Sunday, July 21, 2019

Family: Some Assembly Required

“You don’t choose family. They are God’s gift to you,
as you are to them.” Desmond Tutu

After the dedication of his baby brother in church, little Johnny sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy blubbered, “That pastor said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I want to stay with you guys!”
  The vital importance of family is seen early on in Scripture within the provisions of the Mosaic covenant. Two of the Ten Commandments deal with maintaining the cohesiveness of the family. The 5th commandment regarding honoring parents is meant to preserve the authority of parents in family matters. The 7th commandment prohibiting adultery protects the sanctity of marriage. From these two commandments flow all of the various other stipulations within the Mosaic Law which seek to protect marriage and the family. The health of the family was so important to God that it was codified into the national covenant of His chosen people, Israel.
  It takes God’s grace, work and commitment to have a Christian home that is more than one merely in name. It won’t just happen. And there are countless sources of advice out there. Many define a successful family as one that communicates or where everyone gets along. Others define it as a place where the family lives comfortably. But God designed marriage and the family, we wisely then begin with His definition of success.
  It’s a privilege to welcome my good friend, James Hauser, to Grace Church today. James is the regional director for Youth for Christ in SE Wisconsin. He’s also one of the missionaries our church supports. For the next six Sundays James will be unpacking for us a biblical worldview on the family. So, what is a successful family?
  A successful home has faith as its foundation. Success begins in Scripture with both husband and wife having a personal relationship with Christ. It’s so vital that one of the few exceptions for the dissolution of a marriage is when an unbeliever abandons it. When both know the Lord, they work from the same blueprint. Can you imagine attempting to build a house with different sets of blueprints? That’s what it’s like if both don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes one partner comes to Christ later in life or violates Scripture and marries an unbeliever. The Bible makes provision for that. It’s best though to begin with a solid foundation. Having a husband and wife with a relationship to Christ is the place to begin.
  A successful home is built with commitment. It takes commitment to persevere together through inevitable trials to make a family successful. Both spouses being committed to the marriage must come first. The marriage must have priority even over the children and they must not allow them to be a place of division.
  Marriage is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with His Church. God made Adam and Eve in His own image. A successful family reflects God’s love because God is love (1 Jn 4:8). Though we’re not perfect or holy like Him, we’re to imitate Him in our relationships, especially the marital one.  
  Think of how that should change your relationship with your spouse if you behaved as if you are Jesus to your spouse? Think of how it changes your relationship with your children if you work through that you are Jesus to them? Ephesians 5:1 commands us, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” In our marriages and families, we’re saying, “I will do all that is in my power to love you even when you fail me and to love you even if you don’t love me. I will seek to love you as God has loved me. I am committed to you.” It’s not easy. It takes God’s grace and power. Yet, this is how God loves us and it’s how we are commanded to love.
  A successful home takes time. You won’t have a successful family without spending time together. There’s no substitute for time. In our busy lives, family time must be a priority. It won’t happen without scheduling it and by carving out specific times for your spouse and family.
  God’s Word says that we must learn how to number our days (Ps. 90:12). This means that we need to understand that time is a precious commodity. All of us know how to number our years, God reminds us that every day is so precious that we should treasure it and number it as valuable for our lives. How valuable is an hour? Ask the businessperson whose flight was delayed for an hour and missed an appointment in another city. How valuable is a minute? Ask the man who had a heart attack and the person sitting next to him knew CPR. How valuable is a second? Ask the person who hesitated for 1 second before swerving to avoid an oncoming car in his lane. How valuable is a fraction of a second? Ask the L.A. Spurs who were beaten by the Lakers in a playoff game with 4/10 of just 1 second left on the clock.
  Husbands, do you love your wives? Wives, do you love your husbands? Give them your time! Parents, do you love your children? Give them your time. Love is not spelled T-H-I-N-G-S. It’s spelled T-I-M-E! There will always be something else to do or somewhere else to be. Learn to say no to some of the good things in life so you can have God’s best. It means saying ‘Yes’ to the Lord and ‘no’ to others, including our boss, friends, and others.
  Fifty years from now which is going to more important: Spending time with your family or watching a TV sitcom, scanning your phone or running around with your friends? Not one person on their deathbed has said, “I wish I’d spent more time at work making more money.”
  A successful home plan for tomorrow today. God has a multi-generational plan, yet most Christian families barely survive one generation of faith. Genesis 2:4 teaches that the Bible is summarized as a book of generations. We won’t understand God’s plan without understanding that His plan unfolds for generations. The gospel and a biblical worldview are to be passed on. It’s a biblical mandate and shames our one-generational approach of only blessing individuals.
  Christian parents need a long game. We’re not raising children, we’re raising our grandchildren’s parents. How do we want our grandchildren raised? Living in the perspective of tomorrow must alter how we parent today. Success always begins with God and His perspective.

