Building up our children in the faith

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Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6, ESV

We live in a time and a world that it is more important to raise our children to understand the basics of Christian faith. They are being confronted with so much contrary thoughts on how we should view the world and often are confronted with views that not only contradict the Christian worldview, but are seeking to cause one to reject and walk away from the Christian faith in whole. Since the rise of Sunday School, we have seen the rise of those that claim no faith affiliations, often called “nones.” Both Pew studies and Barna have highlighted this increase as we find that now about one third of all Millenials and Generation Z now identify as “none” when asked faith affiliation. Much of this can also be attributed to the pluralistic mentality that entered into our world during the sixties with the rise of the anti-establishment movement which has permeated our academia and influenced the education system of not only our nation, but is prevalent in most academic institutions globally and is usually camped under the banner of postmodern thought. Much of academia not only teaches, but celebrates what they call the end of modernity and see it as the next stage in our development. In a study of postmodernity, we find that much of it grows from the rejection of traditional views and understanding and questions long held views and standards including those of the familial unit and how society functions.

The issue with postmodernity as the thread continues to unravel is that one of the central tenets of postmodern thought is that there is no absolute truth but that each could have a truth that fits their own circumstances of understanding. This mindset comes out of the philosophical movement of existentialism which causes one to question everything, i.e. how can you truly know anything? The reality of that is that eventually one must question whether or not this movement is one that is truly true or has deceived anyone from knowing the absolute truth of God by causing one to believe that each and everyone of us are in essence god. It is an anarchistic understanding and is nihilistic as it essentially makes everything inconsequential in the end, i.e. nothing really matters. This is end leads us down a path that rejects God and all moral authority because one can not say something is truly good or bad because it is all subjective. Ironically, many who hold this view seem to cling to their own ideas of what is right or wrong, true or false, and a new moralism arises that is based upon finding others who agree and deeming those who disagree evil and bad.

This is easily highlighted in a recent discourse that was had on my last post. This person on their blog has created a self-determined understanding of right and wrong and any who disagrees with their mindset is bigoted, ignorant, and mean. It is also why we see those that decried the police and attacked them, ironically, after telling the police and first responders to stay away were the first to decry the lack of response when violence occurred and it cost the life of one who was supposedly in a “protected zone.” We have entered into an era where there are those that reject God and have rejected all authority because they have been taught that there is no absolute truth, morality is subjective, and there is not real authority except when applied to things that are of great importance to them. Why respect parents or elders? For those that reject their elders, they feel that all that comes from older generations are based in ignorance and bigotry so it has no meaning. One thing that I have learned from those like one who recently commented on a past post is that their pseudo-intellectualism can be easily peeled back to show that the reality of their rejection of faith or any of the standards held from the past and it is usually centered on failures that they have witnessed with followers of Christ. Reality is that many of the “faithful” churched are not well-educated on the Word of God and the danger of flan-o-grams and children’s bibles the biblical accounts of history are turned to be easy to tell stories that often are written as simple moral tales that seem to want to make very difficult accounts into tales of how to live ones life. The problem of this is that if that is all that is done and no depth of faith development is done, they often find that the “god” that they are being taught is flat and lifeless.

One of the greatest arguments that I find of new atheism is the anger and hurt that they feel about the Christian faith yet they often act as though they are happy to be outside of it. This is easy to see as a veneer since they often feel the need to attack and tell others about how bad Christianity is. Having been on the outside of the Christian faith and returned to the faith, I can understand that pain. I never have walked as an atheist and can’t say that I find that to be a comforting path nor to be of much sense since it defies logic to think that anything was created by accident. Yet, I see the appeal ultimately because it places the person at the highest level. Most don’t think of the end in real terms that they so often point out that there is nothing and we become dust but when speaking thus most don’t really face the concept of mortality or, at least, there own. Yet, we stand with many who will teach and mock the Christian faith as they seek to pull away as many young minds as they are able. Oddly enough, most of them do not focus on other religions in their attacks. Why is this odd? They may criticize “religion” as a whole and may throw Christianity and other religions into a similar category, but most then focus on Christianity. This is because they look to the higher prevalence of Christianity in the West, but then they rarely speak out against the atrocities seen being done by other faiths across the globe. The reality is that we, as Christians, mostly acknowledge our sins of the past and much has been done by many Christians to attempt to reconcile for our wrongs done between various segments of Christianity and outside. We don’t try to defend the sins of our past, but we ask for forgiveness. Likewise, we are also quick to forgive those that ask for forgiveness of the sins done against us. That is part and parcel with our faith.

