Holy Spirit Try-Outs

Outside lots of churches, there is apparently a sign. AUDITIONS! TRY-OUTS! Here, today! Come on in!

But this sign isn’t for just any old role. It reads:

“Holy Spirit Try-Outs”

As Christians, we are called to love God, and love our neighbor. We show that we love God by loving our neighbor. But we have a problem, rampant in our houses of worship; in our denominations; even in our homes…we want to play God.

I think many forget that the Holy Spirit is God. The “quiet” member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways. I have experienced it. I am typing this because the Holy Spirit worked in my life. I didn’t want Him to, but He did. I’m experiencing change in my life because of His work.

But we want control, and we want credit. An example…go to any church on any given Sunday. Take a look at what the parishioners are carrying. Perhaps a Bible, but also very likely, a workbook. A small group resource. A study guide. Probably written by a famous preacher or teacher. I’m guilty…I’ve used them and encouraged their use. Even chosen the curriculum. I’m not advocating that we run out and burn all of them, because it’s not the resource that is the issue…it’s what we think about it. Probably “the Holy Spirit gave me this so I can figure things out”.

The problem with this is the “me” and the “I”. I’ve seen bible study and small group material touted as the best thing since sliced bread. In my best attempt at dry humor, some titles I’ve thought about:

“12 Steps to a More Jesus-Like You”

“Policing the Sin Right Out of Your Congregation”

“Heavenly Levels: Get a Better Seat”

Don’t get me wrong. We are human. It is our nature to want to do better, do more, show how good we are. But in doing so, we fail miserably to do the one thing we are called to do. Love our neighbor. We don’t show them love when we show them a self-improvement program. We certainly don’t show them love when we assign ourselves the role of their holy spirit.

I’m probably not the best person to be giving this advice…but loving our neighbor is actually pretty easy. Smile. Make eye contact. Say hello. Show you care. Be honest about who you are. When you do, you might just be surprised that you are just the person that neighbor needs. I’ve seen it time and time again. My Facebook Messenger is full of conversations where someone I barely know reaches out and says thanks for the things I said in a Facebook post, or a blog, or a private message. I cherish these conversations, because they remind me that I am not in control, and I get no credit. The Holy Spirit moves me in directions that I do not understand. Not just don’t understand completely, but I just do not understand at all.

How Do I Know I’m Saved? — Ryan Couch

I get to call this man my brother. Just a little over a year ago, our paths crossed at Here We Still Stand in San Diego.

Ryan says “I have known people who have made dozens of decisions to follow Christ”. I am one of them; I “got saved” at least 50 times during my teen years, and by the time I reached adulthood, I pretty well figured I was goin’ ta hell…

Read on as my brother brings the Good News.

The axiom, “all roads lead to heaven” is weighed and found wanting at the foot of the cross, where heaven and earth converge in the last place we’d expect. However, we might say (although with less certainty) that, “all roads lead to assurance”. In whatever flavor of Christianity or confession of faith one might find […]

via How Do I Know I’m Saved? — Ryan Couch

for my kids, at graduation

Today, we celebrate at the Soltys house. Tomorrow, Kara graduates as a Licensed Practical Nurse, and Dane is now officially a high school graduate. Congratulations!

I’ve made lots of mistakes with my kids. With those mistakes, I have two choices.

First, I can dwell on them. Look back constantly and say “I wish”. Think “if I’d have only”…but that option does nothing good for anyone.

The second option is to let them go. Let them be learning experiences for the kids, as well as me. Laugh about them. Look back on them and chat occasionally about “remember when I…”

001I am going to do my best to let the mistakes go. I really would like to rant about some of the things we couldn’t control, but I won’t…instead, I just pray that their mother and I have prepared them well for life.

As long as I live, I’ll be here for advice. I hope it’s solicited, but you two will continue to hear from me when I think you need to hear from me. I mean no offense. Most of the time I’m telling you stuff because I see you doing something that didn’t work for me.

