Monthly Archives: February 2014

Lent Resources

Lent begins on Wednesday March 5th. I’ll no doubt be eating a couple of these delicious morsels on Tuesday…It’s tough being Polish :)

On a more serious note. I want to encourage you to consider how you can use Lent to prepare your heart and mind for Easter. That’s really the goal of Lent. Sometimes that gets lost in the “what are you giving up for Lent” conversation. If the giving something up is a problem for you…then don’t do it. If that’s a helpful way for you to engage spiritually, then by all means, do it. While I believe tradition can have a powerful place in our faith, I realize it can be a roadblock for some of us. But, lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I would challenge you to consider how you can use these weeks leading up to Easter to draw near to God.

Here are 2 great resources I would suggest;

1 - Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross edited by Nancy Guthrie

Guthrie book

This book is a compilation of 25 excerpts from the writings and sermons of great Bible teachers. It’s an excellent resource to help you focus on the cross of Christ.


2 – The Lent Experience. 

An interactive and customizable resource for the Lent newbie and veteran alike. Lots of great information at the link above.

Whatever you chose to do, I hope you’ll make the most out of these weeks leading into Easter.



Learning to NOT Freak Out in Dark Tunnels!

A standard practice I have when visiting someone in the hospital is to ask the patient if there is a particular passage of Scripture they would like me to read to them. This morning one of the people I visited requested that I read Psalm 23; certainly a tried and true passage of Scripture that has brought peace and comfort to God’s people for many, many centuries.

Today I was particularly impressed with verse 4:


“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”


It’s my observation that almost all of us walk-through dark valleys on a fairly regular basis. The dark valleys we travail are many and varied: unemployment, health concerns, financial stresses, marital difficulties, rebellious teenagers, depression, loneliness, addictions, etc.


It makes sense that such dark valleys would produce fear within us. In these valleys the future is uncertain. Hope is often fading very quickly. We can feel isolated and abandoned.


It is precisely in the dark valleys that God calls upon us to trust him despite the darkness. Even in times where we may not feel God – he is no less present. That, my friends, is a matter of faith! God is proven himself in my life over and over again as a faithful counselor and a generous provider. He has never let me down. I will choose to believe he is in control and working out his purposes for my life even when my human nature screams at me to be afraid.


I often think of this well-known quote by the Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom:

“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”


I know that many of you reading this are in the midst of a dark tunnel right now. My prayer for you is that you will sit still and trust the engineer.



A Sobering Reminder…

 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.”  How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. James 4:13-14


These wise words from James came to mind yesterday while attending the funeral of a good friend. After battling hard against cancer for 12 years, Marla is finally at rest. She was a good friend to my wife Karen and I, and we will miss her terribly. We first met Marla at the Christian Youth Center in Joliet, Illinois where I served as director of teens from 1985-89; she was one of my student leaders. We remained in steady contact with her over the years, as she developed from one of our students to being a close personal friend and colleague. She left behind her husband and her 3 sons – the youngest a senior in high school.

Marla was 9 years younger than me. It never occurred to me that I might someday attend her funeral. I’m glad she lived her life well. She was one of the most authentic followers of Christ that I’ve had the privilege of knowing personally.

Her death reminds me that life is fragile – that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Therefore we must live life to the fullest. I can remember my spiritual mentor always saying, “Only one life soon will be past, only what is done for Christ will last.”

A good reminder for me. For all of us.




Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s day to you! I hope you have a chance to enjoy the day with the ones you truly love. Let the words of I John 4:7-11 remind us of the ultimate act of love as the Father sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.



Oasis Winter Retreat

This weekend is our annual High School Winter Retreat. We leave around dinner time tonight and will be home before dinner on Sunday. Students are really looking forward to the extended time together. We’ll have time to go snowtubing/sledding, ice skating, cross country skiing, play broomball, and more. When we get too cold, we’ll sit near the fireplace, play some games, and talk. In addition to all that, we’ll have 4 sessions that will include worship and a Bible lesson. There’s rarely a dull moment.

Trips like this are super valuable for the spiritual development of our students. The chance to get away from the distractions of everyday life and tune into God is huge. I’m praying that God would use this weekend to do some big things in the lives of our students. Would you join me in praying? Here are a few specifics to pray about:

1 – Safety as we travel and in all our activities. We had a couple minor injuries on this trip last year. It would be nice to be injury free this year.

2 – Healthy group dynamics. We want to avoid the distractions of petty fighting, misunderstandings, etc.

3 – Our teaching times. Several members of the high school ministry team will be helping me with the teaching. I’m excited to hear what God has been teaching them.

4 – Follow through. We don’t want this experience to be a spiritual high followed by a crash and burn when they get home. Please pray for students to follow through on commitments and to bring the retreat home with them.




Resisting Gossip by Matthew C. Mitchell


I heard about Resisting Gossip from a blog and then perused some intriguing reviews and endorsements.  When my public library ordered a copy for the collection, I was the first person to check it out (assuming the risk that any damage to the book would be my fault!).  I found it to be an interesting, convicting, and extremely practical book that I would recommend to any Christ-follower.  The author, Matthew Mitchell, is a pastor in rural Pennsylvania.


I started reading with the mindset of, “I don’t really struggle too much with gossip.  I guess I gossip from time to time but not enough to do deep damage.  Perhaps I will pick up a few tips on how to be less critical with my words.”  Within a few pages, my attitude changed to understand how prevalent gossip actually is in my life.  Gossip is defined as, “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.”  Gossip is everywhere in our modern world: in the media, at work, in families, and in the church.  My thinking transformed to, “Maybe I should wear duct tape over my mouth 24/7.”  Thankfully, believers should seek a balance between silence and excessively careless words.  Always focused on the gospel, Mitchell discusses why Christians should seek to eliminate gossip and use words in a positive and God-honoring way.


I particularly liked his discussion of the positive charge of Ephesians 4:29, to use words to build others up for their benefit.  For example, a Christian can speak highly of a co-worker who others are criticizing or give a person the benefit of the doubt before believing unreliable information.  Words can also be used to encourage, chart a new conversational direction, or share Christ, which are all preferred options to communicating “juicy tidbits” so others think we are in “the know.”  The workplace is an environment particularly prone to gossip, and Christians can embrace a renewed mission at work while taking the book’s message to heart.


Some other particularly noteworthy lessons I took away include:


- Gossip is not exclusively a “female” problem.  Both genders face the temptation to gossip.


- We like to be known as people who know information, so gossip is enticing.


- The remedy for complaining is contentment and thanksgiving.


- The antidote for prideful judgment is humility.


- Gossip is often downplayed as a “lesser” sin, but it has the potential to do great damage.


I feel encouraged that Christians can make a difference in the world by resisting gossip.  Our words are powerful, and God wants to use us in the lives of people with whom we interact.  Since reading this book, I have been more aware of what I say, and I pray that by God’s enabling, I would be wise, selective, and affirming with my words in 2014.


I would love to discuss this book with you if you do indeed read it!


Thanks for stopping by!


Allison Bies – guest blogger