MMXVI

It is Tuesday and I want to write a post.

My son and I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I loved it but that is not what I am writing about.

star wars basic logo

Another part of me wants to tell you about my personal theme for 2016. You will have to wait until January 2016 for it.

theme pic

It is December so Christmas would be a good thing about which to write. I got nothin’.

sarcastic christmas

 

Around this time of year, I get reflective. What happened in my life this year? There were many great things and some not-so-great things. Don’t worry, I am not going to list them for you.

I think that what I am saying through all of this blubbering is that God is still God.

He never changed this past year.

He will still provide even if the economy tanks.

Job troubles? God see the sparrows so He certainly has his eye on you.

Still giving the devil a foothold? Let God guide your steps next year.


 

The cross of Jesus still holds power over sin.  

The name of Jesus still frees you from sin.

The blood of Jesus still washes away your sin.


 

So what does 2016 hold?

2016 Calender on the red cubes

2016 Calender on the red cubes

I don’t know. But…

I will put Jesus first and everything will either work out or not matter.

 

 

 

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Divine Deluge!

“Oh the weather outside is frightful…” Actually, it has been raining a lot here in Green Bay. We are truly wondering if we will have a white Christmas.

Monday morning, I was driving to work. At a particular stop light, I normally turn left. However, I could not turn left because the road was closed. There was a police car and some orange barricades. As I drove straight, I looked to see why the road was shut down. Flooding. There was a 40-foot section of road that was covered in water. I just had to go a few extra blocks out of my way to get to the Olive Garden.

Here is the ironic part. I was listening to the worship song, “Open Up the Heavens.” One of the lines in the song says, “Open up the floodgates. A mighty river. Flowing from your heart…”

So that song is playing and I am seeing some flooding happening right before my eyes. That whole scenario got my brain thinking.

flash_floods

Historically, floods have always been associated with destruction. Noah and the ark ring a bell? I lived in Minneapolis, MN during the flooding of 1993. I still recall some of those images. In 2013, my wife and I were in New Orleans. On a tour of the city, we saw flood damage from Hurricane Katrina. You can probably recall some flooding in the recent past as well. Here is a funny picture from Alberta, Canada.

CALGARY, ALBERTA.:  JUNE 21, 2013 --  Blake Wartenbe catches his wife Desiree as she jumps over flowing water in a flooded downtown Calgary, Alberta on June 21, 2013. For City story by ? (Leah Hennel/Calgary Herald)

CALGARY, ALBERTA.: JUNE 21, 2013 — Blake Wartenbe catches his wife Desiree as she jumps over flowing water in a flooded downtown Calgary, Alberta on June 21, 2013. For City story by ? (Leah Hennel/Calgary Herald)

Here are two observations of mine:

  1. Flooding will cause diversion. You may have to travel a different path due to road conditions.
  2. Flooding will cause destruction.  There is always cleanup after a flood.

 

Let’s look at a flood from a different perspective now, not a historical one.

Flooding can be a good thing when a spiritual perspective is adopted. Think about God’s heart for a moment. Can you fathom how much love it contains? Is there a limit to the grace and mercy of the Almighty? What levy is going to hold it all back? When God decides to pour out His spirit, nothing can stop. It will go where it pleases and do what it wants. Spiritual flooding is a good thing. Let’s look at those two items again.

  1. Flooding will cause diversion. In my sin, I need to be diverted now and then. Sometimes, I don’t see the end result but God does. He loves me too much for me to go down that road. A flooding of God’s spirit can divert me from sin. I like that.
  2. Flooding will cause destruction. Every time I choose something other than God, I am building my own kingdom. Ultimately, my kingdom will end in ruin. A great crash is coming. God’s flooding can destroy the works that I am trying to do. This is a good thing. Now, with my ugly excuses for a kingdom cleared away, God can begin building HIS Kingdom in my life. The destruction was necessary. Rebuilding the new requires destruction of the old.

 

If you like a challenge, let me set one out for you.

For the next week, ask God to flood your life.

Ask Him to fill your heart with extra compassion during this particular season.

Ask Him to break your heart for the lost souls around you.

Ask Him to cleanse your heart from all sin.

Ask Him to prepare your heart for great and mighty things to come.

Go ahead and ask for a flood. But be careful because He may just do it.

Yep, you can tell that I wrapped that one.

