Sunday, June 20, 2021

Investing Generationally

 

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” 
                                                                                Isaac Newton

 

In Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, famed Greek soldier Odysseus is off battling in the Trojan War. Meanwhile, his son Telemachus is left with the warrior’s trusted friend, Mentor. For 20 years, Odysseus’ military campaign kept him away from home. Upon his return, he found his son a grown and mature man—thanks to Mentor’s wise and careful tutelage. 
  Over the years, Homer’s mentor has become synonymous with teaching and leading. It’s a badge given to those who serve as role models and human standards. 
  At Grace, we talk a lot about that the Bible teaches that as believers we’re a family. It must be more than rhetoric. It means that in our church we must be spiritual brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. If there was ever a time when a generation needed more family, more Dads, and Moms, it’s today. 
  Yet, you can’t speak into the next generation’s lives if you’re arrogant or insulting. The term “snowflake” is an offensive addition to the cultural vernacular. It’s used as an insulting way to refer to a young person who is easily offended, especially by opinions different from their own. Calling someone names won’t help build bridges or speak helpfully into the lives of the next generation. No one likes to be lectured or chewed out. 
  When I was a boy, the worst hour of my week was having my Dad take me to the barbershop. For the entire drive, there and back, he’d lecture me on what a terrible person I was and that I’d never amount to anything. Unfortunately, it was a common approach for his generation, particularly with their children. Archie Bunker was symbolic of a generation. 
  Christians must be different. We must live out 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” If we want to make a difference in young lives, we must be kind, respectful, and listen. Perhaps if we did, a younger generation would be less inclined to tune us out. 
  The Christian life is one of investing in the lives of others. Jesus did it. Moses did it. Solomon did it. Paul did it…and so must we. It’s homework that’s spread over a lifetime. It’s the assignment that counts most in the classroom of spiritual growth and leadership. Mentoring should begin early. There are always those coming behind us who could use our help. 
  Personally, I’m continually amazed at the thoughtful insights of a younger generation within our own church. We’re blessed with several young leaders who have a heart for the Lord and blessed with wisdom beyond their years. Yet, many of them are looking for a father or mother figure as they navigate marriage, child-rearing, career, etc. 
  Recently, I shared with my small group that one of my great burdens at Grace is our lack of intergenerational interaction. We have been given an opportunity to mentor, to speak into the lives of others from other generations, yet seem to be missing this opportunity. 
  There are various reasons this has developed. First, we’re most comfortable with those who are like us – chronologically, economically, maritally, even number or age of our children. It’s also how our culture typically divides. 
