Sunday, October 18, 2020

Christians MUST be single-issue voters

 


“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”                                                Audre Lorde

According to author, Will Holcomb, “Single-issue voters are destroying America.” To be accused of being a “single-issue voter” has become an insult, a statement of condescension essentially accusing someone of being a simpleton. The Bible teaches clearly that believers must be “single-issue voters,” but it’s probably not what you think.

Author and Christian commentator, Joel Belz, recently wrote in August 27, 2020 issue of “World Magazine, “Calling someone a ‘single-issue voter’ may be accurate—but not the fastest way to win that person as a lifelong friend. I know that to be the case based on experience. When someone says I’m a ‘single-­issue thinker,’ I hear them calling me shallow, superficial, simplistic, and probably at least a little bit lazy… My bigger fear was that we in the Christian community might continue to fragment on all sorts of key issues.”   

After having that accusation hurled at him by a reader, Belz did something we all would be wise to learn from, rather than writing a snarky retort, he reached out to his critic, though he admits that “my first inclination was to scold Bertha a bit and dare her to get off her high horse, check her facts, and admit that maybe she’s the one with a lopsided focus on her own ‘single-issue’.” The outcome of his act of graciousness touched my heart. It should resonate with all of us.

He writes: “It took a few days, but I finally got Bertha on the phone. She was skeptical about my intentions. “I’m frustrated,” I told her, “that we can agree with each other that abortion is evil, and we can agree with each other that racism is evil—and then we tend to part ways just because we can’t seem to agree on a few priorities.”

“Maybe,” she said perceptively, “that’s why there are so many different organizations out there—somebody to cater to every preference!”

My bigger fear was that we in the Christian community might continue to fragment on all sorts of key issues—splintering again and again and thereby minimizing our effectiveness. That’s when it struck me that Bertha and I might be well situated to do something valuable. “How often do you pray,” I asked her, “specifically for deliverance from our nation’s dark racist habits?”

“I try to do that,” she said honestly, “but not nearly as often as I should. It seems easier to read and talk about it than to pray about it.”

“So let me be just as open,” I said. “I am not nearly as faithful as I should be in praying for an end to the evil of abortion. If the two of us aren’t even diligent in praying for the issues we tend to identify with most, who’s going to be praying for those we see as less important? What would happen if great companies of us, smaller groups, or couples were to spend the next 30 days praying regularly for issues and causes we perhaps have never prayed for before?”

With this coming election and with the government in general, we Christians have a variety of concerns that resonate with us and are focal points. There are countless evils that need to be righted, abortion, euthanasia, infringement on religious liberty, racism, injustice…which one should come first. Should one be our “single-issue?” I believe you’d be hard-pressed to come to that conclusion.

Yet, God’s command in 1 Timothy 2:1-5 must be our single issue. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That passage always rebukes me. I know that I think, talk, read and watch news about politics far more than I pray. Sadly, the amount of time and focus is not even comparable on a generous percentage scale. The only way that you and I will make a difference is not in the voting booth, it’s in our prayer closet.

Partisan politics have brought terrible division to our country. It’s ruined friendships. Family members stop talking with each other because they disagree on which candidate to vote for. Tragically, that division has contaminated the Church and created tension among the people of God. That’s why prayer not politics must be our priority. Prayer must be our priority not our issue. Notice that we’re commanded to pray for all, not just for those who agree with us.

Paul uses four different words for prayer here – requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving. The first three mean almost the same thing and carry the idea of asking. But then Paul includes thanksgiving as a natural part of prayer. Thanksgiving to God is an essential part of our prayer life. We’re to thank God no matter what, not just when things go our way or when our candidate is elected. All four words are in the plural. It’s a reminder that we should pray continually for all people with all sorts of requests.

What should be our #1 request? “Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (vs. 4). Can you imagine how our country would be revolutionized if our elected officials, even the ones that we don’t like, came to Christ? It happened to an evil king, Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4).

It’s time for us in the Church to get back to the “single-issue” that will make the most difference – we must pray to our Sovereign God. It’s time for us to join our brothers and sisters whether they’re red, blue or purple in praying for our leaders and praying first for our leaders' salvation. Prayer is the single issue that we are commanded to agree and join together on!


