Sunday, June 16, 2019

Men to Mimic



“My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived
and let me watch him do it.” Clarence Budington Kelland

Where are the role models? Where does a boy or young man turn to learn to be a man today? Where do you look to learn what it means to be a husband, father or even a grandfather? Who’s your example on what it means to be an employee, neighbor, friend or Christian?
  We need role models. Every man needs to ask himself: Who is my role model and why? There are many potential “role models” out there. Yet, who is truly worthy of emulating? For the most part, not sports stars, movie stars or business leaders. A cursory examination of their lives quickly reveals that though they seem to have it all, they lack that which has true significance. Too many have a long history of broken relationships and lack character. Young men often will idolize their father. With the breakdown of the home, that can be a recipe for future disaster. Do they want to be like a father who failed at being a husband and father? So, where can we turn?
  God’s Word commands the local church to choose godly men as leaders, (1 Timothy 3:1-13). It’s noteworthy that what the world values is not on God’s list for what the church is to value. Essentially, it’s an anti-world checklist. At Grace we’re very blessed with godly men who serve as Deacons and as our Seniors Citizens Pastor. They’re not perfect. They, too, are sinners saved by grace, yet they love the Lord and seek to follow Him. So, if you’re looking for a role model, you don’t have to look very far.
  Travis Brinks. You don’t have to be around Travis long to discover that Travis deeply loves two people – his wife, Amy, and his daughter, Eva. Though a young man, Travis has maturity beyond his years. Serious, yet he doesn’t take life too seriously. He’s one of the most even tempered men that I’ve ever met. He also has a deeply tender side and loves people. He has a sharp mind, yet Travis has something much greater than intellect. He has wisdom. He’s willing to step out on faith and take risks, even with people, yet is never foolhardy. Compassion is one of his greatest strengths.
  Bruce Ranke. I’ve met few leaders over the years who wear the coat of humility as well as Bruce. It’d embarrass him for someone to suggest he’s humble, but he is. Continually, self-abasing yet gifted and talented. Bruce has a very rare gift in our sports obsessed culture – he’s an athlete and avid competitor, yet at the end of the day, he knows that “it’s only a game.” He has a dry wit that sneaks up on you, yet doesn’t take life too seriously. Maybe it’s from growing up on a farm, I’m not sure. Bruce won’t settle for the status quo or “pat answers.” One of his greatest values on our leadership team is his willingness to think outside of the box and ask the hard questions. He’s committed to his wife, Debbie, and their three, now adult sons, parents and grandchildren. There’s a tenderness that always touches my heart as I watch him interact with his granddaughter. He’s a godly man who is both tough and tender.
