August 14, 2020

How Can I be Okay?

 Preface: This isn't "writing" per se, this is the first of three posts that will be lesson outlines from the VBS our church is conducting this week. The titles are, Where Did I Come From?, Am I Important, and How Can I Be Okay? My hope in sharing is that if you work with kids, or simply are interested in answering these questions for yourself, you will be edified.

How Can I Be Okay?

Gold bean bag

  • Do you ever feel broken? Like something inside of you just isn’t right? 

  • The last couple of days the kids have been working on a verse, Gen 1:1, In the beginning, God created…

  • The Bible starts not with people, not with some slog beginning with an immense hydrogen explosion, but with God. A speaking God. A God who speaks life into being

  • What did God call his creation? Very good (v31)

  • Part of that very good creation was an image-bearer: people

    • Kids, who made everything? God!

    • So, who made you? God!

    • So, who’s the boss? God is!

  • Right, God is the boss. And he gave people a job: take care of creation, and reflect what God is like, 1:26-27, 2:15

  • We were made to mirror what God is like-but do we?

    • What went wrong?

  • Kids, who’s the boss? God!

    • But remember, that’s good news. Why is it good news?

    • Who loves you? God!

  • Right, God loves you, and he knows everything. So when he makes a rule, it is a rule that flows from his love.

    • How many rules did he give to Adam and Eve? 1 rule!

  • Genesis 2:16

Black bean bag

  • In Genesis 3 we read about that start of everything that goes wrong: a snake comes into the garden. Gen 3:1-13

  • The snake comes with a terrible lie: God doesn’t love you. God doesn’t care about what’s best for you. Be your own boss, your own ruler. 

  • And the woman and the man both eat the fruit, and the black poison of sin takes root in their hearts

  • Did you know, that is the same poison that lives inside your heart? 

  • 3:15, God promises a Rescuer to fix things

  • The whole rest of the Bible is the story of God preparing a people to be the family of the Rescuer

    • But guess what? They keep failing, because the are full of sin, just like you and me

    • And do you know what the worst part of sin is? It cuts you off from God’s presence: you can’t be covered with sin and enjoy standing before God

  • So what’s going to happen?

Red Bean Bag

  • God wasn’t going to leave people separated from him forever.

  • John 3:16. God sent his Son into the world

  • But was Jesus just going to rescue his people out of the bad place, like a prince swooping in to take away the princess?

  • No, there was a price to be paid. Romans 6:23

  • Jesus came and shed his blood to cover your sins

White bean bag

  • Did you remember where I said you couldn’t stand when you’re covered in sin? 

  • The Bible says if you trust in Jesus, his blood covers your sins, and you get to wear his perfect righteousness. You get clean clothes! It’s called being forgiven

  • Have you ever had to ask for forgiveness? You can be forgiven by God, and live with him, because of what Jesus has done. 

  • You can’t do anything to earn it: it’s a free gift

Green bean bag

  • But this free gift of life isn’t the end of the story. Because eternal life is a real life that starts now

  • So we need to grow. How can we grow? We pray, read the Bible, go to church to spend time with other people who have been forgiven by Jesus. And we tell other people about what he’s done. 

Big Lesson: who made everything? Who made you? Who loves you? Who gives the gift of forgiveness and life to all who ask? God!

August 13, 2020

Am I Important?

Preface: This isn't "writing" per se, this is the first of three posts that will be lesson outlines from the VBS our church is conducting this week. The titles are, Where Did I Come From?, Am I Important, and How Can I Be Okay? My hope in sharing is that if you work with kids, or simply are interested in answering these questions for yourself, you will be edified.

Am I Important?

  • Have you ever felt small and unimportant? 

  • Did you know you are important to God? God cares about little things and little people, because God values all people. 

  • What did we talk about yesterday? Creation

  • Who remembers what the most important part of creation was? People; Gen 1:27, 31. 

  • Gen 2:

    • 7-9, how did God make man?

    • Where did God put him?

    • 15, why did God put him in the garden? Remember how people are supposed to take care of God’s world?

    • 16-17, God gives them a rule. How many rules? 1 rule!

    • What is the rule? Remember that, it’s important.

    • 18-23, God didn’t want Adam to be alone, so what did he do? Made him a wife! Does anyone know her name?

  • When you tell a story, do you like to talk about the boring part or the fun part? The fun part!

  • God spent the first chapter of the Bible telling us how he made everything. Then he spends another chapter telling us how he made one thing. People. 

  • Which part do you think God thinks is the fun part? People!

