Saturday, December 19, 2015

Donald Trump: A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

I don't take Donald Trump seriously. In my opinion, he is in this Presidential race for one main thing. Money. The more publicity he gets, the more money he gets. He is either in it for the money, or he is trying to steal Republican votes so it's easier for Hillary to win the election.

That, or he is ACTUALLY running for President. I'm not sure which is scarier, Trump or Hillary as President of the United States.

Anyway, it's hard for me to take Donald Trump seriously as a Republican candidate for POTUS. I have no idea how Republicans, Conservatives, or Christians are supporting such a man as Trump.

Yes, Donald says what he thinks, but so do a lot of old guys... That doesn't make him a good choice for a Presidential candidate.

Do we really want someone that has no filter on his pie hole in charge of one of the most powerful nations in the world?! That seems like it could end up being a problem.

Or as the Bible says in Proverbs 29:11,
"A fool utters all his mind: but a wise man keeps it in till afterwards."

The following are a handful of reasons I believe Donald Trump is a wolf in sheep's clothing and has no qualification to be a Republican candidate for President, let alone our next elected President:

1. Donald Trump dodged the draft for the Vietnam War.

He received 4 student deferments while attending college. He also received medical deferments for bone spurs in his heels after his student deferments were no longer valid. But whenever asked about his medical deferments, he can't seem to keep his story straight. Sometimes the bone spurs were in one foot and other times they were in both feet. I would think most people would remember the medical reason that kept them from going to war, but maybe we just pay more attention to detail than Donald. Here's an article from the Washington Post questioning his draft deferments as well. (click here)

2. Trump has been married 3 times and treats women like garbage.

The fact that he's been married 3 times isn't necessarily the issue, but please continue reading. His first marriage was to Ivana from 1977-1991. This marriage failed because Trump was unfaithful and had an ongoing affair with his soon to be second wife Marla. Marla was 17 years his junior and the marriage lasted from 1993-1999. Trump then married his current wife Melania in 2005. Melania is 24 years his junior. They're still married, so things must be going well.

Of course, if this marriage doesn't work out, he can always date his daughter Ivanka. He joked about incest/dating his daughter on The View in 2006. (click here to watch a clip) Don't worry, that's not the only time he's made those sort of comments. He's made similar comments in an issue of Rolling Stone and on The Howard Stern Show.

Perverted. Sick. Gross. But, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34, Luke 6:45)

So he was a cheating and unfaithful husband and he's also a perverted father.

Here's a small list from a Huffington Post article of 18 super sexist or horrible things he has said about women. I'm sure the list could go on forever. (click here for the article)

3. Donald doesn't know what he believes politically.

He flip flops between political parties like crazy. Probably because he flip flops on what he believes on many major issues.

He's consistent in not being consistent. He's consistent in flip flopping. Most people don't change so drastically when it comes to such black and white issues, but Trump doesn't seem to have that problem.

He's been a part of the Democratic Party for more years than he's been a part of the Republican Party. He's also been a part of the Independent Party and the Reform Party in the past. He has considered running for President on numerous occasions, including a run for the Reform Party with Jesse Ventura in the 2000 election.

During the 2000 election he was "pro choice in every respect" including partial birth abortion. (click here to watch his interview on Meet the Press in 1999) Partial birth abortion is now illegal, but back in 1999 he was all for it. Now he says he is pro life, but there should still be exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother. He is still a supporter of Planned Parenthood.

He wanted universal healthcare. (click here for the transcript from his Larry King interview) But, now he thinks Obamacare is a complete failure and disaster.

He supported a 14.25% one time tax on the wealthy. (click here for the CNN article)

At one time he wanted to legalize drugs. (click here for the Chicago Tribune article)

4. He financially supports Democrats, including Hillary Clinton.

The Bible says where your treasure is your heart is. (Matthew 6:21, Luke 12:34) It seems Donald's heart is with the Clintons and Democrats, and it has been for many years. He's given to Hillary's campaign as recently as in 2007 and has given money to the Clinton Foundation as well. The Clintons even attended his most recent wedding in 2005. He has given money towards the campaigns of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and John Kerry just to name a few. Since 2012 he has given solely to Republicans. Another flip flop for Trump.

5. Donald "believes in the Bible" ... or at least he says he does.

Trump likes to brag about the Bible being his favorite book, but he refuses to quote his favorite Bible verse. He says, "I wouldn't want to get into it. Because to me, that's very personal. The Bible means a lot to me, but I don't want to get into specifics."

That's like a little kid saying they love something and then when you ask them more about it, they get caught in a lie and don't know what to say. Backpedaling like crazy.

Trump's PR people may have the hardest job in the world. God help them!

The Bible is his favorite, but he doesn't want to be specific about his favorite verse... Apparently his favorite verse isn't about sharing the Gospel/Jesus with others! Maybe Trump hasn't yet read Jesus' words about not hiding our light under a bushel basket. (Matthew 5:15, Luke 11:33)

In Iowa in June Trump said that he has never asked God for forgiveness and described communion as, "When I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and have my little cracker."

And when asked about attending church, Trump said he goes to church, "As much as I can. Always on Christmas. Always on Easter. Always when there's a major occasion. And during the Sundays. I'm a Sunday church person. I'll go when I can.”

I don't need my next President to be a theologian, pastor, or Bible school graduate (although that would be great) ... but come on. It's like he's not even trying! But, why should he try harder when Christians are already falling for his show so easily? It seems like Donald's Christianity is more for show than anything.

Or as Jesus said in Matthew 15:8-9,
"These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."

So to briefly summarize, Donald Trump is mostly all, if not all, talk. And when he talks, which is all the time, he either makes no sense or just says the most outlandish offensive stuff he can think of.

He is not a Republican. He is definitely not Conservative.

He was a war dodger. He supports gay marriage. He supports abortion. He supports the funding of Planned Parenthood. He has been a womanizer, treats women like garbage, and says horrible things about them. He supported universal healthcare in the past. He has given money to all kinds of Democrats, including the Clintons.

In no way is he Presidential material. And judging by his fruit (which we are told to do) ... IF he is a Christian, he's definitely a baby one.

Matthew 7:20 says,
"Therefore by their fruits you will know them."

He won't share his favorite verse. He's never asked God for forgiveness. He has no idea what communion is. He attends church "during the Sundays." That makes me laugh. During the Sundays.

These are just A FEW of the glaring inconsistencies and outrageous things about Trump that really jump out at me. I won't go into further detail on any other Trump topics in this post.

Like how he wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country. Or how he wants to have a database on all Muslims in the country. Or how he praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for killing off journalists and political opponents. Or how he wants Bill Gates to help us be more like North Korea and start "closing that internet up in some way" so ISIS can't recruit more people. Or how he wants to kill the family members of terrorists in order to defeat ISIS. Family members... as in kids and stuff.

Oy vey.