  Secondly, God has blessed us and we’re a growing church. As a result, we have many, many new people at our church. Very few though grew up in our church. Some churches are a “family church” where multiple generations from the same family grew up in the same church. That’s rarely the case at Grace. Instead, many are either new to Grace or even new to the area. Age is rarely a factor. We have young and old who have uprooted and transplanted to our community and our church. 
  This lack of roots makes a need for “family” much greater. Many of those who are younger in our church do not have parents, grandparents, or even siblings close by. Older adults often don’t have children or lifelong friends close by. There’s a sense of uprootedness, feeling disconnected and lonely. 
  Making new friends or connections is risky. Some, unfortunately, play it safe. Church is little more than a weekly event without being a relational family. They put their hour in and scoot quickly out the door. There’s a big problem with that. It’s not a biblical model and it’s not our DNA at Grace.
  Others find a few friends and latch on to them. It was a risk to find new friends and now that they’ve found them, they’re comfortable. Without meaning too, they become a closed circle (it’s a nice word for clique, sorry). While most of us find that we’re more comfortable with a certain circle of friends, it’s wrong to close our circle. 
  How can we fulfill the Great Commission when our circle is closed? And we easily reach a spiritual saturation point where our friends are no longer challenging us to grow spiritually and we aren’t challenging them.
  The Christian life is not to plateau. God has called us as He did the Children of Israel to possess “a land of mountains and valleys” (Deut. 11:11). If we’re not taking new ground or gaining new relationships, we’re stagnating spiritually and relationally. The Bible continually compares the Christian life to a walk. Walking requires continual forward progress.
  Some will rationalize that others aren’t friendly to them so they don’t reach out. It’s a sinful selfie perspective. Jesus commands us to serve not to be served, that includes “serving” by reaching out to make new friends.
  We need each other to grow spiritually. Each of us can mentor and be mentored. Yet, while it’s vital for our spiritual health, it pushes our comfort zones. The Christian life is not about being comfortable.
  So, let me challenge you to reach out to those you’ve not reached out to within our church. You’ll be shocked at how wonderful and interesting they are. You’ll find that you’re stretched spiritually which we constantly need.
  Here’s a simple way to start – move! Sit in a different area of the church. If you sit in the back, sit in the front. If you sit on the right, sit on the left. 
  Then, commit to having a meal once a month or once a quarter with someone outside of your normal friend circle. If you’re nervous, go to a restaurant so it will be time-limited. Just do it. Cross-generational lines. It’s an opportunity to mentor and be mentored. All of us can grow in this area. 
  One of our best models that we have at Grace of this is Montez Thompson. Though in her nineties Montez is flexible and growing. Periodically, she’ll go out with a group of ladies from Grace, all from different generations. (Subtle hint…if you want in on this, Montez loves Red Lobster). If someone in their nineties still has that kind of flexibility and vision, what’s wrong with the rest of us? Let’s do it! Please start today! 