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, July 14, 2019

Sabbaticals: A Time for Rest & Refocus

“God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.”

In his powerful book, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, Pastor Kent Hughes shares this story:  
  “The wife of a close pastor friend of ours enjoys telling how she awoke one night to find her husband asleep on his elbows and knees at the foot of the bed. His arms were cupped before him as if he were embracing the base of a tree, and he was muttering. ‘George! What on earth are you doing?’ she cried. ‘Shhh,’ he answered, still asleep. ‘I’m holding a pyramid of marbles together, and if I move, it’s going to tumble down…’
  A classic pastor’s dream! First, because it was the subconscious revelation of a pressured parson. Second, because the pyramid of marbles is an apt metaphor for a pastor’s work.”
  Today is my last Sunday before a several week Sabbatical. Words can’t adequately express my appreciation to our leaders and church family for supporting and encouraging this!
  What are our plans? Jane and I will take a few vacation days to work on some needed projects in our home and then we’re headed to Florida where we’re renting a pastor friend’s winter home. On the way, as we go through Georgia, we’ll connect with my family for a few days.
  What’s the purpose of this Sabbatical?
  Spiritual focus. I need undistracted time for prayer, study and focus. Lord willing, I’d like to pastor Grace for another decade, if my health holds and the Lord allows me that privilege. This fall I’ll be 60. To do that though requires planning and preparation.
  Our culture is rapidly changing and with our growth, our church is changing. The next decade needs wise and godly planning. During the past few months I’ve wished that I was nearing 40, not 60. Prayers, dreams and visions that I’ve long had for our church are now coming to fruition.
  We’re making strides in ministry now that years ago I only longed for. For example, in the last year and a half, we’ve had nearly 200 visitors, and these are the ones who have shared their information with us. What a stark contrast to 2017 prior to our new building. That year we had less than 40.
  More people means more opportunities for the gospel! We have many who regularly attend who have not yet committed their lives to Christ. God has blessed us in that we’ve seen several others come to Christ and move forward spiritually. What was a trickle is a steady stream, and we are very, very grateful for God’s goodness to us!
  Yet, our purpose is not a big crowd. Our purpose is to see more come to Christ and become committed Christ-followers. If you study the life of Christ, that’s supremely biblical. The Lord never commands us to attract a crowd but to make disciples. The Christian life is one of total commitment of “taking up your cross” (Matt. 16:24).
  Our church is sailing into new waters. Tragically, we’re unusual in American Christianity in that we are a growing church. I was shocked to recently learn that less than 20% of churches in America are growing.
  With growth, the needs also grow. The weekly pastoral responsibility is all consuming. Even as I was typing this, I had to stop and deal with  several “emergencies.” Then, weekly sermon preparation alone demands some 20 hours a week. Add to that, counseling, hospital calls, administration, church ministries and outreach. Wonderfully, I’m never bored, yet often I’m tired.
  For our church to move forward, we must continue to move forward into more of a team ministry. That requires training and empowering leaders. Scripture is clear that one has not reached spiritual maturity until you are reproducing yourself spiritually in those who can then reproduce themselves (2 Timothy 2:3).
  We must plan generationally. The pages of church history are littered with examples of churches that failed to do that. They had a great period of victory and success, yet because they were locked in the past, resting on their laurels or unwilling to give away power and authority, the ministry peaked and declined. While our message must never change, in that we seek to base our ministry on God’s authoritative and unchanging Word, yet methods and messengers continually change.
  During the next six weeks I am so thankful that my good friend, James Hauser, is filling the pulpit at Grace and teaching a series on the family – Family: Some Assembly Required. James is truly a kindred spirit. Please be praying for James as he shares God’s Word with us. And please invite family and friends. The key to family success is to follow the Master- Designer’s original blueprint. If you’re a grandparent, invite your children and their families to join you.
  Personal and marital focus. While one can be the President with a bad marriage, marital discord disqualifies one from ministry. Wonderfully, Jane and I have been married 36 years. We began well and want to end well. Please pray that this will be a time of drawing closer to the Lord and each other. We want to use this time wisely. Pray that I will utilize the right resources and the Lord will give me wisdom as I seek to lead our church for the future. Pray, too, that we will be able to get deep soul rest. After our building project, I’ve been aware that my internal resources are low.
  Please pray for our leaders and their families as they will be carrying the ministry load during this time. Pray for our church. Pray for protection, unity and growth. None of us are essential or irreplaceable. What a blessing it would be if this time of my Sabbatical and absence was a time of great spiritual victory and growth for His glory in our church!
  God has blessed our family with a great church family! We love you all and will be praying for you while we are away!

