Monday, December 14, 2009

The Truth Or The Tinsel

Do you catch yourself complaining at Christmas about the little things and the little inconveniences. It is a good time to think about the story of Mary and Joseph and to remember that it wasn't about a warm fire and Christmas cookies.

Joseph had to take weeks off work for a government-sponsored registration. Mary was having to endure the gossip surrounded her "unplanned" pregnancy. Think about Joseph and Mary having to endure a four-day donkey ride to Bethlehem and she being at full term and then having to deliver a baby in a stinky barn.

Why would God let His own Son be born under those conditions? Was He mad at Mary and Joseph? The answer is no. Just maybe God allowed the stable so we could see His glory in the midst of life's humbling experiences.

Can life be hard? Does it have its downside and its struggles? And where is God when we are battling through these despairing times? We know, don't we, that God was with Mary and Joseph every moment, working out His incredible plan of redemption. Know also, my friend, that He is with you right now in the middle of those bruising life-moments.

Let Christmas remind you and me to look beyond our current struggles and know that God is doing something good. Up North Wisdom says if we will lift our eyes above the unpleasantness of the Bethlehem circumstances, we too might catch a glimpse of the Star of Christmas. God can give us a renewed outlook, a positive outlook on the time that lies before us. We can rediscover the beauty and joyousness of it all when we focus on the TRUTH and not the tinsel -- on the PRICELESS and not the MasterCard. The best is yet to come. A very Merry Christmas.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Right Direction

A couple of months ago, I talked to a man who attended our Wed. evening study. He had on a Harley Davidson jacket and it was pretty cool outside. I jokingly asked him if he had put his Harley away for the season. He said he didn't have one right now. When I asked him why, he said something that I can't get off of my mind. He said, "I got rid of it -- it was taking me in a direction I didn't want to go."

I have thought about that statement often since then. I wondered how many people are going in a direction that they shouldn't be going in their lives and maybe don't even know it or don't care about the consequences. Such truth in that man's statement. The Bible says that there is a way that seems right to a man but in the end there is death. (Proverbs 14:12) Pretty powerful scripture.

Society gives us direction all the time. And because it seems so accepted, many just move in that direction. A man may persuade himself that his easily besetting sin, his evil dealings, his false religion and his selfish way are right, but whatever is not God's way will end in death and hell. Our society packages up lifestyles that are totally contrary to the Word of God and makes them sound so attractive. Like the line from a nauseating (my opinion) song said, "It can't be wrong, when it feels so right." Ah, yes it can.

A person wonders why certain cults and "isms" grow quickly. I think it is because they appeal to the old nature of man. It appeals to the flesh. Don't worry about what God's Word says. He really doesn't care what you are doing. Go with the crowd. Don't be a religious fanatic.

Jesus said that He was the only way. Either we are moving His way or we are not. When we listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives, He will always give us wisdom to make good decisions that will draw us towards God. Will you listen to God? Will you listen to the voices that God is speaking to you through? Are you willing to go His way? Are you willing to make changes that you know God is dealing with you about? Is God dealing with you about compromises that you are making in your life?

Friend, Up North Wisdom asks if your life is taking you in a direction that you shouldn't be going. A direction that you don't want to go. If so, repent, ask God's forgiveness (1John 1:9) and with the help of the Holy Spirit, start moving in the right direction. There is such a freedom is going God's way. And there is peace and joy. It can be yours also. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. Believe it, friend. Blessings.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

I've learned some things in my 28+ years of being a pastor (40+ years of being a husband, 36+ years of being a dad). I can assure you that the process of learning never stops. I'm sure you agree.

Number 3: Let me just give you a scripture. Proverbs 15:1 and often used by Living Hope Church founding pastor Jim Erickson: "A soft answer turns away anger". Do you believe that (live that)? We live in an angry world. The volume of anger has really been turned up, so to speak, in our society. Unchecked anger, undealt-with anger -- the Bible is so clear about how destructive that is.

Frederick Buechner, in a writing called "Wishful Thinking" said this: "Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun and the most tasty. To smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you were given and the pain you are giving back, in many ways is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself; the skeleton at the feast is you."

Wow! Pretty powerful words. Undealt-with anger and bitterness (close cousins) will eat us up from the inside out. It will eat away at our spirit and our soul. A soft answer, a Godly answer turns away anger. Do I always practice it? No. Do I know it to be true? Yes.

James 1:19 says this: "Everyone (except me, of course) must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry because our anger does not achieve God's righteous purpose."

What an awesome scripture. If you want to get mad at someone, get mad at the devil and his devices and ask God to give you the strength and courage to do things His way. Listen, friends. There is no time in God's Kingdom work for any of us to let the past control us -- to let unchecked and undealt-with anger and bitterness hurt us and those around us, because it does.

Up North Wisdom says anger and bitterness can be passed down through families and relationships. Don't let that happen. Start a new cycle with the help of the Holy Spirit to implement the truth of "a soft answer turns away anger." Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." One of the marks of a child of God is one who makes peace and brings peace into life's circumstances by their very presence. With God's help, let the spirit of peace rule and reign in your heart and life. Blessings!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Opposite Of Stupid

Lessons from almost 28 plus years of being a pastor: part 2. Another thing that I have learned over these many years is that is important to seek wise counsel. A couple of verses from Proverbs and I can't remember the version but I like both of them. Prov.11:14 says "Where no counsel is, people fail and fall, but there is safety in multitude of good counsel."

That is good but let me read another from Prov. 15:21-22. "Stupid people are happy with their foolishness, but the wise do what is right and get all the counsel they can." Wow! I'm glad that I didn't say that.

We know, don't we, that it's easier to give advice than it is to take it. We love to be in those "advisory" roles. Do you know why so many people don't seek good counsel? I believe it's because they already know the answer many times to the situations they find themselves in. I used to tell Pastor Jim Erickson that I hated asking him advice about money matters because he always gave me the advice that I knew he would. And of course, it was the right advice.

Sometimes it is as simple as asking what you would advise someone else in the same circumstances as you are in. I think you could give some really good advice when you think about it. And often good advice is simply a matter of common sense. Knowledge without common sense can be troubling, if you know what I mean.

Who are the people that you know love and care about you? Make a practice of asking them for counsel and good advice. God will always speak wisdom to us but the problem is that we aren't always wanting to hear the voices that He chooses. How about you? You know what? I ask for more counsel now than when I was much younger and thought I really knew a lot. I have found out that I didn't know as much as I thought I did. Up North Wisdom says that I should seek out wise counsel more often than I want to or really do. I don't want to be stupid and God doesn't want me to be that either. So He provides if I choose to receive. "Lord, help me to be wise and seek good counsel." Are you with me, friend? Blessings.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A "Degree" Of Patience

I have been a pastor here at Living Hope Church for a little more than 28 years. Wow! That is hard to believe. In many ways, it seems like just a few years ago that I started as a somewhat unaware 35-year-old youth pastor. A lot has happened in those 28 years, some good things and some not-so-good things. But I can assure you that God has been faithful to His Word and that all things have worked together for our good and for His glory. I also know that what the enemy has meant for evil, God has meant for good - for the salvation of many.

Have I learned a few things in those 28 years? I believe so. I want to share some of that in the next few blogs. As I reflect back on those years, I believe I have learned some patience. Certainly not in all of its fullness, but I have learned a degree of patience. I think the opposite of patience is impulsiveness. We want things done now. I'd like things to take place immediately: how I want and certainly when I want. That's the American way, isn't it? We don't want to wait for anything.

