A Suggestion for a New Hallmark Holiday

Hallmark holidays can get us men in trouble. You know the kind, Sweetest DayAdministrative Professionals' DayNiece and Nephew Day (There really isn’t a Niece and Nephew Day, but if there was, I’d get in trouble over it).

In 1992 Hallmark created Clergy Appreciation Day, celebrated on the second Sunday in October and throughout the month when October becomes Clergy Appreciation MonthAccording to Hallmark, the day and month exist to “uplift and encourage pastors, missionaries, and religious workers.” The skeptical among us will also note Hallmark sells “24 Ministry Appreciation cards with card prices from $1.99 to $4.99.”

Hallmark doesn’t have a Congregation Appreciation Day or Members Appreciation Month, so I declare today, Sheep Appreciation Day.

Here are 11 Things the Shepherd Appreciates about the Sheep.

  1. I appreciate when I see you drive into the parking lot and walk through the front doors on Sunday. You come back over and again to worship together with God’s people. Many of you are parents of young children. You stir yourself and your kids out of bed on winter Sunday mornings, get some breakfast, dress the little ones, and then bring the troop in for Sunday School and sit with them during worship, teaching them how to meet God. Some of you are older, and a day does not go by where you do not feel your age. To stand and sing for 20 minutes is difficult. To sit for 45-60 minutes of preaching is hard on your back, but you do it anyway.

  2. I appreciate how you listen to my preaching. You listen, comment, nod, respond, and rarely fall asleep. And you do this week after week, that can’t always be easy.

  3. I appreciate how you want to follow leadership. You sincerely desire to move together in a direction. When I do not convey ideas as thoroughly as I should, you ask good questions and raise legitimate concerns in a humble manner. When you do not agree, you commit the matter to prayer and ask the Lord to change your heart or mine.

  4. I appreciate when you care for others within the body. When you give a meal, make a phone call, offer a comforting embrace, lend a hand and more to others within our church, you please the Lord as you give a cup of cold water in His name.

  5. I appreciate when you show initiative in church life and ministry. You do not wait for me to tell you to exercise your giftedness or to do something. You do not require a program to function as a disciple of Jesus Christ. You sense the prompt of the Holy Spirit, and you obey His urging.

  6. I appreciate your faithfulness to each other in your marriages. I know marriage can be hard. That’s what happens when two sinful, selfish people live together under the same roof, but you continue to fulfill your vows to each other for the glory of God and for the good of your spouse.

  7. I appreciate how you welcome guests into our building and into our church family. You are intentional to connect with those you do not know, to make them feel at home among us, and to build bridges that foster gospel conversations.

  8. I appreciate how you mingle around after worship. You are not in hurry to run away. You mill around the auditorium or lobby connecting with each other. I enjoy saying to you, “Last one out get the lights.”

  9. I appreciate how you serve each other, like our women who attend so graciously to the little ones in our church nursery. Week after week you comfort crying toddlers, change dirty diapers, and limit what you might receive from God’s Word so that others can receive from God’s Word. I appreciate how you serve each other, like our men who assist as ushers greeting all of us, holding doors, finding seats for whole families who arrive just as worship begins, and troubleshooting problems that arise during our worship. Of course, there are many more examples of how you serve. I appreciate every expression seen or unseen.

  10. I appreciate how you give your money to the work of First Calvary Baptist Church. Week after week, month after month you contribute your part. Without each contribution, we could not and would not have the gospel opportunities locally and globally.

  11. I appreciate how you love me, Brenda, and our children. You ask about Michael and Lauren, who though they are out of sight are not out of mind. You are excited for Jennifer and her upcoming marriage to James. You encourage Emily in her many interests. You are kind to Jeffery including him in your lives and being genuinely interested in his life. You hug us, send texts to us, drop by our house with a French Silk or banana crème pie. You miss us when we are away and welcome us when we return. You smile when you see us. You help us with our needs. You pray for us. Since we have no family in Minnesota, you make us part of yours.

So, happy Sheep Appreciation Day. God’s best to you and my love.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Ford and Kavanaugh: Two Victims of Humanity's Relentless Attacks Against God

What happened last week in the committee room of the United States Senate was shameful. Millions of viewers watched and listened as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. President Trump’s nominee for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court followed with a resolute denial of every and all charges made against him.

You likely have an opinion of what you believe is the truth. I do too. Beyond our opinions, I find the whole drama disgusting.

