Hope for Change When Hope Seems Lost

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
- John 10:27

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
- Philippians 2:12,13

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
- Colossians 3:1-3

“All my hope is naught save in Thy great mercy. Grant what Thou dost command and command what Thou wilt.”
- Augustine, Confessions, Book 10:XXIX

“Therefore, just as Adam did not die for himself alone, but for us all, so it follows that Christ, who is the antitype, did not rise merely for Himself. For He came to restore everything which had been brought to ruin in Adam…. The cause of death is Adam, and we die in him; therefore Christ, whose function it is to restore what we have lost in Adam, is the cause for life in us.”
- John Calvin, quoted in Calvin and the Atonement by Robert Peterson, pp. 61, 62

Dear Friends,
If you’ve ever experienced the gnawing low-grade discouragement of besetting sin you may have asked the question, ‘Will I ever change?’ Or you may have wondered if there is any hope for the nagging patterns of sin in your spouse, friends or children. The power for real and lasting change is resident in the objective reality of the person and work of Christ. Let me say it a different way - real and lasting victory over sin is achieved only through trust in Christ’s objective victory over sin. Christ achieved real victory over real sin. The frequent encouragement in Scripture is towards certain behavior, but that behavioral change is always rooted in the person and work of Christ in His real, historical, objective, and effective victory over sin. Theologians have called this the indicative (that which is objectively true) and the imperative (that moral action which God requires). The imperative of gospel behavior is rooted in the indicative of gospel truth. God declares something so based upon His righteous action, and right behavior is a moral action based upon this declaration and action of God. In other words, what God has accomplished in an historical event and has declared to be so is the impetus of my obedience. I work out my salvation because God has already worked and not vice versa. This gives true hope for gospel change.

Join me in thanking God today for His indicative that enables His imperative.



George Vernon Amundson
I've written this in consideration of Memorial Day 2018. In 2008 American country singer Jamie Johnson released a song entitled, In Color. The song went on to win the CMA Song of the Year in 2009. The song is a ballad about an old man remniscing to his grandson as they look at old black and white pictures in a photo album. The second verse of the song says this,

Oh and this one here was taken over seas
In the middle of 1943
In the winter time, you can almost see my breath
That was my tail gunner ole Johnny Magee
He was a high school teacher from New Orleans
And he had my back right through the day we left
If it looks like we were scared to death 
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
You should have seen it in color [1]

I have a story to tell about a young second-generation Norwegian-American. He was born in Minnesota in 1924. The son of hardy Nordic stock, and being raised in a tight Norwegian community, he never spoke English until he started grade school. In fact, until the day he died his strong Norwegian accent never abated, this despite being born in the US. At age 17 he left home to join the military. In 1941 World War II was in full force and because he was 17 he needed special permission to join the Navy. For whatever reason his parents would not grant permission, but he was able to convince an aunt and uncle to sign the waiver. Though he joined the Navy he was never able to swim very well. This was a bit problematic since he was twice in open ocean combat zones in the theater of war, and twice he had naval vessels sunk from under him, having had to spend time in the ocean awaiting rescue. One of those times he was picked up and sent to France. The second time he was picked up by Russian allies and taken to Russia. During his time in Russia he tried to join the Norwegian Resistance, which was an underground resistance group organized against Hitler and the Third Reich, but he was refused since he was an American citizen. For his bravery he was awarded several medals and awards. When he returned from the war, and after he married, he was so stricken by the sights and sounds and memories of battle that one day he walked into the forest, away from their Minnesota farm, and threw the medals as far away as possible. He was loath to talk about his experience. In fact, we don’t know much more about his war-time experience. George Vernon Amundson died in 1989 at 65 years old, suffering for years the effects of war in his body. George Vernon Amundson was my father-in-law, Judy’s dad, and a dear Christian man.

Who will remember? Who will remember George Amundson? Who will remember the names of the soon-forgotten heroes, and who will remember the reason men and women make sacrifice, some of them the ultimate sacrifice? This is why Veteran's Day is important. This is why remembering is important. We mustn’t forget them or their stories.

[1]Johnson, Jamie, That Lonesome Song, In Color, Mercury Records, 2008


Seven Hours on a Sunday Night

There is no want for criticism of law enforcement these days. Everyone seems to have an opinion and much of it leveled at the behavior of a few bad actors. Every profession has them…bad actors that is…it’s just that the stakes are higher because law enforcement requires performance that approaches perfection. One officer has told me that one wrong split-second decision will ruin an entire career. Think of it – one wrong move and everything is gone. The criticism is withering. The scrutiny is incessant.

