Mar 29, 2018

Let HOPE Arise

The month of March in Minnesota can be a very sad and very depressing month.
For those of us who have learned to enjoy the cold of winter, it is the month when ice rinks, ski hills, and lakes, and paths for snow shoes, cross country skiing, and snowmobiles melt and we pause to join the rest of the residents of the Minnesota and ask; “Why do we live in this desolate place?”

The beautiful fresh white snow from the winter turns in to a frozen, dirty, filthy pile that holds on to every piece of debris that has come across its path over the long winter.

Even if the snow does melt, another storm usually comes and dumps a half a foot or more of snow as a last shot at whatever hope had been arising. “We almost made it another winter…”, we say to ourselves; “And then someone moved the finish line and we have another month of winter!”

And those are on the good days…

During this time period, people tend to not be as “Minnesota-Nice” because their vitamin D levels are completely depleted and for most days the skies are bleak and grey and void of hope, causing great sadness.

I had one of those days last week. Right before we left our house to go to help cook a meal for church, Cathy and I got into a conversation that quickly ‘went south’. Our emotions (I blame the string of cloud-filled days cooped up) kept us from really responding in a loving way. 

No matter what was said, we both reacted as though we didn’t hear what the other had said and silence became the place where both went to avoid further hurt.

We got in our truck and drove to our destination without saying anything to each other; trying to place our commitment to serve above the need to fix our hurts. Basically, we were like two porcupines trying to embrace without poking each other.

As I drove, my mind was further drawn into discouragement and isolation by the bleakness of the sunless skies and dirty snow. My dullness to my emotions was only shaken as I swerved to avoid the deep crevasses we call “potholes”. All around me seemed to be death and darkness; not light or life.

Soon after we arrived, Cathy and I got to work and kept our conversations focused on the tasks at hand.

At some point Cathy mentioned to the homeowner where were doing the cooking that there were tulips up in her yard; adding that they were quite tall.

Tulips; where did she see tulips amid all of that death and decay? She saw them next to the same house that I had arrived at. She saw them in the same gardens that I had walked past; the ones still covered with dead leaves, stick, snow, and debris.

She saw something that was always there just below the surface of my reality. Life was waiting to come up; hope was about to arise.

Later that evening at our LifeGroup, I was able to share about how I had reacted wrongly and died to myself in order to bring forth life. I am happy to report that Cathy and I ended our day on the same page.
My friends, there is a purpose for the death in order to bring new life that is waiting to arrive.

The bleakest month of March in Minnesota is a picture to also remind us that there is always hope waiting to arise.

Even beyond the clouds, above the sun was still shining, even though it hadn’t been seen by us mere mortals here on the earth.

Even on the darkest day when death seems to have taken over everything, there is still hope…new life beneath the surface; beyond the death of winter.

A little over two thousand years ago, a group of men and women spent three days that were even worse than a Minnesota March that just didn’t seem to end.

These men and women had stood and watched their friend and teacher Jesus get tortured by a severe whipping and then stripped naked and brutally nailed to a cross and left to die; which He did.

Afterwards, they watched as His lifeless body was placed in a tomb and the tomb sealed with a very large stone that was rolled in front.

These men and women were without hope and saw nothing good coming out of this situation. The coldness of their reality filled them to great despair.

They had no confidence that hope would arise.

And yet it did, for after three days, Jesus was resurrected from the death that tried to hold Him in the grave. Beneath the cold earth life was waiting to spring forth.

And because of Jesus’ triumph and victory over death, we too can have confidence that beneath the surface of our “darkest winter that doesn’t seem to be ending”, there is hope waiting to arise!

To see it, we, like Cathy did when she saw the tulips, need to slow down and let the hope arise.

We need to let Jesus come to us like He did to the men and women who were in such despair and hopelessness. We need to let Jesus bring hope in way that ONLY He can bring it; through His Word (the Bible), through worship of Him, through spending time with Him.

