Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Denial: Not Just A River In Egypt

Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow, because tomorrow you may not have to do it.

This is a motto I occasionally say in jest. 
But sadly, the reason it's funny is because I often really live this way. 
Sometimes I cope with a problem by ignoring it and hoping it will go away. 

This method is largely ineffective; inattention typically doesn't make problems evaporate. 
Instead, they get bigger and more urgent until they just can't be ignored. By then it's a huge headache to fix them.

Remember the old TV commercial touting regular car maintenance? This mechanic stands in his garage contrasting two customers. The first noticed something was not right with his vehicle and brought it in to be checked. After investing a few dollars installing an inexpensive part, his car was back on the road quickly and reliably. The second guy ignored the warning signs and didn't want to spend money on preventive maintenance. Eventually, his car broke down and required costly, time-consuming repairs. The tag line? "You can pay me now, or pay me later..."

Way too often I've been in the "pay me later" camp. I've discussed my tendency to procrastinate before. And I often find myself hoping things will fix themselves if I just ignore them. I'm basically optimistic, but sometimes I deceive myself to maintain that sunny attitude. 

If you read my unfinished business post, you may find yourself wondering if I've made any headway in the last two months. And I can honestly say, yes I have. But not nearly as much as I'd like. 
It's so easy to put things off, to shove things under the bed and forget them. 

And I have excuses! The past couple of weeks, working on my daughter's upcoming wedding has commandeered my free time. Looks as if that may go on for the next 6 weeks, until the ceremony is past. But I still intend to keep working on my unfinished business list, hoping to cross off 4 or 5 more items before the wedding.

Sometimes the "pay me later" philosophy can have dire consequences. 

I have a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer. She'd been having some problems, and even though she doesn't really trust doctors, she went for a checkup. They discovered the cancer still at stage one. She'll soon undergo surgery, and we're praying and trusting for a good report. Cancers caught this early are almost always easily cured.

I had another friend who believed words had power over reality. She and her family would never confess anything negative, even to the point of denying the facts. She started having problems, but didn't seek medical help. They would only mention it in vague prayer requests, and truly believed their faith and positive confessions would bring healing. By the time she finally went to the doctor, the cancer had progressed to stage four. Even then, they wouldn't let anyone know what was going on for fear of allowing "negative words" to affect her condition. By the time she got help, it was too late and she eventually died, after a lot of needless suffering. 

Now, I do believe that if you constantly dwell on the bad side of things, complaining and speaking negatively about your situation, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Faith is believing what you cannot see, (Hebrews 11:1) and exercising faith is how we receive from God. (James 1:6-8
But denial is not faith, it's blindness. Better by far to recognize your enemy and fight back using every tool God has provided, including the wisdom of the medical profession.

So I am careful in what I say, keeping my attitude positive, trusting the good God I serve. 
But I reject magical thinking. I don't believe that I have to say the right words in just the right order to get results, like some spooky incantation. Nor do I think that if I say the wrong thing, evil consequences will necessarily follow. There is not some secret magic formula that guarantees 
God will hear my prayers.

Jesus said, "whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:13 NKJV) This does not mean that we just have to tag our prayers with the magic words, "In Jesus' Name, Amen."  Asking in His name means we have a relationship with him. 
It's like a soldier's wife shopping at the base store. Your average citizen can't shop there - it's for the military and their families. Even though the wife isn't in the military, she's closely related to someone who is. Her relationship gives her the right to certain benefits.

When you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you have family rights. You can bring your requests to the Father and He will hear and answer you. Jesus said it this way: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." 
(John 15:7 NKJV) Your abode is the place where you live. Abiding in Jesus means staying vitally connected to Him. When you have a living, active relationship with Christ, you begin to understand what God desires, and can pray according to His will. Those kinds of prayers are always answered. (1 John 5:14-15)

Some people say, "the Bible says I can speak the things that are not as though they were" and use this idea as proof that they can "name and claim" whatever their heart desires. Just one problem: the Bible doesn't give us that right. That passage says God speaks things into existence, not us. We are to put our trust in Him, just as Abraham did. Really - you can read it for yourself. (Romans 4:16-17)

It's really hard to read that passage and make it say that >we< have the right to speak things into existence. That's God's deal, not ours. The New Living Translation puts it this way: "Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing." (Romans 4:17)

So there isn't some magic formula that will make bad things go away and give us whatever our greedy little hearts desire. There is no system to force God to do what we want. He's God - He isn't obliged to cater to our whims. And He knows a lot better than we do what is good for us.

It's pretty simple, really. Figure out what is the right thing to do, then do it. Endure suffering patiently, handle whatever comes your way with grace, trust that God is always good and will work everything out according to His plan and purpose. (Romans 8:28)

And finally, don't deny that your troubles exist. Instead, take action and trust God's promise to help you get through every trial. (1 Corinthians 10:13

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some unfinished business to attend to...

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Trust is having confidence in the integrity, strength or ability of a person or thing.
I'm not very good at this.

More precisely, trust does not come naturally to me. I tend to be kind of skeptical, and often do not take things at face value. I generally want some evidence of faithfulness before I put my trust in something or someone. And once I've been disappointed, it's really hard to regain my trust.
Sometimes this is healthy, sometimes not so much. Frequently the one who doesn't trust people doesn't trust God, either. And you'll never receive God's help if you don't trust Him.

A danger for me is when skepticism - requiring evidence of trustworthiness - drifts into cynicism. 
A cynic is one who believes that all humans are motivated only by selfishness. A skeptic isn't sure if people can be trusted; a cynic is convinced they can never be. When someone does something good for me, if I'm in cynical mode I think, "What's in it for them?" A cynic expects to be taken advantage of, to be cheated. He trusts no one, other than himself.

Really, cynicism is the height of self-centeredness. And that attitude is projected onto all people.  Because he's totally selfish, the cynic assumes everybody else is, too. This behavior is quite unhealthy. It leads to bitterness and anger, even unforgiveness. A cynic grumbles and complains all the time. They're unhappy and unpleasant to be around.

Since I recognize this tendency in myself, I really try to guard against it. I don't want to be a rotten human being, trusting no one. I don't want to be a selfish, judgmental prig. But trust takes time and effort to develop and maintain, and I don't always succeed.

