changes coming

Hi all

I know I’ve been out of touch for quite a while. Main reason: Kim and I moved out of the home where we raised our four kids, and into a home 45 minutes north of Madison.

Anyway, I have been working on a whole new format for these mailings. Planning to make them shorter, daily, and connected to my Facebook group: Friends of Author Dwight Clough. It will probably take me another couple weeks to get this fully going, but I wanted to let you know I haven’t forgotten about you.

Dwight

PS. Speaking of changes, I just posted an article about 12 paradigm shifts you really need to understand if you’re gonna make sense out of the Bible. You’ll find it here…

The rest of the gospel

We evangelicals typically think of the gospel as the good news that our sins can be forgiven and we can be reconciled to God because of Jesus. Let me write it this way:

Problem: We have sinned.
Solution: Jesus.

This is good. This is important. But it’s only part of the gospel. There’s another part of the gospel that is also important. It goes like this:

Problem: We have been sinned against.
Solution: Jesus.

This was brought home to me as a young married man. I married a godly Christian woman. We wanted to please God, and expected to have a happy marrige. But both of us had been sinned against; we had sustained damage, and we brought that damage into our marriage. When the honeymoon was over, it felt like there was a “great gulf fixed” between the two of us.

When I got out my little Christian toolkit, I discovered that I didn’t have any tools to handle this. My gospel wasn’t big enough to handle the damage we had sustained. So I did what I suspect most Christians do: I pretended.

It took me a long time to find the rest of the gospel—the good news I had somehow missed along the way. I had to wait years to find the rest of the gospel. Decades in fact. I don’t want that to happen to you or to anyone else. That’s why I write the books I write, and, in particular, that’s why I wrote, What It Means to Follow Jesus. I just figure everybody deserves to know the whole gospel right from the start.

25 Essential Bible Passages

The Bible can be an intimidating book. Part of my mission in life is to help people enjoy and understand the Bible. But most people don’t know where to start. That’s why I’ve compiled below a list of 25 passages that I think every Christian should know.

If you were only going to read one book of the Bible, I would recommend Luke if you want to learn about God through story, or Romans if you want to learn about God through concepts and principles.

Of course, I strongly recommend that you read (or listen) to the entire Bible as soon as possible and as often as possible. But I DO NOT recommend that you start at Genesis and read straight through to Revelation. Here’s a link to a much better reading plan. It will get you through all 1,189 chapters of the Bible in a way that makes much more sense.

You can find the passages below online at Bible Gateway. If you’re new to the Bible, I recommend The Message or the New Living Translation. If you feel more at home with the Bible, then there are many other good choices like the NASB, NKJV, KJV, NIV, AMP, and others.

25 Essential Bible Readings

  1. Jesus’ death and resurrection: Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, John 18-21 (Yes, the first two items on this list contain multiple chapters from more than one book, but I think it’s good to be familiar with all of them.)
  2. Birth of Jesus: Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2
  3. Love chapter: 1 Corinthians 13
  4. Faith chapter: Hebrews 11
  5. Triumph chapter: Romans 8
  6. Sermon on the Mount including the Lord’s prayer: Matthew 5-7
  7. Ten Commandments: Exodus 20 (or Deuteronomy 5)
  8. 23rd Psalm: Psalm 23
  9. Born again: John 3
  10. Jesus’ mission: Luke 4
  11. Prodigal son: Luke 15
  12. Creation and the fall: Genesis 1-3
  13. Crossing the Red Sea: Exodus 14
  14. David & Goliath: 1 Samuel 17
  15. God’s benefits: Psalm 103
  16. Final judgment and heaven: Revelation 20-22
  17. Faith and works: James 2
  18. Suffering: 1 Peter 4
  19. Children of God: 1 John 3
  20. Forgiving others: Matthew 18
  21. Living sacrifices: Romans 12
  22. Upper room discourse and prayer: John 14-17
  23. Prayer of repentance: Psalm 51 (based on 2 Samuel 11-12)
  24. Jesus predicts the future: Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21
  25. Return of Jesus: 1 Thessalonians 4-5

A few bonus readings:

  • Conversion of Saul: Acts 9
  • Daniel & the lions’ den: Daniel 6
  • Lazarus raised from the dead: John 11
  • Joshua & the battle of Jericho: Joshua 6
  • Jonah: Jonah 1-4
  • Noah’s flood: Genesis 6-9
  • Elijah at Mount Carmel: 1 Kings 18
  • Righteous living: Psalm 1
  • Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53

Of course I’m leaving out hundreds of important passages, but I think if you read these, you would be off to a great start.

