Faith

A Tree is Know by Its Fruit

A Tree is Know by Its Fruit

Encouragment, Faith
A few years ago I cut down one of my apple trees. For the first couple of years after we moved to our place in the country that tree was too young to produce apples.  One year it did produce a few apples but they weren’t good at all. They had a bland woody taste instead of being sweet or tart. Maybe it was just a bad year I thought.  The tree produced fruit the next year with the same bland results.  I asked the previous owner about the tree. It turns out that he grew it from the seed of one of his favorite store-bought hybrids. That usually doesn’t work well and explained why the fruit was bad. Jesus warned His followers,  ““Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gather
Easter Realities

Easter Realities

Encouragment, Faith
The writer in me marvels at the richness of the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. By this I mean the number of people involved and the realities they bring to help us understand the events. The Easter story contains more than the Easter truths of death and resurrection. It also contains snippets of what happened in the lives of various individuals at that time. In their stories and characters, we can see our own reality. The main character is obviously Jesus. This is His story and the fulfillment of the larger narrative that began in the Garden of Eden. The reality of His torture, death, and resurrection is the reality of our new life in Jesus Christ. Those basic events mean everything. As Paul observed, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised
Hosanna: Expectation and Reality

Hosanna: Expectation and Reality

Encouragment, Faith
Have you ever noticed that what we expect and what Jesus offers is often at odds? Part of the human condition is the desire to have things our way. That God should meet our needs according to our priority and in the way we think is best. The crowd that followed and met Jesus when he humbly rode into Jerusalem on what is now called Palm Sunday had the same problem. The crowd's expectation was that Jesus was coming as a king or Messiah in order to restore Israel to its former glory. The crowd desired Jesus to seize control, kick out the Romans, and establish a powerful earthly Kingdom surpassing that of Solomon. But the crowd didn’t understand. They didn’t see that God had a bigger plan which far surpassed their puny thoughts of glory. Instead of riding in as a king, Jesus purpose was sac
The Things We Forget

The Things We Forget

Encouragment, Faith
I was blessed this morning (3/22/15) to present the sermon at New Life Community Church in Henry, Il.  Below is the text of that sermon.  The Things We Forget Sermon for 3/22/15 The other day Betty asked if I would drop a book off at the library on my way to work. My response was a non-committal “I’ll try to remember.”  You see I know myself.  I know that it’s very easy for me to get caught up in a thought, or a song on Pandora, or a discussion on the radio and forget about the library book until I’m halfway to work. “I’ll try” was the best I could offer because I’ve failed at remembering to drop off a book in the past and because I don’t like to make promises that I may not keep.  Betty in an understanding way replied, “never mind I’ll take care of it.”   Remembering things can be a
Rock the Test!

Rock the Test!

Encouragment, Faith
Perhaps I have testing on the mind.  For the past few weeks, my job has focused on getting ready and supporting the new computer-based standardized test students are taking this spring. So this morning while researching the phrase “God is…” I ran across this verse in Deuteronomy -    “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 13:3, NASB95)  The first thing that popped into my head was “Wait! What? I’m out of school doesn’t that mean no more tests?” The second thing that ran through my noggin was, “isn’t there a verse that says something about God not tempting us?” James does say, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I
Faith in Action

Faith in Action

Encouragment, Faith
One day Jesus’ disciples were practicing what Jesus had been teaching them.  The incident involved a young boy who was demonically self-destructive and a worried father. The disciples said the words to expel the demon, just like they’d seen Jesus do, but nothing worked. The worried father ran to find Jesus and implored Him to come and heal his son. Jesus responds with some harsh words concerning unbelief and twisted faith. “And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (Matthew 17:17, NASB95)  Jesus then calls the boy Himself, He rebukes the demon and heals the son. At sometime after the event, the disciples ask Jesus about their failure,  “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why co
Keepsake or DNA

