Monday, November 29, 2010

Weekly Devotional: My Christmas List - Hope

Talking through the message during the week helps you turn what God is saying to you into action steps. These talking points, questions, and scriptures are designed to help you take the next step.

Monday, November 29th

Read Psalm 33:13-15

The LORD looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.

This passage reminds us that God is God and we are not. This is important to understand as we want to have a healthy relationship with God. We show our love to God through what we hold in our hearts and what we do with our lives.

  • What is one way you can honor God better with your life- with what you do?
  • The Word of God calls us to live “Holy” lives; to aim to be like God. Invite God to replace your sins with His presence in your life.
  • God has good things in store for you! (James 1:17) Pray and thank God for a life journey that is both fulfilling for you and a joy to Him.
Tuesday, November 30th

Read Psalms 33:16-18

The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love

Here, King David tells us we can’t rely on ourselves or our possessions to help us win battles we face in life, but that God is with those who place their hope in Him. He is dedicated to helping us in our troubles. We look to His Word for guidance, seek wise counsel, and pray placing our circumstances firmly in His hands.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how strong is your Faith and Hope in God?

  • Though our hope is in God, He knows we need each other’s encouragement and support, and this strengthens our faith. Pray and ask God to help you find a small group or study that would be a good fit for you.
  • Ask Him to surround you with friends that are strong in faith who will be a source of God’s strength and help to you.

Wednesday, December 1st

Read Psalms 33:20-22

Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

Wow, WAIT? Do we respond to God with patience and trust? We have been given the freedom to choose. We can choose today to worry, or to hope in God, the source of all our blessings.

  • Thank God that He is your help and your protection, that you can trust Him with your problems and concerns.
  • Look for an opportunity today to be an encouragement to someone.

Thursday, December 2nd

Matthew 1:18-20

And her promised husband Joseph, being a just and upright man and not willing to expose her publicly and to shame and disgrace her, decided to repudiate and dismiss and her quietly and secretly.

Joseph had discovered Mary was pregnant and it wasn’t his child. Joseph, focused on protecting her, and showed his integrity and compassion in the way he responded to her situation.

  • How do you respond to people who are caught up in a difficult situation? Do you judge them, or do you look for ways to help and encourage them?
  • Ask God to give you a heart of integrity and love so that you can give hope to others.

Friday, December 3rd

Matthew 1:22-24 (Amplified Bible)

All this took place that it might be fulfilled which the Lord had spoken through the prophet, “Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel--which, when translated, means, God with us.”

Then Joseph, being aroused from his sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him: he took her to his side as his wife.

Joseph believed God, he placed his trust and hope in God, and he obeyed Him. Living in this world of instant gratification, immorality, and self-sufficiency can blow hard against a heart attitude of integrity, patience, trust, hope, and love.

  • What are some specific areas where you are tempted to go with the flow, rather than go with God?
  • What are some specific steps you can take in your life to walk with God more fully?

Saturday, December 4th


God, You are merciful; You sent Your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation. We ask for grace to truly hear their words of warning and wash our hands of our sins, that we may celebrate aright the remembrance of the birth of Christ. We await, with joy, the second coming in glory of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. Christ lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

God's Christmas List

It is almost December. The cold, north wind finally has a bite to it. We have gotten a nice snowfall. Perfect for snowmen and gone the next day. Christmas music is starting to play on the radio. The newspaper is getting thicker. Calendars are starting to fill up.

The young boy makes his Christmas list. It is long and detailed. Sporting goods, clothes, video games, and Legos. He is practicing for the Christmas program at the church. He looks forward to time off of school and seeing cousins and grandparents. His eyes are wide open with optimism and excitement.

The young woman is in college. She has lots of papers to write and more tests to take. She is just trying to finish the semester. She is looking more forward to a few weeks off more than anything else, although she is excited about seeing her family and sleeping in her own bed. She wants gift cards for Christmas. Nobody in her family is qualified to buy her clothes. What she really wants though is some self-esteem. A few guys she has dated haven’t called her back. A few professors she learns from have called her average. Her eyes are sad.