Trump is a man that needs Jesus, just like all of us. But, it's pretty apparent he doesn't know Him intimately. (Or at least not as intimately as he is desperately trying to convince us of.) In no way, shape, or form is he fit to be the next President of the United States. Wake up Christians and Republicans alike! Please!

Thanks for reading, and please pray for our country's current and future leaders!

Shake the earth!
- Joel

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Soccer and My Experience With Muslims

I recently wrote a blog post about the Paris attacks and the controversy of bringing refugees into the United States. (click here if you would like to read that blog post) My mom talked to me about that particular article the other day, and she suggested I share my thoughts about Muslims. She reminded me that I came to the conclusions I did largely because of the personal experiences I have had with Muslim people. She is a wise woman, so I took her advice and here we go.

I grew up in Willmar, MN. One of the things I really enjoyed about growing up in Willmar was the large ethnic diversity. Willmar is a large melting pot of all kinds of different people groups. There are difficulties and problems that can come up with as big of differences as there are between different cultures, but there are some great benefits as well. In my opinion, one of the best benefits of different cultures coming together is soccer.

Many of my best memories of growing up in Willmar involve playing soccer. My brother and I played soccer almost all year around. We both played competitively during the summer and fall every year. During the winter and spring months we would find ways to play soccer with our friends and with the neighborhood kids as well. We loved, and still do love, soccer; which is also known as, "The Beautiful Game."

Photo credit:

My brother and I both started playing soccer when we were 4 or 5 years old. I know a huge reason we played soccer, and continued to play, was because of our teammates. We had the privilege of playing with some VERY talented kids while growing up. We learned to love the game from a young age.

Thanks to the cultural diversity in Willmar, we were able to witness the passion and love for the game that many Hispanics and Africans possess. I remember having teammates who were from: Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Kenya, and Somalia. We had a couple of guys from Spain and Germany throughout the years as well. (I text my brother while I was writing this blog and we both came up with the same list, so I don't think we forgot too many countries haha.)

My summer and fall soccer teams from junior high and high school consisted of about half white kids and the other half Hispanic and African kids. It was great! We were usually pretty good teams.

It's really fun playing soccer with people who have played their whole lives, because they know the game inside and out. I may have just met someone for the first time, we may or may not even speak the same language, but if we both speak soccer, then that's more than enough.

There were very few soccer games we played in Willmar where the sidelines weren't full of fans. Soccer was a family affair, especially for the Hispanic and African players. It was a blast. Like I said before, these are some of my best memories growing up.

Something I recognize now is that almost all of the teammates I had held similar religious beliefs to their parents. It makes sense, I guess. Many of the white kids were Christian or atheist. Many of the Hispanic kids were Christian, or more specifically; Catholic. Many, if not all, of the African kids were Muslim. One thing that almost all of us kids had in common though, was that many of us were complacent and pretty soft spoken about our beliefs.

We all had beliefs, and some of us even considered religion to be a huge part of our lives and beliefs. But it would've been pretty difficult to figure out what religion we were a part of, if it were based solely on the way we lived our lives. Our religious beliefs were mostly talk... just like most people.

Or as the Message Bible says it in James 1:26-27,
"Anyone who sets himself up as 'religious' by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world."

We were mostly hot air.

I only remember having one serious conversation/debate between a couple of us Christian guys with some of the Muslim guys. ONE CONVERSATION, that I'm aware of, in the countless hours we spent together over the years of being teammates. After the debate, we all agreed to disagree and left it at that. It was pretty easy to tell that both groups of guys were pretty set in their beliefs. The Muslims knew we were going to Hell and we knew they were going to Hell. And that was that.

A few of the Muslim guys on our team played soccer AND ran cross country during the same season. Both. During the same season! I have no idea how they did it. We were a decent team in soccer my junior and senior years. But they were a great team in cross country. They were the best. They won back to back state AA boys titles in 2005 and 2006. I remember them being ranked 5th in the nation and they were even in Sports Illustrated. Pretty crazy! They were living every high school athlete's dream.

The two guys on the left played midfield for us in soccer and were a part of our back to back state winning cross country team. They could run all day... and they did!
Photo credit: West Central Tribune

These guys were great athletes. They were great teammates. They were part of my soccer family. They had my back and I had theirs. They were my brothers. They were Muslims.

I have had almost nothing but positive experiences with Muslim believers. I wish they could say the same about their experiences with me, as a Christian believer.

I remember that Ramadan would usually occur sometime during soccer season. Ramadan is an Islamic month of fasting, where the believers don't eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset. No eating or drinking while the sun is up for a whole month. That's commitment. That's sacrifice. That's a dedication to their god and a form of worship that most Christians don't even get close to! (Hey Christians, we could learn a thing or two from the Muslims about commitment, dedication, and prayer!)

During Ramadan, some of us on the team were jerks to the Muslim kids. We would try to get them to "sin" and eat food and drink water after some of our soccer games. I remember some of the team buying them McChickens and putting the food on their table, just trying to get them to trip up and eat something. We weren't intentionally being mean, we were having fun and joking around with them more than anything. A little bit of hazing, I guess you could say.

Looking back now, I can admit that we shouldn't have done that to our teammates. But, it was all done in fun at the time. Thankfully, our Muslim teammates were good sports and had fun with our "game" as well.

This is my experience with Muslim people. What's yours? What's your reasoning for wanting or not wanting to help the refugees?

Don't write off a whole people group. Don't write off a whole religion. Don't write off the world's second largest religion. Don't write off almost 1/4 of the world's population. Don't write off over 1.5 billion people who need to know Jesus. Don't write off Muslims because of a few bad apples.

This is part of our mission. They are part of our mission. Love and serve Muslims. Show them Jesus in word and in deed. Be Christlike Christians my friends. It's in you because He is in you!

Shake the earth!
- Joel

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Perfect Pastor

I went to a meeting with some fellow ministers and pastors recently. As we were leaving the meeting I overheard one pastor ask another pastor how he was doing. The pastor answered, "I'm pretty beat up. A few of the people at the church..."

I walked to my car and didn't keep listening. It wasn't any of my business... but I did understand the feeling of being 'beat up' at times. It happens in ministry. It happens in any occupation where you deal with other people. Sometimes the hurt and beat up feeling is done unintentionally, other times, not so much. But either way, it happens.

It was cool to see this pastor genuinely care for and love on the other pastor. They weren't competing for congregation members, or debating theology and doctrine. They were loving one another as friends. As brothers. As family.

They were treating one another as God instructed us to in John 13:35, "By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

The pastor, who voiced his feelings and frustrations, was genuine and real. He wasn't putting on a mask or pretending to be alright. He confided in someone and got some help. And hopefully, he received some healing and encouragement from his friend. It was awesome to witness this kind of love!

It was also cool to see the other pastor respond right away. He didn't look at his phone or watch and make an excuse as to why he didn't have time to help. He didn't blow his friend off and tell him, "I'll be praying for you!" and then go on his merry way. He took the time and made the effort to be a friend and a brother. He loved.

