Monday, December 21, 2009

My father-inlaw, Morrie Snook

Morrie Snook has been my father-in-law for over 32 years. I have come to know, respect, and love him. He was man of principle and dedication to the Lord his God. It was very important that each of his children came to a saving faith in Jesus. Then when his grandchildren came along, he spent time and effort witnessing to them, desiring that they come to know God in a personal way as well.

He worked hard all his life, providing for his family. He never was rich in earthly possessions, his wealth was laid up in Heaven. Actually, when you think about it, when one realizes the end is near, all the toys he has been able to accumulate don't seem to be nearly as necessary as they may have been earlier.

Last Saturday, after being notified of their father and grandfather's soon homegoing, they came from South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, as well as Ohio to be with Dad and Grandpa in his final hours. As I looked at the crowd around his bed, I realized how rich he was. Laying there in a hospital bed without the trappings that we consider so important, he had wealth far more desirable, and of much greater worth. No longer was there the desire to sell the insurance policies he had sold for so many years. Now the only things that were important were the souls he and his wife had brought into this world and the grandchildren that gathered around his bed. Now the his greatest concern was that he would see these loved ones again, not while hurting from the results of diabetes, with the dementia fogging his mind, and his hearing impaired as it was; but with a new body that would never grow old and that would never know pain.

Yes, Morrie was a rich man, and I trust that he will see those souls he prayed for and labored over. His youngest grandchild accepted Jesus as his Savior the day before his death. So as the angels rejoiced over another soul's salvation, Morrie slipped from this vale of sorrows into the arms of his blessed Redeemer.

This past Friday evening, December 18, Morrie Snook left this world and experienced I Corinthians 15:52-54, his corruptible put on incorruption and his mortal put on immortality. We do not bury Morrie, we bury the shell that contained him. We also have that blessed hope; we shall see him again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I want to get back to a topic I promised to return to: Forgiveness.
There isn't much new to add to what we already know about forgiveness when someone wrongs us. Of course the carnal thing to do is to get even. But what Jesus taught us through precept and then by His example was a spirit of willingness to forgive. There is an important distinction between just forgiving others when they do not seek to be forgiven, and having a willingness to forgive others whether they seek to be forgiven or not. When He was on the cross and said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,' Jesus did not mean every person should receive the forgiveness of sins, because everyone was not forgiven. And because of that I believe Jesus had the attitude that everyone who really was sorry they had wronged God would receive forgiveness. And those who refused to repent of their rebellion would not receive forgiveness, but were still under eternal judgment.
The great principle of forgiveness is brought out in Matt. 18:21-35. In response to Peter's question, 'How often should I forgive others?' Jesus gives a parable which beautifully illustrates the godly concept of forgiveness. And He speaks of people who owe others money. I am sure He did this because it is easy for us to relate to money.
So the question I posed a couple months ago had to do with one company forgiving another of its debt. I can't speak for others, and there may be extenuating circumstances, but under ordinary conditions, I believe that the spirit of forgiveness should be extended. Okay, before you jump all over me, let me explain. First of all, the company failing to pay its bill should be totally unable to pay. There are companies that we do business with that have a hard time paying their bills timely and we have those who are paying bills as they are able. However if a company is really in dire straits financially and the CEO were to ask me to forgive the debt, I am probably obligated to do so. However, in order to responsibly discharge my duty to God's company, Grace Plastics, I should ask the debtor to prove his claim. If he is not willing to open his books to me, and prove his company (and himself personally) is destitute, I have an obligation to God to run Grace Plastics in a fiscally prudent manner, and refuse his request.
It all comes back to the underlying principle: everything which I call mine in this world, is really not mine. It all belongs to God, and as He blesses, we try to operate the company as He would. I believe this is a very balanced approach to a difficult subject. If God tests me along these lines, I hope I will have the grace and faith to obey Him and then watch Him supply as He always does. I would appreciate any and all comments, criticisms, and questions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Pilgrim Thansgiving

Several years ago I was asked to give a reading for Thanksgiving. I couldn't find one I liked from my slim files, so I did a little research and wrote something that I hope will bless you this Thanksgiving:

Among my heroes are those Christian fundamentalists of 350 years ago. The Pilgrims would not go along with the state Church of England and were therefore singled out for persecution. These hardy Christians were willing to undergo extreme hardship in order to worship God in the way they believed He wished.

In the New World they were precariously perched on the edge of a hostile wilderness with a deep, black ocean at their backs. It was ludicrous to think that they would survive. They were few and they were sick, but their faith in God was constant and with Him they overcame all their obstacles and set up on that beachhead a guiding light for all who would follow. This, then, describes those Pilgrims and the first Thanksgivings celebrated in this country.

It was during the beautiful October Indian Summer of 1621 that the first day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed by Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Plantation. The friendly Indian chief, Massasoit, who had helped the Pilgrims, showed up with 90 unexpected guests - almost double the size of the settlement of Pilgrims. Fortunately the Indians brought with them deer and turkeys and showed the Pilgrims how to make popcorn. The happy occasion lasted three days.

As Bradford watched the joyous celebration, his thoughts traveled back over the previous year. He remembered the fears and questions the group of Separatists had as they left England on the Mayflower and after three long months at sea finally found themselves 100 miles farther north than they were supposed to be, at a place the sailors called Cape Cod. After more weeks of exploration and planning these settlers began building the first house on December 25. It was then that the 'General Sickness' started. Long months at sea, the cold damp weather, and poor diets combined to slowly decimate their ranks. Six died in December, eight passed away in January, and February claimed 17 lives. In the spring of 1621 when the worst was over, just under half their number, or 47 had gone on to their eternal home.

Bradford, who lost his own wife, reflected on the strength of character of these people who refused to complain, grow bitter, or blame God for His goodness.

Governor Bradford knew it was not over. Hardships would yet abound, and abound they did. A month later, in November, 35 more settlers joined these original Pilgrims. They brought nothing with them: no tools, no bedding, and most importantly, no food. It was a long, cold winter. During the starving time that winter they were all reduced to the meager rations of five kernels of corn per person per day. Unbelievably not one died of starvation.

Two years after the first Thanksgiving, on Thursday, November 29, 1623 Bradford proclaimed:
"Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and has spared us from pestilence and disease and has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims render thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings."

A traveling merchant, Emanuel Altham, who attended the occasion, described the Thanksgiving in a letter to his brother:
"After our arrival in New England, we found that plantation in good health, and neither man, woman, or child sick. In this plantation are about 20 houses, four or five of which are very pleasant, and the rest (as time will serve) shall be made better. The fishing that is in this country, indeed is beyond belief. In one hour we got 100 cod.
"And now to somewhat of the good cheer. We had about 12 tasty venisons, and other such good cheer in such quantities that I wish you some of our share. For here we have the biggest grapes that ever you saw, and a variety of plums and nuts, six goats, about 50 hogs and pigs, also many, many hens. A better country was never seen nor heard of, for here are a multitude of God's blessing."

What Altham neglected to mention was the meals that were served on a previous winter - strong Christians gratefully thanking God for five kernels of corn per day.

Remind us to be grateful, Lord, lest we forget, lest we forget.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Wedding Blessing for Joe and Danielle

It has been a while since the last posting of Peanuts. I really don't want to make a practice of extended breaks from the postings. Kathy and I were exhausted both physically and emotionally from the two weddings these past couple months. With everything else on my plate, something had to slip. However I am back in the saddle and raring to go. I have some ideas for future postings which I hope you will enjoy. This post has to do with the last wedding

A couple months ago Joe asked me to give a blessing for Danielle and him, like I had done for our daughters, Allie and Michelle. Of course I was happy to comply; I like to bless my children and their mates! Because the length of the wedding, he thought it would be best if I saved the blessing for the reception. Somehow the lines of communication broke down and I did not give the blessing. Not wanting a good blessing to go to waste, here it is:

A Blessing for Joe and Danielle:

Since you, Joe are my only son, and Danielle is now my only daughter-in-law; you both are special to me. I wish and pray for God’s best blessings in your lives and on your marriage. May the two of you find real happiness in each other and true joy in pleasing and serving the Lord God of your fathers.

