Author Archives: wheelsms

Standing against the flow of culture

the-daniel-codeBook Review: The Daniel Code: Living out Truth in a Culture That Is Losing Its Way, by O. S. Hawkins

We live in a culture that has drifted from its moorings. Violence abounds. We tolerate and even praise what would once have been spoken of in embarrassed whispers. There are new assaults on religious liberties every day. How do we live out our faith in a culture headed the wrong direction?

That is the question posed by pastor and author O. S. Hawkins in his latest offering, The Daniel Code: Living out Truth in a Culture That Is Losing Its Way. The author explains that the Old Testament prophet, Daniel,

grew up in a culture built on biblical truth and centered in traditional family values. And then he found himself living in a culture that was hostile to everything he had ever known. His value system, his truth claims, and his moral compass were challenged repeatedly at every turn. His world was suddenly a world of pluralistic thought. But Daniel had a different spirit about him. He was a man of integrity who not only engaged his culture head-on but actually was used by God to transform it. And—just in case we need to be reminded—Daniel’s God is still our God!

The author uses the first six chapters of the book of Daniel to lay out principles and guidelines for how we can stand firm in the midst of our changing culture. Based on the examples and illustrations the author uses, the book is aimed at an older generation. The cover of the book is crafted to make it suitable for use as a gift book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Books, Integrity, Scripture


When You Haven’t Got A Prayer

You are prodded awake from a sound asleep. You glance at the clock. It is 3AM. A name comes to your mind of an old friend whom you haven’t seen in three years. You have the sense that you should pray for the individual. What would you ask God to do for them?

You are rummaging through one of the drawers in your desk. You discover an old photo of seven friends camping together. You realize you haven’t heard from two of them in quite some time. You are prompted to pray for them. What would you include in your prayer?

Your best friend enlisted in the Army. You have not heard from him in three months since he left for basic training. Something tells you to pray for him, but you aren’t sure how. What would you pray?

How do you pray for someone when you don’t know what their needs are? How do you go beyond, “God bless so-and-so”? How do you pray when you haven’t got a prayer?

That question prompted me to study the prayers of the apostle Paul. As he sat in prison in Rome, he was prompted to pray for the churches in Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae. His prayers provide a model of how & what to pray other believers, even when we may not know their needs.

It had been 5-6 years since the apostle Paul was in Ephesus. He did not have an email update from the church or watched CNN Headline News to know their exact needs. Yet Paul asked for two specific things in regards to the Ephesian believers. Following his example, we can pray that other Christ followers will understand who they are in Jesus Christ and that they will grow stronger spiritually.

When you pray for others, pray that they will understand who they are in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:15-23). We can pray that our friends will come to know God intimately (17) so that they will know three facts—the past call of salvation that produced hope (18a), the future inheritance that God has in his saints (18b), and the present power of God that is available to those of us who believe (19).

When you pray for others, pray that they become stronger spiritually (Ephesians 3:14-21). We can pray that God will strengthen our friends in four areas—strengthened with power (16-17a), have deep roots and firm foundations (17b), comprehend the love of Christ is all its dimensions (18-19a), and be filled up to God’s fullness (19b).

If you compare these two prayers, you discover:


“that you may KNOW”

“that you may BE”




Know what Christ has done for us

Put the blessings to work in our lives

If you truly understood God chose you, God values you, and God has given you power, would it change how you live? If you became stronger spiritually, allowed Christ to be at home in your life, had a solid foundation, understood the vast dimensions of the love of God, and were filled to the fullness of Christ, would it change how you live? Knowing the difference it would make in your life, pray those same requests on behalf of other Christ followers.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 23, 2016. It is part of a series on Prayer: Moving Heaven for Earth. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


What might God do through you?

tredway_outrageous_wSPine.inddBook Review: Outrageous: Awake to the unexpected adventures of everyday faith, by Aaron Tredway

What might happen if you invite God to journey with you through life? What opportunities might occur if you open yourself to the possibility? These are the questions posed by former globe-trotting athlete Aaron Tredway in his recent book, Outrageous: Awake to the unexpected adventures of everyday faith. Tredway’s premise is that a small amount of faith has the power to move us into opportunities, events, and even adventures that we might not have ever thought possible.

The author weaves together a series of stories from his experience as a professional athlete that he uses to illustrate biblical principles. He traveled the world playing and coaching soccer and used sports as a platform to share the gospel.

