How to be first to the South Pole (part 2)

Amundsen:Scott South Pole Center

Flags fly at the ceremonial South Pole in front of the Elevated Station in honor of the 12 original signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty. The flags are set in a semicircle and are spaced about 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart. The US flag is directly flanked by the Norwegian (grid east) and British (grid west) flags in honor of Amundsen and Scott. The remainder of the flags are represented in the order of their signing the Antarctic Treaty. The nations represented include: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Russia, New Zealand, Norway, USA, UK, France, Japan, Belgium, and South Africa. (February 2008) [NSF photo by Dwight Bohnet]

The Amundsen and Scott race to the South Pole is such a captivating story. [If you missed part 1 of this blog, please click HERE] Two men, representing two nations as distinct as the two styles of exploration that they employed, navigated some of the harshest conditions on earth in order to be first to plant their nation’s flag at the South Pole. Today, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station hosts visitors from around the world (for three months of Summer) and a skeleton crew of about 40, for the Winter (9 months long). The legacy of these explorers lives on.

As I’ve thought about my four take-a-ways from their journey, I wanted to apply them to the Overboard Life. What do you think of this application of their journey? Does any of it register with you? (as usual, I love your comments on FB or on the post itself!)

Victory usually comes thru careful planning. In Proverbs, Solomon speaks much about the importance of planning. One of my favorites is found in Proverbs 11:14: “Where there is no guidance, a people fall, but in the abundance of counselors there is safety.” Taking time to pursue what God has placed in our hearts allows us the opportunity to grow from the wisdom and input of others, and increases the chance of our success! Yes, God can accomplish anything He wants, even with the worst of plans, yet it seems He most often chooses to use His people to accomplish His work.

Goals are achieved by steady progress. I love the story of Nehemiah. (In fact, I love it so much I based my second book on his life and the principles about living extraordinary — check it out!) One of the aspects of his leadership of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem was that he challenged the people to keep working, but nowhere in the text do we see him urging them to do so quickly. I’m sure they all wanted to be done rapidly, but over the 52 days of building the work was more about progress than speed. At one point, Nehemiah even tells them to work with a shovel in one hand and a sword in another. That had to slow things down just a bit!

Imagine if the builders had attacked their wall project with 24/7, non-stop work? I’m guessing about 48 hours later, the project would have come to a screeching halt! Victory usually comes thru careful planning and goals are achieved when we plan steady and consistent progress. Of course there’s a time to hasten to the finish line, but more often-than-not, progress wins the day over speed. In fact, it’s pretty hard to find many biblical stories where speed is more prominent than progress!

The best moments in life usually flow out of our God-given make up: I love teaching people the truths found in Psalm 139, especially when you get into verses 13-17. There, David fleshes out these amazing truths about God putting us together, literally “knitting us” into the people He wanted us to be, inside and out. God didn’t just create your physical being, He also knit together your personality, your passion, your likes and dislikes and your style!

When we embrace the way that God made us – instead of trying to hard to be like someone else – we generally find ourselves experiencing the best moments in life, even when things aren’t going well! Paul echoes David’s concept in Psalm 139, when he writes in 1 Corinthians 12 that we are all part of the Body of Christ. God made each of us according to His plan, and gifted for His work. When we live out our God-given design (Paul would say an eye should be an eye, not a foot…a hand should be a hand, not a knee cap!) the whole body will benefit and each of us will find the greatest joy.

You can’t pay the price, if you don’t know the cost. Look at Jesus’ words in Luke 14:28: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” You think you’re ready to pay the price to see your dreams realized, and to chase down your God-given goals? Make sure you know the cost, first!

Amundsen and Scott were well aware of the dangers facing their team of explorers. They knew the costs, understanding that their very lives would be at stake in the mission (and Scott and his team all paid with their lives!). When each of them left their respective starting points, they were ready to pay the price for fame and fortune – their survival and success hinged on it.

The Bible is full of warnings for those who want to live the Overboard Life, because God knows that the journey is hard. Paul would tell Timothy, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 2:12). If you choose to embrace the Overboard Life of faith, you have to know that there will be a cost, and knowing that, you must be willing to pay the price.

Amundsen and Scott’s story inspires me on so many levels. Of course, I want to finish my life more like Amundsen than Scott, but I would gladly choose the latter over living safely in the comfort of the boat. After all, I believe God wants me to use the gifts and talents and ideas and dreams He has given me out on the water, where His Son is doing Kingdom work. How about you?

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water.