When Mr. Steinway, the creator of the Steinway piano, was asked by a salesman to try out a new aluminum pin, which he felt was superior to the old one, Mr. Steinway said he would put one in a piano and give it a trial. The salesman asked how long the trial would be, the elder Steinway said thoughtfully, "Oh, I'd say about 50 years."

Patience is a process of learning through life's experiences. Living Hope Church founding pastor, Jim Erickson, used to say often that if a decision is a correct one at the moment, it will be correct in a week from now as well. Good advice. Sometimes we make decisions on the spur of the moment based on feelings, hurts, trials, obstacles, or in the midst of a discouraging situation. I have found that waiting has never hurt me, but a hurried reaction or decision many times has. Can you say Amen to that?

Isaiah 40:31 says: "They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength". How that flies in the face of American Christians. The Bible teaches the value of waiting. And in the waiting time and in the waiting rooms that many of you may be in right now, there is a learning process and God is teaching you valuable things. He hasn't just put you in the back room. Up North Wisdom says that battle, that sickness, that struggle in your family and that hardship you're going through: that's a waiting time and you're praying and waiting to see what God will do. Friend, He'll be with you and teach you and talk to you and reveal amazing things to you. And really, you will ultimately say, "Thank you, Lord, for giving me a waiting room to grow.

Oh, and by the way, patience is the first definition of love. Blessings!!

Friday, October 9, 2009


I received the news two days ago that my nephew, Kent Thelen, had died. Kent was 44 years old and has battled brain cancer for over 13 years. Doctors told him he had only a 20% chance of making it five years and he made it a lot longer than that. He battled to the end and never gave up hope. My sister and Kent's brother and father as well as our entire family and his many friends are sad and grieving his death. I wont say loss.

Is a person ever lost when you know where they are? I know where Kent is and that is in heaven. So he isn't lost. He will not come back to us but we will go to him if we have a relationship with Christ. Kent knew Jesus personally and loved both Him and his fellow man. Love was all over Kent. You couldn't find a person that knew him who didn't say that Kent was a loving person. Not only was he loving but serving was his passion in life. Kent loved to serve others. He was named citizen of the year in the small fishing village of Cordova, Alaska where he has lived for the last several years. He was a volunteer for many organizations, served in his home church, and loved the arts. He has a beautiful voice and I will always remember he and my wife, Jeanne, singing "A Whole New World" for Tony and Karol Piantine's wedding. Kent will be missed dearly and I ask prayers for his family, especially his mother, brother and father. We know God is good, all the time, even when times aren't good.

The point I want to make here is: how do you answer the question about being lost? You can be strong, healthy and making your way through life thinking all is well and still be lost. There are many who are lost today and have no understanding of it. Jesus pursues the lost and desires that all be a part of His Kingdom. The Word says "As many as receive Him, He gives the right to be called children of God." And, " He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance and receive eternal life."

Kent's life spoke volumes about the love of God. He was truly the "sweet fragrance" of Jesus wherever he was. I believe there will many more in God's Kingdom because of how he lived out his life. It was an honor to know him and to be his Uncle Jerry.

Kent, I love you and will miss you. But even more, I am looking forward to seeing you again in God's great heaven. Heaven is a lot closer now that you are there. What a great reunion day that is going to be!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Shack

Last night, my wife and I, along with two other couples watched a DVD of the author of the Shack, William P. Young, giving a presentation at Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee. It was the story behind the story of the incredibly successful best-selling book, The Shack. It was a very emotionally- moving experience to see and hear the author share his life with the listeners. It got me to thinking about some reactions I have received concerning this book.

First of all, let me say that I have read the book and found it to be very moving and it was for me a spiritual journey that I believed enhanced my relationship to God -- more specifically to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Trinity has always been a mystery and although the book is a fictional story, I came to the conclusion that we serve such an incredibly creative God that He would do what is needed to get our attention and to draw us into a closer relationship with Him. The Bible says that God is love and yet many who have suffered much pain in life's experiences struggle with that truth. Do you? Do you believe that God really loves you, and likes you and is so very fond of you? What hurts do you secretly hold deep down in your soul and maybe for years? Do you fear your secret may be exposed and then what would happen? Are you open to really hearing from God and letting those hurts be healed?

Some of the negative comments that I have heard came from people who haven't read the book. They have read negative comments online and then were afraid to read the book. Don't be. I know personal testimony of people coming to Christ as a result of the Holy Spirit helping to bring healing in their lives through The Shack. It may not affect you as it has others, but it might spark something in you to help you reach out to someone else.

God wants to heal the deep wounds that so many have suffered in life. Some of those wounds have to do with going through painful and unexplainable losses that have left them stunned, weakened, and questioning God in so many ways. Some have been so damaged by someone else that the word "trust" isn't even in their vocabulary. God is creative and wants to reveal Himself to you. Would you let Him do that?

Up North Wisdom says be open to hearing from God maybe in ways that are truly "out of the box" so to speak in terms of how you think He should speak to you. With truths like love, healing, restoration and forgiveness spoken about, you will find it worth your while to take the time to read The Shack and then see if you don't come to really like Papa. If nothing else, you will have a craving for some really interesting and tempting food. Oh no, I'm not going to say anything more. You have to read to find out what that means. Blessings!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Famine -- a widespread shortage of food that leads to starvation. There is nothing good about famines. Television allows us to see the effects of famine in many third world countries. It is hard to ignore the images of starving children with bloated stomachs and hollow eyes looking hopelessly into the camera lens.

There is a famine that is not so evident that is leading to spiritual starvation and extreme weakness in many peoples lives. That is a famine of God's Word. At a time in our world that Christians need to be fully armed spiritually and strong in the Lord, I see the effects of a lack of God's Word in so many people's lives. When Jesus said that people can not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God, He made clear the incredible importance of knowing God's Word. There are so many scriptures that tell us we absolutely must be into God's Word to be strong and effective in the world we live in. The Psalmist said that we stay pure by obeying God's Word and that we must hide the Word in our hearts to keep from sinning. By the way, he also said that the really joyful people are those who take in the Word.

It is a spiritual battle to be sure. Satan can't rob our Christianity but he does everything in his power to keep a Christian weak and ineffective and one big way is to use any and all methods to keep people from reading the Word. Christian, listen carefully. If you are not a regular person of the Word, you will never grow up spiritually and as far as the church is concerned, you will be part of the problem and not part of the solution. Paul liked to use the words spiritually babies. It is time to grow up and start being part of the solution for making disciples as per the Lord's command.

It is interesting that one of the excuses I have heard from some for not reading the Word is that it is too hard to read and understand. Have you ever used that one? I love it when someone tells me that. I was a reading specialist for several years in the public schools and as part of my master's degree program, I did some readability studies on various versions of the Bible. I think I used about eight versions at that time. The hardest version came out to be about 8th grade in terms of difficulty and the easiest was about fourth grade level. End of that argument.

Christian friend, there is much to done in our work for God's Kingdom. We must be fully armed for this battle -- this assignment from God. It is our weapon of choice, our sword to battle the forces of darkness. Ask God to give you a great desire to be a person of the Word. Or maybe ask Him for a desire to have a desire. Start where you need to start. Get into Christian education classes. We have some great choices starting in a few weeks at Living Hope Church. Parents need to not only send their kids and grandkids to Sunday School classes but they need to come themselves and take advantage of the many opportunities to learn and grow.

My wife Jeanne and I will be starting a class on Wednesday evening beginning Sept. 23rd called Breaking Intimidation. It is based on the scripture: "God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind". It will help you break any power that would keep you from fulfilling your God-given destiny to be effective and powerful for the sake of His Kingdom..

Up North Wisdom says there are many great versions of the Bible. God will help make it exciting for you to read through His Word. Now more than ever, let's be people of the Word. For Christ's sake and for His Kingdom and His Glory. Amen!! No more famine. Let's start "eating".