There is good reason to mistrust people. We're all born selfish, thinking only of our own satisfaction. When a baby is hungry or tired or in need of a diaper change, it screams until it gets what it wants. As children get older, they learn more sophisticated methods of manipulation, but their main thrust is still getting whatever they desire.

One definition of maturity is thinking less of oneself and more of others. Genuine love is considering others' needs before your own. A wise parent works to train children to think of others rather than only themselves, and to do their part to make this world a better place. The ultimate goal of parents is to raise their children to be responsible, mature, caring adults. Training means that the child doesn't get every desire granted. They must learn that actions have consequences and sometimes you don't get what you want. Unfortunately, many children don't learn this lesson, which is why there are so many whiny, immature adults.

So I remain skeptical as a rule. I've been lied to, cheated, betrayed, and had many promises to me broken. It would be easy to just assume that's how everyone behaves and trust no one. But I can't do that, because of one word: REDEMPTION.

You see, I've lied, cheated, betrayed others and broken promises. The very behavior I abhor in others I have often practiced. But thank God, I'm not that person any more. Do I fail? Sure. 
Do I sometimes fall back into this kind of behavior? Sadly, I do. But I recognize its destructive tendencies, and consciously work to eliminate these sorts of actions from my life.

And I have Scriptural promise to help me. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV) 
I don't have to be that old guy I was. I can choose to change with the help of the Holy Spirit. 
"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." (Romans 12:2 NLT)

If I fail, He has promised to forgive me and help me get back on the right path. (1 John 1:9) He has been so kind and merciful to me, even though I don't deserve it. And He expects me to treat others with mercy and understanding, forgiving them as I've been forgiven. (Romans 2:1-4)

I'm learning to temper my skepticism with love and kindness. This does not come naturally - I told you my natural tendency is toward cynicism, the very opposite of lovingkindness. But God Himself dwells in me, in the person of the Holy Spirit, and He gives me the power to actually live
what I say I believe. (Acts 1:8) God does not force me to change - I have to consciously choose to follow Him every day, every hour, every minute really. When I make that choice, He helps me behave in ways that demonstrate the power of Christ in my life.

Trust doesn't come easily to me - but I'm learning and growing. Just publishing these thoughts is a leap of faith for me. If you have struggled with trust issues, I hope learning a little about my journey will help you. It's scary and it's hard, but learning to trust others and especially to trust God is totally worth it.

I've not arrived yet, but I'm on the way and it's good. Hope you'll join me!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Seasons of Change

My perception of God and His ways has changed dramatically over the years.

This shouldn't come as a great surprise. God is infinite, we are not. All we can know of Him is what He chooses to reveal. So the question, "Where did God come from?" is not one that we can answer, because He hasn't told us. God's Word tells us He has always existed (Isaiah 43:13) and that He alone is God, for now and eternity. (Isaiah 43:10) And the Bible clearly states in numerous places that God never changes; actually, He cannot change with respect to His being, attributes, purpose, or promises. (Malachi 3:6 and James 1:17, to name a couple.)

But wait a minute! What about those places where the Bible says God changed His mind? If He's all knowing and all powerful, why would He say one thing and then do another? For example, that little golden calf incident in the wilderness. (Exodus 32:9-14)

Moses had just spent 40 days and nights on the mountaintop with God, communing with Him and receiving His laws for the Israelites. Meanwhile, the people down below thought he was never returning and pressured his brother Aaron, the high priest, to make a representation of their God for them to worship. They donated a bunch of gold jewelry and Aaron fashioned a golden calf to which they bowed down and offered sacrifices. They then indulged in pagan revelry, probably mimicking the kind of idolatrous worship they'd seen in Egypt.

God informed Moses about what was going on, and said He was going to destroy them all and make Moses' descendants into a great nation. Moses immediately interceded on behalf of the Israelites, imploring God not to annihilate them. And the Bible says God changed His mind.

How do we reconcile passages like this with the character of an unchanging God? This has been the source of much debate over the centuries, and I won't pretend to be the fount of all wisdom. God is still pretty much incomprehensible to mortals, and is not required to explain Himself unless He chooses to do so. But there are a couple of things I can note about this example.

God doesn't change in His being or attributes. He remains constantly who He is. His promises don't change - what He has said, He will accomplish. He doesn't change His purpose - what He desires will come to pass. But the specific way His plans are fulfilled can vary at times.

He has chosen to bring about His will on the earth with the participation of imperfect human beings. Sometimes we fail to carry out His directions, and miss out on His blessing. But the purpose of God is still accomplished despite our failures. That's why Romans 8:28 says "God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them." (NLT)

In this particular instance, God could have carried out His threat to annihilate the Israelites and start over with Moses without violating His purpose or His promise. His promise to Abraham to create a great nation and eventually produce the Savior of the world from his descendants would still have been valid, since Moses was from the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But such wholesale slaughter certainly wouldn't have reflected well on a God who is "slow to anger and filled with unfailing love." (Exodus 34:6) Moses used his knowledge of God's character to convince Him not to take such a drastic action.

I believe this conversation was also a test of Moses' character. Who wouldn't be tempted to grab at the offer of being the father of a great nation? Moses passed the test, showing his love for his people by pleading for their forgiveness. He was more concerned about God's glory than his own. He wanted the whole world to know that the one true living God was rich in mercy and compassion.

Studying His Word helps us know God better. The Bible reveals His character and attributes, what He likes and what He hates, and His plan for mankind and for future ages. Jesus clearly indicated that a personal relationship with the Father is not only possible, but required if we want to live with Him forever. (Matthew 7:21-23) We need to know Him, not just know about Him. When we do, our actions will follow our faith. We'll want to do His will because of our love and gratitude.

My theology and my understanding of God and His ways have changed considerably over the years. When I first began serving Christ, I was taught a lot of Scriptural principles and traditions of the church. As I have studied the Bible, I've discovered that some things I have believed for a long time are not exactly correct. Many of these things are not critical to salvation - end times theology, the nature of good and evil, grace vs. works. But wrong understanding can lead to wrong actions. This may not cost me eternal life, but I might behave in ways that don't please God, hindering others from finding Him.

God wants us to know Him. His plan is for us to develop and demonstrate the character of His Son in our lives. (Romans 8:29) The rewards of knowing Him come to those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) I want to really know Him, to draw near to Him and learn of His ways. As I pursue God, He's refining my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ. I still have plenty of failings and character flaws, but I am becoming more Christlike with His help.