  • I want to read you a couple of Bible stories that show how much Jesus loves people: 

    • Lk 8:40-56, who did Jesus heal? 

    • John 4:46-54, who did Jesus heal?

    • Mt 19:13-15, who does Jesus love?

  • The Bible tells us (Jn 1:18) that Jesus came to show us what God is like, and Jesus shows us that God has love for all kinds of people. Like you.

  • Big lesson: Who made me? God made me (x3)

    • Who’s the boss? God is!

    • Who loves me? God loves me! (x3)

August 12, 2020

Where Did I Come From?

  Preface: This isn't "writing" per se, this is the first of three posts that will be lesson outlines from the VBS our church is conducting this week. The titles are, Where Did I Come From?, Am I Important, and How Can I Be Okay? My hope in sharing is that if you work with kids, or simply are interested in answering these questions for yourself, you will be edified.

Where Did I Come From?

  • Have you ever wondered where you came from? Who made me?

  • What’s our memory verse? Genesis 1:1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

  • Can you name some things God made?

  • He made everything, stars and trees, elephants and bees, the stars and your knees!

  • But did you know he didn’t make it all at once? Gen 1:2

  • Does anyone know what void means? Empty. But he was there

  • Do you know what happened next? God did 2 things: form, and fill

  • Form: 1, Light/Dark (eyes open/close); 2 water/sky (swim/jump action); 3; water/dry land (swim/pump arms)

  • Fill: 4, Lights (can you name lights in the sky?); 5, (what goes in the air and the water?) can you name your favorite bird or fish?; 6, (what belongs on the land?) what’s your favorite land animal?

  • Do you know what God said the most important part of his creation is? People! Gen 1:26

  • People are supposed to take care of God’s creation and rule over it kindly. 

  • Do you have any pets? How do you take care of them? 

  • That’s how we’re supposed to relate to all of creation: loving rule, like God would take care of it.

  • But how do we know how he would take care of this world?

  • The Bible! The Bible is God’s letter to teach us what he is like, and what he wants us to know. The Bible teaches us how to live.

  • Big lesson: who made everything? God! Who made you? God! So, if God made us, who is in charge of us? God! 

    • Who made me? God made me! (x3)

    • Who’s the boss? God is! (x3)

Review: Educated by Tara Westover

EducatedEducated by Tara Westover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Westover's prose is brisk, clear. Her story is emotionally wrenching.

I was both pulled along by the narrative she weaves and forced to pause as I shared in her grappling: how can you love in the midst of abuse? How can one be honest without being bitter when reality is so demented? How do you do what is right for survival when doing so feels like betraying those whom you cherish?

A worthwhile read for anyone and everyone.

View all my reviews

August 11, 2020

Observing the Beginning

 I'm working on some VBS lessons out of the first couple chapters of Genesis, and I was struck once again by Genesis 1:1-2,

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 

Here are three quick things I noticed in this passage today.

God Created

This is the most obvious point. It's also the most important. The opening pages of the Bible assume the existence of an eternal Creator (present before the beginning, because he initiates said beginning). They also assume that everything else is derivative from, and dependent upon, him. This assumption frames the whole Bible; nothing makes sense without a Creator who transcends, who exists apart from and independent of, this world.

God Formed

I've always found it curious that God didn't just create everything in one big shot. He's speaking it all into being ex nihilio, why this pattern of days that we see? 

But one of the interesting things about this, which we read in v2, is that while this earth is formless and void, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. So while the previous verse introduced us to the transcendent Creator, here we meet the intimate Former of creation. God exists outside of creation, yes. He also personally at work within it.

No Date Stamp

Much to the consternation of people from every side of this question, the Bible doesn't tell us when God made the heavens and the earth. Well, it does: in the beginning. We just don't have a date for that beginning. And I think that's just fine.

I personally find a young earth argument to be the most reasonable based upon Biblical evidence, particularly in how the doctrine of sin develops. But I can look someone of a more Frances Collins persuasion right in the eye, shake their hand, and agree that we hold the central truth of this passage in common, God created. He rules. He is to be worshiped. Whenever he did this marvelous making of heavens and earth.

August 10, 2020

Count the Cost


Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously wrote, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."

That makes for a great pintrest quote or opening line to a blog. But does it reflect New Testament reality? The short answer is "yes."

