Sunday, September 25, 2022

 

“We are closer to God when we are asking questions 
than when we think we have the answers.”  Abraham Heschel

   Most of us have been there and it’s not a place that we want to be. Back when I was in my early twenties, as jobs were limited in Wisconsin, I headed south and ended up working for a water well drilling company out of Odessa, Texas that supported the oil field. As many of you know, I’ve never been mechanically inclined and tend to have three left hands. 
  We were out on a job and the trailer got a flat tire. As I was the new guy, it fell on me to change the tire. My co-worker, Roy, had retired from the Army and was about as rough as they come. I was handed a hydraulic jack and told to climb under the trailer and jack it up. Big problem – I’d never seen a hydraulic jack before. (It didn’t help that there was a scorpion near where I was supposed to place the jack). As I crawled out from under the trailer, admitting that I had no idea how to work the jack, Roy essentially asked me what planet I had come in from. He seemed to find some warped pleasure in humiliating me.
  Most of us have had a similar experience. We learned early on that it was better to remain quiet, than to ask questions and expose our ignorance and risk humiliation and shaming.
  It’s wrong that our culture discourages asking questions. Being around a child that’s three or four usually means being asked a myriad of questions nearly non-stop. Those tykes have such inquisitive minds and know, it seems instinctively, that the way to find out things is to ask questions.
  Life is full of questions. All of us have them. What am I going to do with my life? What will I be? What’s the right career? Will my kids turn out all right? What will tomorrow bring? Add to that, there are the philosophical ones – which comes first the chicken or the egg? How many angels can fit on the head of a pin? Or the one asked in a philosophy class: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it fall, does it still make a noise?”
  Consider all the places where questions are used as a tool; schools, the legal system, employment tests, and even surveys (to name a few). Questions are an invaluable resource for learning. Yet too often questions are shut down and those who ask them are sometimes shamed that they don’t have the answers. It’s horrible!
  While most of us have an area or two where we feel very confident, many of us feel that we’re in the deep end of the pool when it comes to questions about God and the Bible. If you’ve been attending Grace, even for a short amount of time, hopefully, you’ve picked up that we welcome questions, particularly about God and the Bible. We’ll also freely admit that we don’t have all of the answers. Yet as much as we can we’ll dig into God’s Word with you for the answers.
  Many who attend Grace either didn’t grow up in a church or if they did, studying God’s Word for His answers often wasn’t encouraged. At Grace, we don’t want you to believe something about the Bible just because we say that’s the way that it is. We’re also committed to understanding the Bible, not interpreting it. God gave us His Word so that we would understand it. He wants us to know Him and desires a personal relationship with each of us. The very best way to know God is to read and study the “love letter” that He has given us – the Bible.
  That’s why we’re excited about a new study we’re offering at Grace that begins this coming Thursday, September 29th at 6:00 pm – Christianity Explored. It includes dinner together and it’s an opportunity for us to not only better know God and His Word, but to get to know each other.
  This study will meet every other Thursday for seven sessions. Each one will last two hours or less.
  We all know what it is to walk into a dark room and turn on a light. We’ve then gone from darkness to being “illuminated.” During this study, we’re going to use the Gospel of Mark (the second book in the New Testament) and explore the answers about history’s greatest person, Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Mark is a biography of Jesus. We’re digging into Mark because when we know and understand who Jesus is, the rest of the Bible begins to make sense. You’re going to feel like a great big light bulb has turned on in your mind, and perhaps, another one in your soul.
  Christianity Explored will be your guide on a spiritual journey that will lead you to the answers for some of your deepest spiritual questions. This study is designed to give you answers for some of the common questions that are asked about Jesus and Christianity, yet it’s designed in bite-size chunks. Each study will be from the Bible and will be relevant and easy to understand. It will be very informal with opportunities for you to ask the questions that you have in a safe environment.
  Who Jesus is of absolute importance to every person who has ever lived. The Gospel of Mark provides an accurate account of Jesus’ life. Each study will include a short DVD segment. We’ll work through questions like: Who was Jesus? Why did He come to earth? Why did He have to die? What does “grace” mean? What about His resurrection? and What is a Christian?
  Most of our questions about God have a common element that’s illustrated by the following story:
  “A college sophomore tried to prove how smart he was one day by asking his professor the following question, “Is the bird I’m holding dead or alive?” If the professor said the bird was dead, the boy was going to free the bird and let it fly away, but if the professor said that the bird was alive, the boy was going to crush the bird. The professor wisely looked at the young man and said, “My boy, the answer is in your hands.”
  Our answers about God and Jesus Christ are in our hands. He has given us the Bible so that the most vital questions that need to be answered could be. 
  If you’re wondering about the Bible and who Jesus is, I hope that you’ll sign up for this study. Because we want it to be a quality interactive study, our space is limited. If you want to join us, please sign-up on your Connection Card or contact the church office.
  I’m so excited about this study! It’s going to be great!