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, June 13, 2021

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

 

“Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting.” Emmet Fox

 

  No doubt we embarrass our children, but when certain songs are played, we step back in time and start acting like giddy teenagers. All of us have “our” music. There were those we sang or danced to during our youth that has a special place in our memories. 
  I loved the music of B.J. Thomas. When I learned that he passed away at the end of May, immediately one of his top songs, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, starting playing on the jukebox of my mind. 
  Thomas married singer-songwriter Gloria Richardson in December 1968 and they had three daughters. But shortly after his career began, he became dependent on drugs and alcohol, which led to his marriage nearly ending. 
  Wonderfully, on January 28, 1976, B.J. committed his life to Jesus Christ. A month later his wife, Gloria did, too. Because of his newfound faith, he began recording gospel albums. His was the first Christian album to go platinum and he became the biggest contemporary Christian musician of that time. He put out a massively successful album of Christian music yet found himself confronted by an evangelical culture eager for stars but instantly, angrily critical of them. His biggest critics were fellow believers. Hailed as a new evangelical icon but then heckled, booed, and berated by born-again fans who didn’t think he was performing his Christianity right. 
  “I think it’s a really sad commentary when people who want to refer to themselves as quote-Christians-unquote would want to come out and hear someone just to boo them,” he said in a 2019 interview. “That to me was always tough to deal with, and I just stopped making 100 percent gospel records.” 
  His most public clash came in 1982 after he’d won his 5th Gospel Grammy. He sang a string of his secular hits to an Oklahoma audience and a woman started shouting at him to talk about Jesus. He told her he wished Jesus would make her be quiet and then said, “I’m not going to put up with this” and walked off stage. Someone shouted, “You’re losing your witness, B.J.,” and there were scattered boos. He returned to the stage and continued the show, but not before critiquing the fans. “You people love to get together with your gospel singers and talk about how you lead all the pop singers to the Lord. But when you get them in front of you, you can't love them, can you? I've got Jesus, but you can't love me.” He complained that Christians “can’t seem to hear somebody sing. It’s always got to be some kind of Christian cliché or Bible song, or they feel it’s their right before God to reject and judge and scoff.” 
  Isn’t that heartbreaking? We who are brothers and sisters in Christ are often the most critical and even vicious with each other over non-essentials. We’re rightly appalled by “cancel culture,” yet Christians have their own version of “cancel culture.” Frequently, it’s because we’re ignorant of Scripture. The Bible teaches soul liberty over non-essentials and non-biblical issues (Romans 14 & 1 Corinthians 9). At Grace Church, we’re committed to the great quote by Augustine: In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity. While we dare not compromise where the Bible is clear, i.e., doctrine or what are referred to as the fundamentals of the faith, many want to criticize and divide over personal preferences. Why can Christians be so critical? 
  We’re so focused on the negatives of sin, we overlook the positives of salvation. When God repeated the Law for Israel, He gave them both blessings and cursings. We tend to focus on the one prohibited tree in the Garden overlooking the countless ones God encouraged and freely gave. The fourth chapter of Ephesians is a wonderful example of sinful behaviors to abandon, yet godly, fulfilling ones to replace them with. We foolishly tend to look for what’s wrong in God’s world rather than all that’s right. 
  Our thinking is contaminated by a lost world rather than transformed by the gospel. This world is negative, critical, and hopeless. Take a 24 hour period and mark down how many negative or critical things you see, hear, or are told. Tabulate that against how many encouraging or positive ones. Believers are commanded to be in the world but not of it. Even our thinking which will bear fruit in our behavior is to be encouragingly different. Philippians 4:8 commands us: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 
  Pride and pettiness are enticing. The Pharisees who crucified Jesus believed they were more spiritual because they had the highest standards and the longest list of “don’ts.” That was brought home to me recently as I read criticism of The Chosen, the new multi-season TV show about the life of Christ. It’s truly seeking to honor God’s Word and the Lord Jesus. But if you Google it, you’ll find Christians who object to it because the series invents dialogue and backstories for Bible characters. Others are offended by on-screen depictions of Jesus based on the 2nd Commandment. 
  Pride tempts us to judge things as wrong where Scripture is at best very vague. This habit of censuring other’s preferences is found in every sphere of life from entertainment to music to career to diet choices to vaccines to political affiliation to dress, ad nauseum. While there are clear biblical boundaries, yet what’s frequently labeled biblically wrong is usually a personal preference. When we have “higher standards” we easily succumb to the repugnant sin of pride, becoming petty and critical. God’s Word is clear that those who are truly righteous are humble and gracious. 
  As much as possible, Christians are to be the Yes People. Our focus and mental diet must be on what’s right in God’s creation and His countless blessings. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:19-20, “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you…was not Yes and No, but in Him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him.” While we must not close our eyes to sin and evil, that is not where we are to mentally dwell. Instead, we’re to think and live as Heaven’s citizens now. As we do, a pessimistic world is attracted to the grace and goodness of our Heavenly Father! 

