomas was to the point of embarrassing himself. Perhaps it was anger, hurt and pride, but he clung to his unbelief: "Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails and put my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe" (see John 20: 24-29).

Do you have a Thomas in your life? -- a husband or wife, fiancé, girlfriend or boyfriend who doesn't believe? -- a child who has wandered from the faith? -- a brother or sister who has made up their mind? -- someone at work? -- a close friend? Do you find the more you talk the more adamant they become against what you're saying? How do you reach someone who refuses to be reached? What do you do with a Thomas?

Thank God for Thomas' unbelief -- no, not the unbelief itself -- but for what that unbelief teaches us about sharing the Good News with others.

Have you ever shared the faith, only to see that doing so seemed to make that person even more resistant to Jesus' message? Did you feel like a failure? Did you conclude it would have been better off if you had shared it one time, then let it go? -- or maybe never shared it at all?

The other disciples teach us not to give up. They kept sharing. Perhaps, they even reminded Thomas of all the experiences they had shared together in Jesus' presence as well as all the miracles they had seen. There were all the blind who received their sight, the lame who walked, the deaf who heard, the lepers who were cleansed. Together they had seen Jesus multiply bread and fish. They could remind him of that fearful time on the Sea of Galilee when they thought the boat would sink and they would all drown, only to have Jesus wake up and speak a word, stopping the winds, stilling the sea, and bringing calm to the storm. They could remind Thomas (as if he would need reminding) of Jesus walking on the water to them.

They might have said, "What about those times we watched Jesus square off against death and defeat it? There was that young daughter of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. She had just died when Jesus raised her. Then when we entered the town of Nain and met the funeral procession carrying the widow's son out to burial -- and Jesus raised him hours after his death. And how can we forget Lazarus, dead and buried four days, and yet Jesus was able to overcome death and restore him to life? Is it really that big a stretch to think Jesus Himself could rise from the dead?"

When our friends reject the faith we share, we don't reject them. We keep strengthening the bonds of our friendship, watching and praying for the best time to share our faith again.

I always wondered why Jesus waited a whole week: eight long days to show Himself. Maybe it was to teach us it is not our job to convince or persuade someone to believe. After all, if it was in the apostles' power to make someone believe, shouldn't eight days have been enough for Thomas? Luther had it right: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him." And we cannot by our own reason or strength lead someone else to believe in Him.

All the disciples could do was to faithfully share what they knew. All we can do is faithfully share what we know. Be patient, kind, gentle. Build up that relationship and shake off frustration. Also, don't badger them as if it was up to us and our efforts to bring them to faith.

It was in God the Father's good time that Jesus finally came back to that upper room on the eighth day. No disciple could bring Thomas to believe. It was Jesus' visit and the power of the Holy Spirit that finally shattered his unbelief. "Thomas -- put your finger in My hand, stretch out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting -- no, stop refusing to believe -- and believe!"

Finally, the truth sunk in. "My Lord and my God!"

It was Jesus' visit that worked faith in Thomas, and it is His visit to our friends, co-workers, family and loved ones through the Gospel we share that will shatter their unbelief as the Holy Spirit works saving faith.

Thank God for Thomas' unbelief -- but far more for his repentant belief.

Do you have any stories from the road that deal with witnessing to the faith within you? If you do, click here and tell us about them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Singing and Poetry - Seriously?

Remember studying poems in grade school? All those flowery rhythms and rhymes never seemed very manly to me. Too bad my teachers didn't expose us to powerful poems like the one Walt Whitman wrote after President Lincoln's assassination. Talk about that dark shadow over the joy at the end of the Civil War:

Captain, My Captain

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Or consider Alfred, Lord Tennyson's (oooh, even his name sounds kind of sissy, doesn't it?) stirring description of a British cavalry unit that is ordered to cross a valley to capture Russian cannons at the other end. Couldn't their commanding officer see the enemies lining both sides of the valley ready to cut them down?