And because of His death and resurrection ALL who ask can have new life!
 “…One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 MSG)

This new life can be yours TODAY!
“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came His way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. They called Him every name in the book and He said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used His servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24 MSG)

Need further help? Someone is waiting to talk with you. Call either:
1-888-NEED HIM or 1-877-2GRAHAM (1-877-247-2426).

Scripture taken from The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Mar 22, 2018

Waking Up in An Empty Bed

I woke up from a very deep sleep the other day. I must have fallen asleep the night before and slept very soundly (which is very rare for me).

My mind was confused; I didn’t know what day it was or what time it was.

And I realized that the bed was empty; Cathy was gone; and it was frightening.

My mind was even more confused as I tried even harder to figure out what day it was or what time it was.

In my head, I heard an old song by Larry Norman called “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”

       A man and wife asleep in bed
       She hears a noise and turns her head he's gone
       I wish we’d all been ready…

       There's no time to change your mind
       The Son has come and you've been left behind…

My mind was even MORE confused as I tried even harder to answer what day it was or what time it was and where Cathy really was at. Was she really gone? Was I left behind?

Suddenly I was fully awakened as I heard our pickup truck start up; Cathy was leaving for work…which meant that it was Friday sometime around six in the morning. A quick look at the clock on the dresser confirmed that it was five minutes before six o’clock in the morning.

I must have really been tired after a full day (Thursday).

As I made the bed, the song continued in my head:

       A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
       I wish we’d all been ready…

I went downstairs to pour a cup of coffee to awaken the remaining part of my brain.

The song continued to play in my head:

       Two men walking up a hill
       One disappears and one’s left standing still
       I wish we’d all been ready…

I sat down in my favorite chair in our living room (with my cup of coffee) and read Matthew 24:36-44; which is what the song is referring to.

In the passage Jesus states:

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

I read the entity of chapters 24 and 25 to meditate on Jesus’ words telling us what to expect as one day this world as we know it comes to an end.

For the record, I’m not one who spends most days thinking about or discussing eschatology (the study of end times), BUT that doesn’t say that it isn’t important.

One day this world will end and I hope that we’ll all be ready. It’s no fun waking up in an empty bed; in fact, it’s frightening and confusing!

Not sure where you are at if He were to return today? Call 1-888-NEED-HIM for more assistance. Or drop me a line at

Pastor Tommy O, River of Hope Ministries

I Wish We'd All Been Readyby Larry Norman

Life was filled with guns and war
And all of us got trampled on the floor
I wish we’d all been ready
The children died, the days grew cold
A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
I wish we’d all been ready

There's no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you've been left behind

A man and wife asleep in bed
She hears a noise and turns her head he's gone
I wish we’d all been ready
Two men walking up a hill
One disappears and ones left standing still
I wish we’d all been ready

The Father spoke, the demons dined
How could you have been so blind?

There's no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you've been left behind

There's no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you've been left behind

I hope well all be ready
You've been left behind [Repeat: x3]

Songwriters: Larry Norman

I Wish We'd All Been Ready lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Mar 15, 2018

Keeping My Eyes Above the Waves

I love water! I love to look at it, swim in it, use all types of boats and watercrafts on it. I love to drink it; hot and cold. When it is frozen it becomes one of my happy places to be; especially if it has a hockey net at either end of the frozen area of water.

But my love of water wasn’t always a huge part of my life.

When I was very young, I had a traumatic experience that caused me to be afraid of the water for a while. I was up at my grandparents’ cabin; which was one of my favorite places to be as child.

My older siblings decided that it was time for me to learn to swim. To do this, they helped me get out to the diving dock on the lake. Once out there, they told me that I couldn’t get off the dock unless I would jump off into the deep side.

When I hesitated, I was thrown off and then one of my older siblings held me under water. This was their attempt to make it so that I wasn’t afraid of the water and would learn to swim and to dive.

