Monday, October 30, 2017

The GIFT no one wants: Pettiness

“Pettiness is the tendency of people without large purposes.” 
George Will

  Charlie Pender was the Mayor of Corner Brook, a quiet little town in Canada. It’s the kind of place where nothing much happens. Recently, Charlie was up for re-election but for some reason someone thought it’d be funny to vandalize his political signs. It wasn’t major, just a bit of odd humor. They cut a flap in his signs and placed hotdogs in them so it appeared that the hot dogs were coming out of Mayor Pender’s mouth. His political foe, of course, distanced himself from the Corner Brook Wiener Bandit. But the cold hot dogs made Mayor Pender very hot over what was a silly prank…and it cost him. Voters decided they didn’t need a Mayor who lacked perspective and made such a big deal over something so trivial.
  Did you know that October is Pastor Appreciation Month? We’ve all met those people who want a gift and leave subtle hints. I decided to not be so subtle. I want a GIFT! But you can’t buy it in a store. And it’s really not for me, it’s for our whole church. In the end, it’s also for you. Every pastor would love it if their church would give them this same gift. Here it is: Please don’t be petty. Please don’t complain about the insignificant.
  It’s true that it’s probably not insignificant to you, but it really is. The mission of the church is not about making you or me happy. It’s not about making you or me comfortable. The mission of the Church is about glorifying God. It’s about believers growing in grace and becoming more like Jesus. It’s about reaching with the Gospel those who don’t know Jesus.
  It’s very noteworthy that the most infamous petty complainers in the Bible were always referred to as the “children” of Israel. Obviously, God was making a point. When believers whine about the petty, they reveal their spiritual immaturity. They divulge that they don’t understand the Gospel, or what it means to be like Jesus, or even what discipleship is all about. That’s both sad and anything but insignificant.  
  The Bible commands us to not complain, “Do all things without grumbling” (Phil. 2:14). Sadly, that doesn’t stop most of us. God’s Word commands us instead to speak words that are edifying and encouraging (Ephesians 4:29) “only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
  Many of the trivial complaints and arguments people have in churches are shocking and even funny. Here’s a small sampling compiled by ministry blogger, Thom Ranier: One church had a 45-minute heated argument over the type of filing cabinet to purchase: black or brown; 2, 3, or 4 drawers. Another had folk upset over what type of green beans the church should serve. Someone made an issue over whether the church should allow people to wear black t-shirts, since black is the color of the devil. Someone got upset when they discovered that the church budget was off $0.10. There have been church wars over the type of coffee served. In one, they simply moved to a stronger blend and members left the church over it.
  We may chuckle yet some of our “big issues” are just as silly. This has been on my heart lately. Because as we make decisions for our new building, there will be strong opinions. The reality is that the vast majority of them simply don’t matter. They’re just opinions and subjective. For example, there is no right or wrong color for the walls or the carpeting (though most of us would prefer that they not be hot pink.) So how should we handle it when something bothers us at church?  
  First, we need to ask, “Is this something that takes away from God’s glory?” If it’s something that’s truly biblical, then that’s obviously the case. Most things aren’t. If they were, because leaders are usually biblically focused, they would have already known it was a problem.
  Second, “Have I prayed about it and examined my own heart?” Problem-solving must always begin with suspecting the person I know best – ME. Satan loves to use our ego against us. It’s not necessarily important or big just because WE think it is. Yet, little can make us angrier than feeling that we aren’t important BUT we’re not. Only God is important.
  Third, “Is this a problem that hinders us in accomplishing our mission?” In nearly four decades of ministry, rarely has anyone ever come to me about a concern that needed addressing because it was a barrier to lost folk accepting the Gospel or it was hindering Christians from growing. 
  Fourth, “Do I want to problem-solve or only gripe?” Some are just gripers. They’re never happy. It’s poor stewardship to even listen to them.
  Fifth, “If I honestly want to problem-solve, have I brought the issue to the attention of a leader in the church?” Some will seek to develop a coalition of supporters by sowing discord and causing disunity in the Body. When they finally go to a leader, they package it with something like, “other people are saying…” If the leader asks, “Who?” It’s “I don’t want to say.” They’re the self-appointed ambassador for the disgruntled. 
  Sixth, “Am I willing to invest (time, money, effort) to be part of the solution?” If I’m not willing to put skin in the game, it’s unlikely that it’s important. It’s very easy to complain or be part of the problem. God wants us to grow in our faith and learn to practice biblical problem solving.
  Seventh, “Am I willing to humbly and graciously accept things if my wishes are not followed?” That’s a Christlike heart, a servant’s heart. A church family like a biological one is to be a place of giving and taking for the greater purpose. Our common goal must be to always please King Jesus, even if it isn’t our preference. Godly Christians are committed to Jesus first, the local church family second, and our own personal wishes last.  