The Charge of the Light Brigade

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Good poetry has power to move us, to motivate us, to open our eyes. That's why it always kills me to see guys sitting in church staring off in the distance when hymns are playing. I know it's tough for men to sing. Some of us never got beyond that cracking-voice thing that happened in junior high or middle school, but if you don't sing, or at least read the words, while others are singing, you don't know what you're missing! Read this hymn text slowly; think about the imagery, and you'll feel how Jesus overcame Thomas' unbelief:

These Things Did Thomas Count as Real

These things did Thomas count as real:
The warmth of blood, the chill of steel,
The grain of wood, the heft of stone,
The last frail twitch of flesh and bone.
The vision of his skeptic mind
Was keen enough to make him blind
To any unexpected act
Too large for his small world of fact.

His reasoned certainties denied
That one could live when one had died,
Until his fingers read like Braille
The marking of the spear and nail.

May we, O God, by grace believe
And thus the risen Christ receive,
Whose raw imprinted palms reached out
And beckoned Thomas from his doubt.

Poetry. Lyric. Their power is undeniable, but for many of us they're an acquired taste. Without a melody to hum along and carry the words, it's easy to dismiss the subtle attention to detail of a well-wrought poem or a tightly constructed hymn.

Sometimes you just have to read the words on the page.

What are you reading these days? Click here and let us know.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Our Present and Future

Doesn't seem like our annual remembrance of Jesus' death and resurrection made any impact in the world, does it? After all, terrorists blew themselves up at an Easter celebration in Pakistan, and they are breathing out more threats of violence and destruction. The presidential campaigns seem to be going straight into the gutter on the Republican side and to the FBI on the Democratic. Gun violence continues in the cities. It can get downright overwhelming and depressing.

But wait a minute, Jesus' death and resurrection really did change our world and our lives -- radically. No, it didn't remove evil, pain, suffering and death from the world or our lives -- at least not yet. Jesus will bring that when He returns on the Last Day. But for Christian men, women and children around the world, Jesus' resurrection has changed the whole equation of our lives. Apart from Him, it's just this life alone. If you can't get what you want in this life, you never will. But now a new and unending life stretches before us. It's an eternal life we will share in the presence of our God, in a perfect body, in the company of His redeemed.

In a sense, we are now free to live recklessly: free of fear, doubt and reservation. After all, what's the worse that people can do to us? To be sure, the suicide bombers darkened an Easter celebration, but scores of our Christian brothers and sisters began a never-ending Easter feast, gazing in wonder and joy at the hands, side and feet of their glorious, resurrected Lord. Many will mourn the loss of those who were murdered, and it goes without saying how cowardly, ignorant and vile such an act of violence is. But still the truth remains: because of Jesus' victory over death and sin, we can boldly share our faith and sing songs of thanksgiving, even when the world threatens us, even when the sword is at our throat.

Jesus' resurrection, and the new life it guarantees, have changed our life perspective completely. While we may be disheartened for a time, we don't need to perpetually grieve our children who are born with mental, emotional or physical disabilities -- or even the Zika virus -- because Jesus will completely restore and perfect their bodies and minds when He returns. After this brief life of suffering, there stretches before us an eternity of health, freedom and vitality.

When Paul wrote about the resurrection, he hinted that our new resurrection bodies will be pretty incredible. "What you sow (in the grave) is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as He has chosen" (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-38). Sounds like our new body won't just be this body reanimated to what it was when we were at our peak, but something far surpassing that. Paul says comparing our current body to our new body is like comparing a shriveled-up seed of corn to a fully mature plant standing in the fields.

Yes, we have an incredible future because of what Jesus has accomplished. But we have a pretty outstanding present too. Wherever we are, no matter how high or low we feel, no matter how good or bad our situation, we serve a glorious, wonderful Lord and are surrounded by people who need to know, need to hear what Jesus has done for them. They need to know Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia.

Another Easter has come and gone -- or has it? Christ's resurrection from the dead is proof that Easter is here and now, eternally in the present.

How was your Easter this year? Did you take time to consider the cost Jesus paid for your sins, my sins, the world's sins?