None of us knows what happened to Ms. Ford. None of us knows what connection, if any, Justice Kavanaugh had with Ms. Ford when they were teenagers. What we do know is the treatment of both Ford and Kavanaugh is shameful.

When Ms. Ford contacted Senator Diane Feinstein, the California legislator sat on the information for months. Moving forward and best understood in hindsight, the concern was not for Ms. Ford’s wellbeing. The senator now possessed a silver bullet to use in her fight against the nomination. Ms. Ford was not a human being to be comforted and supported. Ms. Ford was a tool to be used – a tool few, if any, will care about in a few weeks’ time. She means nothing to them. She’s just a pawn. Using a person for political gain is disgusting.

There is no outcome satisfactory to the opposition party other than the destruction of the nominee. His ruin is their aim. By all accounts the mainstream media has contributed to the assault on Kavanaugh and his family. As for his wife, she should have known better. And their daughters? Well, they are young and privileged and will get over it. Besides, collateral damage cannot be avoided in battle, they say. Destroying a person’s life and those connected to him for political reasons is nauseating. More than that it is wicked.

It may seem like this is a political statement, but it is not. It is a pastoral one. My disgust goes beyond the ideas expressed, and I hope yours does too. I am most disturbed by how human beings treat each other. God created us in his image to enjoy with each other the intimacy experienced in the Trinity (John 17). Instead, we tear each other apart. As a race, we continue in the pattern established by Cain when he killed his brother Abel.

Christians, by our words or actions, we cannot and must not attack each other. We cannot and must not harm each other. We cannot and must not destroy each other. We cannot and must not because we – the whole human race – were created by God and created in his image. To attack each other or to destroy each other is to attack and attempt to destroy God.

In your home or life attacking the image of God in the people near you probably doesn’t look like a senate committee hearing. It might look like a slap delivered to a child in anger. It might sound like a stinging comment offered to a family member to assert superiority. It might be a lie told to gain the upper hand. It might be looks of contempt, expressions of hatred, or plans to get even. Attacking the image of God in the people near us can go way beyond these actions to serious abuse, harm, accusation, abandonment, and injury.

We are Christians. We embrace the truth that we bear the image of God. Let’s make sure we treat each other that way.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

The First Day of the Rest of His Life

It happens every year at the end of the summer. It is both full of anticipation and anxiety. We make preparations for it, talk about how great it’s going to be, and console the participants after Day 1.

It, of course, is the transition from elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, high school to college, and children’s church to big church.

Nobody Knows

Some parts of church life just kind of appeared. We know children’s Sunday School began in Britain in the 1780s. Not long after, Sunday School was the norm in the U.S as well. Back in the day, every kid went to Sunday School.

Children’s church, junior church, primary church or whatever you call it doesn’t have so clear a history nor has the idea been as broadly embraced in the Christian church. In fact, outside of Baptist, Bible, and non-denominational churches, many denominations frown on the idea of waiting until children reach a certain age before they sit with mom, dad and older brothers and sisters in the worship service of the church.

There’s no static plan or program for children’s church. In a few churches minors through high school meet in age specific programs while their parents and the other adults are in the worship services. In other churches, children participate in children’s church through a specific grade level, say grade 6. In some churches, the children in children’s church do not participate in any part of the worship, while in other churches, the children are dismissed to children’s church at some specific point in the order of service.

We do know this: there comes a certain time in every kid’s life where he must transition to big church. What step can parents take to help their children transition to worshippers of the living God?


Two words help: prepare and promote. Approach the Lord’s Day with the thought Sunday morning begins Saturday night. A good bit of the conflict and complications of Sunday morning can be alleviated by Saturday evening preparations. Get Sunday clothes – including those hard to find matching socks and shoes – ready the night before. Let your child participate in what she will wear the next day. Find Bibles and Sunday School material and have them near the front door or even put them in the minivan. Put bowls, spoons, and cereal on the table before going to bed.

Do whatever will take off some of the pressure to get the family out the door on time on Sunday morning before going to bed on Saturday night. That goes for the adults in the house as well as the kids.

We talk about the things that our family gets to do, anticipating the experience to come, “Tomorrow we are going to the zoo…to grandma’s house…to the Mall of America…to the big game.” Talk that way about going to worship, “In two days we get to go to worship.” As Sunday approaches ask your children, “What are you looking forward to about Sunday?” Then offer in reply, “Here’s what I am looking forward to.”