The woman has three kids between ages six and eleven. She has a busy husband and a full-time job. She just doesn’t know how it is all going to get done. Shopping , wrapping, baking, partying, travelling, events at school, in addition to an already overloaded life. She doesn’t really have a Christmas list. Her husband usually gets her something expensive and she is flattered, but it’s not really what she wants. What she really wants is some time alone or at least a few moments to slow down. Her eyes are exhausted.

The man looks out his window. He remembers the days of yesteryear when the lawn was filled with children playing ball. His wife died a few years ago. The kids are grown-up. One lives in California, one lives in Texas, and two of them live locally. He doesn’t get to see any of them much – too many other things going on for the kids. They are all going to be home for Christmas. The only thing he wants for Christmas is to see a few grandkids laughing and for the few days together to go slow. His eyes are filled with memories.

One day God looked at the world and knew a better way existed. So he became human and lived as one of us. The world hasn’t been the same since. For the optimist, the sad, the exhausted, the young, the old, the sinner, the saint, the poet, and the athlete – the only things God really gives are rest, peace, joy, hope, love, grace, forgiveness, healing, and salvation – which is just as well because those are the things the world really needs.

The best is yet to come…


Monday, November 22, 2010

Margin: Moral Margin - The Weekly Challenge

Talking through the message during the week helps you turn what God is saying to you into action steps. These talking points, questions, and scriptures are designed to help you take the next step.

Monday, November 22nd

Read James 1:13-15

And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

The pattern of sin is described in this passage. First, we are enticed and tempted by our own sinful nature and then that temptation leads to sin and all its consequences.

  • Why do you think sin is such an easy trap for most people to fall into?
  • In what ways does the world’s view of morality conflict with God’s view?
  • How have you seen your life or the life of someone you know impacted by sin?

Tuesday, November 23rd

Read Ephesians 5:1-6

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him.

Paul instructs us to not only flee from sexual immorality, but that that there should not be any hint of immorality in our lives.

  • What are some of the defenses and safeguards you have in place that help put distance between you and sin?
  • In what areas of your life are you lacking moral margin? How can you go about creating that margin?

Wednesday, November 24th

Read Romans 6:12-14

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

In these verses, Paul tells us that we should not give in to sin with our bodies, but rather offer our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness.

  • God has called us to a higher standard when it comes to morality. Describe how you have been able to live up to that standard and how difficult it can be striving to live up to that standard.
  • How can people such as your small group, friends, family, or spouse help you in living a life with moral margin?

Thursday, November 25th

Read Psalm 51:7-12

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

David messed up. He confessed his sin to God and asked for forgiveness and restoration.

  • What are some specific areas where you have messed up?
  • What is preventing you from fully accepting God’s forgiveness?
  • What steps do you need to take to begin or continue on a process of restoration?

Friday, November 26th

Here are some specific things you can do this week to take a step toward living life with the margin God intends for your life.

If you are struggling with any type of sin, God is offering you a chance to get free. Seek help this week from a professional counselor, pastor, friend, family member, or accountability partner. Allow them to help you find the assistance you need in dealing with your sin and in finding ways to guard against that temptation in the future.

Saturday, November 27th

Use these prayer tips to guide your time with God this week.

  • Confess to God in prayer any areas of immorality that you are struggling with. Ask for His help and deliverance.
  • Ask God to help you in defending yourself against immorality in your life.
  • Ask God in prayer for strength in guarding yourself from impure thoughts.
  • Pray and ask God to reveal to you those areas in your life where you need moral margin. Ask Him to help you achieve it.
  • Pray for those you know who are dealing with sexual sin and its aftermath. Ask God to comfort them and deliver them.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving List