Anything you would like to share? If so, you can click here and comment.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reliving Good Friday

Have you ever spent a Good Friday walking through the events that unfolded the day of Jesus' death? After all, His story is our story. Not everyone can take the whole day thinking of nothing else, but at least we can all pause at certain times and hours to consider what was going on in that day of Jesus' life. (Only three of these times are certain: 9 a.m., 12 noon, and 3 p.m. The rest are close approximations.)

6 a.m. - Peter is vehemently denying Jesus when the rooster crows. He turns and sees Jesus, then rushes out weeping. The Jewish high court reconvenes. Jesus confesses He is God's Son, and they condemn Him to death. The Jewish officials rush Jesus off to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate (see Luke 22:59-62).

6:30 a.m. - Pilate hears evidence against Jesus, questions Him, and then declares there is no basis for the charges brought against Him. When he learns that Jesus is a Galilean, he hands the case over to Herod, governor of Galilee (see Luke 23:1-7).

7 a.m. - Jesus is brought before Herod Antipas. Apparently, Herod has an opening for a court magician because he keeps nagging Jesus to perform a miracle. Jesus stands silently. The Jewish officials pile on the charges against Him, but Herod isn't interested, and Jesus remains silent. Herod mocks Jesus, then sends Him back to Pilate (see Luke 23:8-12).

7:30 a.m. - Jesus appears for a second time before Pilate. Pilate tries a variety of tricks to force the Jews to accept Jesus' release, but each one backfires. He offers to release either Jesus or Barabbas; the priests convince the crowd to call for Barabbas. Pilate decides to have Jesus flogged. Then maybe the Jews will be satisfied (see John 18:38-19:1).

8 a.m. - Jesus is stripped for flogging. I deserve this brutal physical suffering for my disobedience and selfishness. Afterward, the soldiers crown Him with thorns and mock His kingship. How often do I make a mockery of His kingship in my life? (See John 19:2-3.)

8:20 a.m. - Pilate presents Jesus to the crowds with the crown of thorns and bloody robe. They demand His crucifixion and while washing his hands, Pilate surrenders Jesus over to their will (see Matthew 27:24-26).

8:30 a.m. - The crucifixion detail makes its procession through the streets of Jerusalem. When Jesus grows too weak to carry the cross, the soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry it for Him (see Matthew 27:32).

9 a.m. - Jesus is crucified. (In case you thought Jesus was only on the cross three hours, check out Mark 15:25, 33-34; it was six hours.) He prays "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (see Luke 23:34).

10 a.m. - Jesus is surrounded with mocking and railing from the chief priests, Roman soldiers, and even the criminals, at first. But then one criminal changes his mind and speaks up in Jesus' defense. Then he pleads, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." Jesus assures him, "Truly, truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise" (see Luke 23:40-43).

11 a.m. - Jesus sees His mother Mary standing nearby with His disciple John. He commends Mary into John's keeping (see John 19:25-27).

12 noon - Three hours of supernatural darkness begin. Jesus is forsaken and silently suffers the torments of hell that I deserve (see Matthew 27:45). This three-hour interval is our eternal damnation condensed to three intense hours. It must have seemed like an eternity to Him.

3 p.m. - The end has come. Jesus makes four statements in rapid succession:

"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (See Matthew 27:46.) Quoting the first verse of Psalm 22, He summarizes the whole psalm which speaks both of His suffering and His victorious resurrection.

"I'm thirsty" (see John 19:28-29). Jesus wets His mouth so He can proclaim His victory in the next saying.

"It is finished" (see John 19:30). Jesus uses a Greek accounting term that means paid in full. Not a single sin remains against us; each one has been paid in full.

"Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" (see Luke 23:46).

Jesus dies and a number of miracles take place: a massive earthquake splits rocks and opens tombs; the temple curtain is torn in two. This is probably during the evening sacrifice when a priest is offering incense before it (see Matthew 27:51-53).

The Roman centurion declares, "Certainly, this man was innocent!" (See Luke 23:47). "Truly, this was the Son of God!" (See Matthew 27:54.)

The guilt-stricken crowds are convinced something terribly wrong was done here (see Luke 23:48).

