How hungry are you for God?

Posted: August 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Forty-third in the series Get close to God

Bible with communionComfortable, Content, Satisfied.  Sound good?  While we should appreciate the blessings God has given us, these adjectives can actually lead to a stagnant and lukewarm Christian life.  The American dream tends to temper our dependence on God, puff up our pride and in many cases, relegate our religion to a weekly ritual and meal time graces to keep us in good standing.  We tend to forget how wretched we are and how much we need Christ to live a holy life.

Maybe we don’t know what we’re missing.  Maybe we don’t understand how Paul could say that everything he had accomplished in his life was rubbish compared to knowing Christ.  (Philippians 3:8)  God gives us material things to enjoy, but if we’re not careful they can become idols, cheap imitations for the true riches he intends for us.  Materialism can lull us into a false sense of security and make us complacent, eroding our trust and dependence on him.

“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You…my soul clings to You…my soul longs for You.”  (Psalm 63:1, 8, 143:6)  Do David’s words describe your appetite for God?  If not, how can we increase our desire for him, or for anything, for that matter?  Think back on the first time you tried a new food and discovered you liked it or discovered a common interest with an acquaintance which resulted in a close friendship over time.  “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8)  Seek and pursue Christ like you would for buried treasure and you’ll be rewarded.  When you find him and get to know him, you’ll desire him above all else.

I am so content that I’m not content

The closer I get to God, the more I want him.  According to Andrew Murray, “It is only into the thirst of an empty soul that streams of living water flow.  Ever thirsting is the secret of never thirsting.”  I have become so content with Christ that I’m not content when I have allowed the distractions of life to pull me away from him.  Even my emotions and moods are affected.  My quiet times are more than a filling station.  They’re an opportunity to enjoy sweet fellowship with my Savior and immerse myself into his word, not just to read my daily quota.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  (John 6:53)  If you want to really live, you need Christ in you.  Everything else is counterfeit.

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit we don’t have to fake a smile.  The joy and peace comes through and we don’t need a self improvement book to make us feel good about ourselves.  We just need to count our blessings and share this priceless gift with others who are trying to fill their empty souls.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  (Mathew 5:6)


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Why do I go to church?

Posted: July 9, 2013 in Uncategorized


Forty-second in the series Get close to God

Going to church is something I’ve done all my life.  I’ve benefited greatly from the instruction, inspiration, and encouragement I have received, but lately I’ve been wondering if I’ve been more of a taker than a giver.  Am I only seeking to be fed or am I willing to be more than a spectator?  I’m not talking about the offering here; most of us know we shouldn’t come to church with a closed fist; “No one is to appear before Me empty-handed.” (Exodus 23:15)

But what is worship on Sunday morning?  Is it something I can stroll into after it’s started as long as I get into my seat before the sermon begins or is it something more than a preliminary, something that I should be on time for to prepare my heart to hear from God?   Or maybe come a little early so I can encourage or pray for someone?  Am I hoping to meet God together with my fellow believers, to bring glory to Him, not only for his goodness to me but in the midst of severe trials? Am I awed to be in the presence of the Lord or am I lukewarm as I enter his house?

Am I just mouthing the words like a robot when I sing “All that is within me bless his holy name” or am I giving it my best shot?  Am I expressing my love and thanks to the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength or just going through the motions?  Am I expecting the worship leaders to bless me or do I have some responsibility to shoulder, like blessing the Lord?

Those are a lot of questions, but ones I need to ask myself when I get up on Sunday morning.  If I don’t start my worship as soon as I get out of bed and pray for the upcoming service I will probably be distracted when I get there and be critical of the musicians or the song selections or become detached from my mission, which is to focus on the glorious meeting with my Savior and enjoy the privilege of making music (or least a joyful noise) to the Lord with my Christian brothers and sisters.  I need to “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”  (Hebrews 12:28)

When people come to church ready to engage in praise and worship, it’s contagious and a wonderful experience to behold.  I know there are as many styles of worship as there are personalities, but I want the Lord to know that I’m happy to be in his house.  Can he see our love for him on our faces as he looks out on our congregation?  I hope so.

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”  (Psalm 122:1)


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Forty-first in the series Get close to God

My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.  Psalm 63:8

I like to watch my cats, Raya and Sunny, climb trees.  Sometimes they run up trying to get away from something but I also think they do it just because they can, because it’s fun.

It’s amazing how their limber bodies and claws enable them to scale and cling to the limbs so high off the ground.  It makes me nervous when they venture out on skinny branches which give and sway under their weight.  They almost lose their balance as they precariously turn around and walk the tight rope back to the safety of the trunk.