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, October 11, 2020

Erasing Fear

 


“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”                                                   
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Back in the wild West, a stranger stands at a saloon bar. Suddenly a cowboy runs in screaming, “Hey, everybody, Big Bad John is coming to town.” Several others exclaim: “Big Bad John is the meanest, toughest, biggest outlaw in the West. Let’s run for it.” Everyone heads for the door except the stranger and the bartender. The bartender says, “Are you deaf, Mister? Big Bad John is coming!” The stranger replies, “I don’t know who he is, but he can’t be all that big and bad. I’m not afraid.” So the stranger and the bartender wait. Soon the saloon doors fly open and off their hinges, and a mountain of a man stomps through the door. Covered with scars and sporting a scowl, he demands a drink. The bartender meekly complies. The stranger nervously thinks to himself, “Now I wish I’d run away; this guy is the biggest, meanest-looking outlaw I’ve ever seen.” The outlaw downs the drink in one gulp, slams it the glass down on the bar, then turns and looks the stranger coldly in the eye to announce, “I don’t know about you, stranger, but I’m gettin’ outta here. I don’t wanna be here when Big Bad John comes in!”

Fear is a strong and complicated emotion. It can cause us to react and overreact. It can cause us to do things, say things, and feel things quickly and powerfully. It doesn’t go away quickly, sometimes for good reason. Fear is complicated because we’re not all afraid of the same things. Sometimes we’re not even sure why we’re afraid. At other times, our bodies and minds respond with fear for a variety of reasons. Fear is universal. As 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man…”

Alasdair Groves and Winston Smith, in their book Untangling Emotions, explain that it’s insightful how many different English words we have for fear. Words like uneasy, worried, nervous, anxious, tense, uptight, spooked, haunted, scared, afraid, panicked, terrified, and petrified occupy slightly different points on the spectrum, yet all express some version of the same core experience… Fear is everywhere and everyone deals with it.  There’s not a single person who doesn’t deal with fear in some way. We must compassionately acknowledge that fear is complex and recognize that strategies for dealing with fear are also complex.

Today we’re beginning a new sermon series: Fear: The Invisible Enemy. During this series, we’ll be looking at the broad spectrum of fear. One message might be the one that you need and be life-changing for you. For others, this series might be one piece of a really big puzzle that you’re putting together. Because of the power of God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, I believe that all of us will find this series helpful.

Anxiety and fear show up in surprising ways. Sometimes we don’t even know why we’re anxious. Sometimes we find ourselves going to bed feeling anxious. Other times, when we wake up we feel anxious, but nothing has happened. There are times when anxiety can be debilitating.

All of know what that’s like. For some fear is a much larger problem. Worry and fear aren’t just around the corner; they’re the clothes you wear every day, and maybe for good reason. Perhaps something traumatic happened to you, and now you find yourself being self-protective and hyper-vigilant. Others simply have a disposition—a family background, personality, physical make-up, body chemistry— that inclines them toward anxiety. And, for some, it’s not just a struggle; it’s nearly your identity. You don’t just struggle with worry; you’re a worrier.

My prayer is that this study will be used by our loving Heavenly Father to help each of us. Fear is a true enemy. And while worry, fear, and anxiety were a huge struggle before COVID-19, they’re enormous struggles now.

While fear is the invisible enemy, faith in the invisible Presence is the cure. Our Heavenly Father has promised us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

The prescription for fear is the promises of God. Just this one promise, “I am always with you” means that we’re never alone, never abandoned, never deserted. God is always with us. This promise is listed as the reason that God’s people are commanded not to fear. Our Heavenly Father’s promised presence is the reason we are told not to fear.

Consider each of these words: I. Am. With. You. The sovereign God, who is orchestrating all the events of life, walks with His people through their sorrows. Isolation, abandonment, and being alone are contrary to the very nature of our humanity. How many of you remember a moment in your childhood where you were lost and you thought you were all alone? Or how many of you know the sick feeling of people not standing up for you?

Satan loves to tempt us into believing that God has abandoned us. But the Bible tells us that, while we can’t see God and while we don’t always know what He’s doing, we can rest our souls and bank our lives on the fact that He’s always with us.

Often it’s a struggle to trust His promises. Someone has referred to it as a “promise battle.” Worry and fear are a battle, but the first step in winning that battle is rehearsing over and over again who’s ultimately in control.

In this series, we’ll explore the most common worries and fears that we experience, consider practical steps for overcoming these fears, and reflect upon fear in the light of God’s Word and a faith that promises again and again that we don’t need to live in fear. We want to experience the power of God to overcome our fears and live in peace with courage and hope.