Things I’m Thankful For – In No Particular Order

  1. That my two boys share the same passion for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that I do.
  2. For the seasons of the year: apples and pumpkins in the fall; snowmen and snowballs in the winter; tulips and green grass in the spring; and sweating and swimming in the summer.
  3. The Bible. God has a way of speaking to me every time I read it. Comforting me when I’m afflicted and afflicting me when I am comfortable.
  4. That I live in a country where I can vote.
  5. For the teachers who teach my two sons. Their life is better because of you.
  6. For the basic physical necessities in life: food to eat, a house to live, and clothes to wear.
  7. Playing chess with Benjamin and trains with David. Wrestling with both of them. Being a dad.
  8. To live in a country with abundant resources: power and fresh water are a dream for many people in the world.
  9. Being able to run without pain for the first time in over a year and being able to walk without pain the day after I run.
  10. That I’m saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)
  11. That I serve a church with the greatest people I have ever known: People who are examples of giving, serving, and loving. I’m blessed to be taking this journey of life with you.
  12. That I have a job where I get to hold babies the day they are born, and stand up in front of people and talk to them on the day they are married.
  13. For a great wife who is also a great mom.
  14. For my small group. It is an eclectic group of men and women who laugh, learn, and pray together.
  15. For a big, goofy Newfondland dog Georgia who has been part of our family for ten years.
  16. For nearly 100 people who are registered to train for and run the Lincoln Marathon or Half Marathon to raise money for kids in Africa.
  17. For being the parent of a fourth grader: I get to learn the state capitals all over again.
  18. That God is with me and I have no reason to fear the present or the future. (Isaiah 43:5
  19. My iPhone. It makes my life easier.
  20. For my weekly run at Platte River State Park where I turn my iPhone off for a few hours: Punishing the Body + Clearing the Mind + Renewing the Soul = A Great Morning.
  21. Prayer. Lunches at Jason’s Deli. Advil. Forgiveness. Good friends. Hope. Laughter. Grace.
  22. That I am loved by God. (John 15:13)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Margin: Financial Margin - The Weekly Challenge

Talking through the message during the week helps you turn what God is saying to you into action steps. These talking points, questions, and scriptures are designed to help you take the next step. Use these questions for individual or group study.

Monday, November 15th

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

Read Proverbs 21:20

The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.

These verses encourage us to not be foolish with money, but to be content with what we have. We are also warned not to be lured by money’s temptation.

  • Even though we all know better, why do you think many of us tend to be foolish with our money and possessions?
  • How have you seen the stress caused by lack of financial margin limit your relationship with God and your ability to minister and give to others?
Tuesday, November 16th

Read Matthew 6:19-21

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Jesus instructs us in this passage to store up treasures in heaven and not on earth.

  • Where your money goes, your heart follows. Based on how you spend your money, which types of treasures are you currently storing up?
  • What can you do to start putting God first in your life instead of money?
Wednesday, November 17th

Read Malachi 3:8-10.

“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me. But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”

  • God asks us in this passage to test Him so that we can experience the blessings that result from tithing.
  • Describe how you have seen tithing build your faith and break the cycle of materialism and consumerism in your life?

Thursday, November 18th

Read Proverbs 15:16

Better to have little, with fear for the Lord, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.

Read Proverbs 8:18-19.

I have riches and honor, as well as enduring wealth and justice. My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold, my wages better than sterling silver!

These scriptures tell us that when we put God first instead of money, we become supernaturally content and we end up with more of what matters.

  • How have you found contentment in God? How does it compare to the contentment money and possessions bring?
  • In what ways has God blessed you with more of the things that truly matter in life?

Friday, November 19th – The Next Steps

  • Go through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program. FPU is one of the best programs for learning how to manage your finances in a Biblical way.
  • Seek guidance from someone you know who has successfully achieved financial margin in their life. Ask them to show you ways you can better handle your finances in a way that is honoring to God. Open up and really let them into your spending and budgeting habits.

Saturday, November 20th – Pray About It

Use these prayer tips to guide your time with God

  • Lift up to God the financial stress you have in life. Seek His guidance in overcoming it.
  • Commit to God that you will place Him first instead of money in your life.
  • Thank God for all of the many blessings He has given you. Praise Him during this time.
  • Seek God’s contentment for your life. Pray that He will become your only source for contentment.
  • Ask God to continue to bless you with the things that matter most in life.

Friday, November 12, 2010


I remember Thanksgiving Day of years gone by. Our crowded house was even more crowded than usual. My mom and sisters worked in the kitchen. The smell of turkey filled the house. My dad and older brother went pheasant hunting. I snacked on scraps. Uncle Bud was always the first to arrive. He was a farmer. Never late to anything. Both sets of grandparents would come a little later with all sorts of food. Grandpa Pete brought a relish tray and some sort of orange slush the kids weren’t allowed to drink. Grandpa Adolf brought various smelly fish and sweet Norwegian pastries.