Needless to say, it didn’t achieve their goal. Instead, I was ‘afraid’ of the water; that is until I took swimming lessons at the local YMCA. The lessons not only taught me how to swim and get over my ‘fear’ of the water, but also gave me a confidence to even join an AAU swim and diving team. I competed in both swimming and diving meets and I eventually was able to jump off a five-meter platform at a diving competition.

My youngest daughter Rachel had a completely different experience when it came to water. When she was very young, she had a non-fear of water; almost to the point of concern for both Cathy and I.

She would run and jump into the water and not even be aware of the fact that she needed to breathe as she smiled all the way down to the bottom of the pool. This meant that one of us had to stay close to her and be ready to jump in and rescue her from the bottom of the pool when she forgot that she needed oxygen.

At one end of the swimming pool at the same YMCA that I had learned to swim, there is an observation window where parents can watch their children swim.

During her swimming lessons, Rachel would jump in and swim towards the end of the pool where we were sitting, smiling at us as the water poured into her open mouth.

She appeared to be oblivious to the water and waves in her face because she kept her eyes above the waves, moving forward, and having fun as she focused upon her loving parents who were waiting for her at the other end of the pool.

Instinctively she knew that if she got into trouble, one of us would jump in and rescue her like we had done so many times before.

And, I am happy to report that twenty-some years later Rachel continues to love the water; with an understanding that she needs to breathe.

I thought of Rachel recently while listening to the song by Hillsongs called “Oceans…Where Feet May Fail”. The song is a declaration that we too will keep our eyes above the waves as life crashes upon us and we find it difficult to breathe.

It is a song that declares that our eyes will be upon the One who is ‘at the end of the pool’ waiting for us. One who has always been faithful; He’s never failed and He won’t start now. One who calls out to us and reminds us that we belong to Him.

Do you KNOW this One? He is called Father in the Bible and the only way to know Him is through His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only way, truth, and life. Jesus said that no one comes to the Father except through Him (See John 14:6).

The good news is that Jesus wants to take you to the Father; that is the goal of His death, burial, and resurrection: A relationship with the Father!

Do you KNOW this One? He wants for you to do so today; He’s calling out for you to come to be with Him. He already knows that you’ve made a mess of your life (sinned). That is the other goal of His death, burial, and resurrection: Forgiveness with the Father!

Do you want it? Jesus wants to help you today. Simply call out His Name right now. Then call 1-888-NEED-HIM for more assistance. Or drop me a line at

Pastor Tommy O, River of Hope Ministries

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name

Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Songwriters: Joel Houston / Matt Crocker / Salomon Lighthelm
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group

Mar 8, 2018

“I’m OK with Cremation When I Die; I Just Don’t Want A Bonfire”

The Reverend Billy Graham died recently at the age of 99. During his travels as an evangelist, Billy he reached millions in more than 185 countries.

He took his commitment to serve and follow Jesus very seriously. And although his life wasn’t perfect, he was true to the preaching of the gospel to whomever he met and everywhere that he went.

He was highly respected and was sought for counsel and was a spiritual confidant to every American president since President Harry Truman.

His funeral was the conclusion of a week of mourning that included Graham lying in honor at the U.S. Capitol rotunda in Washington at the approval of President Trump and congressional leaders. It is just the fourth time that this was done for a private citizen.

Prior to the funeral, approximately 13,000 people (including former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton) filed past his casket during a public viewing in Charlotte.

His funeral was streamed live and viewed by millions of people. The service was attended by over 2,000 invited guests including President Trump; who said; “Graham's acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior not only changed our country, it changed, in fact, the entire world.

The casket in which Billy was laid was very simple – a $200 pine box made by inmates and lined with a mattress- and his tombstone will simply read ‘Preacher’.

His epitaph in heaven will be that he was a sinner saved by grace who ran his race and finished his course.

And I am confident that Billy Graham didn’t have a large bonfire.

I don’t mean cremation, I am referring to the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth where he wrote that after each of us have run our race and finished our course, there will be a fire to burn up all of the unnecessary ways that we spent our time. And what will be left will be all that we did that had real value:
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-13 NLT)

In light of that passage, how are you spending your time on this earth? This week? Yesterday; right now?