Keepsake or DNA

Encouragment, Faith
I’m sure that, like Betty and I, you have keepsakes around your home.  Trinkets and memorabilia that mean something special to you.  Like my small collection of rocks gathered during family trips. Or the handmade cards from when the kids were younger. Or the hand-me-down keepsakes of generations past. One such keepsake in our home is an old bent handle hickory cane. Pretty much like any old cane except, for one thing, it belonged to my great-great-grandfather Adam Heinold. Adam immigrated to the United States from Germany in the 1870’s and settled near Morton Illinois. And that means practically nothing to most of you, and that’s ok and expected.  The reason Adam’s old hickory stick cane is important to this article is because it helps us to consider something that Jesus taught. In John
A Disorganized Life

A Disorganized Life

Encouragment, Faith
No one will ever accuse me of being organized. Even as a teen the sign on my bedroom door was “Enter At Your Own Risk”. Not because I was a bear or demanded my privacy but because it took the skill of a minesweeper to navigate through my room.  While I’m better there is still plenty of evidence to convict me of being sloppy, messy, or disorganized. My office at work fluctuates between the clutter of work in progress and semi-organized. The stand between mine and Betty’s recliners has a virtual line down the middle. You can guess what my side looks like. Betty, on the other hand, is an excellent organizer with a place for everything. Her cupboards could make the cover of a Tupperware catalog. Interesting how God draws folks together. Jesus once warned the Pharisee’s about making a sh
Rooted in Christ

Rooted in Christ

Encouragment, Faith
A few days ago a message landed in my inbox with this question - How does one know he's deeply rooted in Christ? I thought that it was an excellent, thought provoking, soul prodding question. How do we know that we’re rooting our life in Christ and not our selfish desires, religious duty, or just satisfying the need to belong? Roots have two basic functions, they collect and transport water and nutrients for the rest of the plant and they provide stability. We see this demonstrated in the Parable of the Sower. On the first soil, the seed could not even grow, its roots could not penetrate the hard compacted ground. The seed took root and even thrived in the shallow rocky ground until the harsh sunlight of temptation, affliction, and persecution caused it to dry up. The third seed fou
Follow Me

Follow Me

Encouragment, Faith
Over my lifetime I’ve been on a few cave tours.  Never once has the guide brought us to the entrance of the cave and said, “Well folks, there it is.  Feel free to go inside and wander around in the dark. You might eventually make it back out again.”  Instead, we were instructed to follow behind while the guide leads us through the labyrinth of stairs, tunnels, and rooms. Every now and then the guide stops, explains something and checks to make sure everyone is alright and still with them. We are used to following.  We follow instructions and recipes. We follow a map or GPS to get from here to there. We follow those that have gone before in school, sports, and careers. We follow ideals, philosophies, desires, and leaders of various kinds. We even follow stories, our favorite team, and pe
How’s Your Walk?

How’s Your Walk?

Encouragment, Faith
One day last week at the Elementary School I happened to notice a little girl skipping down the hall on her way to class. Next came another young student that was watching the wall art more than what lay ahead.  Lastly, another student buzzed by, not running, but walking about as fast as he could. Then I started thinking about the other hallway walks I’ve seen, the crawl, the slow plod, the distracted driver, the pusher, the corrector, the “I don’t want to go” as they are being led by the arm to the principal's office, and the chatter box.   How we walk says a lot about our lives at that particular moment in time. One of the ways that our relationship with Jesus is described is that of walking with Him.  The idea of man walking with God goes all the way back to Genesis when God walked w
No, We Love Jesus

No, We Love Jesus

Encouragment, Faith
In a recent interview the Anglican Vicar of Baghdad recounted an incident between ISIS militants and four Christian teenagers, all under 15. Multiple times the militants demanded that they say the words of conversion to Islam which they refused to do by saying “No, we love Yasua (Jesus).” Ultimately, they were beheaded because of their refusal.* Yes, its a sad story. Yes, its a story of courage. Yes, these things should not be happening. Yes, folks that loudly lament any inkling religion being forced upon them because of a prayer, or a song, or a t-shirt don’t have the slightest notion of what real force is. Yes, Jesus predicted that His followers would suffer persecution. I agree with all of that. But there is a real world application for us who comfortably live half a world away from