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, July 7, 2019

That's not in the Constitution...

“I would bring a $100 bill, and I would say, ‘Alright, first person’ - and everybody has their iPhone - and I would say, ‘First person to find in the Constitution the phrase ‘separation of church and state' gets this $100 bill’... And you know what - and everybody knows that, right? - that phrase isn’t in the U.S. Constitution. It's nowhere.”  Jeffrey Mateer

The Supreme Court recently ruled that a 40-foot tall cross erected on public property in Maryland doesn’t violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. The 40-foot high Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland was erected in 1919 as a memorial to Americans killed in World War I. Today it stands on a highway median owned by a state commission. But the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit arguing that the cross’s placement on public land is an unconstitutional establishment of religion. A lower court agreed, suggesting that the monument either be moved or its cross arms cut off, so it’d be shaped like an obelisk rather than a Christian cross. This continues to show the ignorance of religion by our judicial system in that they switched from one religion to another. An obelisk was the symbol of the religion of ancient Egypt.
  The outcome of such fuzzy reasoning could be that all the religious symbols, even in places like Arlington National Cemetery, must be removed. There are 60 approved religious symbols in Arlington including the Star of David, the Russian Orthodox Cross, the Pentagram for Wiccans and the Hammer of Thor for Heathen religions.  
  This ruling won’t settle the matter. Lawsuits against religion are based on ignorance of the Constitution and the intent of the Founding Fathers. But such challenges were unheard of until 1947. It’s worth noting that the key player, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, was a racist KKK member. Until 1947 there were no serious questions that our Founding Fathers’ intent was freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
  That phrase, “a wall of separation between church and state,” isn’t in the Constitution. It was taken from personal correspondence of then President Thomas Jefferson in 1801. Many Founding Fathers wanted a state church in each state. Those who weren’t part of the state church were jailed, fined or beaten. In 1775 Patrick Henry defended three Baptist preachers arrested for preaching without authority from the state church of Virginia.
  Because of persecution and fear of the establishment of a state church, Baptists, though knowing Jefferson was a Deist, supported his presidency. They rightly believed that Jefferson was committed to the freedom of religion and helped him win the election over John Adams. In early 1802, President Jefferson responded to their letter of congratulations. The Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut had written him in October 1801, congratulating him on winning the election. They celebrated his advocacy for religious liberty. In a characteristically carefully crafted reply, Jefferson endorsed the persecuted Baptists’ aspirations for religious liberty:
  Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
  Not only is it not part of the Constitution, the phrase has been horribly misconstrued. Jefferson’s intent was to make a political statement reassuring his Baptist constituents that he was a friend of religion and to strike back at the Federalist-Congregationalist establishment for shamelessly vilifying him as an infidel and atheist in the recent campaign.
  Throughout his career, including two terms as President, Jefferson pursued policies incompatible with today’s definition of separation of church and state. He endorsed the use of federal funds to build churches and to support missionaries working among the Indians. The intent of Jefferson and our Founding Fathers was to keep government out of the church, not the church out of government.
  The Maryland Constitution of 1776 emphasized belief in God but separated denomination and state, stating “it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to him.” If the legislature passed a tax for supporting the poor, a taxpayer could have his money go to “the poor of his own denomination, or the poor in general of any particular county.” Other states had similar laws. In South Carolina, taxes could be used to support churches, as long as no one was “obliged to pay towards the maintenance and support of a religious worship” not his own. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 emphasized toleration, “no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience.” But it also encouraged worship, because “The happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality.”
  Virginia Governor Patrick Henry thought religious belief was essential. George Washington, John Marshall, and George Mason, later known as the Father of the 1st Amendment, did as well. If someone had given a speech on the 4th of July back then and proclaimed that God was disestablished, his listeners would have questioned his sanity.
  Our Founding Fathers had no intent of establishing a “wall of separation.” They knew a religious vacuum is impossible. A secularist intent to divorce religion from public life by promoting a religion that’s essentially private and a state that’s strictly secular was foreign to them, and would have alarmed them. They viewed religion, to paraphrase George Washington, “as an indispensable support for social order and political prosperity.”
  So, the next time someone tells you that “separation of church and state” is in the Constitution, ask them where.

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.