That is the importance of our faith and the teaching of it to our children. In a world that is unforgiving, particularly when we contradict whatever it is that is the modern calf that our world worships. Today’s calf that is the virtue of the age may be tomorrow’s unforgivable sin depending on how the tide of our age turns. It is important to focus on teaching biblical truth, which can often be hidden when we focus on more on the world narrative and lose sight of our Lord. It is important that we raise our children to understand that we are ALL made in the image of God. We need to teach the importance of family centered in a relationship of a father and mother who, as husband and wife, raise their children to see how they put God in the center of their lives and focus on giving grace when they err. It is time for us as followers of Christ to stand firm in our faith knowing that the truth will stand firm when all other things fall away.

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Child’s Innocence

But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

Luke 18:16, ESV

One common theme growing up was the importance of protecting our children. Particularly the innocence of a child. Things like racism, sexuality, fear of that which is different, and hate are not natural in children. It is true that sin is present in children, but that tends to present itself in the self-centered nature that is born in us. All babies cry to communicate – hunger, discomfort, pain, tired, or just to get attention. It is the nature of who we are and as we grow we learn more positive ways to communicate, hopefully. As parents, we are given the great gift and responsibility to raise our children to do and act differently than our nature would dictate. We are to raise our children first and foremost to fear, love, and trust in God above all else. From there we can teach them manners, self-care, and the life skills necessary for survival all the while we are to ensure that they have some level of academic understanding helping to feed them what they will need to be successful in the careers that our Lord has prepared for them. The Lord blessed us with teachers and institutions that, at one time, were meant to assist us in this process. Unfortunately, as great shifts have occurred in the culture of our world we, as parents, need to be more cautious.

As a child, one of the greatest things that I enjoyed were cartoons. Some of them had positive messaging, but, for the most part, they were just for enjoyment. Many of them had slapstick humor and actions that every child should have been taught that it was not real and should not be mimicked. If a child was not taught this at home they would quickly learn this lesson when interacting with others. At one time, expectations and standards were set within communities and, in the positive sense, they helped to develop a secure environment for the raising of families. There were things appropriate for children and everyone was clearly aware of those things deemed inappropriate. If anyone was caught exposing a child to something inappropriate there would be consequences.

Childhood was meant to be safe and fun. Tragically, we know that children were exposed to things they should not have been, but his was not the norm. Of course, nothing was perfect and life was not always fun and games. We do have our periods of history where children were treated as chattel and made to work hard labor without what we would deem a childhood. The past also forced children to help with doing things to help the family. Chores were common and still are not a bad thing in helping the development. We also no from artifacts and history that children still had their childhood games. Children are children. Thankfully, at the turn of the twentieth century moves were made to help protect children from childhood labor and other abuses. Moves were made to preserve childhood and to help protect the innocence of children.

Unfortunately, we see things changing in our world. It has been, historically, repulsive to see children as sexual beings. Pedophilia and the like has been seen as a stain in society and, as a whole thankfully, it still is. When Jon Benet-Ramsey was found murdered in the 90s and at 6 had been molested was sickening news. The oversexualization of this young girl put a negative light on her parents and the child pageant industry. One could hope that it would have had long-lasting changes, but we are quick to forget after the next major headline hits the news cycle. Now we have to worry about our children being exposed to a striptease routine done by a grown male in a dress at the local libraries, Drag Queen Story Hour. We turn on the Disney network and turn on the Muppet Babies cartoon and find they are introduced to Gonzorella as Gonzo desires to be accepted wearing a dress (note the show is Muppet Babies) in an effort to show acceptance and tolerance or we let our children watch an episode of Blues Clues and they watch an episode featuring a Drag Queen in a Pride Parade. Unfortunately, this is a trend that continues to grow. One may argue that there should be no issue with any of this because it is only teaching tolerance. These are not normal things that a child needs to be exposed to early in their development.

