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About tom felten

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So far tom felten has created 20 blog entries.

Staying the Course in Christ

By |2024-05-11T02:33:07-04:00May 11th, 2024|

As Gandalf the Grey confronted Saruman the White, it became clear that the latter had turned from what he was supposed to do—help protect Middle-earth from the power of the evil Sauron. What’s more, Saruman had allied with Sauron! In this scene from the film The Fellowship of the Ring, based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic work, the two former friends then engage in an epic good-versus-evil battle. If only Saruman had stayed the course and done what he knew was right!

King Saul also had trouble staying the course. In one account, he rightly “expelled the mediums and spiritists from [Israel]” (1 Samuel 28:3). Good move, for God had declared that dabbling in the occult was “detestable” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12). But when God didn’t answer the king’s plea—due to his prior failures—for how to deal with a massive Philistine army, Saul caved: “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may . . . inquire of her” (1 Samuel 28:7). Talk about a complete reversal! Saul failed once more as he went against his own decree—what he knew was right.

A millennium later, Jesus said to His disciples, “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). In other words, if we’ve committed to obey Christ, it’s vital that we keep our oaths and be truthful. Let’s stay the course in doing those things as God helps us.

The God of Order

By |2024-04-13T02:33:14-04:00April 13th, 2024|

Seth took all the medications he could find in the medicine cabinet. Raised in a family filled with brokenness and disorder, his life was a mess. His mom was regularly abused by his father until his dad took his own life. Now Seth wanted to “just end” his own. But then a thought came to mind, Where do I go when I die? By God’s grace, Seth didn’t die that day. And in time, after studying the Bible with a friend, he received Jesus as his Savior. Part of what drew Seth to God was seeing the beauty and order in creation. He said, “I . . . see things that are just beautiful. Someone made all this.”

In Genesis 1, we read of the God who indeed created all things. And although “the earth was complete chaos” (v. 2 nrsv), He brought order out of disorder. He “separated the light from darkness” (v. 4), placed land amid the seas (v. 10), and made plants and creatures “according to their kinds” (vv. 11, 21). The One who “created the heavens and earth and put everything in place” (Isaiah 45:18) continues to, as Seth discovered, bring peace and order to lives surrendered to Christ.

Life can be chaotic and challenging. Praise God that He’s not “a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Let’s call out to Him today and ask Him to help us find the beauty and order He alone provides.

God’s Greater Power

By |2024-03-05T01:33:17-05:00March 5th, 2024|

In March 1945, the “Ghost Army” helped US forces achieve the Rhine River crossing—giving the allies a vital base to operate from on World War II’s Western Front. The soldiers were most definitely human, not apparitions, all part of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. On this occasion, the 1,100-man team imitated 30,000 men by using inflatable decoy tanks, blasting troop and vehicle sound effects over speakers, and more. The relatively small number of Ghost Army members led the enemy to fear what appeared to be a far greater force.

The Midianites and their allies also trembled before a tiny army that loomed large in the night (Judges 7:8-22). Gideon, a judge, prophet, and military leader of Israel, was used by God to make his puny army a source of terror for the enemy. They also used sound effects (blown trumpets, smashed clay jars, human voices) and visible objects (blazing torches) to make the vast enemy—“thick as locusts” (v. 12)—believe they were facing a colossal foe. Israel defeated their enemy that night with an army whittled down from 32,000 men to just 300 by God’s command (vv. 2–8). Why? Because that made it clear who truly won the battle. As God told Gideon, “I have given you victory over them” (v. 9 nlt).

When we feel weak and inferior, let’s seek God and rest in His strength alone. For His “power is made perfect in [our] weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Sweet Sleep

By |2024-02-26T01:33:15-05:00February 26th, 2024|

Bad memories and accusing messages flooded Sal’s mind. Sleep eluded him as fear filled his heart and sweat covered his skin. It was the night before his baptism, and he couldn’t stop the onslaught of dark thoughts. Sal had received salvation in Jesus and knew that his sins had been forgiven, but the spiritual battle continued. It’s then that his wife took his hand and prayed for him. Moments later, peace replaced the fear in Sal’s heart. He got up and wrote the words he would share prior to being baptized—something he hadn’t been able to do. After that, he experienced sweet sleep.