Around one o’clock the food started coming and it didn’t stop coming for hours. Turkey, potatoes of various varieties, oysters, boiled eggs with a whipped yellow filling, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and of course pumpkin pie and apple pie.

The women always cleaned up. (Don’t blame me for that. I’m the baby in the family.) The men went to the family room and watched the Cowboys or the Lions play football. Most of the men would fall asleep. Maybe hibernate is a better word. I would go look for leftovers with great success, as there were always plenty around. The rest of the day was spent outside enjoying walks rustling through the leaves in the cool and crisp air, playing fiercely competitive board games, and exchanging ideas for Christmas gifts.

Today, Thanksgiving is usually still celebrated by a feast and with family. It is a welcomed few days off for most workers. Often Christmas decorations are put out. And then there is planning for shopping the morning after Thanksgiving—a strategic plot on how to get one member of each family to Walmart, Best Buy, and Nebraska Furniture Mart before five o’clock the next morning. We have come a long way since the first Thanksgiving.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. –Thorton Wilder

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. -1 Thessalonians 5:18

It is easy to forget that contentment in life usually does not come by achieving or acquiring something we do not currently have, but instead by recognizing and appreciating what we have been blessed with. It is a whole lot better to embrace thanksgiving as a life-long attitude than it is to occasionally remember to feel or be thankful. The feast doesn’t have to be a day. The feast can be daily. It is God’s plan for our life that we be thankful to Him and thankful to others. Not so much for God or even for others. But for us. Thanksgiving is a simple attitude adjustment that can simply change our lives.

Each day, be intentionally thankful. Write down a few things you are thankful for. From the common to the complex. Be grateful. Tell, give, and show God thank you. Tell, give, and show others thank you. Your life won’t ever quite be the same again.

The best is yet to come…


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

Margin: Scheduling Margin - The Weekly Challenge

Talking through the message during the week helps you turn what God is saying to you into action steps. These talking points, questions, and scriptures are designed to help you take the next step. Use these questions for individual or group study.

Monday, November 8th – Read Ephesians 5:15-17

15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

Paul encourages us in these verses to be wise in how we use our time so that we can make the most every opportunity.

In order to make the most of our limited time, we should ask the question “In light of _____, is it wise?” before making decisions about your schedule. What would you put in the blank when asking that question? Is it your goals, your family’s needs, your marriage, you relationship with God or something else? Explain.

Tuesday, November 9th – Read Romans 12:1-8

1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. 4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Paul instructs us in this passage to follow God’s plan for our lives in using the gifts He gave us instead of falling to the patterns of this world.

The “normal” pattern of today’s society is busyness, meaning that if we are not busy we are not productive.

  • What things in your life are keeping you too busy? How is that busyness affecting all areas of your life?
  • Describe a time when you said “no” to something good that ultimately allowed you to say “yes” to God’s best.
  • What are the things in your life that you value most? Does the way you use your time reflect those values? Why or why not?
Wednesday, November 10th – Read Psalm 127:2

It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.

When we are weary from the busyness of life, God encourages us in these passages to focus on what matters most—spending intimate time with God and finding rest in Him.

  • How important is your intimate time with God?
  • How does that time impact your daily life?
  • How is the rest you find in God different and more satisfying than other kinds of rest or comfort?
Thursday, November 11th – Read Hosea 6:1-6

1 “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds.
2 In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence.
3 Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”
4 “O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the Lord. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight.
5 I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces—to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light.
6 I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.

What major changes will you make starting now that will allow you to create margin for things you value most in life?

Friday, November 12th – Prayer Day

Use these prayer tips to guide your time with God this week

  • Confess those areas of your life in prayer that are causing too much busyness. Ask for God’s help.
  • Ask God in prayer to give you the strength to say no to good things so that you can say yes to His best.
  • Commit to God the things you will do immediately that will allow you to create more margin in your schedule.
Saturday, November 13th – The Next Steps
  1. Make a simple plan that will help you create and schedule more margin in your life.
  2. Share this plan with another person so that they can help you succeed.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

Here is Sunday's column...

Bluegrass and BBQ

We have a different kind of music today. We are having pulled pork, cole slaw, baked beans, chips, and dessert for lunch after our 10:30 worship service. I hope you will stay for lunch.


