Election Day

Unless you live under a rock you likely already know that today is Election Day.  Today relatively half of Americans will be pleased to see that their candidate of choice has been elected as the next president of the United States.  The other half are going to be sorely disappointed.  If you have been following my blog then you know that I have not really gotten political on here.  Sure, I might have addressed issues that are considered political (same sex marriage, abortion, etc).  However, I have not addressed these issues from a political view point.  Don’t worry, I want be changing this standard.  Yes, I voted.  Yes, I feel strongly about who should be our next president.  Yes, I feel strongly that the other candidate will take the nation to a place that I do not feel comfortable with.  But no, I will not tell you who to vote for, why you should vote for my preferred candidate.  I will however encourage you to be mindful of what the election process really means.

It means that we are choosing a president.  Not a king.  In 1776 we told the king of England his rule is no longer welcome here.  When we finally won our independence we choose a political system that mimics a revelation every four years by offering the people an opportunity to choose our next leader.  For me, I still have a king.  His name is Jesus the Christ, the anointed one of God (not man).  His leadership is guaranteed to be greater than any candidate you may or may not vote for today.  He is perfect.  He is all knowing.  He is all good.  He is all wise.  And He will always do the right thing in the right moment for what is best for those in his kingdom.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Rom. 9:28).”

It means that we are choosing a president.  Not a Savior.  I don’t think I can emphasize this enough.  I am not choosing a person who is the most sinless.  I am not choosing a person that will save me or save the nation.  I am not choosing a person who is even the most Christlike.  I am not appointing a leader for my local church.  I am not choosing a preacher.  I am choosing a president.

This means that I don’t need to lecture you about which one is the most immoral.  I really don’t care.  Paul said I have no business judging those outside the body of Christ (I Cor. 5:13).  So, if Trump wants to gamble, drink and be married 50 times that is on him. Not on me.  If Hillary wants to support her husbands sexual advances towards woman that is on her.  Not on me.  I am not God.  I don’t get to judge who goes to heaven.  I don’t get to choose who is more evil or not (for those that claim that they are voting for the lesser of two evils).

This means that I don’t look to either of them to make me holy, make me a better person, or to be the person I want to look up to or teach my kids to look up to.  (Real heroes are found in the scriptures, not on our televisions).  Jesus is my Savior. He is my hero.  And he is the gold standard that I look to for what is the way I want to live my life.  It is Jesus who I go to when I have a need that hasn’t been met (not Obama, not Clinton, and not Trump).  It is to him I will pledge my allegiance.  It is to Jesus I will lay down my life.  It is to Christ that I will always be loyal and be true.

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Husbands Love Your Wives

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This month has been incredibly busy. We started off with a gospel meeting with Rennie Frazier. He did a phenomenal job for us. The lessons were so uplifting, inspiring and encouraging. The following week, my family left for our annual vacation to Robber’s Cave. After camp broke, we headed to my in-laws were we left my wife until this past Lord’s Day. Playing Mr. Mom for seven days was exhausting. All you single moms and dad out there; I don’t know how you do it. I barely slept. I felt like I got no work done and I felt like all I did was walk behind the kids cleaning up their latest messes. And by Thursday morning I caught the cold the younger two had. I already wasn’t sleeping and I added restless sleep to that as I was completely congested and coughing all night. By Sunday night all I could think about was having Dawn back home. She really is the glue behind our family. Without her, everything was falling apart. Sure, the kids were dressed, fed, schooled, well slept, and taken care of. Dad however was not. Another week or two of that schedule and I wouldn’t be able to move. Moms really are superheroes.

But, you know what, even if your wife isn’t the superhero. Even if your wife isn’t the glue that holds the house together, you are still supposed to love her. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loves his own wife loves himself: for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ also the church; because we are members of his body. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh (Eph 5:25-31).” Where in this passage does it say that we get a right to say, “I don’t have to love her when she does ____________.” Where in this passage does it say we husbands have the right to say, “ I don’t have to love her if she refuses to _______________.” It doesn’t. There is no disclaimer given, there are no prerequisites are wives must do in order for our love to be made manifest.