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, June 6, 2021

Don't let summer melt away

 

“The more I study nature, the more I am amazed at the Creator.” 
                                               Louis Pasteur

  There are some people who can eat ice cream 365 days a year. Not me. To me, ice cream should only be eaten when it’s hot outside (in Wisconsin, we may have to settle for warm). There’s nothing more delightful than an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. You have to lick at a decent pace or it drips away. The tongue has to get in gear to stay ahead. It’s a dilemma of when to stop licking and when to start nibbling at the cone. Take a bite too soon and you’re self-sabotaged with a disintegrating, gooey mess. Wait too long and it’s flowing over the sides and dripping on the ground. 
  Though I love all of the fancy flavors that you find in ice cream shops, to me there’s nothing better than homemade. Maybe it’s because hardly anyone makes it and nostalgia has set in. Homemade was simple. Usually, it’s vanilla, though I do remember having homemade peach once. 
  If I buy ice cream to take home, I usually opt for butter pecan. But if I’m buying a cone, it’s hard to make a decision. And just when I was already overwhelmed with far too many options, they begin offering multiple options on the type of cones. Who can go back to an old plain one when the waffle ones seek to seduce your taste buds. 
  Summer is a lot like an ice cream cone on a hot day. Before you know it, it’s all melted away. While I love the four seasons that God has given us, summer is the one where we can relish and enjoy all of God’s wonderful creation. You don’t have to scurry back inside for warmth. God’s natural warmth is out there for all to delight in with the beauties of His creation.  Summer is when all of our senses are nearly overwhelmed. If it’s not the scent of flowers, it’s the dank smell of evergreens. Rainbows follow thunderstorms filling our eyes with beauty and the reminder of God’s promise during the day. Star-filled skies wink at us at night. 
  Summer is a time to turn off, shut down and unplug. The nature outside is so wonderful it’s not comparable to the artificial screens inside. Man’s technology can’t begin to compete with the Creator’s artistry. God never has to worry about a power outage or poor WIFI reception for His gallery display. Do you realize how many times you’ve actually looked at luscious lollipop-colored tulips in your lifetime? If you’re my age, maybe a couple of hundred measly days out of 22,000? Summer never seems to last long enough. It blows by like an afternoon shower. 
  And God generously gives the gifts of His creation to everyone. You don’t have to be part of the jet-set to enjoy a chorus of birds greeting a new morning. A big bank account isn’t needed to smell fresh flowers. God’s creation declares His glory. The heavens speak forth the praises of God and reveal the knowledge of God to mankind. God’s testimony to Himself in creation is unmistakable. His creation declares His glory. 
  The psalmist reminds us that God’s creation speaks to all people everywhere. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Ps. 19:3-4). Creation is a universal blessing for everyone everywhere. 
  God’s creation has no language barrier. It’s understood by all. This revelation of God is understood by all. One of the biggest barriers missionaries face in bringing the gospel to other peoples is a language barrier. The knowledge of God that comes from creation transcends every language. It’s like a giant universal translator from Star Trek. It can be understood by all. 
  God’s creation has no volume barrier. It’s heard by all. Imagine if you were broadcasting the gospel into a country in the people’s own language, but none of them had their radios turned on, or the signal was so faint they couldn’t pick it up. You’d have broken the language barrier, but would still have a volume barrier. It doesn’t do any good to speak the language if the people can’t hear you. But the psalmist points out, there is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. The knowledge of God in creation comes through loud and clear. You may choose to ignore it, but you can’t escape it. Everyone hears the revelation of God that comes through creation. No one can miss hearing it. There’s no volume barrier with this revelation. It’s heard by all. 
  God’s creation has no distance barrier. It’s given to all. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” Going back to the radio analogy, imagine you’re broadcasting the gospel using special universal translator technology. Everyone who hears your transmission can understand it. Not only that, everywhere you broadcast, people have their radios on and turned up. They can hear what you’re saying. But how far does your transmission go? What if your transmitter only broadcasts to a fifty-mile or hundred-mile range? There would still be a lot of people missing out. 
  God’s testimony in creation has no distance barrier. It’s universal. The voice of creation goes out into all the earth, the words to the ends of the world. There’s not a place in all the earth from the Arctic to the Amazon where you’re not faced with God’s testimony of Himself in creation.  
  Though Albert Einstein was not a Christian, yet as he looked at the wonders of the universe, he knew that there must be a God. When asked by an interviewer if he was an atheist, he replied, “No,” and explained his answer. “I’m not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.” 
  Einstein understood the eternal power and divine nature of God from what had been made. Why? Because creation reveals knowledge of God to us. 
  Yes, we need to read His book, the Bible, in order to know God and His dealings with us, His will for us and provision for our salvation. Creation is natural revelation. God’s Book is Special Revelation. It’s only as we learn of God from His Book that we can truly begin to read His book of creation as He intended. Let’s make sure we spend sufficient time in the Bible. 
  But we must also take time to read and enjoy His “book” of creation. For we can also know, love, and worship our great God through His amazing creation that speaks forth His praises to everyone, everywhere, every day.