This makes me think of how much farther I can get in my life when I cling to my Creator instead of venturing out on my own.  When I’m afraid, I can climb up into the safety of my Heavenly Father’s lap and find refuge under His wings, high above the problems I left below.  But it’s also fun to see where He takes me when I give Him my hand and He pulls me up to see and experience things I would never have known had I stayed down in my own little world.  It’s amazing how our perspective is lifted when we keep looking up!

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  (Psalm 61:2)


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page in BibleFortieth in the series Get close to God

Reading through the entire Bible in one year is a worthy goal, but three Chapters a day in one sitting is quite a commitment and encourages one to rush through the verses instead of taking the time to study and prayerfully meditate on them.

However, you can read the entire New Testament and the book of Psalms in one year if you read just one chapter a day, which is only about one page in your Bible.  If you do this in the morning, you can read two chapters from the Old Testament at bedtime and be finished with it by the end of the year as well.  Or read one chapter a night and be done in two years.  There’s no hurry.

There are many Bible reading schedules out there but I personally don’t like reading all of the gospels together.  I would like to hear from Jesus all throughout the year, so I mix them in with the rest of the New Testament.  I do this with the Psalms as well.

While most chapters average about 32 verses, they can vary between 2 to 176, so the best way to pace yourself is to go by pages.  Most Bibles average about a page per chapter, but some big letter and study editions can take up two or more.  To determine this for your Bible, divide the total pages of your New Testament by 260 (the number of chapters in the New Testament) to get the number of pages to read per day.  Since the chapters in the Psalms average only 16 verses per chapter, you can read two of those per day.

This schedule leaves 30 days left over so you can miss a reading every other week and still stay on track.  You can start anytime; it doesn’t have to be January First.  How about today?

First half of the year:
Psalms 1-18
Psalms 19-31
Psalms 32-42
Psalms 43-56
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
Psalms 57-69
Psalms 70-78

Second half of the year:
Psalms 79-91
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Psalms 92-105
Psalms 106-116
Psalms 117-130
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John
Psalms 131-150

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Thirty-ninth in the series Get close to God

Sam Paris recently introduced the S.M.A.R.T. criteria to me as a way to possibly evaluate where we’re at with the Lord.  Is it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely?  So, let’s see if it works.

Picture what you would like your relationship with Christ to look like.  Do you have any role models that inspire you?  Have you heard of Brother Lawrence?  He served in a monastery in Paris in the seventeenth century working in the kitchen and repairing sandals.  This is how his relationship with the Lord was described:

“For about 30 years his soul has been filled with joy and delight so continual, and sometimes so great, that he is forced to find ways to hide their appearing outwardly to others who may not understand.”

I don’t know about you, but I would like to know God like that.  We’ve discussed the benefits of a close walk with Christ on this blog, and while I advocate pursuing him out of love and not just for the perks, the degree to which we enjoy the perks is an indication of how close we are.  Does God fill your hungry soul better than anything else?

One thing that’s really cool is we don’t have to hope and pray that someday we’ll experience what it’s like to be close to God.  Jesus said, “I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)  And James said in chapter 4, verse 8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  The ball is in our court.  We can start right now.  It’s not an easy process.  It will involve some lifestyle changes, but it’ll be worth it.

We can begin by expressing our desire to God and ask him to help and guide us on our quest.  Then, we can set some action goals.  We need to be specific.  Concerning time alone with God: when, where and for how long?  How often do we want to talk with him?  Just when we need something, or do we want to stay in touch throughout the day?  How much reading and reciting his Word would be appropriate?  How dependent on God do we want to be?  Do we want him involved with everything or just keep him handy for a backup up plan?  We should then consider if these goals are attainable.  As Monty Waldron says, “God will always give you what you need, to do what he wants you to do.”  So, let’s not settle for business as usual.  Aspire for more!

A friend of mind recently advised me to ask the Lord how I’m doing.  Turns out, that’s Biblical:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  (Psalm 139:23, 24)

We can also ask a friend, and finally ourselves: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves.”  (2 Corinthians 13:5)  To what extent are the fruits of the Spirit being manifested in my life?  How much love, joy, peace and patience oozes out of me?  Do I have a thankful or critical spirit?  Am I greedy or generous?  How often do I enjoy the presence of God and just burst out with a worship song?  Do I ever cry tears of joy?  I know we can’t always go by our feelings, but how can we delight in our heavenly Father without emotions?  I don’t think he intended for us to rejoice in him from a cold heart.  Have fun with God!  Let loose, dance, shout, it’s OK, really.