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Which Side Of "IF"

A few years ago I had an annual physical examination and I remember a short conversation I had with my doctor. He was talking to me about ten risk factors for heart disease. He said that two of them we can't control but eight of them we could. When I asked him which were the two we couldn't control he said: "Your age and your genetics. They are what they are but the other eight factors are in your hands." In other words "IF" I would do this and this and this (good food, good exercise, good habits,etc), my risk factors would be much less and I would in all probability enjoy the blessings of good health for many more years.

Do you know that there are 1522 "ifs" in the Bible? Amazing, isn't it. There are so many promises made to us by God in His Word, but we must remember that many of them have "if" clauses in front of them. "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want (need), and it will be granted." (John 15:7) Wow! What a promise! However, often we forget about the "if" part of the promise. It said just previous to this verse that only "fruitful Christians" will remain in Him.

I like to call these "ifs" conditional promises. So much of what God said He will bless us with are conditional on our response to what He expects of us. A big one concerns the area of forgiveness.

"If we forgive others when they offend (sin against) us, then we would also be forgiven our sins. We did a study a few years ago called "The Bait Of Satan". It exposed one of the most deceptive snares Satan uses to get believers out of the will of God -- offense. So many people who are ensnared by the bait of satan don't even know it. The are ensnared by offenses.

So, as John Bevere said so clearly, don't be fooled. We will all encounter offense and it is up to you how it will affect your relationship with God and with others. Has someone hurt you recently or not so recently? Are you hanging onto that offense? It will bring you down if you don't handle it the biblical way and that is to forgive and release -- In Jesus' Name.

So Up North Wisdom says, IF you want to experience the blessings of God and feel His presense closely, then let the Holy Spirit help you escape the enemy's "offensive trap" as well as empower you to stay free of offense and be an awesome force for the Kingdom of God. It is God's plan. You are God's plan. Believe it! And experience -- Blessings.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Independence From God

In one of his daily devotional blogs, David Wilkerson defined pride as simply "independence from God". Proverbs 8:13 says this: All who fear the Lord will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech." Wow!

Living Hope Church is a so-called "independent" church. What that means really is that we are not affiliated with any certain denomination. Since we are an independent church does that mean I am an independent pastor. I certainly pray not-- at least as far as being independent from God equaling pride and God hating that. As Wilkerson indicates, we often have a false definition of pride as needing to think that I am a nothing and a nobody.

The truth is that each morning as I get in my car and head to this place, I need to confess to God that I am absolute "dependent" on Him for everything in my life and ministry. I totally need His direction, His power, His wisdom, His discernment and His strength and without that I am done for. It should never be a shame to us to confess to God each day how dependent we are on Him for everything that really counts in life.

We all need to stay in the place where we recognize the importance of being teachable and understanding that we don't "know it all". Wilkerson says that if pride is independence than true humility is dependence. To say with understanding: "God, I turn full control of my life to You and I will do it each and every day.

Up North Wisdom says that we in America pride ourselves on our independent spirit. Let's make sure we understand that in the Kingdom of God there is not an elected leader who rules but a King whose name is Jesus. We bow to You and You alone, Lord.

When we pray and ask God to keep a humble spirit within us, He will always answer that prayer. But watch out for that answer because our flesh may fight against it; let's make sure that our spirit, God's Spirit, always wins the battle. For His Glory and for His Honor. Amen!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Precious Than Rubies

Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. I am so thankful that Jeanne said yes to being my wife. Other than giving my life to Christ, marrying Jeanne was certainly the best decision I have ever made.

The 40th wedding anniversary is supposed to be the "ruby" anniversary. I didn't buy any rubies for Jeanne because she had something else in mind which is still in the process. But it is interesting that almost all of the verses in the Bible that refer to rubies use it in reference to the fact that Godly wisdom is more valuable than this beautiful jewel. Proverbs 31:10 says that a virtuous, wise and capable wife is far more valuable than any ruby. And to that I say "Amen!"

Someone once asked me a serious question and wanted a serious answer. The question was "Does God ever speak to me in an audible voice?" The person wasn't kidding so I considered before answering. After thinking about it for a few moments it came to me so clearly and this is how I answered: "Yes, God speaks to me often in an audible voice and He sounds just like my wife." (and sometimes other people who love and care for me) So the problem isn't if God speaks to me clearly, the problem is that I don't often choose to listen.

God's great definition of love in 1 Cor. 13 mentions the following qualities: patience, trust, peace, not boastful, not proud, not wanting my own way, not bring up past injustices. In other words, it is giving 100 % of myself to my wife. I will admit that is the goal and not always achieved. But as Pastor Erickson used to say, "if you don't have a target, you'll never accomplish anything good."

I love being married to my wife. I hope for 40 more wonderful years. A marriage is what two people want to make it. What do you want for your marriage? Up North Wisdom says don't wait for your spouse to make the first moves. Trust God that when you start to love like 1 Cor 13, it will demand a response. Don't make your marriage about you. Ask God what you can do to make your marriage better than it is. And then listen, my friend because that is a question He will always answer. Do you want the answer? I hope so.

Jeanne, you are the love of my life. God certainly knew what He was doing when He brought you into my life. I will always remember what my mother said when we were dating: "Don't let that girl get away." I didn't, and I thank you for saying "yes". Marrying your best friend is so cool. Happy "Ruby" anniversary.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You Are God's Plan

Now that Camp Daniel is over, I have had a few days to reflect and think about the experience and its effect on me and those who were there. I am exhausted, battling a viral infection and still mentally woozy. (many think that is normal for me) I said in my previous post that I believed miracles were going to happen and in ways that were not expected. I shared this with the other camp counselors and workers the last night and I fully expect to get reports of these miracles yet to take place.

Here are some of my thoughts:

Tony, Karol and the rest of the Camp Daniel staff are awesome people. They set the foundation for a week that stretches, challenges, and motivates each one who is there, from the counselors to the workers to the staff of the camp as well as the campers themselves. They are to be commended for their love and dedication to doing what God has directed them to do as are the many others who are absolutely committed to the ministry of Camp Daniel. It was an inspiration to be around all of them. I know that all involved were blessed to be able make the lives of many campers with disabilities richer for the week they were there.

I issued a challenge to the workers from Living Hope Church to take that energy, focus, commitment, and passion back to their homes, places of work and school and certainly back to their church. If "I Am God's Plan" at Camp Daniel, then I must be God's Plan in those places as well. People come into a church each Sunday carrying many disabilities that are not seen, yet are still very real. Things like addictions, abuse, abortion guilt, broken relationships, backslidden souls, depression, discouragement just to mention some. God calls each and every Christian to be instruments of healing to those who hurt. The hurting were very evident at Camp Daniel but are not so evident in church. God is in the restoring business and we are to be His hands extended.

All the implications of what took place this last week at Camp Daniel are yet to be seen but I believe the impact will bring some changes that God intends to happen to individuals as well as to our church. I believe I will be a better pastor, husband, father and man of God for having given a week to this incredible ministry.

So to wrap it up, I ask you, "do you believe that you are God's plan?" Wherever you are in life and whatever things you may be going through, it is of utmost importance to really believe that. Say to yourself often, "I am God's plan, I am God's plan, I am God's plan." And He will show you clearly just what that means. Be open to His voice. Ask for a listening ear.

And, by the way, the counselor shirt that said, "It's not about me!" -- It really isn't you know. If your church attendance has been about you then repent and ask God to show you how to make it about others. There is a place for you to serve. Let your response be, "Lord, I am ready to do your will and serve where I am needed. Even if it isn't in a "see me" ministry. Even if it isn't my choice but it is where a need exists."