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How to be first to the South Pole

In the late part of October, and early part of November, 1911, two expeditions set out from opposite sides of Antarctica, in an attempt to be the first humans to reach the South Pole. Robert Falcon Scott led a large British team from one side, and Roard Amundsen led a Norwegian team from the other. 99 days after departure, Amundsen’s team returned, having achieved their goal and with all team members alive. 150 days after departure, the last members of Scott’s team died, a mere 18km from a life-saving cache of supplies.

Scott & Amundesen

Scott and Amundsen were two very different men with two very different approaches in their race to reach the South Pole, first. (Photo from USAP web site).

Their two journeys, like their outcomes, could not have been more different. Many books have been written about these competing expeditions and experts identify multiple, significant, reasons why Scott’s team failed so miserably.

I’m a sucker for expedition stories. More than once I’ve been caught up in a great book about expeditions, crazy adventures and limit-pushing humans. I’ve written about an early South Pole expedition by Ernest P. Shackleton — an amazing story of faith, human endurance and survival. One of my favorite books is a collection of gut-wrenching survival stories from men and women who risked everything to conquer the unknown.

Part of my pleasure in such stories is that I live vicariously through these expedition leaders. After all, I have no desire to summit Everest, cross Antarctica or skydive from space, “just because it’s there” or because my adrenal glands demand that I push the envelope further and further. I’m content to read the stories of others, from the comfort of my couch.

But another part of my pleasure, larger than the first, is that these stories stir up a desire to embrace life more fully — to live it to the fullest. The video of a climber sipping a cup of coffee early on the morning after he has ascended Everest is so compelling to me. He sits drinking a hot cup of coffee, totally silent, because there are no words for him to express the sensation of being on the highest point on earth. He is richly satisfied and deeply reflective. Later he would say, “If I can conquer Everest, there is no obstacle that can stand in my way.”

The story of a kayaker who lost his best friend while trying to survive the some of the most challenging waters in the world, on the Blue Nile, pierces my heart on many levels. As he reflects on the adventure he completed, the friendship he lost and the uncertain future he faces, he is forever changed. The adventure changed him.

I watch these movies and read these stories and wonder: what can I learn from these stories that could change my life? How can I, vicariously, learn from the experiences of these great adventures?

The story of Scott and Amundsen is no exception, and here are four Overboard Life lessons from their journeys:

  1. Victory usually comes thru careful planning. Amundsen was a calculated explorer. He knew every expedition would be confronted with unpredictable circumstances, and he planned for them. His expedition to the South Pole was carefully calculated, stores of food and supplies were laid out in excess (for every seven supply depots that Amundsen’s team set up, Scott’s team set up two!) and details of navigation were carried out with extreme precision and redundancy. He knew the weather would be a difficult beast to tame, he didn’t want his planning to feed the monster.
  2. Goals are achieved by steady progress. Amundsen’s team marched 20 miles a day, every day, regardless of weather conditions. He carefully calculated the energy of the men and animals in the expedition, and concluded that it was better to achieve a certain distance each day, rather than base their travel on the weather. Scott’s team, on the other hand, pushed hard on good weather days, and sat dormant on the nastiest of days. According to journals, Amundsen’s crew frequently enjoyed 14-16 hour periods of rest, and their plentiful stores aloud them to nourish their bodies during down times. Scott’s crew sometimes sat for days, and their lack of rations limited their ability to recoup after long hard days of hiking. The steady progress of the Norwegians was a big factor in their success.
  3. The best moments in life usually flow out of our God-given make-up. Amundsen’s expedition moved across the Antarctic on their strengths: their knowledge of sled dogs, and their skill with skis. Scott’s team tried ponies (of which few on their team had any significant experience using ponies in arctic conditions!) and motor-sleds, neither of which had been used with much success in the past (though Shackleton’s team had some success with ponies). The Norwegians chose to rely on their God-given strengths and abilities, and they achieved their goal.
  4. You can’t pay the price, if you don’t know the cost: To be the first humans at the North Pole, Amundsen counted the cost carefully. His previous experience had prepared him for the rugged journey, and he knew the goal wouldn’t be achieved by a casual commitment. They left camp with 52 sled dogs and returned with 11. Why? Because they counted on the fact that they could kill the dogs and eat the meat along the journey. He knew the trip was going to require devotion, even to the point of choosing to kill off their beloved animals.

Check out part two, on Monday, April 11th, to read the conclusion to this blog post!

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When you can’t trust your friends

I grew up on the West Coast — shout out to my Oregon readers! — and have sports allegiances particular to California. My dad was from Oakland, so I embraced the sports teams of his day: the Raiders in football and A’s in baseball. When it came to basketball, however, I was glued to national broadcasts of Magic Johnson and the LA Lakers, the 80s powerhouse that won 5 NBA championships, and they became my team of choice for hoops. In fact, it wasn’t until years later that I even knew Oakland had an NBA team (the Golden State Warrior, a team I love to watch today because of the amazing Steph Curry!).