I don’t want to appear legalistic, but if we find it useful to evaluate our secular job performance, then perhaps we can use our spiritual fruit for some key performance indicators to help us measure our progress.

Don’t just think about your evaluation, write it down.  Be realistic, but stretch yourself.  Then give it some time.  Fruit takes a while to grow.  Joy and peace are not something you can whip up.  They are the results of a life committed to Christ, moment by moment.  Just pick one or two action goals you feel will get you closer to him and then give it all you’ve got.  Find some Christian friends to join you and hold you accountable and pray with them.  You just might be amazed to see what Jesus does with your willing spirit in 2013.

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Christmas Family Reunion 2012

Posted: December 24, 2012 in Videos

Merry Christmas, everyone!

We’ll, I’m back after almost a year of not posting anything, so I thought I should update you on what I’ve been up to.   It’s been quite a year, to say the least.  I took a break from blog writing to start song writing again, became a grandpa on April 5, and then lost my voice while singing in church on May 13th.  Since many of you know the story, I’ll sum it up by saying the Lord delivered me from probable thyroid cancer, and my vocal cord nerve started coming back to life within 6 weeks, not 6 months to a year, which was the prognosis.

I also started leading a men’s group on drawing near to God, called DWELL, which meets once a month.  This has been very rewarding and challenging, as we are learning from each other and being encouraged by the discussions.

Stay tuned for more articles for the “Get Close to God series; but for now, I hope you enjoy this 3 minute video of our Christmas reunion:

Jacob Go Kart on ramp Christmas Reunion 2012 click


I’m slowly loading videos that used to be on this blog to YouTube since they play better there.
Here’s one that’s ready:

Beaitiful Promises clickI hope these photos with scripture narration inspire and encourage you.

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 Thirty-eighth in the series Get close to God

In my younger years I went canoeing quite often, usually on the Fox River in Northern Illinois where I grew up.  These pictures are from one of those trips from the early seventies, the one on the right highlighting my sister, Karen, and my dad.  The Fox usually had just enough current flowing to make it an easy ride downstream.  If you wanted to go upstream you had to work at it, but progress could be made if you stuck with it.

Our faith is like that.  It is not static, it’s dynamic, and is directly proportional to our thoughts, actions, and environment.  If we neglect our faith, our environment will take over and we’ll float downstream, blending in with the world.  If we want to make a difference, however, we need to paddle!

Our faith must be nurtured, just like any living thing, and will thrive or die depending on the care it receives.  Our relationship with Christ is only as close as our efforts to stay connected with him.

We should always be asking ourselves, “Is what I’m doing right now glorifying God or dishonoring him?”  The answer sometimes may be “Neither.”  Maybe I’m just ignoring him which is also a bad choice.  I may not be doing it intentionally, but it’s very easy to get so wrapped up in my thoughts and pursuits that I completely crowd out God.  Many of my thoughts and pursuits are perfectly fine to think and do; I just need to learn how to take the Lord along for the ride and to include him in everything I do.  He’s already with me, so it’s about time I acknowledge that!

We  spend a lot of  time taking care of our bodies and outward appearance with proper nutrition, grooming, and what we wear, but God is more concerned with the condition of the inner man, and that’s the one we’re taking to eternity with us.  If you believe the Bible is the Word of God, like I do, then we need to make it a part of our daily diet and commit as much of it as possible to memory.  “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (Matthew 4:4)  This is food for the soul!

If you want to be good at anything, it takes:

desire, determination, and discipline.

How desperate are you for God?  How badly do you want to know him, to please him?  How passionate is your worship for him? Our walk with Christ is just that-a walk.  We reap what we sow.  I’m not talking about legalism here.  I think those of us in the “grace” camp are so afraid of  “earning our salvation” that we’ve become lazy and not willing to give up much of our time, talent, or treasure.  I don’t work so God will love me, I work because he loves me.  I know I can’t live the Christian life on my own without his help, but that doesn’t mean I should do just enough or give just enough to get by.  When I work with my heavenly Father I grow closer to him, which returns more joy and satisfaction, even while immersed in difficulties and sadness.  In fact, its more often in the hard times that I see him work most for me and for others.  As the hymn says,

“The things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
(Turn your eyes upon Jesus
, Helen H. Lemmel, 1922)

My sister, Deborah, is enjoying the ride in the photo above!

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