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


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Honoring Pastor Gary & Nancy Thompson

 

“Those to whom God is faithful become faithful.”  Sinclair Ferguson 


In the 1983 Sunday morning terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they slept. The scenes were heartrending as dazed survivors worked to dig out their trapped brothers from beneath the rubble. 
  A few days after the tragedy, Marine Corps Commandant Paul X. Kelly, visited some of the wounded survivors in a Frankfurt, Germany hospital. Among them was Corporal Jeffrey Lee Nashton, severely wounded in the incident. Nashton had so many tubes running in and out of his body that one witness said he looked more like a machine than a man; yet he survived. As Kelly neared him, Nashton, struggling to move and racked with pain, motioned for a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote a brief note and passed it back to the Commandant. On the slip of paper were two words – Semper Fi the Latin motto of the Marines which means, “forever faithful.” With those two simple words Corporal Nashton spoke for the millions of Americans who have sacrificed body and limb and their lives for their country – those who have remained faithful. 
  Semper Fi  could be written over the lives of Pastor Gary and Nancy Thompson. Today we have the wonderful privilege of honoring two faithful soldiers of the cross of Christ. God has blessed us with a new garage that will be used as a ministry tool for many decades into our church’s future. We want those who join us in the future to know that the blessings that they are enjoying were made possible by the commitment and sacrifice of godly individuals like the Thompsons. That’s why we are dedicating it to them to honor them. And what we are doing today is just a small whisper of the words that they will hear when they arrive Home and hear from the Captain of our Souls, “Well, done good and faithful servants.”  This dear godly couple are an example for us all. 
  Since they’ve been part of the Grace Church Family, the Lord has used them to touch our lives in so many ways. Though others can share blessings about the Thompsons, let me share how God has used them to be a blessing in my own life. 
  They are encouragers. Gary and Nancy came to Grace shortly after we completed this new building. It was an exciting time! God was bringing so many new folk through our doors. To be honest, after a capital campaign and the construction of the building, I was tired. If you have been around this dear couple very long then you know that they both have the gift of encouragement. Having served in the ministry themselves and walked through the construction of various projects, they knew the toll it takes on the pastor…and they were there for me! They were like a breath of fresh air to my soul at just the right time. They have been so supportive! 
  They are visionaries and workers. This building is truly a miracle. There were many needed items though that we didn’t have the funds to finish. One of those was our church kitchen. The Thompsons from their years of ministry experience knew what an asset a full kitchen can be for a church. Today we have a full kitchen with beautiful cabinets and countertops because they saw a need. Not only did they see a need they also did much of the work. Throughout this facility, you will find their fingerprints. Little details that they knew needed attention and they took care of them. 
  They know how to speak the truth in love. Scripture teaches that we are responsible for each other. Some times that means speaking into each other’s lives and sharing spiritual truth to encourage someone to walk a more Christlike path. Though every Christian has this biblical responsibility to their brothers and sisters, few have the spiritual backbone to do it. Gary and Nancy love folk too much to not speak up. They graciously know how to lovingly correct without being critical or petty. 
  They know how to disagree without being disagreeable. For decades, the Thompsons served the Lord in Assembly of God churches. My background is independent Baptist. We don’t always cross our theological t’s or dot our i’s in the same places. Yet, we are on the same exact page when it comes to the gospel. This dear couple has an all too rare gift of keeping the main thing the main thing. They truly live out those wonderful words by Augustine, the early Church Father, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” With Gary’s biblical education, no doubt there are times he’s disagreed with what I’ve taught from the pulpit, yet never once has he told me. One time because I wanted him to minister to someone from his school of theology, I had to fish it out of him that he and I differed. This ability shows graciousness and spiritual maturity. 
  They don’t take themselves too seriously. One of the missing gifts for many Christians is a sense of humor. Look carefully and you’ll see a twinkle in their eyes. Gary’s frog statues are a crack up. These dear folk love to laugh. They’re truly a delight to spend time with. 
  They persevere without complaining. I’m not sure if I could handle listening to myself preach twice on one Sunday, yet Gary and Nancy sit through two worship services each week. Why? There are many reasons. First, they have a flock of “Just Older Youth” that they love and minister to. They want to be there for them. Then, we’ve asked them to be available to pray with folk. They take commitment seriously. They love the Lord, they love people and they love this church. 
  Yet, like the rest of us who fit somewhere in that “Just Older Youth” designation, they’re earth suits are aging faster than their souls. While they are both young at heart, they don’t always feel the best. I doubt you’ve ever heard either of one of them though ever complain. They care about others and don’t want to be a bother. 
  God has richly blessed our church with Pastor Gary and Nancy! They are Christlike models for us all! They have been a special blessing to Jane and me! Our lives are much more richer because of them. Please join us in letting them know how much you love and appreciate them today! Gary and Nancy – Thank 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, May 23, 2021

Defend, Defund...or Somewhere in Between?

 

“Cops are held to a higher standard of accountability than the rest of the population…as it should be. But never forget that they are people too. Men and women…subject to the same doubts and regrets…that all of us are. I’m not asking for anyone to cut us slack, not at all. But a little recognition…for the conditions under which our men and women operate…that’d go a long way.” 
                   NYPD Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, NBC’s Blue Bloods