As a Laker fan, I’ve been spoiled with 10 championships since 1980. They won 5 in the 80s, 4 in the 00s and one in the 10s. It’s almost like being a Yankee fan in baseball — you get spoiled with championship teams and whine and complain when your team has a couple of off years. That’s me.

This year, the Lakers are making headlines for less glamorous activities than winning championships. Kobe Bryant is in his final year as a player, and is making the rounds of his farewell tour. The team has been awful, truly one of the worst in the NBA this season, while posting their worst record in Laker history. They do have some talented, up-and-coming players, though, who hold a bright future for the franchise.

One of these young players, however, has made some news lately that has been disturbing. Point guard D. Russell recorded a video of another player, N. Young, talking about his trysts with other women — while he was engaged to a prominent LA celebrity. Months after the video was taken, it mysteriously surfaced on several social media sites and, as is customary in our culture today, it went viral allowing everyone to express an opinion.

Rumors from the LA locker room indicate that Russell has been largely shut out by teammates. Initially he sat alone at meals, and other players would move away from him when he sat near them or tried to engage in conversation. There is a lot of disgust and distrust as this “prank” played out differently than Russell claims he intended. I can only imagine how fractured his friendship with Young must be. After all, how do you move forward when you don’t feel like you can trust your friends?

What got me though, was that Russell was the exclusive target of everyone’s ire. Sports radio hosts blasted him as a lousy teammate who would never again be trusted. As a 20-year-old athlete, many said his career would forever be tainted by this action. There is a lot of speculation about whether or not he will be able to recover from this complete lack of judgment.


Would your friends ever reveal your secrets?

But I’m asking this: what about the complete lack of judgment on Young’s part? If the video is accurate — if it wasn’t, I don’t think it would be receiving all of this attention! — then why aren’t we asking about whether or not we can trust Young? After all, if he is engaged to one woman, but, as the video suggests, he’s fooling around with many other women, shouldn’t his character be up for analysis, too? Revealing secrets is despicable behavior, but isn’t cheating on your spouse (or fiancé) equally worthy of public scrutiny and shame? Is revealing someone’s sexual immorality a worse public offense than the immorality itself, or a greater character flaw?

The irony of people feeling like Russell is somehow an untrustworthy man (which his actions would support!) while feeling pity for Young (a man whose actions were equally untrustworthy!) reveals something of our human nature that bothers me. The notion that a good and trustworthy friend keeps secrets about immoral and/or self-destructive behavior is troublesome, and it should be to anyone wanting to live the Overboard Life!

I do not want my friends to guard my secrets of sexual immorality or addiction or greed or [insert your sin here]. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a big difference between discretion and secret keeping. I’m not suggesting that if I confessed to an immoral relationship that I think my best friends should be broadcasting my failure on twitter, but neither should it be kept from those who are directly affected (my wife, my pastor, those who support our ministry etc…). I need my closest friends to love me too much to let me struggle with sinful and bad choices on my own. My best friends need to know that you are only as sick as your secrets, and believe that true healing comes when your life is brought into the light of God and His Word.

In Proverbs 27:6 Solomon writes, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted…” Later in that same chapter, he writes, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” A trustworthy friend isn’t one who lets you live a destructive life without saying a word, or one who promises to guard your immoral behavior as a tightly kept secret. Rather, a trustworthy friend is one who loves you too much to let you continue down a path away from God. I want friends like the ones Jesus describes in Matthew 7:5, friends who acknowledge their own brokenness and are willing to help me with mine.

Can you trust your friends? Can your friends trust you? I’m thankful for iron-sharpening friends in my life, friends who call me out in my sin, friends who encourage me through my struggles and friends who won’t keep a secret that would do more harm than good. I need these friends in my life, to become who God wants me to be, so that I’ll be ready to do what God wants me to do. I can trust my friends, can you trust yours?

Go ahead and take the plunge, life — especially your friendships! — is better on the water!

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Easter reflections: consoling a terminal patient

I was listening to a radio show a few days back when I heard some heartbreaking news. One of the shows regular guests was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer — the third time cancer has been found in his body. This time however, the severity of the disease is deemed to be fatal in the next three to five months.

As I listened to the radio hosts talk about their friend, and heard callers give sentiments over the air, I was struck by something even more heart breaking than the cancer news: no one offered any hope for the man. Instead, phrases like, “Fight like h***” and “live strong” and “beat the odds” and “thoughts and prayers my friend” were repeated over and over. Of course, those words can be encouraging and helpful to someone facing a terminal struggle with cancer — evidence that a whole slew of people, known and unknown, are supporting them.