One of the ways God refines our character is by increasing our understanding of His ways. Jesus is our example of a life lived through the power of God. He always did the will of God because He was connected to His Father every day. (John 5:19) And when we stay connected to the Lord through prayer and study of His Word, our very lives change and we begin to demonstrate the love of Christ in this world through our actions.

God is very patient. He'll take a lifetime to draw us close, with the ultimate goal being eternity in perfect communion with Him. I'm thankful that He never gives up and never fails. And He's promised we'll find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Friday, May 18, 2012

35 Years

This past week my wife Patricia and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary.

35 years seems like such a long time. I've been married nearly twice as long as I was single.
But it also seems as if the years have just flown by. There have been good times and bad times, sorrow and joy.

I was 19 years old when we first married, and knew everything. You didn't even have to ask me - just being around me, you'd figure out that I "knew it all". But underneath that bluster, I was really a scared, insecure kid. I thought I knew how to love my wife. I didn't even know what love was! 
(More thoughts on love here.)

Here's our engagement picture. See, I had hair once!

When we were married, our relationship was established on a close friendship. We didn't start out that way. When we were dating, everything we did publicly was "Christian" - church services, Bible studies, Christian concerts, youth group meetings. But when we were alone, let's just say we didn't exactly devote ourselves to pursuing God, or even to getting to know each other as friends. We jumped right into the boyfriend/girlfriend thing, based on physical attraction. This is not the way to develop a lasting relationship.

My parents could see we were making some poor choices, and thank God my father made a wise decision for me. He sent me off to college 60 miles from home, without my car. And God took care of the rest by putting me into a traveling singing group, effectively filling nearly every weekend with rehearsals and performance. (That story is here.)

35 years ago, there were no cell phones. And long distance phone calls were very expensive, and only used for emergencies. There was no Internet, no e-mail, no easy way to quickly communicate. (We did have ham radio, but my Morse code abilities were pitiful.)

Usually, when a couple whose relationship is built on physical attraction is separated for an extended time, their relationship withers and dies. In our case, we genuinely felt God had put us together and we desired to stay true to each other. So, we kept in touch by writing letters. A lot of letters. Mushy letters, at least some of the time. And we talked of our hopes and dreams, and our plans for the future. We became real friends, building our relationship on solid values with faith in God as our foundation.

At the end of my sophomore year in college, we were married. We chose the weekend before finals, so all our college friends would be able to attend. After a honeymoon weekend in Omaha (romance capital of the Midwest - you didn't know that?) we were back at school Monday morning so I could take finals.

There have been lots of trials and difficulties - everybody has them. Some people didn't think our marriage would last. But we were determined to make it work. Divorce was never an option, not even a consideration. And over time, we learned to love, really love each other.

We discovered that love is an action, not a feeling. And we've slowly developed the character qualities manifested in love - you know, patience, kindness, not jealous, not seeking one's own way, all those 1 Corinthians 13 principles. According to verse 8 of that chapter, love never fails. We're not there yet; we've failed lots of times. But through forgiveness and love, we keep going.

God blessed our union with three children, one of the great joys of our life. They've all grown to be responsible adults, and we're eagerly anticipating grandchildren as the next phase of our life. Katie married a great guy 2 years ago, and Melody's wedding is coming in September. Lowell lived his life to the fullest before he left this earth 3 years ago. I miss him every day, but take comfort in the knowledge we'll be together again in eternity. (More on that story here.)

Our last Christmas all together. A very rare shot of me clean-shaven.

I am so thankful for my wife. She's a blessing and a joy, my closest friend and companion. She challenges me and keeps me active and engaged. She's my greatest cheerleader, and gladly puts up with my crazy ideas. (Okay, maybe not always so gladly...)

Our kids organized a costume party last fall.
We went as Mary Poppins & Bert the chimney sweep.

35 years is a long time...but it's only the start of a lifelong commitment. I love Patricia more now than ever. We've enjoyed a good life, and with God's help we'll overcome the challenges and make our way to the finish in victory. The best is yet to come!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Unfinished Business

I like making lists.

Lists help me plan and prioritize my activities. I'm much less likely to forget something if I add it to a list. I make packing lists, organizational lists, and to-do lists. I find great pleasure in completing a task and then crossing it off the list. (I have been known to add something to my list >after< finishing the job, just so I can cross it off. My children find this quite amusing.)

I also really like things to be organized. I prefer to have a place for everything, and everything in its place. This is because I tend to be absent-minded and forget where I have put stuff. As long as I put things back where they belong, I can find them the next time they're needed. This is a great relief - I've spent countless hours in my life searching for my glasses, car keys, Bible, and various tools. So I work hard at putting things back in their place.

However, I have an embarrassing tolerance for clutter. Don't get me wrong, it annoys me. It seems that every horizontal surface in my house is a magnet for mounds of paper, and I hate it. But not enough to really do something about it. Oh, I go through various stacks now and then, but I never seem to get all the way to the bottom. I sift through piles of laundry, but some things never get touched. I clean cat boxes and sweep the floor, but there's always more stuff on the ground.

I have heard it said, "What you can tolerate you will never change." I have certainly found this to be true in my life. And it's not just clutter. There are many things which I have simply learned to put up with, rather than fixing them. For example, when it was particularly frigid outside, the cold water pipe that feeds my tub and shower cracked and started spraying water everywhere. Fortunately there was a shutoff to that individual pipe, so my basement wasn't completely flooded. But rather than repairing it right away, I just turned down the water heater a bit and learned to shower with only the hot.

This incident did not happen this past winter, because it was very mild. It was the year before - so I have been living with no cold water in the bathtub for a year and a half! Clearly, it's time to do something about it. And I intend to... someday. But there always seems to be something else more pressing to do. Like checking Facebook or watching a baseball game. Sigh...

Recently I've been challenged to consider unfinished projects in my life. The voice of God spoke to me; well actually, it was my daughter Katie - but she spoke with the knowledge and authority of God. She knows me as well as just about anyone, probably better than I know myself. And she's not shy about pointing out blind spots in me, and areas that need work.

