Sunday, June 28, 2020

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water


“Fear that does not take you to God will take you away from God.”

This summer is the 45th Anniversary of the original release of Jaws which was released on June 20, 1975. Long before Jaws, I was terrified of sharks. Each year our family vacationed in Florida. I remember seeing sharks caught by fishermen. It left a powerful memory in my mind.
  Jaws birthed “shark-phobia” for many. The summer of its release tourism was hurt on beaches, particularly in New England where Peter Benchley’s fictional story takes place.
  Just the soundtrack from Jaws can send chills up your spine. Steven Spielberg originally thought composer John Williams was joking when he played the score for him. Yet, later the director would credit the theme – which won an Academy Award –for being “responsible for half of the success of [the] movie.”
  How powerful is the legacy of Jaws? It’s certainly responsible for generations of nervous beachgoers eyeing the black depths of the water with fear of what monsters lurk below. It’s so powerful that it even made phobia experts — the people whose job it is to talk people down from their irrational fears — afraid to take a dip in the ocean.
  The problem, however, is that the fear is entirely disproportionate to the reality. The chances of dying in a shark attack are just one in 3.7 million, according to National Geographic. The real dangers of the world are gas-powered. You have a 1 in 112 chance of dying in a car accident in your lifetime. The frenzy over shark fears got so bad that the author, Peter Benchley, later regretted depicting sharks as killing machines.  
  Fear. We don’t usually like to think about fear or talk about fear, but fear actually determines and drives much of what we do or don’t do. Stories of things to fear are all around us. If you scroll through your social media feeds, turn on the actual news, or even walk through the checkout line at the grocery store, you’re confronted with bad news: wars and threatened wars. Viruses. Murder. Injustice. Grief. In normal circumstances, these things were already all around us. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, bad news is our near-constant “friend,” and with it a chronic sense of anxiety.
  Fear is a formula for failure. Fear is not from God. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind” (Phillips). How many lost the joy of a fun-filled summer vacation because of Jaws?
  Fear leads to skepticism. When we’re afraid, we begin to doubt. We doubt ourselves, doubt other people, and we doubt God and His Word. We become skeptical. Cynics, at the root, basically have a problem with fear. We often ridicule and question when at heart, we’re merely afraid.
  Fear leads to selfishness. When someone is afraid, do they use plural pronouns or singular ones? When I’m afraid, my focus is focused on myself. I don’t think about others. I don’t think about anybody else, I'm just focusing in on me…and I certainly don’t think about God.
  Fear leads to stubbornness. We resist change when we’re afraid. The known is “safe,” even if it’s destructive or the status quo. Our boat may be sinking but it’s our boat, so please don’t rock it. As a result, fear stunts our growth. It keeps businesses from growing. It keeps churches from growing and it keeps us from growing spiritually on an individual level.  
  Fear leads to shortsightedness. When you’re absorbed with what you’re presently afraid of, you have difficulty seeing the future. Instead of having a vision for tomorrow, you’re absorbed with just surviving today.
  Too many believers are satisfied being stuck where it feels safe than take a risk. They’re so afraid to let go of fear and trust God, that they really don’t know what else to do. Some have lived in fear for so long that living in fear has become their normal. They don’t even consider moving forward and stepping out in faith.  
  You can be fear-free! When Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life, you have a reason for confidence. Your Savior is the Lord! Since Jesus Christ is Lord, that means that He is sovereign over your birth, He is sovereign over your life, and He will be sovereign over your death.
  Jesus Christ is Lord over your birth. That simply means that of all the millions of people who could potentially have come from the union of your father and your mother, God created you! In great love and mercy, God planned who you would be, where you’d live, and even your entire eternity!
  Jesus Christ is Lord over your life. That means that everything that has happened to you, the good you’ve enjoyed even the evil you’ve suffered, was known to God before the beginning of time. It means that your future is known and planned by your Heavenly Father. While life is full of surprises for us, unexpected twists and turns, nothing ever comes as a surprise to God. Wonderfully, that means that God works through all that has happened in your past and whatever will happen in your future.
  Jesus Christ is Lord over your death. That simply means that Jesus Christ is in complete control of the timing, the circumstances, and the outcome of your death, which for a Christian believer, whenever it comes, will be an immediate translation into the glory of heaven. 
  The famed early American preacher, George Whitfield said, “We are immortal till our life’s work is done.” Please use that truth when you struggle with fear.  Even if you’re afraid of going into the water, as you dip your toes in the water, it’s a wonderful biblical reminder, “I am immortal till my life’s work is done.”
  Whatever happens, you don’t need to be afraid, even if you hear the Jaws theme in the background. Your Heavenly Father loves you and He’s got this…all of it! Will you though choose to trust Him? Will you leave your fears and choose to rest in the promises of His Word? Will you let His peace flood your soul?  It’s time for God’s people to be free and exchange fear for faith. Will 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, June 21, 2020