Joe, keep your heart tender and humble before God, and may He lift you up and make you great in your home and community. Keep yourself always in love with your wife, and may the home she provides be a strong refuge during the storms that will surely come. Keep a strong faith in God Almighty and may He always give you the ability to provide for your family. Ask the God of Grace to give you wisdom and the ability to lead your family to walk before Him all your days. God has promised to give liberally.

Danielle, always respect your husband and be the helper God would have you to be. May Joe always be your ‘Prince Charming.’ May you find in him safety and comfort. May the Lord God make you fruitful and bless you with many healthy and good children. And may God bless you two as you seek to bring your children to a saving knowledge in Jesus Messiah.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


It has been awhile since I last posted an article on Peanuts. As always, there is a reason. And it is because I take this blog seriously that I really do not like to go for a long period without updating with a new post. I suppose I could come up with some fluff, but since I don’t like to read something like that, I try to come up with something that I hope is thought-provoking or at least interesting.

So the reason for the delay: presently I am heading up the Children’s Church ministry at our church. It is a role I enjoy and spend 2-3 hours a week preparing for. Well, I was asked to take on an additional ministry of being the commander of an Awana Club that is being started at our church. Although I have been a commander in the past, I thought that would be something that I would not be doing again. Actually, I was told I would be a co-commander, with an able and capable younger man, who would gradually take over as he gained experience. At the first Awana night a couple weeks ago, he told me that he is going to be moving at the end of the school year. So much for bringing him into the leadership position. At any rate, getting the Awana year started with about 10 days warning has taken up most of my extra time that otherwise would have been devoted to ‘Peanuts.’

I am not upset about the extra load. If the Lord God has given me talents and I bury them in the backyard, what good are they? So I do what I can, but have always resisted taking on too much. There has to be a balance. I believe every believer has some talents that can be used for God. It may be helping in a church ministry, or it may, like this blog, be something outside of the church. To just warm a pew is doing far less than what God would have us do.

But then I have seen some good Christian couples lose their children because they were so involved in the church that they basically neglected their kids. Now that is heart-breaking! God expects us to keep our priorities straight. And I believe He puts the family before the church. Raising a family to the glory of God is the top responsibility of any parent. Everything else is secondary.

So take this for what it’s worth. These are just some thoughts of a man that has tried to do right, and point his family in the way God would have them go, and after that, being a light for others. And looking back, it has been tiring and thankless at times, but overall very, very rewarding. At the end of our life, what do we want to look back on?

Now, let me ask for some participation. I have been giving some serious thought to the idea of forgiveness. As Christians we know (whether we practice it is another matter) that we ought to forgive others when they have wronged us. My question is: does this extend to business, or is it just personal? If a company A owes company B money, and A is cash-strapped and decides they cannot pay their bill, should B (if they are Christians) forgive A? If so, why? If not, why? I would really like your input. I will talk about it soon. Thanks.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stewardship, part 3

This is the final posting concerning stewardship for the present. There is much more that could be said about the subject, but this blog is not going to be spent in an exhaustive research into the matter, at least not now.

I want to look at the matter of debt. I know something about this, because I have both personal and business debt. All my debt is covered by real estate or other tangible goods. Most of it is business debt (which is no different than personal debt, just a lot more.) Throughout most of my adult life I have tried to either stay out of debt, or keep it very small. When my wife and I were younger and much poorer, we almost never used a credit card because we didn’t know if we would be able to pay off the balance if we did use it. And herein lies a problem that some have not learned, or have learned the hard way. Debt is not necessarily bad if backed up by assets. Credit card debt is not backed up by assets and therefore can be dangerous.

In Romans 13:8 Paul says, ‘Owe no one anything except to love one another.’ Although some strictly interpret this to mean we should have no debt, I take this to mean we should have no debt that is not backed up by tangible assets. If I buy a brand new luxury car with only one month’s payment, there is a possibility that I would be violating Paul’s injunction because when I drive that beautiful BMW off the lot, it is no longer worth $60-80,000 – and it makes me sick to think how much money I have just lost! (My Corolla works just fine and I am elated getting 38 MPG on the highway.) Now if I am buying a house and am able to put down 10%, the debt is backed up by the real estate I have just purchased. I realize that real estate has been going down recently, but in many parts of the country, we haven’t had the wild speculation that was evident in the West and in Florida. So in the second example we have a case where I technically owe the bank $150,000, but the bank actually owns the house, and as long as I make the payments, I will eventually own the house myself and if I default the bank owns a nice house worth at least the principle left on the loan. The whole time the loan was covered by the real estate. The point is as Christians we need to be very prudent with God’s money. And never should we allow ourselves to get into serious financial debt. By that I mean if there is not a reasonable assurance that the loan can be paid off in a timely fashion - don’t get into debt. Sometimes it is better to hold off purchasing something that isn’t absolutely necessary until you can pay cash. Now that is a novel idea!

I thank God for a wife who kept me out of foolish debt. Slick salesmen would lure me into wanting to make a large purchase. I would try to convince Kathy that we could make the payments. I am thankful that I lost those arguments. I am also thankful that our children never saw us foolishly spending our money. They all have shown wisdom in their own finances, and I am proud of them.

As Christians let us remember that all we have is God’s. As alluring as material creature comforts can be, let us all be wise stewards of what God has entrusted to us, whether it be money, time, or talents.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Wedding Blessing

Yesterday, August 15, was a momentous day for our family. Our daughter, Michelle was married to Aaron Steele. This was the third time my wife and I saw one of our daughters leave and cleave, with our consent. It went off without a hitch, although there were some stressful moments, such as, 'Where is the cake???!!' It finally arrived, less than an hour before the wedding began.

In the Old Testament there were times that the Patriarchs blessed their children. Perhaps it was unique for them, but I believe that it is not a bad custom, and I have revived the custom for a couple of my daughters. I would have done this for my first-born, but she got married before I instituted the marriage blessing. Actually I did it only with their consent.

Michelle Steele, as she has been known for only a day, asked me a couple months ago to bless her and Aaron at their wedding. Some of you were there and heard it. For the rest, I have included it below:

A Blessing for Aaron and Michelle:

Aaron and Michelle, on this special day, we, as parents, wish God’s blessing on your lives. We have spent years praying for you and now you stand before us ready to embark on a new chapter of your lives. We are proud of you.

Aaron, may God Almighty bless you as husband and spiritual leader of your family. May He give you spiritual discernment and wisdom. May your desire always be for your wife. May God bless you physically, mentally, emotionally, and yes, financially. As you place your trust in the Lord your God, may He bless you so that you will never want. May God give you the ability to become great both in your church and your community, and may He give you the humility to stay great. May God bless you with children that will also seek to know the God of their father. Aaron, God bless you in all you do.

Michelle, you have been a special child. God has given you a tender heart. And now may God Almighty bless you as wife and a help fit for your husband. May God also bless you physically, mentally, and emotionally. May your husband be able to safely trust in you. May God give you wisdom and strength to assist your husband all the days of your life. May God make you fruitful and bless you with sons and daughters, the Lord’s heritage. And may God bless you as you raise your children to live for Him. Michelle, God bless you in all you do.

May the Lord God bless you two, Aaron and Michelle, as you become one. May He keep you from sin. May He give you many years to love Him and each other. May this, your wedding day be a blessed day in your lives. I believe I speak for everyone here when I say, we all wish God’s richest blessings on you.

Now, go and in the name of Jesus, be a blessing to others.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Stwardship, part 2

Stewardship, part 2

Those of you who are geographically situated so that you have had to drive down I-75 from Toledo have noticed the building in Lima, OH which boldly proclaims ‘CHRIST IS THE ANSWER,’ but perhaps you don’t know the rest of the story, as the late Paul Harvey was fond of saying. Mr. Tam, who owned the business, was a Christian businessman who wasn’t satisfied with owning a business he dedicated to God, but wanted God to legally own the business. It took some doing, but his attorney finally succeeded in accomplishing the task of transferring the ownership from Mr. Tam to God.