Sometimes my response is, "I don't know what you're talking about. I don't see that in me at all!" Well, duh! It's a BLIND SPOT - of course I can't see it. Anyway, she stated her opinion that I have a lot of unfinished stuff in my life. She pointed out that I often start a project with vigor, then lose interest halfway through and never pick it up again. After blustering a bit (as usual) I conceded there might be some truth in what she said. And as I drove home, I ruminated a bit more about it, and decided to take action.

I knew just what to do - make a LIST! (Yes - shocking, I know...) So I sat down and started writing out all the unfinished business I could think of. In a matter of minutes, I had filled a 14-inch legal sheet from top to bottom. And the list didn't include regular chores like laundry and mowing. I wasn't exactly amazed - I've considered joining the National Procrastination Union, but have never got around to it. I was mildly disturbed that I filled the list so quickly, and resolved to do something about it. Something more than making the list, folding it up and putting it into my Bible.

The list, sitting on top of parts of two unfinished projects

Some things on the list have been waiting a long time, some are relatively recent. Some are stalled for lack of money to invest, some for lack of interest on my part. There are a few things I've been avoiding because I dread the whole project, and some, like the cold water in the bathtub, I have just learned to tolerate and therefore get by without fixing. Some things are reasonably small cost in terms of time or money; others are major commitments. A few things will require help, but most of the items are things I can do myself.

If I cross one item a week off the list, I could have every project completed in under a year. Now, a few ot these items are such a major commitment of time and money that they will not all be done this year, especially with my daughter Melody getting married at the end of the summer. But a lot of this stuff can actually be accomplished, if I set my mind to it. It would be great to make a major dent in the list by year's end.

It has been a couple of weeks since I made the list. So, how am I doing?
I have managed to fold the list and store it in my Bible. YES!

And, I have crossed exactly two items off the list, so I'm right on schedule. I had hoped to make a bit more headway, but things came up. (Hard to believe, but you know how it is....) One finished project was to finally get all the Christmas decorations boxed up and put away. It's spring, for goodness sake! Thankful to finally have that one crossed off.

And in my yard is a small grove of trees we refer to as "Melody's forest." Years ago, when she was just a little girl, she staged a tree-hugging protest because I announced I was going to clear that area. So the woods were spared and have been designated as her forest. The second thing crossed off my list was cleaning out the brush and briars and road detritus and trimming the trees of Melody's forest.

 Melody's Forest

I also trimmed the bushes and the magnolia tree in front of my house, as they were threatening to cover up the front walk and keep our mail carrier from being able to deliver the mail. But that was on my regular to-do list, so it doesn't count as unfinished business. Too bad...

 The front approach to my house. Yes, this is AFTER trimming. More to do here...

A blossom from our magnolia tree, 'cause my mom loves flowers.

Another item on the list is to build and plant a second garden bed. I have purchased the materials necessary for this project, but that's as far as it's gone. "Get materials" is crossed off the list (woo-hoo!) but I don't think I can ethically count that as a finished item, as the project is still incomplete. And I won't be able to work on it this weekend. I'm hoping to get to it on Monday. We'll see...

My existing garden bed, filled with tomatoes. Bed #2 will have peppers.

So what's the point? I'm convinced we are not doomed to keep plodding along, never changing or growing. I believe old dogs CAN learn new tricks, or at least modify their undesirable behavior. And this old dog really does want to change. I'm publicly acknowledging my weakness and failings, even though I hate doing so. I have my pride, you know (and that's not a good thing.)

Since I really do believe God is nudging me to improve this area of my character, I fully expect the Holy Spirit to aid me as I actually do something. But if I do nothing, I can't really expect His help. Faith is demonstrated through action. And God has said His power is perfected in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) That verse also says that when we admit our weakness, Christ's power can rest on us.

The wall around Jerusalem had been destroyed when the Babylonians conquered the city. It was rebuilt many years later when the Jews, led by Nehemiah, put their faith into action. It would have never happened if they hadn't resisted their enemies who opposed the project. They continued working, with a sword in one hand and tools in the other. (Nehemiah 4:17)

Lethargy and procrastination are the enemies which have kept my unfinished project list long and growing. It's time to fight the battle, to chip away at the list one item at a time. I intend to hold myself accountable by posting regular unfinished business updates. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


May 2, 2009 - the hardest day of my life.

It started out as a typical Saturday. Trish and I had errands to run, and so did our two older children, Katie and Lowell. After lunch, Lowell dropped Katie off at the hairdressers and drove to several stores to buy supplies for a special dinner he was planning to cook for the family that night.

A few hours later, we got a call from Katie. She was done with her hair appointment and wanted a ride home. Lowell hadn't showed up to get her and wasn't answering his phone. We didn't think a lot about it, just picked her up and went home.

As the afternoon went by, we began to wonder what was going on with Lowell. Then the phone rang, and we figured it was him. But it was the call you never want to receive. "Mr. Vawser? Your son has been in a serious auto accident. You need to come to the hospital right away."

As we drove to the hospital, I called my pastors and asked for prayer. When we got there, Patricia and I were called into a side room, where we were informed our son had not survived the accident. Devastation! We were taken to a room to identify the body, then Patricia went back to the waiting room to tell the girls while I made organ donor arrangements. I heard their screams and wails through several closed doors.

When I got back out to the waiting room, our pastors and some other church friends were already there, offering what help they could. They suggested we go to the church for a while. We numbly agreed. At the church, more than a hundred people were waiting for us. I remember being gratified by their love and support, but I have no idea what anyone said or did that evening. My only son had died, and I was crushed!

The whole next week was a blur. We made funeral arrangements and dealt with the influx of family and friends. My co-workers pulled together video clips of Lowell and we sifted through hundreds of photos. We scheduled the visitation at our church starting at 5 pm. That night, thousands of people showed up. We stood and spoke with a nonstop line of people for six hours straight. Only God's grace gave me the strength to get through.

The next day, May 8, dawned bright and sunny. My house was filled with dozens of family members helping us get ready for the afternoon memorial service. Around noon, the sky got dark and the wind came up. 120-mile an hour winds blasted through the region, toppling trees, destroying power lines and damaging hundreds of homes. It was an amazing storm, really once in a lifetime. (I remember saying, "Lowell, we'd have remembered this day without this.") Somehow we made it to the church and went on with the service by candlelight. And we laid our son to rest.

Lowell was an unusual young man. He had quirks and failings (who doesn't?), but he was a delight.