When Sunday comes, be happy on Sunday mornings. The devil will do devious work to destroy your morning. Your own flesh will cry out for more sleep or tell you the day can be spent doing something more beneficial than heading to worship. The realities of living in a broken world with all its broken people who get on your nerves and don’t appreciate your life and circumstances may contribute to coldness about God and God’s people. Don’t let that happen. Make the choice to be happy on Sunday. You’re about to meet God.


Well, you made it to the church building. And it’s the first day in big church. Now what? First things first: take junior to the bathroom. Once you’ve found your seat, determine to stay and not give in to the, “I have to go potty” mandate. Where your family sits is more important than you might think. Sit near the front, no farther back than the second or third row. The back of a huge room is full of distractions and what three-foot tall boy wants to look at the back of the giant bald head sitting in front of him?

Help with distractions and inattention. Most of us have removed spiders, ticks, and other creeping, crawling things making appearances during worship. Mom and dad may need to sit between children to provide maturity to the row. Like cell phones for adults and teens, toy cars and soldiers, favorite dolls and stuffed animals do not belong in worship. They are distractions. The sooner you act bravely and break this practice, the better it will be for you. Food, sippy cups, your coffee mug or water bottle all vanish before worship begins.

Set the pace. Open your Bible, sing with the congregation, give in the offering, stay awake, hold it until the worship is done (if that’s a problem, maybe stop drinking coffee before worship), and respond to word of God. Who do you want teaching your children how to worship the living God? What are you teaching your children about how to worship the living God?


You made it! A head count in the SUV determines all are accounted for, in some families this is no small matter. The worship gathering may be over, but your work as a parent of children who worshipped with you is not. Just like you talk about the school day or the work day, talk about the Lord’s Day.

Here are some conversation starters:

Ask, “What do you remember from our worship?” “What were some songs we sang?”

Do not ask, “What did you like about church today?” We do not want to train our children (nor practice ourselves) that the Lord’s Day experience is interpreted by what we liked.

Ask, “Who do you see…talk to today?”

Ask, “What did you learn about Jesus?”

When you’ve heard your young one’s answers, offer your answers to the same questions or to questions your young one asks of you.

Our hope is that our children will, by God’s grace, be faithful followers of Jesus Christ the whole of their lives, right? What we make of the Lord’s Day plays a major part in their commitment to Jesus Christ for the remainder of their lives. The task of showing children Jesus may be the greatest accomplishment you will make in your life.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.


The Day the Towers Fell

Across the Internet today are nearly endless stories and accounts of the events of 9/11/2001. That makes sense. Each American alive at the time has a different take on the events of that dreadful day.

Here in the Midwest, the first jet slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 7:45 a.m. Across the fruited plains, many were on their way to work, most school children had yet to leave home or were finishing breakfast, and some parents were pulling out of the drop off line when the radio broadcasters or morning television shows broke in with what appeared to be a freak accident.

A commercial airliner hit a skyscraper. Weird, but o.k. we supposed it could happen. Really tall building, mechanical failure with the plane, something wrong in the cockpit. Tragic, but it made sense.

Then it happened again, and that made no sense. This could not be mere coincidence. Eighteen minutes following the first attack a second airliner fully loaded with jet fuel penetrated the South Tower.

At 8:45 a.m. a third jet tilted nose down ramming into the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Twenty-five minutes later a fourth jet would crash in a Pennsylvania field when its passengers mutinied against their terrorist captors not allowing their flight to be the next attack on the American people and the American way of life. Their sacrifice cannot be measured.

By 9:30 a.m. both towers at the World Trade Center were reduced to mere rubble after collapsing. The fire at the Pentagon was out of control. Every airborne plane flying in U.S. airspace was ordered to land immediately. The combined air power of the U.S. military took to the skies with orders to shoot down any and every aircraft non-responsive to the order to land. The mainland of the United States was under attack from an enemy we could not identify, and, therefore, could not defend ourselves against. Everyone was a potential threat, and all of us were potential targets. It was a terrifying day.

In less time than it takes to drive from St. Paul to St. Cloud, the United States of America changed.

I remember the morning with clarity. It was a blue sky, crisp autumn day here in Minnesota. Driving to my office at the church building, the radio broadcaster reported the first bits and pieces out of New York City. By the time I sat down in my office chair, the second tower had been hit. I quickly grabbed an old television and worked to get reception from any broadcast channel. When the third jet bored into the pentagon, I told my administrative assistant I was heading home. There I found my 10, 7, 4, and 2-year-olds and their mom watching the live feed. It wouldn’t be many days after that our little boy reenacted with his toy cars and planes, building blocks and miniature people what he saw on the screen.