As we discussed in the previous posting, God should be the owner of all we have. I am not suggesting that Christian business owners should emulate Mr. Tam, but in a real sense, we should reject the notion that in ourselves we have done great things. In my case, I know that the business which I run would have failed long ago if it was up to me. I am not smart enough to run it by myself. I spend time early each morning in a board meeting with the Chairman, during which time I remind Him that the company belongs to Him, I thank Him for any success, and beg that He might be pleased to continue to bless Grace Plastics. I am thankful that the business is not dependent on a shaky economy, but is wholly dependent upon the eternal and almighty God.

This is a lesson we all need to relearn time after time. I Tim. 6:17 states, ‘Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.’ You may not consider yourself to be rich, but there is a lesson nevertheless. Don’t trust in money, or your employment, but in the living God.

On our currency we have printed, ‘In God We Trust.’ On Facebook there is a poll questioning whether we should remove the motto from our currency. I personally think it is a wonderful reminder that we shouldn’t be trusting in the almighty dollar, but in almighty God. However since most Americans seem to have forgotten that, and are trusting in the dollar, maybe there is no reason to continue to have a motto which most of us totally ignore.

Although the Bible has a lot to say about money, we need to understand that striving and grasping for it will not give fulfillment, but will constantly leave a void, and the necessity to want more. When asked how much money was enough, John Rockefeller said, ‘Just a little more.’ How sad!

Well, I do have a little more to say about the subject, and so will close the subject of stewardship and money with the next posting. After that, since Michelle’s wedding is now only two weeks away, we will give some thoughts about that. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stewardship, part 1

‘Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.’ I Cor. 4:2

Biblical stewardship is the concept that God owns everything. As it relates to individuals, God owns everything you have, plus God owns your soul and your body. Personally although I have known this for a long time, it takes a while before some things sink into my thick skull. I no longer rail on the Israelites that kept falling into sin in the wilderness during the 40 years that Moses led them, without realizing that I am no better. Had I been there, I probably wouldn’t have lasted very long.

When God allowed me to start Grace Plastics, then known as Grace Polymers, I noticed that there were some months that were very good and some months that really stunk. As I looked back to analyze the reasons for the difference, I came to the conclusion that often the good months were when I determined that the company was not my own, but in a real way I would daily give the company to God. And conversely, the lean months were when I let pride get in the way or in other ways put myself at the helm. I was learning expensive lessons that cost me thousands of dollars in lost profit because I often forgot that all belongs to God.

This does not mean that whenever a Christian businessman fails, he is not giving himself to God, because this past winter was very dark and difficult for Grace Plastics, but I don’t think the reason was because of some spiritual failure on my part. Besides if you look at the patriarch Job you don’t find him losing everything because he was a spiritual failure. It started out as a contest between God and Satan. Incidentally, contrary to what some have said, God won the contest – Job came through as God predicted he would.

Those of us who know Jesus as personal Savior, need to be good stewards of what God has given us. We all have been given bodies so we need to do what it takes to keep the body healthy and functioning well. If God has given someone a sickly body, we should not condemn a wise Creator. We just are not smart enough to always know why. But to allow the body God has entrusted to you to be hurt by tobacco, booze or other drugs, diet, or in other ways, is not being a good steward of your body. Also God has given you a soul which first and foremost is most valuable to God and ought to be to ourselves as well. Therefore to reject Jesus as Savior is the worst thing you can do to your soul. If God blesses you with a spouse and you are again blessed with children, these are eternal souls belonging to God. But He has entrusted them to your care. You now have the awesome responsibility of leading the young impressionable souls to salvation and then to walk with God. But they are not yours, they belong to God. It may sound cruel, but if God so chooses to take them Home early, that is His decision. If we have settled upon God’s ownership, we can accept the tragedy with more grace. Then God owns all He has blessed us with materially. Once we settle this in our minds, we will not grudgingly give up the tithe, but joyfully offer it as sacrifice to God.

There is more to this subject that I want to address, but in order to keep these posts from getting out of hand, I will continue this within the next month.

On a personal note, we are four weeks from Michelle and Aaron Steele’s wedding day, so things are getting tense as deadlines loom. But God is smoothing out the rough places and providing grace for each day. We are thankful for His provision and for His leading in the lives of our children.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Declaration of Independence

Yesterday was July 4, 2009, and 233 years since the Continental Congress voted for independence from Great Britain. Then they signed their names to the document and sent it to King George. Many of these same brave men saw their families and fortunes ruined over the next years as the war that followed wrecked havoc on so many.

I decided to read the Declaration of Independence to some family members yesterday. I would recommend that all Americans read it. It is interesting, and of the many reasons given for the separation from the Crown, we can see some similarities to an oppressive government we have today in Washington. Perhaps we don’t have it quite as bad since apart from a couple incidents in recent years, we don’t have soldiers being sent into this country to kill our citizens. But there are other situations which our founding fathers did not have to deal with, which now face us. Situations of government intrusion which would make them roll over in their graves. Between government health care which gives bureaucrats virtual control over life and death of many people, and ‘cap and trade’ which would ruin our economy, especially manufacturing, this country is at a cross-roads.

In our Children’s Church, we started going through Judges. The cycle that repeats itself is: Israelites sin, they are punished by God, they repent, and God provides deliverance. I don’t know if what is happening is judgment by God or not, but I do believe that we have those in power who are deeply entrenched in serious wickedness. Read Romans 1:21-32 and that just scratches the surface.

And although there are problems in high places, there are many things that can cause us to rejoice. Churches are being planted and growing as never before. The church we are now attending was started six months ago with 45 people and since early May we have had only one Sunday with less than 100 in attendance. From reports in countries where Christians face persecution there is unprecedented growth as well. The Gospel cannot be contained. God is doing a great work in this old world. We, as blood-bought believers, have every reason to praise God for His goodness. Let us never wallow in how bad things are, but lift our voices and proclaim the power of the resurrection of the Lamb!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day

This goes out as a wish to all fathers: may the Lord God richly bless you as you seek to lead your children to walk closer to Him. I have been a father for 30 years and therefore feel I have some experience which I can gather from. I also have an earthly father who passed on to his reward about 18 months ago who had a tremendous influence on my life. I lived at home only 17 years and because my parents were missionaries to Korea, I rarely spent more than a couple weeks with them since then, so the influence of my father was packed in those early formative years.

As a father, I have tried to pattern myself after my father. He was a godly man and a good father. On a trip to California last year, I was in a conversation with a couple other Christian men. We were talking about our fathers and I was struck by the fact that both of them considered their fathers as cruel, one of them telling me that I was unusual in the fact that I had a father worth emulating. I hope that is not the case, but the fact remains that all of us have rebelled against God and chosen a path of wickedness and only as we allow God to change our hearts can we become worthy parents. There is much that can be said about fathers loving their children. The example that we see in our heavenly Father is one we ought to follow.

Something my father told me when I was newly married was that he didn’t remember spanking me after I was 7 or 8 years old. All I remembered was a lot of spankings because I was pretty much a brat when I was little! He said he didn’t need to spank me at that age because the discipline had started very early and had been very consistent. I tried that with my own children and it worked! I didn’t always discipline in love nor was I always consistent, but with hard work and prayer on my part, and mercy and grace on God’s part, I have four wonderful children that I have given to God. I believe they will carry on what they have been taught to the next generation. I think that too little and too late discipline has produced not necessarily little brats, but spoiled children that then are on the receiving end of punishment and often abuse by parents that are wondering what happened to the cute little kids they once were. Now it is not always the fault of the parents when children stray. They have their own will. Then we, as fathers are obligated to never give up, but to forgive for all the hurt they may cause and attempt to show the patience and love of God as we pray and draw them back.