You are God's plan. And because of that it really is true: "THE BEST IS YET TO COME!!

Now Up North Wisdom is telling me to get home and get some sleep.

Friday, July 31, 2009


Next week, I will be serving as a counselor at Camp Daniel along with so many others from Living Hope Church who will counsel, cook, clean, teach, worship and basically, just help wherever it is needed: to submit to the leadership of God and the leadership of Camp Daniel.

Tim Kelly, one of the missionaries at Camp Daniel, asked (required) each of us to write in response to the two following questions: What does God want to teach me on this trip or why does God want me to go on this trip. And secondly, what does Eph. 6:10-20 (putting on the armor of God) mean to me. I suppose that this was meant to be between Tim and each of us but I am letting you on what I have written. Take it for what it's worth.

Tim, here it is for you in a nutshell.

1. I don't think I have any idea right now why God wants me to go to Camp Daniel. I would like to sound spiritual and say: " to be a great example of servant leadership for Living Hope Church". Or something like: "to be a humble servant of Jesus" etc. But it is more likely something like this: "I got tired of being nagged about not doing this" or "I didn't want to let Little Tony down and I want to be a good example of encouragement to him".

So, my friends, let me leave it at this: "I hope I can in some way help make this a really good week for a camper with a disability."

2. I know that I have to come to Camp Daniel spiritually prepared. Something tells me this is the easier part of the "armor" teaching. I mean, surrounded by the great Camp Daniel leadership team, surrounded by Living Hope Church servants who are awesome encouragers who will battle for each other in prayer; to be exposed each day of Camp to praise, worship, and the teaching of the Word, in some ways it seems like a slam-dunk to succeed. Time will tell.

I am reminded regularly that I need the armor of God when I am alone at home, or struggling with an unsettled spirit in my office and just the tendency to feel sorry for myself on a regular basis. It seems I battle temptation more now than ever in my Christian life and why not, if Satan has a plan to destroy me, my family and my church. I am regularly reminded that all temptations are winnable if I keep alert and strong. (1 Cor. 10:13) At Camp Daniel, I know we will help each fight the good fight and I know it will be won. But alone with my thoughts and feelings, that's when I know I really need God's armor. It is a daily fight but Praise God, we are guaranteed victory if we don't give in or give up. What a great God we serve!!

There you go, Tim. Submission to my authorities for the upcoming week. I am looking for miracles in ways that we may not even think about. See you Sunday.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Worthy To Judge

I don't know if you are following any of the proceedings in the United States Senate that will lead to the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as our next Supreme Court Justice. I find it very interesting to listen as questions are asked of her which are supposed to show if she is fit to be a judge on the Supreme Court. In other words is she fit to pass judgment on important issues?

In the book of Revelation, we are shown that the Lord Jesus is the only One who is able to judge perfectly and He will at the close of the age. Why? Because of who He is (God manifested in the flesh) and because of what He has done. He created this earth and that gives Him the right; and He also redeemed this earth. Since He is worshiped in Heaven as redeemer and Creator, He is the only One worthy to judge and to rule this earth.

So then what gives anyone on the Supreme Court or anyone else put in a position to pass judgment the right to do so? Our laws? The constitution? The Bible is clear that only the Lord Jesus Christ is worthy to sit in judgment. Unless one of these judges can measure up to Him, he is really not in a position to judge in his own ability and strength.

There is injustice all over the world and in every country and we see the results of that every day, don't we? That injustice is brought about by man's futile attempt to sit in judgment on others and never acknowledging the wisdom of God as their source. Up North Wisdom says we need to be in prayer for all those who rule and judge in our country. Pray for Judge Sotomayor and rest of the Supreme Court Judges and for our president and other elected officials and judges that somehow and someway, they will humble themselves before God and acknowledge that only with the wisdom and strength that comes from Him alone, can they be righteous and true in their decisions.

" God, help us all to always look to you as our source of help, strength, wisdom and power to be the kind of Christians that You want us to be and that we want to be also. Help us to live our lives with eternity in view and pledge to serve you and others with love and passion. In the Name of Jesus. AMEN!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'm Back

Well folks, I am back! Watch out, I am back and very excited to get back in the pulpit and preach the Word. It is Saturday afternoon and technically I am not yet off vacation mode but here I am back in my office getting ready to preach tomorrow about the rapture of the Church. Wow! I wonder if I have received any more Up North Wisdom as a result of our time away. I think so. God is so good and so faithful.

Last night Jeanne and I saw the most awesome and beautiful combination of sun setting and storm rising over Lake Superior that one could imagine. That's what the rapture will be like: for the believer, it will be like beautiful light beckoning them to come up to be with Jesus. For the unbeliever, it will be a storm of darkness that is almost unimaginable. My prayer is for The Spirit of God to bring many souls to Him as a result of the Truth of His Word.

Precious Lord, Use Your Word tomorrow morning to convict, draw, encourage and inspire. Bind every device of the enemy to keep people from coming to You. Let Kingdom work be done for your glory. Amen!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gone Fishing

The sign is on my office door: "Gone Fishing". I've cleaned my desk, organized my bookshelves, and cleared my emails on the computer. 31 straight days without one day off tells me it's time to give everyone around here a break -- from me. I'm not looking for sympathy, just understanding. Three weddings and a church outreach picnic added on to the regular church stuff and there you have one crazy month. You're thinking: "I thought Pastors only worked for a couple of hours on Sunday". I know you don't really think that. But why fishing?

Well, that's not the only thing Jeanne and I do when on vacation. Our kids and grandkids come to spend time with us and that is a blast. We do a lot of reading, walking, swimming, driving around Lake Superior, -- and fishing -- along with late nights around the camp fires (often swatting mosquitoes) and eating too much of all the wrong foods. It's beautiful. But fishing is still big. My philosophy is that if God made the world three-fourths water, then it stands to reason He wanted us to spend a lot of time fishing. And fishermen were the first people Jesus called to be His followers.

By the way, when Jeanne and I are in the boat on the lake, we are like little kids sometimes watching all that is going on around us. When you see eagles flying nearby; when you see otters swimming along the shore; when the night skys are glimmering with countless stars: when the birds sign songs you only hear when you are quiet and listening; when the forests beckon you to explore the unknown; is it any wonder that we occassionally break into "How Great Thou Art"? Oh, and we might even catch a fish or two. Which is beside the point even though a nice bonus.

It seems crazy to suggest that a person could "miss" God when doing God's work, but it can happen. Work, even God's work, can easily start to be about me and what I am doing. Like God really needs me to get His work done. Fishing, more to the point, observing what God has created, brings us to a place of humility. God can do anything because He has created everything. Does He really need me? A better question is: Do I really need Him? ABSOLUTELY. And this God who has created all things for His pleasure, also created me. Wow! He loves me (you), created me (you) and has an incredible plan for my (your) life.

A vacation? Yes, but not from God but toward God to hear more clearly that I am blessed and humbled to be thought worthy of being used of Him. And so are you. Take some time to break away, even for a day or an hour to get that perspective. If we listen, He speaks clearly. "Lord, teach us to be good listeners"

So if someone says that Pastor Jerry has gone fishing, remember that he has also gone "listening" and "watching". Hopefully to catch a little more of that Up North Wisdom.

" Lord God, I love you and I thank You." And blessings to you, my friend, for a "listening" summer.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Be The String

There is a verse in Judges that says, "As a string snaps when it comes close to a flame, so the secret of his strength was not discovered."