  Ron Strelow. If you look up the word “dependable” in the dictionary, you might find Ron’s picture. Not flashy, yet steady. Ron never wants to be a bother, yet seemingly is never bothered at being “bothered.” Like our other leaders, Ron is known for his kindness. Ron is able to step back, be objective and biblically problem-solve. On Sundays it’s often Ron who initiates praying for the worship service. No fanfare, yet he knows that this is God’s work and needs His empowerment and blessing. Gentle spirited enough to minister to children yet strong enough to stand for biblical convictions and worldview. Ron has the gift of listening, a gift that’s increasingly rare.  
  Ray Ziebell. If you walk through the doors at Grace and Ray doesn’t introduce himself, it’s because he was out of town. Ray was the first leader that I met when I came to Grace in 1988 and has been my friend and partner in ministry for some 31 years. Ray has many gifts and passions, yet his one consuming passion is that he wants to share with others that Jesus died for their sins, they too can be forgiven and go to heaven. Another humble man, Ray is quick to admit his failings and shortcomings, even if he’s the only one who sees them. He’s toughest on himself. Nearly insatiably curious about the wonder of creation, his passion for what God is doing is wonderfully infectious. He’s a friend to the friendless and filled with incredible Christlike optimism. Nearly sixty years ago, Ray received God’s generous grace and like his Lord is generous with his life.
  Gary Thompson. They say that “still waters run deep.” That’s Pastor Gary Thompson. His two primary loves in his life that he never stops talking about are Jesus Christ and his wife, Nancy. Though quiet and non-assuming, he’s a man of great discernment. God has already used him at Grace to touch the lives of our older saints. They’ve quickly found in Pastor Gary a man that befriends others and cares for them easily. He has deep faith, is willing to ask questions and graciously disagree without being disagreeable. We were blessed when Gary and Nancy walked through our doors and doubly blessed when Gary agreed to join our ministry team.
  Great men, true heroes whose lives count for eternity, are rarely found in a sports arena or under the glare of stage lights. They’re not often found in the halls of Wall Street or the corridors of Congress. Those men and their “accomplishments are truly here today and gone tomorrow.” As the Psalmist said, they’re like “grass…in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.” The men our world honors often only have gifts for this short, vaporous life.
  You have to look for them, but God continues to raise up men of character and godliness for His Kingdom. Men whose examples we all would do well to emulate, they live for eternity. They are in a constant personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
  All of us follow someone. Who are you following? Rubbing shoulders with you week after week at Grace are men who are godly examples of what it means to be a man who has a heart for Jesus and pleases His Lord.

