Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Smart Toys" Require Smarter Parents

Picture illustration (REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski).
As many of you know, my wife and I have four boys.  They are more connected to the internet and their friends than I could possibly have imagined.  Today, the FBI just released a warning for parents who have children with smart toys or smart devices, "Taking a cautious approach to the upcoming deluge of smart toys hitting store shelves for the holiday shopping season, the FBI has issued a public service announcement warning parents about the risks of bringing an Internet-connected toy into the household. Specifically, the FBI is concerned about the amount of personal information that could be "unwittingly disclosed" during normal use of the toy."  The full article can be found here:

Smart toys require smarter parents.  It's vitally important for parents to continually monitor the online behaviors of their children.  Here are some ground rules to set with your kids: 

1) Smart phones, smart toys or devices are a privilege.  Parents reserve the right to take them away and inspect their online history and message history at a moments notice.

2) Use some sort of monitoring technology to help keep your kids safe.  I'm not going to have the time or space to launch into all the different types of technology available, however, here is a great website that reviews a number of them:,2817,2346997,00.asp

3) The devices are kept in the parents room over night while they are plugged into the outlet and charging.  This helps our kids avoid temptation that may occur while parents are sleeping.

Smart phones and internet connected devices offer connection to friends and escape and entertainment.  These things are moderation and when they are monitored.  Let's make sure that as they enjoy the internet that they stay safe from as much temptation as possible.

Here's why we want to do our best to help our kids in this area of their lives.  "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.(Proverbs 22:6).  The dangers of the internet are well documented.  We want to train our kids to be wise in the use of the tools they use in technology.  It's also proven that gaming and other internet activities can cause our kids to have addictive behaviors that last long into adulthood.  Let's train them in the best way of using technology and their time.

Let's also make sure that we help our kids to realize that if gaming or smart phones or internet gets in the way of their relationship with Jesus, then we need to cut those things back so we can get more time with Jesus.  After all, the internet isn't going to get us to heaven, only Jesus does that!  Let's lead by example in showing them what a blessing staying connected to Jesus really is.  Remember, more is caught than taught.

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts about how to best monitor and care for your kids while they are online.  Please share.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Gentle Whisper...

Image result for gentle whisper
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13)

Elijah was scared. Which is surprising, because he had just shown up 450 prophets of Baal and proved that HIS God was stronger. His God was the one that brought down fire and burned up a soaked offering. His God was the one who ended a 3-year drought. The prophets of Baal, on the other hand, did nothing. But what happened? Jezebel, the angry queen of Israel, the one who supported Baal worship in Israel, swore that she would kill Elijah.

Elijah ran. He ran and fled to a mountain, and there wanted to die. But God had other plans. God still wanted to use Elijah. God fed Elijah, gave him a place to sleep…appeared to him. Now, you might expect God to reveal himself in a huge, powerful sort of way. After all, he is the all-powerful Lord of the universe. But notice what our reading said. God was not in the powerful wind…or the earthquake…. OR in the fire. He was in the gentle wind. Weird, isn’t’ it?

Although no scary, powerful queen wants to kill us, other troubles and sufferings chase us down. And when THEY come knocking, WE go running. But in the middle of all these attacks, a gentle, quiet whisper comforts us. After the unending cycle of bills and work each work, God says, “I paid for your life.” To the old car that just can’t seem to stay fixed, he whispers, “I fixed YOUR sins on the cross.” When you and your partner seem to argue every week, a voice gently states, “You BOTH are saved in my eyes.” You see the strained relationship with one of your kids, and God leans in, “With me you have a perfect relationship.” The constant longing for a more fulfilling or engaging job, and that whisper comes, “Your longing for something better is complete in the hope of heaven.” The drugs and alcohol that just won’t go away from you or those you love, but that voice says, “You have freedom from sin in me.” So many problems surround us and attack us from every angle. You just want to throw your hands in the air and say, “I quit!” But the gentle, quiet whisper of God is your hope, your comfort, your salvation from these attacks.

