Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Blessing of the Pope vs. Trump

“The only thing of our very own which we contribute to our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary.” William Temple

  I can’t think of many things I am truly thankful for in the current adversarial political arena, but I was truly thankful for the Pope Francis’ recent suggestion that Donald Trump is not Christian. The Pope said, “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” I was very thankful he said it. I probably should have sent him a “thank you” note. Yet, what I’m thankful for is probably not what you are thinking. As soon as I heard the story, I thought “what a great opportunity to clearly explain the Gospel!”

  In all honesty, I don’t have a solution for the immigration issue. While I believe a country must protect its borders and has a right to protect its sovereignty, at the same time, the United States has had an open door policy for immigrants since its conception. It’s why our Statue of Liberty has this poem inscribed on it:

“Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
  Our long term national care for the disenfranchised and suffering goes back to our Judeo-Christian history and heritage. It’s because of our “Christian” heritage that immigrants desire to come here. There’s not a long list of people trying to immigrate to China or Cuba.
  The Bible has much to say about immigrants in our midst. For example, “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). It does not though give us a clear policy or even suggestions of how to legislate about immigration. Personally, I feel, while many have come here illegally, unless they’re criminals and not desiring to become citizens and/or better themselves, it’s cruel to send them back. It’s also unacceptable to tear apart families. Yet, it seems to me both parties use suffering people groups as a political football to incite emotion to gain mileage with their constituency. If they were primarily concerned about what’s best for America and immigrants, a reasonable solution could be worked out…please don’t hold your breath.
  Yet, my real point is that the Pope suggested someone was NOT Christian because of something they DO. That’s not what the Bible teaches or the Gospel says. It does point up the polarization of two completely different religious or worldviews. Essentially, there are only two religions or belief systems…and they’re quite simple – DO and DONE.
  In his comments, the Pope is suggesting one must DO something to be a Christian. Yet, the Bible clearly says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). What does one do for a gift? Nothing. For once you must “DO” something to obtain that gift, it ceases to be a one. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” God’s grace is absolutely free. Once you DO something or work for it, it ceases to be grace. More than that, you can’t DO anything – nothing, zilch, nada “not a result of works.”
  Building a wall, not building a wall, being moral, going to church, giving lots of money, being nice – none of it has anything to do with being a Christian. Doing something, doing anything will no more make you a Christian, than climbing over a wall will make you a citizen.
  God gave His only Son, Jesus, to die on the Cross to pay our huge debt for our sins. It’s a free gift. It’s all DONE. The only thing that remains is to accept it. In fact, to think one can DO something to somehow pay God back for the gift of the life of His precious Son is an insult to the Father. As George Whitfield said, “What! Get to heaven on your own strength? Why, you might as well try to climb to the moon on a rope of sand!”  
  The Bible also teaches I don’t know who is a Christian, neither do you and neither does the Pope. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Only God knows who is truly a Christian. While if someone is a Christian, there should be indicators or what Scripture calls fruit (Matthew 7:16), only God knows who has truly accepted His free gift of salvation and is truly a Christian.
  One cannot DO anything to become a Christian, other than accept God’s free gift of salvation because Jesus has DONE it all. One can also not DO anything to keep their salvation. The Bible calls salvation “eternal life.”
  How long is eternal? How then can someone lose what is eternal? As Romans 8:35, 38-39 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wow! You can’t DO anything to earn it and you can’t DO anything to lose it! It’s all DONE.
  That’s because when Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, the sin debt as huge and as unfathomable as that huge debt is, it’s still a finite amount. Yet, when the Son of God died, His sacrifice was an infinite death – every sin, past (all the way back to Adam,) present and future (all the way to infinity and beyond) was paid for. It’s all DONE.
  Is Donald Trump a Christian? I don’t know. I do know that according to the Bible, it has nothing to do with what he will DO or not DO. If he is a Christian, it’s only because of what Jesus has DONE and that Donald Trump has accepted God’s free gift of salvation. Jesus death has DONE it all. No sin is too great. Even the most heinous sin is paid for, even my sin…and I’m truly the worst sinner I know. It’s DONE. Have you accepted God’s free gift of salvation? Is it a DONE deal for you?

