Sunday, May 28, 2017

Blessing our Good-bye

“If you want to really know what your friends and family think of you die broke, and then see who shows up for the funeral.” 
Gregory Nunn

  This weekend we’re remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Tradition, honor, and dignity are the hallmarks of a military funeral. If you attend a funeral with military honors, there will be a flag-draped casket. An honor guard will carry the casket to the grave site. At the end of the committal, they will lift and hold the American flag taut over the casket. A military firing party will fire three volleys with a bugler then playing “Taps.” The honor guard ceremonially folds the flag, presenting it to the family with a brief statement of gratitude and a salute. The guidelines are clear, yet that’s not the case for other funerals.
  It’s estimated that the average person experiences the loss of a close family member every 15 to 20 years. Many families have no idea what the deceased would want at their funeral, so they find themselves groping in the dark, hoping they’re making the right decisions.
  While some know they have a terminal illness, many will die today never considering this could be their last day on earth. It’s why we all need to be prepared for death. On an earthly level, there are some basics all of us should care for so we don’t leave a needless burden for our loved ones.
  Have a will. Many don’t believe they own or have anything that’s worth anything, but when you add house, car, life insurance, etc., the average estate is worth nearly $200,000.00. If you have personal items like wedding rings, fine china, even a Bible – have specific instructions on who should receive those treasures. If you cared about a church or charity during your lifetime, you’ll want to remember them in your death. Even a few thousand dollars from an estate are a large donation.  
  If you have a terminal illness or are getting up in years, it’s helpful to distribute personal items that have a lot of emotion attached to them before your death. Personally, I believe those with dependent children should have life insurance. Whatever your situation, have enough at least to cover the cost of your funeral which is between $5,000 and $10,000.
  Give someone power of attorney and an advance healthcare directive. One of our greatest fears is ending up incapacitated or dying in a hospital room hooked up to a bunch of tubes. Give someone you trust who has a biblical worldview of the sanctity of life, the power of attorney to make life decisions for you if you’re incapacitated. Doctors can prolong “life” for a long time. Sometimes, though, we’re merely prolonging death.
  Plan your funeral. This is something most of us don’t like to think about and a conversation we dread initiating with a loved one who is dying. Yet, planning your funeral is one of the last great gifts you can give to your loved ones. It’s also your last opportunity to share the Gospel with lost family and friends. The purpose of the funeral is to honor the deceased and comfort those who have been left behind.
  Since cremation is economical, more choose it. Scripture doesn’t take a position on its morality. But please don’t say something glib about being cremated. Once you die, your family wants to honor your wishes. If you’ve been glib about it, they’ll struggle with doing what you truly wanted.
  If you wish to be cremated, I’d suggest there be a viewing. It gives a sense of closure. Spending huge sums on an extravagant casket or vault seems like poor stewardship. My experience has been that extreme spending is often motivated by guilt, rather than a sincere desire to honor the deceased.
  When it comes to funerals, society has changed. Employers are often unwilling to allow an employee time off unless it’s for an immediate family member. Because those who care about you want to show their respect and share their condolences, I’d suggest scheduling a visitation in the late afternoon or early evening, when most can come after work. It will also usually still be light out for elderly friends who might be driving.
  Be realistic about the length of the visitation. For someone who is elderly, a few hours should be sufficient. Choose who needs to be in the receiving line. It can be difficult for small children to stand for long hours. For a young person or a tragic death, you’ll probably need a longer visitation.
  If the deceased is elderly, the services can easily be on a week day. You can even have a private burial for the family. With a young person or tragic death, you will want to schedule the burial on a weekend. More people want to attend the graveside in those situations.
  At Grace, we have a funeral planning sheet available that you’ll find on our web site under “resources” to assist you. It walks you through the basic questions related to a funeral. Things that you’ll want to consider are favorite Bible verses, music, who to have as pallbearers, who to have speak or preach your funeral. If you’d prefer donations are made to some charity instead of flowers, you’ll want to note that too.
  It’s helpful to choose who you want to speak. Sometimes it’s too difficult for a family member. A pastor or someone close to the family can read what a loved one has written. Personally, I don’t like open microphones. Well-meaning folk can lack discernment or are emotionally charged, saying things that shouldn’t be shared in a public setting. Or, it can be hurtful if there are long periods of silence if no one shares anything. It’s why it’s better to choose someone to share a thoughtful, prepared memory. 
  Unless Jesus comes back, we all have an appointment with Death. First, make sure you are ready to meet Jesus. Then, give your family that one last gift of a well-planned memorial service that honors your Savior and you.  