There is a great story of a Father who took his young son out to fly a kite. The sky was clear. The breeze was just right for kite flying so to the boy's delight the kite soared up and up until the entire ball of string had run out. As the youngster held on tightly to the stick to which the string was tied, he could feel the kite dance and tug against it. He said, "I want the kite to go higher."
"Can't go higher," said the father. "There is no more string."
"The string is holding the kite back," the boy replied. "Let's cut it."
Whereupon the father cut the string and then the kite came tumbling down to the ground. The father said, "You see son, the kite is free to fly because the string had a hold on it. It is the line that holds things together."

Dads, many times you are the string, the line that holds things together in your family. There is a verse in Proverbs that says, "Life and death are wrapped up in the power of the tongue," and perhaps no person holds as much potential for speaking words that impact and influence a child as does the father. By a father's words, a soul can be refreshed or shocked, soothed or singed. Whether he is a man of few words or a great conversationalist, you may recall hearing some things from your father who may still be living or not.

Whether you heard good words from your earthly father or not, your Heavenly Father gives good words to all of us - words that are life building. Are any words more important and powerful than "I love you" and "I am proud of you." Dads, you are big in that regard. Those words never get old. If I heard "I love you" a thousand times from my dad, I needed it a thousand and one times. It was the last thing my dad said to me before he died.

Dads, parents, never stop telling your children that you love them and are proud of them. Why do negative words come so easily and positive ones so hard? God the Father said in the book of Jeremiah "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness."

Dads, I encourage you. I exhort you. I implore you. I don't care how old your kids may be. They may be grown up but be the dad that speaks words of life to your children (or grandchildren). It is never too late to start, believe me. Children, listen to me. If your dads can't or won't do it, then by the grace and power of God, ask Him to let you be the instrument of those words of life and health. Maybe, just maybe, you may be the one through whom God brings positive and powerful change into you family. Amen? Amen!!

"Dad, I love you and miss you. I look forward to seeing you in heaven. Thank you for being such a loving and caring dad and for being such a great example to myself, my wife and my children and grandchildren. Your legacy of love will continue."

Happy Father's Day everyone!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Are You Mad?

Now that we are all on the same page about drinking :) let me share some thoughts about anger. Angry people are said to be mad. Maybe that's appropriate because anger sometimes causes people to act insane. Listen, anger can consume your happiness, rob your joy, affect your health, end relationships, and wreck your faith.

Henry Drummond in his book, "The Greatest Thing in the World", said this: "No form of vice, not worldliness, not greed of gold, not drunkenness itself, does more to unchristianize society than evil temper. For embittering life, for breaking up relationships, for devastating homes, for withering up men and women, for taking the bloom of childhood, in short, for sheer gratuitous misery-producing power this influence stands alone." Wow!

Think about this: Realize anger is one of the emotions God gave you and is not a sin in itself. We all have anger but most of us don't lose control. Learn to communicate your feelings.

Acknowledge that being hot-blooded, a redhead, or some certain nationality are not plausible excuses for out-of-control outbursts.

Realize actions are controlled by the will, so you can decide to control anger's behavior. Here's something radical. Maybe start praying about it and then understand that some anger should be vented to God alone.

Use anger constructively but accept what can't be changed. Don't break a commandment to defend a commandment. That is not righteous indignation.

Humble yourself and listen to other people. You are not always right and don't always know better than anyone else.

Ask forgiveness from those offended by your angry outbursts. Anger doesn't really give you control. Asking forgiveness calms troubled situations.

Avoid substances that unleash anger. Drinking is the number one predictor of abuse. Also know that grief could be involved as anger is one of the stages in the grieving process.

Cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22,23) It leaves little room for inappropriate use of anger.

Up North Wisdom says that when you (me) decide to be no longer ruled by anger, your life, home, workplace, church, and relationships will be filled with peace and laughter. And you just might be a better driver as well. Blessings.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Can We Talk?

Having been in two establishments the last two weekends for wedding receptions, I want to make a few comments about alcohol. Maybe more than a few. I used to be the Youth Pastor in our church and when it came to talking to teens, I always took the approach with them that the most responsible drinking is no drinking at all. By drinking, of course, I mean alcohol.

Why did I do that and why do I take that stand now? In keeping up with the new supposedly "tough" drinking laws being proposed, it seems to me that they aren't tough at all. It seems to me that a person has to kill someone before the courts really get tough with drinking and driving. We live in a culture that not only loves drinking, but really thinks that getting drunk is just something that goes along with the social climate and is the way to have fun.

If you take a child to a Packer game, you risk the results of football fans and drinking -- not a good combination. And it's getting worse, not better. I don't enjoy going to games like I used to because I have to constantly keep alert for beer being spilled on myself or my wife throughout the game. Just part of the culture, right? Have a good time -- drink and then really drink.

Someone asks if I think it is wrong to social drink. I am not sure what is meant by that. The Bible doesn't condemn having a drink, I suppose, but I know it condemns drunkenness. But why do it at all? Have you ever seen anything good come from drinking alcohol? I haven't. And those I have talked to about this haven't either. In fact I regularly deal with families being torn apart by this very thing. It is tragic.

Quite frankly, the drinking culture in our community is embarrassing. I encourage adults to become and stay non-drinkers. Someone said that what one generation does in moderation, the next does in excess. I think that is true. We change the culture not by putting people down or condemning, but by showing a better way. Certainly as Christians, we can strive to not be a "stumbling block" to others by our lives. Do people just want to have fun? I think more fun comes from not having bleary eyes, obnoxious speech, stupid behavior or angry outbursts.

Up North Wisdom says it starts with one person at a time. Take a stand against a culture that exalts drunkenness. Push for tough laws that punish drunk drivers before they kill someone. And be a good example that having fun doesn't have to mean including alcohol. If the Word of God is true and we should strive to glorify God in all we do, then let that truth carry over into our social lives and let's show the next generation that we can live better, more effectively, and less destructively. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is Your Church Attendance Meaningful?

On Sundays at church, do you find yourself sitting there being critical, nodding off to sleep, or texting friends on your cell phone? Is church an obligation to you or a awesome time to draw close to God? To receive blessings from church attendance, you must participate with the Holy Spirit and invest yourself in the church and church service.

Try these steps to make your church attendance more meaningful:

1. Come to church with anticipation. Anticipate something good and powerful when you enter your church. Enter into the praise and worship from the first song.

2. Come to church in a spirit of unity. Hard feelings, envy or apathy are human obstacles in the path of the Holy Spirit.

3. Come to church with a humble heart. Don't think that the powerful sermon was meant for someone else. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about your life during the service.

4. Come to church to minister. Give encouragement to others. Be friendly. Instead of waiting for others to reach out to you, take the lead and reach out to others first.

5. Come to church to support your pastors. Your attendance and participation in a church service testify of your support. Pray for your pastor during the service, that the Holy Spirit will anoint the message and stir hearts. A pastor who is sustained by prayer will more effectively feed your spirit with the Word of God.

6. Come to church in an attitude of prayer. Begin seeking God before you enter the sanctuary. Sing praise songs during your morning preparation time. You will be surprised what it does for your own spirit and what effect it will have on your church.

Up North Wisdom says it's up to you to make attending church far more than an obligation. It can be the highlight of your week. Let's have a great service this Sunday. I'm looking forward to it. You can, too. Blessings.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Little Tony and Pastor James have recently posted blogs that talked about fears and trusting. If you haven't read them yet, do so. Both are very insightful. How interesting that tonight, I am teaching about one of the battles that the Christian must overcome and that is FEAR.