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.  

  

Monday, September 19, 2022

Grace Church Youth Ministries

“If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry 
to reaching children for God!”   D.L. Moody

  Some years ago someone gave us what was little more than a limb of a Corkscrew Weeping Willow. At first, as it began to grow, I was careful to protect it and keep it growing straight, but it got away from me. Before I knew it we had a small tree that was tilting. If I had only directed it when it was much younger, it might be growing straight today. 
  That can be true with young people. Children and teens are setting patterns that often follow them into adulthood. As adults, we’re responsible for our choices. The time though to direct young lives is when they’re not yet set in their ways and so much more moldable.
  The young people in our church are our church’s future. They’re our investment in Christ’s Kingdom for tomorrow. This is why we’re making some adjustments in our youth ministries. At Grace we’re committed to investing in tomorrow today.  
  First, to make it more convenient for parents so that they don’t feel like they’re out another night or driving a “taxi cab,” we’re putting our midweek children’s and teen ministries on the same evening.
  AMPED, our biblically based children’s program is designed for those in 4-K through 5th grade. AMPED will now meet every Wednesday from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm. Besides games, snacks and prizes, there are two vital ingredients in AMPED that we believe are vital for their spiritual future.
  Bible Memory. Amped has lots of things going for it – Bible lessons, games, crafts, snacks, etc. Yet one of its most important aspects is memorizing Scripture. Psalms 119:11 says, “I have stored up Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He didn’t fight the devil off with His divine power. Jesus beat back Satan’s attack with memorized Scripture. Amazingly, every verse our Lord used was memorized from the book of Deuteronomy.
  Everyone knows that children have amazing memories and memorize easily. In fact, they often memorize effortlessly. Since memorization is so easy for them, they’re memorizing constantly. At Amped we want to utilize this God-given gift for the benefit of their spiritual growth.
  Studies show that this “window of opportunity” is open for about twelve years. After age twelve, memorization is harder — unless a child has been trained in the habit of memorization.
  Yet, what is learned in childhood is often retained for a lifetime. Memorizing God’s Word provides children with an ever-present counselor and protector. You and I can’t always be with our children. If the Bible is hidden in their hearts, they have divine wisdom with them at all times. God’s Word is much more powerful than our words. It can protect them from the attack of the enemy.
  GRACE STUDENT MINISTRIES (GSM). There are many good youth programs out there and we are thankful for how God uses them. At Grace, we are committed to…
  Biblical Truth. We have our teens for such a short time. After they enter adulthood the statistics are disheartening for how many of them drop out of the church, and sometimes never to return again. Then, they’re bombarded nearly 24/7 with anti-biblical messages. Usually, there are just three places where they are going to learn God’s truth from Scripture (your home), personal Bible study/devotions, and the local church.
  A good teen program isn’t going to succeed with teens if it’s another “classroom.” God’s truth shouldn’t be boring. They need the opportunity to be teens. They need socialization and freedom from screens. They need a safe place with no peer pressure and certainly no bullying.
  They need to be taught how to work through the Bible for themselves. They need to be taught how to feed themselves from God’s Word, not spoon fed. They need to be taught to ask the right questions and to know for themselves how to find the right answers, not be indoctrinated. God wants all of us to think and be wise. Wisdom is found in His Word!
  Community. All Christians, including teens, are called to live in a community with God's people. All Christians are called to serve other members of God's people, to love them, to be held accountable by them, to be taught by them. Teens desperately need that! If they do not have a circle of friends with the same values, if they don't have the freedom to participate in that community, it can be detrimental to their faith and spiritual future.
  Read the New Testament. It never teaches “Jesus and me.” It consistently teaches Jesus and us. It teaches community and multi-generationalism.
  From the Garden to eternity in heaven, God’s plan for us is community. In a culture of screens, young people are often isolated. They don’t know how to engage and interact with fellow teens. And asking them to interact and have Christian adult friends is like asking them to visit Mars.  
  Because teens often fail to develop adult friends during those critical years, once they’re post-youth group, they abandon the church because all of their friends are in the youth group. Young people need older adult friends who love them, pray for them, encourage them and mentor them. It doesn’t just happen at a midweek teen program.
  Standing Alone. Over and over again you will find that those who God uses have learned to depend on Him to stand alone from Joseph in Genesis, to David, to Esther, and even to Mary the mother of Jesus. All of us know what it is to face cultural peer pressure in today’s world. If our young people are not taught to have their own convictions and to stand alone, they will just be more tragic statistics of a culture gone mad.
  A youth program is only as successful as its ability to help young people know Jesus Christ personally. When young people realize they can have a personal relationship with God, it gives them a purpose by recognizing that their existence is part of His bigger plan.
  At Grace we’re committed to partnering with you as their parents in both Amped and GSM. We want to encourage you and come alongside you in helping your children transition into a healthy adult spiritual life, one that pleases God. If they learn to live for the Lord now during these formative years, it will help them live for the Lord when they’re independent adults.  