You don’t have to be a Father to be a Dad in someone’s life


“Every dad, if he takes time out of his busy life to reflect upon his fatherhood, can learn ways to become an even better dad.” 
Jack Baker

19.7 million children, more than 1 in 4, live without a father in the home. Consequently, there is a missing father factor in nearly every social ill facing America today. Childhood isn’t easy. Having two loving, committed parents is one of the best gifts a child can receive.
  While my relationship with my father was very strained, my Heavenly Father richly blessed me with many other men who stepped into that role and more than filled what was missing. When it comes to a need for a Dad, God wonderfully fulfilled the promise of Philippians 4:19 for me, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Let me mention just a few.
  Bob Collins was one of my Sunday School teachers when I was a boy. We were typical boys – mischievous and unruly (we were pretty horrible). There may have been a dozen of us in his class. I’m not sure, but I don’t think that Bob ever had children of his own. Yet, he not only taught our class but he’d schedule activities for us outside of class. I’d never been bowling, yet Bob would take the whole lot of us and taught us how to bowl. He had a heart of gold and left his fingerprints on my life.
  Jim Penley was a leader at our church in a type of Christian Boy Scouts, “Boys Stockade.” Jim had a passion for the Lord and ministry. He also had a heart for influencing young lives. On Sundays, Jim would go to a housing project near our church and lead a Bible study for boys from that project. He helped me cut my teeth in ministry. Jim enlisted three or four of us to assist him. We’d go door to door at those apartments and invite young men from the project to come to Jim’s class and then help with the class.
  As maybe a nine-year-old, it was an early introduction to ministry, to reaching cross-culturally and seeing poverty firsthand. It left a lifelong impression on me. It was not a big surprise that Jim later packed up his wife and family to attend Bible college to prepare to be a pastor.
  Kent Richards was my youth pastor when I was a teen. I could fill chapters sharing about Kent Richards. He was from Decatur, Illinois, so I’m sure Atlanta was a culture shock for him. He was the first person that I ever met that drank Pepsi (Atlanta is the home of Coca-Cola). Kent wasn’t flashy or “cool.” He was just solid and godly. He always had time for me.
  After the loss of my Mom and the ongoing issues of my Dad, I was a young man with a lot of pain, yet Kent would listen for hours. He helped keep me anchored. To say that I was a rascal is an understatement. Yet, Kent never cut me off. Later when he got married, he and his bride, Rita, were always willing to give me a ride to church and youth activities. I’m sure that they were on a limited salary, yet they’d often take me to dinner with them. I was a broken, hurting teen and Kent was God’s instrument to help put the pieces back together in my life.
  Bob Crain was a rock. Bob had been in the Navy during World War II and had at least one ship shot out from under him. His wife, Harriett, was my Mom’s best friend. A very successful businessman, yet they opened their home to college-age missionary kids whose parents were on the field.