Yet after several segments and phone calls, one of the hosts made this comment: sometimes these words just don’t seem like enough — I wish there was more we could say or do.

I remember my friend Richard as he faced the reality of his own death. He had battled cancer, several times, and when his body began shutting down he knew the end was near. Richard was a man with a great deal of influence, though generally a pretty quiet guy. He was well-loved and as he faced the end, the words expressed to him were similar, with one striking difference.


One of my favorite pictures of Richard and Marietta!

More than once I was in his house or his hospital room when others shared words of hope with Richard. Sure, they talked about fighting the sickness and they prayed for healing, but they also reminded Richard of the glorious hope that awaited him on the other side of this life. They reassured him that his future was bright in Christ; they read encouraging words of Scripture.

One sweet moment I was with him and his wife Marietta as she sat by his bed holding his hand. She lovingly reminded him that they would be reunited in Heaven, and even in her sorrow, she found hope. How different those words sound!

A terminal diagnosis is a sickening piece of news to receive. However, as often as I’ve seen it delivered and received by people over my years of pastoral ministry, I have found only one way to prepare for that unexpected nightmare: be in a personal relationship with Jesus when it comes, or get to know him quickly afterward.

Occasionally a diagnosis will be wrong, or a medication can change the outcome for a patient. We also know that God can heal any illness. The Scriptures are full of stories of people who were touched by God and as a result experienced total healing. Sometimes God steps in and does the miraculous. Sometimes.

Often times, however, God chooses not to intervene, and instead lets the natural results of disease, sickness and pain run their course. The prospect of facing that, or in many cases, of watching a loved one experience it, is terrifying. No words can change the reality of the disease or the certainty of death, any more than words can change the reality that all of us are dying and must face the certainty of our own terminal existence.

That’s why having a relationship with Jesus is the most important choice any of us can make. The only person in which hope truly lives, is Christ. Hope from Him is the only sustaining truth for those whose lives are ending. Hope that there is a home waiting for those in Christ (John 14:1-4) and that it is a beautiful place where sin, disease and death have truly met their end (Revelation 21:1-5). Hope that this life isn’t the end of our existence (2 Corinthians 15:42-44), and hope that our legacy is eternal — even if no one remembers us on this side of glory (2 Timothy 4:8). And maybe most of all, hope that we will be reunited with everyone who has died before us — everyone who also put their faith in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

I watched my friend Richard deteriorate quickly, and pass into the presence of Christ. I was in the room when my friend Dennis breathed his last and went home to be with the Lord. I showed up moments after James died, I held baby Brian, a perfect stillborn child who passed to glory while in the womb, and I was with the family when Riley passed on. In all of these heart-breaking moments, one constant remained: those who knew Christ had a hope that lived in them, a hope that did not exist for those without Jesus.

Death stinks. Cancer is an enraged animal that knows no compassion or pity. Heart disease, kidney failure and diabetes can be silent killers that destroy people without prejudice. And even if we live life without these, we face the ever-ticking time clock that represents our lives: each of us is dying, some just happen to be passing faster than others.

But even in death we are not without hope when we know Jesus as Savior. He offers a cure for our greatest illness, the disease of sin, one that doesn’t just destroy the body, but worse — destroys our souls! When Jesus died and rose again (the essence of the Easter celebration!) he conquered death, cured sin and dished-out life-changing doses of hope and comfort. Do you, personally, possess the hope and comfort He gives?

I often pray for people to be cured of some fatal illness; though I’ve never met him, I prayed for that radio host to be miraculously relieved of his illness. I regularly pray for the health and well-being of my family and friends, and for God to protect them from a dreadful diagnosis. More than anything, though, I pray that each of us would embrace Jesus, embrace the reality of our terminal sin condition and the only possible cure: faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Have you embraced Him today?

Go ahead and take the plunge, life — even life with a terminal illness! — is better on the water.

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Taxes and the Electric Cheetah

The first time I met my tax guy at his office, I think he might have enjoyed offering me lunch: “Let’s head to the Electric Cheetah.” I know he saw the expression of alarm on my face when he laughed…”It’s not that kind of a place! It’s the best lunch you can find in GR (Grand Rapids).”

I’m not sure what you think about when you hear “Electric Cheetah,” but I had visions of the kind of place an ordained Baptist minister shouldn’t be frequenting! I was picturing a dim room, a colorfully lit stage and a shiny pole surrounded by men and one dollar bills. Thankfully, the Electric Cheetah was not a business of ill repute, it was — as Dan promised — a fine dining experience!