I encourage you to take one of the grocery sacks that will be distributed after worship today. Many in Omaha are not able to have a feast at Thanksgiving. Together, we can help provide food for hungry people.

We will be having a Thanksgiving Eve worship service again this year at Faith-Westwood on Wednesday evening, November 24th at 6:30. I will be sharing a message about having an attitude of gratefulness for God’s provision in our lives and we will all be sharing in the Lord’s Supper together.

I want to challenge you to make November your month of Thanksgiving this year. If you are thankful for somebody: tell them. Write your child’s teacher a note. Surprise a child, co-worker, or friend with an unexpected gift of love. Make a phone call to somebody in your past who you are grateful for. You will be used as a blessing (who doesn’t like to be told thank you?) and you will be blessed!

9:00 Service Update

Our 9:00 worship service is up and running. I’m so thankful for the volunteers who are making this happen. We see new faces each week and a community is being built. If you are unable to attend the 10:30 service because of schedule conflicts in the late morning or early afternoon, I encourage you to worship with us at 9:00. In a few weeks we will be offering more options for children at 9:00 as well. If you are not currently on a Sunday morning serving team, consider serving on one of our 9:00 serving teams. Finally, invite people to this service.

Team World Vision

We have 80 runners signed up so far. This response is incredible and has put us a little behind schedule as far as administrative details go, but we are getting caught up. If you have been thinking about doing this and are still unsure, I would love to talk to you. Just visit with me after worship!

DVDs and Watching Sermons Online

For the past couple months we have been video broadcasting our sermons on the Internet. Visit our website,, to watch the sermons. The video is usually up on Monday or Tuesday. We are now distributing DVDs as well as the audio CDs at the Connection’s Table. These resources are great if you miss a worship service or if you want to see or hear something again.


One of the areas of discipleship we have stressed from our worship launch is inviting guests to our worship services. November and December are an optimal time to invite guests to worship with us. Pray about who God leads you to invite and then make that invitation. God can use a simple invitation to change a life!

The best is yet to come…


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apple Pie Recipe

I am surprised at the increase in quality of apple pies that are now available in stores. I think places like Wal-Mart and Hy-Vee make wonderful apple pies. I even bought a really good frozen one a few weeks ago and baked it at home. Mass produced apple pies 20 years ago just weren't that good. Today many of them are very good. With that being said, there is no substitute for homemade apple pie. It is a great activity to do with family and friends: the making, the smell, and the eating.

This apple pie recipe was taken off a bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup decades ago. I made this apple pie for Amber on the night I proposed to her. Fifteen years later, it's still her favorite. I have probably made about 100 of these pie over the years.

First things first. An apple corer / peeler / slicer is a wonderful invention. Twenty bucks will save your fingers, save you a lot of time, and allow you to be the proud owner of one of the coolest gadgets ever. With one swipe, the corer / peeler / slicer gives you perfectly cut apples. Buy one here.

Speaking of apples, the quality of your pie will be directly correlated to the quality of your apples. Apples for apple pie need to be at least a little tart or they will deteriorate during the baking process. Granny Smith and McIntosh are traditionally the apples used for apple pie. Other apples that work well are Jonathan, Fuji, and Golden Delicious. I generally use about two-thirds Granny Smith and mix in a little Fuji or Golden Delicious. Do not use Red Delicious apples. They just don't work well in pies.

Now about the pie shell. Pie shells can be anything from simple to complex to make. I usually make a graham cracker crust. Often I'll go buy a graham cracker crust in the grocery section or a traditional crust in the frozen section. I always make or buy the over sized crust. Life is too short for small pie. Don't worry about the top part of the pie...I'll get to that in a little bit.

The Pie Filling

  • 1/3 cup Ketchup. I use Heinz out of respect for the origins of the recipe.
  • 2.5 teaspoons of lemon juice

Mix these two ingredients together and put them in a large bowl. The acid in the lemons and tomatoes will keep the cut apples nice and crisp. The sugar in the ketchup will add some needed sweetness to the tart apples. Don't be grossed out by the ketchup. You won't taste it.