   Back then it was too expensive for them to go “home” to a foreign field to be with their parents for the summer. So, Bob and Harriett helped them find summer jobs and gave them free room and board.
  Though Bob was kind, he was tough as nails. He was always there for you and would take a personal interest in your life, but if you screwed up, he’d let you know. He didn’t just smooth things over. He held you accountable. And you’ve never been reprimanded, until you’ve been chewed out by Bob Crain…and it was wonderful. Because you knew that he loved you and if you love someone, you’re willing to even say the tough stuff.
  Dr. David Capetz. I met him shortly after I arrived at Maranatha Academy. I was fifteen. I’d wanted to go away to school. I thought it was my best hope of freeing myself from a substance abuse background. But it was the first time that I’d been away from home. I’d never even attended camp but here I was nearly 1,000 miles away from everything that I’d ever known, in a dorm room with five other guys, all of them in college – and I hated it! I was ready to hop one of the trains that rumbled through the back of the campus. Somehow Dr. Capetz and I met, and by then, I was a very desperate kid.
  It was the first time that I remember sharing my story with anyone. I told him how much it hurt to lose my Mom, how I hated my Dad, and how bitter I was. He took me to Ephesians 4:31-32. It’s been an anchor passage for me ever since: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” He pointed out that since God had forgiven me for so much, it was wrong for me to not forgive my Dad…no matter what had happened, and for the first time in my life, I was free! Sure I had setbacks, but I’d tasted heart freedom and I could never go back.
  Frequently, I’d drop by his office and he’d take the time to listen, counsel me, take me to God’s Word, and pray with me.
  One more, though there are many others, Leigh Crockett. We were both from the Atlanta area so we had a lot in common. He was such a part of our lives that our youngest son, Aaron’s middle name is “Leigh” and named after him.
  Leigh headed up the Speech Department at Maranatha. He was one of the most loved professors and we became lifelong friends. In fact, he had a tremendous influence on both Jane and me (Jane was a Speech Minor, too).  He had a personality that was bigger than life and was unforgettable.
  Years ago Leigh was diagnosed with cancer. Wonderfully, the Lord healed him and gave him a reprieve. Later it came back and took him Home. Yet, even as he was dying, he was a faithful testimony for his Lord.
  25% of children live in fatherless homes. The percentage jumps off the page if you add those who have a Dad in the home, yet is virtually uninvolved with his children.  
  Men, if we will be sensitive to God’s leading, He’ll open our eyes to see young lives that we can minister to for His glory. We can make a huge difference just by being attentive and available. Most of the time it won’t be a huge investment. It’s amazing with young people how a little goes a long way. It starts with knowing their name, just noticing them. It might be that ornery neighbor kid or a young person here at church. I know it’s true! I’m where I am today because men invested in my life. Many of you have similar stories. Young people are our future. Please take the time and give of yourselves to invest in a life.