Matthew 10:34-39

34  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Mark 8:34-38

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Luke 14:25-33

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

John 12:24-26

24Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Jesus' call to us is clear: forsake your life, that you might find it. And know this going in-don't be surprised when relationships are strained and people look sideways at you and the world counts you as nothing because of your identification with Christ. They crucified him. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. Count the cost. The cost is death. But what a small price. What can a man give in return for his soul?

August 09, 2020

Sermon Sunday

 Here is a link to the sermon I preached at our church last week, The Lord Revealed. The sermon text was John 21:1-14.

Here is a follow up blog post to that sermon, from earlier this week: A Missed Point

August 07, 2020


"Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them...When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, 'Lord, what about this man?' Jesus said to him, 'If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!'"

John 21:20a, 21-22 

The Setting

Here on the shores of Lake Galilee, Jesus has found 7 of his disciples fishing. He doesn't identify himself to them, but rather asks them a question, "have you caught any fish?" (v5). Which seems rather insensitive, because they haven't. But if you know the story, he more than makes up for this jab to the rib cage.

Jesus tells them to let down their net on the right side of the boat, and the resulting haul of fish is overwhelming to the point where they can't get them aboard the boat. Jesus here reveals himself to the disciples. This is One who knows all, who provides, and who is their Lord. But for Peter, Jesus is also something else. Jesus is the all knowing, perfect provider, the Lord-whom Peter thrice denied.

And so, as we come to the later half of John 21, we find Jesus reestablishing Peter via some painful questioning. Do you love me more than these? Do you love me? Do you love me? Peter, who publicly denied the Lord three times before the crucifixion, is restored by this set of three fold questions. This is also public, before the other disciples. And Jesus commissions him, feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. 

A Painful Call

Then Jesus offers an unsolicited prophecy: you're going to die Peter, and you're going to die by crucifixion. (see v18-19). Why in the world would Jesus say this to him now? Perhaps because of what Peter says in 13:37, I will lay down my life for you. In that context Jesus questions Peter's devotion, will you lay down your life for me? And then issues a chilling statement: the rooster will not crow three times till you have denied me.

We've come out the other end of that circumstance. Jesus has been denied by Peter. But he's been restored. And now Jesus looks forward to the Spirit-filled and empowered ministry he is going to work through Peter and says, you know how you'll meet your earthly end? You will die for me. 


This apparently isn't what Peter had thought of as an ideal sort of restoration ceremony, though, because he sees John trailing behind, and feels compelled to ask Jesus, but what about him? Jesus response should cause us all to sit up and take note. If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Or, we said when we were kids, none of your beeswax, Peter! Mind your own business. You have one task, and it isn't making sure everything is fair between you and John, making sure your experiences are the same. Quit looking for your affirmation and validity in the experiences of someone else. 

Your task is simple: you follow me. You. Do you see what Jesus is driving at? We can, I can, be just like Peter. Lord, why is there life so much easier? Father, why do you provide them with extra time or money and here I am feeling like I'm drowning?

Jesus could look at Peter and explain how hard things actually will be for John. But he doesn't. He just says, what is that to you? You follow me. His call is so simple. So clear. Die to self, and follow him.

August 06, 2020

Early obits

“If you’re an elder, take a risk and get real with the others.” 
Jeramie Rinne, Church Elders, 92

If you're like me, the sad truth is that many things that appear on the front pages of newspapers and scream from the top of news feeds, things that are genuine tragedies, be it police brutality, violent mobs in our major cities, bombings internationally, natural disasters-can all seem like so much white noise. Our brains weren't meant to handle this constant bombardment with information, and once it hits a certain point it all starts to blur.

But some headlines jump out. For me, those aren't generally front page. They're obituaries. Certain obituaries in particular. The obituaries of those who have committed suicide grab hold of my attention like no other news I read.

Like a lot of kids today, I became aware of suicide pretty early in life. I had an uncle and an aunt commit suicide when I was very young. Later in life I would lose another aunt, friends, and acquaintances. 

I don't have answers for why people decide to end their own lives. No doubt it is unique in each circumstance. But I do know what it causes me to do, which is pause and consider: do people know me? Do they know what is happening in my life, not just in the public sense of my activities, but what is going on inside? Do I have people I can be honest with? Am I being honest about the state of my own soul?

There are of course things which no one else will understand. "The heart knows its own bitterness" (Proverbs 14:10). But to what extent am I trusting other people with my burdens? 

We weren't meant to walk through this world alone. We need other people. It has been said that in friendship joys are multiplied and sorrows divided. Having someone to walk with you through the dark night of the soul is imperative. But rarely are friendships cultivated in those moments. 