Elijah expected God to be in the wind, earthquake, or fire. But he wasn’t. God was in the gentle whisper. That’s something Elijah DIDN’T expect. God choose something so small, so little, so insignificant, as the way he appeared to Elijah. God saved US in an unexpected way. He sent his son to die in OUR place, and he gives US eternal life. Paul tells us in his letter to Corinth, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”

By: Orie Thomford

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mark your Calendars - Fun Summer Events!

God doesn't want us to be bored in this life.  Over the course of this summer break, have you heard a child say, "I'm bored"?  I have.  God doesn't want us to be bored.  He's got stuff for us to do!  He wants us to build relationships with other people so that we can build relationships between them and God.  That's true no matter what age we are!  

So, mark your calendars for these great relationship building events that will help us connect our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to God.  Here they are: 

Kickball for a Cause - Every Wednesday, 6:30pm at both of our sites, Green Bay (1167 Kenwood, 2 blocks north of Lambeau Field on Oneida St) and our De Pere site (2066 Lawrence Dr).  Bring a team, or your family and friends or just yourself.  We will be providing water and lemonade.  Bring a lawn chair, if you just want to watch.

Hope Backpacks - Begins July 1 through July 15.  Pencil boxes available at no cost in which there is a list of school supplies that need to be purchased and put into a backpack and returned by July 22.  Monetary donations also accepted.  The backpacks will go to families in need at both block parties.  Questions?  Contact Lori Rogers at 920-680-6335.

Kids Camp - July 23-28, 9am to 3pm.  All 1st through 6th grade stuents (as of Fall 2017-2018) are welcome!  Register your kids or sign up to volunteer at  

Block Parties - We will be hosting two different block parties this summer.  The first is at our De Pere site on Saturday, July 29 at 6pm.  The second is at our Green Bay site on Sunday, August 20 at 11:30am.  Inflatable bounce houses, games, free food, and live music are just part of the fun!  We will also be giving away back packs full of school supplies at both parties.

"Whatever you it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).  

Have a blessed summer!
- Pastor Chris

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Your God is Too Small

Picture Source
We’ve all seen it. Acts of unbelievable proportions. Our friend does a back-flip on the trampoline. The half-court, backwards lob ‘swooshes’ in the net. 8 gold medals in one Olympics. A 4th quarter comeback in the Super Bowl. When we tell someone, their first reaction? “Get out.” “You’re kidding me, right?” “That CAN’T have just happened.” Unfortunately, we bring this attitude with us into our faith life.

Humans tend to resist the unbelievable. We’re stubborn. Maybe you’ve noticed it in other people, maybe you’ve noticed it in yourself. Sometimes, OUR understanding of God isn’t wide enough. Here is a reminder of the God that is never too small.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)
Think of the most ridiculous thing you could possibly imagine. 1 billion pink elephants standing on each other’s backs. Financial support for everything you could ever need. Joy that would never end. These requests sound a little…over the top, right? But top that. Shut your eyes and imagine the most powerful thing a being could perform. Move planets. Run faster than the speed of light… bring someone back from the dead. Our God, the God from the Bible, isn’t even limited by our imagination. Paul tells us he is able to do immeasurably more than our wildest requests and our most ridiculous fancies. Not even a Hollywood movie with a limitless budget could attempt to describe how powerful the true God actually is.

And this God works within us to do something that is beyond our comprehension. Paul writes [The power at work in us who believe] is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:20) God’s same power, the power that raised Christ from the dead, is at work within us too. Jesus Christ, the all-powerful son of God, died… but was raised to life. He has conquered death. And this same promise is given to us. Through Christ we too have conquered death, will be raised to life again, and will take our place in heaven with everlasting joy. Death has been destroyed. Its sting is gone. Someday when death comes and stares us in the eyes, we can look right back…and not be afraid. Our spot in heaven, next to the living God, is waiting.

This is the power of our God. Our God is never too small. 

By: Orie Thomford

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

No Fear...How?

I've heard some folks who were around during the Cold War say that the tensions between the U.S. and Russia and North Korea are leading them to feel the same way now as they did then.  When I ask them how they feel?  The word they use is: Fear.