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

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Antifa Lives Matter



“Racism isn’t a bad habit; it’s not a mistake; it’s a sin.
The answer is not sociology; it’s theology.”  Tony Evans

I grew up in a racist culture. Looking back I’m ashamed to admit this but I was a racist and I didn’t have a clue that I was. Racism was the norm, even though I was in a “Christian” culture and part of an evangelical church. It was a sin and the result of both spiritual blindness and hardheartedness.
  It’s been so long ago that I can’t remember when God changed my heart. I do vividly remember many years ago listening to John Piper preach during Moody Founders’ Week and share his own journey out of racism. Like me, Piper was born and raised in the south. I sat there and wept quietly as I listened as he shared his own path to spiritual freedom from the sin of bigotry. His journey was very similar to my own.
  Please understand, I don’t struggle with “white guilt.” It’s worse. I struggle with “white church guilt.” As a child, the church I grew up in was very missions-minded. In the 1960’s they were giving hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to missions, but somehow in their understanding of the Great Commission and reaching the ends of the earth, they missed that it included “Samaria” – the world right next door.
  It was heartbreaking for me later to learn that an African-American pastor that I greatly admire, Dr. Tony Evans had sought to be a member of my church and was declined simply because of the color of his skin. At the time he was attending Carver Bible College, a Christian Bible college for African-Americans in Atlanta that my church, that same church, financially supported, as long as “those people” kept in their proper place. 
  Racism is evil! Yet, a lost world will not be able to solve it. New laws and new systems will at best bring about external conformity. Only Jesus Christ can change hearts and bring about transformation from the inside out.
  Please understand. We do need laws and programs to protect and help minorities and the disenfranchised. Racism though is first a heart problem, not a skin color issue.  
  When communities and neighborhoods changed and minorities moved in, it was a time of “white flight.” Churches often followed their members to the suburbs and I understand that. What was wrong and where I believe that the Church failed terribly, is that we didn’t leave anything behind. Because though the ethnic make-up of the people in those neighborhoods that were left had changed, there were still people who needed Jesus in those neighborhoods. It may not have been “safe,” but Christianity has never been about being “safe.”
  Study the book of Acts and you’ll discover a pattern of missions that lines up with Jesus’ command to begin with Jerusalem – cities were a priority. Yet, perhaps because of our obsession with quick growth and “bodies, bucks and buildings,” the American Church has focused on the suburbs.
  History shows that wherever the gospel has gone, poverty and crime have decreased and education, health and social harmony have increased. Instead of wringing our hands and shaking our heads at the dire straits of our urban areas, we need to repent of our lack of compassion and mission. God loves the city and His people are to love it, too!
  Our enemy, Satan, loves division among God’s people. The Church that is to be a united army for the Lord reaching the lost is dividing over the non-essential, yet missing the non-negotiable. It’s dividing over black lives matter, blue lives matter, all lives matter. The Bible is clear – God loves everyone and Jesus died for everyone. That means that Antifa lives, looters lives, even white supremacist lives matter. And while we’re bickering in the back seat, our cities are dying without Christ. Jesus died on the cross for the whole world – for Antifa and cops…and everything in between. The gospel doesn’t allow us to discriminate on who matters, who we’re to love, and who we’re to seek to reach with the gospel.
  Many believers need to read a short book in the New Testament, Philemon and see how God reached into a Roman prison cell to rescue a prisoner named Onesimus and revolutionize his life with the gospel. Our gracious God is still reaching what we too often file in the “unreachable” category.  
  What can we do? In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus told us, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
  We need to pray and pray earnestly. This is a God-sized problem. Too often we come with a new program or funding or look for governmental intervention. Because racism is first a heart problem, the gospel is the only cure. It’s our problem because we’re commanded to be gospel-people and gospel-driven. We’re to bring Jesus’ light to the darkest places. It’s time to light a candle and stop cursing the darkness.  
  We need to volunteer. Jesus said there are already laborers, but they’re not out in the field. I’m so thankful for those who are, like our missionary, Tom Kubiak, who is planting his 2nd Chicago church, this one on the south side. Dr. Tim Keller’s call for church planters to come to the cities is finding open hearts. Many are returning to our cities to make a difference.
  We need to financially support church planters. God is raising up a generation who are willing to go and plant churches in our cities. Let’s pray that the Lord will touch some in our own church who will go to one of our cities and invest their lives, making a difference in eternity. The fields of the world are crying for laborers and so are the fields of our inner cities.
  We must love the neighbor who is near. It’s easier to care for those you never interact with and make a stand for them. We’re commanded to love our neighbor – period. We are self-deceived when we say that we love our black “neighbors” that we don’t know, yet hate those near us. You can’t love someone unless you first know their name. Jesus doesn’t qualify that love with their ethnicity, political party, or behavioral choices. We’re commanded to love the ones for whom Jesus died – that’s everyone.
  In 1955 Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian – five missionaries willingly gave their lives and were martyred by the spears of the Auca Indians. Their sacrifice became the catalyst of a new missionary movement. American Christians left the safety of home to go to the fields of the world. Please pray that as we have seen the tragic deaths and fires in our cities, that this will ignite a Holy Spirit fire in us, in our churches to reach our cities with the gospel. That’s how we will have true and lasting change. It’s time for the Church to be the Church! It’s time for us to take the Great Commission seriously!