Almost every Christmas since we got married, we have had the fortune (blessing) of waking up on Christmas day at my in-law’s house. No, that is not an opening line to a joke. =-)

There is a tree and plenty of decorations. And of course, gifts. As a follower of Christ, I know that Christmas is about the birth of a savior and not the presents under the tree. I do my best to teach that to my family as well. But let’s be honest, I like getting stuff. My mother-in-law always asks me for my Christmas (and birthday) list. So I oblige her and write one out. =-)

christmas list

Generally, my wife will wrap the gifts for our two children and mine as well. I only wrap the ones for my wife and occasionally, some gifts for the other family members. It seems that every year, my father-in-law makes a comment about the wrap job on a gift. By now, it is really simple to tell which presents I wrap and which ones are wrapped by my wife. Getting those corners so crisp is near impossible for me. I think I use way more tape than necessary as well. Every time, my wrapping paper is not very good, and it is obvious.


Let me share another little story. On Sunday, I saw my friend at church. We have shared many life experiences and have grown together in the Lord. There was a book, Lessons from a Venetian Vinedresser by Robert Scott Stiner, that I had read. I passed it along to my friend. Both of us agreed that we should re-read it. It really is a phenomenal book. But, in the past six months I lost my copy of the book. So I ordered two copies, one for me and one for my friend. I gave it to him as church this past weekend. He was really surprised but very grateful to receive his own copy of the book. It was a great joy to be able to give it to him.

vinedresser book


Do you know what a mash-up is? Take peanut butter and chocolate and mash them together. What do you get?

Reese's-PB-Cups-Wrapper-Small

That makes a fantastically tasty mash-up!

So take my first story about not wrapping presents very well. Mash that story with the second one about giving the book to my friend. What do you get?

jesus in manger

Luke 2:7 says, “and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,”

 

Jesus was a gift to the human race. God even had it wrapped! Sometimes I don’t feel worthy to accept the gift. Other times I just plain reject it. Sometimes I feel honored to have the gift. There are many moments when I feel I need the gift.

Whatever the case (my feelings being irrelevant), the gift has been offered to me and to you. It comes to us free of charge. Anyone can have it. You don’t need special credentials or status. Young or old; rich or poor, the gift is exactly the same for everyone. We are given the opportunity to unwrap the gift and then God can do the cleaning up. We don’t get right and then accept what God has done.

So, what gift will you be opening this year? 

170 and counting.

As you may know or have read in previous blogs, I am a pastor by God’s calling. This entails many things but the largest portion of my time goes to the weddings that I officiate. Here is an actual wedding of mine from Pamperin Park in Green Bay, WI.

wedding 1

But before the couple and I get to this point, we will have met 2 or 3 times. Texting, calling, and emailing is also quite frequent . This way, the couple is not completely unknown to me and they also feel comfortable with me. There is a relationship.

To be honest, I do not remember all of the couples I marry. Most of them have faded into a memory. But every once in a while, there is something special that takes place and a friendship is formed. The relationship continues. Of the almost 170 weddings that I have officiated, there are maybe 10 or 12 couples that I could call right now. We have kept up with life.

But all of that is just background. Now you know a little bit of how my process works with these weddings. Monday night, I had a meeting with another couple. Their wedding is Dec. 26 this year. I have enjoyed our meetings and will also enjoy the wedding. They are a godly couple and so I feel like it is a privilege to marry them!

They asked me about what I would say during the ceremony. Do I preach a sermon? Give a little advice? What are my remarks? In this case, it will be a sermon from John 17. And that is my point of today’s post. I am going to give you that sermon. Not the whole thing but a nice little summary. Please turn to John 17…


In John 17, we find Jesus praying. He prays for himself (verses 1-5), his disciples (verses 6-19), then finally, all believers (verses 20-26). There are three things that Jesus is praying for in the second section, the one about the disciples.

He prays for their Protection (11-12, 15). While on earth, Jesus was able to protect them. Now he prays for them to be safe by the power of God’s name.

He prays for their Pleasure (13-14). The world has hated them but they can have joy inside them. The joy will be internal, not depending on the external.

He prays for their Perfection (17 -19). Sanctify. To make whole. Perfection. The disciples would need to keep growing and learning.

God desires this for the disciples so He had Jesus pray these things.

CONCLUSION: I think God would desire these same things for a married couple. The marriage relationship provides an avenue in which God can protect, provide joy, and sanctify His children. The world does the opposite. In fact, without God and His word, we would become like the world. At that point, our marriage will be no good for God’s purposes.

But if we keep God first in our lives and then our marriages, God will keep the marriage what it needs to be.

And that is the difference this world needs.

So be the difference.

NOTE: If you are single, these three things can apply as well so don’t feel excluded or insignificant.

“Put Jesus first and everything else will either work out or not matter.” Roger Sorbo 1941-2014

dad