Riding horsies with his sister Katie

Birthday cakes with his sister Melody

He knew who he was at a very young age, and pursued his destiny with vigor. At age 4 he made a genuine commitment to Jesus Christ as his Lord. 

Lowell's baptism

At age 7 he told me he wanted to be a missionary, and started going on No Greater Love mission trips with me. (More about NGL here.) Lowell and I went on multiple trips to the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, New Orleans Mardi Gras, and several others. With the help of NGL brothers, he learned to share his faith and developed godly character.

Passing tracts across the street from Churchill Downs

Lowell's favorite gate - the Kentucky Derby infield, where all the rowdies were

Carrying the cross at the Indianapolis 500

He spent his 14th birthday in Central America, sharing the love of Christ with poverty-stricken children. He was the featured speaker at his high school baccalaureate service.  After his graduation, he went to Suriname, South America for a while to work as a missionary. His time there helped him realize he needed further training and preparation to be ready for full time overseas mission work. 

In Honduras at age 14

Typical Lowell - showing love to kids in Honduras

Back in the USA, he ended up working a while in Kansas City and attending the International House of Prayer. While there, he worked with the Hispanic and Korean communities - he loved unusual food and learning about other cultures.

His next stop was the southeast Missouri bootheel, where he worked at a Christian radio station, sharing the gospel using contemporary music and daily on-air Bible teaching. After a couple of years of that, he found out about a missionary college in Minnesota and moved home to work and save money for the necessary tuition. Lowell worked at a couple of different factory jobs over the next year or two. He was within a few months of saving enough money to go on to school when the accident happened.

Philmont High Adventure backpacking with the Boy Scouts

I don't really understand why Lowell was taken from us so soon, just a few weeks shy of his 25th birthday. I miss him every day. But I take great comfort in knowing that Lowell didn't waste his time here on earth. He loved people, and affected hundreds of lives through his actions and uncompromising witness for Jesus Christ. One of the last things he said to me was, "Dad, I'm a missionary every day." And he demonstrated that commitment by the love he showed to his family, friends and factory co-workers. He didn't just talk - he lived what he said he believed.

Our last Mardi Gras together

And my greatest comfort comes from the knowledge that this life isn't all there is. A genuine relationship with Jesus Christ not only gives us joy, purpose and a life worth living here on earth.
Knowing Him also brings the promise of eternal life in heaven. I'm certain Lowell is celebrating with the angels right now, and I expect to join him in the not so distant future. (What's a few decades compared to eternity?) Knowing that this life isn't all there is gives me peace and comfort - it's what the Bible calls the blessed hope of the saints. (see Colossians 1:27)

I can't say I'm happy about losing my son. Can't even say I understand it. But I am at peace. 
This is just a temporary separation. And Lowell didn't waste his life - he used his time to help people and to make the world a better place. 

None of us is guaranteed tomorrow. I pray we all learn to make the most of each day, using the time we are given to help change this world.

"Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."  
Philippians 3:13-14  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Changing My Mind

I'm a lot less dogmatic than I used to be.

I suppose some of this comes from maturity. When I was younger, especially in my teen years, 
I knew everything. If I didn't know it, I could fake it or else dismiss it as unimportant. As a result, 
I wasn't very teachable. And a lot of the doctrine I acquired then became firmly entrenched in my mind as truth, whether or not there was much Scripture to back it up.

As I've grown older, I've learned to occasionally admit when I'm wrong. (And it's never easy.) I have been examining theological concepts I learned decades ago, and it turns out they frequently aren't true, even though many of them are commonly accepted among evangelical Christians. This brings up some valid questions: Is it possible that good, sincere, Bible-believing followers of Christ can be deceived en masse? Can wrong doctrine be repeated often enough that it becomes a tradition and is generally accepted as truth?

I am convinced that this happened in Bible times, and it happens today. For hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the Jewish people were anxiously awaiting their Messiah. They studied the Scriptures to figure out when and where He'd appear, and what He would do upon His arrival. They especially liked the "conquering King" passages such as Daniel 7 and Jeremiah 23. Rabbis taught that when Messiah appeared, He would overthrow the oppressive foreign rulers (Persians, Greeks, Seleucids, Romans - whoever was currently in power.) The Israelites expected the Son of David to set up His physical kingdom on earth, with Israel as the ruler of the world and Jerusalem as its capital.

That's why everyone was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Messiah. And it explains why the disciples were willing to leave their families and their businesses and follow an itinerant preacher around on the backside of the wilderness for 3 years. Oh sure, Jesus was an amazing teacher and worker of miracles. It was fun going along for the ride. But the disciples were convinced that He was more than a great prophet, that He was actually the long-awaited Messiah. And they wanted in on the ground floor of the coming kingdom.

When they argued about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, who would be at Christ's right hand (see Mark 9:33-34; Mark 10:35-41), they weren't thinking of pie in the sky in the sweet by and by. They were looking for an earthly kingdom, and expected to have an important role in it.

But Jesus didn't come as the expected conquering King. Instead, He fulfilled Messianic prophecies of a suffering Servant. (see Isaiah 53) Jesus kept trying to get His disciples to comprehend that He didn't come to rule, but to serve and to lay down His life as a ransom. (Matthew 20:28)

Even after Jesus died on the cross, rose from the grave, and appeared to them numerous
times, they still didn't understand that He had come to establish a spiritual kingdom. They had been so indoctrinated with conventional wisdom and years of tradition, they couldn't even imagine that Christ had no intention of ascending a physical throne on the earth. The very last question they asked Him before His ascension demonstrates this.

"So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  (Acts 1:6) They still didn't understand! Jesus brought gentle correction one last time: "He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you." (Acts 1:7-8)
Then He ascended into heaven as they watched. And on the day of Pentecost, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they finally began to understand that the Kingdom of God is not physical but spiritual.

So what's the point? An entire nation was deceived by wishful thinking and hopeful tradition. They missed the very event they so longed for, the coming of their Messiah, because He didn't come the way they thought He would. I contend that 21st century Christians are no better. We have our own dearly held beliefs which don't really hold up in the light of Scripture. And we frequently miss God because He's not lining up with our preconceived notions.