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

 

 

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Run Well, End Well!

 

“Faith-healing is grand, but faith-enduring is grander.”    Charles Spurgeon 

  In 1983, Australia hosted its ultramarathon, a 573.7 mile foot race from Sydney to Melbourne. It’s a race that takes days to run, and professionals from all over the world came to participate. Shortly before the race began, a 61-year-old sheep herder named Cliff Young, wearing overalls and goulashes over his boots—walked up to the registration table and requested a number to enter the race. The folk at the registration table thought it was a joke—that somebody was setting them up—so they laughed. 
  But Cliff Young said, “No, I’d really like to run.” Well, people still thought it was a joke, but they gave him a number anyway and pinned it on his old overalls.  He walked over to the start of the race. All the other professional runners, who were decked out in all their running regalia, looked at him like he was crazy.  The crowd snickered. People began to laugh. They laughed even more when the gun went off and the race began, because all those professional runners with sculpted bodies and beautiful strides made their way out—and began to run, but not Cliff Young. He didn’t even run like a runner. Cliff Young ran with an awkward, goofy-looking shuffle.  All through the crowd people were laughing, and finally, someone called out, “Get that old fool off the track!”
  Well, five days, 14 hours, and four minutes later, at 1:25 in the morning, Cliff Young shuffled across the finish line of the 573.7-mile ultramarathon. Cliff Young had won the race! And he didn’t win by a nose, with the guy in second right on his heels. He didn’t win by a matter of minutes or even an hour or two. The second-place runner was nine hours and 56 minutes behind. He had set a new world record for the ultramarathon. It was unbelievable. He became an instant hero in Australia. The press mobbed him wondering what kind of special running shoes he must have had, and they rummaged through his backpack wondering what he’d survived on. They discovered he’d lived primarily on pumpkin seeds and water. But that wasn’t the secret of his victory.  You see nobody ever told Cliff Young that when you run in the ultramarathon, you run for 18 hours straight, and then you stop and sleep for three or four hours. So Cliff Young shuffled his way to victory without ever sleeping. He endured running five days, 14 hours, and four minutes non-stop at the age of 61.
  That’s how Christians run. We’re empowered by Jesus Who lives in us we run with endurance always keeping our eye on the goal. We never stop pursuing that goal. We persevere. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.”
  If you’re not facing struggles, you will. In this sin-contaminated world, all of us face some tough problems. Some of you are struggling financially because you need a job. Others are struggling because there is great pressure at their job. Some are struggling in their marriage or with their children. Others are grieving. Some struggle with emotional issues. For these and many other reasons you may feel like your strength is flagging—you feel like giving up. DON’T. Remember—Jesus didn’t quit. Keep His example always in mind. Ask for His help—but keep running—keep enduring—keep pursuing the goal of becoming more like Jesus.
  Are you a quitter? A quitter gives up when things are hard or uncomfortable. A quitter gets discouraged thinking a job will never be finished. Instead of quitting, God wants you to persevere. But persevering means to keep going through a hard time without giving up.
  The Bible tells of so many like Noah or Moses or Ruth and Esther…and countless others who faced fear and discouragement, but they persevered. There will be hard times in your life when you'll be tempted to quit. You might feel sorry for yourself and think it's just too hard to be a Christian, but God can give you perseverance. God has wonderful plans for you. He just wants you to trust Him as He works them out in your life. Don't get discouraged. Don't be a quitter. Keep on keeping on! God says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest [be rewarded] if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). 
  The Christian life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. How many of you have ever run a marathon or a half-marathon? You know the importance of pacing yourself so you can finish the race. The history of the marathon comes from the legend of how a Greek soldier, Pheidippides ran about 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians. After making that long run, he was so exhausted he fell over dead.
  The key to finishing well is having the right focus. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
  That term “fix our eyes on Jesus” means that we stare intently at Him. A good runner always keeps his or her eyes on the finish line. They don’t turn to look at the other runners or they can lose precious time. Another reason I believe those witnesses cheering us on aren’t looking at us is because I believe they are also looking at Jesus. It’s important to understand that we aren’t running for the applause of those in the grandstands. We are running for the approval and the applause of only One, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are cheering us on, but we have eyes only for Jesus. You can’t run this race without His strength. As you run, keep chanting, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”
  There’s an old Steve Green song that says: “We’re pilgrims on the journey of the narrow road; And those who’ve gone before us line the way; Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary; Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace. Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses; Let us run the race not only for the prize; But as those who’ve gone before us; Let us leave to those behind us; The heritage of faithfulness; Passed on through godly lives. Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful; May the fire of our devotion light their way; May the footprints that we leave; Lead them to believe and the lives we live inspire them to obey; Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful!”