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, October 22, 2017

We'll leave the light on for you....

“The first church a neighbor visits is your driveway. You don’t get to be a good church and a bad neighbor." Jon Acuff

  A highlight for me while growing up was trick-or-treating. On one occasion it opened doors into the home of an older couple who became great friends. Like all children, I loved dressing up and I loved candy!
  One Halloween we decided to see if we could make a bigger haul, so we went on the other side of a major road across from our subdivision to do some trick-or-treating. Somehow we convinced each other to go up a long driveway with a gated entry and trick-or-treat. We did know it but the Jamesons lived there. Looking back, apparently they were retired and lived on a large property of several acres. The reason that their driveway was gated was that they had two beautiful English Setters.
  Apparently, no other trick-or-treaters ever ventured up there. They loaded us up with goodies and I had my very first caramel apple. They even took us on a wagon ride (another first). All because one of us had the courage to suggest trick-or-treating at their home. Later, as a boy, I’d often wander up to their home and play with their dogs or they’d load me up with pecans from their pecan trees. Fifty years later I can still remember how kind they were to all of us…all because they opened their gates and doors to a bunch of kids out trick-or-treating.
  All year long at Grace we ask our neighbors to come and visit our church. But on one night of the year, Halloween, our neighbors are pouring into our church. Since we started our Halloween outreach some years ago, we’ve had many of them share that they never knew that there was even a church here. This year we’re inviting them to join us as we move up the road to our new building. We easily have some 300 neighbors come through. Over and over again they thank us again and again for being thoughtful, serving hot dogs, popcorn and candy. If the weather is chilly or rainy, they’ll thank us for opening up our warm building. Many will thank us for having a bathroom available for a small child with an emergency.
  For several years, Janell Alvarez, has faithfully headed this up and done a fantastic job. This year though Janell is assisting Ryan Mueller, Jr. Ryan believes God is leading him into the ministry. We’re a family and this is a safe place to get some experience at leading in ministry, so Janell and Ryan’s father, Ryan Sr., will be assisting him as he heads up this outreach.
  We can always use more help! We need folk to pass out candy, hot dogs and popcorn. We need people to greet our neighbors! There is plenty for everyone to do. Let’s use this tradition of children collecting candy as an opportunity to serve our community and to show-case our church, and invite them to our new building that will be opening soon.
  If you’re going to stay home, let me encourage you to pass out candy to the little neighbors who’ll be ringing your doorbell. Ooh and aaah over how cute the children are. Greet the parents and commend them for spending an evening out with their children. It’s estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of children trick-or-treat each year, giving us the opportunity to build gospel bridges from the comfort of our own doorstep. The world might celebrate this night with ghosts and witches. We know the One who has true power over both this world and the next.
  Let’s be honest though. For some believers Halloween is a difficult holiday. They just don’t feel comfortable participating in it, and that’s fine. Too often in the Church we make grey issues black and white. In our culture of choosing sides, we’ve jettisoned an important doctrine called “Soul Liberty.” We’ve made those who participate or who don’t believe that they should participate feel guilty. Some believers feel that Halloween is a pagan holiday that Christians should avoid all costs.
  Where the Bible is clear, we need to be clear, but there are many areas of life and behavior that are not clearly addressed by Scripture. It’s in those areas that we need to live according to our own understanding of God’s Word and our conscience. Each of us is responsible before God to study His Word. We have the liberty to choose in areas where Scripture does not speak expressly about what we are to believe and how we are to behave. No one should be pressured to violate their conscience.
  Through the ages Christians have struggled with these things. They are not a question of spirituality but personal liberty. We’re all tempted to give in to pride and judge others…judge them on their liberty or lack of it. Too many Christians are ignorant of Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 9. Twice the Bible unpacks for us that we are not to judge each other on non-essential matters where the Bible does not give specific commands. There are many areas the Bible doesn’t address or where it allows liberty of conscience. In these matters, Scripture repeatedly says we’re not to judge or regard one another with contempt (Romans 14:1-10). Rather, we’re to always love one another and accept one another, just as Jesus Christ has accepted us.
  Wonderfully, God doesn’t want “cookie cutter” Christians. A local church is a body made up of various parts. So if you can help us reach out on Halloween, please join us. If you want to build bridges to your neighbors, go for it. If you’re not comfortable with participating in Halloween activities and it violates your conscience, then please pray that our efforts will be effective for the Kingdom! All of us though have a responsibility to reach out to those around us with the Gospel, 24/7, 365 days a year. We’re missionaries. So what are you doing to reach your part of the mission field? 