4 p.m. - The Jewish leaders ask Pilate to have the criminals' legs broken to finish them off, so they can be taken down from their crosses before the Sabbath. The soldiers break the legs of the two criminals with Jesus, but find Him already dead. To be sure He is dead they pierce His heart with a spear (see John 19:31-37).

5 p.m. - Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate for permission to bury Jesus' body. He meets with Nicodemus, removes Jesus' body from the cross, wraps it in spices and strips of linen, and buries it in his own new tomb. The women follow and note where Jesus is laid. They prepare spices and ointments to properly finish the burial early Sunday morning, after the Sabbath has concluded (see John 19:38-42; Luke 23:55-56).

And we know what happened after that. Triumphant and full of glory Jesus rose from the grave on Easter morning, bringing with Him the gift of life eternal to all who receive Him in faith.

He did it for you and me. Our sins are dead and gone. Now it's time to give thanks to God, and gather with our brothers and sisters Sunday morning for a joyous celebration at the empty tomb.

This is a week unlike any other. As we turn our eyes to the fateful circumstances of Jesus' last few hours on this earth, we are reminded that His entire mission, His entire life on earth was spent for us.

Any thoughts in particular concerning the coming Easter holiday? If so, you can tell us by clicking here .

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Whatever Happened to Palm Sunday?

Back when I was a kid in the 60s, our church always celebrated the Sunday before Easter as "Palm Sunday." Somewhere between then and now it changed to "Passion Sunday." Yes, I get why this change was made. I know it's because the vast majority of members skip the weeknight and weekday services, and go straight from Jesus' triumphal entry one Sunday to His resurrection the next, without ever hearing the account of His suffering and death on the cross to save us from our sins.

I'm happy that in many churches the triumphal entry is not completely overlooked; it gets put at the front of the service. But still that kind of bums me out. When you try to squeeze in all the monumental events of Holy Week into a single hour of worship, everything gets diminished.

For me there is something to walking along with Jesus and participating in the events of Holy Week on the day those events occurred. On Palm Sunday I will think of Jesus entering Jerusalem to the praises of the people. The palm branches waving, the cloaks being laid on the roads to give Jesus that red carpet welcome into His capital city. I note the tears rolling down Jesus' cheeks because, just like us, He knows the rest of the story.

On Monday I will think of the barren fig tree that withered at Jesus' words: a powerful reminder that I'm here to bear fruit for God and the growth of His kingdom, not just for my own personal interests.

On Tuesday I will think of Jesus' powerful teachings in the temple courts, the challenges and questions He faced, and His final warning to the crowds as His days drew short. I'll remember the time is brief for each of us too, and I need to listen to Jesus and share His words with others before their time -- or mine -- runs out.

On Wednesday I will think of the silent day Jesus spent alone with His disciples. There are times when I need to spend time alone with my loved ones, celebrating our lives together, cherishing those fleeting moments.

On Thursday I'll think of Peter and John making preparations for that Last Supper, and then that evening -- in church -- I'll sit in that upper room with Jesus and receive His precious memorial: His body and blood given in, with, and under the bread and wine. Then I'll go with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane and watch as He pours out His heart in anguished prayer.

On Friday I'll witness the trial before Pilate; I'll follow the procession to Calvary and stand at the foot of the cross, watching my Savior reconciling all of us to our Heavenly Father as He dies in our place.

On Saturday I'll stand looking on the tomb that holds my Savior's lifeless body -- as it awaits the resurrection on the morrow. I'll sit with the Roman soldiers who come to seal the tomb and stand guard over it.

No, one hour is not enough for me to celebrate my Lord's passion. To really be able to celebrate Easter right, I'm going to need every day of Holy Week.

How do you celebrate the coming Holy Week? Do you have any special traditions to add to a week already full of reverential events? You can let us know by clicking here and sharing our thoughts.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Spring Break

This week is spring break at my son's college. He's spending it down in Florida. So I thought it was a strange and somewhat eerie coincidence that one of the readings in church last Sunday was Jesus' "Parable of the Prodigal Son" (Luke 15:11-32). After asking for his share of his father's inheritance, he gathered up all he had and went to a distant country. And, as you may remember, while there, away from his dad's supervision, the prying eyes of neighbors, and the moral influence of his society, he went crazy. Sounds kind of like spring break to me.