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, October 4, 2020

How You Can be a Blessing to Our Grace Ministry Team

 


“We don’t serve God to gain His acceptance; we are accepted so we serve God. We don't follow Him in order to be loved; we are loved so we follow Him.”                        Neil T. Anderson

 

This is an exciting day in the history of Grace Church! It’s “Hello” to the Hausers Sunday! This day is an answer to much prayer and planning. For some time, our leadership has been aware of the need to hire additional staff to enable us to continue to reach our community and develop more Christ-followers. Because the Lord has blessed us with so many who are taking those first steps forward in their faith, we needed additional help.

We are very blessed to have such a wonderful staff! God has richly blessed us with Gary Thompson, Jane Carson, Susan Riddle and now, James Hauser. It’s a joy to serve alongside each of them. It’s noteworthy that each of them has a common trait in that they have life and outside work experience, not just a ministry background. For example, Gary was in law enforcement and a general contractor prior to entering vocational ministry. James was a VP for a large bank. Backgrounds like that give great insights on how to better minister to those, not in vocational ministry.

We know James will be a blessing to us and we want to be a blessing to him and all who are part of our Grace team. How can we do that?

Regularly pray for them! Most of us consistently pray for our families. Our church is our spiritual family. Those on our ministry team are on the front lines, serving the Lord and serving you. For me personally, during this pandemic, those who’ve shared that they’re praying for me has so touched my heart. Please pray for our team, their spouses, and children.

Remember that they’re redeemed sinners…just like you. Some think that those who are in vocational ministry don’t struggle with temptation. All of us have our spiritual soft spots and Satan knows what they are. We all blow it. Our old nature will periodically rise to the surface. When it does and we see it in someone’s life, we need to show grace just as we want grace shown to us. For us to be spiritually healthy there must be a continual confessing of sin to each other and the asking of forgiveness. We must be gracious forgivers, going forward in His grace!

They’re here to worship, too. Everyone on our staff has some Sunday ministry responsibilities. They’re main focus though is on worshipping the Lord, just like you. It’s the time for us as a family to encourage, pray with, serve each other. Menial “church business” can wait. Things like the sink in a bathroom is dripping or the landscaping needs attention. We have so little time to worship together. Let’s all keep the main thing the main thing.

His wife and children are simply that. One of the continual blessings of our church is the kindness you’ve shown to my wife and children. That’s not the case in too many churches. We’ve not hired James’ wife, Dana, or his children; Grace, Genevieve, and Grant. It’s not a package deal.

Let me illustrate. Can you imagine introducing your plumber’s wife to someone as, “this is my plumber’s wife”? A pastor’s wife has an identity and first name, too. She’s not just his “wife.” She has a unique personhood.

My now three adult children love the Church and our church because of the continued kindness that you showed to them during their formative years (all three of them were raised at Grace). Too many PKs (preacher’s kids) are hurt and embittered by an unkind church.

The very few times that anyone came to me about the behavior of one of my children, I learned to ask: “Would you go to any other parent in our church about this?” If they wouldn’t go to anyone else, then they shouldn’t go to a pastor about his children.

It’s tempting for churches to be very kind when the pastor’s children are very young and have childlike “cuteness.” James three children are in junior high and high school, and working through the normal concerns young people have. If anything, they need more encouragement, prayer and affirmation than a very young child needs.

We must be committed to biblically problem-solving. Everyone on our staff is going to offend you from time to time (personally, I seem to have a special gift for it). If it’s large enough, obey what Scripture teaches (Matt. 18:15-20) and go to them one on one and share the problem, seeking to problem-solve. All of us have been hurt by learning someone has talked behind our back or to others about a problem rather than coming to us directly. It’s one of the greatest wounds those in ministry deal with. The Golden Rule says, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matt. 7:12). We must treat leaders as we desire to be treated.  

Express gratitude and encouragement often. Stored in a safe place at the Library of Congress is a small blue box. The label reads: “Contents of the President’s pockets on the night of April 14, 1865.” That was the fateful night when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. It contains five things: (1) A handkerchief embroidered “A. Lincoln”; (2) A country boy’s pen knife; (3) A spectacles case repaired with string; (4) A purse containing a $5 bill—in Confederate money! (5) Some old, worn newspaper clippings. Those clippings concerned the great deeds of Abraham Lincoln. One reports a speech by John Bright, a British statesman, saying that Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest men of all time. That’s not news for us today. We know Lincoln was a great man, but in 1865, the jury was still out. The nation was divided. Lincoln had fierce critics as he made decisions that he hoped would restore the Union.

There’s something poignantly pathetic about picturing this lonely figure in the Oval Office reaching into his pocket and spreading out these newspaper clippings to read and re-read those encouraging words. It gave him the courage and strength to go on. Everyone, especially leaders, need encouragement! So, if you’re thankful for something a staff member or leader at Grace has done. Please let them know. Tell them, encourage them and tell them again and again.

Those who minister to us need to be ministered to, too! Will you be part of our Grace Church Staff Support Team? I know you will!


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, September 27, 2020

Suicide: Shattered Hearts

 

“My experience with depressed people is that when they have suffered from long periods of depression and begin to talk about suicide, we had better pay attention.”  Curtis Thomas

In his newest album released earlier this year, Matthew West, shares a song about a boy in his daughter’s school who committed suicide. The young man, Sam, was just a sixth-grade student. As you can imagine, the whole school was just stunned. Sam sat in class with West’s daughter, Lulu. It’s a nice little Christian school in the Bible belt down South. This young boy was fighting a battle and couldn’t see his way out of it. The song is simple, powerful, and moving – Too Young, Too Soon.  

Loss by suicide is always too soon. September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Our country’s suicide rate reached historic highs prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with rates at the highest levels since World War II. Recent economic and social pressures have heightened the risks, worrying experts, health officials and lawmakers. Suicide rates that were rising over the past two decades combined with the current pandemic are a “perfect storm,” found a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in April. Factors include financial stress, social isolation, reduced access to religious services, overall national anxiety, increased firearm sales and increases in health care provider suicides.

“We have people now who don't know how to feed their family who have not had that thought for a very long time. That's different than the last recession," said American Psychiatric Association President Jeffrey Geller. “There are masses of people who are quite worried today because they don't know what is going to happen to their benefits. That kind of anxiety exacerbates fragility.” The National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine has seen a 65% increase in calls and emails since March, according to the organization, though it is not a crisis hotline.

No one is immune from suicidal thoughts and anyone is capable of suicide: rich, poor, married, single, young, old, famous or unknown, atheists…even pastors. I still find my chest tightens when I think of Darrin Patrick, a megachurch pastor and author, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot this past May. Just a few years ago I heard him preach at John Piper’s Pastors’ Conference in Minneapolis. In 2013, Rick Warren’s 27-year-old son, Matthew, took his own life. All of us who loved his “out of this world” talent will never forget the tragic death of Robin Williams.

Though Scripture never says that the Apostle Paul had suicidal thoughts, we do know that he “despaired of life” (2 Cor. 1:8). In my own life, I have had to face what John Bunyan (The Pilgrim’s Progress) called “the Giant Despair” and “the slough of despond.” So, what can we do?

Let me share what has helped me through the years as I’ve walked through my own dark valleys. As a believer, I believe that even if I sinned by committing self-murder, I would immediately be Home with my Savior. The Bible promises that if one has committed their life to Christ and trusted His cross for their salvation, that person has eternal life (John 3:16). There is no fine print or exception to those promises.

For me, the thought of looking in the eyes of Missionaries John and Betty Stam, who were decapitated for their faith, or Jim Elliot who was murdered by the Aucas Indians in the jungles of Ecuador as he sought to reach that stone age people group with the gospel and telling them that my life was “too tough” is always an emotional wake-up call. Then, Foxes Book of Martyrs shares account after account of those from Church History who were persecuted, often martyred, yet persevered for the cause of Christ. Hebrews 11:35-38 lists out all that the people of God suffered for Him. For me to face that “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) and tell them that God’s grace wasn’t sufficient for me and I couldn’t handle my small problems in comparison, it’s more shame that I could face. If God’s grace was enough for them, then it is more than enough for me!

If you struggle with depression or suicidal thoughts, let me suggest some simple steps (it’s not earth-shattering): get out of bed, open the blinds and let God’s glorious sunshine in, take a shower, and get dressed. It’s amazing what these small steps can do for our outlook. And doing something kind for someone else will give you a bonus of upbeat vibes in your own heart.

How can we help those who are depressed or hopeless? Often we don’t know what others are going through. One thing is certain, everyone we meet is facing a battle. Matthew West shares some great advice in his song: 

Be kind, speak love

Go find someone

Who needs a friend

Reach out your hand

Don't point, don't laugh

Life’s too short for that

No cliques, start now

No one left out.

I’ve said over and over again throughout this Pandemic, #ThisisOURtime. It’s time for the Church to be the Church. It’s time for Christians to act like Christians. We must be people of love and kindness. My own burdens have been eased so many times by the many brothers and sisters in Christ that God has brought into my life, who cared enough to reach out to me and who have spoken into my life.

Personally, I don’t believe in accidents, I believe in “divine appointments.” God has brought that neighbor, co-worker, friend, family member or stranger into YOUR life. It is our time to be Jesus to them.

Sometimes we notice a struggle that something is off. The greatest and best thing that we can always do is – we can pray! Then, drop a short note or a make a phone call. You don’t have to probe. Just touch base. Let them know that you care. Texts are fine. Yet, a note that someone has to touch and can reflect on will often go further.

While I appreciate those who say (or post), “call me anytime,” someone greatly depressed is rarely going to initiate a call. We need to take the first step. Then, without lecturing and certainly without scolding, offer hope.

As believers, we have what Titus 2:13 calls “the blessed hope.” Everything in this world, even the worst it can throw at us is temporary…and we’re all going to get Home before dark! So, please reach out and touch someone’s life this week. Show Christ’s love! Your caring and being Jesus to them might be all that it takes to give them hope and keep them from making a tragic irreversible choice.  


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. 

 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

#Boycott Mulan?

 


“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”                                                    Martin Luther King, Jr.

Follow the money! Periodically, some stateside politician is called a “Hitler.” Such labeling only reveals the vast ignorance of the “labeler.” Fortunately, because even with our flaws, Western Civilization is a culture where rule of law still has precedence and there is a justice system.

Perhaps because we didn’t go to war with China or lose half a million American lives, we don’t realize the brutality of Communist China. One is hard-pressed to name a single movie made about China’s atrocities under Mao. But it’s not history. It’s the daily news because it’s still taking place.

Just in Mao’s 1958 Great Leap Forward, 46 million died between 1958 and 1962. During his reign of terror some 80 million died. In contrast, Hitler was responsible for 20 million civilian deaths. An obvious question is: “Who’s the real Hitler?” China’s current “president” (that’s a nice word for dictator), Xi Jinping openly admires Mao, who committed the biggest genocide of the 20th century. Such admiration is repugnant. Imagine any Western Civilization leader openly praising Hitler?  

Yet somehow all of that didn’t stop Disney from whitewashing this evil empire. Their newest live-action movie, “Mulan,” had substantial portions filmed in China’s Xinjiang province, with the blessing and cooperation of the Chinese Communist government. Xinjiang is the home province of some 12 million Muslim Uighurs. Over one million of them have been moved to concentration camps where “they are starved, abused, tortured, electrocuted, raped and even killed.” Uighur women have been forcibly sterilized, and there have been reports of forced abortions and infanticide.

Not only did Disney choose the Xinjiang province, but in the closing credits, they thanked China’s Communist government and propaganda departments for their assistance. Disney has chosen to cozy up to the Chinese government for years. In 1997, a Disney film that cast the Dalai Lama in a positive light so upset Beijing, they “restricted the studio’s ability to work in China.” Disney’s then-CEO Michael Eisner quickly issued an apology and promised not to insult Disney’s “friends” in the future.  Appeased, Beijing opened the doors for Shanghai Disneyland.

But it’s not just Disney. There are a long list of companies who fill their coffers with little regard for China’s suffering population. Walmart, Boeing, Caterpillar, General Motors, Starbucks and Ford…to name a few. Many of these same companies lecture Americans for racism, but close their eyes to oppression and “crimes against humanity” just to increase their profit margin.

For example, recently the NBA canceled games in protest of racism. What a bunch of hypocrites! Because no one in the NBA dares to whisper criticism of Communist China or they quickly find themselves sentenced to a virtual bamboo gulag. A reported half a billion annual profits for the NBA from China buys a lot of silence. And where are all of the Hollywood stars who clamor to speak out on anything political? Have any of them said a word about the latest Disney-China connections? Crickets.

God’s Word is clear. Racism is evil. It’s an evil that must be repented of. Yet, racism is a worldwide evil. It’s disingenuous to speak against racism in the States, yet for financial gain, close one’s eyes to genocide.

How horrible are China’s acts of oppression? Just this week more than 150 human rights groups urged the International Olympic Committee to rethink holding the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. In a letter, the coalition said that since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China has built—quote, “an Orwellian surveillance network” in Tibet and incarcerated more than a million Uighurs.” It listed a litany of other abuses from Hong Kong to the Inner Mongolia region, as well as the intimidation of Taiwan.

Fortunately, not all American corporations are heartless to these crimes against humanity. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Nike and Google are looking to move production away from China. As we learned with the repudiation of Apartheid, dinging a company’s bottom line gets their attention.

Yet, companies like Walmart have helped cover that a product is made in China with their blanket “distributed from Bentonville, Arkansas” labeling. What does that mean? Zilch! It’s a cover. Those concerned about oppressed people groups and dictatorial governments want to make an informed consumer’s decision even if it cost us a little bit more. Walmart and companies like it have stripped us of that option.

Recently, Wisconsin’s Senator Tammy Baldwin proposed a bill that requires labeling for a product’s country of origin. I wrote her to thank her for the bill. While some products have multiple manufacturers, many do not, and often a high percentage is made in one nation. It’s the right thing to do to put economic choices back in the hands of consumers.

What can we do? The truth is that boycotts for the most part don’t work. Corporations and manufacturing companies are too intertwined. For example, Disney Corporation also owns or has part ownership in ABC, ESPN, Marvel, Lucasfilm, The History Channel and Pixar.

Do I believe you should boycott Mulan? That’s truly up to you and a matter of personal conscience. Yet, with all of the negative publicity about Disney’s supporting China’s oppression, taking a financial hit on this one might make them and other corporations think twice about supporting totalitarian governments in the future.

Then, I’d encourage you to communicate with our national leaders like Senators Baldwin, Johnson and Congressman Steil to support bills that put economic choice back in the hands of consumers by clear product labeling. Their government websites and local offices make it simple to communicate with them. Encourage your friends to do the same. If we do nothing, one thing is certain – nothing will change. We need to be part of encouraging justice.

Most importantly, we need to remember that the Church is not American or our particular sect or ethnicity. Our Lord’s Church is worldwide with a 2,000-year history. Please pray for the persecuted Church. Stay updated with how our brothers and sisters are suffering from organizations like Voice of the Martyrs. The most important action we can take is to pray.

The Imago Dei, freedom from oppression, the injustice of racism, the evil of genocide, freedom of religion are biblical values. It’s part of our Christian responsibility to be salt and light in a dark world. Instead of cursing the darkness, it’s time to light some candles. 

 

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, September 13, 2020

Re-Firing NOT Retiring

“Retiring? No! I’m re-firing…there’s no mention of retirement in the Bible, as far as I can tell. In fact, except for Jesus and David, nobody had much of an impact until they were at least sixty, and most of them were in their nineties before they did their best work.”             Zig Ziglar (at 78)


Vance Luke is my new hero! Though Home with the Lord now, he’s how I want to go out. Recently, I heard his story on a Christian news podcast.   He was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota on September 25, 1918, and grew up on a farm. Later, he served as a major in the Army Air Corps during World War II which later became the US Air Force. A mechanical engineer, he worked on the fuel system for the B-52 bomber. Following his military service, he went to work and eventually ended up as the Plant Manager at a Goodyear plant. He and his wife moved to Rome, Georgia where they “loved it and stayed.” He joined the First Presbyterian Church sang in the church choir and invested his life serving the Lord. When he retired, he used his hands and mind to build and repair nearly every building on God’s Farm, a ministry to troubled teens in West Georgia. 

Yet, Vance Luke’s greatest asset was unseen. He knew who he was in Jesus Christ and that was the guiding source of his life. 

Married 65 years before the death of his wife Mary Gay, the Lukes raised three children, Ginger, Vance Jr., and Kay. When he first began volunteering at God’s Farm, he only worked on Fridays so that he could care for his wife with Alzheimer’s Disease during the rest of the week. Following her death, he started going five days a week.

He was 93-years old when he went on his first work-missions trip to Africa. As his adult children were planning the trip, they asked, “Should we ask Dad? And Jr. said, “Well you better tell him that it’s a 25-hour flight and it’s rough terrain and high altitude.” Vance Luke’s response, “Yep I’m going.” They put him in charge of construction and he worked harder than any of them. The team built two classrooms, a kitchen, and a 350 chicken coop. They visited families, got shoes for kids that didn’t have shoes, started a lunch program for the five farms there. And Vance Luke was right in the middle of all of it. Actually, he was leading a lot of it because he knew a lot more than everyone else did.

Ultimately, they celebrated his 100th birthday in Africa on one of their mission trips. There’s a little restaurant in Kajabi. The restaurant knew the family was coming to celebrate his 100th birthday and there were a number of Kenyans who came pretending that they were having dinner. They wanted to see what dinner for a hundred-year-old was going to be like. 

He was a grandfather to six, great-grandfather to nine, and great-great-grandfather to three. On August 17, 2019 Luke had a one-car accident about 15 minutes into his hour-long drive home. He’d already picked figs and cut grass that morning. It’s believed that he had a heart attack or stroke. He was headed home after serving the Lord all day and met Jesus and really went Home.

32 years! Last Sunday Jane and I completed our 32nd year of serving Grace Church. I was only 28 when we pulled up with our full car and moving van. I still remember the shock on the faces of the crew unloading us that one person could own so many books. Our little family of 4 became 5 in 1990. This is where our children grew up. This is their home. This is our home. We fell in love with you, our church. We fell in love with this community. Though transplants from Michigan and Georgia, Jane and I know that our hearts are here in Grace Church and in this community.

Anniversaries are a time for thanksgiving and reflection. No one knows about tomorrow. “D.V.” is a vital Latin phrase for every believer. It stands for Deo Volente and means, “God willing.” James 4:15 says, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” Lord willing, I plan to serve at least one more decade at Grace. How do I picture the next ten years?

I want to be a Caleb. At 85 years young Caleb wanted to take more territory for the glory of God. Through the years the Lord has given me the privilege of leading many to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s allowed me to share His Word and help others learn that Jesus loved them and to love Jesus. I truly hope that I’ve only just begun. I don’t want to coast. I want to go for the next hill and mountain like Caleb did. The greatest victories are spiritual ones. They’re the ones that count for eternity.

I want to be a Noah. Noah was 500 years old when he built the ark. God has so richly blessed us with our new building. The land, the building – it’s all a miracle! It’s all by God’s grace and the generosity of His people – YOU! Yet, the task is far from complete. Because our other properties hadn’t sold and we wanted to be fiscally conservative, we set aside plans for an education wing. Yet, we need more space for our children ministries and the next generation. I’d love it if the Lord let me be part of that!

I want to be an Abraham. At the end of his life, Abraham planned wisely for the next generation. It’s tempting and wrong to settle for the status quo. Like Abraham, I want to invest in lives of those who are coming behind me. I want to prepare for their future so that they can be more fruitful and more effective in walking with the Lord and reaching this community with the gospel. I hope that they will be more effective than I have been.  

I want to be a Daniel. At the end of his life when his enemies were looking for something to accuse Daniel with, the only thing that they could find was that he was a man of prayer. When I first came to our church, I was far too program oriented. The Lord has taught me over and over again (I’m a slow learner) that it’s His ministry and more true ground is gained with prayer than programs. Yet, when it comes to prayer I feel so inadequate. Though I know that I have a long way to go, I am so thankful that the Lord Jesus has patiently brought me this far.

I want to be a Joshua. What a visionary! At the end of his life Joshua urged his people to stay faithful and not rest on their laurels. By God’s grace I want to help our church have a vision and passion for all that God can do through us for today and tomorrow if we surrender and trust Him.

I want to be a Moses. Some leaders stay too long. Moses was submissive when the Lord told him that his work was done and it was time to go. It was very hard for him, yet it was best for God’s work and the nation of Israel. There will come a time when I need to take my hand off the plow and quietly get out of the way so God’s work can continue to grow and bring glory to His Name! I want to be sensitive to His timing, not my own.

Jane and I are so thankful for the past 32 years! We love you so much and are so thankful for you! You truly are our family! And we’re excited about what the Lord has for Grace next! We are so blessed! Thank you for letting us serve the Lord by serving you these 32 years!


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, September 6, 2020

Is it okay to enjoy your money?