Dads, this Sunday is your day. I trust that your children will reciprocate the love that you show them. May they honor you as you raise them to love the Lord your God. And as we show love and honor to our fathers, may we especially show love and honor to our eternal Father.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Your Majesty

A couple years ago, as a deacon, it was my privilege once a month to welcome the congregation at the beginning of the Sunday morning service and then open with prayer. One Sunday morning I began the prayer with, ‘Your Majesty.’ I know that is a little odd, but I did receive several compliments about the prayer, although I am not fishing for platitudes when I pray. After all, prayer is conversing with our holy God.

Under religious viewpoint on my Facebook, I have ‘serving King Jesus.’ My personal view concerning the Kingdom of God is not that we are to be bringing in the Kingdom, because the Kingdom is already here. Although the Kingdom does not consist of any land here on earth, nor is the King present physically, He has many subjects who not only serve Him, but also worship their King. Being of the pre-millennial persuasion, I believe that King Jesus will return seven years after the Rapture and set up a kingdom on earth. But that doesn’t stop me from believing that the kingdom He was referring to in the parables in Matt. 13 is one which is here on earth now.

All of this is just the introduction to comments about Jesus the Messiah. Many people have the mistaken belief that Jesus had a first and last name, Jesus Christ. Actually the word Christos is the Greek word for the Hebrew Messiah. Messiah may be translated as ‘Anointed One’ and throughout the Old Testament God was developing the doctrine of the coming Savior/King. Because of the difficulty in understanding prophecy, many Jews mistakenly believed that the Messiah would come to set up an earthly kingdom. They did believe correctly that the Messiah was the Son of God. It was the whole rationale behind their desire for a death sentence – Jesus in so many words admitted that He was the Messiah (Matt. 26:64).

Since He has already paid the penalty for our sins, Jesus is now in Heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father. He is the King of kings and when we refer to Jesus Christ, let us be conscious of what we are saying. Every time the word Christ is used, it should remind us that He is the Anointed One – the coming King, but also the present King. I love the Jewish Yeshua-ha-Mosshiach, Jesus the Messiah! I may have butchered the spelling, but let’s all love and serve our great and good King, our wonderful Jesus Christ!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Another Wedding!

In Ps. 16:6 David says, ‘The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places.’ At this point in my life, even with all that is going on in our economy and government, I am reminded of God’s blessings that are evident in many areas of my life. First I would like to thank all who sent cards or Facebook messages wishing me a happy birthday, and although I certainly don’t need to be reminded that I am now an ancient 57 years old, the messages were evidence that I am blessed with good friends. Also my little finger is healing nicely, minus the last ¼ inch, and there was no pain, stitches or surgery. Then God has blessed me with a wonderful family, which brings me to an announcement:

A couple months ago I mentioned that our daughter, Michelle was getting married. Well, we had only one of our children left, unengaged or unmarried. Now our son, Joe has succumbed to the charms of the lovely Danielle Ham. Although she has a sparkling rock, they are still working out the details of a date. It will be this fall, though. Kathy insists it is an answer to her prayers. She claimed the promise, ‘It is not good for a man to be alone,’ and asked God to give Joe a mate. There have been others, including myself, who have also been praying and we believe God has given Joe a wonderful future wife.

There is not a whole lot to add to what I mentioned in the posting on Michelle’s engagement. But this comes from a different viewpoint. Instead of father of the bride, now it comes from father of the groom. And I say this from the experience of over 30 years of marriage. It is commanded by God that a man love his wife, the logic being that love is not an emotion, but that which is of the will. Although the Bible does not say a wife should love her husband, she is to respect her husband. But getting back to the husband, it doesn’t matter what state of mind his wife is in, he is to love her regardless. I like the movie, Fireproof, which brings this out very clearly. In this day when people are consumed with pleasing themselves, thinking that this is the only way to happiness, there needs to be a wake-up call. There are too many divorces among Christians because of this self-centered philosophy. Happiness, joy, and fulfillment come only from directing our energies outward, first to God, then to others.

I trust my son will take this to heart. If he does, he will have a good marriage. He has displayed a Christian maturity and with confidence I say to Danielle and her parents that Kathy and I have, with God’s help brought up Joe to love God and his wife. We believe the two of you will set up a godly home. On behalf of all of us, Danielle, we love you. Welcome to the family.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What about the Apostle Paul?

In Phil. 4:8 Paul tells us what God wants us to think, or as the NKJV puts it, what to meditate on. Then he makes the incredible statement, ‘Those things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do.’ He was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write this, and therefore must have lived the kind of example that was above reproach. This statement is why I respectfully disagree with many fine Christians who think Paul had a real problem with sin based on Romans 7:13-24. Verse 19 summarizes it well, ‘For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil that I will not to do, that I practice.’ My own opinion of this passage is that Paul was talking about his life before his conversion or that of an unsaved or at best, a carnal individual. He then switches at Rom. 7:25 through chapter 8 speaking of the victorious Christian life in Jesus, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. In literature it is perfectly acceptable to write in this way, using first person in the present tense to describe the individual who is ‘sold under sin.’ An unsaved person who is reading this passage can easily identify with Paul’s use of the first person.

There is a contrast here between the unsaved or carnal life and the victorious life Christians can have, no longer under bondage to sin, but free to live for God. Rom. 8:5 clearly shows the difference: those who set their minds on the flesh live according to the flesh, and conversely those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Basically it is where one has his heart, if it is on the world – consumed with making money, buying bigger and better toys, getting ahead at all cost, then this is a carnal mind which in verse 7 says is the enemy of God. Now I don’t know about you, but I think it is pretty important not to be an enemy of God. We have the same ability to live the victorious life that Paul lived. We first must be saved by the blood of Jesus, then allow God’s Spirit to control our minds.

When we take the position that Paul had a hard time avoiding sin, and pretty much was constantly sinning according to chapter 7, we take the position that the carnal life is the normal life for a Christian. However if we say that chapter 7 was pre-conversion autobiographical and chapter 8 is the victorious life God expects us to live, we can confidently live the life that God wants us to live.

May each of us so live that others may confidently do those things which they learned and received and heard and saw in us.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Consider the Honeybee

After the last posting of this blog, ‘Moby Dick’ responded with an article about honeybees, concluding that we ought to consider the bee. So we will give it a whirl.

I have a friend who is a part-time honeybee-keeper. The rest of the time he works for the government, a job he detests. He has about 100 hives, and says at least 300 are necessary to keep bees full-time. I was taught some very interesting things about bees. For instance, did you know that they are often used 3 times a year? In February they are taken to California specifically to pollinate the almond trees or similar plants. The farmers pay the bees’ owners for this privilege. Then they are taken to places like South Dakota or other areas where there is plenty of clover or other type of grass that is good for making honey. Then they may go to Florida for another season, or they may try to repopulate some hives that have been decimated somewhat.

My friend keeps a couple hives on our property at work. It is in the back and the bees don’t bother us at all. I have seen him working on the hives, cleaning and repairing them with a swarm of bees buzzing angrily around him. Of course he has his ‘armor’ on and doesn’t seem to be bothered by it at all. Actually he says he enjoys it! And his bees produce some very tasty honey.

But when you think about it, we probably would be hard-pressed to feed the billions that the farmers feed each year if it were not for the help of our tiny friends. While we may not consider them friendly if they get too close to us, the honeybees are an important asset to any agricultural community.

In His wisdom God created many different types of animals and plants. When I was much smaller, I would wonder why God created such nasty creatures as spiders, until I realized that they keep the population of insects down. This is often the case in the animal world; different carnivorous animals keep the amount of other animals down so that a balance is maintained. And God did a marvelous thing when He created the small honeybee. As Moby Dick pointed out in the response, they know when to pollinate certain plants, when not to go out and use up energy uselessly, and they even have a God-given GPS!

And we are reminded that as King David said in Ps. 139, ‘I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Your works.’

Yes, consider the bee.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Don't Want to Go Through the Motions

A recent popular Christian song by Matthew West goes by the same title as this blog. It should echo what each of us as believers want. At the end of our lives when we are called to give an account to the eternal Judge, what we did during our sojourn in this life will be all-important. I have lived most of my life, and when I look back at what I have done, there is much for which I am sure I will have regrets. How many times have I just gone through the motions, when I really should be passionate about serving His majesty, King Jesus? He said, ‘whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.’ Do those we work with know that we are Christians? Do we hunger and thirst after righteousness? Are we motivated by riches or are we looking for the same city for which Abraham sought?