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Theology of Sleep

“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”  W.C. Fields

  When was the last time you heard someone talk about the good night’s sleep they had? How about that they slept in? Or, that they are pleased they’re getting at least eight hours of sleep a night? Probably close to never. Did you ever think we’d live in a day when people pay to have a sleep study done on their sleep patterns? That a lack of sleep is a major health problem?
  The busier and more complex our culture becomes, the more we sacrifice sleep. Our competing priorities, such as work, family responsibilities and social obligations squeeze our commitment for sleep. Studies show women in general seem to battle sleep issues more than men, and this starts early—often sometime in pre-adolescence.
  Too often because of our heritage of the Protestant work ethic, we associate sleep with laziness. It can be the case but for most of us, it’s not our issue. Our lack of sleep is our issue.
  Did you know the Bible has a lot of positive things to say about sleep? Psalms 3:5 “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” Psalms 127:2 “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.” Proverbs 3:24 “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”
  When someone tells you they’re attempting to get by on a minimal amount or less sleep, take it as a warning. People tend to be crabbier and more short-tempered if they’re sleep deprived. And don’t get in a car with someone who’s sleep-deprived. Sleep-deprived driving is a major cause of accidents. Studies show it can impair the human brain as much as alcohol.
  Sleep plays a vital role in thinking and learning. A lack of sleep hurts cognitive processes. It impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently. During the night, various sleep cycles play a role in “consolidating” memories in the mind. If you fail to get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned or experienced during the day.
  Chronic sleep loss can put you at a higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure or even a stroke. Sleep specialists say sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in intimacy. Depleted energy, sleepiness and increased tension may be largely to blame.
  Sometimes a lack of sleep indicates a subtle spiritual problem. We think we must put in inordinate amounts of work. We push ourselves because we feel we must take care of ourselves and our families. While we need to be diligent workers, God wants us to trust Him and not jeopardize our health. Other times we toss and turn because we’re not trusting God. We’re worrying, losing needed sleep over what we need to commit to God.   
  A healthy adult will spend about 30% of their time on earth sleeping. If you live 75 years, you’ll spend about twenty-five of those years sleeping. Sleep is part of our design by God. It’s part of our Creator’s ordained rhythm and routine which God stamped into creation. In Genesis we read that God created the heavens and the earth in six days and on the seventh day, God rested.
  Sleep is part of the pattern God gave us. It orders our time, divides our time and then gives energy to our waking time. Sleep is part of God’s created order. It’s a vital aspect of creation God declared, “Good.” Most of us forget the Lord Jesus slept. The Gospels tell us of when, after a long day of preaching to the crowds, Jesus was in a boat— deep in sleep.
  Unlike some religions which claim the body is inherently evil, Judeo-Christianity teaches great respect for the human body. The body is something God made good. The body is physical, but it’s spiritual as well. What you do with your body and how you take care of your body matters to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19 reminds us that, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you, whom you received from God.” So what are some lessons about a theology of sleep?
  How we live in the day affects how we sleep at night. In Proverbs 3, the wise father urges his son to live according to godly wisdom. Then, he sums up the benefits: “Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” Many toss at night because of a guilty conscience. What we do during the day can steal our sleep at night.
  What we think about in bed often reveals our hearts. As you’re lying in bed, before you fall sleep, your mind thinks about many things. Scripture reveals it’s often the things you care about most. Lying in bed, the heart ponders, meditates, worries or even plots. For example, Psalms 63:6 says, “When I remember You upon my bed, and meditate on You in the watches of the night.” What a contrast to Psalms 36:4, He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.” What do you think about as you lay in bed, before you sleep? It says a lot about the condition of your heart.
  God gives us sleep so we can serve Him. Psalms 127 reminds us that while unbelievers work day and night to get what they want, our Heavenly Father provides for the people of faith. He give us a regular work day and blesses us with sleep. God gives us sleep so we’ll have the strength we need. That way when the daylight comes, we can get out of bed and serve the Lord with a joyful heart.
  God cares about you. He even cares about your sleep. God created and ordained sleep, yet God never sleeps! He designed it for us.
  It’s apparent God created our need for and the blessing of sleep as a constant reminder of how much we need and must rest in Him. Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we’re not God. We think we must work…we must get things done, we’re indispensable. Once a day God turns us into helpless lumps of clay. How humbling to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a baby virtually every day. Sleep is a powerful reminder that God is God and we’re just humans, mere mortals. God handles the world quite wonderfully while we sleep. In a sense, sleep is like a broken record which comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. 
  Go ahead, enjoy a good night’s sleep. Remember, too, God is not nearly as impressed with our late nights and early mornings as He is with the peaceful trust we have which casts all of our anxieties on Him and rests. 