Love is intentional. Love is active. Or like DC Talk sang, Luv Is A Verb. (click here to watch the music video)

I'm not sure what the situation was which caused the pastor pain, but I do have a guess. When people put their spiritual leaders on a pedestal and expect perfection, they will be disappointed. They will be disappointed every time. Pastors are people. We hurt and feel pain. We are broken vessels. We will make mistakes. We will forget things. We aren't perfect.

Even though we are nowhere near perfect, we do want to point you towards Someone who is perfect. We want to point you to Jesus. Hopefully we can do that in our words and in our teaching. But even more than in our words, hopefully we can live that out in our lives and we can be examples to others and to our church family!

We aren't perfect pastors, but we do know of one perfect Pastor. And hopefully we are trying to live and love and serve as He did.

Photo Credit:

I once heard a story from someone that saw a car hit a dog and then drive off. The person that witnessed the accident felt absolutely horrible, and got out of their car to try to help the injured animal. When he went to go help the dog and tend to him, the dog went into fight mode. He growled and showed his teeth and wouldn't allow the person to help. The dog didn't know the person had good intentions. The dog wouldn't even let the person get close enough to find out for himself. The dog was snarling at its potential savior. The dog was responding out of pain.

Sometimes in ministry pastors will see that ugly side of people, just like the ugly side of that dog my friend saw. We help people through the muck and yuck in their lives, and sometimes they lash out in return. It's weird how that can happen.

Honestly, I thank God for opportunities to help people that react in a similar way to that dog though. It helps me grow. It helps me see where I am in my love walk. It's a good indicator of whether I'm serving the Lord and others for the right reason or not.

Am I doing this for appreciation and praise? Or am I doing this for Jesus?

We all can be like that dog with God at certain times in our lives. We so easily forget all He's done for us and for all the times He's been there and come through for us.

I see myself in that dog: scratching, growling, biting, and showing my ugly side. God is there and He still wants to help me despite my attitude and actions. Serving and loving people that react out of their pain helps me understand God's unconditional love just a little bit more. And for that, I am very thankful.

Pray for your pastors and other spiritual leaders.
Reach out to some of your former spiritual mentors or pastors and thank them.
Ask yourself why you are loving and serving others. Is it for praise and appreciation? Is it without ulterior motives? Or is it truly for them and for Jesus?

Shake the earth!
- Joel

Friday, November 20, 2015

Paris Attacks and Refugees

After hearing about the terrorist attacks in Paris, I was once again reminded of Ephesians 6:12 which says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

It's incredibly easy, and almost natural, to point fingers at certain people, policies, and politicians after a horrific tragedy such as these attacks. But none of this is helpful, especially after the fact. Yes, ISIS or Islamic State (the people behind the Paris attack which killed 129 people and injured over 350), is an evil organization and needs to be dealt with. They need to be addressed and taken care of just like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and a number of other Islamic extremist groups.

But, I'm quite certain that eliminating one of these groups of people would just be putting a bandaid on a much bigger problem. These terrorist attacks are the symptom of a much larger problem. Not just a cultural problem, although that is part of it. Not just a political problem, although that is part of it. The main issue we are facing is a spiritual problem, just as Ephesians 6:12 tells us.

Spiritual problems are dealt with by using spiritual weapons. The most powerful weapon we have as Christians is prayer. So please, please pray. Pray for our leaders. Pray for our nation. Pray for our world. Pray for Muslims. Pray for the victims and families of victims. Pray for Christians to wake up.

I hope and pray that the people behind these attacks are captured, and only when necessary killed. If they are killed they will spend eternity in hell. These people need to know and meet Jesus. Until then, I seriously doubt they will ever change.

My wife and I on a trip to Paris in the summer of 2011.

As Christians, we aren't supposed to rejoice when evil or wicked men perish. (Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11, Proverbs 24:17) Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. (Matthew 5:44)

What if we actually lived that way!? What if we took Jesus' words to heart!? It might be unsafe at times. We might be unsafe at times.

Jesus was persecuted. His life was threatened and in danger on numerous occasions. He ended up being tortured and executed for His faith, for the way He lived His life.

11 of the 12 disciples were executed for following Jesus. Their faith was real. It cost them something. The following is the cause of death for the 12 disciples:

1.  Peter, or Simon Peter, was crucified in Rome. He considered himself unworthy to die in the same way as Jesus did, so he asked to be hung upside down.
2.  Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross in Greece. It is believed that he shared the Gospel with the crowd and his executioners while he was dying.
3.  Matthew was staked to the ground by spears and then beheaded in Ethiopia.
4.  Bartholomew, or Nathaniel, was martyred in Armenia in Asia Minor. It is believed he was either flogged to death by whips or skinned alive and then beheaded.
5.  Thomas was killed by being stabbed by a spear in India.
6.  Philip was killed by being impaled with hooks in his ankles and then hung upside down.
7.  James the son of Zebedee was beheaded by King Herod near Palestine.
8.  Jude was crucified in Persia.
9.  Matthias, the disciple that replaced Judas Iscariot, was mostly likely either stoned and then beheaded, or burned to death.
10. James the son of Alpheus was most likely thrown off the temple and then stoned and beaten to death.
11. Simon the Zealot was crucified.
12. John is the only one of the 12 disciples that most likely was not martyred for his faith. He was imprisoned and left to die on the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation. It is also believed he was put into a pot of boiling oil in Rome and somehow survived.

None of these guys were sitting in a safe room in their house or in a bunker in their basement. They took Jesus' words to heart. They went into the world and preached the Gospel. No matter what the cost.

They loved and they served until the very end. Just like Jesus did. Just like many of our Christian brothers and sisters are doing throughout the world.

Following Jesus isn't all that safe. Well, ACTUALLY following Jesus and not just talking about following Jesus isn't safe. Jesus never told us it would be safe though. In fact, the Bible tells us otherwise! (Matthew 24:9, 1 Peter 3:14, 4:12-19, 1 Timothy 3:13) But, following Jesus isn't without reward. It is worth it. He is worth it!

If we are willing to die for something, then we should be even MORE willing to live for that something. If we are prepared to die for Jesus, then we should be even MORE willing to spend every day and every moment living for Him!

If we aren't living in such a way as this, then I question whether we would truly die for Him. Talk is cheap. Many times, serving and loving others is costly and inconvenient.

Many times the safe thing to do isn't the right thing to do. Many times the convenient thing to do isn't the right thing to do. Love almost always (if not always) costs something.

Love received is free. Love given is costly.

My allegiance is pledged to Jesus before any allegiance to my flag or to my country. Sometimes the patriotic thing to do is not the same thing that love tells me to do. Sometimes the best thing for our country is not the same as what Jesus has called me to do.

As nice as the American dream sounds, I am called to help the widow and orphan first. As convenient as shutting our country's doors to potentially harmful refugees sounds, I am called to love my neighbor first. I am a citizen of heaven. I am a citizen of God's kingdom before I am a citizen of the United States. And therefore, I want to live and speak accordingly.