As for me, I never did the spring break thing, but from everything I've heard it's a bit scary to me as the father of a college-aged son. When you couple youthful desires, freedom from moral constraints, and our youthful tendency to live for the thrill of the moment, with no thought for future consequences --well -- that's a dangerous combination. I'm not overly worried about my son getting into trouble; he's on a choir tour. In fact, if he stays in choir through his college years, he'll be spending every spring break on a choir tour. (It's not that problems don't come up on choir tours, but when they do, there's at least some faculty supervision for him and his friends.)

That makes me think about the rules my wife and I set for our son. He was never the type to push the boundaries, but what if he was? Did his mom and I sit down in calm times and explain to him that we set these boundaries to protect him, rather than to coerce behavior from him?

When I taught Catechism class I made a big deal of the Fourth Commandment, "Honor your father and your mother." We discussed the kinds of rules parents make -- and why they drive us crazy. Curfews, driving and dating are just a few of the areas parents try to control. Seems like they just don't trust us at all, and the only thing they're trying to shield us from is fun. I'm sure that's how the prodigal son thought about his father.

Then I grew up and watched a number of my friends and acquaintances cast those boundaries aside. I watched them dash off through minefields, which sometimes sadly exploded in their faces.

I've known a girl or two who partied a little too hard on spring break, and a few weeks later found out she had an unplanned pregnancy and joint custody with a total stranger. God brought repentance and many blessings to these mothers and children, but the moms paid a pretty steep price for their week of freedom and fun, and their children began life without the stability God wanted them to know: a mother and father living together in marriage.

So I ask myself, what would I do if I was the prodigal's father? What if my son landed himself in deep trouble over spring break? Would I be able to cast aside my pride and embrace him? Would I let him know and experience a father's unconditional love and grace?

He should. Because that's the love, grace, forgiveness and acceptance I continually receive when I come back in repentance to my Heavenly Father.

The prodigal son, the wayward daughter, how we must all admit to this designation when it comes to our rebellion against the One who made us, preserves us, and keeps us steadfast until the day of His return.

Raising kids is no easy task. May God give us strength to ... patiently and lovingly ... speak the words we need to, when we need to, and how we need to.

Got any life-changing spring break experiences to pass along -- good, bad or otherwise? If so, you can share your thoughts by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Feeling Lonely?

Loneliness is a big problem for many people. Perhaps you struggle with it too. When I was growing up and trying to understand what it was to be a man, I looked to my father who was very stoic and guarded about his feelings. To my young, impressionable mind, that was what it was like to be a man. When kids at school made fun of me, mom reminded me to say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."

When I first heard the Simon and Garfunkel song "I Am a Rock," it really resonated with me. I think I can safely say it shaped the way I looked at other people for decades to come. Whenever I was hurting because of what someone did to me or said to me, I would put on that record, slip on my headphones, and sing -- almost shout,

"I've built walls, a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It's laughter and it's loving I disdain. I am a rock, I am an island! ... Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island."

That is one kind of loneliness -- being hurt to the core by some people. It's being so afraid of re-experiencing that kind of pain that we shut everyone out to make sure we never have to go through it again.

That's what I did.

But then Lent came around, year after year. Each time I saw Jesus acting differently than I was acting. He knew the unbearable emotional pain that was coming: the mocking from Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders, the abandonment of His chosen disciples, Peter's vehement denial, and Judas' cold-hearted betrayal. Putting myself in Jesus' shoes -- and knowing what He knew -- I know I would have locked my heart against them.

But year after year I was confronted with the fact that this isn't what Jesus did. He didn't hide from the pain or cut Himself off from the people who would cause Him such agony. Instead, He embraced them and poured out His great, compassionate love. It didn't matter to Him whether they recognized His love or responded to it. Like His Father, He would love them so deeply that He would sacrifice it all and endure everything to do what was necessary to win their salvation. Then after His death, resurrection and ascension, He sent His followers to these same enemies to share the salvation and eternal life He had won for them.