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 9, 2019

The Abortion Debate: A little more light & a little less heat



“Our reproductive rights are being erased. Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy. JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back. I’m calling for a #SexStrike. Pass it on.” Alyssa Milano

With the conservative bent on the current U.S. Supreme Court, there’s been a barrage of legislative action related to abortion on the part of the States. States like New York seek to protect their “abortion rights.” Others like Georgia, with their new stricter laws prohibiting abortion, hope a lawsuit will make its way to the Supreme Court to see Roe v. Wade re-addressed and even overturned. In the midst of this political maneuvering, there’s often been more heat than light from both sides of the moral debate.
  Yes, Alyssa Milano actually did tweet that. Unbeknownst to her, she was suggesting exactly what those who hold a biblical worldview believe and is the solution for abortion – abstinence. The Bible teaches that sex outside of marriage violates God’s standard for sexual morality. Let’s not forget that single professional football star, Tim Tebow, was ridiculed for committing to his own personal “sex strike” until marriage. The rationale of those opposed to abstinence is that we’re little more than animals with no hope of restraining ourselves and must succumb to our more carnal urges.
  There’s also blatant hypocrisy on the part of those who promise to boycott states like Georgia which have passed new pro-life laws. Here are just a few examples: Sophie Turner won’t film in Georgia, but she filmed Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland which bans abortion. Mark Hamill and Natalie Portman have both said that they’ll no longer work in Georgia, yet both filmed Star Wars in Tunisia, where it’s illegal to be gay. Tunisia has arrested people for just appearing to be gay.
  The most imprudent protest against new pro-life legislation has been from Disney. Yet, Disney has been filming in Bolivia, where abortion is illegal, Croatia, where abortion is illegal after 11 weeks and the UAE where abortion is illegal and being gay is illegal. Disney has no problem filming in any of these locations, yet suddenly Georgia is the enemy. It doesn’t take a genie to see that this is a big marketing blunder. How can one promote themselves as a “family place,” yet support what exterminates their customer base – families? In light of Disney’s defense of  “reproductive choice,” can we expect them to shut down production in China, including the shuttering of their theme parks on Chinese soil? China has draconian anti-LGBT discrimination and one of the worst records for human rights abuse. If Disney truly cares about human rights, how can they do business in a country with nearly Nazi-like laws against their own citizens?
  Moral ineptitudes make strange bedfellows. The spirit of Margaret Sanger still lives. White Supremacists also oppose the new anti-abortion laws. Why? “Only reason Blacks here in the US have only grown by a few percent each year is because of Planned Parenthood and abortion.”
  Apart from the moral issues, the pro-choice position is fiscally naïve. Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with her obsession with climate change suggests that young people should seriously consider even having children. No one seems to see the end result of such fuzzy thinking: “Who will pay the bills?” Americans and politicians are insatiable for more government programs, but there’s no free lunch. When was the last time you heard of a budget cut being proposed, much less passed?
  A few weeks ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report, concluding that the U.S. is in an official baby bust. It’s been declining for four straight years, but last year the number of babies born in this country fell to a 32-year low. There’s a term called the “replacement level” when you’re talking about fertility. To maintain our current population a woman needs to have 2.1 children, but we’ve been below that level since the early 1970s. Some outcomes of our population decrease will be greater labor shortages and school closings. Taxes must increase. The need for elder care will increase with fewer available to step into those roles. The more that the birth number falls below the replacement level, the weaker our economy will become, especially as a homegrown workforce decreases and more retire. Already-strained programs like Medicare and Social Security will suffer. Fewer workers, i.e., taxpayers,  means fewer paying into the system that supports the growing number of retirees.  We’ve come a long and dark way since Hillary Clinton’s 1990’s comment that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”
  What’s the solution? Obviously, it’s not another government program but none of these problems are new. Ours is a post-Christian age. The early church faced a pre-Christian one with far worse atrocities; slavery, religious prostitution, infanticide, etc. As the gospel, remedied old world problems, it can remedy contemporary world problems. It’s the gospel that can transform someone’s life, changing someone with no life values to someone who values life and willingly sacrifices for those who can’t defend themselves, the pre-born, disabled, infirm and elderly. We have examples within our own church of grandparents who’ve stepped up to care for a grandchild or an elderly parent.
  It’s the gospel that transforms culture, not social programs, jobs or education. Those are outcomes of the gospel. A Christian who is living out a biblical worldview is a better spouse, parent, student, worker, and citizen. It’s one reason that at Grace we’re committed to planting churches in places like South Chicago (Tom Kubiak) and Nepal (Bishnu).
  The gospel is not just a ticket to heaven. It’s a lifestyle. Living it out means that we’re unapologetically pro-life, but it’s much more than just babies. We’re also pro-living. We want that unaborted child to grow up healthy and safe into adulthood, and to have a quality life filled with opportunity. Yes, we are pro-life – we are pro-life from the first heartbeat to the last breath. That’s what it means to be a Christian. That’s what it means to have a biblical worldview.