King David also knew what a restless night felt like. Fleeing from his son Absalom who wanted to steal his throne (2 Samuel 15:1–17:29), he knew that “tens of thousands [assailed him] on every side” (Psalm 3:6). David moaned, “How many are my foes!” (v. 1). Though fear and doubt could have won out, he called out to God, his “shield” (v. 3). Later, he found that he could “lie down and sleep . . . because the Lord sustains [him]” (v. 5).

When fears and struggles grip our mind and rest is replaced by restlessness, hope is found as we pray to God. While we might not experience immediate sweet sleep as Sal and David did, in “peace [we can] lie down and . . . dwell in safety” (4:8). For God is with us and He’ll be our rest.

Strange Places

By |2024-01-25T01:33:22-05:00January 25th, 2024|

God, why is this happening? Is this really your plan for us?

As a husband and a dad of young children, those questions and more swirled in my mind as I wrestled with a serious cancer diagnosis. What’s more, our family had just served with a missions team that had seen many children receive Jesus as their Savior. God had been bringing forth evident fruit. There was so much joy. And now this?

Esther likely poured out questions and prayers to God after she was plucked from a loving home and thrust into a strange new world (Esther 2:8). Her cousin Mordecai had raised her as his own daughter after she’d been orphaned (v. 7). But then she was placed in a king’s harem and eventually elevated to serve as his queen (v. 17). Mordecai was understandably concerned about what “was happening to” Esther (v. 11). But in time, the two realized that God had called her to be in a place of great power “for such a time as this” (4:14)—a place that allowed for her people to be saved from destruction (chs. 7–8).

It’s evident that God providentially placed Esther in a strange place as part of His perfect plan. He did the same with me. As I endured a lengthy battle with cancer, I was privileged to share my faith with many, many patients and caregivers. What strange place has He led you to? Trust Him. He’s good, and so are His plans (Romans 11:33–36).

Walls Torn Down, Unity Found

By |2023-12-22T01:33:05-05:00December 22nd, 2023|

Since 1961, families and friends had been separated by the Berlin Wall. Erected that year by the East German government, the barrier kept its citizens from fleeing to West Germany. In fact, from 1949 to the day the structure was built, it’s estimated that more than 2.5 million East Germans had bolted to the West. US President Ronald Reagan stood at the wall in 1987 and famously said, “Tear down this wall.” His words reflected a groundswell of change in the region that culminated with the wall being torn down in 1989—leading to Germany’s joyous reunification.

Paul wrote of a “wall of hostility” torn down by Jesus (Ephesians 2:14). The wall had existed between Jews (God’s chosen people) and gentiles (all other people). And it was symbolized by the dividing wall (the soreg) in the ancient temple erected by Herod the Great in Jerusalem. It kept gentiles from entering beyond the outer courts of the temple, though they could see the inner courts. But Jesus brought “peace” and reconciliation between the Jews and gentiles and between God and all people. He did so by “[breaking] down the wall . . . that separated us” by “his death on the cross” (vv. 14, 16 nlt). The “Good News of peace” made it possible for all to be united by faith in Christ (vv. 17–18 nlt).

Today, there are many things that can divide us. As God provides what we need, let’s strive to live out and declare the peace and unity found in Jesus (vv. 19–22).

Confronting in Love

By |2023-11-18T01:33:16-05:00November 18th, 2023|

He did many things well, but there was a problem. Everyone saw it. But because he was so effective in accomplishing most of his role, his anger issue wasn’t adequately addressed. He was never truly confronted. Sadly, this resulted in many people being hurt over the years. And, in the end, it led to the premature close of a career that could have been something so much more for this brother in Christ. If only I’d chosen to confront him in love long ago.