Electric Cheetah

From my latest meeting with Tax Man Dan: the “Tobias Funke’s I Chicken Cordon Bleu Myself” sandwich.

If you’re going to talk about how much you owe in taxes, the menu at the Electric Cheetah can make the conversation a bit more palatable. Their main menu changes every 3-4 months, and the daily specials are as exotic as the “Electric Cheetah” name implies. As I wolfed down  a mountain of brisket mac-n-cheese, Dan explained depressing tax details to me, and I was thankful for a plate of good food.

Tax season can be the pits! There haven’t been too many of our married years when Traci and I enjoyed the April 15th deadline: the complicated tax forms; the frustration of filling out forms only to come up with different answers each time; and have you ever had that sense that once you send everything in, the Tax Man will be knocking on your door to take your prized bobble head collection and explain that you lied on your tax forms?

I’m thankful for a guy like Dan who helps us get the numbers right. Since we’ve moved to Michigan, our taxes have increased in complexity and Dan has been a real life saver. And to boot — he’s introduced me to one of my new favorite eating establishments. (By the way, if you’re ever in GR, be sure to pop in and taste the offerings of the Electric Cheetah yourself.)

As I write this blog, I’m finishing up my taxes for 2015 and preparing to send off a bunch of files to Dan. It’s another year of which I’m not thrilled to see the end results, but I’ve learned something about bad news: year after year, month after month, week after week and sometimes, day after day — bad news keeps showing up.

The question isn’t whether or not bad news will show its ugly head in your life, the question is how will you respond? Sure, we can control some bad news in our lives. Getting a ticket for speeding is bad news, but you didn’t have so drive fast. Owing money on your taxes is bad news, but you could have had more withheld or made larger quarterly payments to reduce the debt. Receiving a paper with a giant red “F” written on top is bad news, but if you could have prepared more effectively for the test. Still, each of those is bad news.

The other kind of bad news however, is the kind that smacks you upside the head — the kind you didn’t expect. For example, the call from your doctor that your routine check-up showed results that were anything but routine; now he wants to do more testing. Or maybe you’ve received a letter from HR letting you know that your job is suddenly coming to an end. I had a friend who recently came home from work only to find her house totally trashed, most of the valuable taken and no sense of who would do such a thing.

How do you respond, then?

I’ve been preaching a series out of Colossians 3 lately, talking about the need for Christians to take off the garments of our old, dead nature, and put on the garments of the new nature. We are supposed to take off the clothing of anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, lying, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed (Colossians 3:1-9). These traits emerge in moments when bad news shows up, when the unexpected news arrives in the mail.

Instead, Paul says to put on a new set of clothes: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, unity, peace, thankfulness and wisdom (Colossians 3:12-17). Imagine if these qualities showed up in your life when bad news decided to ruin your day. Imagine if the thoughts and words of gentleness and forgiveness rolled off your tongue when your were unexpectedly laid off, or if kindness and thankfulness was your response to a tax bill.

We can’t always control the news we get, but we have a lot of control over our responses. I’m not talking about our feelings: hurt, frustration, pain, sorrow etc… emotions can sneak up on you and can’t be controlled. I’m talking about the words we express and the actions we execute in those moments of shock and disappointment.

How do we make the change from one set of garments to the other? Practice: We have to spend time soaking up truth from God’s Word, letting the qualities of the Bible permeate our hearts and minds. Eliminate: we eliminate the sources of content (media, relationships, jobs, hobbies) that flood our thinking with the clothing of the old nature. Participate: Find a community a people living the Overboard Life who will help you — and whom you can help! — in the process of taking off the old and putting on the new. Slip up: That’s right, you will slip up. So acknowledge it, confess it and get back on track! Pray: None of this is possible without the help of God and His Spirit working in and through your life — ask the Lord for help!

What do you need to work on in order to change the responses that flow from your heart and mouth when bad news arrives? Do you need more practice? Do you need to eliminate some garbage input or is it time for you to participate with a community of believers? Maybe you’ve slipped up and need to get back on track with all of it, or you just need more time in prayer before the Lord? I want to wear the garments of life, and when bad news shows up, so will my new clothes.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life — and your new wardrobe — is better on the water!

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Why are Baptists against pre-marital sex?

I’m thankful for my Baptist heritage, and the theological foundation that has come with my upbringing. Baptists have contributed much to the expression of faith in Christianity, even if they have been the brunt of a few jokes (sometimes, rightfully so!). Stop me if you’ve heard these…

How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?

None. Baptists don’t change anything!

What’s the difference between God and a Baptist Pastor?

God doesn’t think He’s a Baptist pastor.

Why are Baptists against pre-marital sex?