So what sort of friendships are you building right now?

August 05, 2020

Review: The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other StoriesThe Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a somewhat uneven collection. I wasn't a big fan of the title story, and I didn't finish A Way You'll Never Be. On the flip side, In Another Country and Fifty Grand were two of the best short stories I've read. The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber surprised me with its finish, and was a fitting conclusion to the book.

Everyone knows Hemingway as the dude with short, punchy, declarative sentences. I think the genius of that style is that he ends up drawing you into the occasional run-on sentence. And you have the energy to follow because he has set you up with all those brief declarations. His ability to communicate action via words makes me want to write.

View all my reviews

August 04, 2020

Blowing Like The Wind

"Is the work of the Holy Spirit Important?

Important! Why, were it not for the work of the Holy Spirit there would be no gospel, no faith, no church, no Christianity in the world at all." 
J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pg 69

"The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." 
Jesus, John 3:8

August 03, 2020

A Missed Point

The Backdrop

Yesterday I was preaching from John 21:1-14. I was going without notes, which used to be my typical modus operandi, but is something I hadn't attempted in a long time. For the most part I felt pretty good about how it went-until I afterward remembered that I had teased a later point in the sermon (twice!) and then neglected to make that point. Maybe there is more wisdom to taking a full manuscript to the pulpit than I accounted for.

In any case, in case you haven't followed the above link and listened to the whole sermon, the thrust of the sermon was this: In the first half of John 21, we are meant to see Jesus revealing himself to the disciples. I argued that Jesus was revealed in at least three ways, namely:

    1) Jesus has perfect knowledge

    2) Jesus is the source of true provision

    3) Jesus is Lord

The Missed Point

The case of negligence, or at least of failure to follow through, took place under point two. It might be an exaggeration to say I missed this point, because I still made the point itself, but one of the things I wanted to draw attention to is something we find in verse two, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee. Why are we told the location of Nathanael's origin here? I think it is meant to draw our mind back to chapter two of John's gospel, where Jesus performs his first miracle. The location? Cana.

There, as in John 21, we find Jesus providing. In chapter two, this provision is done without public fanfare; no one but the servants drawing water, and the disciples who witness, know what is going on. Likewise, the disciples in chapter 21 are alone on the lake. There is no crowd, no one to give high fives and public praise. Just a group of men with a need that Jesus is willing to provide for.

In chapter 21, the provision is of a hot breakfast on the seashore for a tired crew. It's the provision of a multitude of fish where they had been able to find nothing on their own. It's Jesus stepping in and providing for the needs of these men. In chapter two, the provision is of some 150 gallons of the best wine. At the end of the feast, when anyone else would be bringing out the cheap stuff (see v10). In both cases, the provision is more than abundant. 

The Take Home

Jesus is not just capable of providing for the needs of the people in Cana, or Jerusalem, or small town Iowa, or a seashore in Galilee, or Beijing, or wherever his people may be found. He is able and willing to do far more abundantly than we can even ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Do you trust him to be that powerful and that good?

August 02, 2020

Sermon Sunday: What's this Book For?

Here is the link to last Sunday's sermon from Remsen Bible Fellowship.

Title: What's This Book For?

Text: John 20:30-31

August 01, 2020

A Eulogy

Note: Below is is the Eulogy I gave at my grandfather's memorial service. I wanted to share it here 1) to pay tribute to a great man, 2) as a way of one more time expressing thanks to God for him, 3) I want you to read the whole thing, because the last 25% or so is vitally important for all of us.

Eulogy for Joe Blackburn

Before I begin, I want to thank you on behalf of the family for being here. Joe Blackburn had a unique ability to leave an impression on people. One of the things he impressed on me at an early age, both in words and actions, was this: the way you spend your time both shapes and communicates your values. Or as he might put it, if you care about something you make time for it. So the fact that you planned and followed through on being here today speaks volumes.  

Some figures in life loom so large that it’s almost impossible to understand who you are apart from their presence. “How did Pak shape my life?” was a hard question for me to grapple with. Perhaps a better one to ask, “is there anything in my life that isn’t marked by his fingerprints?” 

