Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mom, can we talk?



“The influence of a Mother in the lives
of her children is beyond calculation.” James E. Faust

  Recently, I asked some friends for their input: If you could tell a Mom one thing, what would you tell her? I laughed at the response of one friend who’s recently retired as a counselor, “Don’t kill ‘em.” Sometimes, that’s not that far from the truth. So, this Mother’s Day can we grab a cup of coffee and chat for a moment about being a Mom…  
  God is seeking to develop you. There are no accidents with God’s plan. When God gave you your child, He knew that your child needed you and He also knew that you needed your child. Our Heavenly Father is in the masterpiece making business. Personal happiness is not a priority in masterpiece making. Spiritual growth and holiness are. What your Father wants to develop in you is; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). It takes pruning, heat and friction to produce a masterpiece. Wonderfully, the very traits that He wants to produce in you are the exact things that your child needs most. Masterpiece building is frequently exhausting. That’s because your Father knows you don’t have it in you and will need to depend on Him and His grace. Wonderfully, as you model those traits, your children will often follow your example. They may also copy you if you fail to model them.
  Determine to be a Mom of truthfulness. God is a God of truth. Jesus said, “I am the way…the truth” (John 14:6). Because children are so trusting, it’s tempting and simple to lie to them. It’s can be little things, yet they carry big consequences. For example, a child hates onions and has a fit over them…but the recipe tastes better with onions. They see you mixing it together and ask the inevitable question, “Are there onions in it?” What do you do? You must tell the truth. Pleasing God is not about avoiding hassles, even with your children.
  Learn to be flexible. Our culture encourages us to be human doings. God created us to be human beings. Yet, we feel a sense of accomplishment when we accomplish more and wear how busy we are as a badge of honor. Both you and your child will be exasperated if you continually rush them. Relationship building takes time and nurture, even one with your child.
  Grow in gratitude for the small things. “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42). In other words, stop and smell the roses. Learn to enjoy the little things. Too often we approach parenting like a black dot on a white sheet of paper. We’re so focused on the dot, we miss all of the whiteness. Children are like a new flower. Growth must be encouraged, but ours is a weed whacking world. Be a person of gratitude and encouragement. It begins with being a grateful person, learning to savor and enjoy cups of cold water.
  Plan for the long game. Most of us plan for nearly everything but parenting. Parenting is supposed to just “happen.” Planning always begins with prayer. It starts with trust and submission to the One who gave them to you. Pray for your child’s future, what their life’s vocation will be, if they’ll marry, who they’ll marry, what choices they’ll make, etc. Healthy parents give their children roots and wings. Ten or twenty years from today what kind of adult do you want them to be? That trajectory begins today. They will usually value what you value. If you value a temporal world, they will value a temporal world. Too many times we wait until adolescence to attempt to re-direct our child. It’s far too late. Patterns and values are already ingrained. The time for directing toward adulthood is during babyhood. It’s easy to plop a small child in front of a screen and have a digital babysitter. Is it any wonder that we have millennials who are obsessed with screens? They were taught to value them before they cut their teeth. Even most Christian parents are more concerned about their child’s education than their final destination. Spiritual values (Bible reading, prayer, community of believers, service, giving) are haphazard. There’s a reason so many young adults want little to do with eternal values. They weren’t valued during those formative years, but everything else was.
  Live out the Golden Rule. Matthew 7:12, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” Do you want your children to speak kindly to you? Then, speak kindly to them. Do you want them to be patient? Be patient with them. Do you want them to respect your privacy? Respect theirs. Do you want them to cover your faults in public? Then, cover theirs. Most adults carry wounds from being shamed as a child. With social media, it’s easier perhaps than ever before to share a tidbit that shames your child. It’s tempting to use it to vent but venting isn’t a biblical behavior. We’re to seek to instead problem-solve. So before you post, think through how your child might feel if they knew about that post.
  Model biblical problem-solving. It begins with your own marriage. Little eyes are watching and learning how to resolve conflict. If they have siblings, they’re going to disagree and squabble. Teach them how to do that in a biblical, proactive way. Meltdowns won’t be tolerated in school or in the workplace, why tolerate them in the home? Many parents tune out squabbling, rationalizing “it’s just the way kids are.” Kids become adults. Squabbling in adulthood jeopardizes employment and can result in serious long term relational problems.  
  Trust the only objective reliable resource. There’s not enough time to go through the mountains of parenting books that have been written. Then, many of them offer contradictory advice (e.g., pick up your baby when she cries vs. don't pick up your baby when she cries). Add to these resources all of the blogs and websites that offer parenting tips and one can see why many parents feel overwhelmed. We are designed by God, thus His Word is our blueprint. Amazingly, the Bible has general principles yet few specifics. That’s because of the uniqueness of each parent, child and family. The main thing you’ll learn from the Bible is how to change YOU. As you grow and become more Christlike, that will do more for your parenting and children than anything else.  



Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Baptism: Counting the Cost



“If you want to identify yourself with Christ’s people
and expect them to identify with you, you need to first identify yourself with Christ, which is the purpose of baptism.”  Jonathan Leeman

  Have you heard of Brother Andrew? A few years ago in an Islamic country where Christians are persecuted, Brother Andrew baptized twelve men who had converted from Islam. One elderly man who’d suffered a stroke six months earlier emerged from the water and waved his right hand. Two years later this same man was martyred by extremists because he wouldn’t stop testifying about how Jesus had changed his life. Many of our fellow Christians around the world risk their lives to obey the Lord in this matter of believer’s immersion. What a powerful testimony that no threat, no law, and no terror can stifle the Holy Spirit! 
  One of the sad ironies of church history is that a subject that should unite all believers has caused great division. Paul wrote (Eph. 4:5) that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Sincere and godly believers differ over many aspects of that one baptism! Some denominations believe that baptism effects the new birth. As they administer baptism to an infant, they believe that when they sprinkle water on a baby, that child is regenerated. Examine the Bible for yourself. Scripture is clear that baptism is to follow conversion. There’s no merit in being “baptized” prior to salvation. Tragically and unbiblically, many churches who practice infant baptism also believe that unbaptized aborted babies are sentenced to hell because they have not been baptized. It’s not only heartless but heretical. So, why do we believe that baptism is so important? 
  We believe that baptism is an act of obedience. Some of the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples were the threefold instruction: make disciples, baptize those who believe, and teach them His commands (Matt. 28:19-20). If for no other reason, we baptize because Jesus told us to. 
  Obedience is a characteristic of followers of Christ. Jesus instructed us to teach new believers “to observe everything I have commanded you.” Baptism is simply an act of obedience both for the new believer and the church. We baptize because we are seeking to obey Christ’s command.
  We believe that baptism is an opportunity to be a witness. Both the New Testament and church history indicate that baptism served as the initial profession of faith of early believers. After Philip shared Jesus with the Ethiopian, this new believer’s initial request was to be baptized (Acts 8). When the Philippian jailer responded to the preaching of Paul and Silas, he and the believing members of his family were baptized (Acts 16). The same is true of Lydia (Acts16), Cornelius (Acts 10), the Corinthians (Acts 18), and others. Baptism was a silent witness, an outward expression, of their new found faith and new way of life.