A recent article listed over 500 fears (phobias) that haunt the human soul. Some are as common as the fear of pain (agliophobia); others as rare as the fear of frogs (ranidaphobia). What do you fear at this time in your life? Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself." (phobaphobia, by the way) I don't think our society is buying it. With the stock market, environmental warnings, political extremism, nuclear threats, random shootings, terrorism, diseases, etc. etc, etc, the motto of our age might read, "Be afraid, -- be very afraid."

It is easy for any of us as Christians to fall into the fears of the age. Too often we are trembling with the masses. Why, when from Genesis to Revelation, we are encouraged to boldness, confidence, courage, and peace. First I think we need to raise our sights and focus on truth. Help us, Lord, to remember the many verses that say our Father will never leave us alone or forsake us -- or have we forgotten?

Secondly, we need to press in close to God. Like LT said in his blog, knowing that I was with my dad (grandpa) I knew I would always be OK. When fears rise up, we all need to be with our Father. Safety, comfort, courage and peace are only found in the Father's embrace.

Lastly, we must rest in God's promises. When you wake up in the middle of the night, don't turn on TV or read the paper, open up God's Word and let the truth sooth your troubled spirit. For every phobia, God gives a promise and for every terror, He holds a triumph.

Up North Wisdom says most things we fear never come to pass. I know that what I share with you is easy to say and hard to do. But the truth is still truth and will set us free is we will receive it. Our worries will leave us restless and troubled. We would do well to learn as the Psalmist did: "God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea". (Psalm 46:1,2)

Fill us today, Lord, with the antidote for fear -- Your perfect love. Blessings.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Day To Remember (and Forget)

We have much to be thankful for, don't we? We live in a country that is free and we need to remember that there was a price paid for that freedom and there is still a price to pay today. We need to remember and honor and thank God that we have the opportunity to live in such a country as this. And remember that so many have died for our freedoms. For those of you who have ever served in the Armed Forces whether in war or not, I salute you and and say "thank you" from the bottom of my heart for your service to our country.

Why is it that the things we need to remember, we tend to forget and the things we need to forget, we tend to remember. What do we need to forget? These things: we need to forget our resentments. They will eventually render you ineffective for Christian service. We need to forget our worries. Constant worry as a person's companion is really a disguised kind of atheism, an affirmation that we really don't believe in God's control, direction and guidance for our lives.

Next, let's forget about "our" rights and learn to be givers instead of takers. Finally, let's learn to forget our failures. They will haunt you to your grave if you let them. Instead, remember God's Word that teaches there is always a starting over. Plant His Word deep in your heart and be free from the past.

Then there is a time to remember: First, remember the duel nature we all have. We do good and then we blow it. You all know what I am talking about. Thank God for the truth of I John I:9 that says if confess our sins, God will forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Then remember how God has brought you through the difficult times in the past. And remember Romans 8:28 that says all in all things (remember the "in" is not "for") God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. You know that's true, don't you?

Then remember the strength that is available to each of us. The Word says we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. Then, finally, remember to persevere. We all have a ways to go and grow, don't we. But like Paul, we must keep pressing on towards the goal. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can and will be over comers in this life. We can not only survive but we can advance towards the good things that God has ready for us.

So Up North Wisdom says: Don't give up, friends. You may not be the person you want to be yet, but, hopefully, you can say you are not the person you used to be either. So trust in the Lord with all your heart and remember this: THE BEST IS YET TO COME!! Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rough Weather Fishing

It has been a while since my last blog. Jeanne and I were in Hawaii for nine days and then I was fishing for a couple of days with my son, Chet, and my son-in-law, Tim, and friend Gary in the UP of Michigan. The weather contrast was dramatic. From several days of 85 degrees to 32 degrees and snowy all day. Will that get me some sympathy? I didn't think so.

Vacation in paradise speaks for itself. The fishing trip was interesting. I don't recall fishing in such adverse circumstances in a long time. When I say cold and miserable, I mean it. The wind was howling and snow was falling. Yet, we had the best fishing in recent memory. We couldn't keep the fish off of our bait. We caught fish to eat at the cabin and each of us took back a lot of fish fillets as well. So, what's the point?

Just this -- We have found the best fishing is almost always when the weather is rough and not when it is sunny and nice. I think evangelism is like that. It is nice to just sit here in church on Sunday mornings and hope God sends people through our doors to hear the Gospel. And some do. But effective evangelism for the most part is going where the people are and that means moving beyond our comfort zones. We don't like to do that. It can take us into rough situations and that makes us uncomfortable. However, that is precisely where the "fish" are.

Jesus said that the fields are ripe for harvest but the harvesters are few. Up North Wisdom says there weren't many fishermen on the lake the two days we were catching so many fish. The world (your world) is hungry for Christ even if they don't know it. Are you ready to get out of your comfort zone and share the good news when the opportunity presents itself? Ask God to show you where the "fish" are and then go fishing even if the weather, so to speak, is rough. God has already prepared the way. Blessings!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Whose Idea?

I heard an interesting talk presentation on public radio this morning that talked about peoples' ideas about God. After a lot of useless (in my mind) talk, the basic premise arrived at was that everyone's ideas of God were all valid. No right ideas and no wrong ideas. No wrong ones that is, unless you would choose to believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no person comes to the Father, except through Him. Then, we were told, you would be wrong.

Interesting that what the world calls the wrong idea is the only one that is right and true. Is Christianity that exclusive? Yes, if you believe that the way to eternal life is narrow and the way to destruction is broad. When there is so much today that could be discouraging to the Christian, the thing I really like is that it is becoming increasingly harder to "ride the fence" so-to-speak when it comes to what you believe. The time is now when it is going to "cost" to make the claim to Christianity. I think the church is up to it, don't you?

Up North Wisdom says: Let's not be like those Paul talked about in Romans when he said that the "thinkers" of his time professed themselves to be very wise, but in reality they were "fools". Wow! When the world attacks the authority of God's Word now more than ever, we must be committed now more than ever to being people of the Word. Will it be easy? No. But with power of the Holy Spirit and putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6) we will not only survive but will be more than conquerors for the sake of God's Kingdom. It's exciting. The best is yet to come! Believe it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Body of Christ

Tony Piantine wrote a great blog a couple of days ago about the Body of Christ and what it should look like. You should read it if you haven't already. I posted a comment to him that I want to highlight.

We had a great service in church this past Sunday and a great time at the altar. As I looked at those who came, I saw people from all strata of society coming to meet Jesus. It was a great reminder to me of what the Kingdom of God really looks like. And no matter what our background, we come on equal footing to the cross. "For all have sinned" and the cross welcomes "whosoever will" -- and so must the church.

We are called to go to the "highways and byways" of life and compel them to come. God help us to see the "field" as well as the "church" for what it really is. As Jesus said, "look around you, for the field is truly ripe for the harvest". Let's do it church. The time is now! Up North Wisdom issues the challenge: Let's harvest the entire field.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Effective Or Great?

I heard a discussion on ESPN Sports a few days ago about a certain college basketball player named Tyler Hansbrough who plays for the University of North Carolina. He is a senior and has been their number one player. The discussion was among sports writers who were debating whether or not Tyler was really good enough to make it big in professional basketball. Some felt he was and some felt he wasn't. In other words, was he a great player?

The writers decided to ask Bobby Knight, a retired college coach who has won more basketball games than any other division one coach. He is outspoken and has a lot of experience and wisdom when it comes to evaluating college basketball talent. They asked him how good he thought Hansbrough would be in the Pros.

Knight commented that he felt that Hansbrough was not a "great" player but an "effective" player. At first it seemed like a negative response. Then he went on to say that he would much rather have an effective player on his team rather than a so-called great player. He went on to explain that an effective player is smart, knows the value of teamwork, plays offense and defense well, isn't concerned about getting "star" status, and is very teachable. In other words, a player who doesn't think he is so good that nobody can tell him how to play better. Knight said Hansbrough would be the first player he would draft.

