All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:22-23 (NIV) From Isaiah’s prophesy of God’s promised Son 700 years earlier (Isaiah 9:6-7) to the angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary with news of great joy (Luke 1:26-38), we can all exclaim the words of English hymn writer Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!” As you may know and according to Wikipedia, Watts penned these words of “Joy to the World” as a hymn glorifying Christ’s triumphant (second) return at the end of the age, rather than a song of His first coming.  God calls all nations to celebrate because His faithfulness to the house of Israel has brought salvation to the world!  How appropriate at this treasured time of...

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  Psalm 127:3-5 (NIV) What are you aiming for? A big promotion at work that would make you king of your world? Early retirement to south Florida? The greenest lawn on your block? The biggest boat you can fit in your driveway? Local news highlight footage of your kid’s athletic accomplishments?   These “targets” are all-too-easy for me to quickly list off, because, at some point in my life, I had foolishly exerted an inordinate amount of time and energy aiming at them. Occasionally – no, make that rarely – I’d hit the target, but, most times, I’d shoot too high or too low, too far right or too far left.   And, embarrassingly, sometimes my arrows just plunged into the dirt faster...

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 (NIV) Ever had one of those days? You missed your connecting flight, so it’s another night away from home. You let a customer down by missing a previously promised product delivery date. You just missed getting the promotion, but your best work buddy got it instead. You’re on the green in two, but miss an easy par shot and triple bogey instead. Your wife and kids tell you they haven’t seen you enough lately: they miss you. Having one of those days, weeks, months, or years right now? When we find ourselves missing out in any number of ways, we also often find ourselves missing what is arguably life’s most critical connection: building our relationships.  It’s these relationships that bind us together even when things seem to come unglued.  Is there a precedent for how we build...

“He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” Luke 4:18 (NIV)  Man, you just never know how God will work through a men’s retreat!  And the short story I share below is so wonderfully typical of the surprisingly unexpected ways God ministers through His people.  In short, I’m going to briefly introduce you to three men, two of whom you’ve probably never met before – one an ex-con – but you’ll feel like you know all three of us soon enough.  Let’s get started! Meet Bob This was Bob’s first time coming to a Frontline Ministries retreat, yet he has been faithfully following Jesus for years.  To say Bob came from a broken home would grossly understate his situation.  As Bob puts it, he knew there would be trouble after his divorced mother married his “step-monster”, a man who...

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV84) Do you remember elementary school? I sure do!  Sitting in metal desks, playing kickball during all three recess times, and, of course, writing “I will not talk in class” on the black board 100 times over recess only to watch Mrs. Sowers erase my chalk scribbles immediately after I completed my punishment are just some of the memories I hold on to.  Ah, the good ol’ days, right? But one of my favorite elementary school memories was something my parents did for me back in 3rd grade: they enrolled me in Camp Joy El’s “Bible Released Time.”  Released Time allowed students to be released from their classrooms once a week to go to an offsite location to receive Bible teaching.  From its inception, Released Time included Scripture memory, and we...

He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land-- the LORD is his name.  Amos 5:8 (NIV) The night was close, hanging on us like a damp sweater in the mid-July summer swelter of the South Florida Keys.  John Pennekamp State Park was abuzz not only with scores of family campers and Boy Scouts but also with scores of ravenous mosquitoes and “No-See-Ums” anxious to feast on our exposed arms and legs.  And the zings and stings on our skin were a jarring reminder that it was dinner time for the bugs!  Seeking relief, a fellow scoutmaster and I led a group of about a half dozen scouts through the dense forest to a marina less than a quarter mile away.  To our delight, the...

  My totally unexpected first thought of parenting… There’s a first time for everything: tying your shoes; shaving; flunking a math test; and driving.  But this time was different – very different – so different that it would irrevocably change our lives in an amazingly unexpected way. It was Friday, February 20, 1998, and, by necessity of a scheduled C-section at Andrews Air Force Base, my bride and I would soon be thrust into first-time parenthood – rookie parents for sure! Can you reimagine that moment, too? After 10 months of growing anticipation followed by several traumatic delivery room moments including both mama’s and child’s racing heartbeats, God climatically blessed us with the most welcome of sounds, so clear, so precious, so purposeful.  In that instant the gasping, tiny cries of our newborn daughter, Elizabeth Mae Zimmerman, flooded the room like the welcoming morning’s sunshine unbounded by a raised up window blind.  Like so many...