I hope you don’t mind if I relate a story my nephew told me last week:
One of his best friends through school was attending church with him on Sunday evenings, after which they went out to eat, discussing Christianity. A couple weeks ago this friend was under conviction, and according to my nephew, the conversation got pretty heavy. He told his friend to write down his questions and they would meet with the singles pastor of the church. So a couple days later they met at a local restaurant and the most important question asked was, ‘How can I be guaranteed that I can have eternal life?’ That evening he bowed his head and asked Jesus to save his soul. I rejoiced with Jeff when he called me to tell me about it. Now his job is discipleship.

So what can you do? Well, like Jeff, you can pray and witness to your friends. Then ask your pastor where you can serve. You may be surprised at how God is able to use you if you are willing. A case in point is after Kathy and I had been attending a church in Findlay for 6 months, we were asked to take over the Children’s Church ministry. I wasn’t sure whether we were cut out for working with squirrelly kids in grades 1-3, but we were willing. For the next seven years we had what I consider an outstanding ministry, ‘pastoring’ these kids. Although I’ve been away from it for some time while working in Awana, I have missed it and recently have been privileged to take on this ministry again.

We need to step out of our comfort zone and get passionate. It is not enough to stay within our boundaries and be safe. We must stretch into unfamiliar territory, allowing the Spirit of God to lead us. It is a good and rewarding life, and at the end we will see the smile of the Savior, as He invites us to share the rewards promised those who serve Him.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

God's Authority

I have not posted a blog for a couple weeks. There are reasons and at the risk of being called a whiner, I think they were valid. One reason was because my hard drive was on its last leg and actually was dying as the files were being transferred to my new drive. The second reason was the biggie – I had a fight with a wood splitter (with 26 tons of pressure) and lost. I also lost the end of my little finger. There was no pain, but it is a bother. And if you are wondering if I have learned why God allowed it, I don’t know. I am sure things like this happen for a reason, but as of yet, God hasn’t revealed it. And because it happened to the pinky (now known as stubby) of my left hand, and I am left-handed, it has really hampered things. It will probably take a couple more weeks for things to get back to normal.

Now, let’s get to the issue I would like to discuss. As always, your feedback is welcome.

When I mentioned that I wanted to talk about God’s authority, especially as it relates to what is authority in The Shack, it may have caused some of you to pick up a copy and read it. It is quite popular in some circles, and I am not here to judge anyone who thinks the book is the best thing since sliced bread. However we need to compare it to and judge it in the light of God’s Word. The Shack has much to say about authority and how God is not really big on authority, in fact disapproves of authority in most cases. Well, this flies in the face of my Bible. The more I read the Bible, the more I am convinced that God is a God of authority. It is in His nature, and He is the final authority in the universe. Since the creation of man God has let it be known that He sets the rules and that there are consequences if you break them. Adam was told of one fruit that was forbidden and that He would die if He disobeyed. So he ate and the sentence was passed. The initial death, separation from God, happened then. Of course we are all familiar with physical death, which passed to us all as part of the judgment, and more importantly it passed to us because we all have sinned.

There have been other times that God also gave rules and consequences for those who rebel against His authority. We have the 10 Commandments, our schoolmaster showing us that we have indeed fallen short of God’s expectations of us. The penalty of rebelling against God is separation from God forever in Hell. Then God gave many rules to the Israelites which those of us who are Gentiles were never subject to. And finally God has given two commandments that we all should heed. The Great Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all you have. The second commandment: love your neighbor as yourself.

All of this God sees as of paramount importance. Without the rule of law, respect for the lawgiver breaks down. God could never govern his creation without law and judgment for disobedience. And because He knows the necessity of this, He has also instituted governments that are the civil authority, He has instituted in marriage that the man is to be the final authority, and children are to be subject to their parents, God has placed pastors over us as spiritual authority figures, and God has given us bosses in the workplace. All this is good because God knows us intimately and knows that if we had no leadership there would be anarchy and misery.

In The Shack we are told God is much more interested in relationship building than in authority. Hey, I am all for relationship building, but the author William Young is just plain wrong. And many people believe that what ‘God’ says in this book has equal credibility with the inspired Word of God.

Although there are some good things to be said about The Shack, overall it has a lot of problems. I have written a brief critique for those who have read the book. Because there are pages referenced and written with the idea that you have read The Shack, it wouldn't make as much sense for those who haven’t read the book. I will be glad to email the critique to anyone who wants one. Just request it in the ‘comments’ section or email me at

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Although the Bible has much to say about worship, the most important aspect about it is that one ought to worship. This is done both corporately in groups as well as individually. When we recognize the majesty and power of our eternal God as well as His incredible attributes – love we cannot even comprehend, mercy, grace, justice, and we could go on, but when we see God for who He really is, it is natural that we worship Him. For some, this means falling prostrate before Him and others may dance as David did, while still others may not be moved physically, but within their hearts they may be crying out for a closer walk. Since we are all different, the Bible does not demand any one type of worship, and therefore it wrong for us to look down our noses at the way our brothers and sisters worship, simply because it is not the way we do so. Having said that, if someone worships contrary to the Word of God, we cannot condone such worship. For instance, if someone were to dance lewdly, causing others to be tempted with wrong thoughts, it would be wrong. For our discussion I am referring to those, who out of pure love for God, desire to worship Him.

First let us look at individual worship. Every child of God ought to spend some part of each day in prayer. Often this is just a quick time of listing those requests that we want God to answer. If that is all there is to your prayer life, may I suggest there can be much more. As an initial part of your prayer time, spend it in adoration of God, reflecting on His attributes, His power, or His goodness, thanking Him for all He has done. If you can get on your knees, all the better. And instead of folding your hands, try lifting your hands in supplication to God. The apostle Paul suggested this in I Tim. 2:8. The whole prayer time should be a time of communion with you and your God, drawing you closer to Him. Pray when it is convenient for you, but set aside a sufficient amount of time. This is a holy time, and we don’t want to rush it. It should also be a time when we have little to distract us, a quiet time.

An important part of our Christian walk is our fellowship with other believers. And part of our worship together has to do with music. For some music can be very divisive. And there was a time when I was dead set against what is known as Christian Contemporary Music. I had been taught it was wrong, the beat was bad, and it just plain was not pleasing to God. Recently I have come to the conclusion that CCM is not necessarily bad, at least not as a whole. The lyrics have to be considered. And there are some praise choruses that really bless my soul. I can’t sing worth beans, but I take part with my soul, and can get emotionally charged. When a particular part of a song is especially moving, I will lift my hand in praise to my God. Although some people may find this a little extreme, don’t deny me the ability to worship God in a way I believe pleases Him. The song service to not a time to be an observer - participate! And let God move in your heart.
I say this because it has only been in the past couple of years that I have worshipped in this way, but I feel so liberated and drawn close to my Savior. I would really appreciate any comments on this subject. And if any of you find this to be an alien subject, please let me know. We need to talk

Thursday, March 26, 2009

An Engagement!

Our daughter, Michelle, has accepted a ring from a fine Christian gentleman, Aaron Steele, who has been wooing her for the past eight months. They are working on a wedding date in August, but still have a few kinks to work out. They are at that stage in their lives where long engagements are not necessary. Actually when you think about it, unless someone is still in school, like my other two daughters were when they got engaged, there is no reason for a long engagement. After all, at this point you should be past the point of wondering if this is the right one or not. I can say that, because it worked for Kathy and me. We were married five months after we met. But then we were 25 years old and thought we were mature and had our heads screwed on straight. Boy, do you grow up that first year of marriage, and with me, those first two years. But it has been a good experience, and I have enjoyed the last 32 years of my life. It’s not like I have all the answers, but I do speak from experience.