They’re afraid it might lead to dancing.

When I think about my upbringing, my training and my years in a Baptist school I am so thankful for a commitment to the study of God’s Word, and to the belief that understanding the Bible is fundamental to the Christian life. Literally, from my infancy, I have been taught the value of knowing the truth that flows from the Bible. Today, my conviction to always try and teach and preach the truth of God’s Word flows directly from my rich Baptist heritage.

If I have a moment of pause, a moment of noticing the tarnish on my Timothy Award, it’s when I see the disconnect between knowledge and application. For a group of people who elevate the truth of Scripture so high, it seems like there are a disproportionate number of issues that follow Baptist pastors, leaders and churches. Stop me if you’ve heard these stories before…

Have you heard the one about the Baptist church that split over a copy machine? One group wanted to replace a 10-year-old machine that was perceived to be a money pit, while the other group wanted to keep fixing it as good stewards of God’s resources. The end result of this debate? 75 members left a 200 member church, and started a new church less than a mile away. 35 members left the church because they couldn’t believe the copy machine divided the congregation and the remaining 90 members held on to their beloved copy machine and “theological” convictions.

Did you hear about the Baptist church that stopped it’s ministry to the poor in their city because none of the poor were coming to church? Well, the church was doing work about 15 miles form where their building was located and most of the people they were helping did not have any form of transportation. Many of the poor they helped were in fact attending church…it just happened to be of the non-denominational variety; that was unacceptable to the lead pastor.

You know the story about the Baptist church that stopped helping alcoholics? Apparently some of the people they were helping showed up to church not wearing appropriate Sunday clothing. Many wore jeans and T-shirts, unaware of the church’s dress code. After the outcry of the congregation, the leaders quickly ended their ministry to “those people.”

I know this isn’t just a Baptist problem. The bulk of my experience as been in-and-around Baptist churches, and each of these stories is one I’ve known personally (or one with which I had a close personal connection). In each of the these three stories, the churches and leaders involved were proponents of the Scriptures. They preached the truth of God’s Word and challenged the congregation to know the Word of God intimately. To which I give a hearty Amen!

The problem is that these issues reveal a deeper problem — a disconnect between knowledge and application. Again, this isn’t just a Baptist problem, this is a Christian problem, and one that has been around for centuries! (Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my Baptist roots and I’m thankful for the countless other Baptist churches, pastors and leaders who are living both truth and application in their lives and ministries! I’m focusing on some of the ugly stories to illustrate an important lesson.)

My parents gave me this Bible when I was 18. It may not look great, but it's content is priceless!

My parents gave me this Bible when I was 18. It may not look great on the outside, but its contents are priceless!

In James 2:14-18, James challenges his audience to put teeth to their faith. The proof of faith rested,  he would write, not in knowledge, but in application of that knowledge! Look at Paul’s words in Colossians 1:9-10: “…we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with knowledge…” Paul’s prayer for the believers of Colosse was that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s Word. Why? “…we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work…” The point of knowledge was application!

I fear that too many in my religious heritage have a rich knowledge and deep understanding of the truths found in God’s Word, but have stored that knowledge in a life that is light on application and action. And I certainly don’t have to look at my theological roots to see this problem, I only have to look in the mirror.

The reality is that this is not an either/or proposition. We live in a culture (Western) that is abandoning absolute truth and embracing relative values as the highest good. Cultural statements like #lovewins #blacklivesmatter and #socialgood are praised as high cultural values, regardless of how they are interpreted by truth. James and Paul would argue: we must know the truth, and then we must apply it in the communities, schools, jobs, churches and neighborhoods where we interact with others. #Lovewins when we understand what true, biblical love is. #blacklivesmatter when we see the beauty of life from God’s perspective. #socialgood has an eternal value, when it flows from the application of God’s Word about helping others.

We need heavy, consistent doses of the truth, and we need wisdom to process and apply that truth every day.

The Overboard Life cannot be lived alone, in cave with a Bible; neither can it be lived in the trenches of the war on poverty without the guidance of Truth. We must commit ourselves, daily, to reading and applying God’s Word (Psalm 119). We must engage in the regular gathering of Christians in the church, to hear the Word preached and to apply that teaching through prayer, sharing, need-meeting and worship (Acts 2:42-47). Truth without application leads to the sin of the pharisees. Application without truth leads to an unrooted, fading faith.

Are you taking your daily dose of truth? Are you asking God for the help to apply that truth? I certainly don’t want to be a pharisee, any more than I want to pass on a faith that fades at the first site of trouble.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is better on the water!

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What kind of friend are you?