 Since 2002 I’ve had the privilege of being the chaplain for the Burlington Police Department. Over the course of the past two decades, I’ve interacted with local officers from our department, as well as officers from other departments. These men and women aren’t perfect, nor do they profess to be, but they are committed to making a difference and serving for the good of the public. It’s been very hard for me to watch the national maligning and misrepresentation of law enforcement.   Usually, at this time of year, I participate in our local Fallen Officers’ Ceremony. With Covid-19 this year’s ceremony was postponed. Yet, everyone should remember that every time an officer puts on the uniform, in the back of their minds they know that it could be the last time. They don’t know who they will encounter during their shift, pull over or what call they will be sent to. Law enforcement officers are required to run in when everyone else is running out. 
  A ride along with an officer is very eye-opening. Every elected official and those critical of cops should be required to do one. I’ll never forget my first one. I was psyched up for a drug bust or at least a high-speed traffic stop. That first call quickly altered my misconceptions. It was the horrible crime of a barking dog. That was it. No assaults or batteries. No one was even letting loose a string of profanities…just an annoying, barking dog. 
  And I remember thinking, “Why didn’t the man just go over and talk to his neighbor instead of calling the police?” It’s my belief that one part of the solution for our current law enforcement crisis is not a defunding of the police and certainly not getting rid of the police entirely. Those options would be disastrous for those who most need police protection and the intervention of law enforcement. Part of the solution is found in the Bible of neighbors being responsible for neighbors. Isn’t that a key point in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan? The Samaritan was a hero because he got personally involved, even at risk and at great cost to himself. 
  To begin just learn your neighbors’ names, the names of their children…even their pets. Swapping phone numbers is a great place to start. Exchanging normal civility like speaking to them when you see them in their yard or waving as you drive by. 
  Strictly speaking, there was no police force in ancient Israel, but there were systems in place for community policing. When a crime took place, the whole community was expected to cry out, and all within earshot were obligated to assist. The seeds of that rationale are still seen in volunteer fire departments and neighborhood watch programs. 
  Our lack of knowing our neighbors has been fertilized by our placing decks and patios on the backs of our homes. We’re missing the benefit of the front porch. It’s one reason we put a bench out front of our home where I often read. It’s an opportunity to interact with my neighbors. As the weather grows warmer, we put a water bowl by the sidewalk for dog walkers to use to satisfy a thirsty pooch. 
  Many law enforcement crises would be eradicated if parents parented or when there was a problem with their child, be the parent instead of calling the cops. The same is true in marriages or other relationships. Many use cops to show the person they’re bickering with that they’re serious. It’d be better to leave, rent a room at a motel or even sleep on a friend’s couch. Obviously, if there’s a risk of violence, one needs to dial 911. Yet, often before the situation escalates it can be calmed by a simple exit of one of the combatants. 
  Jesus said, “You will always have poor people with you” (John 12:8, Good News Translation). Ours is a fallen, sin-contaminated world. Because of that reality, there will always be poor, disabled, mentally ill, homeless, fatherless, orphans, single parents, and others that are disenfranchised. They are the ones most often abused and taken advantage of by the powerful and cruel. They’re the ones most needing the protection of law enforcement. Defunding the police leaves the most vulnerable even more vulnerable. It’s already taking place in communities that have bought into the latest social fad purported as some type of solution. 
  While there needs to be a strict evaluation of law enforcement officers, the continual caricaturing by the media and public officials for political gain hurts everyone.  There are some bad cops. That’s true of every facet of society, even those in the ministry. Blanket mischaracterizations and attacks hurt everyone, particularly most needing protection. Soon men and women of character will decide it’s not worth the risk to be so maligned and choose another career. The only ones who will enter law enforcement will be the very ones who should never be in law enforcement. 
  I’d give more heed to those who are critical of law enforcement if they’d stop casting rocks from places of safety and actually live in those same neighborhoods. Years ago Chicago’s Mayor, Jane Byrne, did just that for at least three weeks. In 1981 she moved into one of the worst public housing units in Cabrini Green to demonstrate that the area wasn’t as bad as its detractors suggested it was. She also hoped to shine a light on the neglected side of the city and prove that it was an area worth investing in. 
  If the police are defunded maybe the extra funds should be used to move those voting for such shortsightedness into those same neighborhoods. Don’t hold your breath. 
  As Christians, we must be a blessing in our communities. So, what must happen from a biblical worldview and mission is for Christians to plant churches and to move into those needy communities. Whenever the light of the gospel moves into a community, the darkness of evil lessens. We can’t solve all of our society’s deep problems. Yet, we can pray for a new host of missionaries to go into the world of our inner cities and we can determine to be the Good Samaritan in the neighborhood where God has placed 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. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Priority of Preaching: Why We Do What We Do

 

“The preacher’s task is to declare what God has said, explain the meaning, and establish the implications so that no one will mistake its relevance.” Alistair Begg 