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 2, 2019

Where do you turn when you don’t know where to turn?


“Within the covers of the Bible are the answers
for all the problems men face.” Ronald Reagan

Timing is everything. Recently, I stopped by to see a friend. Something was wrong…I wasn’t sure what. He was both frustrated and discouraged.
  Unfortunately, my friend doesn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Hopefully, I offered some hopeful problem-solving suggestions. Also, because I seek to live and die on confidentiality, he knows that it’s safe to vent to me. What weighed heavy on me though was that I couldn’t direct him to the One where I knew that he’d find true peace and hope.
  This year I’m reading the Bible through again. Recently, I was reading in 1 Samuel 30. Israel and David’s arch enemies, the Philistines are headed north to wage a major attack against Israel. The Amalekites, who seemed to make their living by raiding Philistine and Israelite towns and cities in the south, couldn’t have received better news. Since all the men of fighting age had gone off to war, few or none were left behind to defend the Israeli towns. While David and his soldiers are away, the Amalekites plundered their camp. These raiders took all the cattle and possessions, kidnapped all the women and children, and burnt the city to the ground.
  When David and his men return, they’re horrified to see that their camp has been destroyed and worse, their families have been taken captive. No one has been killed, but every single person has been taken. It’s not a great comfort that their families are still alive. Each man imagines what’s happening (or would soon happen) to his wife and children. At best, they’ll become slaves, to be worked hard and cruelly treated. At worst, well, no one even wanted to consider this. David’s two wives also are taken.
  David’s 600 fighting men are greatly distressed by what’s happened to their families. They weep until they have no sobs left. Then, they began to think about how this happened. It had been David’s plan to go to the land of the Philistines; it was his idea that they live in this remote city of Ziklag, and it was David who led them away fight with the Philistines, leaving their families vulnerable to this attack. They’re angry – anger usually looks for a target. Some are so enraged that there’s talk of stoning David.
  No one can hurt you as much or as deeply as someone who is close to you. I know that’s the case with me. Part of the price of being a pastor is that those you love, pray for and with, have ministered to countless times will sometimes turn on you – and seemingly overnight you can become their worst enemy. Without question it’s one of the greatest heartbreaks of ministry. I don’t know how other pastors handle it. I know that it weighs heavy on me, fills my soul, steals my sleep and greatly discourages me.
  Yet, you don’t have to be a pastor or leader to face a similar situation. All of us have had a friend turn on us. The workplace we poured our lives into no longer needs us. Our spouse who pledged “til death do us part” parts. They’ve found someone else or are leaving to go “find themselves.” More often, it’s a child that speaks words to a Dad or Mom that should never be uttered. We find ourselves despised by the very one that we’d give our lives for. All of us have been there. Betrayal is part of the human condition.
  The important questions are: Who do you turn to? Where do you go when you’re discouraged or hurting? 1 Samuel 30:6 is the answer: “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” There’s no better place to go! I can’t say that I always go there first. I can say that I always end up there. I take it to the Lord and seek to leave it there, and then I open up His love letter to me. The bottom line is that everyone turns somewhere. So, where do you go? Where do you turn?
  Can I encourage you to turn to the place where you’ll always receive help? God’s Word. There’s not a situation that we face that has not been faced by someone in the pages of Scripture. God’s Word is sufficient. Many of us don’t know that because we’re not in God’s Word. Read the first two chapters of the book of Job and you’ll no doubt feel that whatever you’re facing is small potatoes.
  While we believe that the Bible is the truth and holds the answer to the basic questions of life, too few of us spend any extended time in reading God’s Word or in basic Bible study. Though we claim to need it, we seem to avoid it. Why? Where’s the disconnect? Why don’t we read the Bible if we believe it’s God’s Word and contains the answers to life’s questions?
  There’s a sobering reality lurking beneath the surface, one we probably wouldn’t say out loud and certainly not in church…we don’t really believe that God’s Word has the answers or that reading the Bible will work for us.
  Can I point out the obvious? What do you have to lose? What you’re doing isn’t working. You’re miserable, discouraged, frustrated and even depressed. If something has worked for people who used it as their source of strength and encouragement even though they were being tortured or facing a violent death, don’t you think that it might work for you? But it will never help if you don’t read it.
  Too many of us are like the person who goes to a doctor. Their physician diagnoses their malady and writes a prescription. They then go to the pharmacist, pick it up, go home but never take the medicine. And then they wonder why they don’t get any better!?!
  When David faced the anger of his own men, he turned to the Lord. It worked for him and it will work for you. Can I encourage you to make spending time with the Lord like an appointment for a meal with a dear friend…because there is no dearer friend. Yet, the Lord Jesus is more than a dear friend, He’s the Savior of your soul. You’ll never surprise Him or frustrate Him. He knows everything about you, loves you, has a plan for your life, knows exactly what’s going on and already knows how He’s going to solve it. So, start reading His love letter to you…start today!