One year ago today, we left the only Michigan house we had known for nearly two years, and found ourselves lost and uncertain about our path. The job that brought us to Michigan ended abruptly, and we were trusting God to show us what was next.

In those first few weeks, we were overwhelmed by the friends who came to our aid and nursed our souls. They cared for our broken hearts, put up with our frustration and helped us navigate the uncertainty we were facing. They checked in with our marriage and took time to love on our kids. Can’t imagine what the last year would have looked like with each one of them.

Thinking about the people who came to our aid, I made a list of seven types of friends who showed up to help. Can you identify with any of them? Have you had any of these show up in your life? Which one would you most aspire to be?

Friendship is vital to the success of each of us, we need the Body of Christ to become the people God wants us to be, so that we can do the work God wants us to do.

First responders: So grateful for those friends that came to our aid early-on. When we entered the first days of crisis, many friends showed up on our doorstep, delivered groceries and kindness in abundance and assured us of their on-going support. So thankful for their courage and help.

I hate your enemies, friends: Everyone needs one of those friends that “despises” your enemies as much they they despise their own enemies. These are great friends to have around, but keep in mind, they are so one-sided sided that they are usually not the best to seek out for advice! I’m grateful for the friends who came along side us during our loss, and were there for us. We needed their belief and friendship, even if their primary advice was, “lets punch all the perpetrators in the face!”

Encouragement Door

Words of encouragement, printed off and seen every day. THANK YOU for your kindness!

iFriends: Can’t even tell you the number of friends that sent us texts, emails and and online messages in order to encourage us. Our bedroom door was wall-papered with emails, letters and messages that came from people, from all over the country and even around the world (France, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and more!). Those notes carried the day for us, and each time they arrived in our inbox, they gave us a boost when we needed a lift. Not many of these people have a close enough perspective to offer advice, but they have words that are needed at the heart.

Punching bag friends: Everyone needs a punching bag friend — one of those people who holds that bag while you punch it time and time again. They may not say much, but they feel your punches, and they absorb some of the hurt with you. The thing about punching bags, is you don’t need a reason to hit them, you don’t even have to be rational when you slug out your frustration. Punching bag friends just hold the bag and make sure you’re safe. These friends are the ones that usually offer good advice, and often, the kind you need even if you don’t want to hear it!

Ice cream friends: Some friends know that life can be hard, but it can be a little less hard with the right scoop of ice cream. These friends usually have a pretty good perspective, and whether you’re right or wrong in your situation, they bring along some ice cream to make life a little sweeter. These friends are good listeners.

“Puke on me” friends: Some people, when they are experiencing tough times, feel freedom to puke on everyone with whom they come into contact. That kind of response can often drive people away, not toward the person who is hurting. But there are friends that seem impervious to our verbal barfing. They listen without casting judgment, and even laugh at some of our more outlandish outbursts. These friends know we don’t have a good perspective in the moment, and they don’t expect us to develop one. Over the past year, I’ve found my “puke on me” friends have the best advice of all, because they are able to wade through your spewing to see what’s really going on in your heart.

Scooby Do family

It’s good to have friends who stick together!

Epaphras friends: In Colossians 4:12, Paul talks about a man named Epaphras who spent his time, “wrestling” in prayer for the people of Colosse. We have been blessed with a number of Epaphras prayer warriors, people who prayed for us day and night. More than once, I was contacted by people who emailed at 3am, said they woke up and God had put us deeply on their hearts — so they prayed. They prayed frequently. They truly wanted God’s best for us, not the easiest path. Strangely, these friends offered so little advice, but they prayed that we would hear truth and live our lives with forgiveness, hope and purpose.

Go ahead and take the plunge, friendship is better on the water.

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Why God refines

I was reading in Psalm 66 last week when I came across these two verses:

“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver” (Psalm 66:10)

“…we went through fire and water, but you bought us to a place of abundance” (Psalm 66:12)

Honestly, I always cringe when I read verses like Psalm 66:10. I don’t like being tested or refined. Refinement hurts.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 9.17.41 AMWhen silver is refined, it is heated and cooled repeatedly, and the dross that comes to the top is removed. This process happens over and over until the silver is purified. I think God treats us the same way, but with great love, as He shapes us to be who He wants us to be, that we can do what He wants us to do. That’s why I cringe when I read verses like that — refinement isn’t fun.

That’s why I’m thankful for verses like Psalm 66:12 that remind me that God takes me through fire and water in order to put me in position to receive his abundant blessing! In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul lists some of the abundant blessings of God, here are just a few:

Blessings in proportion to our giving (9:6)

Grace for every trial (9:8)

Opportunity to serve (9:9)

Financial blessing to enable generous giving (9:11)

Broader influence than we could have on our own (9:12)

God’s work in us, allows Him to multiply His work through us.