The important thing to remember is to keep God’s commandments of love (the 10 Commandments). ‘Thou shall not commit adultery’ is good one to remember to keep. And ‘thou shall not bear false witness;’ after all you need to trust one another. How about the last one, ‘thou shall not covet?’ This basically covers selfishness, and if you don’t put your spouse’s interests and happiness above your own, you are headed for a rocky landing. Of course a marriage is going to have a good start if a couple puts God first in their marriage.

From a parental point of view, we prayed for our children’s mates from the time they were small. And, although it wasn’t formally done, we taught them what they were to look for and expect in a husband or wife. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but I think our three daughters have done well. There were a few rocky times, but they have chosen well.

On another note, and I understand that there are not that many readers of this blog, but I would really appreciate any comments. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with my point of view. I will be the first to concede that I have not all wisdom. I think comments would help people to think about the topic, or if you have another topic which you would like to have discussed, please comment on that as well. A couple topics that I have on the backburner are ‘Worship’ and ‘God’s authority’ especially as it relates to the book, The Shack, which seems to have cultivated a number of followers. Let me know what you would like discussed as well.

Although I haven’t mentioned this before, I am thrilled to be able to send out these messages and trust they are well-received. Your encouragement means more than you will know. Thank you for spending the time reading these few ‘peanuts’ that I have picked up over the past 56 years.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Passover

In our Children’s Church, which I ‘pastor,’ we are going through Exodus, and this past Sunday was the ‘story’ of the last plague and the first Passover. (I don’t like the word story because the connotation is that it is make-believe, and nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the Bible.) It is a powerful O.T. portrayal of the sacrifice Jesus made for humanity. In so many ways God revealed Himself and the atonement that He would provide, starting with the promise He made to our first father, Adam. The sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham is a clear picture of what God would do. And then 3,500 years ago, Moses gave to the Israelites both a beautiful promise of God’s deliverance from the bondage of sin, and the awful consequences to those who will not repent and accept the free gift of salvation.

First, because Pharaoh was a stubborn unbeliever, God sent nine terrible plagues upon Egypt. At one point his advisors pleaded with Pharaoh to let the Israelites go because Egypt was ‘destroyed.’ I sincerely hope that if there are unbelievers reading this, that you are true seekers of the truth. If so, God will certainly reveal himself to you. What you are about to read is the light that God gave the Israelites 3,500 years ago, enough light for them to find salvation in the coming Lamb. God, in His love for sinners, not only provided an escape from the impending judgment, but also gives light to those responding to the Spirit’s work in their lives.

And so because Pharaoh still hardened his heart and would not let the Israelites go, The Lord sends one last plague upon the Egyptians:

The lamb had to be both a male and free of blemishes. Is that not a picture of Jesus? He obviously was a male and he lived a sinless life. Then there was the leaven. It represents sin in the Bible and there in the Jewish households there could be no leaven. I believe this represents what God does in our lives when we are forgiven of our sins. Our sins are removed from us ‘as far as the east is from the west.’ The blood had to be placed in a special way on the crossbeam and the side posts. As the blood drips from the crossbeam the image of a cross appears. Then of course, there was the Death Angel who swept through the land of Egypt that terrible night. He passed over all those houses that were covered by the blood, but judgment was inflicted on those who ignored the warning. The firstborn in those houses was slain by the Death Angel. What a picture and warning to those who have failed to receive the covering of the blood of God’s sacrificial Lamb.

P.S. I don’t know how accurate the dates in the margins of the Bible are (they are not part of the inspired Word of God), but if they are accurate, you will notice that this happened in 1491 BC. Add 2009 to that and you come up with exactly 3,500 years. Passover this year is April 9.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Amazing Grace

Although I did not post a blog last week, it is not because I didn’t try. What I had written was not worthy of your time, and that is unacceptable to me. If something appears on Peanuts, I hope there are those who will find that it edifies, convicts, or comforts. My purpose in this blog is to assist in building the body of believers – my brothers and sisters in Jesus, and to invite those who have yet to join the family of God.

This post is about grace. It is not because the name of my company is Grace Plastics. It is actually God’s company, but I think you understand what I mean. The concept of grace is so incredible, it is worth visiting.

Think about it, there is nothing you can do to get you on the good side of Jesus. Now, you may go to church, pray, read your Bible, witness, and even tithe. Wow, God is really going think I am something! Sorry, even though these things are very good, there is nothing we can do, good or bad, that will change our acceptance with God. Remember, Jesus loved you so much that before you did all these great things, He died for you. If you are like me, there is something down deep that screams, ‘If I do all these things, I will get an inside track with God. He is going to appreciate me for what I do.’ I need the reminder that there is nothing I can do to change my standing with the Lord. And there is nothing I can do in my own strength that will please God. (Read Heb. 11:6)

So where do we go from here? Well, first of all, we thank God for His grace, freely given to us. When we understand that there is nothing we can do to win God’s favor, we are on the road to liberty in Jesus. There is no more doing good things because of fear of God, or because of duty. We allow God to work His perfect work in us. It’s like my daughter’s pastor said recently, ‘Jesus plus anything equals nothing. Jesus plus nothing equals everything.’ If you don’t understand that, I want to hear from you. I would love more than anything else, to show you what God’s amazing grace really is.

Finally, so I don’t leave anyone with the wrong impression, we don’t give up on the good works mentioned above or any other good works. But we don’t do these things because of fear or duty. We do what God wants us to do out of love for Him. A good illustration is the young violinist who played for the crowd, but never left his eyes off his teacher. When he was done, he sought the smile of approval of his master. Only then did he accept the applause of the people. May we seek the smile of approval of our Master.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Marriage Vows

Although this may be a little late for Valentine’s Day, it is appropriate anytime. Since our church is going to be having a marriage enrichment seminar over the next two months, I thought I would present a viewpoint I came up with about 6 years ago. I was teaching a class on the family at our church and I started looking seriously at what the Bible had to say about marriage.

Actually the material below would surprise you if you knew me 35 years ago. I was a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal who believed the man ought to dominate, and his wife ought to be doormat-submissive. I was also unmarried. Well, now that I have been married fairly long, I have a different viewpoint which is probably closer to the Bible as well as good for my marriage.

The New Testament model is found in Eph. 5:22-33. Verses 22-23 (Wives, submit…) are where I got my earlier viewpoint. Perhaps verse 25 was just glossed over. This is the most important verse in the passage. ‘Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the church’ says so much. Everything that a husband does in relation to his family should not be done with his best interests in mind. He should be thinking of his wife first and putting her interests above his. Pretty hard, but when I do this, it makes for a better marriage. Also, my wife just seems to have an easier time submitting to me when I am placing her on a pedestal. (Does the word picture seem odd – submitting when on a pedestal?)

So many marriages are on the rocks these days, and that includes many Christian marriages; it also includes many marriages where couples have given years to it. It is tragic to see kids lives wrecked and upset. I understand that sometimes there is nothing that can be done, but I have to believe that if men would take the Bible and practice it, we would be able to save some families. So men, when God tells you to LOVE your wives, do it! Put her first; don’t think of what makes life easier or better for you. Maybe think of how you were when you were trying to win her heart. She fell in love with a guy who put her interests above yours, so don’t take her for granted now.

Okay, wives, it’s your turn. Yeah, submit. But if your husband starts putting you first, and you find it difficult to accept him as the leader, there is a problem. I think any man who is trying to practice these principles would have an easier time if his wife did allow him to be the leader, although I might add that large decisions, especially financial ones, should never be made without consultation. Never. Remember you are one, and therefore communication is important. But in the end, the buck stops with the man and if a decision turns out bad, he alone must take the blame. I know, I have made my share.

There is always a problem when your mate is unsaved. I Peter 3:1-6 gives wives some good advice. Besides that, all the advice I can add is pray for and love your spouse, perhaps God will grant them mercy.

Forgive me for sounding ‘preachy,’ but let me assure you that I am praying that if anyone reading this is having problems with his or her marriage, that these principles will help you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Uncle Russell

This past week marked the home going of one of the favorite people in my life. Although I haven’t spent much time with him for the past 30 years, he had a large influence on my life during my later teens. Since my parents were missionaries in Korea, I was sent to the States when I was 17. I was privileged to stay with my cousins, my father’s sister, Aunt Charlene, and Uncle Russell.