My son is now in law enforcement. The scatter-brained, always-active kid with his mind on all-things unimportant, now carries a gun and a badge, and attempts to hold the thin blue line in a world gone increasingly crazy. It just so happens that last night, for seven hours, I had a front row seat into his world. This is a world of which I’m largely unfamiliar. It was Sunday night and surely he and I would have a quiet evening. His only warnings to me were to fasten my seatbelt and to not feel compelled to talk to anyone that may get a ‘ride’ in his patrol car. This was good counsel directed toward a guy that likes to talk to strangers. As it turns out I would heed his advice.

The shift started about 6:00pm. I was prompt and so was he. First things first, he introduced me to his commanding officer. Polite and all business, I knew immediately my son was in good hands. More on this later but in any endeavor leadership can make or break our best efforts. From there we put gas in the cruiser and we were on our way. 

We started out driving around to just show me the area. It wasn’t long and we were checking on an apartment with a report of bullet holes through a wall. Sure enough, someone had fired a high-powered firearm from one apartment building into another. While beginning to assess the situation another call came in over the radio, a code three. I was unfamiliar with the language but soon found that code three meant another officer was calling for backup…in a hurry…with lights, sirens, and blindingly fast speed. It was a domestic disturbance with an occupant threatening to harm herself by walking into traffic. She was resistant and angry and threw herself down on the asphalt. Several officers arrived and spoke to her daughter. The aid car was called and she was transported to the hospital for care and evaluation.

The next call was via phone to an elderly gentleman that had been the victim of credit card fraud. He was distressed. Someone had skimmed his credit card and put six bogus charges against his account. It was Sunday and he couldn’t reach his bank. He wasn’t sure what to do. I get it. I wouldn’t have been sure of what to do either. My son walked him through next steps to help settle his mind. The older gentleman, grateful, expressed his appreciation. 

We next made our way back to the apartment to sleuth out the stray gunfire. How had it happened? Was there a crime involved? Was it a suicide, or even a homicide? We tried to locate the tenants. My son called a phone number and a Hispanic woman, unable to speak English, answered. Little did I know my son now speaks conversational Spanish! He was able to gather enough information to know the call was a dead end. Just as we arrived at the apartment another call came in…another domestic violence call…this time from a woman with known mental health issues. Her speech was like stoccato’d gunfire, each sentence was brief, laden with emotion, and disconnected. Her story was implausible. She was troubled and wanted someone to listen. Notes were taken and counsel was given. She has been a frequent caller to dispatch. Ask them and law enforcement will tell you; folks with mental health challenges are frequent callers.

By now it was time for a break. We’d get something to eat and head back to the office for the evening briefing. Sonic was the meal of choice. I couldn’t eat. There was too much happening for me to feel the least bit hungry. Before we got back to the facility there was another call, this time at the jail of all places. The call identified a woman in a vehicle chasing a man in a vehicle. Every appearance was that this was a lover’s quarrel gone bad and then gone mobile; a quarrel that coincidently ended up at the county jail. After de-escalation the couple was sent on their way, but only after the deputy gave the young man a head start.

The briefing looked more like a family gathering. The commanding officer was checking in. Each deputy took a turn. There were a lot of laughs and good-natured teasing. In a job that’s ‘always on’ any respite from the stress is best shared as a team. It looked like it would be a relatively quiet night overall. The final decision…two officers were paired up to head to a rural community an hour away for another domestic call while we headed back into town. 

Heading back to the aforementioned apartment the next call came over the radio. I had a hard time deciphering the dispatch. My alarm escalated when my son said, ‘It’s too late to drop you off now. Is your seat belt fastened?’ He then said, ‘It doesn’t make sense. An armed robbery in a rural area is rare.’ Again, blindingly fast and we were the first to arrive with another deputy close behind. For all we knew the armed suspects were still on premises. Guns were drawn. K-9 was called. Other officers arrived. This one was serious. The attack upon the residents was calculated and egregious. I stayed put in the cruiser. After the K-9 swept the area no suspects were found. The homeowners were shaken. The crime was brazen. This will be one to keep an eye on. 

We hadn’t gotten out of the rural driveway when the next call came in. It was another exigent domestic dispute and it was escalating by the second. A woman locked herself in a back bedroom while her male friend barked rising threats. The call dispatcher could hear everything. So off we went to another rural area several miles away. The commanding officer had already arrived and screams could be heard from across the road. A large man met us in the driveway and he reluctantly let the deputies look around. The woman was located, another woman with a history to the deputies, and she would be given a ‘courtesy ride’ back into town. She was telling stories of biker gangs and stalkers. Heeding my son’s advice, I said nothing to her. 