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

 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

I love my job?

                                                                            S. Truett Cathy

  Chick-fil-A is my favorite fast food restaurant. It has been nearly all of my life. If you Google their history, you’ll find that the first Chick-fil-A was opened at Greenbriar Shopping Mall in Atlanta, which was less than four miles from my home. It was the go-to place when I was a kid. I’d even ride my bike to the mall to meet friends and eat at Chick-fil-A. 
  Truett Cathy was the founder of Chick-fil-A. He was widely known as a godly man of character. Like begets like. That’s why this story about Truett’s son, Dan Cathy, didn’t surprise me. Pastor Rick Warren shared about a trip he made with Dan, the President of Chick-fil-A. Warren shared that they’d been out visiting some ministry sites. When it became lunchtime, they stopped at a Taco Bell. But before eating they freshened up in the men’s room. Rick Warren said that before they left the bathroom, Cathy took down extra paper towels and cleaned the sinks! Warren acknowledged the powerful impression that left. The President of a massive fast food chain quietly cleaning the bathroom of a competitor. “We teach our staff to try to leave every situation they encounter better than they found it.” Dan Cathy walks the talk. He learned it from his Dad.
  I love reading leadership autobiographies, often about someone who started a business or company. Yet, you’ll often find a sad chapter in these histories of business leaders about halfway through the book. Too often you’ll come to a section where the author says something like “about this time I went through my first divorce.” If you’re familiar with successful business leaders, it’s common. It seems many successful leaders make a choice – to focus on their marriage or to focus on their business. In nearly every situation where the marriage failed, it was because it couldn’t compete with the business.
  What an example Truett Cathy was! Not only was he able to build a remarkable business, but he also kept his marriage healthy and raised a family that loved Jesus. It’s inspiring to me when the positive values of the business match the positive values of the person.
  Yet, Truett Cathy didn’t have an individualistic faith. He believed in the importance of community and the local church. He was a member of the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Georgia and taught a boys’ Sunday School class there for more than 50 years. He said that the Bible was his guidebook for life. Because of his strong religious beliefs, all of Chick-fil-A’s locations, whether company-owned or franchised, are closed on Sundays to allow its employees to attend church and to spend time with their families. The policy began when Truett was working six days a week and multiple shifts. He decided to close on Sundays.
  I saw this firsthand. His daughter, Trudy Cathy-White, is a few years older than I am and was a cheerleader at the high school I attended during my freshman and sophomore years. Like her father, Trudy, is a beloved leader, communicator, and entrepreneur. When she was just 19 years old, she began working for the family business and became an operator of a new Chick-fil-A restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama - making her the youngest Operator at that time. Though she’d just finished her freshman year at Samford University, Truett believed in his daughter and handed her the keys. She took a year off from school to run the restaurant and, in that time, hired fellow Samford student, John White. “When he came in, I knew I needed to hire him. It didn’t hurt that he was good-looking,” Trudy laughs. They’ve been together ever since.
  Throughout their marriage, Trudy and John White have actively sought opportunities to connect with and invest in others’ lives. They served for 20 years in missions. For ten of those years, they served as missionaries in Brazil.  “When I think back on my time as an international missionary,” Trudy explains, “I remember these words my Dad said to me: ‘If you help enough other people get what they want in life you’ll eventually get what you want out of life.’ Today, I know that true happiness is less about me and more about others. That's what brings me real joy.”
  Most of us spend 40+ hours a week in the workplace. One of our greatest places of influence and opportunity to serve Jesus is at work. A lost world desperately needs Christians who don’t hide their faith, who don’t just talk about their faith – they actually live out their faith. There are many biblical truths that we could highlight about the workplace, let me focus on one.
  Be excited about your job. Last year the church office received a call from an area employer. They mentioned the person’s name and then said,  “__________ is such a great employee. We’re looking to hire and wondered if your church had more individuals like this.” That individual was truly living out what it means to be a Christ-follower at work!
  Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.” As Christians, while we have employers who sign our paychecks, we must remember that we have a higher reporting chain. Higher than our boss is the One we must work heartily for—the Lord. While our boss might decide our salary, the Lord is capable of giving us a much greater reward.
  What does that look like in practice? Well, here’s something that will please both the Lord and your employer. When people are standing around grumbling about the boss, management, and so on, do your work! Instead of joining in the pity party, do your job.
  In your work, always keep this in mind – Jesus never took the easy way out. He was God manifest in the flesh, and still worked as a carpenter for decades. Jesus never cut corners, produced shoddy output, or complained about the people He worked for. Furthermore, He didn’t miraculously turn wood into structures—He did the work with His own two hands!  
  If you’re going to have a Christ-honoring testimony in the workplace, your work ethic absolutely matters. Your co-workers, managers, peers, and subordinates will take notice. If you’re a Christian, you’d better believe that folks are taking notes! Yet, far more important than the note-takers, your Heavenly Father will take notice. He’s taking notes, too, and the stakes are much higher! Give Him the place and honor He deserves, and serve Him as you serve others on the job. And now it’s time for some waffle fries. Writing this made me hungry!