As a father of six, this is all too real and is very concerning. A child is not and never should be viewed as a sexual being and they need not be exposed to sexual issues at a young age. We needn’t even teach our children that there are “girls toys” and “boys toys.” A toy is a toy and if a girl plays in the dirt with trucks and a boy plays with dolls and dresses need not be an indicator of sexual identity. Let children be children and allow them to live in the innocence of the age without concerns about them having to check off certain boxes. Intolerance and Racism are learned behaviors that are often imposed by those trying to combat it. Critical Race Theory and those pushing “ToLeRanCe” often are missing the reality that they are teaching racism and intolerance. Hate is taught and an overreaction is the flip side of the same coin. As a follower of Christ, the goal that I believe all parents should have in raising their children is to raise them with respect for others and to maintain that even when confronted by people with whom they disagree. With this mentality it is important to teach that we also must stand against the abuse of another and believe that all people should be treated with dignity. We should never celebrate or tolerate the abuse of anyone, including those with whom we disagree. To hear others views also does not mean agreement with those views. This is the greatest half-truth that we hear in our world and the argument is made that one must “silence” those that are spewing “hate.” The greatest way to silence hate is to let it be heard and reveal itself as such. This is not being silent, but letting it be heard and responding to what is said in a rational way. Hate is not rational and never will be. Hate thrives on vitriol and enthusiasm. Hate grows in a vacuum that is created when open and honest discourse is disallowed. Children will accept other children that are different from them unless they are told that they should not like certain people. A child will also reject behavior that they see as being against their worldview. If we raise our children in a worldview that sees that others should be treated with dignity and respect, they will treat others with dignity and respect. Let us stop the sexualization of our children and protect them from the teaching that there are those that are less than them or greater than them and point them to the one true Savior, Jesus Christ.

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In the Name of Liberty

The Byars Bunch – Independence Day 2021

Fight vigorously against the wolves, but on behalf of the sheep, not against the sheep. And this you may do by inveighing against the laws and lawgivers, and yet at the same time observing these laws with the weak, lest they be offended, until they shall themselves recognize the tyranny, and understand their own liberty.

MARTIN LUTHER

Fear is the tool of Satan and those that wish to take from us the liberty that has been promised to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is a gift that we receive freely but was given to us at great cost in the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. We no longer need to stand in fear of the lies of the deceiver. That is the importance of hearing the Word of God every day. At a minimum, we need the Word weekly as we come together and enjoy the divine worship. The picture above is my reminder of the need to defend that liberty for my children. The defense comes only through the Word of God. That is our heritage as Christians. As a nation of Christians, that is the heritage given to us by the forefathers who sought to ensure that freedom for our nation. As a follower of Christ, I never had thought much of this until the Pandemic of 2020 that continues to linger about how fragile our liberty truly is. This is not only for the Church but for all citizens. How quickly we have been willing to set aside our own liberty for the sake of security.

As I reflect on this reality, I am reminded of the unity to which our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to and how we are called to stand fast within the truth that our Lord gives to us. “When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.‘” (John 13:31–35, ESV) We are to reflect the Gospel in the world. That begins as we shine out the light of Christ into a world that more often than not has no understanding of what it means to truly love another or what it means to be loved unconditionally.

