JL's Corner

Last year it was the Dallas Cowboy’s running back Ezekiel Elliot who after scoring a touchdown jumped into the Giant Salvation Army Kettle near the back of the end zone. This year the Seattle Seahawk’s nickel back Justin Coleman did the same thing after scoring a touchdown off an interception. Each player was charged with a fifteen yard unsportsmanlike penalty costing their respective team’s substantial field position. Both players knew they were not allowed to do this, but they did it anyway. Why? Seems the oversized kettle was just too great of a temptation so they hopped right in
Before we get too carried away wagging our fingers at them for their foolish antics, we might just want to take a personal inventory of the many things we have done wrong in our lives. Even though we knew the actions were wrong we went ahead and did them anyway. And sometimes it seems as though knowing it is wrong makes the temptation even stronger. I mean when we see a sign that says “Do Not Touch” or “Do Not Enter,” what do we want to do? We want to touch and we want to enter. Temptation leads to sin and sin leads to death so instead of flirting with temptation we ought to turn and run whenever we see it.
“Each one is tempted when by his own evil desire; he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full- grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15)
“So I find this law at work. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25)
Let’s all try to steer clear of temptations and not hop right into sin this year. And may we always be thankful for our great redeemer.
Happy New Year!
Love, J.L. 

I drive a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado 4x4 pickup truck. The factory color is “Victory Red” and although it is fifteen years old, when it is clean it still looks pretty good. But during most of the winter months here in the U.P. of Michigan the color changes to a dull white. Yes indeed the county here is not afraid to use salt on our roads in the winter and for that I suppose we should be happy. But as I make my commute from Gwinn to Marquette each day my truck gets bathed in a saltwater bath. I cannot be positive but I am pretty sure that the other day when I opened the garage door I could hear it rusting.
Many things that help us in life also have some sort of side effects. X-rays show the Dr. what is going on inside of us but they also expose us to radiation. Medications can help fight diseases, lessen pain, and cure ailments but they can also be hard on our liver and kidneys. Salt on our roads can melt the snow and improve driving conditions but it is very hard on metal fenders, rocker panels and tailgates.
The beautiful nativity scene with the new born baby in swaddling clothes being held close by his loving mother eventually gives way to a man being crucified, large nails pounded through his hands holding him close to the cross, a crown of thorns pushed down on his head, and blood flowing freely.
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”          (I Peter 1:18-20)
The gift of salvation that brings us not only the joy of this season but the joy of every season came to us at a very great cost. In order for us to be forgiven of our sins Jesus had to die.
Love, J.L.

The forecasters had it right this time as the temperatures were in the single digits, the north wind was whipping and the snow was blowing and drifting. A few of us brothers however still had our Men’s Monday Night Bible Study and Football gathering. Afterward I cleaned the snow off my windshield, put my truck in four wheel drive and began the twenty five mile trek home. As I made my way I noticed the winds were making what looked like mini tornadoes as they lifted the snow off the ground back up into the air. At different points throughout my journey home I found myself driving through white outs where I could barely see the road.  The only thing that really helped was to follow the two tracks cut through the snow by previous travelers. However once I got on the side roads of my neighborhood I was welcomed by the Christmas lights on my neighbor’s home and soon I knew I would have my truck safe inside the garage.
As we travel through life sometimes we have to navigate through difficult times. Illnesses, surgeries and their subsequent recoveries, loss of loved ones, personal struggles whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual. We search within and without, above and beyond looking for the way to make it through to the other side, to make it home where we will be safe and sound.
Through the Bible God has provided us with a road map, a compass, an owner’s manual, a guide to help us navigate through life and to find our way home to be safe with Him for eternity. Jesus said in John 14:6 that He was: The Way and the Truth and The Life and that no one could come to the Father except through Him. The Psalmist wrote this:    
“Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
Jesus is much more than a baby born in a manger, he is the Savior of the world Follow Him and He will help you through whatever life throws at you as He leads you home.
Love, J.L.

There will without a doubt be many of you out there who have had to deal with some kind of pain in your life, whether that be physical, emotional or something other. I personally have been battling with back pain and now foot pain for quite some time. In my quest to find relief I have contracted the services of five different doctors, three different chiropractors, two physical therapists, three massage therapists and an acupuncturist. All of these professionals have told me that they will be able to help me through their services, procedures, surgeries and exercises. To this date however I have still not found relief or healing from any of them. There are many things that can help or hinder us as we live out our lives here on planet earth. But it has been said that there are only two things that are for sure or guaranteed for all. And they are death and taxes. However I would like to share with you one other that I have found to be true in my life and that is forgiveness of sins. When I believed in Jesus, repented and was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of my sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit all my sins were washed away by the blood of Jesus my savior. And if my physical ailments are ever to be healed that too will come from Jesus. Thank you for your continued prayers for that to happen for me.
“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and after digging through it, lowered the mat the parlayed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said the paralytic, ‘Son your sins are forgiven.’ Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, why does this fellow talk like that? Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them. ‘Why are you thinking these things?’ Which is easier to say to the paralytic, Your sins are forgiven, or to say Get up take your mat and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:12)
Love, J.L.