On this day, as we look forward to the future, I’ll just give you a few tidbits of advice:

  1. There will always be assholes. They abound, and just when you think you’re rid of one, another shows up. Be nice to them…because you might be the only person who ever is nice to them.
  2. If you find yourself in a bind, your mom and I are still here for you 24/7/365. No questions asked. We just don’t pay fines…
  3. Your decisions are yours. You can ask my opinion, but ultimately, what you decide is what you will live with. You’ll screw up…
  4. Enjoy life. I’ve spent mine dwelling on whether people liked me or approved of me. Just don’t. Be you.

I cherish you both. Sometimes it might not seem like it, but I do. I pray that God grants you both long lives where you are a blessing to many! And always remember…you are a baptized child of God, forgiven and free.

I love you!




I thought about the word “audacity” the other day. The dictionary referred me to the root word “audacious”. According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of the word “audacious” is:

recklessly bold

This is not a definition that I would have ever considered giving myself. Timid, maybe, but never ‘recklessly bold’. Being timid, I always felt my faith was inferior because my prayers weren’t good enough to fix me. I did not think God wanted me, and really felt that He hated me.

Audacity, however, is something that I’ve come to know. It shocks me. A reckless boldness that I never felt I would have is in my life all of the time, and guess what? It’s been there for decades. I just didn’t realize what it was.

He doesn’t want my cowering in fear of Him. Begging for forgiveness for the sins that I can’t seem to get past. He also doesn’t want me to present Him to others as a God who is “out to get you”. A judge who is just waiting for you to make that one big mistake so He can throw you into hell.

Every Sunday morning, I boldly stand in the sanctuary in my church and confess my faith. It’s not a faith that I was granted because I said the right prayer, or did the right thing. It’s a faith that was GIVEN to me, and I recite it in a creed. A creed that reminds me of what was done FOR ME, not what I have to do for Him, and somehow I have the audacity to believe it.

Then, my pastor assures me I’m forgiven. I don’t have to rack my brain to try to remember if I’ve confessed every sin. As Christ’s servant, he just tells me I’m forgiven, and somehow, I have the audacity to believe it.

But then, we even take it a step further. Pastor hands me a wafer; Christ’s body broken for me. Then lifts a cup to my mouth; Christ’s blood shed for me. Again, no trying to determine if I’ve remembered every little sin. Somehow, I have the audacity to believe it.

Me. A wretched sinner, still. Jealousy, anger, a filthy tongue. Thoughts I shouldn’t have. Sins. Falling short, just as I’ve done for as long as I can remember.

Sins, atoned for once and for all 2,000 years ago. By Someone who could atone for them, unlike me. All I can do is commit them, hide them, try to justify them.

But because of this “reckless boldness”, I am able to tell others just like me…people riddled with sin, regret, addiction…you name it, that their sin is atoned for, just like mine. Not because of anything we did, but because of what He did.

If you are not feeling “recklessly bold” about your faith, or God, or anything of the like, you’re not alone. You’re fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who knows you, and will never let you go.

I’m a Rich Man

I am a rich man.

If that comes off as boastful, yes, that’s the case.

But I speak not of money, possessions, or anything else this world defines the word “rich” by.

Four years ago, I was doing my very best to live my life for me. It wasn’t going very well. I was always angry, and totally lost. I had no freaking idea what was going on.

My selfishness took me dangerously close to simply looking at my wife and kids and saying goodbye.

I have but one explanation as to why I can write about being rich today.

Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

It would take me way too long to explain everything that makes me rich, but here are a few key points.

1. Sufficient Grace12711075_1119742244725952_5143808723192329757_o

It’s why I write this blog, and why I got this tattoo. I don’t fully understand it, and probably never will.


2. Family

1904248_828436843856495_6423925873853001078_n.jpgI could dwell on my shame. Instead, I celebrate these three who walked through my darkest hours with me, and are still with me.



3. Brothers20170623_202542

Being known is something that is very uncomfortable. It exposes you, but after it does, and you realize there are still people around you, God help you to realize that He alone can provide that which we need most

4. The Church

The church is not limited to the four walls in which I worship. I have brothers and sisters all over this great country, and even ones on other continents.

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5. The Body & Blood of Christholycommunion-300x200

You’ll have your own take on communion. For me, it is his body and his blood. I don’t need to comprehend the mystery. I don’t need it to be grape juice, and I don’t want it from the little cups. Wine from the chalice for me, thanks very much.