Here's the link to our funeral planning sheet: 

Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, 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 to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Have you hugged a politician today?

“The Gospel cannot and must not be identified with partisan political posturing.”  Carl Trueman

  This weekend Jane and I are at The Wilberforce Weekend, a Christian worldview conference hosted by the Colson Center. We have had the privilege of listening to speakers like Ravi Zacharias and Os Guinness.
  Please pray for us tomorrow as we visit our Wisconsin Senators’ offices and Congressman’s office. We’re bringing invites for them to local events; Burlington Chocolate Fest and the Waterford Balloon Fest. We’re also inviting them to our future building dedication.
  Hopefully, you know this already, at Grace we’re committed to being non-partisan or a-political. The Gospel reaches across all political barriers. It’s why we won’t endorse candidates or political parties.
  Though I personally support the repealing of the Johnson Amendment, it’s not so that our church can endorse political candidates. It’s that I’m concerned that as our culture continues to morally devolve, the day may come when, because of their tax exempt status, churches will be told that they can’t teach what the Bible says about certain subjects because they’re considered “hate speech.”
  Our country was founded on religious freedom, i.e., the 1st amendment. Our nation’s Founding Fathers would be appalled that RICO laws were re-interpreted to punish pro-life groups. The more fences to keep the camel’s nose out of the church, the better. Students of history know the term “Separation of Church & State” is not part of our Constitution. Thomas Jefferson’s intent, (he coined the term) was not to keep the church out of the government, but rather to keep the government out of the church.
  At Grace Church our mission is the Gospel! We are to seek to reach every person, whether they are a citizen or a governmental leader, with the good news that there is true hope and another Kingdom. God’s love, grace and forgiveness is available for everyone because of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
  For some time, as have many other Christian leaders, I’ve been concerned that the Church in America is needlessly alienating major portions of the population because of our political persuasions. Until recent times, many Christians thought their values were still held by a majority of Americans. Thus, Christians merely needed to mobilize the moral majority and encourage them to speak out, especially by voting. We could then turn things around, we were assured, if only we could mobilize the masses.
  For the most part, this view is recognized as unrealistic. Biblical values are increasingly becoming an unpopular minority view. Consequently, government will continue to regulate and oppose a biblical worldview.  
  Yet, for many Millennials and ethnic groups, there is at least a perceived too tight of a connection between conservative party politics and Christians. The prime example is abortion. Abortion is used as a wedge issue to establish a dividing line between Republicans and Democrats. The argument is that the Christian way of voting must be for the political party that has a pro-life statement in their platform. Too many Christians fail to recognize that politics and pragmatism are nearly synonymous. Abortion is a “red meat” issue to ramp up party support. Political rhetoric and action are not the same thing. Abortion is a campaign slogan embraced during an election cycle and often abandoned the day after the election. Because abortion is a “red herring,” it preempts discussion about other biblical subjects; genocide, persecution, poverty, marriage…to name just a few.   
  There is no Christian form of government. Christ’s Church has survived and even thrived under the most diabolical of governmental systems. A biblical worldview sees government as an institution established by God (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13) for the purpose of promoting justice for its citizens—protecting the innocent from the aggressor and the lawless. Without personal security, every other function of government (protecting life, liberty, property, reputation, etc.) is meaningless. As Christians, we recognize government as a sacred institution whose rulers are ministers of God for good. God ordained the State to practice godly justice and commands us to submit to it. As long as government serves the purpose for which God created it, we must show our allegiance to God by submitting to human government, understanding though that civil government is secular in nature while Christianity is spiritual. As believers, we’re aliens and strangers, passing through a temporal world (1 Peter 1:1). Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Our highest authority is God. At times, Christians must choose to “obey God, rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
  Too many Christians become caught up in an angry world’s spirit of winning political battles and forget that elected officials and government bureaucrats are also part of “For God so loved the world…” It is a sin to hate anyone, even a Nero or a Hitler. Politicians are not the enemy, Satan is. When we treat those whose ideology is different from ours as the enemy, we create an evil barrier to the Gospel.
  A pagan world is incensed when things don’t go its way, screaming for its rights. We’re to be different, a Christian-counterculture. Only the Gospel, will bring true change to society, since it transforms sinners from the inside out. There are no Christian nations, only Christian people. Our commission is to proclaim the Gospel faithfully in whatever context God puts us.
  Imagine what would happen if every believer wrote their elected officials, thanked him/her for serving, letting them know they were praying for them. It would be a beginning and hopefully open doors for the Gospel. 
  Which Kingdom are you focused on? This temporal world’s or King Jesus’ eternal one? 

Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, 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 to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

True Beauty is an Inside Job!!