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, August 28, 2022

No Bullies

 

Another school year is starting. For many students, it can be very exciting and challenging. For others, it can be filled with anxiety and trepidation. Many of us remember the cruelty of fellow students. I know that I do. Yet, every student can make a difference for good in another student’s life as the following story illustrates. 
  At the end of last year, a 12-year-old Colorado student left school heartbroken after going home with an unsigned yearbook. Brody Ridder struggled to make friends all year at school. He was bullied, teased…you name it, it's happened to him. Brody tried to put himself out there to make friends. He’d get kids' phone numbers to try to text them, but they’d never respond to him. Or they'd say, “I don't want to talk to you.”
  At the end of May, students were given their yearbooks. While many students went home with signatures and kind notes, Brody’s yearbook remained virtually empty. When he got home, he became emotional and started to tear up, his mom shared. His classmates told him that they were too busy and that he wasn't important. And then, when she looked through the book, she recalled seeing two names. There were no notes beside them, either, she said. But that's not all. “I saw that Brody had signed it himself. And he wrote: ‘I hope you make some friends,’ It really broke my heart.”
  His Mom, Cassandra, shared her son’s heartbreak on social media and then it went viral. Brody began getting an overwhelming number of encouraging notes from people around the world. Individuals from all walks of life wrote him letters, reassuring him that he isn't the only one who’s struggled with bullying. Over the course of several weeks, hundreds of letters written in various languages filled the Ridders’ mailbox. People not only offered advice and words of encouragement. They shared their own personal experiences with bullying. They came from all ages. One was from a 3-year-old who told his mom what to write. But wait, there’s more.
  Several parents from Brody’s school messaged her. They asked her what class Brody was in, so their kids could stop by and say hello on the last day of school. Before Brody left for the last day of school, Cassandra reminded him that "Ridders aren’t quitters" and handed him his yearbook. On May 24th, during the school's end-of-year celebration, dozens of students from other grades lined up to sign this young man’s yearbook and send him off with warm messages for the summer. But wait, there’s more.
  Somehow actor, Paul Rudd of Ant-Man fame heard of Brody’s plight and sent the 12-year-old a gift. At the time of the article Brody had already gotten at least 600 letters, and they were still coming. His Mom said, “I cry with the majority of them I read because these people are just…they relate. They've been through it, too.” She plans to make a book out of all the letters one day so whenever Brody is having a tough day, he can pull out it out for some encouragement. And when in doubt, he also has Ant-Man’s personal phone number too. 
  For many students, bullying is an everyday issue that they have to deal with at school. According to the American Medical Association, by the time students finish school, nearly half of students have been bullied at one point or another.