Fear has been around as long as sin itself.  When Adam sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, he ran and hid because he was "afraid" (Genesis 3:10).  Whenever we are afraid, God doesn't want us to run from Him, but instead He wants us to run to Him.  Did you know that the Bible has the phrase, "Don't be afraid" or "Fear not" 365 times?  That's one "do not fear" phrase for every day of the year!  "Don't be afraid" is God's most spoken command to us.

Fear is a natural consequence of living in a sinful world with sinful people.  Bad things do happen.  But no matter what your fear may be, whether it's germs or spiders or potential nuclear war, remember what God says: Don't be afraid.  Here are some of my favorite verses to help me remember: 

Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16)  Spoken when the prophet Elisha wanted his servant to know that God was on their side.

"But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  (Matthew 14:27)  Spoken by Jesus when He walked on the water and His disciples were afraid of the unknown.

"Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."  (Luke 12:7)  Spoken by Jesus when He urged His disciples not to worry, but instead to trust His care.

And my personal favorite is this: "As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene,who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'”  (Mark 16:5-7)
On that first Easter morning, those women had gone to the tomb expecting to find a dead body, instead they found an empty tomb.  Do you realize what that means?  We can truly live with no fear because NOTHING can conquer Jesus...not even death itself.  He is our risen Savior and our risen Lord who is Lord over everything.  Trust Him.  Since He can take care of our eternal future by saving us from our sins through His death and resurrection, then He certainly can take care of our temporal future until He brings us to heaven.  No  Trust Jesus, the Death-Conqueror.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Give it up for Lent... Do I have to?

I love a good ol' fashion fish fry in Wisconsin. Breaded perch and blue gale are my favorite (and sometimes even the filet-o-fish). There are many who participate in Friday's fish for more than the flavorful, delicious taste. From what I've found in my readings historically many Christians have not eaten (warm blooded) meat on Fridays going back to the first century. This was done to honor Jesus who gave his life on Good Friday to pay for the sins of the world. The connection is: don't have the warm blooded animal give its life on Friday to honor Jesus who gave us his. Interestingly, fish who are cold blooded don't count.   

So my question about this fish filled tradition is, should I still feel obligated to give up meat on Friday's during lent? What does God's Word guide me to do?

Here are some key truths to govern your Lent this year:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Ga 5:1) Some early Christians were tempted to attempt to keep laws of the Old Testament in order to feel more certain of their salvation. This verse reminds them and us that Christ kept every law perfectly in our place. We could not be perfect but he was and therefore we have no obligation to keep the laws of God to earn heaven. Far better, we are set free to show our love to God by living according to his laws with a thankful heart. So in eating fish or anything else ask yourself, "What's my motivation?" 
Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Ro 14:6) We are free to serve the Lord in the way we please so long as it doesn't go against a specific command from God's Word. We have no command by God about what to eat or drink during Lent.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. (Ro 14:19–21) In other words, don't force your tradition on anyone if it could cause them to sin against their conscience. 
I think there is some good meaning behind the practice of giving up meat for Fridays or for the whole season of Lent but I know that it is not commanded by God and does not cause him to love me any more than he already does. I will let these truths guide my appetite this year. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

"Sticks and Stones may Break my Bones but Words will Never Hurt Me." Really?

When I was growing up and someone said something mean to me or my friends, we would often quote, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" as a way to shake off the stinging words and not let them get to us.  Now that I'm older, I realize just how ridiculous that mentality is.

Words carry a tremendous amount of power, and with that comes responsibility.  The recent events  in the political arena of our nation shows just how true that is.  General Michael Flynn's recent resignation as National Security Adviser, President Trump's war of words with the media, the "fake news" allegations within the media all show just how much words can have an impact.  What we say matters.

It seems to me that people of former generations understood that truth better than we do.  My grandparents would often recall situations when they could rely on someone because they stood by their word.  When a neighbor said that he would come over to help out with the building project, he would.  A person's words meant something.  Now, we can text or e-mail or post something on social media and not really think about the consequences of what we're putting out there.