6. Freedom20170531_123229

My last point this Thanksgiving is very personal, and very powerful to me. Something happened recently that I can’t really go into details about, but it’s from God. His timing. His will. I’m free from something that controlled me for close to forty years. I can say “I love you” to a man. Shake hands with a man. Hug a man. I can allow a man to touch me. The feelings that result are not sexual, but a bond of brotherhood that I simply can’t put into words, other than to say “Praise God”.

So, yes, I’m rich. But in order to see how rich I truly am, I first had to see how poor I was. How destitute, and how I was at rock bottom. How, in and of myself, I still am those things.

But through Christ, I want for nothing.

Happy Thanksgiving!


“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”

When God gave this command to Moses, He was pretty straightforward. Of course, He went on to explain further, when in the next verse we hear about ‘no graven images or likenesses’. He had to, because we don’t get it.014-moses-golden-calf

God knew that His people would screw this up, and yes, they managed. They did, and we still do. We create idols. I create idols.

When I was a teenager, I had my first experience where I recognized the theme of idolatry. It regarded the television. We lived out in the country, and cable was not available. Some people had satellite dishes, but most did not. An antenna, or “the aerial” as my grandfather called it, brought the local PBS and CBS stations in pretty clearly, and sometimes NBC came through as well.

A couple years after we started going to church, my mother announced that she had been convicted and that we would no longer have a television in our home. She gave the television to her grandfather. Mom perceived that the watching of television had become an idol, and she decided to do something about it, but I’m pretty sure that the idol of watching too much TV was replaced with the idol of making sure people knew why we didn’t have a TV.

Around the same time, we had a presenter come to our church to warn us against the satanic messages in Rock ‘n Roll music. We had a record burning. There is a photo somewhere of our youth group standing around the smoldering pile of vinyl. I stopped listening to said ‘evil’ music for a while, but I didn’t miraculously become a better Christian because of it.

In these actions, we aimed to separate ourselves from the world to prove to God that “we got this” and that He could count on us. “The world” was anyone who did not believe exactly what we did. Guess what? It was a farce. The holiness that we had to show the world became the newest idol. It was OK, though, because it was HOLY.

I was taught that it was my responsibility to make sure sinners knew they were going to hell. Since they were going to hate me anyway, I was taught that I might as well be blunt with them. Something was wrong, though…I just didn’t have the personality for it. I didn’t like confrontation; in fact, I feared it. I’ve never been in a fight, and to this day, I do not like to argue, negotiate, or do anything of the sort.

The responsibility of saving sinners by pointing out their sins was yet another idol. It was a goal. Kind of a badge of honor in the holiness world, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it because deep down, I knew I was a liar. I was as full of sin as I was the first day I went forward to the altar to confess my sins to Jesus.

My next idol was a three-decade long experiment in keeping God at arms’ length. I was pretty successful at worshiping this idol because I was always busy trying to find ways to make myself appear “good” while knowing deep down that I was “bad”. I knew I was a sinner, but I believed I had to atone for my sin. Be good, separate self from said world, point out their sin, hide yours, and you’ll make it. Can you say “idol”?

Focusing on idols comes naturally to us. I even let the good things in my life that are clear gifts from God become idols, which in turn cause me to embrace other ideas to make idols. A call to ministry became a way that I would escape from reality. Friendships became a way that I seek affirmation that I’m not a freak. Thinking I’m a freak is an idol that enables me to put up a wall between me and other people. I gradually move away from God. It’s a vicious, never-ending cycle.

I could go on and on, round and round. One thing I focus on becomes an idol, and then the way I try to break free of that idol becomes another. I’m sure I’m not alone…I’ve been told as much by many friends.

But does that stop me? Certainly not.

Idols are my specialty. They’re yours too. You might not believe it, but it’s true.

Fortunately, for you and for me, when we are in Christ, the Holy Spirit guides us away from idols.

When you sense Him leading you to stop and talk to that co-worker with a frown on their face, idols leave.

When He helps you remember that you have coins in your pocket as you pass the Salvation Army kettle, and you drop them in, idols leave.

When your kid’s teammate forgets their Gatorade, and you happen to have an extra, idols leave.

When you sit down to write your check for the offering plate on Sunday, and rather than figuring the exact percentage you’ve always been told to give, you just write a figure with a cheerful heart, idols leave.