The love of Christ is not based upon conditions, simply belief. His love does not fall away from those that do not believe, but those who deny His love are lost to Him and, like at the gates of Jerusalem, our Lord weeps. As we stand firm in this love, the greatest thing we can stand for is the truth of Jesus Christ. We live in a world that is lost. This concept is lost to them, in a world where conditional acceptance is a norm to know that the love of God is found even when one may be living a life that is contrary to the principles laid out for His people by God. We mustn’t confuse acceptance with approval, however. God does not approve of the sinful aspects of any of our lives, but He accepts us in spite of our brokenness. We are not meant to willfully continue in sin, but we are changed in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

To protect our liberty, it is time for us to speak up and speak out as followers of Christ. We need to speak out the truth in love and not be afraid or ashamed about holding a biblical faith centered in Christ’s love and redemption. There is a world trying to shut us out and silence our voice that is so vital for life. The world is seeking to still our tongues by teaching a false narrative that acceptance and approval are equal and the same when the contrary is true. They act as though their views are truly diverse, but the reality is that they are very intolerant of any view that differs from theirs, and they are the least varied. They demand that each person approves of the same things they approve, and the converse is also true. If they disapprove of something, they feel it necessary that everyone also disapproves. They seek to shut down the voices with which they disagree. This is tyranny and is contrary to liberty. As followers of Christ, we stand for liberty and the freedom that all have as people who are made in the image of God. All people should be treated with dignity. We have fallen short of this in the past, and for that, we should repent and ask for forgiveness. The errors of the past, however, do not diminish the truth that we proclaim.

Acceptance does not mean that we have to always agree. Offense is a choice which we need to learn to not fall into also. When we are offended, we give the power of our voice over to the other. As followers of Christ, this is something that we need to raise up in the next generation. A generation ready to share the Gospel to a world that will find it offensive and will be doing things that are offensive and contrary to the Word of God. We mustn’t allow that offense to stop us from speaking the truth in love. We also need to prepare ourselves and our children to understand the basic truths of the faith and understand the nature of our Constitutional Republic. The rights given to us in the United States allow us to exercise our faith in all areas and places, not just within our sanctuaries. Nowhere in the Constitution does it give anyone the freedom from religion, but we are given the freedom to exercise our faith in all places. We can pray in the center of every city, and governmental institution and those that wish to participate have the freedom to participate. The same is true for those that do not wish to participate, this does not mean that we must prevent it from touching their ears, but we, at the same time, need to respect and not press them to participate. At the same time, it does not give those who oppose the right to attack or interfere with the free expression of our faith either. This is a truth that has been lost by many in our society. The moment that one can not be heard, the other’s rights may be quickly taken as the winds of change turn as they do, and tyranny will be the rule. Freedom is expensive in that it means that at times to protect it, we must also protect those views which we may find offensive.

As I celebrated Independence Day, I was strongly reminded of this reality. I hope that we can restore to our children the nation that was given at great cost to us those 245 years ago. How much blood has been shed to protect it? In our nation, we have seen a significant rise in the tyranny of those who have deemed themselves the purveyors of truth. Instead of reporting the truth, we have had to suffer through a media that has sought to protect a narrative and has openly sought to shut down the free expression of views with which they disagree. We have seen our government be utilized to shut down ideas with which certain leaders disagree and have seen powers abused by governors all in the name of “safety.” Our liberty comes first and foremost from our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our protections come from neither party but from an educated public willing to stand firm on the foundations given to us first through our Lord and second through our Constitution, which was influenced by godly principles. Have there been failures and shortcomings? Most certainly! That does not diminish the greatness of the country which we call home, and to be proud of our nation does not mean that we are intertwining our faith with the politics of our nation, but we are just standing with pride in the nation which God has placed us. The majority of faithful Christians that are also Patriots and show a love of the United States of America realize that the dogma and ideals of our nation are not always in line with Christ and that neither of the major political parties is a perfect representation of our faith. When it comes to the politics that we face, I believe faithful Christians are in both parties. I believe that it is becoming much more difficult for those who have long identified with the Democratic Party because of stances that have become more openly professed in their platform and candidates. Still, one could argue that there are also issues within the Republican Party, particularly for those who had issues with former President Donald Trump. No party offers candidates that fit perfectly in the Christian box because all are flawed. This is not meant to jump down the rabbit hole of the partisan politics that we face today.