  How is baptism a witnessing opportunity for us? According to Romans 6:1-4 our baptism is a witness to the saving work of Christ - His death, burial, and resurrection. As a symbol, baptism visually reenacts His burial in the grave and His resurrection to life. When we see a new believer enter the water, go under the water and come up from the water, we’re seeing what Jesus did to save us. Baptism is a dramatic representation of Christ’s work of atonement (1 Cor. 15:1-4). It’s a witness of what takes place immediately at salvation. Romans 6:3 declares that in salvation we’ve been “baptized into Christ Jesus” and “into His death.”
  Baptism symbolizes that as Christ died, was buried, and rose again, so the believer has died, been buried to self and now has new life in Christ. It symbolizes that he or she is a new creature in Christ. Being a new creature in Christ is reflected even in the term baptism. The Greek term baptizo was commonly used in the 1st century to describe dipping cloth into dye. The cloth came out of the dye vat looking very different than when it went in. Being a new creature in Christ means our lives have changed. As we adopt a Christlike character, the change becomes evident to those with whom we associate. Baptism symbolizes that change in the new follower of Christ.
  New believers often ask friends and relatives, some of whom may be nonbelievers, to come to their baptism. Questions naturally arise in those who are unfamiliar with this ordinance. A child may ask, “Why are they putting her under the water?” Others wonder about or even hear for the first time of the significance of baptism. The Holy Spirit can use the act of baptism as the initial entry point into the lives of those who will come to faith in Christ. The very act of baptism serves as a powerful witness of the saving work of Christ and the salvation experience of the believer.
  We believe that baptism is an open door into the local church. The early church took very seriously the concept of church membership for those who were born again. Acts 2:47 tells us that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Peter's preaching in Acts 2 resulted in that those who repented and received Christ were then baptized. The early church was made up of those who had been saved and were then baptized. In spite of some obvious cultural and social differences between the 1st-century church and today’s church, the requirement for congregational inclusion should still be believer’s baptism.
  At baptism the new believer is making a commitment not only to Christ but to the local church family by identifying publicly with a particular congregation. The body at this point also is assuming a responsibility for the new believer. There is now a new member in the family.  Being part of that local church means the church family has a responsibility to include the new Christ follower, to encourage him/her in a personal pilgrimage of faith, and to support the new believer as a brother or sister and as a friend. If you’ve trusted Christ as your Savior but have not confessed your faith publicly through baptism, I urge you to be baptized as soon as possible! If you’ve never trusted in Christ as Savior, do not think that because you were baptized or even that if you get baptized, it will get you into heaven. Eternal life is the free gift God offers based upon Christ’s death for our sins. You can only receive it by faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, to confess your faith in obedience to Christ’s command, be baptized!


Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Earth Day or God the Creator Day?



“All creation is meant to be a finger pointing us to ultimate glory, the only glory that can ever satisfy the human heart, the glory of God.”
                                                                                                Paul Tripp

  You have to admire commitment and creativity. After all, that’s how God designed us. Thirty-two-year-old Korey Nolan of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, spent seven months collecting hundreds of used Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cups to fashion a surfboard made out of 700 cups and more than 30 plastic straws along with other materials. Most of the cups came from family members who gave them to him, though some were picked up from the roadside. He placed 2nd out of 15 finalists in an innovation contest a competition put on by surf brand Vissla called the Creators and Innovators Upcycle Contest. Nolan compressed the raw materials together and finished his board using bamboo, epoxy, fiberglass cloth, fiberboard and Masonite compression mold. He says it “rides great.” That’s creativity!
  As Bible-believers, we’re to obey God’s Creation Mandate first given to Adam and Eve in the Garden, “And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).   
  Why do Christians often overlook a biblical commitment to creation? Last Monday was Earth Day. Many celebrating Earth Day “worship” the earth and creation living out Romans 1:25, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Such wrongheaded thinking prioritizes creation over the Creator or the pinnacle of God’s creation – Man. We are and should be repulsed by idolatry. It can result in a foolish approach to environmentalism with a lack of thinking and an overreaction. A.W. Tozer insightfully observed, “the modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world.” Yet, we are wrong to jettison a commitment to rightly manage God’s world that He’s entrusted to us because some prioritize the creation over the Creator.
  We must not allow those who are foolish to alienate us from our biblical responsibility. For example, some States and large cities, like San Francisco, have banned  plastic straws. Supposedly San Francisco uses a million plastic straws a day, but while the city bans straws, San Francisco hands out nearly 5 million hypodermic needles to drug addicts across the city. The claim that a straw policy is for the betterment of the environment, yet needles they distribute and also the lack of enforcement of not using streets as an open toilet go against that absurd thinking. Add to that, a straw ban hurts the disabled and can be a matter of life or death. Even a national ban won’t dent worldwide plastic output, and where is any serious research justifying a straw ban. The oft-cited figure that “Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day comes from a survey conducted by a 9-year-old.” It seems that a strawman is the basis of a straw ban.
  Another example would be Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent inane comment that “the world is going to end in 12 years if we don't address climate change.” While it made headlines (and her look foolish), such “the sky is falling” thinking isn’t backed up by real science.  While we must be committed to taking care of creation, if it’s not accompanied by an international commitment, we’re only hamstringing our own economy. Unless China or India and a host of other countries agree, we could sanitize the air to nearly pure oxygen, yet it won’t make a difference if those nations are polluting what we’re seeking to purify. Wise solutions to environmental issues are complex and need much more than fads and knee jerk reactions. Bible-believers should be some of the most respectful and wise when it comes to creation. Why?
  We’re managers of God’s property. Because God is the Creator and since humanity is the pinnacle of His creation, He’s entrusted this world to us. We must take seriously what’s been termed “creation care” and care for God’s property that He’s entrusted to us wisely. Wanton pollution or wasted resources are disrespectful and disobedience of God.
  God’s primary posture toward creation is affection, not apathy. God cares when a sparrow dies, so shouldn’t we to some level? We must care about what God cares about if we’re going to have the heart of God. Noah could have built a much smaller boat if God didn’t care for His creation.
  God’s primary posture toward Creation is pleasure, not production. In Proverbs 8. wisdom is symbolized as a woman. Proverbs 8 reminds us that  God rejoices and delights in His creation (vss. 30 & 31). One of the funniest animals is the platypus. Study a platypus or a monkey and try to argue that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. Have you ever made something just for fun? It doesn’t do anything. It’s just for sheer pleasure. God enjoys His creation and wants us to enjoy it, too.  
  God’s primary posture toward Creation is celebration, not consumption. Seven times in Genesis 1, we find this phrase, “God saw that it was good.” God celebrates His creation. What do we do with flowers? We admire their beauty and smell them. Painters paint them, photographers take pictures of them, but you don’t often eat flowers. Much of God’s creation is like that. We celebrate its beauty, admire and appreciate it.
  Christians and contemporary environmentalists share many common goals. Both oppose the abuse of nature. Yet, environmentalists often function from a worldview that condemns virtually all human activity as intrinsically evil. The child of God cares for creation for a greater reason – we are obeying our Heavenly Father’s mandate. Good management of His creation that He has given us dominion and responsibility over honors and pleases Him…after all, this is our Father’s world.


Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Jesus’ Resurrection: A Whale of a Tail?



“Without the resurrection, Jesus’ death becomes the heroic death of a noble martyr, the pathetic death of a madman,
or the execution of a fraud.” John MacArthur