Other people would pick out different passages and their list might be great also. What passages do you think should be on this list and why?

What does it mean to have God as our father? Part 4

Much more could be said about God being our Father. But here are a few thoughts to wrap up this series:

  • He likes you.
  • He likes hanging out with you.
  • He likes listening to you. You can talk to Him about anything.
  • He protects you from bullies.
  • He will teach you how to defend yourself—if you’ll let Him.
  • He’s smarter than you are; even when you think He isn’t.
  • He sees your potential; He’s excited about your future.
  • He isn’t about to settle for second best. And He doesn’t want you to settle for second best.
  • He wants you a whole lot more than He wants anything from you; and He wants that to work the other way around also.
  • He cares a great deal about how your brothers and sisters treat you, and how you treat your brothers and sisters.
  • He understands you.
  • He sends you out to represent the family.

Hope these thoughts are helpful.

Hey, have you been to my free resources page at DwightClough.com? Every so often, I post something new. I just posted “God’s purpose in your suffering,” a fresh look at the book of Job. It’s all there—no sign up, no hoops to jump through.

What does it mean to have God as our father? Part 3

If God is your father, that means He is your provider. That’s gonna look a little different for each person, but it will always involve an exciting adventure with Him.

Here’s what that looks like in my life.

I live in an old house.

That means things fall apart, and you need money and skill to fix them. I have neither.

So I came up with this idea. Why not tear this house down, build a bigger, better house, rent most of it out, live in some of it, and let my tenants pay for the cost of all that?

Great idea, but you can’t exactly go up to a construction company and say, “Build me a castle, and I hope to pay you some day.” You need money up front.

I was explaining all this to God and a couple friends. Then my friend Brett said to me, “Just do it. Other people have money.” And God seemed to say, “Stop dreaming and start doing.”

Okay. I met with an architect. I thought he would tell me I was crazy, but he didn’t. We met with a builder. Then we found a real estate investment consultant. And we found a couple of investors. Then, instead of tearing down my house, we decided to buy this million dollar property, tear it down, and build a $30 million property in its place.
Keep in mind, I have no money. None at all.

We bought the property. The redevelopment plan didn’t go through, so we sold it for a modest profit to another developer. I walked away with cash in my pocket. Not millions. Not peanuts. But a tidy sum. Not enough to restore our old house or buy a new one. But enough to help.

We were afraid to sell our house because we thought with our income we’d never get a mortgage on a new one. But then the decision was made for us. Our homeowner’s insurance company stopped insuring homes, so we needed to find a new insurance company. No one would touch our home. The roof was too old, they said.

Replacing a steep roof on an old Victorian two-story house with a hundred years of roofing layers on it; let’s just say that’s not cheap. No way could we afford it. (This was before we sold the investment property.) So we had to sell.

Then Kim came up with this great idea: Let’s sell our home, and see if we can rent it back from the new owner for a while so we can look for something else.

We sold the house, and made a little bit of money on that.

Not enough to buy a new home outright, but maybe we could buy some land out in the middle of nowhere and put a trailer on it, and live in that until we got enough money to build something.

So we found land we loved. Five acres. Wooded. Beautiful. Secluded. Cheap. Almost bought it, but the deal fell through.

Somewhere in there, we met with a lender. “Hey,” he said. “Your credit is good. We can loan you something.” Not a mint, but something.

So we started our search. Land with a little cottage on it that could add on to or build new on later.

After several months of searching, we found a two-bedroom two-bath house a half hour north of Deforest on 1.6 acres of land. The house was built in 2016. Everything is new. We made an offer; it got accepted, and Lord-willing, we close on March 29.

For us, what God provided is perfect for this season in our lives.

God is your provider. Whatever that adventure looks like for you, enjoy it with Him!

A note about the image: This Flickr image was supplied as a Creative Commons image by pellethepoet. The original image, Bird Nurseries was by Mary Baker (1936) and was published by Jewson, London as a postcard. According to pellethepoet, “The silhouette artist Mary Baker (1897-?) was the sister of children’s book author Margaret Baker (1890-?). They collaborated on many books published from the 1920s to the 1940s.” Based on this information, I believe the original illustration is probably in the public domain, but I could be mistaken.

What does it mean to have God as our father? Part 2

If God is your Father, then that means that God is your coach.

What is a coach? A coach is someone invested in empowering you to succeed. He wants you to win. When you stumble, He picks you up, dusts you off, and gets you back into the game. When you don’t believe in yourself, He believes in you. He sees potential in you that you don’t see. He will draw a level of performance out of you that you didn’t know you had in you.