Today, however, we do have an issue with narratives driving our news cycle, our social media, and all aspects that have put a squeeze on open discourse and the exchange of ideas. The concept of “Fake News” and “Misinformation” has only made things worse. I believe for open dialogue it requires an openness to discuss ideas and various viewpoints. Growing up, I knew many who stood on the side of free speech and stood against the banning of certain books because they put forth difficult ideas. As Christians, we have a history of wanting to remove books from libraries because of profanity and open sexuality and were accused of being fascist for our desire to limit the freedom of speech and exchange of ideas. Today, those that expressed that mentality desire to remove anything that stands for traditional Christian values. They desire to cancel those who speak or express views that are contrary to the narrative. If we speak about the cis-gendered understanding that all human beings are created as male or female, we are intolerant and narrow-minded. It is a sad reality and a genuine attack on liberty. The scales have shifted, but I caution that this shift is only temporary and would urge caution so as not to allow it to continue in the direction it is going. I see it as more of a pendulum move. If we know anything about a pendulum, when it moves to one extreme, it will eventually swing back further to the other side. This is where liberty is in the most significant jeopardy because a reactionary response is not usually healthy.

What is the answer? Well, I begin by stating that I believe it is a return to the biblical Christian faith. We start by speaking the truth in love and being steady in our response and in how we care for those in need. In the culture wars that we have seen within the United States in the 50+ years, we see the bodies of those that have been crushed. The response to the movement that arose in the 1960s was the Christian Coalition. The response to the Christian Coalition we see now in the Progressive movement that has arisen, and this great conflict has come to a head with President Trump. Whether a person likes him or not, he is a product of where we are today. The momentum will not stop as the pendulum is continually being tugged deeper into the Progressive mindset, which is centered in tearing down the traditional structures and ideals that have shaped our nation and our faith. Because of this, we have seen a rise in extremism on both sides of the spectrum. It is vital for us as Christians to stand firm in a faith that upholds biblical principles beginning with those laid out for us in Genesis 1-11 defining us as those made in the image of God and of a common ancestry that for all extend from the Tower of Babel and the sons of Noah – Shem, Ham, or Japheth. We all are united in the common ancestry that began with Adam and Eve and was spared through Seth by the saving work of the Ark and Noah.

As we stand firm in this understanding, we can break down barriers and point to how the division has pointed us further and further away from our Lord and Creator. We can point the saving work of Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the Cross. The power of Baptism and the Cross is the work of salvation never ends. It is a continual process working within each and every one of us and reminds us of where true liberty comes from – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can come together as brothers and sisters united in the faith of Jesus Christ and pray for those that are struggling. We can pray for an end of violence. We can work together to feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned, and proclaim salvation to all who are being held captive in the bondage of the deceiver. As Christians and Americans, our work begins in our communities but spreads to the end of the world.

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Let Us Give Ladies Honor

The poor women have nothing more precious or noble than their honor, and this the devil must by no means let them retain. He is called diabolus or diabel, that is, a slanderer or blasphemer, and that he is and remains; fortunate is he who knows or believes this. This is why I praise this proverb against this devilish business, “One should praise women, whether it be true or false; they have need of it.” And again, “Many a man speaks ill of women, who does not know what his mother did,” for among women are included all our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, aunts, and relatives, and their honor is our honor, and their shame is our shame. Enough of this for now.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 46: The Christian in Society III. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 46, p. 302). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

As a father of six wonderful children, four boys and two girls, I feel very blessed, but also very conscious of the world that my children are entering. The world is quite different from what I knew growing up and not all for the better. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things that have happened and my view is not bleak, but I see the challenges that are ahead of them. For this I pray.

As we enter into the month of May we celebrate mothers and motherhood, but in many ways we can say that it is an opportunity to celebrate femininity. Women are naturally born with the propensity of bringing life into the world and most have a greater innate sense for nurture than those of us born as male. Now, of course, some women because of issues in development, illness, or sometimes even by choice do not become mothers and that does not diminish them in the gift they are or their femininity. God’s creation of woman was not meant as a lessor, but complement and an enhancement to the creative order of the world.