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

The High Cost of Negativity

“One of my main regrets in life is giving considerable thought to inconsiderate people.”  Jarod Kintz

  Church researcher and writer, Thom Rainer, recently wrote: “Few people are truly aware of the constant requests, complaints, and criticisms pastors and other church leaders receive. I must admit, however, I was surprised when I asked church leaders on Twitter to share some of the more unusual comments they have received…I was most surprised at the really strange things people tell pastors…I narrowed my selection to twenty-five, but it could have been much higher.” Here are a few of the best ones...
  “We need a small group for cat lovers.” “You need to change your voice.” “Our expensive coffee is attracting too many hipsters.”  “Preachers who don’t wear suits and ties aren’t saved. It’s in the Bible.”  “I don’t like the color of the towels in the women’s restroom.”  “Your wife never compliments me about my hair or dress.” “Not enough people signed up for the church golf tournament. You have poor leadership skills.” “I think you are trying to preach caffeineism.” “If Jesus sang from the red hymnals, why can’t we?” “I don’t like the brand of donuts in the foyer.” “You shouldn’t drink water when you preach.”  “The toilet paper is on the wrong way in the ladies restroom. It’s rolled under.” “Did you see me waving in the back of the worship center? You preached too long. It was time to eat!”  “The eggs were not scrambled enough at the senior adult breakfast.” 
  Like most pastors, periodically, I hear silly comments like that. After three decades of ministry, I’m fairly thick skinned (some think I’m “thickheaded”). But if you let them, no matter who you are, negative comments can bother you.
  These are a few things I do when I hear negative comments. First, I consider the source. If the person is chronically negative, rarely has anything positive or productive to say, I ignore it. Then, I consider whether the person is part of the team or just a spectator. If someone is not serving or active or a member, but just a spectator, filling a spot, I tend to tune it out. If they’re critical at our church and not part of helping us reach our world for Christ, as far as I’m concerned they can find another church and be critical there…and it won’t bother me. The third thing I do though when someone is chronically negative and critical, I encourage myself by praising the Lord I don’t have to live with them. I truly feel compassion if they’re married, for whoever they’re married to. I’m just happy it’s not me!
  That’s because there are few things which kill love and intimacy as much as pettiness. Apparently, King Solomon had some petty people in his life. He appears to be writing from firsthand experience…“It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 25:24). Or, “A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one's right hand” (Proverbs 27:15-16). Probably, because Solomon had so many wives, he addresses this in the feminine gender. Yet, pettiness is a genderless malady – both men and women can be negaholics.
  Sadly, for those who are petty and negaholics, they often don’t realize it. It’s so much a part of their life; it’s their normal. Yet, there are few traits which so poison our relationships as this. So how do you know if this is your sin? How do you know if you are missionary of misery? Let me share some general things to look for. These are not always true, yet are generally true.
  You have few healthy relationships. You may convince yourself you’re an introvert (maybe you are). But if others don’t want to be around you or befriend you, if even your spouse and/or children don’t seem to relish your company, it may be your negativism is a repellent. Another sign can be if most of your friends tend to be critical and negative. The old adage is true, “birds of a feather flock together.”
  You’re alone a lot. If it seems your spouse would rather be working or involved in some other social activity than be home with you, maybe there’s a reason. Or, if when you’re spouse or children are home, they’re in other parts of the house, there may be a message there. If you wonder, “why doesn’t anyone ever call me or seek me out?” Maybe you’re about as pleasant to be around as an IRS auditor.
  When you’re around, people act differently. If your spouse or children act completely different when they’re in your company, it can be a warning sign. It could be they don’t want to be critiqued. Or, if you’re in public, perhaps they fear being dressed down later for their foibles. Often in public situations, those who live with a negaholic are very, very quiet. They don’t want to pay a big price later when they are in private with you.
  Your children tend to be whiny. I’ve chuckled sadly over the years. Parents who often complain how whiny their children are, don’t realize it’s frequently learned behavior. The child is following a parental example.
  You spend a lot of time watching or listening to bad news. You are what you eat. Or, “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” If you continually watch, read or listen to the negative – it will contaminate your life and come out. If you find you’re default mental drive is negative things, it’s going to be your output. If you feed and think on the negative, you’ll bear that fruit in your life.
  To me, it makes no sense. If I’m too hot, I adjust the thermostat or change clothes. If my feet get wet, I put on dry socks. If I’m tired, I lay down. Most of us respond that way. If something is externally uncomfortable, we correct it. Why don’t we do it internally? Why spend huge amounts of time thinking about what’s uncomfortable, or on what we don’t enjoy? We have more control over our internal environment than we do our external one. It’s what Scripture commands in Philippians 4:8,  Finally…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
  We need to count the high price for negativity. The greatest loss for a missionary of misery is our mission field. We’re called to be salt and light, what do you do when something is saturated with salt? You spit it out or don’t eat it. What about a blinding light? You close your eyes or dodge it. 
  Perhaps the reason some of us are ineffective as witnesses is because the bulk of our life is such a big turn off. The good news is that as a believer, God will give us the grace to change…today. The Spirit will empower you to be a healthy encouraging person. You have to just let Him. Will you? Show you love the Lord and those around you – choose to change! 