Are you being refined? Do you feel like you’re experiencing the heat of God’s work in your life? It’s hurts, but the process produces the harvest of righteousness God is after (Hebrews 12:11) and if you will be trained up by it, the results will be worth the heat. The joy of God’s abundance is worth the discomfort of God’s testing.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life — even your painful trial — is better on the water!

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Abundant pain is a good thing!

I was reading in Psalm 66 last week when I came across these two verses:

“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver” (Psalm 66:10)

“…we went through fire and water, but you bought us to a place of abundance” (Psalm 66:12)

Honestly, I cringe when I read verses like Psalm 66:10. I don’t like being tested or refined. Refinement hurts.

Psalm66When silver is refined, it is heated and cooled repeatedly, and the dross that comes to the top is removed. This process happens over and over until the silver is purified. I think God treats us the same way, but with great love, as He shapes us to be who He wants us to be, so that we can do what He wants us to do. That’s why I cringe when I read verses like that — refinement isn’t fun.

That’s why I’m thankful for verses like Psalm 66:12 that remind me that God takes me through fire and water in order to put me in position to receive His abundant blessing! In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul lists some of the abundant blessings of God, here are just a few:

Blessings in proportion to our giving (9:6)

Grace for every trial (9:8)

Opportunity to serve (9:9)

Financial blessing to enable generous giving (9:11)

Broader influence than we could have on our own (9:12)

God’s work in us, allows Him to multiply His work through us.

Are you being refined? Do you feel like you’re experiencing the heat of God’s work in your life? It’s hurts, but the process produces the harvest of righteousness God is after (Hebrews 12:11). If you will be trained up by it, the results will be worth the heat. The joy of God’s abundance is worth the discomfort of God’s testing.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life — even your painful trial — is better on the water!

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Heroin and public opinion

In the early 1800s, the American medical field was exploding with new ideas, experimental medications and lots of hit-or-miss attempts at helping people. For example, it is believed that the influx of Chinese immigrants in the early 1800s brought with it a new substance that Americans, especially those surging on the Wild West, found engaging: Opium.


Photo from the Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology

Opium dens began populating saloons all over America. Alcoholism was already a significant problem and many medical professionals believed that opium was a cure for alcohol addiction. Opium began growing in popularity and doctors began experimenting with its use in other fields, too. Soon, morphine was derived from Opium and became a “wonder drug” for helping patients deal with pain. Doctors began using it everywhere and within 10 years, morphine addiction was rampant in this country.

The morphine epidemic continued, until doctors in Germany created a new wonder drug to solve the significant problems created by morphine. Immediately after it was created, Heroin was brought in to mainstream American medical use. German’s advertised it as, “safe and non-addictive.” And with one clever, ill-informed, advertising campaign, heroin addiction was birthed in America and for the past 150 years we’ve dealt with its devastating wake.

If only everything with faulty advertising could be exposed before the ramifications of a product or idea are felt in the world around us. Imagine if every bad idea came with a warning, then the 1874 Heroin ad campaign might have looked like this: “Heroin: safe, and non-addictive…as long as you never use it.”

Thankfully, the Bible is full of truth-in-advertising warnings. Like this these:

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness.” (Ephesians 5:11) Deeds of darkness may have a temporary appeal, but in reality, they are “fruitless” — they have no value. A fruitless, fruit tree is absolutely worthless. I live in the cherry capital of the world, and every day I drive past cherry orchards on my way to the Starwood Ranch or to the church where I work part-time.

Occasionally, I’ll see a dead tree, or a whole row of them, in an orchard. Not long after, those trees are removed and thrown into the burn heap. Why? Because things that are supposed to bear fruit, when they become fruitless, are worthless. So deeds of darkness are…worthless! What a great warning label.

Here are a few more all found in the book of Proverbs:

About ignoring the needy: “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will dry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13)

About over-indulging: “He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.” (Proverbs 21:17)

About angry words: “…a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

About being quick-tempered: “A quick tempered man does foolish things…” (Proverbs 14:17

About careless speech: “Reckless words pierces like a sword…” (Proverbs 12:18)

About a life lacking modesty: “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” (Proverbs 11:22)

About laziness: “Lazy hands make a man poor…” (Proverbs 10:4)

The Bible is full of warning labels. God created this book as a guide for life, as a means to know Him more and to grow in our relationships with one another. Are you reading it? Are you spending time soaking in the words of the Good Book? You can’t live the Overboard Life without reading, and living by, the warning labels in the Scripture.

Go ahead and take the plunge…life is always better on the water!

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