Once back into town it was my time to head home. It was almost 1:30am. I had an hour-and-a-half drive back and I’d still have to get up for work in the morning.  My drive home was pensive, a swarm of thoughts and emotion; I was sobered by all I’d seen. I was sobered that my son had ended up here, and ended up doing this, and yet it made perfect sense. This is a calling, not for everyone, but for certain ones, driven by sense that they can make a difference in a world that can be an ugly place. I had a hard time squaring the criticisms of law enforcement I’d read about with the reality of real men and real women with real families themselves making incredible sacrifices every day in the promotion of civility and order. Their calling, serving and protecting, where laying their own lives down for others is an everyday occurrence. Often times their jobs are thankless and yet they’re the first we call when we’re in trouble. They run toward danger, while most of us run away. I, for one, am grateful for the seven hours I spent with my son and his outstanding team. And, I’d encourage you, the next time you are tempted to be critical of law enforcement, spend seven hours in a patrol car on a ride-along, but make sure your seat belt is fastened. 




A Few Thoughts on Repentance -

  1. Repentance is a gift from God. We mustn’t assume that repentance has its origin within us. God gives repentance as a gift of grace through the work of the Spirit in His people and as such ought to be treated as a gift with an awareness of an undeserved mercy. (2 Tim. 2:25)

  1. Repentance is recognizing that our offense is primarily a transgression against God, His holy character, and His Law, and secondarily a transgression against our neighbor as His image bearer. Therefore real repentance is to be offered for real sins and real transgressions and not for illusory or made-up offenses. (Matt. 22:36-40)

  1. Repentance, rightly understood, inevitably brings about a change of mind and posture towards those whom we’ve sinned against. First, in abhorrence of my behavior as it has been directed toward to the person and character of God, and second, as I have sinned against my neighbor. Repentance looks like renewed disposition, love, and good deeds directed toward both. (Eph. 4:28)

  1. Repentance is casting myself upon the mercy of God for my personal transgressions against God and my neighbor, and imploring Him for forgiveness, and trusting that He will hear my cry for mercy. And this with a single view of turning away from this action that has caused a breach between Him (and my neighbor) and me, with full recognition that without God’s mercy I am lost in my sin. (Psalm 51, Luke 18:9-14)

  1. Repentance is recognizing and embracing the reality that my sinful behavior is no small thing. My sin is a transgression against the holy character of God and as such required the death of Jesus Christ as God’s sin-bearer. (Heb. 9:22)

  1. My repentance is not conditioned upon the repentance of someone else. My transgression is mine alone and whether someone else repents is of no consequence to me. My sinful action against God (and my neighbor) is the sole source for my repentance. (Matt. 5:23)

  1. Lack of repentance brings judgment. (James 5:9)

  1. Repentance must characterize the community of the forgiven as the world looks on in confounded amazement. (Rev. 2:5)

  1. Repentance makes the heart glad as we become reconciled to God and our neighbor. (James 5:16)

  1. Repentance is an indication that we are walking in the light and have fellowship with God through Christ. (1 John 1)

  1. Repentance, with both contrition and joy, shows the inestimable worth of Jesus Christ as a propitiation for my sin. (1 John 1:5-10)

  1. Repentance demonstrates the imminence of God's Kingdom (Matt. 4:17)

  1. There is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. (Luke 15:7)

  1. True repentance always bears good fruit. (Matthew 3:8)

  1. Repentance, when offered in faith, is always accompanied by the assurance of forgiveness by God. (1 John 1:9)




Born a Martyr -

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."'
-Luke 2:25-35

'The whole life of Christ was a continual Passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucufied, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and death were but one continual act, and his Christmas day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of the same day. And as even his birth is his death, so every action and passage that manifests Christ to us is his birth, for Epiphany is manisfestation. Every manifestation of Christ to the world, to the church, to a particular soul is an Epiphany, a Christmas day.'
- John Donne, The Showing Forth of Christ, quoted in Watch for the Light, p. 303-304

Dear Friends and Family,

I love the story of Simeon from Luke 2. Can you imagine this elderly, faithful Jewish gentleman day after day serving and performing his temple duties? He was righteous and devout; a man set upon by the Spirit of God and having been visited by the Spirit who assure him that he would see God's salvation before he died. When Joseph and Mary had brought Jesus to the temple for the rites expected by Levitical law Simeon saw Him. When he set his eyes upon Jesus an old man saw God's salvation. Simeon recognized that this would be God's salvation for all peoples; Gentile and Jew alike. In the new babe Simeon saw what many do not see. He saw hope for all peoples, but also that this salvation would be opposed. Salvation would come at a price. Simeon saw that God's salvation was to be manifest, not by youthful zeal and the hope of a young child, but this salvation would be made manifest by opposition and suffering. Simeon saw God's salvation in a child that would bring salvation through the piercing pain of suffering. Simeon may not have seen God's redemptive plan from beginning to end, but he made the connection between God's salvation and the opposition that was coming to this child. God's redemptive plan included both a manger and a cross. This child was born a martyr.

Rejoicing with Simeon in seeing God's salvation.

Dan J. Morse

(Reposting an original post from December 2009)