They lived on a farm about 8 miles outside of the town of Mora, MN. I loved farm life. I think my cousins thought I was a little loco, because I enjoyed milking the cows, haying, shoveling manure, and the other little chores that make up farm life. Not only did I spend two summers living with them, but I and my brothers spent many Christmases in the frigid wasteland that was their farm in late December.

Uncle Russell was a jokester. He loved everyone and everyone loved him. He was a member of Grasston Baptist Church and brought up his family to worship the Lord God. He was 82 years old, but had spent the past 5 years in a Home because of Parkinson Disease and Alzheimer’s. During the last year of his life, he could not care for himself and recognized almost no one but his wife. For a strong man who spent his life caring for others, it must have been particularly discouraging to have others do everything for him.

My uncle was special to me because, although he was smart, he never showed off; although strong, he was gentle; although outwardly gruff, he was one of the kindest men I have ever known. Uncle Russell was a humble man. Though he worked hard all his life, he never made a lot of money and always lived modestly. And although he never made a name for himself, he died rich in friends and relatives - people that would miss him, because he spent his life living for others. There is something to be said for this kind of life. One lives well who lives for others. Uncle Russell lived well.

He was loved; he will be missed, and we have the blessed hope that we will see him again.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Man of God

In II Kings 1:9 a captain of Israel, speaking to Elijah, says, ‘Man of God, the King has said, “come down!”’ Upon hearing this, Elijah answers, ‘If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.’ For those of you who do not take the Bible literally, this may come as a surprise, but I believe that when the Bible says, ‘and fire came down and consumed him and his fifty,’ that it actually happened.

I use this as an introduction into something I have wanted to write on for some time: What is a man of God? And am I a man of God?

No, I don’t want to call down fire on all those who may oppose me, but I do want to be known as a man of God. When I read the Bible, I am struck by Elijah and Elisha as those who were really known as men of God. I believe people called them, ‘man of God’ because they knew they had a close walk with God, and that they had power with God. Can this happen today? Now, maybe we can’t perform miracles like they did, but I believe that God would like more men to desire to be men of God.

First, it takes a desire to know God – to know Him intimately and passionately. God wants more then anything that we love Him with all we have.

If we love Him, the next step is to trust Him explicitly. This is a great thing, to abandon that which we feel we need, to stop trusting in bank accounts, stocks, jobs, or anything that we believe is necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I have all these, and I am not saying they are unimportant. They are very important, but if we are trusting in them, then what we are doing is wrong. Remember, ‘without faith it is impossible to please God.’

It is very important to desire a close relationship with God. When we understand that God wants this more than anything else, it will help us to keep our lives clean and walk close to our God. At some point each day, we need to spend time both in communicating with God in prayer, and in letting him speak to us through His Word.

Finally, like Elijah and Elisha, we need to let people know where we stand. If we take a stand for God and what is right, it won’t take long before others will know Whose we are. And then, they may not call us, ‘man of God,’ but they may be thinking that. Most of all, I want the Lord to know me as a man of God. There is no higher compliment.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Relationships or Rules

Today much is said of relationships. There is a book out that claims God is not about rules or authority, but He wants a relationship with people. It is true that real Christianity is not about religion, but it is a relationship with Jesus the Messiah. However we must not allow our thinking to be warped by what others say, not matter how profound or beautiful it may sound. The Scriptures must always be our final authority. Actually it would be a good idea to read the Bible through several times. I have made this a practice over the past couple decades now, reading the Bible every 14-15 months (I am a slow reader). I think it helps you to know a little of the mind of God.

First let’s cut to the chase concerning authority. If we believe the Bible, we must believe that God rules with authority. When there were only two people and a wonderful garden, God made only one rule – don’t eat from one tree. Man failed the test and so because He ruled with authority, God passed judgment on those involved. After that there were the 10 Commandments – first placed in the conscience of man, and then given to Moses. We have all been rebels against the rule of God and subsequently come under His judgment and will eventually be condemned if we don’t seek His mercy. Suffice it say, God believes in authority.

Okay, so why did God restrict us with the 10 Commandments? Good question. I venture to answer that with: because He loved us. You see, if we keep the Commandments, we will have a good relationship with God since the first 4 commandments have to do with our standing before God. The remaining 6 have to do with our fellow man. Think about it, the messes we get ourselves into are primarily because we fail to keep one or more of the commandments.

So actually rules are good for us. We don’t need to be legalistic and add rules that the Bible doesn’t have. Some churches do this and they are following in the footsteps of the Pharisees who also added rules that Jesus never intended. Christians must be sensible about the lives they live before the World. On one hand, we don’t have a license to sin, and one the other, we must not be restrictive where the Bible is not.

One final point: if you are not a believer, you must first come to Jesus and repent before any of the rest of this makes sense. And if you are a believer, you need to remember, we don’t have the victory over sin in our own strength, but by relying on the strong arm of our Savior.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

God's Grace in My Life

In the last Peanuts, I said I would give my testimony – in this case, what God has done in my life. And of course, it all starts out with my parents. They were missionaries in Japan in May of 1952 when I was born, so you could say I was made in Japan. In the 60’s and 70’s this was as common as ‘made in China’ is today. At a very early age I was taught about Jesus: how I was a sinner, that God loved me, Jesus came, and died on the cross for my sin, and at an early age I accepted Jesus as my Savior from sin. And then I lived happily ever after, right? – WRONG!

The following two incidents are, I believe, God’s providential leading in my life. When I was 10 months old, and learning to walk, I grabbed hold of the handle of a pot of boiling water, and yes, pulled it down on myself and burned large areas of my body which still bear the scars. Dr. Nero told my parents it would be a miracle if I lived – and God performed that miracle. Then when I was 18, the summer after my first year of college, we had just finished working in a field in Minnesota when I was stung by a little black bee. Within 15 minutes, I had passed out and was thrown into the back seat of my uncle’s brother’s car. We were 10 miles from town and I was told later that Eldie drove over 100 miles an hour and went through a red light getting me to the hospital. The nurses were ready with the serum, but when they tried to inject the needle, my veins collapsed. By God’s grace the doctor was able to get the serum in and soon I was on my way to recovery. How close was I to death’s door? Let’s say I remember something about an out-of-body experience, and no, I did not see a white light. It seems evident to me that God had something else for me to do on this earth, and since He saved me from physical death twice and from spiritual death once, I owe a whole lot to Him.

During my college days, I attended Bob Jones University, a fundamental Bible-believing school in South Carolina that recently has been in the headlines for refusing interracial dating among students. Actually this rule was put in place in the 50’s because of flack by parents whose daughter married Billy Kim of South Korea, who took her back there. So originally it had nothing to do with Blacks. My parents had both attended the school and I along with my 3 brothers and 2 sisters dutifully graduated from BJU. And since I am admittedly not the sharpest tool in the woodshed, I barely got out with just above a ‘C’ average. And that was with an education major!

I taught for a couple years, but I wasn’t very good and didn’t really like it all that much. Soon after, I was married to the most wonderful gal. God was very good to me. I certainly didn’t deserve Kathy, but after only seven months of dating we were married. A couple years after we were married, I tried my hand as principal of a small Christian school. Although I enjoyed it and feel I did a good job, after three years we had a new pastor and he wanted to do my job as well as his, so with our third child on the way, Kathy and I headed to Pennsylvania to teach at a Christian school just outside of Reading. Because of circumstances, I left after a year, very disillusioned with teaching, and very much in need of a good job. Christian schools typically don’t pay a lot. This was in the early 80’s and jobs were scarce. I tried to get a decent job, but the best I could do was selling baby pictures, life insurance, and vacuum cleaners. During this time, we had some dear friends who brought groceries and assisted in other ways as we were going through a very dark valley. In January of 1985, again due to circumstances, we left PA and headed for Findlay, OH, where Kathy’s parents lived. Although Kathy’s Dad, Morrie Snook, got me a job doing what he was very good at – selling life insurance, I just wasn’t cut out for it. At one point I was flipping hamburgers at McDonalds for minimum wage. I was in my 30’s, with three kids and 4th on the way. I saw no future, no hope – I believed that God no longer loved or cared for me. I felt abandoned.