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 7, 2020

Reopening is Right, Not About Our Rights


“The constitutional freedom of religion is the most inalienable
and sacred of all human rights.” Thomas Jefferson

“The Father of all vacations.” Now that our three children are all adults, one of the parts that I most miss from their younger years was going on vacation together as a family. Those were some of our most memorable and bonding times as a family. It wasn’t the expense or extravagance, it was being together as a family. Ask them about “a good walk,” and you may see some eye-rolling, hopefully, followed by a grin.
  In the summer of 2002, our family went to Washington, D.C., then to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and finally to New York City and the Statue of Liberty. I love America! I love our heritage! And I’m so thankful that those who came before us willingly shed their blood so that we have the rights that we have, rights like the freedom of religion that so many of our ancestors in Christian history and brothers and sisters around the world do not share. We are truly blessed!
  Across the country one continued protest from many churchgoers during this Pandemic has been, “We must meet! It’s our right!” While I am so thankful that we do have that right as Americans, that’s not why we’re meeting again as a church. It’s not about our “rights.” To me to meet because it’s “our right” is insensitive to the many other Christians around the world who do not have that blessing that we have in this culture and that someday we too may not have.
  We’re gathering together as a local church family because the Bible commands us to and teaches that it’s the right thing to do. Scripture is clear to be lackadaisical about consistently meeting as so many American Christians were prior to this crisis is biblically wrong.
  Please understand (and I can’t say this strongly enough). If with the coronavirus if you’re not comfortable meeting yet or have health concerns that make you hesitant to meet, you should not physically worship with us. Your health and safety is a greater priority. I’m so thankful that we live in a day where we can include those who are in that situation with technology.  
  Yet, much of the anger about not being able to physically meet seemed to be selfishly driven rather than what truly honors our Lord. It was seemingly about, “They closed my religious clubhouse…and I’m mad!”
  A vital part of our DNA at Grace Church is the humble confession that this is not OUR church. It’s the Lord Jesus’ church. We are what the New Testament calls “the Bride of Christ” (Eph. 5:22-33). He bought us and willingly died for us. We belong to King Jesus so it must be all about Him!
  To be candid, it’d be easier to not meet. If it’s about convenience, we could sip coffee and eat Kringle (this is Wisconsin) in our pjs in our family rooms. It can’t be that the worship team, preaching or even the building is so special. There are much better worship “productions” at the click of a keyboard or with the turn of a channel. Why is gathering physically together important? (FYI: These are not in any particular order).
  God wants us to worship Him! That should amaze us! Remember that our awesome God is surrounded by all of the angelic host of heaven. It would be perfect worship. All nature worships God. If we human beings won’t, Jesus said that even the rocks will cry out in praise (Luke 19:4).
  Of all of His creation, it’s staggering that our Heavenly Father longs for us, His Imago Dei, with all of our imperfections, to worship Him. Nothing replaces the beauty of coming together to worship Him with others who also have His Spirit within them through the redeeming work of salvation.
  Worshiping is a response of humble gratitude for His love. Knowing God as He’s revealed to us in Scripture stirs in us a heart of thankfulness expressed in worship that brings Him glory. The Spirit motivates us to long to come together with our brothers and sisters to honor the Savior.
  Coming together is one of the best places to grow spiritually. The focal point of local church ministry is to clearly teach God’s Word. In what’s known as “the Pastoral Epistles” (1 and 2 Timothy & Titus) are overflowing with instruction for churches to make the Scriptures the priority in the church. The pulpit is not the place for political or psychological talks. Pastors are commanded to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). While Christ-followers must study the Word on their own, learning under the sound teaching of church leaders is imperative for one’s spiritual growth (1 Pet. 2:2). There’s something about in-person focused attention surrounded by likeminded believers that makes it more effective.
  It’s the place where we are to use our spiritual gifts. The weekly gathering is God’s avenue for believers to utilize their spiritual gifts. At salvation, God gifts every believer. The local church is the place where believers can and should practice those gifts. The Bible knows nothing of church sitters or spectators who show up for a weekly show. Jesus designed His church to be a place for us to participate together by utilizing our spiritual gifts either in a public setting or privately with other believers. 
  It’s the place where we connect in Christ’s love. The phrase “one another” occurs 100 times in the New Testament. Some 59 of those are specific commands teaching us how to relate to each another. We’re to love, encourage, comfort, pray, forgive each other to name just a few. In our time together the Lord teaches us to love those that in our sinfulness, we’d never like. It’s an ongoing work of His grace. Apart from in-person gatherings, it’s easy to succumb to the Americanization of privatizing our faith or keep it segregated to a small portion of our life.
  God uses our gathering together to reach our world. Jesus said our world will know we’re His disciples by our love for each other. As we love each other, His light shines from our Christ-honoring love. Because it’s so unusual, it draws others to Christ. Everyone is looking for a place to belong. Whether people admit it, they long to be loved. When we commit to fiercely love each other by covering even sins with love and readily forgiving each other, God’s love shines brightly through us. Yes, love can be demonstrated via technology, but it’s not the same. How healthy would a couple’s marriage be if it were only a “technology relationship?”
  God is in control of this Pandemic! It often takes a shaking up of our world to force us to evaluate what’s essential and what’s merely traditional. Technology is here to stay and a tool we should use wisely. In the coming days there will be needed evaluations and with it changes on how churches minister. As the Bible clearly reveals, in-person gatherings at some level are essential. Please pray that we are wise as a church family as we seek to move forward for His glory because this truly is His church!