My conclusion? Western Christians need to examine our beliefs carefully. A good deal of false doctrine, even heresy has crept in, just as the apostle Paul warned. (1 Timothy 4:1-2) Rather than simply clinging to our traditions, we must consider them in the light of the Word of God, asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds. And we must be willing to admit error and revise our thinking, even if it means giving up cherished beliefs.

As I noted at the beginning of this essay, a lot of my theology has changed in the past few years, sometimes in radical ways. I've given up on the "I'm right, so you must be wrong" mentality, especially concerning things that don't really matter. Some areas where I have been wrong (and still may not be right - but I'm learning...) include: prosperity gospel, the rapture, how we can tell if others are truly saved, the role of the Holy Spirit, the fivefold ministry, gender differences, and oh, so many more.

I'll talk more about these various topics in future posts. for now, let me just say I'm following Christ as best I can, striving to demonstrate His love in my daily life. And He's refining me more each day. Trust me, there's a long way to go - but I'm getting there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Old Enough

I turn 55 this year. The old double-nickel...
I don't feel old. Well, sometimes I do.

I can do pretty much everything I always did - it just takes me longer to recuperate. I don't bounce back as quickly after working all night. Bumps and bruises and aches and pains often take longer to heal. My balance and reflexes are less reliable, too. Consequently, I'm a little more cautious than I used to be (Well, sometimes I am) - knowing a bad decision may cost me dearly.

My metabolism has slowed down. When I was younger, I burned calories so fast it was pretty much impossible for me to gain weight. I took pride in my ability to consume thousands of calories with impunity. It was easy to tend towards gluttony, since there was no apparent consequence. 
I weighed around 130 when I got married, and maybe 140 or so 15 years later. But about the time 
I turned 40 years of age, that train came to a screeching halt.

Suddenly I started putting on the pounds. My job is fairly sedentary, a lot of sitting in front of computer screens. My high octane metabolism was no longer in top gear. And it took me a few years to come to terms with the change. (Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.) Finally, I figured out that I could no longer eat the way I did when I was 20 or 30. My body just doesn't need the same amount of fuel to function. And I'm happy if I weigh less than 200 pounds, but it takes a lot of work to stay there.

This turn of events has caused me to recognize and begin to change some of my bad habits, such as a tendency to lust for food. I don't need that second helping, but it tastes so good! I know I need to exercise more, but I don't really want to, because it's hard and boring and so not fun. Like the apostle Paul, I find that I have to bring my body into subjection every day. (1 Corinthians 9:27)

For a good part of my life, I thought I'd never be old enough. I wanted to be taken seriously, to garner respect, to be able to operate freely in God-given gifts. Somehow I thought being older would magically fix my insecurities and lack of self-confidence. Suddenly, I was there - older, but still not old enough. I had to find my security in Christ alone, not in myself or what I could do. 

I'm constantly learning that lesson. When I trust in my own strength and abilities, it's not too long before I fall short. When I tap into the power of God resident within me, I make better choices and have much more success. The problem is, I WANT to trust in myself. "I can do this, I can handle this one, God." Sadly, I usually cannot. I wish to be independent, but every success in life comes from being connected to Christ, drawing life from Him. That's why He said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

Older, not old enough. My friends are becoming grandparents and dealing with their own aging parents. My daughters are getting married and planning their families. Kids I taught in children's church now have their own children. The music of my childhood is being pushed off the oldies stations by stuff that's too new for me to remember.* I attend too many funerals. I haven't had hair in my eyes for at least a decade, probably longer. The majority of my co-workers are young enough to be my children. Their cultural references usually mystify me. And when I mention something from my youth, they have no idea what the geezer is talking about.**

Success in life has a lot to do with attitude. I'm determined to make the most of my time on earth. I'm here to serve Jesus Christ, to live my life as a testament to His glory. I used to have youthful zeal and boundless energy. Those items are now in short supply, but at least they've been replaced by wisdom and experience. If only I'd known then what I've learned through the years, I'd have made much wiser decisions and be a whole lot better off. But that isn't the way it works. Now, I hope that when I share with young people, they catch a little of what I'm trying to say. Maybe I can save them some grief if they will learn from my mistakes.

When I was young, I was a know-it-all, not very coachable. As I've aged, I keep learning how much I really don't know. And some of my dearly held ideas have proven to be wrong. My theology has changed, sometimes dramatically.*** And I'm constantly learning, updating, reformulating, just trying to understand God, this great big world He created, and my place in it. Sometimes I'm still a know-it-all. But I'm repenting of that, and seeking to develop humility. And I'm trying to shut up and listen: "Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent." (Proverbs 17:28)

So will I ever be old enough? Probably not. With God's help, I hope to continue growing in wisdom and knowledge and fear of the Lord. I pray I can live such a life that people see Christ in me. And when I pass on from this mortal existence, I intend to have no regrets and look forward to hearing those cherished words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." (Matthew 25:21)

*I remember riding a city bus in Lincoln, Nebraska in the late '70s. There were some teenage girls nearby, and I overheard their conversation. I had my first taste of geezerhood when one of them asked breathlessly, "Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?"

**Mary Ann. Definitely Mary Ann.

***I'll share an example of my radically changed theology in my next post.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Song For Easter

I love this time of year, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

He conquered sin and death, becoming the way to righteousness for all mankind. Because He lives, we have the promise of eternal life. My sister Janet posted an Easter poem yesterday. I suspect it's actually a song, though I haven't heard her sing it. Anyway, it's pretty cool. You can check it out here if you want.

After reading it, I got to thinking, "Hey, I've written a little Easter song that's pretty decent." So I decided to post it here. Eventually I'll record it and post it to YouTube, but for now you'll have to be satisfied with the lyrics.

High Above

God knew the whole world was lost, so He sent Jesus to man.
When He died upon the cross, it was part of God's mighty plan.

For He's the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who is high above all gods.
Yes, Jesus now is highly exalted - high above all gods.

Jesus walked out from the grave, for death could not contain Him.
Now He lives men's souls to save, and the devil cannot restrain Him.

For He's the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who is high above all gods.
Yes, Jesus now is highly exalted - high above all gods.

If you have no joy within, and your life seems empty and hopeless;
Let Jesus cleanse you from your sin, bring new life and give you a purpose.

For He's the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who is high above all gods.
Yes, Jesus now is highly exalted - high above all gods.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Maker's Dozen

The last several posts have kind of been in serious teaching mode.
It's time for a little lighter reading, so I'll reminisce a bit.