When you run into an old friend who you know has fallen into many sinful habits, and instead of pointing those out, you sit down and catch up over a cup of coffee, idols leave.

Anything that comes between you and God is an idol, but until that moment when you leave this earth, or Christ returns, never be surprised when you find yourself looking at one instead of Him. But remember, Jesus paid the price once and for all. Rest in the knowledge that He’s not letting you go. He is the only thing to focus on that is NOT an idol.

Stop trying to rack up points with Him. Just love. That’s all He called you to do, and when you do, it will be hard to focus on idols.

Grace & peace!







Tonight was supposed to be a relaxing night with steaks on the grill and a glass of wine, but we changed our plans and decided to save the steaks for tomorrow night. Instead, we just decided to run to town and get something quick to eat, and pick up a couple things from the store.

Our first stop was at the donut shop chain where our daughter works. After we chatted with her and her co-worker for a little while, we sat and ate our supper, and for some reason I started noticing people. One lady sat in a corner seat. A couple stood in line and ordered, speaking to one another in a language I didn’t recognize. They left, and then the lady from the corner seat left and met a guy in the parking lot. Then they left. More people came and went as we ate.

After eating, we had to run for a few groceries. We made the dreaded trek up the hill to the major chain retailer that we both dislike visiting. Tonight, though, I needed the visit.

The enemy tells me repeatedly that I am a loser. That I am not worth others’ time, and they’re not worth mine. I get blurred vision, with the ability to only focus on the negatives in my life. It happens often, and I hate that I can’t stop it from happening. Picture a wall…8 feet tall, 12 feet wide. I could fill it with goodness…family, friends, memories…but there is that 8 inch by 12 inch section where the bad stuff is, and it is often all I see.

When I encounter these times where I believe the lies, I withdraw. I avoid people, walk around with my head down and a scowl on my face, sequester myself to my office, get angry, and sulk in my misery. Slowly but surely, though, God lifts me back out of the quicksand and shows me once again why I’m here.

People, community, friends, neighbors…all of these are why I’m here. I was not created to sit in a room, stew over the little things that are wrong, and separate myself from interaction with anyone. Tonight was just a little proof, with whispers from the Holy Spirit to help me see what is true…at the retail store. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not a place I find pleasant. It’s very large, often crowded, and frequently understaffed at the checkouts. But as we walked through, I got a message over and over from the Holy Spirit:

  • Jesus died for him. Jesus died for her. It wasn’t just for you, it was for them too. It was for all of you.
  • Jesus died for the young lady with hair a color that was not on God’s original color palette.
  • Jesus died for the guy with lots of piercings and tattoos who looks like he hasn’t slept well.
  • Jesus died for the person whose body odor puts off a distinct indicator that they drink way too much.
  • Jesus died for the lady who just got off work and still looks like she stepped right out of a catalog page.
  • Jesus died for the couple whose faces make clear that they don’t know how they’re going to pay for all the stuff in their cart.

Jesus died for sinners. Every last one of us. The church gossip. The alcoholic. The drug addict. The liar. The gambler. Sin is what separates us from God, and Jesus is what brings us back.

As I left that retail establishment, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend on Monday. I know that God has called me to serve others. When I first started college for my degree in religion, I reacted angrily at anyone who said that I was “following my dream”. It wasn’t my dream. I did not want this in my life. It’s costly, time consuming, and will expose me to others.

It’s also one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can’t regret that I didn’t listen to God when I was a teenager. I had to see what He could do with me, a sinner, to understand why He chose me.

God bless. Listen, pray, repeat…


God’s little reminders…

It’s not often that the title of an e-mail at work catches my eye. Today, one did:

20170315_174607 (002)

This Friday is a dress-down for charity day at CNB. I redeemed points on our employee recognition program to be able to wear jeans and a green shirt. Obviously, I know the e-mail was just telling me that my request to use my points was approved…but in a different context…

My redemption has been completed! Nothing I did made this possible. I know it’s early in the Lenten season, with Easter still several weeks away…but I look forward to Good Friday. That day when we will remember that Jesus uttered those final words, “it is finished”, as recorded in John 19:30.