I struggled with how to minister to the people of our church in the days immediately following. The worship on the following Sunday morning was somber. I didn’t know what to say to the people in front of me. In my study on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I pondered what the Lord would have me convey to the confused, emotional, angry, and fearful who would gather on Sunday.

Nothing in my seminary training nor anything in my thirteen years as an assistant pastor had prepared me for how to be a pastor under this circumstance. I’m somewhat embarrassed to say I preached a sermon borrowed from an online presence. It wasn’t a particularly good sermon. In my defense, I was 36-years-old and had been in the pulpit for less than ten months. I had no idea what to do or say.

In retrospect here are eight ideas I wish I would have conveyed.

  1. Evil is real, and sin is its source. We struggled with how this could happen. “Why did they do this?” was the question we pondered over and again. Before the geopolitical answers, we must align with God that the heart of every human being is desperately wicked. Right and wrong are absolute ideas. They are not subjective, nor arbitrary, nor left to one’s personal beliefs. 9/11 happened because man is evil and did evil acts. Among their other acts of iniquity, they murdered thousands. Driven by our sin natures and influenced by The Deceiver any of us can commit any sin if given the opportunity.

  2. Our world is broken beyond repair to the point that image bearers hate and kill other image bearers. 9/11, Pearl Harbor, Auschwitz, the Gulag, African slave ships, the Cambodian Killing Fields, John Wayne Gacy, Gary Ridgway, Herod the Great, Cain and so many more have demonstrated the depth of our depravity. All of us retain the same stamp – we bear the image of our creator. Yet, we hate each other to the point of killing each other. For the millennia of our existence, we have not been able to identify a solution. We need a remedy not attributable to us. Maybe our creator would be merciful and step in.

  3. There is no security system that can safeguard you or those you love against all expressions of evil. In place on 9/11 was the most lethal military force on the plant. For centuries our oceans have served as gigantic moats against would be threats. New York City’s finest patrolled its streets and airports. American intelligence agencies, despite its flaws, worked 24/7 anticipating, identifying, and thwarting would be assaults. From China to India to Israel to Scotland Yard, the world watched and intercepted before tragedy could strike. On 9/11 none of it mattered. Evil on this scale like sin on the individual level cannot be managed, contained, easily recognized or ignored. Evil and sin must be eradicated. But how?

  4. Do not lay up for yourself treasure in this broken world because in moments you can be robbed of all of it. 9/11 took our money. In 2017, “the total (annual) expenditure on anti-terrorism reached $174 billion in the U.S.” Estimates blow past ten trillion dollars (that’s twelve zeros) when considering the immediate and subsequent worldwide cost of the attacks on 9/11. That’s a lot of money that could have been used to better the lives of earth’s billions of inhabitants. In addition 9/11 took our people, thousands in New York City, Washington, D.C., and the field in Pennsylvania; thousands more in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. I suspect there are many more treasures 9/11 took from us.

  5. Wealth is worthless on the day of wrath; therefore, possess something better when wrath comes. Solomon, who knew a thing or two about wealth, said this (Proverbs 11:4). The list of high power, large financial holdings companies occupying the towers on 9/11 is beyond impressive. Yet, the collective wealth meant nothing. Wealthy people and employees of lucrative firms made decisions to jump to their deaths from hundreds of feet above the city streets thus abandoning all of their accumulated assests. There wasn’t enough money in the world to stop the fury of the terrorists. We need something we can possess that will prove invaluable on a day of wrath.

  6. Death is a thief but death is not a victor. Death robbed spouses of their soulmates, children of their parents, parents of their sons and daughters, and friends of those they love. Death stole health, identify, joy, security, lifestyle, and freedoms. Death was, is, and always will be humanity’s greatest enemy. Yet, death need not be the victor for any human being in any circumstance. Because Jesus Christ died like we do and for us, and then because he rose again to life, we who are now aligned with him through his cross share in his victory over death. Between now and the end of our lives, death will steal from us over and again. It is a wretched villain, but it is not a victorious villain. Christ’s resurrection assures your victory over death. In the not too distant future, you will not have any consequences because of death.