When I went away to college, it was the first time I'd ever lived away from home. I was 17 years old when I arrived on campus, 60 miles from my hometown in Nebraska. My 18th birthday came a couple of weeks after school started. I didn't know too many people, so I was pretty depressed on that day. I really didn't feel like walking around cheerfully announcing, "Hi, my name's Dan. Today's my birthday!" I felt alone and unimportant - and cranky.

To make matters worse, an upperclassman shared my birthday. Everywhere I went all day long, "Happy Birthday Darin" was chalked on the sidewalk and posted on walls.. My mood just kept getting blacker. Thankfully, my friend Randy - whom I'd known for all of two weeks - found out it was my birthday and mobilized a group of students to cheer me up. Somebody got a cake and they had a little party for me. It seems pretty insignificant now, but it was huge to me back then. (Randy and I remain good friends all these years later.)

Like all "itty-bitty freshmen", I had to learn where to go and what to do. I did have a bit of an advantage, because my sister had been attending that college for a couple of years. The year before, I had occasionally gone to a Bible study at a house across the street from the campus, where I met a few of the students. But I still had to experience the learning curve associated with being on my own for the first time. No one else was going to make sure I got enough sleep 
(I didn't), made it to classes on time or did my homework. I was responsible for my own behavior and choices. And I had to learn some lessons the hard way. (For example, I learned to never schedule an English grammar class at 7:30 in the morning...)

One of the classes I took that first semester was choral music. I had enjoyed singing in the chorus throughout junior high and high school and looked forward to singing with a group in college. 
And this was a low risk activity - I didn't have to try out and take a chance of being rejected. If you signed up, you were in. The school had several singing groups one could try out for, but I did NOT intend to do so. I had no confidence in my abilities - I had always been the kid who was just not quite good enough, the one picked last on the team. I was comfortable being one of a hundred voices in the choir, and had no desire to move beyond that comfort zone. 
But God had different plans...

My first day in choir, a girl I'd met at the Bible study across the street made a beeline for me. Louann asked me to come and try out for the singing group she was in. I protested that I didn't think I was good enough, that I hadn't even considered trying out, and any other excuse I could come up with. She would not be dissuaded. She pretty much took me by the arm and dragged me up to the classroom to try out. She saw something in me that I couldn't see, potential I had no idea was there.

Next thing I knew, I was part of the "Maker's Dozen". (Clever name, huh?) I had no idea what I was in for. In retrospect, I believe the main reason God sent me to this particular school was to be involved in this group. I learned so much: group dynamics, how to improvise harmonies, organizational skills, and trusting God for provision. Honestly, the lessons I learned in class were insignificant compared to what I learned as part of the Maker's Dozen.

As the name implies, the group consisted of 12 college students, fairly evenly divided between male & female. We were an officially recognized college organization, student directed and led. The first couple of months were a whirlwind of activity. We spent lots of time selecting songs, developing arrangements and harmonies, learning each others' strengths and weaknesses, and rehearsing. We learned how to share our faith publicly, and how to trust each other. And we bought fabric and sewed matching costumes. Here's what we looked like:

This photo was actually from my second year in the group, so I was 19 years old. I'm in the back row, far left. Be thankful this picture is in black & white - just look at that fabric! Those shirts were vintage '70s garish. At least the vests and dresses were a solid color, kind of a sky blue. In keeping with our very modest budget, we also designed and hand-colored our promotional posters, which is where this picture came from. (Amazing that I still have one of these!) The complete poster looked like this:

Finally, around Thanksgiving, we started performing publicly. We sang in churches, schools and nursing homes, prisons and city missions. We ministered to youth groups and in senior centers. The schedule started out kind of slowly until after winter break. The second semester we traveled nearly every weekend to towns all over the Midwest, with a major trip over spring break. I was in Maker's Dozen two years, and in that time we drove through 35 states. My first year our big trip was to New Jersey and New York. The second year's trip was to Arizona and southern California. Who knows how many miles we logged in college vans?

While the school did provide vehicles, we were expected to raise support for gas and expenses through freewill offerings. We stayed with host families who fed and lodged us, and tried to study as we drove down the road. Most of all, we learned to present Christ publicly, not just with our words but with our actions. We had to really love one another, overlooking quirks and flaws as we cared about each other. Each of us had opportunity to speak publicly at times, and to demonstrate the love of Jesus by the way we behaved when we weren't on stage.

One valuable life lesson was that ministry is truly about God, not us. He's responsible for results - we simply have to be faithful and available to do our part. Here's a story to illustrate what I mean:

We were traveling through Iowa toward the end of the school year. Offerings hadn't been very good, and we were concerned that we'd end up in the red, with no money set aside for the next year's startup costs. So we prayed about it before our last concert of the trip, telling God how much we needed a good response.

The church was a mainline denomination, with mostly older people attending the service. They didn't look very happy to see us in our bright costumes, bringing (gasp) guitars into the sanctuary! Throughout the concert, they sat with arms folded, politely applauding but not too enthusiastic. And we flopped - forgetting words, harmonies not quite right, stammering and stuttering. We were embarrassed, and felt as if we'd really failed God, and at the worst possible time!

After the concert, we visited with people, prepared to apologize for our lackluster performance. And to our surprise, they were so complimentary, telling us how wonderful it had been, how they really sensed the Holy Spirit in our presentation, how much they'd enjoyed the whole concert. We were thinking, "were you even in the same room?" And this wasn't just polite talk - when the offering was counted up, it was the largest single gift we'd received the entire year! It was more than enough to pay the remaining bills, with a good amount to bank for the next year.

God really built our faith that day. We learned it wasn't about our performance - it's about Him! 
Oh, He desires excellence, that we should share our gifts freely and do our very best. But staying connected to Him is the real key. Lessons like this have stayed with me throughout my life. 
I've been involved in some sort of public ministry ever since, just doing what I do and trusting God to bring fruit from my labors. I'm so thankful that God changed my plans all those years ago.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cross Training: Conclusion

The past couple of weeks I've been examining No Greater Love Ministries' discipleship program called Cross Training. We looked at four essential disciplines for living a Christian life:
Study, Prayer, Fellowship and Witness. As you learn to practice these things in your life, you'll grow in understanding and in commitment to the Lord.