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, October 15, 2017

Why don't we talk about Home more?

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
C. S. Lewis

  If something is important to you, you think about it a lot…you talk about it a lot. This weekend will finish what has been a long anticipated time for our family. For several months our whole family has been looking forward to Aaron coming home for a visit from Taiwan with his fiancĂ©, Jiaya Tsai. Not only were we longing to see Aaron, we were looking forward to meeting this new member of our family. It’s hard to believe that the last time Aaron was home was a year ago. Though we are all very proud of him and support what he is doing, (teaching English in Taiwan), we greatly miss him. We love Aaron and would love to have him closer. These times when we are all together again are so special to us. Praise the Lord, we live in a time of modern technology and Aaron is literally a video call away!
  Recently, I had lunch with a dear friend who lost his wife to cancer a few months ago. His hurt will no doubt never go away on this side of eternity. He loves and dearly misses his wife. Before her Homegoing, I remember often talking with Mom Cummins and she’d express her heartache and how much she longed to go Home and be re-united with Dad. A believer has something that an unbeliever can’t understand – Hope! Yes, there’s pain and hurt, but we know that it’s all temporary. We know that it’s truly “Good-night” not “Good-bye” on this side of heaven.
  Yet, other than funerals or when someone is elderly or ill, we hardly think about heaven. Most of us talk more about retirement, which at best will last a few decades, but rarely do we long for our eternal Home. Sadly, I have to confess that I’m far too this world oriented. I think more about this life, my “To Do” list, or even what I’m going to eat, than I do eternity.
  And if something isn’t important to us, we’re not going to talk about it with those we care about, much less a total stranger. For example, when I go to a restaurant that’s really good, I tell my friends about it. Recently, Jane and tried out a new one because a friend had highly recommended it.
  It used to be that Christians were accused of being so “heavenly minded that they were no earthly good.” That’s not really a problem today. Unfortunately, at least, I know it’s not my problem. I find that the Apostle Paul’s words prick my earth-limited heart, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2). Being with Christ for all eternity must be the focus of life. We should be actively training our minds to think about the day when Christ is revealed and we’re finally Home. It’s easy to be distracted. Temporal concerns easily grab our attention and overall it seems like we don’t think about heaven very much. Part of our difficulty is that the Bible tells us more about what won’t be in heaven than what will be there. Then, some foolishly think that heaven is going to be boring, like one very long church service. It’s not! It will be every joy, thrill, peace and satisfaction that’s beyond our imagination on this sin contaminated earth.
  The best part of heaven though is that Jesus will be there. The One who loved us so much that He died for us, even though He knew how sinful we all are. Jesus loved us, died for us and paid the price for all of our sin.
  One of my favorite hymn writers is Fanny Crosby, who wrote more than 9,000 hymns. She wrote so many that she was forced to use pen names so hymnals wouldn’t be filled with her name. The most remarkable thing about her was that she did this in spite of being blind from infancy.
  One time a well-meaning preacher commented to her, “I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you.” Fanny Crosby responded at once, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind? Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.” No wonder she wrote:

  Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But, O the joy when I shall wake
Within the presence of the King! 

Some day my earthly house will fall,
I cannot tell how soon ’twill be,
But this I know—my All in all
Has now a place with Him for me.

And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story, saved by grace:
And I shall see Him face to face,
  And tell the story, saved by grace. 

  We are so thankful that Aaron is home. Wonderfully, he didn’t come alone. I don’t want to go Home alone, do you? In my Quiet Time with the Lord, I have several folk who I love that don’t yet know my Savior that I’m praying will know my Jesus. Heaven is so wonderful and Jesus is so incomparable that it would break my heart if they missed it. I don’t want to go to heaven alone, do you? Let’s focus on the real world!  