I have a hard time thinking in full memories. Instead, here are some snapshots, with captions describing how they influence my thinking to this day. It’s 1997, we walk into the sheriff's office, and there sits Pak with his feet on the desk: a man should be calm, in control. 1999 (or any year), he comes home from work and has “a snort and a soak '', and is in his sweats and ready for bed by 7: when you’ve worked hard, there’s nothing wrong with beating the sun to bed. Nov 1, 2002, I’m 12, and I’ve put a great sneak on a couple of deer; 1,000 yards through an open field. I stand up with 20 feet of one and shoot over its back. Twice. When I get back to where he is sitting, Pak says, “how’d you miss?” Some questions in life don’t have good answers. Last fall, sitting on the couch, he worried aloud what would happen if he died in Mexico-what would Grammy do? Make sure your loved ones are taken care of. Thousands of hours spent with some young boys in the formative years of our lives. Invest in the next generation. I don’t know who I am apart from these lessons, and countless others. I don’t know who I’d be without Pak.

Jose, Dad, Pops, Officer with the Big Gun, Grandpa, Sheriff Joe, Daddy Dearest, Pak, Joe- was born July 15th, 1931 to Charles & Laura Blackburn in Kansas City, Missouri. They moved to the sandhills of western Nebraska when he was 6 weeks old; in retrospect, he said it was surprising that they brought him too. I don’t think it is all that surprising, given that at 6 weeks old they had no idea he would burn down the neighbors fence, or grind beaver castor in the blender, become a skunk trapper with the attendant smells, or any of the other trouble he later caused.

As those comments imply, growing up in Nebraska, Joe developed a love for the outdoors. He often told stories of growing up. He was particularly proud of the rainbow that hangs in the office, which he caught while playing hooky; his mother was upset with him for skipping school, but his dad had it mounted. He also liked to talk about his first trapline-a six trap dandy which he ran from his bicycle. His parents got him started hunting early, and by the time he graduated high school he had killed several nice mule deer and antelope. 

The other trait that developed early in Joe was his commitment to service. He and a buddy “fudged” their ages and joined the Nebraska National Guard at age 15. 

And these two commitments, service and the outdoors, came together in 1949, when Joe entered the University of Montana at Missoula and participated in the ROTC program. He said he wanted a school with a good fish and wildlife curriculum-and good elk hunting. He joined the rodeo team, but after his first rodeo woke up in the hospital. That convinced him rodeo was too dangerous, so he went down to the USFS office and applied to be a smokejumper. Because we all know it’s safer to jump from an airplane onto a fire than it is to climb on top of a horse. He put himself through college by smokejumping during the summers, and graduated in 1953 with a degree in Wildlife Technology and a commission in the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant, Infantry. 

He reported to Fort Benning, GA for active duty and there attended jump school and jumpmaster school. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, NC. He was sent on a recruiting assignment to Florida, and while there he met his wife to be- Sharon Dunn. Later in life, Joe went back into the active Army Reserve. He also went back through special forces school and earned his Green Beret. He eventually became commanding officer of detachment 324, 12th special forces (airborne). He retired at the rank of Major. My dad always tells of first walking into Pak’s office and seeing that beret hanging on the lamp and realizing, this guy could kill me.

Joe and Sharon were married in Clearwater in 1954. Upon his (first) discharge from active duty, Joe and Sharon moved to Montana and bought a ranch on the Blackfoot River. Marriage tip, bringing a girl from Florida to a place with -50 winters and no running water might not be the most considerate. The following spring, Joe was offered a position as Conservation Officer with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, so they sold the ranch and moved to Shoshone, ID. While there they had their first daughter, Becky. After transferring to Challis the couple had two more daughters: Mona and Roxanne. Roxanne died at 18 months old, which was a grief Joe carried with him the rest of his life. He said “that’s the sort of thing you just don’t get over.” 

Joe eventually resigned as the CO at Challis, and bought an outfitting and guide business. After three years of saddle sores and cold feet, and one appearance in Field & Stream magazine, he sold the business and went back to work with Fish and Game, taking the position in Calder. Joe and Sharon lived there until he was promoted to regional supervisor in Boise. After a few months in Boise he asked for a demotion back to the field, and received a transfer from Boise to St. Maries. Why ask for a demotion? He said real game wardens don’t sit at a desk all day.

In 1975, Joe married Peggy Scott of Plummer. They made their home right here. In 1986, Joe retired from Fish and Game, though he never actually entered retirement. He served as marine deputy for Benewah County, enforcement agent for Idaho Outfitter and Guides Licensing Board (getting paid to hunt and fish? Who could ask for a better gig?), timber security for Quality Services, and co-founder (maybe initiating genius?) of the St. Joe Bait Company. In 1996 he ran for the office of Benewah County Sheriff. He won that election and served one four year term. To my knowledge, he remains the only Republican candidate to receive an endorsement from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. His commitment to fairness and service for the whole county had people asking him to run again for the final 20 years of his life. 