  What is bullying? People usually know what bullying is when they see it, but sometimes it’s hard to put it into words. Researchers who study bullying cite three common characteristics of what makes an act bullying: It’s intentional and tries to cause harm or distress to the victim. It occurs between two students who have different degrees of power. It happens repeatedly over a period of time.
  In a sin-contaminated world bullying is a sad reality. Yet, Christians are to be the difference makers in this depraved world. We need to model and then encourage our children to be difference makers.
  Cruelty and bullying will continue and even increase if Christian students are more concerned about being accepted or popular than doing what is right and pleasing the Lord. Fear and apathy are fertile soil for meanness. Jesus has called us to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).
  But what if your child is the one being bullied? First, realize that there are no accidents with God and He has allowed this to happen. On some level, many of the heroes in Scripture were bullied from Joseph to David, even the Lord Jesus. God uses uncomfortable and even suffering for our good. Joseph would never have been the man of God he became apart from his terrible suffering. Every child needs to learn to persevere even in difficulty. They also need to learn to stand up for themselves. These are life skills and character traits that they will need for the rest of their lives.
  Then, ask questions. Choose to respond biblically and wisely. Sometimes a child (or a parent) is overly sensitive. Sometimes the child is part of the problem. They are giving it out and are surprised when they are receiving return fire, even to a greater extent than they gave out.
  If you need to, do some research. Pray for wisdom and then inquire with those in authority over your child (a teacher or coach) for their perspective. Attempt to problem-solve. Yet, if you need to, depending on the situation move your child to a different class or team. Most schools and teachers do much better at stopping bullying than in the past.
  Encourage your child to be a Good Samaritan.” Luke 10:25-37 has Jesus’ wonderful story of what it means to love your neighbor, even at risk. Your child is going to see other children being bullied. Just as you as an adult would, encourage them to reach out to those being bullied. One of the best ways they can do this is to befriend them and invite them to hang out with them. It’s an opportunity to be Jesus by making someone else feel loved, accepted, and less alone. It also acts as a deterrent to bullying. Bullies are much less likely to pick on someone if they are in a group of friends than if they’re alone. Another helpful thing they can do is comfort and encourage them. Even little things like spending time with them and including them make a much bigger difference than any of us realize.
  In a cruel world walk through the life of Jesus with your child and note how many times Jesus reached out to the ones that others rejected like Zacchaeus or the woman at the well. While we can’t solve all of the world’s problems, we can all make a difference in our own world. It’s what the Lord has called us to do. Determine to make a difference in the life of the next Brody Ridder.
 

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, August 21, 2022

In a world of lies, We must be people of truth

 


“A lie is a snowball; the further you roll it, the bigger it becomes.” Martin Luther