I want you to consider this for a moment. Husbands you see your wives at their bests. You see those self-less moments that reminded you why you wanted to marry her. For many though that idealized version of our wives gets ruined when we see her at her worst. And husbands we do see her at her worst. We see her when she is two weeks over do, tired, worn out, grumpy, and more than anything desires for that pregnancy to be over. We see her when she is at her wits end with the kids. We see her when she sins against us. (Perhaps she loses her temper, or says something disrespectful to be spiteful, or some other myriad of things our wives could do to us. Do you know what you are supposed to do? Consider what Jesus did. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:25-27).” Jesus saw his bride at her worst. He saw all of her sins. He saw the lying, the cheating, the unfaithfulness, the arrogance, the backbiting, the gossiping, etc. He saw it all. And he loved her anyways. He died so that she could be spotless, blameless or any such thing. He loved her so much he gave to her what she needed to be better. To be beautiful. Husbands are we loving our wives that way? Do we look at her shortcoming and feel the need to vent to the guys, our moms? Or do we look at those shortcomings and ask ourselves, “what can I do to help her be better.”

The truth is gentlemen we need to ask ourselves some very important questions about our wives.

  1. If your wife more like Christ since you got married?
  2. If she more like Christ because of you or despite you?
  3. Has her faith shrunk in the years since you said, “I do?”
  4. Am I holding her back, stunting her growth? Or do am I water to the Lord’s seed?
  5. Is she a better woman since marrying me? A better friend? Better “mom” material?
  6. If you are truly concerned about her soul, then what are you doing about it?

 

 

Part of the Family

For those that following me weekly, you would have noticed there was no post last week.  Last week I attended our annual Home School camp getaway.  Our particular group that gets together is a relatively small group (we were around 50 this year and our largest group was the upper 70s).  But, what makes this group special is not the fact that we all home school.  (There are home schoolers that we are friends with here in town).  No, what makes this group special is that we are part of the same family of God.  These people are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Faith is at the core of who each of us are.  Each night there was bound to be some spiritual discussion going on around the table.  I know on Tuesday night I was up way past my bed time (about 3:30 in the morning) talking about spiritual things.  These subjects included what we have been studying, the spiritual development of our children, struggles being a Christian father, and many more subjects.  This year there were several families that I didn’t know.  But, by the end of the week I not only knew their names but felt like I had bonded with them.  When spending time with those of a like and precious faith, it doesn’t take long to realize how truly large your family really is.

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother (Matt. 12:48-50).”  It doesn’t get any plainer than this.  Jesus proclaimed that his family is not one of flesh and blood but of spirit.  He said this as his earthly family was looking for him.  In doing so, he showed that God’s family, God’s children, those obedient to the will of God should be who our real family is.  Now, I love my parents.  I love my brother and my sister.  I always will.  But, each time I go to camp I am reminded of something.  It is a really amazing opportunity I have.  I get to spend every day, all day with God’s people.  We don’t have cellphone service.  We don’t have the internet.  We don’t have TVs.  We just have each other and God’s word.  It really is fascinating how much you can grow when the distractions of living in this modern world are stripped away.

Of course, when I come home, I find myself longing to see my family here.  I hate the fact that I have to wait until Wednesday night to see many of them and until Sunday to see most of them.  I cannot begin to explain the joy I felt when I just ran into a couple of them at the ball fields last night.  I had spent 13 of the previous 15 days with my fellow Christians (we had a week long series on I Peter at our local church the week before we left).  The latter have of those 13 days was spent all day with Christians.  On Monday night I was feeling the withdrawal.  Even as I type this I long to spend some more time with my fellow Christians and am plotting up opportunities to do so.

Spending my days with fellow Christians is what gets me through this world.  It reminds me that I am not alone.  Being a part of a God-fearing, bible-believing, service minded church is something every Christian needs.  Forget the fact that I believe it is commanded (Heb. 10:25).  I think it is necessary to keeping our selves growing, faithful, and strong.

 

The Power of Prayer

Several years ago I remember a song that was making its rounds on the airwaves about having one of those days when things just aren’t going your way.  A day when you didn’t want to wake up.  A day when everything just started off on the wrong foot.  It happens to everyone.  We have found different ways of describing those types of days.  “We woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”  “We are having a case of the Mondays (if it is a Monday).”

This morning has been one of those mornings.  This is why I am thankful for God’s reset button.  While it is not a button I want to take advantage of or abuse the privileges thereof I am truly thankful that exists.  When things get out of hand, when things feel like they are spiraling out of control and you feel like Satan has his grip firmly upon your heart, you can bow your hearts in prayer and ask God to help you start all over.

Prayer might be the most valuable resource available to mankind and it is also the most neglected resource we have. Sadly many people have convinced themselves that prayer is a sign of weakness.  They think that asking for help from someone means that you are incapable of doing anything right and therefore unworthy, undeserving, and useless.  Such couldn’t be further from the truth.