Not every Muslim is radical. There's a noticeable difference between the average Muslim and a radical Muslim terrorist, just as there is a noticeable difference between most Christians and a church like Westboro Baptist that pickets military funerals and hates just about everything and everyone.

Westboro is the exception to the rule. The Muslims in these terrorist groups are the exception to the rule. The average Muslim is horrified by these terrorist attacks just as much as we are, if not more so.

Many of the refugees seeking asylum in the United States and other countries are victims themselves. They need help, and as Christians we are called to help.

Should there be screenings and background checks on these refugees? Yeah, I think so. Should we let everyone in? No, I think we need to help some more of our own citizens first. (Like the many homeless veterans on our streets.) But, should we sit back and do nothing? I don't think so. And I don't think Jesus would either.

Just my two cents on the hot topics of the day. Take it or leave it. But if nothing else sticks with you from this post, please do remember to pray and also remember what Ephesians 6:12 reveals is our true enemy.

Shake the earth!
- Joel

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Our First Mission Field

It's weird how the people we love and care about the most, can many times receive the least amount of love and care from us. The people we should be closest to, are instead the people we are the most distant from. The people who should receive our undivided attention, are largely ignored or given distracted conversation.

*Cough cell phone and Netflix cough*

I'm sure just about everyone has given their family or closest friends the back burner at times. We get busy and stuff happens. I get it. But, that doesn't mean it needs to keep happening! We need to open our eyes, be honest with ourselves, and break those cycles.

As a pastor, it's easy for me to get so caught up in the "work of the ministry" and get so busy that my family becomes an afterthought. My family. My wife and son. The two people I love more than anyone else. The two people I enjoy spending time with the most.

These two are usually my first and second round picks when choosing to forget or ignore someone in my life. That's super crappy. That's not how God intended family or ministry to work. (Or for any of our lives and schedules to work for that matter.)

As Christians, our first priority and our first calling in life is to love and serve Jesus. We need to spend QUALITY time and QUANTITY of time with Him. We should WANT to do those things. If we don't do these things first and foremost, then everything else will fall apart.

Secondly, we are called to love and serve our families. My first ministry is to Jesus. My second ministry is to my family. Our home is the first ministry and mission field we are called to!

One of the most important ministries I'm called to is living life with my family and being a loving husband and father.

We do make time for the things that matter most to us. Whether it means getting up earlier, staying up later, or giving up our lunch break. We will find time for the most important things. We will make the time.

We will also make room in our budget for the things that matter to us most. Whether it means getting a second job, skipping a meal, cutting out the extras, or saving up for awhile. We will find money for the most important things to us. We will make it happen.

If we want a true and honest perspective of the priorities in our life, then we don't need to look any further than our calendars and our bank accounts. Give it a shot, it might surprise you.

Last Sunday, like most Sundays, I had a list of a dozen things I needed to do and make sure I remembered before leaving home for our church service that evening. My wife and I live in Detroit Lakes, but we pastor a church in Park Rapids. We currently meet in the town's library basement. The library is a great location and the price is right, but it does make it a little more difficult and challenging to pastor a church when needing to travel 40 miles each way, set up music and sound equipment, and tear down music and sound equipment every Sunday. There are quite a few things going on behind the scenes to make a church service happen. (Thankfully, we have a ton of helpful people and an awesome church family to help us out!)

While I was getting my church to do list taken care of this last Sunday, my son was being a little bit of a pill. He really wanted to play outside, but he didn't understand we REALLY didn't have the time. I was already running a little late and still needed to: get all his diaper bag stuff together, get him dressed, let the dogs out, get the music and sound equipment loaded in the car, get some gas, run to the store and pick something up, etc. You get the picture.

I was running all over the place and then I finally decided to listen to the Lord. I heard God say, "Why don't you think you have time to play with Andrew?" I just shrugged, laughed, and then walked over to my son and pushed him around in his little car he was given by his Aunt Wendy and Uncle Eric.

(Here's a link (click here) to a short video on Instagram of me pushing baby boy around.)

I only spent 3 or 4 minutes of undivided attention playing with him, but it made all of the difference in his demeanor and attitude. And it made all the difference in mine too! We both had a lot of fun, it only took a few minutes, and we still got everything done we needed to do for church.

While I was pushing him around, I thought to myself, "I don't want to be one of those pastors or fathers in ministry whose kid ends up hating church and hating God cause his dad didn't have his priorities straight and was a bad father." That can and does happen at times, but it never should.

Paul actually writes to Timothy about the qualifications of leaders in the church in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and says,
"one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);"

If I'm not doing a good job of ministering to, serving, and loving my family, then I am not qualified to minister to or serve a church family in a position of leadership. If we don't take care of the mission field and ministry opportunities at home, then we aren't deserving of doing them at a larger scale or in a larger setting.

If I can't be trusted to take care of my small family of 3, then why would I ever be trusted to take care of a church family?

We need to prove ourselves trustworthy and be good stewards with what we have before we can be given more. If I can't lead my own family well, then how could I lead a church well?!


Please remember your first mission field, your first ministry. Remember God and your family.

Turn off the tv, the laptop, the tablet, the cell phone, and be with your family. Be consumed and be social with them instead of with media, games and online profiles of people you don't even care about.

- Joel

Friday, October 2, 2015

I'm Thankful the Oregon Shooting Victims Were Christians

I was extremely saddened yesterday when I read there was yet another mass shooting in our country. An evil and cowardly man murdered 9 people and injured another 9 before being wounded by police officers and then shooting himself. A few of the victims are still in critical condition. Please continue to pray for the recovery of those injured.

I can't even begin to imagine the heartache and pain the friends and families of the victims are feeling. I am praying for, and will continue to pray for, the friends and families of the victims, as well as for the students and faculty of Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

The title of this blog post is: 'I'm Thankful The Oregon Shooting Victims Were Christians'. That may seem strange, especially since I'm a Christian and a pastor, but let me explain.

I am not wanting to belittle the loss of the families and friends, or the sacrifice made by Chris Mintz, the heroic Army veteran, who stood up to the shooter and was shot 7 times. But, I do want to give a different perspective on the death of these 9 people.

My thought is this, who better to be murdered (martyred) than people who have an assurance of where they will be going when they die? These courageous people lived out the passage, "To live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21)

According to a victim's father interviewed by CNN and numerous others, (click here to watch the interview) the shooter lined the students up and then asked them if they were Christian. If they answered "Yes" to his question they were shot in the head. If they answered "No" to his question or did not answer, they were shot in the torso or leg.

These 9 peoples lives weren't taken. These 9 people had the courage and faith to give up their lives for Jesus. They said "Yes." When everything was on the line, they each said "Yes."

Philippians 1:21 in the New Living Translation says,
"For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better."

And the Voice Bible says it like this,
"Life versus even more life! I can't lose."