On the one hand, the stories were entertaining and encouraging. On the other hand, most people cannot relate to his experience because they are not an athlete or have traveled outside of their backyard. The benefit of the book is not in the stories themselves but in the principles he uses the stories to illustrate. If you take the principle and ask how to apply it to your life, then you will benefit from the book. Otherwise you will only be entertained.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on October 22, 2016 in Books


Backyard Wanderings

Enjoying the fall colors in the city we live in, Chicopee, MA.

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Posted by on October 22, 2016 in Chicopee, Fall, Massachusetts, Photos


Stop Trying to Earn God’s Approval

saving-the-savedBook Review: Saving the Saved: How Jesus saves us from try-harder Christianity into performance-free love, by Bryan Loritts

Moralism is the pervading belief that if we do enough good things, we will arrive and receive God’s approval. “Be true to yourself and don’t harm others, and the meaning, value, and significance are at your fingertips—or so we think.” Once you adopt that approach, it naturally leads to meritocracy, the idea that the world should be led by those who rise highest on the merit scale. We esteem

those who have earned the most and performed the best. We are enamored with people’s educational resumes, athletic prowess, and trophy cases. We measure people’s worthy by the size of their churches, number of championships won, and albums sold. And in a social media age, I can actually quantify my performance based on how many followers I have and likes I get.

While we expect this attitude in the world, we are surprised to discover it has crept into the church as well.

Pastor and author Bryan Loritts has written Saving the Saved: How Jesus saves us from try-harder Christianity into performance-free love in an attempt to free people from the repeated attempt to earn God’s love and approval through performance. Tracing the message of grace through the gospel of Matthew, he shows how Jesus releases us from the pressure of performance and encourages us to abide.

The gospel of Matthew is the good news written to good people like us to whom Jesus says tenderly, “You can stop your trying now. You can drop the performance. Put it all aside—do you feel that burden lifting?—and come, abide in me.

The author blends biblical exposition with life related illustrations from sports, movies, books, political figures, and real life. The book is well-written, thought provoking, and encouraging. It is well worth reading.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on October 21, 2016 in Books, Personal growth, Scripture


The benefits of fundraising

Last night, I had the opportunity to speak to a church about my upcoming ministry trip to Russia in March 2017. I was able to talk with them about short-term ministry trips in general and my trip to Russia in particular. I asked the individuals to pray about the needs of the trip, including the $5300 I need to raise for the airfare, visa, lodging, meals, and helping underwrite the costs of the students who will attend.

On the one hand, fundraising is not my favorite thing to do. I always feel a sense of tension every time I write and mail out a fundraising letter.

I don’t like

I like

Asking for money

Sharing a vision for what God wants to do
Asking for help

Seeing God answer prayer

Depending on others

Being surprised by who God raises up to partner with me

Admitting my needs

Seeing how God provides

Not being able to do it myself

Having to trust God

Not remaining independent

Being part of a team

Feeling as if I am prying $$ out of unwilling hands

Giving people permission to be generous with God’s resources
Not being in control

Seeing God provide the exact amount at just the right moment

When I am honest with myself, I resist fundraising because of my pride. After all, I am a good American, of Scandinavian descent, who lives in the Northeast. I should be able to stand on my own two feet and take care of my problems and needs, thank you very much. I would rather go without than appear needy.

However, when I take that approach, I rob people of ministry because I don’t allow them to use their gifts in service. I rob them of the opportunity to partner with me in a cause that is bigger than both of us. I hinder the body of Christ from functioning as a body. I miss out on God’s blessings because I don’t allow him to answer my prayers and meet my needs. I miss seeing God remove barriers and solve problems.

When I use my own resources and pay my own way, I come away impoverished. When I act humbly and ask for help and then depend on God in prayer, I am enriched and blessed.

I have to remind myself that fundraising is not about asking for money. It is about sharing what God wants to do in my life and in the world. Fundraising is about asking people to join forces in meeting a need and reaching a world with the message of the gospel. It is ministry to and with people for the cause of Christ.

Rather than call it fundraising, perhaps we should adopt the approach of one mission agency and call it “friend-raising.” Ultimately, we are broadening our network of contacts, supporters, and friends. As a result of last night’s gathering, I now have one more church and a larger group of friends who are helping me expand God’s kingdom and equip his servants.

While it may not be my favorite thing to do, fundraising/friend-raising is a unique opportunity to trust God and minister to others. Which, ultimately, is why I like fundraising.

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Posted by on October 21, 2016 in Finances, Ministry, Missions, Russia


Western Night at Awana

Tonight was Western Night at First Central Bible Church‘s Awana program, the first of our monthly theme nights. Children and Leaders came dressed in their western gear. It was another fun night of Bible stories, games, memory verses, and fun.

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Posted by on October 19, 2016 in Awana, First Central Bible Church, Photos