  A South African photographer has a whale of a survival story — and the stunning photo to prove it. Rainer Schimpf, 51, had his own personal Jonah from the Bible moment when his head and torso were gobbled up by a whale while he was shooting footage of a sardine run off the coast of South Africa. “I held my breath and I was prepared, and that's the only thing I could do, I mean there was no other thing I could do. I mean, you can't fight a 15-ton animal,” said Schimpf. He found himself in the mouth of a Bryde’s whale, which can grow up to 55 feet long and weigh up to 30 tons. Thankfully, he was only trapped for about two seconds before the whale let him free. The incredible scene was captured by photographer Heinz Toperczer, who was in a nearby boat. A stunning photo shows the head and torso of Schimpf in the mouth of the whale off the coast of South Africa. 
  “I was just holding myself and bracing myself and calming myself down not to be panicked, and it worked out,” he said. “He spat me out and everybody’s happy.” His biggest fear was not being completely swallowed by the whale, but being pulled down into the deep ocean. A check of his body after the ordeal found that he didn’t even have a single bruise and was back in the water minutes later. Someone joked that Schimpf might be the first person since Jonah's biblical odyssey to enter the mouth of a whale and survive. “I showed (the photo) to my son, and he was impressed,” Schimpf said. “And you’ll never guess what his name is — Jonas.”
  In Matthew 12:39-41 Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” No one can read that without understanding at once that it’s a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection. The sign of Jonah is what’s called a “typical” prophecy. The experience that Jonah went through is a “type” of what Jesus would go through.
  As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and nights and then was spit out, so the Son of Man – Jesus the Messiah – would be in the heart of the earth for three days and nights and then rise again. It was a prediction of Jesus’ coming death, burial, and resurrection. That would be the sign Jesus would give. But would they heed it? No. Jesus said in His account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, that if they would not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they still wouldn’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.
  It’s noteworthy that Jesus Himself affirms the veracity of the account of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish. If you have a problem believing the account about Jonah is true, you also have a problem with Jesus because He attested that it is true.
  When Jesus heard their request for a sign He must have been thinking, “How blind can you be? Haven’t you seen my miracles and heard my words?” He said, “You want a sign? Here’s your sign, the sign of Jonah.”
  What is the sign of Jonah? Just as Jonah spent three days in the dark, cold belly of a huge fish and was as good as dead, God miraculously delivered him after three days. The same thing happened to Jesus. He spent three days and three nights in a dark, cold tomb, but unlike Jonah, Jesus really died and God raised Jesus from the dead.
  Believing in the Resurrection of Jesus is a requirement for salvation. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Why doesn’t the Bible say, “Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus walked on water; or believe in your heart that He fed the 5,000”? Because the resurrection of Jesus proves He’s more than some great teacher or just a martyr. He was and is God. He rose from the dead and is alive forevermore. Your salvation rises and falls on whether or not you truly believe Jesus died and was raised to life again.
  Some people are looking for proof, but they’re making the same mistake the disciple Thomas made. They want a sign. On that first Easter night Jesus appeared to the disciples but Thomas was gone. Jesus vanished and when Thomas showed up they told him about Jesus. He refused to believe. He said, “I have to see a sign. Unless I see the nail prints in His hands and place my hand in the hole in His side I won’t believe.” It’s why he’s called Doubting Thomas. A week later Jesus appeared and knew exactly what Thomas had said because He said, “Here, Thomas put your finger in the nail scars in My hands.” Thomas fell to His knees and said, “My Lord and my God!” Then, Jesus said something to Thomas and He said something about believers today…Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29) Jesus was talking about Christians who believed in His resurrection by faith – blessed are those who have not seen, but believe.
  Do you recognize the sign of Jonah? Do you believe God raised Jesus from the dead? Jesus said that you’re blessed if you do. I hope that you’re not waiting on a sign from God. The sign that Jesus is the only Savior and our only hope is His empty tomb. It’s what we’re celebrating today – our Lord is alive! Is He your Savior? Is He alive in your heart and life?

Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Who is Jesus?