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, October 8, 2017

Lessons from Hugh Hefner

“I’m never going to grow up.
Staying young is what it is all about for me.” Hugh Hefner

  Hugh Hefner died a week ago on September 27th at the age of 91. Much has been said and written about him during his lifetime, and even more so with his death. The media and Hollywood have acted as if he was some sort of hero who finally passed away. One article in People actually labeled him “an American hero.” Evangelicals and feminists have reviled him as a moral monster, the poster child of debauchery, male chauvinism and hedonism. As I’ve been mulling over his death, I believe that there are lessons to be learned from what God’s Word would label a tragic life.
  Hugh Hefner’s worldview is a rebuke to many Christians. That probably surprises you. The reason I say that is while I diametrically disagree with Hefner’s worldview, at least he had a carefully thought out worldview. Hefner took the time and mental work to carefully think out what he believed and even published it as “The Playboy Philosophy.” It wasn’t just theory for him, he lived his life according to what he believed was the correct philosophy of life.
  1 Peter 3:15 says, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” In other words, T-H-I-N-K – know what you really believe. Many professing Christians sit in church week after week, yet don’t have a clue what they believe. They may even say the right words, but are just going through the motions. Christianity demands thinking. God designed us with an intellect. Our faith is not for those who want to park their brains at the door. We’ve been given a Book of written revelation from the mind of an infinite God. The Bible is not to be some archaic icon that’s never read or carefully thought about. God commands us to study His Word and be wise. Christians are to be committed thinkers.  
  Worse, there are many in the Church who give lip service on Sunday, yet what they say they believe does little to change their lifestyle. As repulsive as his life was, no one ever accused Hefner of being a hypocrite.
  Hugh Hefner’s lifestyle was debauched. In our generation, no one person has probably done as much harm to morality, marriage, one’s self-concept, women, men and families. Hugh Hefner was one of the first false prophets of “free love.” He confused lust with love. Love is never free. Love demands commitment, selflessness and can be very costly. Lust, on the other hand, is egocentric, self-satisfying and narcissistic.  
  How many young people have looked in a mirror and despised the image that they see because they lack what they perceive as “sex appeal.” Women, rather than being respected and valued as an image bearer of God, were seen as little more than “pieces of meat.” Men were taught that the highest good was pleasure, not commitment. Implicitly, they were taught by Hefner that women were to be treated as the enemy, products to consume. It’s a grim, banal, consumerist way of life that, in practice, denies men the pleasures of being committed partners to women, sexually or otherwise. The “bunny” logo was apropos because Hefner saw both men and women as animals…rabbits. His perversity contaminated our culture with a “bi-polar morality.” On one hand it admires someone that’s a sexual “Olympian,” yet detests someone who’s unfaithful or makes perverse, demeaning comments about women. Our culture wants to be both perverse and pure…at the same time. The outcome is moral insanity.  
  Hugh Hefner’s life is a warning. Paint him however you want, the bottom line is that Hefner was a dirty old man. He was perverse and lecherous. If he’d had lived in your neighborhood, you’d have called the police on this old pervert walking around in a robe. You’d have warned your children to stay away from him. What kind of degenerate mind would want their daughter to be a centerfold? It’s noteworthy that Hefner never used his own daughter, Christie, to pose for Playboy.
  Solomon warned of the high cost of unrestrained immorality, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). As I’m nearing my 58th birthday, I’ve seen far too many colleagues in ministry that I loved and respected make a shipwreck of their lives and ministry because of unrestrained immorality. Many marriages have been devastated with innocent children having their souls shredded because either Mom or Dad didn’t realize the high cost of a momentary pleasure.
  I continually pray for my now adult children’s moral purity. My prayer for myself is that God would protect me from my own deceitful heart and that rather than my making a terrible choice and bringing shame to Him, my family and my ministry – that He’d just take me Home prematurely. What a tragedy to end life as a dirty old man or a dirty old woman.
  Hugh Hefner’s end should weigh on our hearts. In an account from one of his many partners, Holly Madison, Hefner was described as controlling and manipulative, and held in utter contempt by the women of the mansion. They despised spending time with him. Though a very rich man, though seemingly according to Hollywood he had what every man wants, it’s all very sad. Throughout his long life he was unable to connect with a woman as a fellow human being. To me that’s very depressing.
  Hebrews 9:27 reminds us that after this life comes the Judgement. There is absolutely no indication that Hefner knew Christ as His Savior. All his hedonistic pleasure means nothing to him now. As Jesus warned, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). A Christ-less world may celebrate the licentious life and legacy of Hugh Hefner, yet it’s nothing to celebrate. His life was a catastrophe and a warning to us all that the “pleasures of sin last only for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). Let’s choose to be wiser because of him. 