“Pretty woman, walkin' down the street
Pretty woman the kind I like to meet
Pretty woman I don't believe you, you're not the truth
No one could look as good as you…”
Roy Orbinson

  Last month entertainment media was all abuzz when Julia Roberts was named the “world’s most beautiful woman” by People magazine…again. It was the fifth time that Julia Roberts has received this honor and is a record breaker. She was first named “Most Beautiful” 26 years ago, around the time of the release of Pretty Woman.
  “World’s most beautiful woman,” really? Huge percentages of the world have never heard of Julia Roberts. I’d surmise that in Asia or Africa, Julia Roberts might not be considered beautiful by what those cultures deem beautiful. In fact, a Caucasian might even be considered repugnant in some cultures. At the very least, an oddity…certainly not the standard of beauty.
  A secular world is enamored with physical beauty. Yet, we in the Church are foolish if we adopt their value system. Physical attraction has little to do with true beauty. In fact, some of those who have true beauty, inner beauty, are considered repulsive by a pagan world. The prophet, Isaiah, said of Jesus, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2). Experience has taught us that some who are considered to be the “beautiful people” are downright ugly in their behavior and values. 
  Many a young woman has struggled with poor self-image and depression because she doesn’t measure up to a shallow world’s standard of beauty. Please understand, I’m not suggesting that we should encourage dowdiness or unkemptness. Yet, as Bible-believers we must measure beauty as God does. That begins with realizing that even physical design is God-given.
  Just as Adam and Eve were designed by the Master Creator, so is every person in this world. In Psalms 148:14 King David wrote, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” In other words, God determines eye color, height, nose size, intellect, etc. Like a snowflake, every person is unique. No two are the same. God sees each person as His masterpiece. That’s so freeing!
  There are no mistakes with the Master Designer. Each part of our make-up is planned and designed by a loving God. That means, too, that there’s no place for either pride or envy. We are the designees, not the Designer. And just as despising or ridiculing the Mona Lisa is to despise and ridicule Leonardo da Vinci, to despise or ridicule an image-bearer of God is to despise and ridicule the Artist, God (James 3:9-10).
  Most of us can make few changes about our physical appearance. Yet, God has given us a stewardship to develop that which brings true beauty – character. Relationally, we all inherently know that character has lasting value while physical beauty does not. Answer these questions for yourself:
  Would you rather have a beautiful yet inept cardiologist, or someone judged plain by the world’s fickle standards, yet gifted in her field? Would you rather buy a car from someone unattractive yet honest, or a “knock-out” who is a pathological liar? Would you rather be married to someone who is “average” yet loving and kind, or a beauty queen who is vain, cruel and demeaning?
  Is it any wonder that Solomon who was an expert on both beauty and women wrote: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). So what does all of this mean for us as those who are to live with a biblical worldview?
  First, we must focus on true beauty. Too often Christian women focus on their external appearance yet neglect the incredible lasting beauty of their hearts. A beautiful heart has great value both in this world and in the courts of heaven.
  Then, what do we praise? What do we honor? Do we encourage our children to focus on that which is so fleeting? Sadly, too often, as in Pretty Woman, externalism is overly sexualized. Or, do we choose to have an eternal worldview, focusing on character, godliness and fruit of the Spirit?
  A lost world focuses on what a woman looks like on the outside. God cares about what she looks like on the inside. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be attractive, yet it’s imperative that we keep things in balance and concentrate on that which has lasting value. God’s desire is for us to work on becoming drop-dead gorgeous…internally. As we do, others will see true beauty, as illustrated in this letter to Ann Landers some years ago:
  A little boy about 9 years of age went to town to buy his mother a gift for her birthday. He decided to buy her a slip. The saleslady asked him what size his mother wore. He picked out one, and she wrapped it for him.
  His mother opened it and saw that the slip was a size 12, not the ample size 22 that she really wore. She told her son it was the most beautiful slip she had ever seen and did not let on that it was the incorrect size. The child was very pleased to see his mother so happy. The next day, the mother went to the store to exchange the slip. The saleslady remembered her son vividly. She told the mother that when she had asked him what size his mother was, the little boy replied, “She’s just perfect.”
  Every woman can be the “world’s most beautiful” in God’s eyes. It’s not something found in a tube or bottle; it’s an inside job. It begins with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Beauty is a gift of grace. It’s by depending on God’s power to bring about heart change and lasting beauty. 

Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, 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 to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Even God knows you need a vacation...