  7. Christians should be the first to sacrifice this life to save the lives of others. Because death holds no victory over us, we hold the physical lives we live loosely. Like the opposition on Flight 93 that crashed in the Pennsylvania field or the hundreds of firefighters, EMTs, and police offers that stormed the two towers, our temporal lives can be offered in sacrifice to rescue others. We take this approach not only in life and death scenarios but in lifestyle too. We hold our money loosely, the proximity to our children and grandchildren loosely, our personal comforts loosely, and our dreams loosely. We sacrifice all matters related to self to serve and save the lives of others. The sacrifice of the passengers on Flight 93 and the first responders was no small matter nor will the sacrifices you make as a Christian. But we can and must as we saw them do.

  8. Love now, later may never come. I can only imagine the regrets of many of the victims and their survivors, “I wish I would have (fill in the blank).” I’d be surprised if any of them said, “I only wish I would have bought that car before today.” Likely, their regrets focused on people close to them. Remorse centered on words unsaid, love withheld, forgiveness not attained or not granted, or touch not conveyed or not received. We have been loved immensely by our Father, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit who dwells within us. Ours is to love in kind. You will never regret loving should a day of wrath come. In fact, it was on a day of wrath that you were loved supremely when Jesus bore the wrath that was due to us. He has never regretted loving you and me. We will never regret loving either.

I hope and pray that I never again will face the task of preaching to people who experience an event like 9/11. I hope and pray we will never sit under preaching after such an event. Still, I know as sparks fly upward from a fire pit, man is given to trouble. When that happens, I trust these truths will guide us.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Prayer for the First Day of School

For many in Minnesota, it is the first day of school, so we pray.

For Our Children

Father, this morning our youngest image bearers entered the classroom, some for the first time as those in K-5 sit at oversized desks while others for the final time begin the last year of higher education.

On their behalf, we pray that they would grow in wisdom and knowledge even as our Lord Jesus did. We pray for grace because we know “knowledge puffs up” and can easily lead to arrogance and pride. We pray their young and influential minds would not be deceived by a worldview that opposes the Bible. We pray the knowledge they gain will lead to skill development that produces amazing outcomes for the glory of God and the good of His creation. May their knowledge gained teach them how to subdue the earth as you have given command.

We ask for your protection from physical threats - from would be assailants to classroom bullies looking to dominate the playground. We pray the strong among our children will come to the aid of the weak. We pray our children will show kindness to the lonely and embrace the marginalized. We pray they will be thankful to you for what they have received as you bring them home to us each day.

For the Teachers

Father, we pray for those will teach our children. We thank you for their interest in the lives of our children. We remember all teachers are people as are we. They too have challenges at home and at work. We pray that our children would be sources of joy and encouragement to them when the weariness of the job weighs them down. Help our children to display the love of Jesus to their teachers.

Father, assist every teacher in every classroom where our children learn to teach their discipline well so that our children have every occasion to learn well. Give insight to the teachers to know what methods are best for the class as a whole and for the individual students. As they teach, help them only to teach truth in science, history, the arts, philosophy, and the rest of the academic spectrum.

As we prayed for our children, we pray for our teachers. Protect them from those who would do them harm. Some may wish to cause physical harm and others may wish to damage or end their careers. From any and all who would pursue injury on them, we ask for your sovereignty over the people who teach our children.

For the Parents

Father, we pray for ourselves. For those of us who are parents, we pray we would please you in how we guide our children through these days of school. We lack the necessary wisdom to answer all their questions. We do not possess the power to solve all of their problems. In our finiteness we cannot be present at every moment they have a need. None of these restrictions lies with you. Do for our children what we cannot do. Help us to remember we are not God and cannot be God to our children. Help us to affirm to ourselves and help our children to believe they need you infinitely more than they need us.

As we interact with teachers, we pray we will always reflect the person of Jesus. May our emails be kind and our words sweet to hear. Guard our hearts against any thoughts, our mouths against any words, our hands against any action, and our feet against any haste that would make the job of teaching our children difficult or that would diminish the reputation of Jesus. When we interact with other parents, give us wisdom to solve problems between our kids and give us understanding to know when to speak and when to remain silent.

Father, help us as parents to encourage, support, and pray for parents who choose educational options different than the one we have chosen for our children. Forgive us for any expression of superiority and humble us before each other.

Thank you, Father, for our children and thank you for our children’s schools. When next summer comes, may we look back and see your good, great, and gracious hand on every day of the school year.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.