How will they mark the end of your life when you die? What will they say about you?

I’m OK with cremation when I die; I just don’t want a large bonfire.

I want to run my race and finish my course and when all that I have done is revealed by fire, I am hoping that is a small fire; not a large bonfire. 

I want to look the One who made me, saved me, and was my Lord, in the eyes and hear Him say; “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  

I want to have something of value for all of the efforts.

When we were young and growing up we didn’t think about death; except when it pertained to mostly people who were old. Death was always for one who lived down the road; not the person in the mirror.

But the truth is that death comes to all of us and it oftentimes comes at a time when most of us do not expect it, nor are we looking for it.

Oftentimes people are not ready to die because they’re un-prepared; or they haven’t thought about getting their life together.

Instead, we should live each day as though it might be our last day.

Because it might be…

Are you ready to meet your Maker?

The good news is that today is a new day; today we can get a do-over. Today we can set a new course to give priority to the people, events, and things that we say are our priorities; even if one your priorities has been to spend more time with God…but everything else has blocked out your time.

Are you ready to give preeminence to your priorities?

Here is my suggestion for you: Work with God and let Him take you through the process; you will find that the results will affect everyone in your life. Finally, you will be able to do what you really want to do and some of the results will be eternal.

Need some help? Call Toll-Free: 1-877-2GRAHAM (1-877-247-2426)

Mar 1, 2018

Reign on My Parade

Do you like parades? I sometimes do…depending on whom I am with, because I care less about the parade and more about the opportunity to spend time with friends and loved ones.

So, I don’t like watching the parade as much as I like the spending time with people. And so, I will usually go when asked…

That is depending on where I am able to watch the parade from or how clear of a view do I have in front of me so that I have great access to the candy and free items.

And how clear it is behind me so that I can take a step back when the Shiners or the clowns walk by and attempt to invade my personal space.

Yes, clowns (for some reason) bug me; which is funny since I am somewhat of a clown…

And how clear my view is peripherally because I like to be able to see what is coming up ahead. Yes, I am somewhat of a recovering control freak.
And depending on how the weather is; after all no one likes it when it rains on our parade.

And depending on how early we arrive so that I can get the best place with the best view with the best access…

Why? Because when I am sitting in my crowded spot with my view encumbered, it is easy for me to not get the big picture of what is going on.

This is especially true if one is concerned about who is going to clean up the horse manure as in the distance one can hear the band that is approaching; all the while not realizing that between the band and the horse is a street sweeper who is there to take care of this.

This distraction can actually hinder my enjoyment of the parade…this can become so myopic that all around me becomes lost as I become self-absorbed in my own concerns and needs.

After all of these years I wonder why we don’t watch more parades from at least two stories up…because, really, the best view is from as high up as you can be…so why we don’t watch them from a rooftop? (other than that we would get no candy)

It is from the rooftop or high places that our view is not block; both in front and peripherally.

From our high place we can see what is in front of us as well as what is coming up several blocks ahead. We can even see what has passed before us even though they are now several blocks away.

Do you realize that similarly, when we are stuck in life’s struggles and we can no longer see and we are so myopic that all around us becomes lost as we become self-absorbed in our own concerns and needs…

It is then that we need to get up on the roof top and let God REIGN on our parade. Let God be the One who takes us up higher and helps us understand what is really going on.

Remember; like being on the ground level, we only see what we can see. We only see in part and can explain it in part; we don’t have the full view.

We need to let God reign on our parade; let Him speak to us through His Word (the Bible) and let us know.

And even if He doesn’t explain everything to us, the Bible tells us that “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

The Bible tells us that God “…raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).

That means that He also was willing to take care of your sin problem by offering to not only pay for your sins, but also to raise you up into new places in Christ.

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:11‬ ‭NLT)‬‬

All Scripture (unless noted) is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.