Joe’s lifelong passions of hunting and fishing stayed with him, and semi-retirement gave him more time to enjoy those pursuits. He loved fishing Lake Roosevelt for kokanee and rainbows, and the turning of Summer to Fall meant weeks spent in “the Bull Pasture”, where he and Peggy had elk camp for over 30 years. The highlight of his Winter was spending a couple months in Mazatlan, soaking up the sun and fishing. Joe was a certified scuba diver, certified parachute rigger, a hunter education instructor, and boat safety instructor. He also was an avid reader, and an accomplished runner, completing 13 marathons and 12 triathlons.

We’ll remember Pak’s feet propped up on the table, his advice (both helpful, cut toward your buddy, not your leg and….questionable, hey Levi, go throw that buffalo pie), his sense of humor, all the stories, and for never getting into trouble, because he didn’t have a middle name. Joe Blackburn of Plummer, Idaho died at home on December 17th, 2019. He was 88 years old.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his daughter Roxanne; and his grandson Tucker. Surviving him are his wife Peggy; sisters Sue Hartman, and Sandi Blackburn; daughters Becky Rice, and Mona Moore; step-children Randy Scott, Pat Scott, Clint Scott, and Tracy Dole. Also surviving him are 29 grandchildren and several litters of great-grandchildren.

What a life. A life worth gathering to celebrate, to reminisce upon, and to share memories of. But before I turn the mic over to the Special Forces guys, I want to speak directly to each of you. The sobering reality of a day like this is that while we are celebrating Joe’s life, what brings us together is his death. The actual occasion of our gathering is the end of a remarkable life.

This is an uncomfortable reality for many of us to face. We don’t like to think about death. But loved ones, pondering your own death is one of the great opportunities these moments afford us. In the Old Testament, there is a book of wisdom called Ecclesiastes. And in chapter 7 of that book we find these words, 

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for such is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 

The main thrust of the thought here is simple: parties are great. We all love to celebrate births, weddings, graduations, birthdays, and anniversaries. But as fun and enjoyable as those moments are, they are fleeting. And so the good they do us is short-lived. But these moments when we are confronted with the reality of mortality: they can be of enduring benefit. 

The first thing we need to consider is in the beginning of verse one, a good name is better than precious ointment. In the Hebrew society in which Ecclesiates was written, they practiced burial. But they didn’t have refrigeration, nor did they use any embalming methods. Which left you with an odor problem. The way they addressed that was by wrapping bodies with pounds upon pounds of spices, aloes, and perfumes. But what the writer makes clear to us is this: when you’re dead, you know what would really stink? Having lived a rotten life. Perfume can’t cover that stench. But a good name, that leaves an aroma which no perfume can match. So, how are you living? When you’re gone, will people actually miss you? Will they have something true to say, or will they have to make up memories to make you sound better in retrospect?

The second, and more important, thing to ponder is this. When you’re dead, you’re not finished. This truth nags at us. We all intuitively know that whatever is in the urn or the casket is not all there is to that person. So when it’s your turn to take a ride to the funeral home, where will the rest of you be? What happens to your soul? Not having an answer to that question leaves us with a looming sense of dread that we either acknowledge and wrestle with, or attempt to drown out or ignore.

Scripture tells us where the knawing comes from. You were created by God to know God. But we all have ignored him, rejected him, and failed to live in keeping with his perfect law. This is what Scripture calls sin, and it separates us from the God by and for whom we were made. In fact, we’re told it earns us his just condemnation. And if we continue in that rejection and ignoring of God, death is something we should fear. But we don’t have to.

God sent his Son into the world. God the Son took on human flesh as Jesus of Nazareth and lived a perfect human life, the sort life we were each meant to live. But he didn’t just live. He was crucified, murdered, without legitimate cause. And when he died, he not only bore the weight of scorn and shame from those around, but he bore the penalty of God’s wrath-not wrath meant for him, but wrath that is deserved by you and me. He paid it all. He died for your sin so that you could be forgiven. He then rose three days later, and he now promises life to all who trust in him for their life: Everyone who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. You can know Christ, and in knowing him, know what comes after this. You don’t have to fear death. 

Pray: Father God, help us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Thank you for Pak, thank you for the imprint he left in my life and the lives of those gathered. We ask that you use this day in each of our lives to help in our process of grief, and give us joy in the memories. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

As we continue on, I want to invite the Special Forces men forward.

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (