Sunday, December 1, 2019

Worse than Christmas Shopping!



“There are two ways of spreading light.
Be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
                                                                                                   Edith Wharton

How do you feel about Christmas shopping? Perhaps you’re a cyber shopper, so it’s not a huge deal. Yet, even for the avid cyber shopper, there are a few items that you still have to venture out to purchase.
  Amanda MacFarlane wrote an article, 5 Reasons Why I Hate Christmas Shopping. She writes: “I am all about cute holiday traditions. However, scrambling to find ‘the perfect gift’ just isn't very cute. It’s become a running joke of mine to say that Christmas shopping is just going to a store, listening to Mariah Carey approximately 2,000 times, and questioning your buying decisions until you start wondering how well you know your loved ones. Call me a Grinch, but for ‘the most wonderful time of the year,’ Christmas has a big flaw called gift giving. I could give you a list as long as Santa’s filled with reasons why I dread this holiday tradition every year, but here’s the big five.” 
  1. It’s expensive. 2. It’s time consuming. 3. I never know what to gift people. 4. I never know how much to gift people, and 5. No matter how well-organized you are, there will always be a last minute gift to buy.
  I love her conclusion: “Here’s a bedtime story for you: ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, because everyone was at Macy’s frantically getting a gift for their cousin Steve…” What I should be doing on Christmas Eve is sitting by a fireplace drinking hot cocoa, not being told that the store will close in 15 minutes over the loudspeaker.”
  Do you know what’s worse, a whole lot worse, than being a Christmas shopper? Being a clerk at a store waiting on Christmas shoppers. Most of them are working long hours. Many stores open early in the morning and then are open until midnight. Some are open 24 hours during the holidays.
  Put yourself on the other side of that counter for a moment. These employees are tired. Their customers are tired. The children of their customers are tired. Then, there are always those extra special blessings – Mr. Grinch and Mrs. Scrooge – who are unhappy and committed “missionaries of misery” who feel it is their mission in life to make everyone around them miserable, too.
  Are you like me? I appreciate it when clerks wear name tags so that I can engage them in conversation by their name. Not too long ago I was at Sam’s Club. The clerk who waited on me looked like she was carrying the weight of the world. As she waited on me, I asked “Chris, how’s your day going?” Her response caused me to almost audibly gasp, “I’m just so depressed.” I quickly responded as she was called away to help another customer, “I’m a minister. I’ll pray for you, Chris.” That encounter weighed heavily on my heart all night. Even now it brings tears to my eyes.
  One of my favorite parts of Christmas are Christmas lights! When our children were small, we’d drive around looking at lights (we still do). I love Christmas lights! During this hectic, frenetic, even insane Christmas season – can I challenge you with something? Bring the light!
  Isn’t that what the Lord Jesus did as He entered space and time that first Christmas? Our Lord brought light to a dark world. Later, in His adult life, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
  But it doesn’t end there. If you’re a Christ-follower, then you are to light your world. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
  I had a bring the light moment recently. It was in a hospital room but Jesus was there – and I was the one who had His light shared with me. Recently, our church’s now “retired” secretary, Patti Hall, had to be hospitalized. I popped up to pray with her and encourage her BUT I was the one encouraged…and Patti consistently does that for others. As I entered the room, Patti’s kindness, though she was the patient, with her nurse was so touching. If she hadn’t been lying flat on her back with tubes running out of her arm, I’d have thought that we were visiting in her family room. I went to encourage her and be a blessing to her, but I was the one who was encouraged and blessed by her! That’s what Christians are commanded to do. You and I are to leave every place we go a little brighter because we brought His light with us.
  Have you ever noticed that light shines brightest where it’s darkest? It doesn’t take a lot. Sometimes we shine when we simply restrain ourselves. Someone cuts us off in traffic or nearly runs us over with their shopping cart, perhaps they inadvertently cut in front of us at the check-out line, or it’s a new cashier that’s frazzled and having a hard time keeping up.
  Instead of complaining or giving them a piece of our mind, ask God for His peace and power to control your tongue and attitude. Then, notice the clerk’s name, use it and have a short encouraging conversation. Maybe bring some perspective that this is all temporary or add humor.
  If you have to take something back or if the store is out of an item, be gracious. Mistakes happen. It’s doubtful, too, that the one waiting on you is the one who made the blunder. Be kind even when there’s an error.
  If you have children, try to not take them out when they’re tired or hungry. Pay attention to them so they’re not running around, bothering other shoppers or store employees.
  And if a clerk gives you good service, make sure that you tell a manager or head cashier. Post it on the store’s Facebook wall or send them an email. Most easily complain. Few take the time to compliment.
  The Lord Jesus came as the light of the world. As His followers, let’s bring His light and spread it around this Christmas with those who may need it the most!


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, November 24, 2019

Who shot JFK?



It is highly convenient to believe in the infinite mercy of God when you feel the need of mercy, but remember also His infinite justice.”
B. R. Haydon

On this day on November 24, 1963 in the basement of the Dallas police station, Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President Kennedy, was shot to death by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner. Oswald had been brought to the basement of the Dallas police headquarters on his way to a more secure county jail. A crowd of police and press with live TV cameras rolling gathered to witness his departure. As Oswald entered the room, Jack Ruby emerged from the crowd and fatally wounded him with a single shot from a concealed .38 revolver. Some called Jack Ruby a hero, but he was still charged with first-degree murder.
  Did Oswald assassinate Kennedy? It appears so. Because Jack Ruby took justice into his own hands, we’ll never know for sure. It’s why there are so many Kennedy-assassination theories. Questions like: Was Oswald guilty? Did he act alone? Was there a conspiracy to assassinate the President? will probably never be fully answered. Jack Ruby impeded justice.  
  God is always just and the ultimate standard of righteousness, For the LORD is a God of justice” (Is. 30:18). The justice of God is another way of speaking of God’s righteousness. Scripture teaches that God Himself is the ultimate standard of what is right (Ps. 119:137). God then defines what is right and what is wrong. Something is right because God says it is right, and something is wrong because God says it is wrong. God stands as the final measure of righteousness, not personal experiences/feelings, popular opinions, political majorities or any system of this world.
  Injustice is perpetuated in this world. It’s tempting to point fingers, yet even Christ-followers can be complicit in spreading injustice. It’s heinous that someone can be accused, tried and convicted in the media or the lunchroom before entering a courtroom. “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
  In the early 1990’s Steven Cook accused Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of sexually abusing him during the 1970s. Later, Cook withdrew those charges after concluding his memories of the alleged incident which were evoked during hypnosis were “unreliable.” Though innocent with the charges withdrawn, some will no doubt always wonder if perhaps Bernardin was guilty. His name was dragged through the mud for months as he was presumed guilty by the media, the public, and even many of his parishioners. Only after a year of this abuse did the truth come out. His accuser admitted, as he lay dying from Aids, that he’d fabricated the story. Cardinal Bernardin visited Steven Cook and forgave him. A friend though of the late Cardinal shared that “the agony of having to endure those humiliating charges changed him forever.”
  Proverbs 18:13 warns, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” If you’ve ever been a victim of a false accusation, you know how painful it is. Yet, our sinful nature is quick to believe the worst. Often we’ll gossip and spread the rumors. It’s sin! At work or in the neighborhood and even at church, we believe the worst but don’t know all of the facts. We must show others the grace that we’d want shown to us.
  The disadvantaged often are the greatest victims of injustice. The Old Testament ethic consistently defended the “quartet of the vulnerable,” (widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor). Scripture understands that these groups are disproportionately disadvantaged. They’re vulnerable, at least more so and more often than other groups because they often have little social power, influence or financial resources.
  God’s Word repeatedly commands special protection and treatment for these vulnerable groups because of their inherent disadvantages. If anyone must speak up and defend the “quartet of the vulnerable,” it should be us, as Bible-believers. This isn’t political, it’s biblical.
  Injustice is a threat to justice everywhere. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made that observation in his famed work from a Birmingham Jail. Looking around the world we see those who are oppressed—who lack spiritual and religious freedom, who’ve never heard the gospel or have a knowledge of Jesus. It’s an injustice. We must stand up against injustice, boldly proclaiming that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
  We must share the only hope for justice – God’s mercy. The Bible confronts us with the reality that only God is righteous and we’re not, “there is none righteous, not even one” (Rom 3:10). Our condition of sin renders us separated from God, deserving of His justice and punishment.
  Wonderfully, it’s not the last word! God sent His Son, Jesus to pay the penalty for all of our sin. 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.” The good news of the gospel is that God, because the penalty is paid can be just and forgive us if we but repent and commit our lives to the Savior. God can justly forgive sin and restore that person to a right relationship with Him, crediting to that person Christ’s righteousness (Rom 3:21-26; 2 Cor 5:21).
  We who have been forgiven must be committed to justice and righteousness. We’re to “practice righteousness” and not “practice sin” (1 Jn 3:4-10). Amazingly, what God commands us to do He also enables us to do. Moral obedience doesn’t stem from some mustering up of human strength or ability. It’s God’s Spirit who dwells within every believer that empowers us to do what is holy, just and righteous (Rom 8:13). We’re freed from the penalty of sin and freed of its power to live righteously.
  Our God is a God of justice. Those who know Him must be His emissaries of justice in an evil, unjust world. Are you?   



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, November 17, 2019

The Field of NEW Dreams!



“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment
until it becomes a memory.”

  It seems that nearly every snowstorm, my friend, Tim Mocarski, posts on his Facebook wall, “Pitchers and catchers report in __ of days.” As we’re having a bit of “November-mas,” let me share a story happening next summer. On August 13th of 2020, the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees will play in Dyersville, Iowa,—that field made famous by the movie, Field of Dreams. It’s being dubbed “MLB at Field of Dreams.”
  It’s one of my favorite movies. If you’re like me, it brings tears to my eyes every time. Though called “a baseball flick,” the real story is father-son relationships. At the end, Kevin Costner’s character asks his dad, “Have a catch?” World Magazine editor, Marvin Olasky writing on this:
  “My lifetime catches with my father: zero. He had no interest in baseball. I never played until I was 11. At that point I was a fat kid with a lazy left eye, so my batting average during one year of Little League was .182, if I generously count as hits what were probably errors. Still, I wanted to get better. Become a better fielder. So I nagged my father to come out on the street and throw me some ground balls. I said ‘street’ because we lived in urban Massachusetts and had no back yard or nearby green space. That meant a missed ball would go rolling and rolling. One day, finally, my father agreed. We stood in front of the house in which we had an apartment. I walked 20 yards away. He threw me a ball that bounced twice before it should have hit my glove—and I missed it. Embarrassed, and blaming my father rather than myself, I ran after it, yelling something like, ‘Why didn’t you throw it straight?’ By the time I reached the ball and turned around, he was walking up the steps to our front door. He went inside. That was it. We never again even started a catch. Nor did we talk much—and once I became a teenager, we spoke hardly at all.
  Cut to October, 1984. I was 34. He was 67—and dying of bladder cancer. I lived 2,000 miles away and flew to Boston with the public goal of providing some comfort and help, but my private motive was selfish: To learn how he’d transformed from a brilliant student to a person who had spent the last 30 years disengaged and defeated. One evening we sat on a Danish Modern couch in their apartment. After some perfunctory remarks I threw him a question about his dropping out of graduate school. The question was harder and curvier than a polite inquiry should have been. He got up and walked away, saying over his shoulder something like, ‘Why don’t you mind your own business?’ I put away the conversational ball and went to sleep. The next day I asked no more questions. My father and mother drove me to Boston’s Logan Airport. He wore a baseball cap because chemotherapy had left him bald. I pulled my suitcase out of the trunk, shook his hand, leaned over, and whispered in his ear, ‘I love you,’ because that seemed the right thing to say to a dying parent. I never saw him again.
  This October is the 35th anniversary of our non-conversation. It still haunts me. In the magic of Field of Dreams, the son and the dad finally have a catch. That catches my tears, every time.”
  That touched me. One of the great regrets of my own life is the fractured relationship with my Dad. During my formative years he was a great business success, yet a prescription drug addict. Later he cleaned up his life and even became very active in his church. But he and I seemed unable to ever resolve our unresolved issues. Though I’d love to point a finger at him, like Marvin Olasky, I’m sure there are many fingers pointing back at me. And now that my Dad is gone, it truly is unresolvable. There’s not anything specific that I know of, yet I’ve prayed to my Heavenly Father, “to the extent that I sinned in my relationship with my Dad, please forgive me.” Based on Scripture’s promise in 1 John 1:9, I know that God has.  
  Some situations, as Romans 12:19 reminds us (“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”), are unresolvable. Yet, many others are. And if you can, please do solve them. Still, many others should just be buried and forever forgotten.
  Looking back I truly believe my Dad did the best he could and he really did a lot for me. His own father was a drunk, horribly abusive and even ended up for a time on a Georgia chain gang. Yet, my Dad paid for his children to attend private schools and also paid for me to attend high school in Wisconsin. He didn’t have to. Yes, he was difficult to live with and left scars on our lives. Yet, I truly believe it was out of ignorance, not malice.
  Sadly, I know that I too have left wounds on my own children’s souls. All parents do. None of us are perfect. We’re all sinners. With my own children, I’ve sought to own my sinful failures and asked their forgiveness. I don’t want unfinished business between us.
  As we come into the Holiday Season old wounds tend to resurface. Many of us need to forgive and move on. As believers, we ourselves have already been forgiven an unpayable debt, so, we too must forgive, “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). Most of our parents did the best that they could or knew how to do.
  As parents, though we determined to parent better than we were parented, we too have our own failures. It’s why we all need grace and grace is not something to horde, it’s given to be given away.
  During this Holiday Season when you’re tempted to let loose, remember again how much grace you’ve received. Not only that, you and I would not be who God has shaped us into if we’d not first been wounded. Years ago I determined to have the spirit the Patriarch Joseph had toward all of the evil his brothers had done to Him, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Gen. 50:20). That’s so freeing!
  Whether it's a parent or a sibling – choose to be a person of grace! While we can’t change yesterday’s memories, we can make new ones. If we build it, maybe they will come. Make new memories while you still can and thank God that His grace is enough for yesterday, today and tomorrow.

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, November 10, 2019

Change is beautiful!



“Change is the only constant in life.”
     Heraclitus

  Autumn is my favorite time of year. While I love spring with the flowers blooming and green coming back to the trees and grass, I love God’s wonderful palette of colors in the fall. I’ve always been just a tad envious of folk who are able to go on a fall color tour.
  Recently, when we visited Jane’s Mom in northern Michigan the trees were on fire with their many colors. I love the cooler nights and the crispness in the air. There’s nothing like a warm fire, hot chocolate, snuggling up and gazing into the dying embers. It all brings back fond memories for me. In the south, we rarely raked leaves but would rake together huge piles of pine straw. I remember leaping into those piles and pinecone battles with my friends.
  The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, was right – change is inevitable. To quote the Borg from Star Trek, “Resistance is futile.” Yes, some changes aren’t good or moral, yet God’s grace is sufficient and we can trust Him even as we sail into new unchartered cultural waters. Our Heavenly Father is never surprised by any of the cultural changes, even the evil ones.
  Yet, I am so thankful that God does not leave me in spiritual comfort and what too often can devolve spiritually into stagnation. The Christian life is to be one of constant change and forward movement. There is to be no plateauing and settling for the status quo.
  Recently, I shared with our leaders God has worked in my heart and changed my commitment and dependency on prayer over the years. Please understand I have light years to go yet. If you’re looking for a “prayer warrior,” I’m not your guy. Yet my dependency and internal default setting have drastically changed. During my first years of ministry, I was a doer and program focused. I’ve learned though and am continuing to learn that if God is not in it and He’s not doing it, it’s a waste of time and effort.
  Then, God has changed my outlook on trials and difficulties. This may surprise you, but there are folk that I tick off (sometimes I think that I’m a “Professional Ticker Offer”). I don’t like to upset people. I certainly don’t like trials or deep waters, yet I’ve learned more and more that it is in the trials that my loving Heavenly Father burns away the dross from my life. In the past, I’d chafe in the fire, or moan and groan…or even become angry. God has worked in my heart (I haven’t arrived), where more often I ask Him to burn away the dross that He needs to in my life and teach me the lessons that I need to learn from the heat. I want to grow and be more like Jesus. I know that means that He has to do some pruning of my heart and life. As the Lord Jesus said in John 15, “every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit” (vs. 2).
  Then, I’m so thankful for the changes in my marriage. Jane and I are more in love, closer and more honest with each other today than when we got married…sometime back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. It’s very hard for me to watch couples who grow apart overtime when the Lord wants us to grow closer together as we grow closer to Him. That’s the key – growing closer to Him. As both husband and wife become more like Jesus and draw closer to Him, a wonderful outcome is growing closer to each other. Jane and I truly enjoy pleasing each other and making each other happy. Personally, I think that a healthy Christian marriage is one of the greatest witnesses for the power of the gospel. Only His grace can take two selfish sinners and make them more loving, selfless and sacrificial.
  Now that all three of our children are adults, I’m so thankful for the changes in our relationship. We’ve moved from parent and child to friends. All three of them are unique and God uses them to challenge me and be a blessing in my life. And I am so thankful that in the goodness of God (not because they had great parenting, especial a great Dad), that all three love Jesus, want to serve Him and others. Their spiritual maturity and compassion often challenge me to try to keep up with them.
  Then, I’m so thankful for the changes that God has and continues to bring about in our church. We have more and more who are committed to serving the Lord and reaching those who don’t yet know our Savior. I have the best job in the world, I have the privilege of sharing with folk how they can be forgiven, how their life can make an eternal difference and count for all eternity. I have the privilege of sharing biblical truth of how they can walk with Jesus, know His love, joy, and peace…be a better spouse, parent, employee, etc. Rarely do I hear moaning or groaning at church.
  I’m so thankful that God is working and changing in our church family. We’re more and more committed to not being some religious social club but a lighthouse of God’s love, grace and kindness to our community!
  As I’m aging, I’m even thankful for a few aches and pains. I know that may sound weird. Yet, as the writer of Ecclesiastes powerfully unpacks in his poetic description of aging and deterioration in chapter 12, it’s a constant reminder that the best is yet to come! I have a new body awaiting me! I  can’t wait to pitch my glasses once and for all. And I get to see the Savior who knew all about me and what a mess I was, yet chose to love me and die for me. As I grow older, I understand more and more what the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1. Read it for yourself in verses 21-25. It’s summarized though in verse 21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I long and pray for that to be true in my life!
  As a believer, the best is always ahead. The Christian life is to be one of constant godly change! I want to embrace and love change if it means that I’m becoming more like Jesus and one step closer to Home!



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, November 3, 2019

A Longsuffering God



“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” Augustine

  Popular Christian fiction author, Francine Rivers, shares that God used the Old Testament book of Hosea to bring about a radical spiritual transformation in her life. Though raised in a religious home, Francine didn’t come to Christ until she was nearly forty. Prior to committing her life to Christ she was an author and wrote historical romance novels. Yet, after she became a believer, she found that her writing: “died a swift death–not because I chose not to write, but because everything I wrote made no sense.  I struggled.  Writing was my ‘safe place,’ it was my ‘identity’…It took three years for the Lord to get through my thick skull and show me how my priorities were upside down.  I could almost hear Him saying, ‘You say you love Me, but you don’t even know who I AM.’  Sadly true.  For most of my life, I longed for a Savior, but I didn’t want a LORD.  I never bothered reading the Bible.”
  As she began reading the Bible, immersing herself in God’s Word, her death grip on her writing loosened. Finally, she let it go completely and without regret. Jesus became the center of her life. It was the book of Hosea that God used to break through her last walls of resistance. Later, she would write a bestselling novel based on Hosea, Redeeming Love. She describes it as “…the book of my heart. It is my confession of how I viewed and treated God before I knew Him, my yearning for a Savior and my deepest, life-long need for a loving, all-knowing LORD to direct my steps.”
  Today we’re beginning a several week study, Relentless Love, from the book of Hosea. If you asked most Christians to find the Hosea in their Bibles, they’d have to check the index. The most minor thing about what’s known as the Minor Prophets is their place in the life of the contemporary church. Many have never read the Minor Prophets and most have read or studied Hosea (it takes about half an hour to read it).
  It’s common for even Christians to develop their own view of God. Yet, the only way to truly know who God is to read God’s description of Himself as found in His Word. As we make our way through Hosea, we’re going to discover several truths about God. First, and primary…
  God is so longsuffering. I’m so thankful that He is. Being longsuffering is a little different from being patient. While longsuffering is similar to patience, it has more to do with the longevity of patience. It’s patience with muscles. The Bible uses a word for longsuffering that means “forbearance or the disposition to endure long under offenses.” God’s longsuffering is an expression of His unrestrained love and grace! The idea is that if God followed the desire of His heart immediately, He would bring an end to all sin, suffering and this world…including us.  
  As Hosea illustrates God’s longsuffering, it’s a shocking book! God commands iHIsHHis prophet to marry someone who is going to be unfaithful to him. It was a marriage doomed for heartbreak before the “I do.” But it doesn’t end there. Hosea is to forgive and restore his wife, and marriage.  
  Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessings is one of my favorite hymns. Robert Robinson wrote the words for it when he was only 22. I love the poetry, which so often describes my own journey of faith: “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.”
  Robinson became a pastor in England, but that wasn’t the end of the story. At the end of his life, Robinson had wandered away from God again. The story goes that one day he was riding in a coach with a woman, who was humming the hymn that he wrote many years before, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” She asked him if he was familiar with it and he replied, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.” The last verse described his own heart that had abandoned his relationship with God.  

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love.

  Too often that’s my heart and no doubt, your heart. Hosea is God’s reminder to us that He loves us even when we run away from Him to chase other lovers. As Hosea honestly deals with the nation of Israel’s sin, idolatry and the promise of God’s chastening, he repeatedly draws out the gracious nature of God who continues to plead with those who have repeatedly gone after other lovers. From this message of judgment, the bright beam of God’s love and faithfulness breakthrough.
  Hosea reminds us of God’s nature. Our God is a forgiving and pursuing God who chases after His people even in their sin. At the same time, we’re confronted with the horror of sin and its consequences.
  This book teaches us that we all, like Israel, are spiritual Gomers (Hosea’s wife). We too easily give ourselves to other loves and idols of the heart. We minimize our sin and think of our sin as doing bad things, or saying wrong words or thinking evil thoughts. The book of Hosea teaches us that sin is first a matter of the heart and that sin is not just evil, it’s spiritual adultery. It’s only when we see ourselves as spiritual adulterers that we see the heinousness of our sin and yet the overwhelming love of God.
  All roads lead back to our hearts. It doesn’t matter whether we’re fighting against anger, addiction, doubt or discontent. The book of Hosea illustrates the truth confessed by David: “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4). Our greatest need isn’t behavior modification or an attitude adjustment, it’s a heart transplant (2 Cor. 5:17). I don’t like seeing the evil sin in my own heart. Do you? Yet, I know if I don’t surrender and allow Jesus to heal me, sin will destroy me.
  Hosea repeatedly confronts us with the noxiousness of our sin, yet the overwhelming longsuffering and grace of God! It’s a message we need! God’s loving call doesn’t cease even as He pronounces judgment, His love beckons us again and again. The question is: Will we heed His call?


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 27, 2019

Evil: It isn't just a show



“The devil divides the world between atheism and superstition.”
                                                                                                George Herbert

This Halloween if you want to risk a friend rolling their eyes, tell them that you believe that Satan is real. About 50% of Americans don’t believe in the existence of the devil. The latest surveys indicate that born-again Christians are the most likely to believe in the devil (86%).
  Yet, nothing delights Satan more than when people do not believe in him or take him seriously. Years ago liberal theologian, Rudolf Bultmann dogmatically stated, “it is impossible to use electric light and the wireless, and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries, and at the same time believe in the New Testament world of demons and spirits.”
  Many believe the devil is a fable, just a bit of fiction, some cartoon character dressed in red with a pitchfork and tail. They contend that truly educated and thinking people don’t believe in a literal devil.
  If Satan is only a myth, how do you explain evil? One can’t turn on the evening news without being repeatedly confronted with the reality of evil. Evil is very real! No honest person can deny the problem of evil. Because of that any world-view, religion, or philosophy that acknowledges evil is real, and as a really evil thing, present in our world – is a thousand times more plausible and livable than a religion or world-view or philosophy that denies the reality, or the evilness, of evil. One of the most undeniable facts of our existence, is that evil is real, and evil is evil, too often very evil.
  To attempt to deny that evil exists is to live with your head in the sand and to attempt to deny reality. Yet, trying to deny reality – whether related to evil or any other aspect of reality, doesn’t work. Reality is like gravity – sooner or later, it catches up to you. The longer that you pretend it isn’t there or try to deny it, the harder and more forcefully it crashes in on you.
  For example, some religions tell us that suffering (a type of evil) is just an illusion and you can escape this illusion by achieving a certain frame of mind. This, though, denies the reality of evil. But when the evilness of suffering, sickness or death hits you, you find that any “truth” that tells you that suffering is merely a state of mind or a figment of your imagination and that you should be unbothered by it, is an offensive and unlivable lie.
  While atheism doesn’t fit with the unavoidably moral universe in which we undeniably find ourselves, it’s often accompanying “privation theory,” (that evil is only the lack of good,) doesn’t do justice to the fact that evil is an objective and often horrible real entity. Evil is not merely the “lack of good,” it’s positively vile.
  Even most atheists acknowledge the reality of evil. Yet, if you claim there is evil and injustice in the world, where does one find a moral standard of justice? Doesn’t it seem logical that if there are moral laws, there must also be a moral Law-Giver? For there to be a judgement of evil, it must be based on more than one’s own subjective and benign moral feelings.
  C. S. Lewis’s response to this idea is worth pondering: “My argument [as an atheist] was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust. A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line…Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too…” If there is “evil,” that argument presupposes “good” and some standard of what is good and what is evil. Otherwise neither exists or it is all subjective. The most logical argument is that both exist and God is the moral Law-Giver.
  In his book, The Death of Satan, noted scholar and professor at Columbia University, Dr. Andrew Delbanco, argues that “a gulf has opened up in our culture between the visibility of evil and the intellectual resources for coping with it.” He goes on to argue that many secularists attribute all human cruelty and evil to psychological deprivation or social conditioning, and, in so doing, trivialize the heinous evil that humans are capable of.
  He then recounts the story of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who along with many American elites during the Holocaust gave “no priority to the rescue” of the victims. Later on, after the evidence for the atrocities became too great to disbelieve, the President was given Kiergegaard to read and said that, for the first time, the Christian philosopher gave him, “an understanding of what it is in man that makes it possible…to be so evil.” Dr. Delbanco contends that secular liberals (a group of which he considers himself a member) had lost any concept of radical evil.
  It’s been often said that one of Satan’s greatest tricks is to make people believe that he doesn’t exist — and that’s true. When we deny his existence, we become blinded to the reality of evil, and we fall for his lies about God and about ourselves. Satan is real; the cruelty and vileness of our headlines scream it every day.
  Yet, the most important truth about the devil is this: He is a defeated enemy! By His death on the cross Jesus overcame Satan’s charges against us, and by His resurrection from the grave Jesus conquered Satan’s rule of sin and death. Someday, and I hope soon, Christ’s victory over Satan will be complete. Satan and his evil horde of demons will be banished forever.
  Jesus has won the victory! He died to set us free from Satan’s power. While we need to be wary of Satan, we do not need to fear him – he’s a defeated foe. He may tempt and attack us, but the grace of God in Christ will always make us victorious over him. As 1 John 4:4 promises, “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (NLT). We must turn to and rely on the Lord Jesus, who defeated our great Enemy. As we build our lives on Him and His truth, He gives us hope and power, both now and forever.


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. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Greed Wins Again!



“Greed is the inventor of injustice as well as the current enforcer.”
Julian Casablancas

Earlier this month (October 8th), a fan was kicked out of a basketball game for holding up a sign calling for freedom for Hong Kong and for yelling a freedom-for-Hong-Kong slogan. One of the teams on the court was a Chinese team from Guangzhou, the Loong Lions. But this game wasn’t being held in Beijing or Peking. It was in Philadelphia…the birthplace of American freedom. Just feet from where our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence, Americans were told that they couldn’t show public support for basic human freedoms in China. This was right after the NBA forced an apology onto the Houston Rockets general manager for tweeting, “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” Why? Greed!
  The NBA is poised to make $1.5 billion off its streaming agreement with Chinese media company, Tencent, over the next five years, so the NBA is willing to slam dunk basic human rights to increase their bottom line.
  Basketball is the most popular sport in the world’s most populous country. There are more NBA fans in China than there are people in the United States. The NBA is willingly being fiscally blackmailed by a repressive nation known for forced abortions, harvesting organs, and the abuse of religious minorities, like the Muslim Uighur community.
  That’s not to mention China’s recent blood-drenched history. Chinese Communists make the Nazis look like Boy Scouts. There’s a general consensus among historians that after Chairman Mao and the Communists came to power,  political purges caused the deaths of tens of millions.
  Today most have forgotten the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Estimates of the death toll vary from several hundred to several thousand, with thousands more wounded. What’s ironic is how quickly the NBA was ready to boycott North Carolina over bathrooms a few years ago, but now kowtow to a brutal Chinese government…all for the love of money.
  Yet, the NBA is hardly exceptional. In recent years, American and European companies have made a regular habit of apologizing for their accidental contradictions of China’s Communist Party line. Last year, Marriott fired a social-media manager for liking a post complimenting the hotel chain for its (unintentional) endorsement of Tibetan independence. Around the same time, Mercedes-Benz issued an apology for quoting the Dalai Lama on Instagram. After learning that one of its t-shirts featured a map of China that didn’t include Taiwan or various disputed islands in the South China Sea, the Gap expressed its regrets and affirmed its respect for “China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Versace apologized for a similar offense last August, saying, “Versace reiterates that we love China deeply, and resolutely respect China’s territory and national sovereignty.”
  By itself, U.S. consumer brands’ disinterest in advocating for Tibetan independence or democracy in Hong Kong isn’t especially concerning. But capitulation on these largely symbolic issues (symbolic in the sense that Gap T-shirts won’t make or break the “Free Tibet” movement) clearly indicate that corporate America is virtually absent of a moral compass or compassion for the oppressed or brutalized. Greed massacres freedom!
  Christians have largely been concerned about Big Brother, and the oppression of biblical values but been oblivious to Big Business’s oppression of Christianity. But corporate America is no friend of grace or the people of God. Think about it. If corporations won’t support the defense of basic human rights by an oppressive regime like China, do we believe that religious freedom won’t also be sacrificed? Giant corporations like Google, Twitter, Facebook have been caught censoring Christian posts and organizations.
  Just consider the malicious media slandering and political blackballing of Chick-fil-a because their owners dare to espouse a biblical worldview. Yet, it’s common knowledge that Chick-fil-A serves, employs, pays, and offers benefits to people who consider themselves gay, queer, lesbian, bi, and any other sexually-specific identity a person wants to claim. They don’t discriminate or show partiality or prejudice. They simply sell chicken sandwiches in clean restaurants (except on Sundays).
  What infuriates those who hold a different worldview is that the owners of Chick-fil-A are Christians who personally hold to a belief in the biblical moral ethic. That’s it! They’re believers striving to honor God and live in obedience to His Word. That obedience means loving others, serving others, helping others and doing all things (even selling chicken sandwiches) as though they’re working for God Himself and not for man.
  Even an innocuous site like Pinterest censors and blocks certain Bible verses and Christian terms in its search engine. While a quick search makes it clear that some Bible verses are still allowed on Pinterest, one employee whistleblower revealed that the company’s auto-complete function was modified and there is hostility against some Christian beliefs. 
  Yet, none of this should surprise us. Jesus promised that, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). While in America we should defend our Constitutional rights while we can, just as the Apostle Paul defended his rights as a Roman citizen, we must also be known as the people of love and grace. We’re to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:38-40), and love and pray for our enemies (Rom. 12:14-21).
  Most vocations are no longer exempt from the conflict between career and convictions. As Christians, we must develop a “theology of getting fired” and answer the tough questions before they’re forced on us: “What am I willing to take a stand for and get fired over?” God’s grace is sufficient. He has called us to live as His light in an increasingly darkening world. We’re not the first who’ve faced these dilemmas. As God has been faithful to all those who have come before us, He will be faithful to us!




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.