Now I know that our world sees this as a controversial statement. I understand that, but I will stand firm in the biblical and biological stance that there are only two genders – male and female. Each were purposely created differently and each have their own, different strengths. I could not do nor could I endure what many women endure. I am not ashamed to admit that and am often in awe of my wife and what she has faced. At the same time, there are things that I have endured and things that I find to be normal that my wife would say similar. We are truly a good pair for one another. God placed us together and has blessed us truly.

As I reflect on everything, I now think of my daughters and my sons. I am most thoughtful, however, about the world that is being set for my daughters. In the above quote, it comes from Martin Luther’s treatise On Marriage and he is speaking of a trend that he saw in his day where young ladies were having their honor attacked by the lies of young men of the day. In reading it, out of context one might think some of the things he is speaking of would be what we find being said today. With the advent of social media we have seen the bullying brought more to the forefront, but it truly is nothing new just the media for it has been further expanded. The lies can spread further and the attacks can reach in places once considered safe. Because of social media, our children are often left with no more safe places to get away from the attacks.

As parents, it is even more important that we teach our girls how to be honorable in speech and in how they treat others as well as raise our sons to be equally honorable and see the importance of protecting the honor of others, whether in our speech or in our actions. The words that come from our mouths reflect the issue in our hearts. As a father, my prayer is that my daughters never have to face the vicious attacks that can be brought by others simply meant to diminish their character. My desire is to raise them, also, that such attacks would be considered to be unbelievable and quickly seen as a smear campaign if they are attacked. I, also, seek to raise my boys to be respectful and not to speak poorly of other young ladies or others in general. Now being human, this is not a perfect process and we need to be gracious with one another. Part of this is teaching our children the Christian faith and seeking to reflect that in our living.

This is the calling, I believe, for every Christian parent. Sadly, the world often sees little difference from those that are of the Christian faith and those that are not. We have allowed the world’s ways to usurp the ways of the faith. I know it’s hard and it is easier because we don’t often want to appear weird because we are not meant to separate ourselves from the world like some sects have done. We are to be in the world, but not of it. We are to be in the world influencing others and not vice versa. Thankfully, we are not left to our own devices and our failure does not affect our salvation, though it does affect our witness.

God created us male and female in a complementary way. Not to have one dominate the other, but to partner and work with one another. The great lie that our world likes to tell is that male and female can do all things the same. The science that these same people would uphold in aspects of their lives does not support that and neither does the Bible. This is not meant to diminish one over and above the other and does not speak to intelligence or gifting because each gifting is a blessing and necessary for the world. Women are not created “only to be mothers” which some find so offensive and honestly to diminish motherhood to a lesser role I find personally offensive because I am in awe of my wife and what she does as a mother because I do not have the gifts or the skill that she has and see the gift that she is to me as her husband. Now the reverse is true for her as she has expressed the same. God has given us one another as a gift. As a father, I seek to raise my sons to see their future wives as the gifts they truly are and the same for my daughters so that they will know how to treat the other and how they should expect to be treated.

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Hope in a Season of Darkness

We have been told that we are entering a long, dark winter this year which for many has already been a long, dark year. Since the advent of Covid-19, we have been dominated with fear and warnings which brings about the cries, “Will this ever stop?” On top of this we have had a very contentious political season in the United States that has seemingly truly never stopped since the last Presidential election in 2016. So, I know that many people are tired, to be honest, I am tired. One thing that I have found in this season is a longing from many for something more. So many have placed their hopes in things that are fleeting and it has left so many in wont. The old ruts catch us and it becomes impossible to see any change as being possible. This is Satan’s tool that causes us to lose sight of God and the promises given to us in Christ Jesus. Though this is the first time in “modern” history that we have faced such trials as a society, it is not the first time our world has faced such long, dark days nor is it the first time in Christendom.