Once after the famous French preacher, Jean Baptiste Massillon had preached, a listener exclaimed, “What an eloquent sermon! How gloriously he preached!” When that comment was reported to Massillon, he replied, “Then he did not understand me. Another sermon has been thrown away!” 
  God has not called preachers to entertain or be eloquent. He’s called us to something so much higher and so much greater. We are to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). That’s our commitment at Grace Church. We are not attempting to please people but a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s His Book and we want to honor Him. 
  Humanly speaking, particularly in our media saturated culture, preaching doesn’t make sense. It never has. It’s why 1 Corinthians 1:21 refers to the foolishness of preaching.” The pulpit and preaching are not to be a bully pulpit or a place for our opinions. It must be the message from God’s Word that the Holy Spirit anoints and applies to our lives. 
  After I’m done preaching, my heart’s desire is that you can look at your Bible and understand what Scripture is saying and how it applies to your life. One day we will all stand before our Sovereign, Jesus Christ the Judge of the living and the dead. In view of that solemn day, it’s essential preachers preach God’s Word. It’s essential that you listen to the preaching of God’s Word with a view to obedience. It’s frightening when someone is goofing off, whispering or scanning their phone during a sermon. Some day they will give account for ignoring the Word of God. On that great coming day when we stand before Christ, we want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Preaching and hearing the Word are of utmost importance in view of eternity. Then, how do we accomplish this? 
  We must preach God’s Word. Our preaching must be resolutely Biblical. The task of the preacher is to expound or bring out of the biblical text what is already there. The preacher’s responsibility is to open up the passage in such a way the message is communicated clearly, accurately, relevantly, without addition, subtraction, or falsification. Preaching is not a dull lecture. God’s Word is alive and powerful. Nothing is boring about His Word. It’s a sin to be boring with Scripture. We enter the pulpit with confidence that God has spoken, that He’s caused what He has spoken to be written and we have this inspired text in our hands. It’s astounding that we have God’s Word in our hands and on our lips. It’s God’s grace. Understanding what God has written is hard and serious work. 
  We must preach to our contemporary world. God’s Word is relevant. It intersects with cultural and social issues: racism, civil liberties, morality, poverty, government, ethics, marriage, family…to name a few. As Scripture speaks to these issues, the preacher must not be silent or he has failed the Lord and his God-given mandate. Wise preachers are to equip the congregation with biblical convictions through expository preaching. It’s our responsibility to open up scriptural principles which relate to the problems of our culture in such a way as to help everybody to develop a biblical worldview. The pulpit must help listeners develop Christian thinking so they can penetrate their segment of the community more deeply for Christ. We’re not to sacrifice truth to relevance or relevance to truth, yet resolve to be faithful to Scripture and pertinent to today. 
  We must listen before we preach.  How do we learn to build bridges from the ancient biblical text to our contemporary world? The wise preacher listens carefully both to the ancient Word and the modern world to be able to relate the one to the other with faithfulness to the Word and sensitivity.  We must listen to the voice of God in the Scriptures above all. It’s the first and most important act of listening. Yet, God has called us to share His message with real people so we must listen to the voices of those in the world around us. It means listening, knowing and caring about both those in the congregation and those outside the church. Faithful preachers need to ask questions and listen to the answers. It means listening to those from varied generations, ethnic and economic groups. 
  We must practice what we preach. It’s not enough to preach well, we must live well. The message that breaks the heart of the listeners must first break the preacher’s heart. I don’t know what other preachers do, yet I find that I’m often broken and humbled before the light of God’s Word as I work through the text. Wise is the preacher who is cognizant that his actions before and after speaking will speak louder than his words. A preacher must be a person of deep convictions and commitment. He must live to serve and please King Jesus and to bring glory to His name. 
  Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones pastored Westminster Chapel in London during World War II. London suffered, with tens of thousands killed or injured. One Sunday, a bomb fell a short distance away while Lloyd-Jones prayed during a service. The sound was tremendous. Windows rattled. Plaster fell. Lloyd-Jones paused for a moment and then continued to pray. 
  The man who gave announcements came up when the prayer was over. After he’d completed his task, he dusted Lloyd-Jones off, and then Lloyd-Jones started preaching. Why would he do this? Because D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones knew that preaching was the main thing. 
  Wise are D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones words: “I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.” 
  With bombs falling, and the future of England in question, Lloyd-Jones kept preaching. Our world desperately needs the message from God. We need that focus today. God’s preachers dare not abandon their post! 

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

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mother's Day: A Time to Rejoice...A Time to Weep

 

“Motherhood is difficult…and…rewarding.” Gloria Estefan

 