  • 5 cups sliced apples - 7 cups for a lager shell
  • Sugar - to taste (Probably about one Tablespoon)

You are probably wondering what five cups of apples looks like. This is generally five pretty good sized apples. If you still have questions: look at your pie shell. You will need to fill the pie shell up with apples. The more the better. I usually pile them an inch and a half to two inches above the top of the pie shell. They will reduce a little bit and I just love lots of apple in my pie.

Put the apples in the ketchup / lemon juice mixture immediately after peeling / coring / slicing them. If you don't have access to a core / peeler / slicer then you will want to take the the skin off, remove the core, and cut the apple into slices. The slices shouldn't be too thin (they will fall apart) or too thick (they won't cook all the way through). They should look like the picture below. (In the picture the apples are halved. You can also cut the apples into thirds or quarters if you like your pie a little less chunky.)

Depending on the tartness of the apples and your personal taste, you may want to add a little sugar. You won't need to add too much though. I usually just sprinkle the apple / ketchup / lemon juice mixture with about a Tablespoon of sugar and let the flavors blend when I am making the top crust.

Top Crust

This part is essential. Regardless of the pie shell, this top crust is part of why this pie is so unique.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Just under a full stick (about 7 Tablespoons) of butter or margarine (softened)

Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter (or margarine, if you must) until thoroughly mixed. I really work the dough. It should almost have the consistency of sugar cookie dough when you are done.

Almost There

Fill the pie shell with apples. Cover with the dough mixture. You may want to roll the dough out so it is fairly thin or you can just make the dough thin with your hands and cover the pie one section at a time. Just make sure the entire pie is covered and that no gaps in the dough exist.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 40 to 45 minutes.

Let it cool for a little bit if you like it warm or overnight if you like it cold. And enjoy! It is a wonderful pie. Best served with friends, family, and vanilla ice cream.

I'll put my recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie up in the next week or so. It is incredible.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Margin: The One Thing - Weekly Challenge

Monday, November 1st - Read Luke 10:38-42

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

In this passage, Martha gives us the perfect illustration of what living without margin looks like. Martha was so distracted preparing for Jesus’ visit that she forgot the most important thing—simply spending time with Jesus.

  • When margin decreases, stress increases. What are some of the things that currently cause you the most stress? How is that stress affecting your life?
  • What are some specific ways you can begin the process of reducing stress in your life?
  • When margin decreases, your relational intimacy decreases. How have you seen your intimacy with God and others decrease as a result of not having margin in your life?
  • A lack of margin is a reflection of a lack of faith. In what areas of your life do you need to place more faith in God?
  • A lack of margin is also a reflection of idolatry. What are some of things you are placing before God? How will you go about putting God first?
Tuesday, November 2nd – Read Psalm 46:10

Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.

Wednesday, November 3rd – Read Isaiah 58:11

The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.

Thursday, November 4th – Read Matthew 11:28-29

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

These verses tell us that if we come to Jesus and be still and rest before Him, our souls will be satisfied.

  • How have you found rest and comfort through Christ? How did that rest ultimately lead to satisfaction?
  • While it sounds simple, why do you think it is so difficult for many of us to rest and be still before Christ?

Friday, November 5th – Next Steps – Read Joshua 24:14-15

So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.

Here are some specific things you can do to take a step toward living life with the margin God intends for your life.

Take time to rest and be with Christ. This time could consist of praying, reading the Bible, or just enjoying some quiet time alone. Be creative. Remove the distractions for just a little while and allow Him an opportunity to renew your soul and your mind.

Begin the process of reducing some of the stress in your life. Identify one or more things that are creating too much stress and create a plan to reduce that stress. Not only write down your plan of action, but have someone hold you accountable as you carry out your plan.

Saturday, November 6th – Prayer Focus – Read Matthew 6:33

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Use these prayer tips to guide your time with God:

  1. Bring to God those areas of your life that are causing stress. Ask God to help you in removing that stress.
  2. Seek God’s guidance through prayer of ways He wants to create more margin in your life.
  3. Confess to God in prayer those things that you are placing ahead of Him. Commit to God that you will put Him first.
  4. Be still and rest before God during your prayer time. Allow Him to comfort you and renew your mind and soul.
  5. Lay your burdens down before God in prayer. Tell Him what is weighing you down and trust Him to carry them for you. Seek His comfort and love.

Credit: We used, revised, and added to material from Life Church.