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

Monday, May 27, 2019

When self-medicating is ADDICTION



“I’m not self-medicating. The guy from the liquor store gave me a prescription. Okay, he called it a receipt.”

Did you know that the number of Americans have more than doubled their spending on what’s labeled “drunk shopping,” or making purchases under the influence of alcohol? According to Finder.com’s 2018 survey, U.S. drinkers now spend an average $447.57 per person a year while blitzed, up from $206 a person the previous year, totaling over thirty booze-soaked billions. It’s not just a tiny, tipsy minority of drinkers who whip out cash or cards to splurge when drunk, according to the survey. Nearly half, or some 46%, of those who drink regularly admit to shopping while under the influence — adding up to an estimated 68 million people. Men spend almost double — an average $564.51 of what women spend, $282.65. What exactly are tipsy U.S. shoppers spending on while imbibing? Top buys include food (60.83%), shoes or clothes (25.09%) and gambling (24.91%). Other favorites include concert tickets and even sex services.
  Nearly every week there’s a media report about the drug crisis. Yet, what’s rarely mentioned is that we have an alcohol addiction epidemic, 1 in 8 Americans are addicted. There’s been a 50% increase in alcohol abuse since the beginning of this century. That underlines how severe alcohol addiction has become. According to a CDC study, there are 90,000 deaths every year in the U.S. because of alcohol abuse. $250 billion annually is forfeited because of lost productivity, healthcare expenses, and other results from excessive drinking. While financial losses can be calculated, personal sufferings of lives, marriages, families or churches ruined due to alcohol abuse are incalculable.
  We have a major problem in this country. But it’s not just “them,” it’s us. We have a major problem in the Church. We have a problem here at Grace. We’re naïve to believe that alcohol abuse is not a problem in our church.
  While Scripture does not teach abstinence from alcohol, it does unequivocally teach that intoxication is a sin, not to mention a poor testimony for Christ. Add to that, it’s a lack of faith in that it doesn’t believe that Christ, the power of the Spirit or God’s grace are sufficient to enable us to face the difficulties of this life.
  Much of the alcohol abuse takes place under the guise of self-medication. We convince ourselves that we need it or deserve it because we’re so stressed, overworked, anxious and it help us unwind. Alcohol is a drug. To use it to relax or lower stress is foolish.
  So, do you instinctively reach for the bottle after a stressful day? While alcohol can seem to make you more relaxed, if you're regularly drinking, you’re most likely exacerbating your stress levels. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down the brain and central nervous system’s processes. Eva Cyhlarova of The Mental Health Foundation says: “Over time, heavy drinking interferes with the neurotransmitters in the brain that are needed for good mental health. So while alcohol may help deal with stress in the short term, in the long run it can contribute to feeling of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with.” In other words, the cure is worse than the disease.
  Should Christians, those of us who have the indwelling Spirit of God, be known for needing “Margarita time” or anticipating “five o’clock somewhere”? What does it say about our faith when we seem to need an alcoholic beverage to have fun, to make life fulfilling or to enjoy life? Why must a party have to have alcohol to be a party? What are we saying? How are we then different from an unregenerate world?
  If you enjoy the taste, that’s fine and biblically totally acceptable. If you though are using it for mood altering, it’s a sin and a dependency.
  It grieves me when I hear some Christians ridicule those who don’t imbibe. It’s a matter of soul liberty (Romans 14). We also have a responsibility to each other. We have some in our fellowship who once were addicts and need to be encouraged in their sobriety. Others, like myself, grew up in addiction homes. Personally, I have nightmarish scenes in my soul that won’t be eradicated until I’m finally Home.
  While there is no exact formula to determining whether or not someone is an alcoholic, there are some common symptoms. Some of them are: Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss. Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings. Making excuses for drinking such as to relax, deal with stress or feel normal. Choosing drinking over other responsibilities and obligations. Becoming isolated and distant from friends and family members. Drinking alone or in secrecy.
  No matter how minor a drinking problem may seem, alcohol abuse or any type of drug addiction symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. There are far reaching consequences. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, we want to help. At Grace, we’re a family. We’re to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and confess our sins to each other (James 5:16). All of us struggle with sin and temptation at some juncture of our lives. We need to pray for each other, help one another and encourage each other.
  Addiction is a crisis in our culture. It’s also a barrier to the gospel. Many won’t come to Christ because they’re too ashamed of their failure. They don’t realize that there is forgiveness, hope and healing at the cross.
  It’s been a burden on my heart for some time that at Grace, we need some type of biblically based addiction ministry. To be totally transparent, I don’t have the solutions. I do see an all too common situation that breaks my heart. Jesus urged His disciples to pray for laborers to help (Matthew 9:37-38). Will you join me in praying that God will burden someone in our church family to launch a ministry to addicts? If you’re interested in leading or serving in this ministry, let me or one of our Deacons know.  

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Is politics too dirty for a Christian?



“Hey, Hey, LBJ!
How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?”