Paul gave great advice about communication in his letter to the Ephesians.  He had spent 3 and a 1/2 years with them (See Acts 19).  But as he wrote these words, he was in prison for preaching the good news about Jesus.  Since he could no longer visit them personally, he wrote a letter to make sure that they would continue to nurture and maintain the unity within the church.  With such an emphasis on unity, it's no surprise to see him emphasize good communication skills.  Paul realized that words can either unify or tear apart.  So he wrote, "Speaking the truth in love, we will grow...Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Ephesians 4:15, 29).  Did you hear it?  What we say matters.

In these words from Ephesians 4, we are given two timeless truths for communication: 1) Speak the truth in love.  2) Speak what is helpful.  Now, confession time.  I've been known at times to speak the truth, but not in love.  I've also been known to try to sugar coat the truth under the guise of love.  Neither of those work because in the end it's never helpful for those who listen.

The best example we have is our perfect Savior, who every time he spoke, he spoke love...which was always helpful to those who listened.  He speaks the truth when he says that words matter.  He speaks the truth when he says that sometimes the words we speak hurt others and we need to repent and trust in him for forgiveness.

Jesus died and rose again for our forgiveness.  That's why the most important words ever spoken are these: "He is risen."  God the Father accepted Jesus' payment for our sins and raised Jesus from the dead.  So, the next conversation you have, remember, speak the truth in love that it may benefit those who listen.  And for the times you fail, remember, Jesus says, "I forgive you."  Words matter.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Leader's Greatest Victory Is Over His Ego

I think it's fitting for us to talk about humility before the 45th President of the United States is sworn into office on January 20th.  President Lincoln throughout history has been regarded as a great leader who had great humility.  Why?  He learned that a leader's greatest victory is over his own ego.

If you've ever not confessed to doing something wrong, guess what, you've got an ego problem.  Me too.  My pride often gets in the way of my relationships and my ability to serve God.  Can you relate?

2000 years ago, one of Jesus' original 12 disciples, a guy by the name of Peter, had an ego problem too.  But Jesus had a way of humbling Peter...for his own good.  When Peter cut off a guy's ear to try and protect Jesus, Jesus humbled Peter.  When Peter denied Jesus that same night, he was humbled again.  I'm guessing that when Peter wrote 1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time" he knew the reality of that statement first hand.  

If you and I want to be influential leaders in our homes, in our workplaces, and in our communities, then we must humble ourselves under God's mighty hand.  After all, He's God.  We are not.  His are the hands that created this world.  His are the hands who were nailed to a cross and then three days later were revealed to His astonished disciples when He proved that He was risen from the dead!  His mighty hands are the ones that rule this world for our good.

Don't be too proud to trust Jesus.  Don't be too proud to admit when you are wrong.  Don't be too proud to realize that the largest room in your, and my, house is the room for improvement.  Don't be too proud to pray to Jesus and ask Him for a double dose of humility...your friends and your family members won't mind that a bit!

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me enough to humble me before you exalt me or else my pride would destroy me. Your will be done. Amen.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Happy New Year, Time for Resolution...

Last night I went to the Broadview YMCA for my routine muscle enhancement session (workout...). I was surprised to find that there were only 2 parking spots available. I pulled into an available spot, checked in at the front desk and went upstairs. Sure enough, the place was packed. Every corner of the building had people lifting things up, putting them down, sweating to tunes and gasping for their next breath. That's when it hit me... It's a New Year. Everyone is working on their resolutions. I guess I'm not too worried about the crowds. Unfortunately many of them will fade away as we get further into January. After all, statistics tell us that only 8% of resolutions actually succeed. 

Maybe you're on a resolution to eat better, loose weight, get up earlier. I pray you're part of the 8% who succeed but I also pray that you consider adding something to your daily routine that is even more important than diet and exercise. The Youversion Bible App has been a great part of my life. 
Here's how:
  • Encouraging Verse of the Day (Everyday God provides someone I can share this passage with)
  • Reading plan that takes me through the Bible (4 times cover to cover through the Bible in the last 4 years)
  • It reads to me while I'm driving 

God's richest blessings on your new year and your resolutions as well. Remember the wisdom in the passage below and the NFL players in the video.
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)