These 9 brothers and sisters in Christ lived for Jesus and died for Jesus. Living was nice, but dying was even better. They couldn't lose, and neither can we.

And that's why I'm glad the victims who were killed were Christians. They are in heaven and with Jesus face to face for eternity. Any other person wouldn't be so lucky.

As Christians, we are SUPPOSED to be ready and willing to die EVERY SINGLE DAY. We are supposed to pick up our cross DAILY and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)

These 9 people lived out these passages. If ever faced with a similar situation, I hope myself and my family would be as courageous and wise as they were.

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While holding a news conference following the shooting, President Obama offered his condolences to the victims and said, "Our thoughts and prayers are not enough." Obama is, of course, referring to enforcing stricter gun control laws and not only sending thoughts and prayers their way. He is understandably frustrated and upset with the number and the frequency of mass shootings in our nation. We all are.

I'm not sure if stricter gun laws would help or hurt our chances of having less mass shootings. But one thing is for sure, what we are currently doing is not working. What the President doesn't understand, is that THE ONE THING that can and will make a change is our prayers. Really, THE ONLY thing that will make a difference is if Christians begin to pray. Our prayers are the only thing that will be enough. And when I say 'our' prayers, I mean Christians' prayers.

Prayers to any other god won't make a difference, at least not a positive one.

We Christians need to pray a fervent, heartfelt, and continued prayer. (James 5:16) Prayer will cause change. Prayer will make a difference. Our world needs Christians praying on its behalf.

This shooting reminded me once again of Ephesians 6:12 which says,
"For we are not fighting against flesh- and- blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." (New Living Translation)

We so often forget that our opponent is not other people. Our fight is not Republican vs Democrat, or Liberal vs Conservative, or Black vs White, or even Muslim vs Christian. Our fight is Jesus vs Satan.

We literally can't even see our true enemy. We can see the result of his work. We can see some of the people he works through. But we can't see him, so stop trying to fight the people who are just being used as puppets and pawns by him. They need Jesus just like I need Jesus.

Ephesians 6:12-14 in the Amplified Bible says,
"For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place]. Stand therefore [hold your ground],"

"...Put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place]. Stand therefore [hold your ground],"

This is our assignment. This is our calling.

Resist. Stand your ground. Do everything the crisis demands. Stand firmly in your place. Stand and hold your ground.

Christians, we need to step it up and be who we were made to be and start fighting these spiritual battles! The enemy and the problems our country and our world are facing are much bigger than any single political, social, racial, economic, psychological, moral, or religious problem, etc. All of these 'problems' are the result of the bigger problem, the enemy. We are facing a spiritual enemy that creates the problems we are facing. So we need to begin to fight the enemy in the only way possible, through prayer.

Repent and pray church! Repent for not doing what we were supposed to do sooner. Repent for not being who we are supposed to be sooner. Repent for getting caught up and sucked into the whirlwind of controversy, social activism, and hot topics and begin to actually do something. PRAY!!!

Be world changers! Be like Jesus. He and a small group of people changed the world and the entire course of history in a matter of 3 years. What have you and I done in the last 3 years? Anything of eternal significance?

In the last 3 years I got pretty good at Call of Duty and created a pretty sweet FIFA team on my Xbox. I became a dad and a soccer coach. I got a lot better at cooking. I grew a huge beard. I led a few dozen people to the Lord and prayed with another few dozen.

None of this was enough. Most of it was time wasting and life wasting. I shouldn't be content with that small of an impact, and you shouldn't be either.

I am tired of having a lackadaisical and passive faith. I'm ready to do something. I'm hungry to see God do something.

Pray. Actually pray. Pray a lot. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

The time is now. Shake the earth.
- Joel

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood

Do you like Nazis? Are you a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan?

If you answered 'yes' to either or both of these questions, then you will most likely also be a fan of Margaret Sanger! You might be asking yourself, "Who is Margaret Sanger?" Well, I'm glad you asked!

Margaret Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood. She supported and praised the Nazi's forced sterilization programs they had implemented in Germany in the 1930s. She was a racist and spoke at a number of Ku Klux Klan and other similar events. Besides being a racist Nazi supporter, she was also a eugenicist. (Someone who believes that through abortion, birth control, and forced sterilization society can create a pure race and eliminate the unfit.)

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She was also the devil incarnate... Ok maybe that last part was more of an opinion than a straight up fact... But seriously, she probably was.

Here are a few of the devils', I mean Margaret's, lovely quotes and ideals:

"The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it."

"We don't want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population."

I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world – that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically. Delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things just marked when they’re born. That to me is the greatest sin."

"Birth control is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defective."

"We are paying for, and even submitting to, the dictates of an ever-increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all."

Here's a video (click here) of Hillary Clinton receiving the Margaret Sanger Award back in 2009. Hillary Clinton praises Sanger and says, "I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision... I am really in awe of her, there are a lot of lessons we can learn from her life."

With beliefs like this from the founder of Planned Parenthood, it should be of no surprise that the current leadership of Planned Parenthood are following in her footsteps.

Last night I watched this undercover video (click here) of Planned Parenthood's Senior Director of Medical Services, Deborah Nucatola, casually discussing selling partial birth abortion baby organs for profit over a salad and some wine.

Here are a couple of quotes from the video:

"We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact."

"I’d say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps."

After watching the video I felt like throwing up and had a hard time falling asleep. It sucks knowing that my taxes help fund this organization. If arguments over a flag and a celebrity's sex change can make national "news" for days on end, then I would hope murdered babies harvested organs for sale could grab our attention for at least a day or two.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen much about this story. But I'm not too surprised considering Kermit Gosnell's trial didn't get much attention either.

I'm not sure why this story bothers me so much. I'm sure part of it has to do with me being a Christian. Part of it has to do with me tending to be more conservative politically. Part of it has to do with me being pro-life. But, I think the biggest part is that I'm human. And grown humans murdering baby humans just doesn't sit right with me.

Proverbs 29:2 Amplified says, "When the [uncompromisingly] righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked man rules, the people groan and sigh."

I was groaning and sighing when I saw that video, that's for sure. Too bad we as Christians seem to compromise on righteousness more than we should. Especially since we are told to seek after the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)

Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, whether you support abortion or are against it shouldn't matter in this case. What Planned Parenthood admitted to doing in this video is ILLEGAL! Of course it's ethically and morally wrong, but it is also illegal. (What can be considered unethical when someone considers murdering a child as ethical?) They are committing partial birth abortions and then selling the parts and organs for profit. And for that, both sides should be outraged.

It's confusing to me that a fetus (Latin for 'offspring') or a lump of cells (we are all lumps of cells) can be aborted and it's not considered murder of a human. But then the same lump of cells can contain developed and viable human organs and human tissue that can be used and sold for scientific research. How does that logic work?

It's pretty obvious from this undercover video that this 'lump of cells' or 'fetus' is not the mother's body. Did they remove her liver? Her lungs? Her limbs? No, the mother still has her body parts. So they must have been something else's, SOMEONE else's.