Let me tell you a story of how this came into focus for me.

I was behind on my mortgage. I’m self employed. I don’t get a regular paycheck. My income is somewhat unpredictable. Anyway, I was behind on my mortgage.

I had every confidence that God could supply what I needed. I had seen Him do so many times before. But this time was different. This time, for some reason, I believed He wouldn’t. I believed that I had screwed up—somehow, and He was just going to make me sit in the mess I had created.

I felt horrible.

As I focused in on what was going on inside me, I came to this place in my childhood. I was about eight years old. My dad had been away of a remote military deployment for a year and he was coming home. While he was away, I was playing with his tools—his hammers, saws, wrenches, pliers, whatever. The only problem was this: my dad was very particular about how his tools were to be put away. And I was clueless on how to follow his system.

As we counted down the days to my dad’s return, dread filled me. When he finally did come home, one of the first things he did was yell at me because I left his shovel out in my sandbox.

I had screwed up, and I didn’t know how to fix it.

But here God spoke to me. He said, “Your dad used the parenting tools that were in his parenting toolbox. I’m a different kind of dad. I have different tools. When you don’t know what to do, I come along side you and help you.”

Wow! All the angst I felt about that mortgage instantly vanished. In its place was this beautiful anticipation: God is going to help me. He will show me how to win.

Of course, the money came in, the mortgage got paid, everything was fine.

God is our coach.

More next time…

Sport image created by Solominphoto – Freepik.com

What it means to have God as your Father part 1

What does it mean to have God as your father? I’d like to take a few posts and start to unpack that.

I’ll start here: God is proud of you.

He’s proud of us.

I have four kids. I love them dearly. Each of them is fully and uniquely human. Each one has made mistakes. And some of those mistakes have been public mistakes.

Sometimes I get a little bit of push back from people about mistakes my kids have made. I’m not going to go into the details, but I’ll tell you, I don’t appreciate it. Not one bit.

I am proud of all four of my kids.

All four.

Without exception.

I have reason to be proud of each of my children. No they’re not perfect. Neither are your kids. But they are wonderful human beings—full of dreams and hopes to make their world a better place. I learn from them—all four of them. I’m a better person because of them. If you got to know them, you would be too.

I sense that God feels the same way about each of His kids. He’s proud, fiercely proud of each one of us. He hates it when His kids are bad mouthed. When Satan the accuser comes along to point out all our faults, God says, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t see the child I see.”

God is proud of us. More next time…

Thought you might want to know

I think maybe the time has come to make some things public that I haven’t shared before.

No, it’s not a scandal or anything like that.

Instead, it’s the story of what happened. It’s the story of how I started writing books, and why I write the books I write.

It all starts in the backwoods of Maine in the late 1800s. Something happened there that has had a ripple effect across four generations… A young woman died. Some say it was an epidemic. Some say it was poison. Some say it was murder.

Anyway, I tell the story, or stories, here…

Are we constantly sinning?

I want to share some thoughts about sin. I want to address these thoughts to people who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ. If that’s you, then this is for you.

I am concerned by what I see as some unhealthy perspectives on sin.

I’ll start here. Some seem to take perverse delight in showing us how far short of the mark we fall. I have been in churches where every sermon could be entitled, “Yet Another 15 Ways You Are Sinning And Didn’t Know It.”

I asked the Lord today, “Is it true that we are constantly sinning?”
This is what I heard.
God: That isn’t where My focus is.
Me: If You’re focus isn’t there, then where is it?
God: Sharing life with you.

It got me thinking. Behavior management (and attitude management) is only a small part of healthy parenting. Healthy parents are focused on other things: relationship building, coaching, encouragement, quality time, laughter, identity building. Sure, good parents correct their children. But that’s just a small part of a big picture.

Our heavenly Father doesn’t condemn His children. (Romans 8:1) Condemnation is paralyzing. It leaves us without hope and without recourse. God does sometimes correct His children. (Hebrews 12:5-11) That’s a very different thing. God’s correction is motivational. God gives us specific steps we can take to get ourselves out of trouble.

If I had a child who was constantly focused on all the ways he has failed or disappointed me, I would be concerned. If the only time my child talked to me was to apologize, I would be very concerned. (And, of course, I’d be concerned if my child never apologized.)

Do we mess up? Yeah, sometimes we do. But that isn’t where the spotlight is. We deal with it. We move on. Our focus is sharing our lives with God, enjoying His presence, allowing Him into our lives.

Much, much more could be said here, but I think I’ll wrap up for today.

Enjoy life! Enjoy God! Live well!

Dwight

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