In Genesis 4, God provides the perfect picture of what it means to confront someone’s sin in love. Cain was infuriated. A farmer, he’d presented “some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord” (v. 3). But God made it clear that what he brought Him wasn’t acceptable. Cain’s offering was rejected, and he was “very angry, and his face was downcast” (v. 5). So, God confronted him and said, “Why are you angry?” (v. 6). He then told Cain to turn from his sin and pursue what was good and right. Sadly, Cain ignored God’s words and committed a horrific act (v. 8).

While we can’t force others to turn from sinful behaviors, we can compassionately confront them. We can “speak the truth in love” so that we both become “more and more like Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 nlt). And, as God gives us ears to listen, we can also receive hard words of truth from others.

Knowing and Loving

By |2023-10-12T02:33:22-04:00October 12th, 2023|

In the powerful article “Does My Son Know You?” sportswriter Jonathan Tjarks wrote of his battle with terminal cancer and his desire for others to care well for his wife and young son. The thirty-four-year-old wrote the piece just six months prior to his death. Tjarks, a believer in Jesus whose father had died when he was a young adult, shared Scriptures that speak of care for widows and orphans (Exodus 22:22; Isaiah 1:17; James 1:27). And in words directed to his friends, he wrote, “When I see you in heaven, there’s only one thing I’m going to ask—Were you good to my son and my wife? . . . Does my son know you?”

King David wondered if there was “anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom [he could] show kindness for [his dear friend] Jonathan’s sake” (2 Samuel 9:1). A son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth, who was “lame in both feet” (v. 3) due to an accident (see 4:4), was brought to the king. David said to him, “I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table” (9:7). David showed loving care for Mephibosheth, and it’s likely that in time he truly got to know him (see 19:24–30).

Jesus has called us to love others just as He loves us (John 13:34). As He works in and though us, let’s truly get to know and love them well.

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

By |2023-09-20T02:33:12-04:00September 20th, 2023|

In 2021, an engineer with the ambition to shoot an arrow farther than anyone in history took aim at the record of 2,028 feet. While lying on his back on a salt flat, he drew back the bowstring of his personally designed foot bow and prepared to launch the projectile to what he hoped would be a new record distance of more than a mile (5,280 feet). Taking a deep breath, he let the arrow fly. It didn’t travel a mile. In fact, it traveled less than a foot—launching into his foot and causing considerable damage. Ouch!  

Sometimes we can figuratively shoot ourselves in the foot with misguided ambition. James and John knew what it meant to ambitiously seek something good, but for the wrong reasons. They asked Jesus to let “one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (Mark 10:37). Jesus had told the disciples they would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelves tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28), so it’s easy to see why they made this request. The problem? They were selfishly seeking their own lofty position and power in Christ’s glory. Jesus told them that their ambition was misplaced (Mark 10:38) and that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (v. 43).

As we aim to do good and great things for Christ, may we seek His wisdom and direction—humbly serving others as He did so well (v. 45).

Finding Open Spaces

By |2023-08-20T02:33:06-04:00August 20th, 2023|

In his book Margin, Dr. Richard Swenson writes, “We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. . . . Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions. Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn’t He lead people beside the still waters anymore? Who plundered those wide-open spaces of the past, and how can we get them back?” Swenson says we need some quiet, fertile “land” in life where we can rest in God and meet with Him.

Does that resonate? Seeking open spaces is something Moses lived out well. Leading a nation of “stubborn and rebellious” people (Exodus 33:5 nlt), he often withdrew to find rest and guidance in God’s presence. And in his “tent of meeting” (v. 7), “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (v. 11). Jesus also “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). Both He and Moses realized the importance of spending time alone with the Father.  

We too need to build margin into our lives, some wide and open spaces spent in rest and in God’s presence. Spending time with Him will help us make better decisions—creating healthier margins and boundaries in our life so we have the bandwidth available to love Him and others well.

Let’s seek God in open spaces today.

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