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Dr. King and Loving Your Enemies

“Love is the only force capable of making an enemy a friend.”   
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  Recently, I was reading about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the quest for Civil Rights. To bring media attention to the injustice and lack of rights African-Americans had at the time, Dr. King would stage boycotts and marches. It was hoped this would incite local law enforcement to make arrests and thus, make the news, drawing attention to the horrible plight of African-Americans under Jim Crow laws in the South.
  Just before the well-known conflict in Selma, Alabama, Dr. King led a long campaign in Albany, Georgia. As far as media attention and drawing attention to the cause, it was a failure. The Albany police chief, Laurie Pritchett, unlike many other Southern law enforcement officials, refused to take the bait. Chief Pritchett ordered his officers not to use violence or excessive force. He was consistently friendly and polite. While he may have personally agreed with Jim Crow laws, Chief Pritchett treated Dr. King and the protesters with respect.
  When the Northern press came to Albany to cover the confrontation between white and black, they found—to their surprise—they actually liked Chief Pritchett. When Dr. King was finally thrown in jail in Albany, a mysterious well-dressed man came and immediately bailed him out. The rumor was the man had been sent by Chief Pritchett. It’s hard to be a martyr or bring attention to your cause, if you’re bailed out of jail the instant you get there.
  At one point, Chief Pritchett moved into a downtown motel so he could be on call should any violence erupt. In the midst of a long negotiating session with Dr. King, Chief Pritchett was handed a telegram by his secretary. As Chief Pritchett recalled years later:
  “I…must have shown some concern over [it] because Dr. King asked me if it was bad news. I said, ‘No, it’s not bad news, Dr. King. It just so happens this is my twelfth wedding anniversary, and my wife has sent me a telegram.’ And he says—I will never forget this and this shows the understandin’ we had – he said, ‘You mean this is your anniversary?’ and I said, ‘That’s right,’ and I said, ‘I haven’t been home in at least three weeks.’ And he said, ‘Well, Chief Pritchett, you go home tonight, no, right now. You celebrate your anniversary. I give you my word that nothing will happen in Albany, Georgia, till tomorrow, and you can go, take your wife out to dinner, do anything you want to, and tomorrow at ten o’clock, we’ll resume our efforts’.” Both Dr. King and Sheriff Pritchett lived out Matthew 5:44 “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”   
  Christians are to be unique in a hateful, unloving world. We are commanded to love our enemies. Pagans naturally love their spouses, children, family, friends and others…so what!?! No one is surprised when someone loves their spouse or family. We may respond with a “isn’t that sweet,” yet we’re not surprised. It doesn’t captivate our attention. Jesus is pointing out that something very profound has happened to those who are born-again. The Apostle Paul repeats these same commands, adding to them, in Romans 12:14-21.
  Please understand, these are not options for “super Christians,” they’re to be normative behavior for every child of God! In fact, loving your enemies proves you are a child of God. Perhaps our lost family and friends don’t want what we say we have because they see so little “proof.”