   It was like a real-life scene out of George Orwell’s classic, 1984. The Department of Homeland Security launched a new initiative called the Disinformation Governance Board. This board's stated function was to protect national security by combating “misinformation, malinformation, and disinformation.” It’s not enough that Facebook tells us what’s true and untrue, now we’re to trust the government to do that because we all know politicians and the government never lie. 
  Just during the last century, Joseph Goebbels headed the Nazi propaganda effort. He’s credited with coining the term “The Big Lie” which means that if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it’s true. 
  Japan blasted propaganda at American forces through several women called “Tokyo Rose.” Their messages were aimed at demoralizing troops by claiming they were losing the war. Most soldiers who listened on their radios treated it as entertainment. 
  Stalin employed newspapers, Pravda and Izvestia, and TV “news” shows to lie to his citizens. He and his successors used jamming devices to block signals from Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Liberty. Soviet leaders didn’t want the truth to reach Russian ears.
  But why would anyone believe the U.S. government—or any government—could be an arbiter of what is true and what is false? A brief trip down recent memory lane should dispel such misplaced faith.
  Eisenhower lied about U-2 flights over Russia. Kennedy lied about a “missile gap” between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident that got us more deeply into Vietnam. Nixon lied about Watergate. Reagan lied about aid to the Contras in Nicaragua. George H.W. Bush lied about not raising taxes. Clinton lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Obama lied when he said, “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.” The Washington Post calculated Trump made more than 30,000 false or misleading claims over four years! They can’t all be “fake news.” And now we have President Biden, who lies about how well the economy is doing and whose Secretary of Homeland Security lies about the southern border being secure.
  While government and unbelievers may be able to rationalize lying, Christ-followers cannot. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 8:44). The 9th commandment is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
  Because our Lord is the God of truth, a command that saturates Scripture is that Christ-followers are to be committed to truth. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25). “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” (Col. 3:9). Yet, lying is so enticing and tempting. Here are the spheres in which we most commonly lie.
  We lie to ourselves. It goes all the way back to the Garden. Rather than taking personal responsibility Adam lied and blamed both God and Eve. Eve blamed the serpent…and self-deception was born.
  Some become very good at lying to themselves. In fact, there is no one who is better at deceiving you than you. It often begins by convincing ourselves that we’re victims. We wouldn’t do ____ if we’d had better parents, or a better environment. A lost world and much of pop psychology have taught us to live in a state of perpetual victimhood because if we’re victims, then we’re not responsible, yet the Bible teaches personal responsibility (Romans 14:12).
  Self-deception becomes part of our daily dialogue with simple statements like, “I’m irritable because I had bad a day at work.” That’s a lie.
  First, it means that temptation is irresistible. Second, it means that God’s grace is not sufficient. Third, it means our behavioral choices are uncontrollable when we encounter adversarial circumstances.
  We lie to our spouses. Foundational to a healthy marriage is trust. There cannot be trust if there is not honesty. If you’re mate believes that they need a “fact-checker,” your marriage is in trouble.
  We’re most tempted to lie when we’re afraid. For example, a wife may lie about how much money she spent or how she truly feels because she fears her husband’s reaction. Husbands may lie about sexual temptation or to avoid conflict.
  While it is acceptable to ask for time to process and share the truth, there is never an excuse for lying. For example, when someone just gets home from work and is tired, that’s not usually a good time for a candid conversation but that conversation still needs to happen.
  We lie to our children. It’s not a sin to not tell everything that you know yet it is always a sin to lie. For example, a parent with a child facing surgery doesn’t have to go into all of the details of what the surgery will entail or the pain that comes with recovery.
  There are times that we withhold truth from our children because of their age. Corrie ten Boom shares a wonderful story of how her father handled the sex questions that illustrates this.
  “So the line had stuck in my head. “Sex,” I was pretty sure, meant whether you were a boy or girl, and “sin” made Tante Jans very angry, but what the two together meant I could not imagine. And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sex sin?” He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor. “Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning. “It’s too heavy,” I said. “Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.” Too often by being “honest,” we ask children to carry loads far too heavy for them.
  While the government may get away with a “department of disinformation,” Christ-followers must be committed to truth. Are we those others can trust? Are we honest in all of our dealings? Does our walk match our talk? Do we keep our promises? Are we those whose word is our bond? It’s what God has called us to be. Will you be that person?

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. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

We Are Family!