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 31, 2020

Parapet Wall Theology

“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.”
Anthony J. D'Angelo

“Turn on, tune in, drop out” was the counterculture era phrase popularized by Dr. Timothy Leary and the mantra of the hippies during the 60s and 70s. Turn on: try out the drugs everyone is doing, the weed, the LSD. Listen to the music, the rock, the protest songs. Tune in: listen to what the young people are saying; there’s a revolution going on. Pay attention, learn a new way of living in the world based on love. Drop out: quit that meaningless job, leave that bland suburb, get out of the “rat race,” live free.
  It was the beginning of an obsessive focus on “rights” from equal rights to women’s rights to reproduction rights to gun rights. Because we are Imago Dei, we’ve been bestowed with certain “inalienable rights” as Founders of our Country understood. Yet, what’s frequently missing is any sense of “responsibility.” That’s a contrast to the biblical worldview where the emphasis is on responsibility, not rights, as first seen in the Garden of Eden.
  Many Christians so emphasize the New Testament, they miss the ethical guidance there for us in the Old Testament. Most of our laws find their roots in Scripture. What’s also missed are the healthy societal dimensions in the Old Testament that we’d do well to heed today. Old Testament Law had problem-solving provisions for poverty, immigration, caring for the disenfranchised that give us insights on those same societal issues today.
  One example is, Parapet Theology, as found in Deuteronomy 22:8: “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.” Though cultural for that day, the ethical provision is that each of us has a responsibility to others. In a self-absorbed world, God’s people are to love their neighbors. It’s so serious that under the Old Covenant, they were to invest in safety measures like installing a parapet on a new home.
  What is a parapet? It’s a low protective wall or barrier at the edge of a balcony, roof, or bridge. The Hebrews needed parapets because their homes had flat roofs that were covered by a canopy intended as extra living space. This short wall prevented someone from falling off and being injured or killed when hitting the ground below.
  The humanitarian principle is that homeowners must maintain their property to prevent someone from being easily injured. It’s why we install handrails on stairs and second-story porches. While the command is culturally specific, the principle is timeless. Our responsibility to be aware of how our actions and choices affect the lives of others is consistent with Jesus’ teachings,  especially in the Sermon on the Mount. Even architecture can be biblical and theological.
  An idolatrous individualism has contaminated contemporary Christianity in that church, worship, ministry, programs, all of church life is about ME, but it’s not! It’s always about God first. Then, it’s about community. While individuality is not lost, it’s not to be preeminent. What does have precedence for the Christian is sacrifice, serving God and others.  
  Study Scripture for yourself and you’ll quickly discover a recurring theme – God’s heart naturally bends toward the vulnerable, the weak, the disenfranchised, the immigrant, the widow, and the elderly. But God opposes the proud, those who trust in their own strength and boast in their wisdom, and those who lack compassion for the disenfranchised.
  We Christians must be gospel-driven. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 must challenge us in our “rights-centered” culture. “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
  Let me share how that unpacks for me personally. In the midst of this Pandemic, if it will help build bridges for the gospel to someone who doesn’t know Christ, I’ll wear a mask and gloves. I’ve done all that and more in the past to visit someone in the hospital with a compromised immune system. I’d wear a hazmat suit if it’d open doors for the gospel.
  On the other hand, if my lost friend thinks all of this is silly and doesn’t feel comfortable unless we shake hands or even hug – guess what? I’m shaking hands and hugging. While I’m not suggesting that we be foolish, being a Christ-follower demands cross-carrying. It’s not about ME. It’s all about Jesus and loving Him. It’s about loving my neighbor, even if it means sacrificing my “rights.” Living out the gospel is sacrificial and risky.  
  This is not the flu. There’s something very deadly out there. We know that it easily spreads through human interactions, sometimes so easily and subtly that no one notices its transference. Only one Christian may be infected, but if churches aren’t careful, that one member can spread this deadly illness to others all too easily and with little effort. No matter your age or health, every member is vulnerable to this terrible disease.
  Oh, I’m not talking about COVID-19, I’m talking about something far deadlier – selfish ambition. Selfish ambition elevates our thoughts, preferences, and opinions over our responsibility to honor the Lord and to care for and love others. It puts me on the throne of my life instead of my Savior and King.
  It’s not wrong for Christians to long to return to normality in life and worship. It is sinful when a believer over-prioritizes their own “rights” on complex issues over and above loving Jesus, other brothers and sisters and a lost, terrified world. Because when God’s amazing grace truly grips our hearts, when the full realization of “I once was lost” echoes in our souls, sacrifice for our Savior becomes simple and willingly made. 

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 24, 2020

When you love your child too much?



“Stay away from the ones who love too much.
Those are the ones who will kill you.” Donna Tartt