  This doesn’t mean we deny evil or injustice, yet as Paul points out, dealing with or judging injustice is not our responsibility – it’s God’s (Romans 12:19). It’s not wrong to hate evil; it’s wrong to hate evildoers. Too many Christians have difficulty making and more importantly communicating this vital distinction. So how do we love our enemies?
  It begins with humanizing my enemies. Every person is made in the image of God. Each one was born, each has a mother and a father. Often he or she has a spouse and children. They eat and drink. They have personal stories and experiences full of pain and joy. They’re human, image-bearers of God. If I take the narrative of the Bible to be true, they’re loved by God, loved enough that He sent His only Son to die for them.
  I’m commanded to pray for my enemies. I know this…you probably know this. It’s not new information that a believer is to pray for their enemies. But why is it we so often give lip service to it, acknowledge it’s true – yet still don’t do it? I don’t believe it’s just because we’re busy or our prayer lives are anemic. It’s because we’d rather vent and feel the warm, enticing animosity in our souls. In some perverse way, we actually relish anger and hate. We’d rather do that than pray and have God begin to bring His love and peace to our soul, and change us. Like a drug addict, we don’t realize how poisonous hatred is, whether it’s toward the enemy who is close or the one who’s far away, to our own souls and spiritual health. We think we can imbibe and ultimately be unaffected. We can’t.
  Be warned! What we focus on we become like. Someone hates their Dad or ex-spouse, a sibling, or even a political leader. It’s all they talk about. It’s all they think about…and in their focus they’re changed into that which they continually focus on, the very one they despise.   
  Martin Niemoller, a German pastor, arrested by the Nazis is a model for us. He prayed daily from his prison cell for his captors. Other prisoners asked why he prayed for them. “Do you know anyone who needs your prayers more than your enemies?” he replied.
  I am commanded to love my enemies. This is supernatural. I believe only a true child of God can do this because it’s only through the power of the Spirit, who indwells and cultivates His fruit in a believer. Jesus did it. It’s heard as He prayed for His enemies as they murdered Him, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” At one time, you and I were God’s enemies and He loved us. How can we justify failing to let His love flow through us toward our enemies? But do you?
  I wonder how many times we turn off our lost friends and/or family by our hateful comments about our enemies. Would our lost family and friends know we love Jesus and that He’s transformed our life by our posts on Facebook about our work enemies? How about our political enemies? Are we obeying by praying and loving our enemies? It’s not optional. To fail to obey is sin. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Are you obedient? Do you love and pray for yours? 

Looking for quality used Christian books and other types of books at prices lower than even Amazon. Check out our family's online used bookstore at or visit our store at the Waterford Unique Antique Market at 209 North Milwaukee Street in Waterford, WI --  262.534.3500