“A wise person should have money in their head, 
but not in their heart.”   Jonathan Swift

Money is NOT the root of all evil. There are some common sayings attributed to the Bible that are untrue and just aren’t in the Bible. Money is not inherently evil. Many misquote 1 Timothy 6:10 which actually says: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” It’s not money that’s a problem. It’s loving it. It’s making it an idol and letting it have precedence in your heart before God.
  We’re faithful managers of God’s money when we live within our means. We’re faithful managers of God’s money when we save for the days to come. We’re faithful managers of God’s money when we focus on paying down debt. We’re faithful managers of God’s money when we pay our bills and when we expend effort in attempting to reduce our bills. We’re faithful managers of God’s money when we avoid all those deep-debt, high-interest, I-need-more-stuff ways to live. We’re faithful managers of God’s money when we give generously to the Lord’s work. We’re faithful managers of God’s money when we help someone in need. Ultimately, we’re faithful managers of God’s money when we live with an awareness that money is a terrible god but a beautiful means of serving God.
  But along the way, we can develop a very formal and professional relationship with money, where money becomes little more than a tool. Every dollar has a job—paying the bills and paying down the mortgage, and saving for retirement, and supporting the missionaries. Every dollar has a job, but not many of those jobs are fun. We use our money dutifully, but rarely have fun with it. Money then ceases to be a tool and becomes a taskmaster. That’s not God’s plan! God wants us to enjoy this gift!
  Many are away this Labor Day weekend enjoying their money. God wants us to do that! Money is a gift from our Heavenly Father, every penny of it. When you give a gift to your child don’t you want them to enjoy the gift? Absolutely!
  Scripture gives us a theology of money and management. We’re to handle what God has entrusted to us wisely and in a way that pleases Him. As God enjoys being generous, there is true enjoyment that comes from using our resources to be generous as God has been generous to us.
  Yet, a biblical fact that is often overlooked and rarely taught is that God wants us to enjoy the money He has given us. Many Christians live in guilt or feel guilty about enjoying the money that their Father gave them. When was the last time you just enjoyed your money? Money is a tool. But that’s it — it’s just a tool. Feel free to enjoy it.
  recently, Jane and I were vacationing in Northern Minnesota where we spent time with some dear friends, Tom and Leesa Drury. During that time I preaching for two of my friends: Tom Drury and Mike English. It took money to make this trip and we enjoyed spending it. Jane and I always look for unique restaurants and interesting stops along the way. All of that takes money. And while we were up there, we did some fishing (be prepared for some fish stories). Minnesota charges for a fishing license. For the sheer enjoyment, it’s money well spent.
  Too often the Church’s teaching on money is similar to much of the Church’s teaching on sexual intimacy. It’s spoken of so negatively with so much guilt and pressure attached to it, that God’s intent of enjoyment is missed. Sexual intimacy is a gift from God. God has three purposes for sexual intimacy: procreation, unification, and recreation. God gave it to us for enjoyment. Like money, when it is used properly within God’s plan of marriage, it’s intended for pleasure.
  Too often the teaching about wealth is negative and even toxic. Some have been hit with the “money is evil” message so often and so hard that they feel guilty if they enjoy money as a gift from God and miss out on His will. If money were inherently evil, why does the Bible contain so many examples of faithful men and women who had massive wealth and yet whose devotion to God is never questioned? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, David, Solomon, Joseph of Arimathea, and Lydia are a few examples of biblical heroes who were wealthy, loved God, honored Him with the wealth He gave them and enjoyed God’s good gift of wealth.  
  Our Heavenly Father didn’t entrust us with money to endure it but to enjoy it. Are you enjoying yours? When was the last time that you let yourself enjoy the money God gave to you? When was the last time you gave each of your kids (or grandkids) $20 and set them free in the toy store? When was the last time you enjoyed a truly relaxing vacation? When was the last time you went to the specialty store and bought some amazing crackers and cheese? When was the last time you sat and savored a slightly-too-expensive yet an almost-too-delicious cup of coffee? When was the last time you bought a new book just because? When was the last time you bought an extravagant bouquet of flowers for your wife? When was the last time you allowed yourself to really enjoy your money?
  Many of us have debt for houses, cars, or college debt. We need to pay our bills and have a plan. Even if you owe bucks deluxe, if you never let yourself enjoy your hard-earned money for something within reason, debt can devolve into a source of irritation and even bitterness. Yes, we need to exercise self-control with money and put it to good use. It’s also good and God’s plan to enjoy it. It’s more than a tool; it’s also a means of pleasure.
  And here’s the wonderful reality: The better you manage your money as God’s money, the greater your enjoyment of these little pleasures. When all you want to do with your money is to seek indulgence, it will deliver ever-diminishing pleasures. When you faithfully manage it, those small pleasures are far richer and far sweeter. So use your money, and use it wisely, and use it for God’s glory. Remember though to enjoy it as well. It’s a gift from your Heavenly Father. He enjoys it when His children enjoy and are grateful for His gifts!

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.