 “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

 What are some of the memorable movies that you remember from childhood? A few that I will never forget were The Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, Old Yeller and Brian’s Song. 
  If you’ve never seen it, Brian’s Song is based on the true story of a wonderful and what was then a nearly unheard of deep friendship between Chicago Bears running backs, Gale Sayers, who was black, and his fellow running back, Brian Piccolo, who was white.
  These two men met at pre-season training camp. During practice, Piccolo struggles while Sayers shines. Eventually, the two are placed as roommates, a rarity during the racial strife of the era. Sayers encourages Piccolo who is scared he didn't make the team, “if you didn't make the team, we wouldn't be placed together as roommates.”  
  Their friendship flourishes, both in football and in life, quickly extending to their wives, Joy Piccolo and Linda Sayers. Sayers quickly becomes a standout player but injures his knee in a game against the San Francisco 49ers. To aid in Sayers’s recovery, Piccolo brings a weight machine to his house. In Sayers’ place, Piccolo rushes for 160 yards in a 17–16 win over the Los Angeles Rams and is given the game ball. Ultimately, Piccolo wins the starting fullback position, meaning both he and Sayers will now be on the field together. Both men continue to excel in their roles.
  But then Piccolo unexplainably begins to lose weight and his performance declines. He’s sent to a hospital to determine the cause. The diagnosis reveals that he has cancer and must have part of a lung removed. In an emotional speech to his teammates, Sayers states that they will win the game for Piccolo and give him the game ball. When the Bears’ players later visit the hospital, Piccolo teases them about losing the game, laughing that the line in the old movie wasn’t, “Let’s blow one for the Gipper.”
  Tragically, Brian Piccolo’s cancer continues to grow and he must have another surgery. After Gale Sayers is awarded the “George S. Halas Most Courageous Player Award,” he dedicates his award to Piccolo, telling the crowd that they had selected the wrong person for the prize and saying, “I love Brian Piccolo, and I'd like all of you to love him, too. And tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.”
  Brian Piccolo succumbed to cancer at age 26. He’s remembered, not for how he died, but for how he lived. This friendship that crossed racial lines is a model for us all. Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, though from different races, were closer than brothers. Their bond was football.
  You and I as Christ-followers have a much greater bond than football. We’re blood brothers and sisters because of Christ’s cross. Christ-followers have more in common with other believers than any other human bond, even that of family if our relatives are not believers.
  Our bond begins in that we all have the same problem – sin, yet all have the same Savior. Because of the cross, we will be united for all eternity. As heaven’s choir sang of Jesus, “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). God wants unity and sacrifices His Son to heal human hatred and division.  
  Racism is a sin against God. The Bible tells us that we’re all Imago Dei, “made in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27). Pastor John Piper offers this definition of racism: “Racism is an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races.” Thus, racism is a sin whether it’s white toward black, or black toward white, Asian toward black, etc.
  Growing up in Atlanta I thought racism was a black-and-white problem. I was shocked when I worked in West Texas to learn that racism poisoned relationships between whites and Hispanics. While in Taiwan I learned that racism poisoned relationships between Taiwanese and immigrant Malaysians. Racism is a rampant cancer that permeates humanity.
  The only hope for conquering racism is the cross and the Church of Jesus Christ. Laws, education, government programs…the list is endless None of these can change sinful hearts to bring about repentance from racism or produce racial unity. Only redemption can bring about heart change so we obey God’s commands to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Jesus said that loving God is the greatest commandment, but then He said that the commandment to love your neighbor is like the first one.
  Jesus connected the command to love God and love your neighbor. One of the main ways that we demonstrate our love for God is by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40). Jesus went on to illustrate this love with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). We’re never to limit the idea of a neighbor only to people like us. We are to love all others without discrimination or prejudice. Everyone is my neighbor.
  Loving your neighbor whatever race they are from can begin with something as simple as a conversation, seeing life from their perspective, and truly seeing those around you. These conversations don’t have to be complicated. They can be as simple as inviting someone to lunch. Pursuing racial unity isn’t about diversity, it’s about loving others the way that Jesus loves them.
   Because Jesus died for all, racism is a sin against the gospel. The book of Romans tells us that we’re united not only by creation but also by the fact that we’re all sinners. But just as we’re all sinners, Jesus died for everyone. 1 John 2:2 says of Jesus: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Racism is a sin against the gospel because Jesus died for all.  
  Racism is a sin against the gospel because Jesus died to make us one. Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Colossians 3:11, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” These two New Testament verses were absolutely staggering in that day. Greeks and Jews were divided by ethnicity, religion, and culture. The reference to barbarians and Scythians refers to how cultured Romans and Greeks viewed anyone whose speech, manners or habits were foreign and to them uncouth and unrefined. Slave and free is a reference to the deepest divisions of class. Wonderfully, by God’s grace, family and unity, are the terms that replace these divisions.
  Today we’re privileged to have in our pulpit my friend and brother in Christ, Pastor Brian Kenner. To paraphrase, Gale Sayers, “I love Brian Kenner and I’m so glad that God loves both of us and gave Jesus for us.” I’m confident that my brother, Brian, will be a blessing to you 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.