Prayer gives us access to the divine Father in heaven.  He is all powerful, all knowing and is the only being in the universe that actually  “gets you.”  and more importantly, prayer gives us access to a God that can do something helpful.  He has the power and wisdom to answer prayers in the most useful and most helpful and most encouraging of ways (even if in the moment it might not feel that way).

For instance, as I said, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.  I tried to put a smile on.  I tried to fake it till I make it.  I failed.  Miserably.  So, I decided to hit my reset button.  I went to God asking for forgiveness.  He has promised us that he will indeed forgive us of our sins.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).”  Again, this doesn’t mean that I keep sinning and let God clean up my mess all day.  It means that I get to start with a clean slate.  God cleaned up the mess and now I can go about the rest of my day not faking it, but living it.

Prayer is not an easy button, but it is a way to restart your day.  If things aren’t going well, ask God to intervene.  He is faithful and will not fail you (I Cor. 10:13).

Suffering as a Christian

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This morning I heard on the radio about a quote made by Martin Castro, the chairman of the US Civil Rights Commission recently wrote in his latest report, “the phrases “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”   As I contemplated these thoughts it quickly occurred to me the grave situation that is now facing Christians in America today. 10 years ago, civil rights activist Chai Feldblum, who now serves as the commissioner of the Obama’s administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity, said that when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict that she has a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win. Let that sink in for just a moment. When dealing with issues that are defined as LBGT issues one’s faith is irrelevant. This means that if a local church does not have the right to choose what doctrines can be preached in the pulpit (or what life style) the new preacher lives. A church cannot refuse to hire a practicing homosexual even if they believe that homosexuality is defined as sin in the bible (which it is according to I Cor. 6:9-11). Churches cannot deny the use of a bathroom to a transgender person, (something that we are already seeing being fought in the courtrooms here in Iowa). The foundations of our religious liberties are eroding away. For the first time in America’s history the future of Christianity appears murky. If things don’t change, the freedoms the church has had to operate as they deemed right in holy in the eyes of God will no longer exist. So what does that mean for me as a Christian?

We need to stop being overly worried about it. Yes, I am concerned. Yes, as a preacher I do get nervous about how someone, namely those that strongly disagree with me might react to a sermon I am preaching (or article I am writing). However, we need to stop thinking that if our religious freedoms are removed that we are entering foreign territory. Christianity was not a protected or “recognized” religion until the 4th century under the protection of Constantine. The last persecution against Christianity by the Romans happened as late as February 23, 303 under the order of Diocletian. Christianity was born in the midst of persecution. It was not long after it was founded that the Jews began persecuting Christians. (A man by the name of Saul from Tarsus was one of the chiefest of these persecutors.) Nero became the first emperor to order the persecution of Christians (although his seems to be limited to the city of Rome). During the days of Domitian Christians were persecuted for not worshipping the emperor. The point is, Christianity found a way to grow during this persecution. It didn’t just survive, it prospered.

So, what as Christians are we supposed to do? A reading of I Peter is a great place to start. Years ago I heard I Peter could be likened to the Job of the New Testament. It was written to Christians who would be living through the early days of the persecution against the Lord’s Church. In it, Peter encouraged the saints to suffer as a Christian (I Peter 4:16). Suffering as Christian is not shameful, but it is a badge of honor. When Peter first suffered as a Christian, he went home rejoicing because he was found worthy to suffer for Christ (Acts 5:41). I know that doesn’t sound easy. Thankfully, Peter spends much of that first letter explaining how it is we can indeed suffer for Christ with joy in our heart. If you are finding it difficult to see all of this, I highly encourage you to attend our upcoming meeting. Starting Sunday and running through Friday night we are having a special series of lessons on I Peter. Check out www.grinnellcoc.com for more information.

 

 

My Thoughts on Last Night’s Debate

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In last than two months our nation will be electing our next president. As such, last night we as a nation were “treated” to our first debate between the top two candidates; Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.   In the aftermath of the debate we have already heard of winners and losers. We have seen “fact checking” based upon biased opinions. If you watch Fox news Trump was the winner and more truthful candidate. If you watch CNN news Hillary came out as the more truthful candidate and clear winner of the debate.

After having the opportunity to listen to these two (I live in Iowa, they both campaigned here a lot), after listening to the debate, and reading the reaction of what happened last night I have come to a conclusion. If we think that either one of these two candidates are our savior then we have lost as a nation. I do not say this because I think that some third party candidate is a better option. I do not say this because I think that neither one of them are fit to serve as a president. I say this because neither one of them can fix what is wrong with our nation.