  Those words, part of a chant repeated over and over in protests during the 1960s has essentially been forgotten. Fifty years ago those words rang out across college campuses, fueled antiwar rallies and filled the air outside the White House piercing the soul of the man who lived there.
  The Vietnam War became “Lyndon Johnson’s war,” though it was Eisenhower, nearly a decade earlier who first involved the U.S. in Vietnam. Vietnam eventually wrecked Johnson’s presidency, ending his dream of founding a “Great Society,” free of everything war and violence birthed. Within five years of leaving office, he died a broken and disillusioned man.
  How would you feel? How would you feel if nearly every decision was second-guessed? How would you feel if you were constantly misquoted or your words taken out of context? How would you feel if you were called a “hack, extremist, idiot, thug, radical, shill” or worse? How would you feel if every time there was a traffic jam, a downturn in the economy, or even a pothole, you were blamed and it was somehow YOUR fault? How would you feel if you or your family were threatened with bodily harm or worse because of your position? How would you feel if you weren’t quite sure if your friends were really friends, or because you had some influence that benefited them?   
  If none of that would bother you, maybe you’re ready to run for public office…because that’s the price. While it’s true that some individuals seek public office to gain position or acquire power or money, it’s a small minority. Most seek public office, especially local ones, to work for their community or for a cause. They want to make a difference. Most begin pure in their ideology and motives. They truly, according to their worldview, desire to make their community and this world a better place.
  Yes, it’s easy to become jaundiced and forget you’re a public servant. Very few start that way and most still want to make a difference. They’re committed to the “greater good,” even though we may not agree with their definition of what that “greater good” is or their worldview.
  It’s common for Christians to quip, “I’m just not interested in politics.” Such a dismissive remark is frequently delivered with a veneer of piety implying that political engagement is somehow inherently defiled, occupying an arena unfit for anyone serious about the gospel. Yet, such an attitude denies the gospel and that Christ died for everyone including politicians, even those that we disagree with. The message of the gospel is that by grace through faith every sinner can be reconciled with God (Eph. 2:7-8). It’s only the gospel, not political power, that transforms individuals, nations and cultures.  
  Politics are unavoidable. Ask a pastor of an underground church or a missionary attempting to access a closed country if politics matter. Religious liberty, passports and visas are vital. In America and a post-Christian world, it’s politics that protect the blessing that God has given us, our 1st amendment rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
  Politics then have real-world implications on our God-given mission of evangelism, missions and discipleship. God has given us a responsibility to care for those around us. It’s vital that we engage in the political process advocating for laws and policies that contribute to the good and flourishing of our fellow image-bearers of God. We are our “neighbor’s keeper.”
  God established and uses human government for His glory (Gen. 9:5-6; Rom. 13:1-5). Some of the greatest heroes in Scripture served the Lord by serving in anti-God governments (Joseph, Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel).
  One of the most evil kings of all time was gloriously saved Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4). It’s why we’re commanded to pray for our governmental leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-4). At Grace, we take that command seriously. It’s why we pray for an elected official each week. We want them to govern in a God-honoring way. More importantly, we want them to come to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
  Think what would happen if those in elected office came to Christ. Most of us are skeptical of that. Yet, that only shows our lack of faith and naïveté of God’s power. I’ve just finished reading, Born Again by Chuck Colson. Known as Nixon’s “hatchet man,” Chuck Colson was the last person many thought would ever come to Christ, but he did. Literally, millions in the corridors of power and in cells in some of the world’s worst prisons have been touched by the gospel because God gloriously saved Chuck Colson. I know that God has used him and his writings in my life.
  This weekend Jane and I are attending the Wilberforce Conference hosted by the organization Chuck Colson started, Prison Fellowship. Tomorrow we’ll be visiting the offices of our national representatives. Why? We have a biblical mandate – Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus was the friend of sinners and you and I are to be Jesus in our world.
  Throughout time God has placed believers in the corridors of power. As Christians, we have a common bond with brothers and sisters in Christ that is eternal, even if they’re from other political persuasions. Our common spiritual inheritance must have precedence over all political differences.   
  Jeremiah 29:7 says: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Referring to the debauched city of Babylon, Jeremiah recognized even a pagan government serves a purpose in God’s plan. That’s still true. Our witness in the public square contributes transcendent moral values, yet our withdrawal opens the door to a moral vacuum. We are commanded to be salt and light…and that includes the political arena.


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 12, 2019

Mom, can we talk?



“The influence of a Mother in the lives
of her children is beyond calculation.” James E. Faust