I thought about that a lot. Does God want so-called "great" Christians -- those who see themselves as "stars"; or is He looking for workers who want to serve without complaint and aren't concerned about constant recognition? Friends, nothing makes a pastor's heart so glad as having people who say they will serve wherever needed - wherever it is felt they can be effectively used. There are no superstars in God's Kingdom: no sports stars, no rock stars no media stars. In God's Kingdom, the word "great" is used for those who are the most effective "servants". Jesus said it Himself in Mark 9:35 after his followers were arguing about which one was the greatest. Jesus said: "Whoever wants to be first (the greatest) must take last place and be the servant of everyone else."

Up North Wisdom says that goes against our societies way of doing business but it must not go against the church's methods of doing Kingdom business. Let's make a commitment that with God's help, we will be "great" in our work for Him. And like Bobby Knight said, let's put effectiveness ahead of stardom.

The Kingdom's employment sign is out: Wanted -- Servants.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Mile Wide And An Inch Deep

A mile wide and an inch deep talks about shallowness and that's something we all want to avoid, right? Jesus is looking for followers and not fans. Fans tend to be a mile wide and an inch deep. Any given Sunday in the fall at Lambeau Field there will be several thousands of fans who tend to be a mile wide and an inch deep. Crowds can be fickle, can they not? They roar with approval one minute and thunder with anger the very next minute.

On that first Palm Sunday, there were plenty of fans. There were shouts of "Hallelujah" and "Hosanna" as Jesus entered Jerusalem. The crowd loudly hailed Him as a public hero shouting "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord". Amazingly, just a few days later, many of that same crowd were shouting "Crucify him!" Wow!

Therein lies the difference between fans and followers. Fans lack commitment and turn aside for the slightest excuses. Followers commit to the long run no matter what the circumstances. Jerusalem had both on that Palm Sunday and we have both today. Fans cheer loudly when everything is going their way, but when the time comes to make the commitment, where are they? The fans were there at Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem but where were they a few days later at the place of the cross when Jesus was being crucified? The closer to the cross Jesus got, the fewer the followers there were. Here are some differences between fans and followers:

1. Fans focus on personal comfort and followers focus on commitment. In other words, if Christianity makes me feel good, fine. If not, forget it. Commitment says, "Jesus, though all else forsake you, I will never turn my back on you."

2. Fans want regular blessings and followers commit to disciplined living. For fans, it's "provide everything I want and I'll really serve the Lord. Followers say, " In all things, I know God is working out His will and I will serve Him in any and all circumstances.

There were some in that street, that first Palm Sunday, who were followers. They listened to His teaching and accompanied Him to the place of prayer. Yes, for a short time they stumbled and for a time they doubted, but they were true followers. They obeyed by waiting and praying and after they received the infilling of the Holy Spirit, they spent the remainder of their lives getting closer to God and spreading His Word wherever they went. Up North Wisdom asks, "How about you, friend? Let's commit to being faithful followers and not fickle fans." The best is yet to come! Believe it. Have a blessed Easter.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Sunday, I watched the final few holes of the golf tournament that Tiger Woods won in dramatic fashion. Like many other people, I am not a golfer but I do take the time to watch this man when he is in the finals of a golf tournament. Why? If I don't really like golf, why watch this particular golfer? Probably for the same reason I used to watch Michael Jordan play basketball even though I didn't really care to watch professional basketball. These are two unique and gifted athletes. There is something about their personalities and the way they play the game that elevates them above others in the same sports. Under the most adverse circumstances, they have a special drive to find a way to succeed.

I watched a TV program a couple of days ago that featured a street person who had an obvious learning disability who thought he was a super hero. He tried to help people in distress. A man who tried to help him ended up being helped by the man with the disability instead. The "super hero" died in the show and the man who was helped said to the the show's star:" I tried to help this man who thought he was a super hero and he ended up helping me instead." The show's star said in the last line of the show: " That's what super heroes do. They come to the rescue".

That line really caught my eye and I begin to think about who are the real super heroes in this life. Jesus said that when you help those whom society thinks are the least valuable, you are really helping Him. Who is going to come to the rescue of the unborn? Tony Piantine in his blog: The Bantum Blogatorium, referred to a link that James and Jill Kocian sent to him concerning an article in an English newspaper about not allowing babies with Down Syndrome to be born because they really are a drain on society. Parents who had and loved their children with this condition were considered to not be telling the truth when they claimed that these children were really an incredible blessing to many.

So how I read this is that parents who chose to have and love their children with Down Syndrome or any other disability are really losers and don't really care for society or their children by choosing to burden themselves and society with a child who will be an obvious drain on resources. Hmm. What an interesting contrast to how Jesus looks at each one of these people. I think he would call parents like James and Jill Kocian and people like Tony and Karol Piantine and people like Jason and Lora Stonelake super heroes. Now I know they wouldn't even dare to think about themselves as super heroes, but in doing what Jesus himself commended, that is exactly what they are in God's Kingdom.

If society takes what the above-mentioned article says as truth, then what about the very elderly? Are they also a drain on societies resources? And what about those with life-altering diseases? Should we withhold medical resources to them because they just aren't worth the cost in the long run? And where do we stop?

Listen people, I think God has called us all to be super heroes, don't you? To help those whom society deems unfit and unworthy of much help or attention. You may not feel like much of a super hero but those whom you help will think you are and God notices. Do you want to be a part of a "real" reality show so to speak. Sign up as a helper for one of Camp Daniel's summer camps. Log on to Tony Piantine's blog: The Bantum Blogatorium and find out more. You could be a super hero to someone like the little guy that Lora talks about in Tony's latest blog.

Do you really want to do something great in the Kingdom of God? Then Up North Wisdom says reach out to one of societies "least of these". It's really not that hard to be a super hero in God's Kingdom. You may not be watched by millions on TV like those who watch Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, but I think the Word of God is clear that you will be watch by millions in the "great cloud of witnesses" in the heavenly realms. (Hebrews 12:1)

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Winner

I just received news that my friend, mentor, brother in Christ, and much loved member of our church went to be with the Lord very early this morning. While the news didn't come as a shock because he was elderly with many physical problems, it was very sad for me to hear. I have known Bob O'Connor since I was just a young boy and he and his dear wife, Bea, were big in my life.

I spent time in their home while a teenager in the church, and have had a close relationship with them ever since. In many ways, there were like second parents to me. They were always an encouragement to me throughout my life and were some of my greatest supporters and prayer warriors when I became their pastor. They always let me know how proud they were of me. When it came to their "Jerry", they were incredibly unselfish and totally loving. As I was leaving the house this morning, I thought of an incident that has given me a title for Bob's funeral message.

Bob taught me how to play racquetball many years ago. He was an excellent player, one of the best in the area in his prime. He would spot me 18 points in a game to 21 and almost always beat me anyway. He was very competitive. After he beat me one game and I didn't seem too sad about it, he said to me, "Bruette, do you know what they call a good loser?" I said, "no, what?" He said, "A loser". He said that to get me mad and fired up to do my best and it worked.

Bob was a winner in every sense of the word. The Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Phillippians that everything the world had to offer he considered loss in order to "win" in his relationship with Jesus Christ. When Bob gave his life to the Lord, he became a winner. He was a winner in prayer. He was a winner in his devotion to the Word. He was a winner in giving. He was a winner in praise and worship. He loved to play his tambourine during our fast praise time at church. He was a winner in his witness for Christ. Like Paul, Bob fought a good fight; he finished the race; and he has won the prize of the crown of righteousness. Everything he lived his life for, he has now realized.