I want you to let this truth sink in for just a moment. Eight years ago we elected the first African-American as President of the United States. This is huge. I firmly believe that while there are still individuals who judge a man based upon the color of his skin, we don’t elect a minority when most of America feels that way. I have often wondered what Martin Luther King Jr would have said about our nation knowing that we have come so far. A few months ago Hillary Clinton was became the first woman to be nominated by a major party as their candidate for President of the United States.   This two is huge. For all the talk she had of equal pay and women’s rights it has to be understood that a woman is standing on that stage vying for the right to be president. Honestly, I never thought as a child that would one day happen. To be it was a given that men would be President. (In my unlearned mind I actually thought that was a requirement before I took Civics).

Do you know what has happened as a result of having non-white males in leadership positions in America? The exact same thing as having white males in leadership positions in America. My friends, the reason why our nation is suffering has nothing to do with male and female leadership. It has nothing to do with whether or not a person is a minority member of our communities. This issue with our country can be summed up by the words of Paul, the apostle. “Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfilment of the law (Rom. 13:8-10).”

This is what is wrong with our country. We don’t have love one for another. I cannot say this enough. The reason why 44 persons can be arrested for looting in Charlotte is because they don’t love the owner of that business. The reason why a police officer shoots an unarmed man is because there is a lack of love (and respect) between the two persons. We have too many leaders preaching a gospel of hate. Hate white privileged people. Hate police officers. Hate the minority that sold out “his people” by becoming a police officer. Hate the people of faith. Then we have so called Christians stirring up more of this gospel of hate claiming God is causing all of this because of homosexuality or whatever platform that they are now standing upon. Yes, love is missing from our nation. Children aren’t loving their parents. Parents aren’t loving each other. Political leaders cannot help but to paint the other in as negative light as humanly possible. It is vile, it is putrid and it an infection in our country that has to change if we want to see change.

You want things to be better? It begins with a though from a comedy that most people say bombed. You want to change the world, build an ARK (Evan Almighty). What is an ARK? It is an Act of Random Kindness… be loving to each other. Provide a meal to someone who is sick. Help the widow by mowing her yard (and not expecting anything in return). Bring over a plate of cookies to your local police and/or fire station.   Give to the homeless person without thinking ill of him/her. Visit a person in a nursing home for no other reason than to let that person know that they aren’t alone. (It amazes me how even 15 minutes of my time can bring that much joy to someone else). So won’t you join me? Stop putting faith into our politicians’ words and start putting faith into the word of God. He has already provided a blue print for a better world, we just have to be willing to live by it.

 

A Servant’s Heart

Tonight I will again take the field to do what I can to help teach the kids on my youngest son’s team how to play football.  I am not the greatest of coaches, but after 3 years of coaching 3rd-4th graders I am starting to get a handle on what to expect out of kids that age when it comes to grasping America’s new favorite game.  I know it is not the “most important job” in the world.  I know that in the larger scheme of things none of these kids are likely to go on to play professional football.  I know that the likely hood of anything I actually teach will be a great deal helpful to them once they put pads on.  And still every year my sons play football you will find me out there coaching a team.  Why do I do this?  Because my Lord was a servant.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;  so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him… When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them (John 13:3-17).”

There was nothing that Jesus wasn’t Lord of and yet he got down on his hands and feet and washed his disciples feet.  He didn’t wash his disciples feet just because they were dirty.  He washed them because he had a desire to serve.  He could have ordered their feet to be cleaned.  He could have commanded the dirt to leap off their feet.  He could have called for a servant in the house to get the job done.  But Jesus girded up his loins and washed them himself.  Being a servant isn’t about making certain a job gets done, it is about doing it yourself.

Of course, I am not for an instant thinking that volunteering to coach football is any way the same as what Jesus did.  But, it is an opportunity to fill a need in our community.  And it sets a president in my heart.  It prepares my heart to look for other ways I can serve.  But, as I look for other ways to serve, the question I must ultimately answer is whether or not I am willing to get down on me knees to start and/or finish a job.  It isn’t too hard to coach football when the kids want to be there and are having fun.  But, it gets harder when the acts of service require more of a sacrifice.  I need to be willing to do that.  I watch officers, fire fighters do that very thing.  They put their lives on the line for what?  Service.  To serve me, just like Jesus did.  And yet, too often I think it is too hard.  Too much.

“God forgive me for not being more like your Son.  Help me to have a servant’s heart.  Give me more opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.  Help me to get on my hands and knees and help others.  Amen.”