I posted this on Facebook the day after the video was released. I thought it made sense. Someone obviously didn't like it, because it was reported as inappropriate. Surprisingly, Facebook didn't think so and it wasn't removed.

"I'm interested in obtaining body parts and organs from very young puppies and kittens. I want to study them and do tests and what not. Does anyone have any pregnant dogs or cats? I'd love to talk with you and compensate you for your "donation" to science. I will rip them out in pieces before they are born to make sure I get the valuable parts I need. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated!!! Please share!
Ok... I'm not really looking for puppy and kitty parts and organs, because I'm not a pet murdering psychopath. But this is almost exactly what Planned Parenthood does, WITH HUMAN BABIES!!! Human babies! If they did this with animals, I bet people would be outraged. I mean, animals are helpless, they can't defend themselves... kind of like unborn children... which have INFINITELY more value than an animal. And I say that as someone who loves dogs."

Edmund Burke once said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

I think we've sat by and done nothing for too long. Nothing happened when all the junk about Gosnell came out a couple years ago. Let's learn our lesson and do something this time around!


Please do something. Share this story. Talk about this story. Talk to your elected officials. Pray for our nation. Pray for our leaders.

- Joel

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Suicide Sucks

My heart feels very heavy this evening. It's hard to articulate the feelings I have. I am at a loss for words. I know I'm angry, sad, shocked, and confused... but there's much, much more. I just don't know how to express all that's going on.

My dad called me this evening and let me know that one of his closest friends had committed suicide and his body was found this morning. I was shocked.

Mourning a death is one thing, but mourning a death by choice is another. It's so sad. It makes me sick to my stomach. I hate suicide, it sucks!

I can't imagine being in a place where death seems like the best option. Where death seems like it's the only way out. Where death feels like the only relief from the pain and suffering they are going through.

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I'm sad he made the decision to take his own life, but I am thankful this man knew Jesus. And I know and am assured he is in heaven now.

He was, and still is, a lover and follower of Jesus. And now for the first time, he is able to love Jesus without any pain, suffering, or heartache. He is free.

I know suicide can be a hot topic in the church. There are many who believe that if you commit suicide, then you go to hell. But I really don't believe this is the case.

God judges the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7, Jeremiah 17:10) Suicide stems from anguish and pain in the soul or mind, not their spirit. So if anyone, including those who have committed suicide, have made the decision in their heart to give their lives to Jesus, then they are saved. (Romans 10:9, 10:13) Their names are in the Book of Life. (Luke 10:20, Revelation 20:15) Just as an outward act can't save us and get us to heaven, I don't believe an outward act - done out of pain - can damn us to hell. God knows the heart and that's what He ultimately judges.

This man was a huge influence on me in the area of witnessing and talking to people about Jesus. He and my dad have literally lead thousands of people to the Lord over the years. I remember going witnessing with them on a number of occasions when I was growing up. It had a huge impact on me and my faith. It showed me the importance and the priority of telling people about Jesus. They displayed the love of Jesus in their words and in their actions.

I also remember many stories they shared and told of leading people to Jesus. Everywhere they went was an opportunity to lead someone to the Lord. Restaurants, gas stations, malls, music festivals, door to door, and the list goes on and on. Witnessing was a passion and a lifestyle for him and my dad, just as it was for Jesus.

I hope I can reach half the people these two men have reached when my time is up. They both have led more people to the Lord individually then every single other person I have ever met... combined. I seriously believe this to be true. And neither of them were ever in the five fold ministry. They weren't pastors, or apostles, or prophets, or teachers, or evangelists. They rarely had an opportunity to speak to large crowds. They just loved Jesus and loved people.

They were Christians who took Jesus' words to heart. They were men of God who boldly proclaimed the Gospel, no matter the consequence. They have beautiful feet. (Romans 10:15, Isaiah 52:7) Even though my dad has some pretty gnarly toe nails at times haha.

This man was struggling and had lost hope in some areas in his life, but that didn't keep him from helping others find true hope. That is very admirable to me. That's selfless. That's the heart of a servant. He didn't just look out for himself, he looked out for others too. (Philippians 2:4)

I am proud I knew this man. He was a great man of God and a great fisher of men. I am saddened he wasn't able to fulfill his calling and finish the race set before him. I am saddened he cut his race short. Only God knows how many more people he would have brought into the Kingdom if he had stuck around until his time was supposed to be up. This is a tragedy.

I mourn his death, and I mourn the loss of his passion to see people come to Christ. The Church lost a good man and a good example of a fisher of men today.

I will be praying for peace and comfort for your friends and family as they struggle to understand your decision. I look forward to seeing you again and sharing more stories with you about leading people to Jesus.

Until then,
- Joel


Check out my wife's blog [click here], she is starting a series called 'Living Eulogy.' She will be writing about people who have influenced her in certain ways and helped change her life for the better. People who have been there for her, who have loved her. People she wants to thank now, before they pass on.

We should take her challenge and let people know the difference they have made in our life NOW, before they are gone. It could mean the world to them. Maybe it will make a difference in their life to hear from you, maybe it will be THE difference for someone. Maybe it would have been the difference for this man.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Don't Follow Your Heart

If you are anything like me, then you might cringe when you hear people say phrases such as:

"Just follow your heart."
"You can trust your heart."
"Do whatever makes you happy."
"God would want you to do whatever makes you happy."

Phrases similar to these can be the worst advice ever given to someone. Seriously.

Are such phrases ever used in the Bible?! If the advice we are offering someone isn't even scriptural, then it probably isn't very good advice to be giving. And it's even worse to receive and apply such advice to our life.

The closest verses (I can think of) that could maybe be taken out of context to give such advice would be:

Psalm 144:15 which says,
"Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!"

Psalm 37:4 which says,
"Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart."

And Ecclesiastes 11:9 (New Living) which says,
"Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do."

Happy (blessed) are the people whose God is the Lord. Jesus must be our Lord for us to be truly happy and blessed. And making Jesus our Lord isn't a one time decision. Every single day I make the decision whether He is the Lord of my life or not.

Delight yourself (be happy and merry) in Him... and then He will give you the desires of your heart. We aren't supposed to chase after happiness and fulfillment outside of Jesus. It doesn't work. It can't work. God created us so we can only be happy and feel fulfilled when we are connected to Him. That's why we see all kinds of celebrities who have achieved fame and fortune and they are still empty inside.

Enjoy every minute of being young and do whatever you want. YOLO! BUT, you will need to explain to God why you chose to do everything you did. There will be a consequence to living such a lifestyle, and it won't be worth it. Sin has pleasure, but only for a season. It won't last. (Hebrews 11:25)

If we are following Jesus and delighted, happy, blessed, and merry in Him... then the desires of our heart will most likely be honorable and holy. If we aren't following Jesus and we don't find happiness or delight in Him... then we probably shouldn't be trusting our heart.