“He became what we are that He might make us what He is.”
Athanasius

  C. S. Lewis, the famed author, was also a professor at Cambridge University and once an agnostic, wrote this about Jesus:  “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
  As we come into the Easter Season, more are thinking about and considering that vital question: Who is Jesus? There is no more critical question. The best way to find the answer is to read the biographies about Jesus found in the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It’s amazing how Jesus becomes real as we read about His life from those early biographies of His life. When you read the original writings, you will quickly discover that the Jesus of the Bible is very different from some of the common misconceptions about Jesus. Many believe in a Jesus that doesn’t exist. Maybe that’s you.
  For example, there’s the John Lennon Jesus? All you need is love, that’s all that really matters. Just love and peace and spirituality. We could call this Jesus the “why can’t we all just get along?” one. But that’s not Jesus.  
  There’s the Tony Robbins Jesus. You’ll see this Jesus in an infomercial. You were created to succeed! You’re a winner, so call yourself one. All you have to do is picture it, believe it, and achieve it. But that’s not Jesus.  
  A childhood favorite is the Mr. Rogers Jesus. We all need to be careful not to hurt anybody’s feelings, make sure we love everybody and treat everybody fairly. Don’t do anything to offend anyone because we’re all God’s children. But that’s not Jesus.  
  What about the Oprah Jesus? You’re doing a great job. You can do it, just believe in yourself. You’re beautiful! You’re strong! Everything you need to succeed is already inside of you. You don’t need anyone else. But that’s not Jesus.  
  Perhaps the American favorite is the Genie Jesus. Everyone loves Genie Jesus because He sits up in Heaven just waiting for us to ask for whatever we need and then we just have to say those three magic words, “In Jesus’s name.” It’s the ask and you shall receive Jesus. But that’s not Jesus.  
  All of these Jesuses and many more have two very important things in common. First, a lot of people believe in them. Second, and much more important – they’re all myths. They don’t exist. Essentially, they’re an adult version of an imaginary friend that we’ve given the name Jesus to.
  There’s only one Jesus – the Jesus revealed to us in the Bible. Without question, Jesus is the most dominating figure in history. Who was He? Or, in the words of Jesus Himself in a question to the leaders of the Jewish community, “What do you think of the Christ?” Every intellectually reflective person must come to grips with this engaging question.
The Jesus that the Bible describes is called the Son of God, the Christ. The Jesus of the Bible is described as Redeemer, King of Kings, Righteous Judge, Bread of Life, Good Shepherd, Great I Am, and the Resurrection and the Life. That’s the real Jesus. He’s not some karma Jesus, sports Jesus, vegan Jesus, career Jesus, racist Jesus, butler Jesus or some good man or good teacher Jesus. Who Jesus is isn’t some hypothetical question. It’s a life-changing one, an eternal destiny changing one. It’s imperative then that we have a right understanding of who Jesus is. Who is Jesus to you? It’s a question each of us must answer. When this question is personalized, it becomes the most important question one will ever be asked or will ever answer: Who is Jesus Christ to YOU? 
  Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10).  Who wouldn’t want to have a fulfilled and satisfying life? Then, in 1 John 5:11-13 we’re told that if we have the Son of God in our life we can know that we have eternal life. The bottom line is that Jesus is the only way for us to live an abundant life here on earth and receive eternal life in fellowship with God in eternity.
  Easter is about Jesus dying on the cross to take the punishment for our sins so we could be forgiven and justified with God. If we don’t receive the free gift of eternal life by experiencing the forgiveness achieved by Jesus, justice demands that we will receive the punishment we justly deserve.
  Jesus must become the Lord of our lives. Imagine your life as an automobile—Jesus must be behind the wheel of your life. Jesus doesn’t want us to clean up our acts, He wants us to surrender our mess to Him. He wants to revolutionize your life at this very moment.
  It begins with owning your mess – admitting your sin, repent of it before God, believing that Jesus died for your sin on the cross and receiving the gift of eternal life which Jesus died to freely give you. That’s the real Jesus. He wants to come into your life and give you new life now and eternity in heaven. Please don’t believe some contemporary fairy tale Jesus. Read one of the biographies about Jesus for yourself. Before you decide it’s a big hoax, check it out for yourself. What do you really have to lose?

Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Justice & Jussie Smollett



"When justice is divorced from morality, when rights of individuals are separated from right and wrong, the only definition you have left for justice is the right for every individual to do as he pleases. And the end of that road is anarchy and barbarism."  John Piper