When God made Adam and placed him in the Garden among all the animals, He countermanded Simon and Garfunkel's song. He said, "It is not good for man to be alone" (see Genesis 2:18); it is not good to be a rock or an island. One of my favorite Old Testament promises is found in Ezekiel 36:26, "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

We can go through life fearing heartbreak and doing everything in our power to shield ourselves from emotional pain. But that's not really living. Instead, we can let Jesus' love transform us. Then we can live daring lives with hearts wide open to love and embrace all the people around us. We can be confident that Jesus will always be present; His Spirit will comfort us in our sorrows, and when we reach the end of our road, God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (see Revelation 7:17).

Many are the things that can shut us down inside: a hurtful and jilting relationship, a sharp critique from someone we respect, the bitter chastisement of a loved one. Experience one or two of these and it's easy to retreat where no one can find us. But at the end of the day, the old cliché rings true: "This too shall pass." Hanging on to that truth, however, can be very difficult sometimes.

Been stung but good sometime during your brief sojourn here? Care to talk about it or, better still, relay how you got through it? You can share your thoughts by clicking here and commenting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What's down There?

In my childhood I had a fascination with hidden things. I scoured my basement to find the secret, hidden room, tunnel or passageway that surely had to be there. When those didn't turn up, I shifted my attention to the backyard. More specifically, what would I be able to find if I dug a hole and kept digging, deeper and deeper? Would I find dinosaur bones? Indian artifacts? Lost civilizations? Jimmy Hoffa?

I probably have to blame Jules Verne's book Journey to the Center of the Earth for firing my imagination. He wrote about enormous, ornate caverns; mushroom forests with colossal beasts; and prehistoric seas filled with gargantuan sea monsters. I just knew all kinds of wonders were waiting under our backyard too.

Apparently, I'm not alone in this quest. At some point the Germans, Americans, and Russians all tried to see who could dig the deepest. The winner was Russia. They called it the "Kola Superdeep Borehole." They worked on it from 1970 to 1994 and managed to dig 12,262 meters deep. That sounded mighty far down but, then again, meters don't really do it for me. So I converted it to measurements I understand, and it ends up they dug down 40,229 feet, or 7.62 miles deep. A bit more impressive than the measly hole I was able to manage. Of course, it would have helped if dad hadn't come home from work and asked what I was doing. (I couldn't understand why he seemed so perturbed about it all.)

So the Russians got pretty deep, but after 24 years they quit. Why? Because the temperature at that depth was 356 degrees Fahrenheit, and that was hot enough to melt all the materials they could find to make their drill bits. But even at that staggering depth, they only made it about 0.2 percent of the way through the earth. They weren't even able to make it past the earth's crust into the mantle!

An international team of scientists is currently hoping to go deeper, but they need a couple of things: a billion dollars in funding, and technology to pass some "monumental roadblocks."

I wonder what they'll find.

This old earth God created is pretty incredible. It's amazing what we are discovering and learning about it. But even more, I wonder what kind of mind-blowing stuff God has in store for us? What will we discover when Jesus returns and refashions this planet? What wonders will we find in the new heavens and the new earth? Or think even higher -- what will it be like to see the angels and the heavenly host --or even more fantastic -- to gaze upon the face of God our Father, and to feel the touch of Jesus our Savior?

Time and life have a way of stripping away the child-like sense of wonder we may have once had about this world. But Jesus' sacrifice has opened for us a new and awesome future. We just need to take time every once in a while to remember the beauty, the thrill, and the discoveries that are waiting for us.

This world is a tremendous place -- full of marvel and fascination. That God has created it (and the universe that surrounds it) is yet one more testament to His limitless power and perfect attention to detail.

Have you seen any natural earth location (canyon, mountain, valley, river, ocean, meadow) that spoke to you in a profound way -- in a way that said more than "Wow, that's beautifu!" but rather pointed to the very handiwork of the Maker Himself?

If so, let us know. You can share your thoughts with us by clicking here and commenting.