There’s a story from Greek mythology of a mother and son who love each other so much that they’re never apart. They live in the forest and rarely go out, except to the market. One day the son goes off alone and happens to meet a young lady. He falls in love with her but she’s a very jealous person, and demands that the young man love her unconditionally. The son is torn between his love for her and his love for his mother. His lover finally demands, “If you truly love me, you’ll murder your mother and bring me her heart.” The thought at first is abhorrent to the young man, but ultimately he succumbs. While his mother is asleep, he kills her and cuts out her heart and puts it in a sack to bring to his lover. On the way through the forest, he trips on a rock. His mother’s heart falls out of the sack, looks up at the young man and asks, “Did you hurt yourself, my son?”  
  That horrible story illustrates an all too common reality – sometimes parents love their children too much or love them immaturely. Sometimes that love becomes idolatry where it has precedent even over love for God. Apparently, that’s why Abraham was tested (Genesis 22), to see if he loved his son, Isaac, more than he loved God. He powerfully passed that test.
  Fifty years ago, on May 29, 1970 my Mom was taken Home in a tragic car accident. She was 47; I was only ten. My Mom loved the Lord and loved her five children (I’m the youngest). As I look back, while I believe her motives were pure, she loved me too much. While my Dad was a successful businessman, he was also an abuser and prescription drug addict.
  I’m not sure if it was because I was the “baby” or to protect me from my often out of control Dad, but I was spoiled. That changed overnight after she was killed. It was a bit like being taken from America and dropped in China. Love was replaced with what was close to hatred. I could never do anything right as far as my Dad was concerned, BUT my Heavenly Father was in control. While my Mom had great intentions, God had a greater plan. It was very painful for me, yet God used the crucible of pain to burn off my many rough edges. Psalm 27:10 became an anchor for me, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.”
  Over the years I’ve observed parents who by being too “loving,” potentially hurt the future of their child. One situation stands out in my mind where the children were kept in perpetual dependence. Failure to take responsibility was excused. The children, even in early adulthood, were coddled Today both parents are gone and those now-adult children are virtually functional and social invalids.
  Look through the pages of Scripture for yourself. You will not find any person that God greatly used that did not also go through tremendous trials. Joseph, Ruth, Daniel, Esther…to name a few would never have been powerfully used by God if they’d not also suffered. No one becomes a person of character and spiritual maturity without trials and pain.
  Parents want to do the very best for our children – best food, best schools, best sports program, etc. It’s hard for a parent to watch a child suffer or go through difficulty. Yet, continually intervening and taking their emotional temperature is not best for their future and character development. As parents, we must give our children two things: roots and wings.
  As the parents of three now-adult children, it was often very difficult for Jane and me not to swoop in to do a rescue operation. One situation sticks out particularly in my mind where we encouraged our child to persevere for their own growth and good. Words can’t fully express how difficult and even nerve-wracking it was, yet we were seeking to look at the bigger picture and their future. We surrendered our child to our Heavenly Father and trusted that He was in control. Looking back, we’re so glad we did.
  One of the most majestic trees of the Midwest is the oak. It’s the combination of winter’s cold and summer’s warmth, of falling leaves in autumn and budding leaves in spring which makes the mighty oak stand in a storm that takes down many other trees in the forest. But there’s no hurrying of the development of an oak tree. They don’t even start producing acorns until they’re ten years old. It takes time. It takes rugged weather to produce a mighty oak.
  The same is true with godly, mature adult children. It takes storms to produce character. Recently, I saw someone post that during these days they so wished that all of their now-adult children were home, safe with them where they could protect them. But we can’t. Our children must learn to stand alone. Some day they will be raising our grandchildren.
  One of the great tragedies and sources of many of our social problems is that we have parents who while adults chronologically, are stuck in adolescence emotionally. The children suffer because it takes an adult to raise a child.
  Every child will face difficulty. They will fail. They will have cruel individuals come into their lives. They will suffer loss and pain. Yet, instead of attempting to “fix” everything which is impossible, we’d be wiser to help them learn to turn their hearts heavenward in those formative years. Rather than asking how they feel, a better question that will serve them into their future is: What do you believe your Heavenly Father is seeking to teach you through this?
  Too many Christian parents settle for secular standards of success. Our goal must not be to raise good adults but something much more important, godly ones. Children can behave well out of obedience or fear. That doesn’t mean they’ll do what’s best when they venture out on their own. To raise children who become godly adults, we must teach them character and allow God to develop it in their hearts…sometimes through difficulty. As Bible-believers, one of the greatest love gifts that we can give them is to model trusting our Heavenly Father and to teach them to depend on Him today so that they are prepared for 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, May 17, 2020

The Inevitable Cannot Be Denied



“We have a right to believe whatever we want,
but not everything we believe is right.” Ravi Zacharias