  Recently, I asked some friends for their input: If you could tell a Mom one thing, what would you tell her? I laughed at the response of one friend who’s recently retired as a counselor, “Don’t kill ‘em.” Sometimes, that’s not that far from the truth. So, this Mother’s Day can we grab a cup of coffee and chat for a moment about being a Mom…  
  God is seeking to develop you. There are no accidents with God’s plan. When God gave you your child, He knew that your child needed you and He also knew that you needed your child. Our Heavenly Father is in the masterpiece making business. Personal happiness is not a priority in masterpiece making. Spiritual growth and holiness are. What your Father wants to develop in you is; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). It takes pruning, heat and friction to produce a masterpiece. Wonderfully, the very traits that He wants to produce in you are the exact things that your child needs most. Masterpiece building is frequently exhausting. That’s because your Father knows you don’t have it in you and will need to depend on Him and His grace. Wonderfully, as you model those traits, your children will often follow your example. They may also copy you if you fail to model them.
  Determine to be a Mom of truthfulness. God is a God of truth. Jesus said, “I am the way…the truth” (John 14:6). Because children are so trusting, it’s tempting and simple to lie to them. It’s can be little things, yet they carry big consequences. For example, a child hates onions and has a fit over them…but the recipe tastes better with onions. They see you mixing it together and ask the inevitable question, “Are there onions in it?” What do you do? You must tell the truth. Pleasing God is not about avoiding hassles, even with your children.
  Learn to be flexible. Our culture encourages us to be human doings. God created us to be human beings. Yet, we feel a sense of accomplishment when we accomplish more and wear how busy we are as a badge of honor. Both you and your child will be exasperated if you continually rush them. Relationship building takes time and nurture, even one with your child.
  Grow in gratitude for the small things. “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42). In other words, stop and smell the roses. Learn to enjoy the little things. Too often we approach parenting like a black dot on a white sheet of paper. We’re so focused on the dot, we miss all of the whiteness. Children are like a new flower. Growth must be encouraged, but ours is a weed whacking world. Be a person of gratitude and encouragement. It begins with being a grateful person, learning to savor and enjoy cups of cold water.
  Plan for the long game. Most of us plan for nearly everything but parenting. Parenting is supposed to just “happen.” Planning always begins with prayer. It starts with trust and submission to the One who gave them to you. Pray for your child’s future, what their life’s vocation will be, if they’ll marry, who they’ll marry, what choices they’ll make, etc. Healthy parents give their children roots and wings. Ten or twenty years from today what kind of adult do you want them to be? That trajectory begins today. They will usually value what you value. If you value a temporal world, they will value a temporal world. Too many times we wait until adolescence to attempt to re-direct our child. It’s far too late. Patterns and values are already ingrained. The time for directing toward adulthood is during babyhood. It’s easy to plop a small child in front of a screen and have a digital babysitter. Is it any wonder that we have millennials who are obsessed with screens? They were taught to value them before they cut their teeth. Even most Christian parents are more concerned about their child’s education than their final destination. Spiritual values (Bible reading, prayer, community of believers, service, giving) are haphazard. There’s a reason so many young adults want little to do with eternal values. They weren’t valued during those formative years, but everything else was.
  Live out the Golden Rule. Matthew 7:12, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” Do you want your children to speak kindly to you? Then, speak kindly to them. Do you want them to be patient? Be patient with them. Do you want them to respect your privacy? Respect theirs. Do you want them to cover your faults in public? Then, cover theirs. Most adults carry wounds from being shamed as a child. With social media, it’s easier perhaps than ever before to share a tidbit that shames your child. It’s tempting to use it to vent but venting isn’t a biblical behavior. We’re to seek to instead problem-solve. So before you post, think through how your child might feel if they knew about that post.
  Model biblical problem-solving. It begins with your own marriage. Little eyes are watching and learning how to resolve conflict. If they have siblings, they’re going to disagree and squabble. Teach them how to do that in a biblical, proactive way. Meltdowns won’t be tolerated in school or in the workplace, why tolerate them in the home? Many parents tune out squabbling, rationalizing “it’s just the way kids are.” Kids become adults. Squabbling in adulthood jeopardizes employment and can result in serious long term relational problems.  
  Trust the only objective reliable resource. There’s not enough time to go through the mountains of parenting books that have been written. Then, many of them offer contradictory advice (e.g., pick up your baby when she cries vs. don't pick up your baby when she cries). Add to these resources all of the blogs and websites that offer parenting tips and one can see why many parents feel overwhelmed. We are designed by God, thus His Word is our blueprint. Amazingly, the Bible has general principles yet few specifics. That’s because of the uniqueness of each parent, child and family. The main thing you’ll learn from the Bible is how to change YOU. As you grow and become more Christlike, that will do more for your parenting and children than anything else.  



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 5, 2019

Baptism: Counting the Cost



“If you want to identify yourself with Christ’s people
and expect them to identify with you, you need to first identify yourself with Christ, which is the purpose of baptism.”  Jonathan Leeman