Thanksgiving was followed by “Black Friday” which was followed by “Small Business Saturday” which was followed by “Cyber Monday” and there may be something for Tuesday that I do not know about. Wow, that could certainly entail a lot of shopping if one were to participate in all three shopping events. Consumers are enticed by sale items, deep discounts and even giveaways. And so there are many who take part in some or all of these sales purchasing an array of items that will all eventually wear out, break or go out of style.
I wonder what would it take to have people line up outside of our church buildings very early on Sunday morning waiting for the doors to open just so they could get a good seat? As it is we are still trying to figure how to get our members to show up on time or show up at all for Bible Study and Worship. What might we need to offer?
“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her. ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?’  Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”  (John 4:7-15)
The gift that Jesus offers has already been bought and paid for by his very life. It’s value is priceless, it will last an eternity, and it is all that needs to be offered. Each person must decide whether they will come to Him or not.
“For the wages of sin is death, but he gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Love, J.L.    

As I have made my way around town this week I have enjoyed many pleasant encounters with many different people working at their respective jobs. Many have wished me a Happy Thanksgiving and I have been doing the same. The postal worker and I exchanged Thanksgiving wishes. The young man working at the gas station said: “Enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend” to which I replied: “Please do the same.” I then shared with him that Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays because it is all about friends and family gathering together for a big banquet feast with no gift exchanging necessary just a time to enjoy each other and give thanks for all our blessings. To which the young lad replied with a big smile on his face: “True that!”  And so we give thanks:
We give thanks for our homes and we give thanks for our phones. We give thanks for the sun and the moon and the stars. We give thanks for our kids and our dogs and our cars. We give thanks for our health and our wealth and our clothes. We give thanks for our Kitchen Aide mixers and our stoves. We give thanks for our fridge and our cupboards both filled to the max. And for those of us who are on a health kick we give thanks for our flax. We give thanks for our families, our neighbors, our friends. We thanks for our many comforts that seem to never end.
Indeed we have much to be thankful for in regard to physical blessings. But even as long as that list is we should first and foremost recognize and be thankful for all our spiritual blessings in Christ for they are received both in the present as well as the eternal. And they are inexhaustible. Here is just on example: 
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword. No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, no anything else in all creation will be able to separate us form the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
Now there is something to truly be thankful for!

A baseball in my hand is worth about $6
A baseball in Justin Verlander's hand is worth about $28 million
It depends whose hand it's in
A golf ball in my hand is worth about $2
A golf ball in Jordan Spieth's hand is worth over $9 million
It depends whose hand it's in
A tennis racket is useless in my hand
A tennis racket in Pete Sampras' hand is a win at Wimbledon
It depends whose hand it's in
A rod in my hand will keep a wild animal away
A rod in Moses' hands will part the mighty sea
It depends whose hand it's in
A sling shot in my hand is a kid's toy
A sling shot in David's hand is a mighty weapon.
It depends whose hand it's in
Two fish and five loaves in my hands is a couple fish sandwiches.
Two fish and five loaves in God's hands will feed thousands
It depends whose hand it's in
Nails in my hand might produce a birdhouse
Nails in Jesus Christ's hands will produce salvation for the world.
It depends whose hand it's in
Put your concerns, fears, hopes, dreams, relationships and families in God's hands because...It depends whose hand it's in.
Author Unknown

Since my back surgery way back in May I have had quite a time of it. During the initial surgery the Dr. apparently hit a nerve when he was installing some of the hardware in the right side of my back. That caused me unbelievable nerve pain running down my right leg. A second surgery was then performed to take the hardware out of the right side of my back. Ever since those surgeries I have still been experiencing pain, which after months of healing, exercise, physical therapy and acupuncture has moved down into my foot and is ever so slowly rescinding. During these months many of you have been praying for me and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that. I have also received numerous cards of encouragement. Again I thank you. But last week I received one from a sister in Christ that has been a game changer for me. For in it she wrote and I quote:
“Dear Jim, Just want you to know that your healing will continue and you’ll be free of pain.”
Man oh man did I ever need to hear those words. For I have been a bit discouraged with how long this recovery is taking with seemingly nothing happening for days on end.  Notice that she did not say, “I hope you will feel better soon” or “I am praying for your recovery.” Which are both very kind and needed. But for me to hear such a statement of faith that my healing is going to continue and the pain will be gone gave me an incredible boost for my own faith. I of course as well as many others have been praying for this. Yet now it has been reinforced to me that indeed I am going to have a good outcome and I am going to be free of pain. Thank you Lord for inspiring the writing of that card. And thank you Lord for your precious promises and for bringing healing my way especially these...      
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will he hears. And if we know that he hears us whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of him.”
(I John 5:13-15)
Love, J.L.

My wife Pam and I along with many other family members and friends were invited to my Nephew Dominic and his fiancé Alexis’ wedding down near Ann Arbor. Upon our arrival at our motel we received a gift bag filled with many goodies and niceties. When it came time to go to the wedding site at Zingerman Cornman’s Farms we were driven there in a chartered motor coach. Water and lemonade were provided as we sat in the warm afternoon sun for the wedding ceremony. Alexis’ father performed the wedding and one of the points he made was that the bride and groom wanted to show all the guests their love by providing a wedding banquet that catered to us in every way. And indeed they did as everything about the event from the music to the meal and everything in between was first class. We felt honored and privileged to attend. It would have been terrible to miss this once in a lifetime event.
Jesus made references in both the Gospel of Matthew and Luke to the kingdom of God being like a wedding banquet, and one that those who were invited would not want to miss.
“When one of those at the table with him heard this he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’ Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.” (Luke 14:15-18)
I sure am glad I was able to attend that fantastic wedding banquet that my nephew and his fiance’ threw for us.  And I sure am glad that Jesus has made the way for me to attend the great banquet in His kingdom for eternity. In both instances I have accepted the invitation and have/will receive the blessings. He is also inviting you to come. Will you accept his invitation and receive the blessings or will you make excuses for not coming and miss out for eternity? As always the choice is ours to make. Love, J.L.