Then in November of 1985 I got a job at a local plant that did machining and assembly work. I begged the plant superintendent to let me sweep floors for free for a week and if he thought I did a good job, he could hire me. Well, I guess it made an impression on him, because a couple days later I had a job there making $6.00 an hour – not much but a lot better than I had, especially since there was a lot of overtime. It was a time of healing for me. I had been beaten down psychologically and God was there, allowing me to care for my family.

A little over two years later one-third of the workforce was laid off, including me. Deciding to try management, I made a call to a company that evidently did not exist, but the company I reached was a plastics distributorship. After a couple minutes the guy at the other end asked if I would like to come in for an interview. To make the story short, I went to the interview on Saturday (and wondered if this kind of business was legitimate!), asked my pastor to pray for me Sunday morning, and got a call that afternoon to report to work the next day. I don’t know about you, but I see the hand of God all through the whole episode. We see through a glass dimly, not knowing the future. God looks at the big picture from an entirely different perspective – eternity. He sees the future as clearly as the past.

So 21 years have passed under the bridge since I got into the plastics business. For 6 ½ years I worked with that first distributorship, then the Lord worked it out so I could start out on my own in 1994. In 2000 we bought our first grinder and embarked on a whole new episode. 2005 saw us move into our own building and now we have 60,000 square feet, three grinders and two shredders, and a whole new set of headaches.

Although I believe I have been blessed in an unusual way, I have tried to keep things in perspective. God owns everything: the company, my possessions and house, my family, and myself. I own nothing. And when there are problems, it is such a relief to know that they are not mine – they belong to God. And even though I make some awful decisions, He is there to help me out.

For those of us who have been bought by the blood of Jesus, we need to understand that no matter how dark the way may be, if we are seeking to live for God, He will guide us, with His loving arm wrapped around us, and sometimes when the way is especially trying, He will carry us. That’s when we look back and see only one set of footprints.

And for those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, please let me know. It would be my joy to introduce you to my Savior and my best friend.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Constant in 2009

With the economic downturn this past year: the layoffs, the plant and company closings, the crashing stock market, and people losing their homes, it looks very bleak for this next year. For those who are looking to Obama as a savior who will bring things back to the way it was, there will be an unwelcome wake-up call. Actually it may look well for a short time, but we have had economic policies that to a large extent have brought about the situation we are facing. I am not here to speak about economic policies, however. There is a lot of fear of the future. Most Americans who are facing uncertainties about paychecks and paying bills don’t know who to turn to except their government. At some point the government will not be able to help. We need to turn to Someone who cares, even during the darkest hours.
Many of those reading this may not know my testimony. I plan to put it in this section sometime soon. Briefly though, back in the mid-80s, I was having a great deal of difficulty finding work. We had three kids, were very poor, and were being assisted by fellow church members bringing groceries. It was a very dark period for my family and especially for me, since I was the breadwinner and was expected to provide and couldn’t. This lasted long enough for me to have serious doubts about whether God actually loved and cared for me. If God was testing me, I probably failed the test. You see, Job was put though the wringer by Satan, and though he questioned why God was allowing him to go through his trials, he never questioned whether God loved him. When you go through really dark times, and it seems as though there is no hope, nowhere to turn, and believe God has turned His back on you, that is when God may be refining you; as Job put it ‘I shall come forth as gold.’ Another biblical example is Joseph, who after being sold into slavery, was falsely condemned and spent several years in an Egyptian prison. But when he held up through it all, it was God’s plan to make him Prime Minister of Egypt and to save thousands from starvation. Job himself was restored to his place of wealth and given 10 children to replace the ones Satan had cruelly taken from him.
I have no promise that Grace Plastics will always be a profitable company. I gave it to God when it was first founded, and daily offer it as well as myself to God. Although I and the employees have worked hard to make it successful, the company is His. If He wants it to continue to succeed, I would be thrilled and attempt to give Him the glory. But I hope, if God were to allow Grace Plastics to wither, like so many other companies have, that I would not grow bitter and blame Him for my hardship. If I lose everything, there is one constant, one thing that I can count on – GOD LOVES ME! And in return, whether I am financially successful or whether I lose everything, my duty to God is to love Him in return.
Those who have been saved by grace through faith in the blood of Jesus can have this promise: God will go with you through the valley, no matter how dark or difficult or long it may be. God loves and cares for you, and though you may not know why He is allowing the trial, He is with you. And remember, it may not be God’s heavy hand, so don’t blame Him.
To those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, I pray that you will repent of your sin and come to Him as you are. He will accept you, love you, and walk with you through the rest of your life. It is the wisest and best thing you can possibly do.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Eulogy: Gerald Johnson, 12/30/1926 - 12/28/2007

Eccl. 12:6-7: Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust be returned to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God Who gave it.

How does one adequately give a to tribute his father - one who cared for him at childhood, offered invaluable advice at young adulthood, and showed an unswerving dedication to his Lord throughout my life. My hero has passed from this life to eternal life. He was ready to go. In his last hours he kept saying over and over, “I love you, Jesus” and “Jesus, I’m ready to go.”

Our loss is heaven’s gain. I feel truly blessed by God to have been a part of the family God allowed me to be born into. Dad showed me what is of true worth. His life from the time of his salvation has been one of passion for service in the work of the Gospel. He never dreamed of retirement, and only a month ago, when he was unable to do so, did he not “work the works of Him who sent him.”

Dad was also a man who loved. He loved his Savior more than anything else. He also loved his family. As children he loved us enough to pray for us, discipline us, and teach us so as to keep us from lives of foolishness and sin. He also loved the lost. He spent 58 years of his life spreading the light to those in darkness. In the last couple days of his life, he repetitiously told us how much he loved us, especially how much he loved his dear wife.

This is not goodbye. We grieve, but not as others who have no hope. The body lying in the casket is not my father. He is more alive than he has ever been. I believe Almighty God took time out of His schedule to step down from His throne, take my father’s hand and lead him through the Celestial City. He has been introduced to a child he has never known. He has been reunited with his parents, he has met Abraham, Moses, and Paul, he has traded stories with Charles Finney, John Wesley, and Dr. Bob Sr., and he has rejoiced with the thousands he led to the Savior as they worship the King of Kings. I tell you, he is more alive than you or I.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

Dad, we have the blessed hope. We will meet you in the morning.

I am a grandfather!

It was 29 years ago that I became a father. I will never forget that time after the birth of our daughter, Elizabeth, when I went back to our apartment. I was overwhelmed with the responsibility that God had placed on me. Kathy and I had brought into this world an eternal soul, one that would live forever! I was responsible before God to teach and train our daughter to prepare her to know and love God, so she could spend an eternity with Him, as well as with her parents and back three more generations to my great-grandfather.

Now life goes on. Nine and a half months ago my father went to his reward, and about that time God brought another soul into the world. That same daughter, Elizabeth, has just given birth to our first grandchild. His name is Garrett Michael Miller. He looks like his father. My prayer is that he will grow up, not only to look like his father, but to be like his father, a godly man who I know will guide his son in the ways of the Lord. It’s my prayer that the chain of generational Christianity will not be broken in the lives of any of my children. Now the prayer extends to the lives of my grandchildren.

There is a verse that comes to mind in Gen. 18:19 where God speaking of Abraham says, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the LORD” (NKJV). God blessed Abraham in a special way because He knew Abraham would bring his children up to ‘keep the way of the LORD.’

Being a grandfather is a tremendous responsibility and as well as a privilege. One has to be careful not to be meddling into the parents’ role, but willing to give wise counsel when it is sought. But as a grandparent it is my duty to pray for the little guy – that God will save his soul and use him in whatever way He wishes. That is my prayer and also, if the Lord tarries his coming, that Garrett will carry on the banner and lead his own children to know the Father.