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, October 1, 2017

Suicide: A tragic reality we need to talk about

“My experience with depressed people is that when they have suffered from long periods of depression and begin to talk about suicide, we had better pay attention.”  Curtis Thomas

  Recently, I was talking with a friend who shared the heartbreaking news that a relative had committed suicide. Our world is one of death and pain, yet I don’t think that there is any greater heartbreak than to have a loved one or friend take their own life. There are so many unanswered questions, accompanied by a raging sea of emotions. 
  If you’re like me, you feel like you took a hit in the gut when you learn of a celebrity or someone famous who took their own life. That’s compounded many times over if it’s someone that you love and care about.
  Suicide in the U.S. has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years with increases in every age group except older adults. The rise is particularly steep for women. It’s also substantial among middle-aged Americans, a group whose suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s.
  The overall suicide rate has risen some 25% since 1999. In 1999, nearly 30,000 people died from suicide but by 2014 that number rose to over 42, 000. Nearly half a million people each year are seen in the ER for self-injury. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teenagers. It’s estimated that more than a million people die by suicide each year in the world, or more than 2,700 people per day. 7% of 18-39 year olds admit that they’ve seriously considered suicide during the last year. Depression is a major factor in two thirds of all suicides. Other major factors are childhood abuse, sexual molestation and confusion over sexuality.
  Suicide is not new but has become more widespread. Even in the Bible we find at least seven accounts of suicides, including King Saul, Samson, Ahithophel and Judas. Nearly everyone has wearied of life at some point or another. Most of us have had suicidal thoughts. There are godly believers in Scripture who wanted to die, like Elijah and Job. The Bible’s description of their despair and suicidal desires make it clear that they were wrong. Bailing out on life is always a wrong choice. Sometimes God brings us to a point of total desperation (Psalms 107), so we’ll give up trying to live life in our own strength and cast ourselves wholly upon Christ.
  If a Christian commits suicide, will they go to heaven? Apart from rejecting God's provision for salvation through the sacrificial death of Jesus, suicide is the worst thing an unbeliever can do. That’s because there is no second chance for salvation after one’s death. But for the Christian, it’s essential to understand several things regarding suicide.
  First, suicide is sin. God forbids murder (Exodus 20:13). Taking one's own life is murder. It rejects the sufficiency of God’s grace to face any difficulty. Suicide is also a sin because it causes terrible suffering and pain for those we leave behind. Yet, while suicide is a sin, it is not an unpardonable sin. The same God who forgave us all of our sin because of Christ’s sacrifice, knew that we were going to take our own life. When Jesus died for our sins, all of them were future. Once we accept Christ as our Savior, we are part of God’s forever family. If your Dad and Mom will always be your Dad and Mom, that’s even more true based on Scripture and with a Heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally. You can’t sin enough, even by committing suicide, to get God to reject or disown you.
  What if someone struggles with suicidal thoughts? First, go see your doctor. Investigate on whether there might be a physiological reason you’re having these thoughts. If they’re persistent, see a good biblical counselor. Find one who’s been recommended by someone that you trust.
  Then, find a mature Christian friend to confide in. When you feel at low points, call them or meet with them. Have them pray with you and for you.
  Make certain that you’re getting adequate rest. The Prophet Elijah’s time of extreme despair came after a time of exhausting ministry. His spiritual and emotional resources were at a very low point.
  Spend time in the Word and in prayer. God knows what you’re going through. He loves you and completely understands. Perhaps read the Psalms. King David went through some very low points in his life.
  Though you want to isolate yourself, it’s the worst thing you can do. Faithfully attend worship services. Commit to being part of a small group. Seek out Christians that care about you, live in victory and tend to be spiritually optimistic.
  Exercise, limit your consumption of the media, and make yourself go outside into God’s wonderful creation. Most of what’s in the news is negative and depressing. It’s not what you need. Exercise has been proven to increase our energy and even help change our moods.
  Find someone that you can help and be a blessing to. Visit a shut-in or someone elderly with limited mobility. Serving and investing in others is phenomenal therapy. Write thank you notes to those who have been a blessing to you.
  There have been periods of my life when I have felt like I was drowning in what John Bunyan called “the Slough of Despond.” Something God has used in my heart over and over again are believers who faced horrible persecution like David, Joseph, the Apostle Paul and heroes from Christian History like Michael Sadler, Adoniram Judson or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Knowing their story and seeing God’s faithfulness in their lives has encouraged me. Because the same God who loved them and got them through much worse than I am facing, loves me and will get me through as well. His grace truly is sufficient! 
  You and I are surrounded by hurting, often despairing people. Let’s ask God to make us that person that they can call for help and encouragement! Let’s commit to being their “suicide prevention hotline.”  

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. "