  One of the most moving books that I’ve ever read was a high school English assignment, To Kill a Mockingbird. As a young man, it opened my eyes to injustice as nothing else had. Very few books have so strongly moved me. There’s a dated film version, yet I’d encourage you instead to read the book. It does have some racial language that was characteristic of the Deep South in the period that it describes, the 1930’s.  
  Sadly, injustice is not new. Worse, it shows no sign of going extinct. The recent case of Jussie Smollett, an actor on a TV show, Empire. Smollett claimed that he was attacked early one morning in Chicago by two people he couldn’t give descriptions of, not even as to their sex.  He claimed that they hurled racial and homophobic insults as they assaulted him and then poured some liquid on him before wrapping a thin rope around his neck. He then told police that he went to a friend’s apartment with the rope still around his neck and continued to wear it until police were dispatched 45 minutes later. Though it was a hoax, charges against Smollett for filing a false police report have been dropped.  
  Like most of the world I’d never heard of Jussie Smollett or seen Empire before this hoax unraveled. I have no feelings about the show, positive or negative. Yet, like most people with a moral compass, I despise injustice, falsehood, and duplicity. This case illustrates the true state of injustice.
  Injustice is often perpetuated by economics. That doesn’t fit the media rhetoric, yet the Smollett case in which he’s been given a free pass demonstrates that justice is often based more on economics than ethnicity. The O.J. Simpson, Kobe Bryant, Brock Turner or Robert H. Richards IV cases demonstrate that wealthy is the best Get out of jail free card. Spend a few days in criminal court in an urban area and you’ll discover that those given reduced charges, plea bargains or have charges completely dropped have one thing in common – a good lawyer. But it takes money to afford a good lawyer. The working poor, those in poverty and lower middle class can’t afford a high priced one. Please understand that I’m not denigrating lawyers or judges. They’re attempting to work within a broken system that often fails to protect the most vulnerable.
  Injustice is perpetuated by our preconceptions and prejudices. Lady Justice is to be blind. Our legal system is built on a critical foundation – innocent until proven guilty. We’re in a sad state of affairs when someone can be convicted in the court of public opinion before the case ever goes to trial. That was the injustice of To Kill a Mockingbird. Injustice prevailed because bigotry was crammed into the jury box.
  It’s noteworthy that the Smollett story came shortly after the Covington students news cycle. Journalists too frequently no longer report the news but editorialize. They’ve moved from objectivity to activism in an attempt to make stories fit their worldview. A na├»ve public hasn’t learned the media is driven by ratings, not truth-seeking.
  With Smollett reporters lack of questioning his claims with the skepticism that they deserved shows that they swallowed his fabrication because it fit their preconceptions. Shoddy journalism has become the norm and it’s not just a liberal media problem. Conservative media pundits are often as guilty of re-shaping stories to fit their bias. That’s because it’s hard to wait and withhold judgment, especially if the competition may scoop you.
  So, how can Christians encourage justice?
  Remember that God is a God of justice. Isaiah 30:18 says, “For the LORD is a God of justice.” Justice is one of God’s attributes. It flows out of His holiness. Justice and righteousness are often used synonymously in the Bible. Righteousness is the quality of being right or just and is another attribute of God. It incorporates both His justice and holiness.
  Justice requires objectively hearing both sides. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.” The pursuit of justice means hearing both sides of a story. If we pass judgment after only hearing one, we’re acting like fools and making a mockery of justice. It’s wrong to jump to conclusions. We’re often too quick to judge and then mock the process of justice. To be committed to justice, we must be more patient before we pass judgment.
  Justice requires blindness to who the individual is. Scripture warns us that it’s unjust to consider who someone is when deciding what’s true, right and just (Ex. 23:3; Lev. 19:15). Justice is perverted when judgment is pronounced based on someone being rich or poor; lowly or exalted; weak or powerful. Justice is about truth and righting wrongs, not about identity politics. Why? It’s central to the very character of God Who shows no partiality (Rom. 12:11). It’s wrong to favor any ethnic group or political persuasion when it comes to justice. That means that social justice isn’t justice. It’s evil to argue that justice can only be achieved by being partial to those who are “oppressed.” That’s opposed to the very character of God.
  Human justice will always be limited because it’s only human. We can’t right every wrong. Justice is impossible apart from moral absolutes. God laid out checks and balances in human justice because mankind apart from God can never practice justice fully. We’re contaminated by sin.
  God as Judge will ultimately bring about justice. No one gets away with anything. No evil will go unpunished. While we want the courts and governments to get it right, we know that sometimes they won’t. It’s why we need a perfect judge who executes perfect justice. This is only found in the God who is perfectly just. Before God all the world stands condemned. It’s only in the atoning sacrifice of Christ that we can be found just by the one who is the Justifier (Rom. 3:26). Ultimate justice will come in the end through God. Until then, we must rightly seek justice today, yet always keep an eye on the final coming judgment in the courts of heaven.


Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Thank You Volunteers!