One of my heroes is dying. Internationally known speaker and Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, has been battling a rare form of bone cancer since March and was recently informed by doctors that his cancer has spread and there’s nothing more they can do medically. Medically speaking, they have done all that is doable.
  I love his books. On a few occasions, I’ve had the privilege of hearing Ravi speak personally. His Homegoing will be a great loss for the Church.
  One of my favorite of the many anecdotes that he shared was from his book, Can Man Live Without God? He writes:
  “There is a story told, whether factual or not I do not know, of the onetime heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Muhammad Ali, flying to one of his engagements. Ali’s name has never been synonymous with humility, and thus whether this story is fact or fiction, the notoriously yet affectionately branded ‘Louisville Lip’ at least made possible such an anecdote. During the flight the aircraft ran into foul weather, and mild to moderate turbulence began to toss it about. All fliers will know that when a pilot signals ‘moderate turbulence,’ he is implying, ‘if you have any religious beliefs, it is time to start expressing them.’ The passengers were accordingly instructed to fasten their seatbelts immediately. Everyone complied by Ali. Noticing this, the flight attendant approached him and requested that he observe the captain’s order, only to hear Ali audaciously respond, ‘Superman don’t need no seatbelt.’ The flight attendant did not miss a beat and replied, ‘Superman don’t need no airplane either’.”
  But Ravi Zacharias doesn’t need either a seatbelt or an airplane for his next journey. He has something much greater – he has the promises of God. Years ago he committed his life to Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior and he is ready for his ultimate and last journey. Are you?
  One of the current popular lies being batted about is “We can save Grandma.” Please understand, you can’t. I’m not suggesting that seeking to protect our elderly population from potential infection by Covid-19 virus is wrong so that they can live longer is a bad idea. I am though pointing out the inevitable – you can’t protect Grandma or Grandpa or their grandson or granddaughter from our final fate – Death. Death can sometimes be delayed, but it cannot be denied. As the writer of Hebrews penned, “And just as each person is destined to die…” (Hebrews 9:28, NLT).
  Walk through any cemetery and you’ll see this truth. Death is no respecter of persons. It comes for the very old and very young. In four decades of ministry I’ve officiated funerals of those who lived for a few hours to those who were nearly a century old, and everything in between. Death is inevitable. It cannot be escaped.
  Because death is certain for all of us, a wise person is prepared. It’s a journey that eventually all of us will take. If each of us are going to have to take this journey, then it’s essential that we have an accurate roadmap.
  I’m thankful that technology has improved so that we can now have GPS on our phones, though every now and then GPS is wrong. Some years ago Jane and I were looking for a Walmart in a small town. After circling back further and further into a subdivision, we realized that somehow our GPS was completely wrong.
  God’s Word, the Bible, is a certain map guiding us both on how to live and how to die. Sometimes you’ll hear someone question that with, “That’s just your interpretation.” This is why at Grace we do not attempt to interpret the Bible, instead, we seek to understand what God has already written there. We also encourage you that if what you learn in our church is not in the Bible, then hit the delete button and please factcheck us!
  Words have meaning and the Bible is a book full of words that God as the Author wants us to understand. Even the biggest skeptic and “that’s just your interpretation” fanatic looks both ways when crossing Lakeshore Drive in Chicago. Words have meaning.
  This is why we’re committed to working our way through the Bible systematically at Grace, as we’re currently doing with the book of Philippians in our Sunday series, Joy No Matter What. None of us needs one more subjective opinion. We need a certain roadmap. The Bible is that.
  God’s Word is the medicine that encourages and brings healing to our souls. It’s also a mirror that points out flaws that need to be remedied. Our loving God has given us all of the information that we need for this life and the next, because the fact is that none of us are going to get out this world alive. It’s why it’s critical that we have the right roadmap from the One who is already in heaven waiting for us.
  Oftentimes someone will say, “I don’t believe the Bible. It’s full of myths and contradictions.” If someone says that to you, please ask them one vital question, “Have you ever read it?” Sadly, everyone, I’ve ever asked that through the years has always responded, “No.” Usually, I don’t have to connect the dots for them. To reject something that makes such strong and powerful claims without ever checking the evidence for yourself is foolish.
  C. S. Lewis tells of three apprentice devils who were coming to earth to finish their apprenticeship. They were talking to Satan, the chief of the devils, about their plans to tempt people. The first devil said, “I will tell them that there is no God.” Satan responded, “That will not delude many, for they know that there is a God.” The second devil said, “I will tell them that there is no hell.” Satan answered, “You will deceive no one that way; they know that there is a hell.” The third devil said, “I will tell them that there is no hurry.” (Pause) “Go,” said Satan, “and you will ruin them by the thousands.”
  Before you read this, Ravi Zacharias, may be Home with Jesus. He’s ready. He didn’t wait because none of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Are you ready my friend?  

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.