  Have you heard of Brother Andrew? A few years ago in an Islamic country where Christians are persecuted, Brother Andrew baptized twelve men who had converted from Islam. One elderly man who’d suffered a stroke six months earlier emerged from the water and waved his right hand. Two years later this same man was martyred by extremists because he wouldn’t stop testifying about how Jesus had changed his life. Many of our fellow Christians around the world risk their lives to obey the Lord in this matter of believer’s immersion. What a powerful testimony that no threat, no law, and no terror can stifle the Holy Spirit! 
  One of the sad ironies of church history is that a subject that should unite all believers has caused great division. Paul wrote (Eph. 4:5) that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Sincere and godly believers differ over many aspects of that one baptism! Some denominations believe that baptism effects the new birth. As they administer baptism to an infant, they believe that when they sprinkle water on a baby, that child is regenerated. Examine the Bible for yourself. Scripture is clear that baptism is to follow conversion. There’s no merit in being “baptized” prior to salvation. Tragically and unbiblically, many churches who practice infant baptism also believe that unbaptized aborted babies are sentenced to hell because they have not been baptized. It’s not only heartless but heretical. So, why do we believe that baptism is so important? 
  We believe that baptism is an act of obedience. Some of the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples were the threefold instruction: make disciples, baptize those who believe, and teach them His commands (Matt. 28:19-20). If for no other reason, we baptize because Jesus told us to. 
  Obedience is a characteristic of followers of Christ. Jesus instructed us to teach new believers “to observe everything I have commanded you.” Baptism is simply an act of obedience both for the new believer and the church. We baptize because we are seeking to obey Christ’s command.
  We believe that baptism is an opportunity to be a witness. Both the New Testament and church history indicate that baptism served as the initial profession of faith of early believers. After Philip shared Jesus with the Ethiopian, this new believer’s initial request was to be baptized (Acts 8). When the Philippian jailer responded to the preaching of Paul and Silas, he and the believing members of his family were baptized (Acts 16). The same is true of Lydia (Acts16), Cornelius (Acts 10), the Corinthians (Acts 18), and others. Baptism was a silent witness, an outward expression, of their new found faith and new way of life.
  How is baptism a witnessing opportunity for us? According to Romans 6:1-4 our baptism is a witness to the saving work of Christ - His death, burial, and resurrection. As a symbol, baptism visually reenacts His burial in the grave and His resurrection to life. When we see a new believer enter the water, go under the water and come up from the water, we’re seeing what Jesus did to save us. Baptism is a dramatic representation of Christ’s work of atonement (1 Cor. 15:1-4). It’s a witness of what takes place immediately at salvation. Romans 6:3 declares that in salvation we’ve been “baptized into Christ Jesus” and “into His death.”
  Baptism symbolizes that as Christ died, was buried, and rose again, so the believer has died, been buried to self and now has new life in Christ. It symbolizes that he or she is a new creature in Christ. Being a new creature in Christ is reflected even in the term baptism. The Greek term baptizo was commonly used in the 1st century to describe dipping cloth into dye. The cloth came out of the dye vat looking very different than when it went in. Being a new creature in Christ means our lives have changed. As we adopt a Christlike character, the change becomes evident to those with whom we associate. Baptism symbolizes that change in the new follower of Christ.
  New believers often ask friends and relatives, some of whom may be nonbelievers, to come to their baptism. Questions naturally arise in those who are unfamiliar with this ordinance. A child may ask, “Why are they putting her under the water?” Others wonder about or even hear for the first time of the significance of baptism. The Holy Spirit can use the act of baptism as the initial entry point into the lives of those who will come to faith in Christ. The very act of baptism serves as a powerful witness of the saving work of Christ and the salvation experience of the believer.
  We believe that baptism is an open door into the local church. The early church took very seriously the concept of church membership for those who were born again. Acts 2:47 tells us that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Peter's preaching in Acts 2 resulted in that those who repented and received Christ were then baptized. The early church was made up of those who had been saved and were then baptized. In spite of some obvious cultural and social differences between the 1st-century church and today’s church, the requirement for congregational inclusion should still be believer’s baptism.
  At baptism the new believer is making a commitment not only to Christ but to the local church family by identifying publicly with a particular congregation. The body at this point also is assuming a responsibility for the new believer. There is now a new member in the family.  Being part of that local church means the church family has a responsibility to include the new Christ follower, to encourage him/her in a personal pilgrimage of faith, and to support the new believer as a brother or sister and as a friend. If you’ve trusted Christ as your Savior but have not confessed your faith publicly through baptism, I urge you to be baptized as soon as possible! If you’ve never trusted in Christ as Savior, do not think that because you were baptized or even that if you get baptized, it will get you into heaven. Eternal life is the free gift God offers based upon Christ’s death for our sins. You can only receive it by faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, to confess your faith in obedience to Christ’s command, be baptized!


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.