“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time: they have the heart.”
Elizabeth Andrew

Today is our Volunteer Appreciation Day! What a privilege it is to honor them! Oftentimes we don’t realize the importance of something until it’s gone. That’s the way it is with volunteers.
  Every healthy community has an army of frequently unacknowledged, unseen volunteers often silently working behind the scenes. A healthy society is made up of individuals who are involved in their community and take personal responsibility and investment seriously. Volunteers and those who willingly invest their time and talent are essential to a healthy culture. Some of our greatest heroes from history understood this.
  Though known primarily for his role as one of our country’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, was instrumental in creating the very first volunteer fire department. You’ve likely heard his famous quote, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” it was Franklin who brought together a group of thirty men in 1736 to form the Union Fire Company to prevent massive fires in Philadelphia.
  Though more famous as an internationally known author and mystery writer (she authored 72 books), Agatha Christie, became a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment of the Red Cross Hospital in Torquay when her husband, Archie, was fighting in World War I. From 1914 to 1917 she worked as a volunteer nurse and then dispensed medicines for the hospital for another year.
  While most famous for being an astronaut and the first American woman in space in 1983, Sally Ride, was a role model to innumerable young girls. On top of that, she was a huge supporter of the Girl Scouts and co-founded the Girl Scouts’ Camp CEO, which paired minority girls with professional women. She even founded her own organization, Sally Ride Science.
  Known best for his role as “Superman,” Christopher Reeve,  became a super volunteer. After an accident left him paralyzed, the late actor became an advocate for those suffering from spinal cord injuries. He acted as Chairman of the American Paralysis Association and was Vice Chairman of the National Organization on Disability. He co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center and created the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, a foundation that funds research to develop treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries and works to improve the quality of life for people living with disabilities. Christopher Reeve turned a terrible tragedy into an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Where some would recluse themselves wallowing in self-pity, he used his tragedy to invest in a greater good, demonstrating that even disability isn’t an excuse to fail to make a difference in the lives of others.
  What does it take to volunteer and to make a difference? The most needed trait is selflessness. It’s what volunteering is all about. Giving of yourself, your time and talent to a cause you believe in in order to help others in the process. The whole experience can be both very rewarding and addictive! A little selflessness goes a long way. You’ll often find that you get much more out of it than what you put into it.
  Volunteers live longer, are happier and healthier than non-volunteers. Studies show that those who volunteer remain physically functional longer, have more robust psychological well-being, and even live longer. Making volunteering part of your lifestyle doesn’t have to be delayed until you retire. The elderly who volunteer are almost always those who volunteered earlier in life. Health and longevity gains from volunteering come from establishing meaningful volunteer roles long before you retire and continuing to volunteer once you arrive in your retirement years.
  Volunteering is more often taught than caught. No one needs to be taught to be selfish. It comes all too naturally. Adults who love to volunteer were frequently taught to volunteer by their parents or some other mentor. Even a young child can volunteer and thrive as a volunteer. It’s important for the spiritual and emotional health of your child’s future to make volunteering a family affair. According to Jeannie Fino, an early childhood consultant with The Guidance Center of Westchester, NY, children have “a natural tendency to enjoy giving to others, which starts with empathy and compassion.” As parents, Fino says, it’s up to us to foster these feelings, to “provide opportunities for kids to give to others and to be grateful for what’s been given to them.” Serving others widens our worldview and increases our own sense of gratitude.  
  Volunteering strengthens our relationships. It focuses us on something greater than ourselves strengthening our relationships. It’s no accident that as the percentage of those volunteering decreases, loneliness and depression increase. Working alongside others who feel as strongly as we do about a particular cause creates strong relationships with them. It’s not just for making new friendships. volunteering alongside those in your own family strengthens family bonds based in “doing” your values together. 
  Should Christians volunteer outside the church? Absolutely! Yes, our first responsibility is our spiritual family (Gal. 6:10), yet we’re commanded to be salt and light in our world (Matt. 5:13-16). How can we be salt in our world if the salt stays in the saltshaker? How can we be light if we fail to shine outside the church walls? Please serve in your church family and find a place where you can make a difference in our community. God has designed us to serve others. Please find a place to volunteer and serve!  

Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.