The purpose of No Greater Love (NGL) is to train men in righteousness, to raise them up to be faithful disciples of Christ, capable of leading others to Him. I've been involved with NGL for nearly 25 years, and it has changed my life. Because of the training I've received from NGL, I'm no longer a timid, undisciplined Christian. I have learned how to live my faith boldly, but also with humility. And I've enjoyed lifelong relationships with brothers who love me and also hold me accountable.

It's important to learn to share our faith with others so we can help fulfill the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19No Greater Love uses mission trips to major national events as a tool to draw men closer to Christ. I've been on dozens of these events, including the Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Street Machine Nationals and the VP Fair in St. Louis. Currently NGL makes annual trips to Mardi Gras and to the Indy 500. As we step out and witness for Jesus Christ, men get out of their comfort zones and find they have to trust God to guide, direct and protect them. And as He provides what they need, their faith grows.

On these trips, everyone is assigned to a small group of 6 to 8 men. A typical group has an experienced, proven leader who has been to several NGL events, an assistant leader who is there to help the men learn and grow (and to develop his own leadership skills), and several guys on their first or second trip, who generally didn't know each other before joining the group.

Everything happens in the context of these groups. The guys eat together, pray and share in small group sessions, train in evangelism methods, then go out on the street and minister with each other. Intense sharing with one another builds trust. The leader is provided group questions that can help the men deal with issues and problems in their lives. The idea is to get guys to drop their "good Christian" mask and honestly share their struggles and faults, the areas in which they need help. When this happens, men grow in their faith and find that Jesus is all sufficient to meet every need. Just as the Bible promises, as they confess their sins and failures and pray for each other, God brings healing and victory. (James 5:16)

On the street, we use several different methods to present the gospel. One way we share our faith is through clown ministry. Each group is outfitted in clown suits and makeup. Then they learn a simple clown skit and a couple of easy songs, get some smiley tracts and Jesus Loves You stickers and head out to a parade. We try to arrive an hour or two before the parade starts, when people are sitting around waiting for something to happen. When our groups show up, people are happy to see the clowns. The guys pose for pictures, pass out tracts and stickers, sing and perform the "Chicken and Farmer" clown skit. At the end of this skit, the farmer invites those watching to pray and commit to Christ. Everybody in the group gets to be the farmer at least once. Clowning is a very easy, non-confrontational way to begin sharing your faith.

Another way we reach out is through passing out gospel tracts. There are hundreds of different tracts available. NGL uses two - the Smile, Jesus Loves You one is aimed at children and is primarily used when clowning. The main tract used in street distribution is called The Big Question. This question is, "If you were to die this minute, do you have the assurance that you would go to heaven?". This tract is a very simple way to get people thinking about eternity. The back of the tract includes the Four Spiritual Laws: 1) God loves you. 2) But you have sinned, causing separation from God. 3) Jesus died for you. 4) You must repent and receive Him. Following that is a brief prayer of repentance and commitment.

When passing tracts, it's really important to smile and enjoy what you're doing. We have Good News to share, and want others to receive it. The goal is to get gospel literature into people's hands and pockets, and trust God to use it in their lives. Some guys use the tract to start conversations with people, which leads to the next NGL witnessing method: one on one sharing.

The idea of one on one witnessing is to hold a conversation with random people on the street and discuss spiritual things. The goal is to present the gospel effectively and to give the Holy Spirit opportunity to convict them and draw them into His Kingdom. There are a lot of ways to initiate contact. As mentioned, some like to start with the Big Question tract, asking bypassers how they'd answer the question. Others look for some kind of common ground to start a conversation. For example, some guys enjoy ministering to bikers or to veterans or maybe to parents with kids. Another interesting way to initiate one on one encounters is to simply stand holding a sign or a Bible and wait for people to approach you. One sign that's been effective lately simply asks, "Need Prayer?" It's amazing how often people will approach you with prayer needs, which opens up a conversation about God and His ways. Of course, it's important to pray with them as promised.

Big signs and a large cross are featured in another way we present the gospel: Marching. When we march, several of the small groups combine to form a column of 50 or 100 or more men, three abreast. At the front of the march is a cross, carried by men who rotate in and out periodically. Carrying the cross is a moving, emotional experience which gives just a little of the sensation of what Jesus suffered for us. Preference is given to men who have not done this before, followed by veterans. The cross also is a bold statement to onlookers.

Sprinkled throughout the marchers are large signs proclaiming the gospel with phrases such as Jesus Heals Broken Hearts, The Holy Bible -  It's True, and Jesus Saves From Hell. These signs leave no doubt as to who we are or what we stand for.

As we march, we sing. A songleader helps keep everyone together with help from designated singers scattered throughout the march. We favor songs that are simple and direct, such as Amazing Grace, Jesus Loves Me, and He Paid A Debt. Marching through the midst of the partiers is a powerful way to publicly proclaim Jesus, engaging people visually through the cross and signs and aurally with singing.

Another method of witnessing is street Preaching. In this, each man is given the opportunity to share their faith publicly. Many guys find this very intimidating. It certainly gets them beyond their comfort zone. But we often allow fear make this a lot harder than it has to be. Really, it's just a matter of reading a passage of Scripture or sharing one's personal testimony. It doesn't have to be loud, long or polished - faithful and obedient is all that's really necessary.

One more way we take the gospel to the streets is through music. Everyone on the trip isn't required to participate, but those with the ability and inclination often take their instruments out, sometimes with a battery powered sound system. We set up and sing praises to God. Sometimes music will penetrate a hard heart where other methods fail. And guys who like tracting or sharing one on one find that street music will often draw a crowd they can work. At times, we set up a "Street Church" with a full band and have a worship service right in the middle of the party.

There are many creative ways to help fulfill Jesus' instruction to preach the gospel. No Greater Love Ministries helps men overcome fear and intimidation and gain confidence as they learn to share the Good News. The goal is for men to draw closer to Christ, develop godly character, and go home as better husbands, fathers and sons, bosses and employees. And to apply the witnessing tools they gain in their everyday lives.

Jesus said when our light shines for Him, people will see and will glorify God. (Matthew 5:16) No Greater Love has helped me, and countless others, become more like Jesus and be able to confidently share my faith. This brief overview gives just a taste of how that happens. If you want more information, check out their website at