So, Up North Wisdom says, Are you ready to meet Jesus Christ? Do you have a personal relationship with Him? If not, give your life to Christ right now by asking Him to forgive your sins and to come into your heart. If you do, the Bible says you will receive the gift of eternal life. You will leave the best legacy possible when you leave the legacy of a life lived out for Jesus.

Bob left a great legacy to those who knew him. I will miss him greatly but we haven't lost him. No one is ever lost when you know where they are. And we certainly know where Bob is.

"Enjoy your reward, Bob. We'll see you soon!"

Friday, March 13, 2009

Building A Legacy

It is never too late to start building a legacy. A legacy is what we hand down to those in the next generation. What are you handing down to those in your family and to those you come in contact with each day of your lives? Let me share about two men who handed down fruitful, powerful legacies.

My father. Chet Bruette, died on Labor Day of 2004 at the age of 95. He would have been 100 on March 10. I miss him a lot. Saying good-bye is never easy no matter how old the person you love is. The things I remember from dad will stick with me always. What was the legacy that he left with me? A couple of things I think are worth sharing:

1. Accept people where they are. Dad never dismissed anyone out of hand. No matter where you came from, you had a chance to be a part of his life. Consequently, there were so many who loved him and remember him with such fond memories. He would help you, share with you, work for you, fish with you and be a friend with you if you could and would accept it. He liked real people -- people who didn't try to be someone they weren't. He was real.

2. Have your priorities in order. God, family, job and others. They were all an intermingled flow out of dad's life. He was fiercely loyal to his family. We were everything to him. Each child was a special source of pride to him. And he let us know it. By the way, he was an affectionate man with his wife and kids. I never had much trouble grasping God the Father's love in no small part because of my dad's love for me.

3. Work is honorable. Work helped define my dad. He worked so hard and always let us know that anything worthwhile is worth working hard for. He provided for us and never put our family is a debt situation. Pay as you go was how he went through life and it was so important to save for whatever might come up in the future.

I look forward to spending eternity with my dad and mom. Someone said you can only take people with you to heaven. My mom and dad lived out their lives in such a way that it created a desire on my part to live with eternity's values in view. Thanks, dad for leaving me the greatest legacy that anyone could leave a child. I am forever grateful.

My father-in-law, Jim Erickson, was another man who left a great legacy for his family and for me. He died in 2006 at the age of 79. He was an example in how to live well and how to die well. With God's help, he did both. Maybe the greatest lesson I learned from him was to be the same Christian, the same person wherever you went and whatever situation you found yourself in. He was that kind of man. He was the founder and pastor of our church after being a successful businessman for many years. I saw him in many different circles and was amazed at the consistency of his Christian testimony. He wasn't one person in church and a different person at home -- or at his place of business -- or in a restaurant -- or working out at the YMCA. He lived out his life for Christ and let his light shine wherever he went. He was known by all for his enthusiasm and love for Jesus in every place he moved.

He would say that our lives are like a house with many rooms and God wants to be prominent in every room. We can't give him 95 per cent and keep 5 for ourselves. It doesn't work that way. If God isn't in control of your computer room or your television room, or any other part of your life, then you are out of order and God will deal with you. He wants all of us and deserves all of us. Thank you, Jim Erickson, for leaving me such a powerful legacy. I am eternally grateful. Your memory will always inspire me to do my best and be my best for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

By the way, Jim hugged and kissed his daughter and sons right through adulthood. I am thankful to say my kids love to hug and kiss their parents. And I especially love it that my adult son hugs and kisses his dad.

So, my friend, Up North Wisdom asks -- what kind of legacy are you leaving for those who know you. It is never too late to start a new and positive direction in your life. If you've blown it in many areas, ask God and others to forgive you and with the help of the Holy Spirit, move ahead to new and better things. Remember, with His help and your commitment, The Best Is Yet To Come. Believe it!

Pastor Jerry

Monday, March 2, 2009

Not So Mysterious

I am going to be starting a series of messages on the book of Revelation in a few weeks. There seems to be such an interest in this last book of the Bible in the last several years and even more so now. It seems that Christians love to explore the mysteries of God's Word and His will. I think my study will disappoint some in that regard. The first verse of Revelation says "The Revelation of Jesus Christ". Everything in God's Word should point people to Christ and Revelation is no exception. It is easy to get caught up in speculating about the "mysterious" parts of that book and miss out on the big picture.

God's will is not a mysterious thing. When people want God to show them the mysteries of His will, they often miss out on the obvious. Why should God show anyone the mysteries of His will when they don't even respond to the obvious revelations of His will. For instance, how mysterious is: "A soft answer turns away anger."? And yet so many people have trouble with control in this area. So if I don't respond to getting a handle on my anger, why would God mess me up with the so-call mysteries of His will. How much has God revealed to us already in our Christian life that we chose to ignore? What areas in God's Word have convicted you that you have chosen to ignore?

So Up North Wisdom says respond to the obvious of God's will which has already been revealed before you ask to have the mysteries of His unknown will shown to you. You may say: " How have I done that and in what ways have I done this?" Well, why not ask someone you trust and that you know loves and cares for you if you dare. Trust them to speak truth to you about areas where you may be lacking in your walk with God. Ask you wife, or your children or a friend or maybe your pastor. But don't ask if you really don't want to know and don't get mad when you hear something you may not like. The people that love you also know you and won't tell you the truth if they think you won't handle it well. Can you handle the truth? Up North Wisdom says ask for, listen to, receive and apply the truth and you will be set free. Blessings!

Pastor Jerry

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Where is it?

Why " Up North Wisdom"? Because most of what I have learned about life wasn't in a classroom setting or from any books. It was from life's experiences. You see, Up North to most Wisconsin people means something. It seems everyone around here has an "up north" where they "go". Where is it? Well, it's different for every person. It's a place to escape to. To get away from the hurry-up pace of everyday life. And as a plaque on my wall says, it is really more a state of mind than a geographic location. When you are "there" everything seems simpler, easier, purer, and clearer. You breath in the air and breath out a breath of relief.

I have been going "up north" ever since I was born. And since I am almost 63, that is a long time. Truthfully, I like being there more now than at any time before. That is because I take more time to think and meditate at that wonderful place. When I do, I remember so much that has significance to my life. Much of that "up north wisdom" I learned from my mom and dad both there and in my home growing up. I didn't think of it as wisdom at the time growing up but as I reflect, I am amazed at all the lessons from those years. And I might add, all the wisdom I am still learning from the so-called "up north" experiences that I have now. I just need to take the time to hear the incredible voices that God uses to get my attention. I will share some of those voices in future blogs.

This is new for me and my daughter, Becky, and one of my associate pastors, James Kocian, have long been pushing me to do this. So, Becky and James, here we are and here we go. Any "wisdom" that comes through this vehicle did not originate with me. One of my favorite all-time verses in the Bible comes from the book of James where we are told that if we lack wisdom (and I surely do), we can ask God and He will freely give it. And by the way, He never puts us down for asking. That's beautiful. I claim that promise every morning as I get in my car and head to the office here at Living Hope Church. That promise is for you, too. Why not put a claim on it?

So this is what I would like to do. I will never claim to have tons of wisdom and knowledge but I have had a lot of experiences, both good and bad in my "short" 63 years. Maybe some of what I have learned will hopefully be of help to you. And by the way, other than the gift of eternal life, the greatest gift God has ever given me is my wife, Jeanne. I am a better, wiser man because of what she brings into my life. You will probably be hearing from her on this site in the future. She will bless you, I guarantee it.

One thing I know for sure; no, two things; God is good, all the time; and The Best Is Yet To Come. Believe it!!

Pastor Jerry