  I’m not sure what happened to Gloria Estefan for her to make such a statement that “motherhood is difficult and rewarding,” yet I think most Moms can relate. Mother’s Day should be celebrated in that all of us have a Mom and your Mom with her attributes and foibles will be the only one you’ll ever have. More importantly, we believe in God’s sovereignty – God in His perfect plan gave you that Mom. It’s a principle that’s echoed throughout the pages of Scripture. 
  Yet, Mother’s Day can be a source of pain for many among us either as a parent or an adult child. It’s why at Grace we seek to approach Mother’s Day with wisdom and sensitivity. Romans 12:15 is a wonderful guide as we seek to love, encourage and minister to those around us. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” 
  The priority of rejoicing before mourning with someone is significant. It's more difficult to rejoice with those who rejoice than mourn with those who mourn. If someone has angelic children or successful adult ones, or if someone has a Proverbs 31 Mom – well, it’s a little hard to have happiness for such people that are not tinged with a little envy, even bitterness. Our default is contaminated by self-orientation and selfishness. Whatever our measure of success and happiness, we long for and can struggle with resentment when others gain what we desire or seemingly missed out on. 
  Rejoicing with them is the greater challenge and so Scripture puts it in the first place. Self-pity is enticing. We must be continually reminded that when “You see a friend rejoicing at some good fortune, you’re to rejoice with them.” It’s a spiritual challenge. They’ve received something we’re missing and yearn to have. It needs to drive us to be dependent on the Spirit’s power because it makes great demands of unselfishness. 
  It’s far easier to mourn with those who mourn. It’s almost natural. Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed, “It is a most exceptional person who is not touched by the sight of someone else weeping. By nature, by constitution, the natural man or women, however bad, feels some kind of response when someone is weeping…there is something in us all that tends to respond to weeping and we are ready, as it were, to weep as well.” 
  We must commit to weeping with those who weep. In every church, there are those with a wayward child. Perhaps the child is incarcerated or enslaved by addiction. Parents did the best they knew how to raise them in a godly way but in adulthood, they spurned it. Others buried a child. Still, others struggle with infertility. For some, there’s the grief and guilt of abortion. 
  A mother-child relationship may be strained. Either there will be no Mother’s Day celebration or it’s fraught with tension. On the other side, some were raised by an abusive, absent, or addicted Mom. Mother’s Day brings back a thousand nightmares they’d rather never revisit. All of that, and much more, is why we weep with those who weep. God has called us to be compassionate, as He has shown compassion to us. 
  British financier Cecil Rhodes, whose vast fortune was used to endow the famous Rhodes Scholarships, was a stickler for proper dress, yet apparently not at the expense of someone else’s feelings. A young man invited to dine with Rhodes arrived by train and had to go directly to Rhodes’s home in his travel-stained clothes. Once there he was embarrassed to find the other guests already gathered, wearing full evening dress. After what seemed a long time Rhodes appeared, in a shabby old blue suit. Later this young man learned his host had been dressed in evening clothes, yet excused himself to put on the old suit when he heard of his guest’s dilemma. Rhodes understood what it was to weep with those who weep. 
  We must rejoice with those who rejoice. Rejoicing with those who rejoice perhaps like no other act shows we’re resting in God’s providence. One of God’s greatest blessings is the gift of a child. The birth of a child is a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). Each milestone from Kindergarten graduation to high school and perhaps college is something to be celebrated. For a Christian, our greatest joy is for that child to accept Jesus into their heart. 
  Believers have great joy seeing a young person with a desire to walk with God. Scripture brims with accounts of those with a heart for the Lord from an early age; Samuel, David, Esther, and the Lord Jesus. A beautiful child, a smart child, a talented child is diminished in comparison to a young person who passionately loves Jesus and focuses on that with eternal significance. 
  We have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in the faith. Because every believer is a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12) and partakes together of the life of our Savior, we must care for each other. There’s great power in “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). It’s a metaphor of Christian relationships. For example, a family in a church might have a child who is dangerously ill. The entire church family grieves. We all ask how the treatment is going and partner with them in prayer. Yet, we rejoice together when we see a young person growing in their love for the Lord and others. It’s seen in their kindness to the disenfranchised or their testimony to their classmates in the local high school. They’re known for standing for their faith. It’s a cause of mutual rejoicing. 
  We have a responsibility to a world without Christ. When Jesus came into this world He pitched His tent in a place where a dictator had sent his soldiers to kill every baby boy in a village, where religious men dragged a woman caught in adultery into His presence, asking Him to confirm their right to stone her to death. That’s the society the Son of God came into. 
  Here He went along, to join in the joys of a wedding. He even saved the day by miraculously making more wine when the supply ran out. Jesus rejoiced with those who rejoiced. Yet He also wept with those who weep. Salty tears ran down his cheeks. A family He loved to visit lost their brother, Lazarus to death. When Jesus saw the sisters weeping, He cried too. Most of those grieving weren’t His disciples, yet He wept with them. 
  What a powerful command - “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” This Mother’s Day celebrate your Mom or your children! Celebrate with others! Yet, please remember to also look around for those grieving and be Jesus to them by joining them in their heartache.  

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.