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”   Allen Saunders

  Timelines have never been one of my gifts. I’ve continually had difficulty estimating how long a project will actually take and am too optimistic. Jane, on the other hand, is much more realistic. It makes me very thankful to be married to someone so smart. So a normal conversation for us is for me to ask her input on a realistic appraisal on how long a project will take.
  Sometimes my ineptness at time estimation costs me, as it did recently. There’s a project related to our new building that I thought I could focus on and complete on my first day of vacation. Boy, was I ever wrong! It took bits and pieces of our whole week…and we’re still working on it. But we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  Vacations are very important. For the past few years, there’s been a lot of criticism of both President Obama and Trump on the amount of vacation time they take. Personally, I have a hard time believing that the President is really ever on vacation. I just can’t see, “Well, I know a hurricane just took out Florida BUT don’t bother me now…I’m on vacation.”
  In a few weeks the summer vacation season officially starts. So is there a biblical worldview when it comes to vacations? While Scripture never specifically says anything about vacations, the Bible has a lot to say about rest and a stewardship of life. Both concepts are applicable when it comes to the matter of a believer taking a vacation. Sadly, while Christians value work (as we should), too few value rest. Have you ever shared with a friend that you were “so busy” and they responded, “Not me. I’ve had so much time off, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself.” It’s a conversation that’s not going to happen in American culture.
  On top of that, what many of us call a “vacation” has little to do with rest. We’re so time and activity oriented, we have difficulty adjusting to true down time. But if it’s a vacation why do you really need to know the time? Maybe to catch a plane, but if your vacation is as brimming full (sometimes even more) as your typical work week, what’s really the point?  
  In the very beginning our Creator God set the example of rest after the biggest project of all time. On the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done” (Genesis 2:2). Part of the very identity of the Jews as God’s chosen people was that they were commanded to take an entire day of rest from all work. And while as New Covenant Christians, we are no longer under the Old Testament Law, that doesn’t mean that rest isn’t part of God’s plan and essential for us. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for us, meaning that God gave it as a gift to us (Mark 2:27). God knows that we need rest. In resting and ceasing from work, we demonstrate faith and dependence on God for His provision.
  In a culture that values busy and accomplishment, taking a break to recharge your batteries, bond with your spouse and family, to see God’s wonderful world are vital, yet too often taken-for-granted blessings. Vance Havner said, “We need to come apart and rest awhile, and if we don't come apart, we will come apart, we'll go to pieces! It is true that the devil never takes a vacation, but we are not to follow the devil but the Lord.”
  The Lord Jesus told His disciples after an exhausting day of ministry and meeting people’s needs, Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” We need to turn off our phone and all other electronics, pack up and get away trusting God that things won’t fall apart in our absence. It’s biblical wisdom to take that step of faith in God and rest.  
  Vacation improves us. The vacation tradition was started by companies in the early 20th century as a productivity strategy. Employers found that their employees returned re-charged and much more productive as a result of taking a break. Recent studies show American workers are much more productive after returning from a vacation. Increased hours of sleep and decreased levels of stress resulted in more productivity.
  Are you and your spouse constantly bickering? Is family life a war zone? Maybe you don’t need a marriage or family counselor, you all just need some real rest. Take an electronics fast. Believe me, if it’s truly an emergency, they’ll always find you. Take a walk on the beach or in the forest, listening to God’s matchless symphony. Breathe deep, relaxing in the glory of His creation. Have long conversations with your spouse and children. Make s-mores and stare up at a star-filled sky. Play table games. Read a book until you doze, just make sure it’s not work related.  Count your many blessings! For most of us, it will take a few days to decompress.
  Vacation spurs our creativity and gratitude. My favorite vacations are the ones where I can enjoy the outdoors and marvel at God’s creation. For me, the artificialness of a theme park is like a TV dinner. I want true beauty by the Master. Seeing God’s creativity spurs our creativity. In most jobs or hobbies, if you can add a creative element you’ll be more productive and fulfilled with what you’ve created. That’s also true of worship. You are God’s masterpiece…a one of a kind. There is a deep fulfillment in living out your purpose through the talents and abilities God has given you. 
  Please take some time and enjoy it. Enjoy it with your Heavenly Father. We were created to love and enjoy Him forever. A vacation is a wonderful reminder of that. So go ahead and schedule it. If you need to, tell your boss that it’s a church thing and your Pastor made you do it.  

Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, 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 to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Church Leadership in an Anti-Authority World

“Contrary to contemporary wisdom, the Bible teaches that one cannot yield to the authority of the Word without submitting to the authority of the church.”  
                                                                     John Muether

  Christian author and pastor, John Stott, insightfully wrote, “Seldom if ever in its long history has the world witnessed such a self-conscious revolt against authority.” Be honest. When you hear these words, authority or submission, what comes to your mind? Do you welcome them as pleasant words? Or bristle and put up your guard?
  Our nation was founded on a rebellion against authority. One of our early mottoes was, “Don’t tread on me!” Nearly 250 years later, we’re still known for our defiant national spirit which exalts individual rights. The concept of submission to authority seems wimpy…even foreign to us!
  Then, our culture is permeated by postmodernism which holds that there is no absolute truth. Each person is free to make up “truth” or at least interpret it as they see fit. So your “truth” is fine for you, but I have my own, and do not feel obligated to submit to your “truth.” You can believe as you like, but you must let me believe as I like. Truth is not authoritative. “I” am the authority over my life, and use “truth” for my own ends.
  When we add to that the concept of congregational church government, where each member has an equal vote with passages in the Bible like Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you,” this all becomes particularly problematic!
  Tragically, church government is often notoriously political. Christians are infamous for dividing from other Christians over petty issues. In our individualism trumps all world, if a believer doesn’t like something at church, they’d never consider submitting. They’d just join or even start a new church! Yet, against all of these powerful cultural influences, comes Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them….”
  No doubt, some of you reading this are thinking, “What happened? Why are you writing this now, Scott?” And that’s why I am writing it now. There are no leadership issues that I’m aware of. Consider this pre-protection for our church because there will be.
  Churches typically fail for one of two reasons. The first is poor leadership—the failure of those whom God has called to lead, to lead well, lead biblically and lead in an exemplary fashion. Many churches have been destroyed because leadership didn’t live up to biblical expectations.  Second, churches fail because of a lack of congregational support. All the leadership in the world can't lead those who refuse to follow. Leaders must lead well, but they need people to follow well, too.
  God has blessed us with wonderful leaders at Grace: Rich Benson, Ron Strelow, Mike Wiemer and Ray Ziebell. All of these men love the Lord and love you. They’re not perfect, yet they’re committed to pleasing the Lord, and serving you. Only their wives and families know fully their commitment and the hours they pour into serving the Lord and our church. I’m thankful for each one of them and I hope that you are too.
  The vast majority of folk in a local church are never an issue, nor do they want to be. It’s usually only small minority, like 5% who make being a leader wearisome and grievous. Some don’t want to submit to any authority. Usually, if someone has problems with leadership at church, it’s very likely they also have problems with leadership at their job and other places. More often than not, they’re chronic and even petty critics of government or anyone in authority. Sometimes it’s driven by jealousy and an arrogant longing to be in charge. Please mark it down. When someone longs to be in charge, it’s a warning that they shouldn’t be. So what are the church family’s responsibilities to church leadership?
  Pray for them. It’s instructive that the Apostle Paul frequently asked for prayer. We’d think that a great Christian like Paul wouldn’t need prayer but he knew that he did. If Paul was aware of his need for prayer, how much more do the rest of us who seeking to serve the Lord need it! Pray they will have a clear conscience because leaders are accountable to God, that what they say and do brings glory to God and our church’s spiritual welfare.  Every leader who is faithful to God must say or do some things from time to time that undoubtedly will offend someone. So pray that they not only do the right thing but that they do it in the right way. If more people prayed consistently for church leaders, maybe there would be fewer church splits and fewer people leaving churches over petty matters.
  Submit to them. The Greek words in Hebrews 13:17 for “obey” and “submit” mean to obey and submit! The difference, if any, between the two words is that obedience implies going along with direction or commands, whereas submission involves an attitude. We all know you can obey outwardly while seething with anger inwardly, but you aren’t submitting. Submission implies a sweet spirit of cooperation that stems from trust. You trust that the leaders have your best interests at heart, and so you follow them. Obviously, this is not talking about blind obedience. If a congregation doesn’t trust their leaders because the leaders are carnal, then those leaders must be confronted and removed (1 Tim. 5:19-21).
  Be concerned about your leaders. Hebrews 13:24 says, “Greet all of your leaders.” We don't understand greeting in our contemporary culture. When we greet one another, we say, "Hi! How are you doing? (But don’t really answer. I’m just being polite and I’m in a hurry.”) That's not how they greeted one another in the Scriptures. A Jew would say to another Jew, “Shalom.” Shalom does not mean “peace” as we often use the word. When a Jew greeted another with shalom, he meant “total wellness.” They were saying, “How are you, over all?” To greet leaders means then to express personal concern. We’re to look out for the concerns of our leaders. We’re to affirm and encourage them. 
  The bottom line is for all of us is to grow in becoming a better church family and our leaders will try to be grow in being better leaders as we all seek to build our church together for the glory of King Jesus.

Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, 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 to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.