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Should pedophiles 'follow their heart?' How about drug addicts, should they do 'whatever makes them happy?' Hitler followed his heart and was super happy to exterminate millions of people...

Get my point?

It can be extremely dangerous to follow or trust our heart and do whatever makes us happy. Those things can lead to destruction. (Proverbs 14:12)

We all know people who have "followed their heart" or who have done "what makes them happy" and that decision has wrecked their lives and/or other people's lives. That (most likely) wasn't God's leading.

Pretty sure God didn't tell us to abuse someone, or lie, or commit adultery, or steal, or do drugs, or murder someone, etc. In fact, I think there is quite a bit of stuff in the Bible concerning those issues... The Holy Spirit will NEVER lead us to do something that doesn't line up with the Bible. Never. God isn't schizophrenic. His Word and His Spirit will ALWAYS agree and confirm one another.

In the book Forgotten God Francis Chan writes,
"The Holy Spirit will not- cannot- lead you into sin. If the Holy Spirit is in you, as a believer, then when you sin you are not listening to the Spirit's leading."

Anything and everything we do should be done within the confines of the Bible. Our hearts don't have the final authority. Culture doesn't have the final authority. Our government doesn't even have the final authority. The Bible is the final authority in Christians' lives... or at least it's supposed to be.

The Word of God helps us from going off track. It helps us from getting weird. It helps us stay within certain boundaries.

Many times we can't trust our heart. We are told to protect and guard our heart! (Proverbs 4:23) If we haven't protected our heart, then following our heart is probably going to be a bad idea.

We are to follow Jesus. His Word is to be a lamp unto our feet and light unto our path. (Psalm 119:105) We are instructed to be led by the Holy Spirit, not by our heart. (Romans 8:14)

So "following our heart" and "doing what makes us happy" might not be the best route to take. Following Jesus and making Him happy is the best route to take and the best decision we can ever make.

Proverbs 28:26 says,
"He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But whoever walks wisely will be delivered."

We are a fool if we choose to trust in our heart and follow what it wants us to do. Or we can go with the foolproof plan and decide to follow Jesus.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but God's foresight is always 20/20. He knows the end from the beginning... because He is the End and the Beginning. (Revelation 1:8, 22:13)

So stop trusting yourself and your heart and start trusting God. Follow Jesus and choose to never follow your heart again. (Proverbs 3:5-7) It's much safer that way.


If you find that you trust yourself more than God in certain areas, then ask Him why.
Ask Him to help you address those areas and correct the error in your life.
Ask God if there are any areas in your life that make you happy that shouldn't.
Last but not least, ask God how you can be content and happy in and through Him.

The time is now, shake the earth!
- Joel

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hear God's Voice and Live By Faith

Romans 14:23 says,
But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

WHATEVER is not from faith is sin!

What if EVERYTHING we did in this life was from faith? What would that look like?

When I do choose to live by faith or from faith, awesome things happen! God shows up. God blesses people. Lives are changed for the better. My life is changed for the better.

What would it look like if I lived this way CONSISTENTLY?!

Jesus did live this way, and look at what He was able to accomplish in those three short years! He redeemed the time He had. I don't believe Jesus ever wasted His time.

If we are wasting our time, then we are wasting our life. If we are wasting our life, then we are wasting our purpose.

If we choose to live a life full of faith, then we will be able to do the same and even greater things than Jesus did! (John 14:12) Those are His words, not mine.

Jesus loved people. Jesus had compassion for people. He healed the sick. He delivered people from demons. He raised the dead. He was a servant, and He was willing to die in order to accomplish God's will for His life.

How far would I go to accomplish God's will for my life? What price am I willing to pay?

Jesus only did what the Father showed Him to do and only said what the Father told Him to say. We are capable and called to live in a similar manner. Jesus is our example. We are to live like He did.

That's crazy! That is the radical way of living we are ALL called to as Christians.

We have to be intimately connected to the Lord at all times in order to live this way. This is what abiding in the Lord looks like. This is what following His commandments looks like.

In the book Beautiful Outlaw John Eldredge says,
"If you do not experience Jesus intimately, daily, ...if you do not know the comfort of his actual presence, do not hear his voice speaking to you personally- you have been robbed.
If you do not know the power of his indwelling life in you, shaping your personality, healing your brokenness, enabling you to live as he did- you have been plundered."

We can experience intimate times with the Lord every single day.

We are called to walk and live by faith! (Hebrews 10:38, 2 Corinthians 5:7) Walking and living by faith won't be the easiest job we've ever done, but it will be the most rewarding.

Faith glorifies God and pleases God. (Romans 4:20, Hebrews 11:6) If what we are doing isn't of faith, then it can't glorify or please God. In fact, if what we do and say isn't of faith, then it displeases God and it will bring someone else glory.

It might glorify or please us, but that's not the goal. We need to ask ourselves, "Is this going to glorify and please Jesus, or are my intentions less honorable? Am I doing this for my glory and my own pleasing or for His?"

It always comes down to our heart. That's why we are supposed to guard our hearts. (Proverbs 4:23) Am I doing this for the right reasons? Do I have the right motivation?

We should only be concerned with what our Father thinks and says of us. If we know who we are in Him, then we won't care what anyone else thinks or says about us.

There are many external acts and works we may do that are good, but they're still not God. We might even receive accolades and praise from those around us for the service we have done... but that doesn't necessarily mean God is pleased with our service.

Did God show us and tell us to do these things? Were they from faith, or were they from our own self righteous acts and human wisdom? Were they God's good or man's good?

Romans 10:17 says,
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. The written AND spoken Word of God.

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God spoke to His followers all throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. If He talked to them, then why wouldn't He still talk to us?! We are part of a better covenant with better promises (Hebrews 8:6), so surely being able to hear from God would be part of our relationship and covenant with the Lord!

John 10:27 says,
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

We can and should hear from the Lord. If we aren't hearing, then we either aren't listening or we don't know how to listen.

Hearing from God should not only be limited to a pinnacle experience in our faith that happened at a conference or a camp meeting. Hearing from God should be a daily, moment by moment, experience where we receive faith and direction from Him. Talking with and hearing from the Lord shouldn't be a once in a lifetime experience, it can be (and should be) a lifestyle.

We are supposed to pray without ceasing, or without intermission. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Prayer at the root form is talking WITH God, not merely talking AT God. We need to give the Lord a chance to speak back to us when we are praying.

In the book, Pursuit Of God, A.W. Tozer wrote,
"He tries to think of God as mute everywhere else and vocal only in a book. I believe that much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong conception of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth. A silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again forever. Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood. With notions like that in our heads how can we believe? The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God's continuous speech."

God is never silent. He is always speaking. Are my ears in tune with His voice? With His Word?

Larry Low, a minister friend of mine who is currently on staff with Teen Challenge in Iowa, once said, "How much more faith can you have than to diligently speak with a God who is invisible?"

Our lives shouldn't make sense to unbelievers. If they do, then maybe we aren't living the way God intended us to live.