May we all remember Christ’s gift to us as we anticipate His resurrection.


The Next Step

luterhanOn Sunday, February 5, Stacy left for a business trip on a Sunday morning, before church time. I intended to just skip church…to go back to bed and catch a couple hours more sleep. God had another plan.

I recently bought a book by RJ Grunewald called Reading Romans With Luther. I had read the introduction, but that morning I picked up the book from my headboard and began to read chapter one. As I read, I sensed the Holy Spirit moving me. Go. I got dressed, and I went.

My redemption story began over 2,000 years ago. Jesus died on a cross and was resurrected three days later. In what he did, He rescued you. He rescued me.

It continued three years ago. I realized for the first time in my life that God really loved me. Loved me, not the things I would do to make myself good enough to be loved by him. I was introduced to grace.

Sometime after, it continued when I watched a movie. This movie revealed what a privilege it is to worship the way we do today. Free, not to be forgiven by purchasing indulgences, but by Christ’s finished work on the cross.

A year ago, I met a bunch of people at a conference that changed my life. A lot of them believe a certain theology. I believe it too. This theology is celebrating a big anniversary in 2017 – 500 years. The Reformation…that movie I watched was “Luther”.

At the conference, I heard about grace to the unforgivable. I heard about doing my best in the vocation in which God has placed me. I heard about being free to share Christ’s love. I heard a phrase that I hold close to my heart, because I know it describes me, and it describes you. Simul Justus et Peccator. Simultaneously justified and a sinner.

This year, I am making it official. By mid-summer, I plan to officially be Lutheran. I’ve already started the process by worshiping with a new group of brothers and sisters. That Sunday morning two weeks ago, I went to the place where the Holy Spirit led me, and I knew before the service was over that I would become what I already knew I was.

The basis…it’s what Christ did on the cross for me, not what I do in the church for Him. This decision did not come easily. I believe the Holy Spirit put people and events in my path for this reason. I’ve attempted to be “Lutheran” where I am, but I keep falling into the “what I do for Jesus” mindset.

Some are hurt and offended by my decision, taking it personally. I still love them, consider them brothers and sisters, and will lift them up in prayer. If they need me, I will be there at a moment’s notice. I hope that someday, they will see that my decision was not about me, or them, but about what I felt the Holy Spirit was leading me to do. I have no idea what God has in store for this sinner that He chose to use.

Don’t sweat the details. He took care of them already. You’re forgiven, and you’re free.

Simul Justus et Peccator

Don’t Believe Every Meme…

Warning – this post might piss you off. It is not my intent to offend anyone with this post, but I know how it works.

These last few days have been trying. The United States is a country divided. I have friends on both sides. Friends who are intelligent, caring, and thoughtful people.

Trump was elected and inaugurated. Some people love this and some people hate this. The day after his inauguration, many who are in disagreement stood together in protests and marches around the world.

Today, I saw this picture abortionin a news feed. If you’re a Christian, you were likely offended by what their sign says. No surprise there. You believe Christ came to earth to save us, and these women are saying He shouldn’t have been born.

I can’t tell you why these women are holding this sign. They might or might not have had abortions. They might or might not have grown up in Christian homes. They might or might not have graduated high school. They might or might not be doctors. No idea.

What I do know is that now is not the time to be sanctimonious. If you are a Christian, and you were angered or hurt by the sign, I understand completely. I was taken aback, but then I got to thinking…has anyone ever shared the Gospel with them? Told them what Christ did on the cross was for them?  Told them that fact without giving them the expectation that salvation was unattainable because of their current belief? Somehow, I doubt it.

I know a couple of women who have had abortions. You might too. I don’t have to live with their decision, but they do. They remember it. Perhaps they live it all over again every day. Perhaps they regret it, perhaps they don’t. None of that matters. What matters is that those of us who understand the Gospel should be caring for them regardless of their decision. They should feel comfortable in our presence despite their past.

But here’s the kicker…and this pissed me off when I was researching…the photo is several years old! Because we’re so quick to believe memes, someone apparently thought it would further a cause to dredge it up and tie it to Saturday’s marches.

Christians, let’s do the world a favor. When someone offends us, let’s love them. Let’s show them Jesus, not beat them down because they believe something different from us.