We are called to live a life full of faith which comes from hearing the Word of God. Living in such a way will please Him and bring Him glory. And it will not only bless us, but we will also be a blessing to others. The Lord will be able to use us in a similar fashion as He used Jesus.

Get in a quiet place, tell your mind to be quiet, and ask God a question. Wait and listen to what He has been wanting to talk to you about.
Ask God if there is anything you are currently doing or involved in that is not from faith.
Ask God if there is anything you are currently doing or involved in that is man's good and not God's good.
If you are having a hard time hearing from God, then feel free to contact me. I'd be more than happy to help!
Or if you want some awesome material, then check out Larry Low's teaching. (click here) He has CDs, DVDs, and books available for purchase. His stuff will wreck you... in a good way. The truths I learned and applied from his teaching have changed my life and I've seen it change the lives of many others as well!

The time is now, shake the earth!
- Joel

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Memorial Day: The Homeless Veteran

It was Memorial Day on Monday, May 25th. I am very thankful for all of the men and women who have served our country. It is a great privilege to live in the USA and we have that privilege mainly because of our armed forces. So I want to say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

I have always very much appreciated our troops and our veterans. I believe this is mainly due to the fact that my Grandpa Juni served in the Korean War. He would rarely talk about the war, but when he did he had all of my attention. When hearing him speak of the war, it was easy to tell he carried the things he had experienced in the war for the rest of his life. Some good, some bad, and some really bad.

War can be hell. Our troops carry the things they witness and experience for the rest of their lives. That is a lifelong sacrifice for their country... And that's the sacrifice of those that were lucky enough to make it out alive. John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." All of our servicemen and women have known death was a possibility, and they served anyway.

That is amazing. That is service. That is love.

This is no little thing. It is a huge sacrifice. Thank you! And thank you to your families as well. The person going to war or training for war is not the only one sacrificing, their families are as well. Don't forget that!

Because of my upbringing and my beliefs I try to be aware of our serving military, as well as our veterans. I always thank them for their service. I try to strike up conversation with them. I let them know I never served in the military, but my Grandpa was in the Korean War and one of my best friends, Jake, just finished a tour in Afghanistan.

Gpa wedding
Photo by Bethany Terry
Jake wedding
Photo by Jennifer Christi Photography

I have never had one troop or veteran not smile or show thanks for my recognition of their service. Many of them will say, "It was my honor." Or, "It was no big deal." Or, "I'm glad I was able to." They show great humility.

I'm sure being recognized and thanked for their service is a breath of fresh air for some of them. There are some people who bash and hate our troops. I can understand opposing and hating war, but try to do it in a way in which the people who were willing to give up their lives are not hurt any more than they already have been. That's messed up.

Go talk to a Vietnam War veteran and you will understand the hurt and pain caused by such words and actions. When these troops, many of them still boys, came home from Vietnam they weren't welcomed home and greeted with thanks or parades. They were greeted with ignored indifference or hateful protests. Many of them were cursed, threatened and sometimes even assaulted.

I can't begin to imagine what they must have been going through. Happy and thankful to be home from war, only to be told or shown by many American citizens that they were unwelcome or hated. Many soldiers tossed their uniforms in the garbage or in the ocean before they came back home in order to avoid being treated in such ways.

I recently spoke to a Vietnam War veteran who experienced some awful receptions when he got back home from the war.

The Saturday before Memorial Day, May 23rd, Jenny and I went to Fargo to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We had a really good time together. We ate some good food, browsed a thrift/antique store, visited a book store, played mini golf, and drove some go karts. But, one of the highlights of the day was when we met a homeless Vietnam vet named Rambo. He told us that his friends call him Rocky.

Rambo/Rocky had quite the story. He had lived a very tough life... and it showed. He was very friendly and enjoyed talking with us. He would say hello to almost every person who walked by his bench. (And there are a lot of people that walk down Broadway in Fargo.)

Jenny and I talked to him for at least an hour, maybe even two. I can't give an exact amount of time, I never looked at my phone to check and I rarely wear a watch. I wonder if Jesus ever checked the sun dial when He was talking to people.

I doubt it.

When we are truly serving Jesus nothing is our own any longer, including our time. He is either Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all. And it's not about works. It's about relationship with Him! Day in and day out. Moment by moment.

While conversing, Rocky told us he was concerned he had committed the unpardonable sin. I told him that people who have committed the unpardonable sin wouldn't be concerned about whether they had committed it or not. They would be happy they had committed it and they would have no remorse.

We asked Rocky if he was sorry for the things he had done. He answered and said, "Of course I'm sorry! I wish I could take them back. I wish that every single day."

I shared a couple of scriptures with him and then he pulled out one of those little pocket Bibles that have the New Testament and Psalms and Proverbs in them. He asked me to show him the scriptures I was talking about. So I did, and we read them together.

Pocket Bible

We talked about God sending Jesus for us. We talked about the Easter story. We talked about Jesus dying on the cross and raising again.

He believed the Easter story was true. I told Rocky, "If you believe the Easter story, then you are halfway to heaven already!"

We then looked at Romans 10:9 which says, "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

Rocky truly believed that God raised Jesus from the dead. (He believed the Easter story.) So I let him know that all he needed to do now was confess Jesus as his Lord.

I led him in a prayer and Rambo gave his life to the Lord for the first time. His whole countenance changed when I told him he could know he was going to heaven now. He even double checked with me and asked, "I can have assurance of that?" I answered yes, and Rambo told us he knew it was going to be a good day.

It was a good day, he had just made the most important decision of his life.

While Jenny and I were eating lunch, I had told her I really wanted to talk to someone about Jesus that day. And minutes after we left the restaurant we ran into Rambo, a Vietnam vet with an amazing story who was in desperate need of an awesome God.

While we were talking, Rocky told us his doctor said he will be lucky to be alive through the end of the year.

I'm very thankful Jenny and I were friendly to this man and loved him. I'm glad we took the time out of our day to reach out to someone and thank them for their service to our country... and then serve him in one of the only ways we knew how.

We talked with him. We were friendly and loving towards him. We prayed with him. We prayed for him. We got him something to drink and gave him 20 bucks.

The things that matter most in my life I will spend money on AND I will spend time on. People will make room for the things that matter most to them. (Whether that means making room in their budget and/or in their schedule.)

I am very thankful we made time for Rambo on Saturday... even if it did take time away from us celebrating our wedding anniversary.

But now that I think about it, is there a better way to celebrate a wedding anniversary than to love someone and lead them to Jesus?

I don't think so.


Honor a veteran or a troop this week- Don't let our troops and veterans only be thanked one, or two, or three times a year. That's not right.
Talk to someone about Jesus this week! (If you don't think you can do it, ask God for boldness!)
If you already talk to one person a week about Jesus, then talk to two people this week- Jesus was busy doing His Father's business, we should be too. Some of us are so busy doing our own business that we never get around to doing His... It's time to change.

- Joel