When we become so caught up in the things of this world, we will always find ourselves in wont. They seek to bind us up and cause us to give up and fall into despair. Christ came to break this monotony and show us the way. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the people of Israel were still in captivity. Yes, the were able to worship and live in Jerusalem and the Temple had been restored, but they were under the rule of foreign invaders. The faith had also been boiled down into a legalistic framework of living where the two major groups focused on living a good life in the hear and now to serve God and be blessed, the Sadducees, since they believed that this was all there was and God would bless those who were faithful and those that felt it was important to keep the biblical Law in order to receive blessings in the afterlife, the Pharisees. Now there were other sects that existed and other faiths that competed with these ideals, but the reality is that in them all God was often lost behind the constructs.

One could argue that the same continues to day and I would have to agree. We like our constructs that help us seem as if we are in control. The Devil loves to use this tool against us, also. Listen or you may suffer. Be afraid or you may be punished. A narrative is created that dictates the “good norms” of living and makes those that may think differently the enemy. It is a process that continues to repeat itself throughout history. Lives become constructs of a narrative that boils people down those who are are “right” and those who are “wrong.” Each side has their own “moral” construct to deem what is “safe” and what is “dangerous” thinking. The idea of people having opinions that differ or viewpoints that don’t agree is dangerous because it challenges the narrative. Truth is defined by the narrative and anything that may prove to cause the narrative not to be true is seen as fake or false or misinformation. So, all become confused and divided.

It is a perfect mix for isolation and sadness. Division is inevitable and discourse is impossible. So, where do we look? As Christians, we have the Word of God, the Bible, that is meant to be our guide. It challenges the narrative and causes us to look inward on ourselves. Those that disdain God will reject portions because it shows imperfect people, violence, murder, adultery, and all manner of ill behavior, but in it, when we read and pray, we find hope as God shows us how He utilizes these imperfect people in spite of their imperfections. Hope rises because we can look at the “heroes” and see aspects that are “worse” than “me.” If God can love them, then he can most certainly love me.

Christmas points us toward the beginning of the fulfillment of that love as we are reminded that God entered His creation. God was born as a man, not only appearing as a man, but truly a man – flesh, bone, and blood. This is a fact that the enemy loves to attack, but the Truth can not be denied. We celebrate the fact that God has walked with us, knows our hurts and sorrows and is in control. He is a good and glorious God and redeems us all our sins. That is the promise that we carry out into the the world and the only hope that can restore us and sustain us. It is the hope that has transformed many throughout time. It is the hope that the Rev. Martin Luther clung to and led him to nail the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg and risk his life and reputation. As the English preacher, Rev. Charles Spurgeon, put it in his day:

To those of us who are truly the people of God, the incarnation is the subject of a thoughtful joy, which ever increases with our knowledge of its meaning, even as rivers are enlarged by many trickling brooks. The birth of Jesus not only brings us hope, but the certainty of good things. We do not merely speak of Christ’s coming into relation with our nature, but of His entering into union with ourselves, for He has become one flesh with us for purposes as great as His love. He is one with all of us who have believed in His Name.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

We are given great opportunities to proclaim His glory and we can tell His story as we read of the revelation of His birth in Matthew and Luke and hear of His ministry that He brought to us in the healing and proclamation of the promises of God. He inspired simple men to give up their simple living and become his Disciples and then gave them a calling of Apostleship and still calls us to be his disciples to sit and learn of Him and the love of the Lord. His promises do not fail because they are beyond this world. They are not caught up in a legal scheme to control and fill with fear, but in a desire to free us all from the bondage of this world. Truth is that we will never be good enough, but through Him we are made perfect. The sins that bind us, no longer can hold us and that we are truly redeemed. Place your hope in Him and no matter what challenges you face, you will find that all things can be overcome.

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God is in Control

Faith is meant to be centered in our Lord God and in Him alone. We live in a world that loves to focus on “unplanned” or “unwanted” pregnancies, often using each as if they are the same and have the same meaning. As we enter this season, let us remember that our salvation is centered in an “unplanned” pregnancy. By no means was the announcement to Mary by the Angel Gabriel of her pregnancy and that she, though a virgin, had the Son of God in her womb planned and, one could argue, necessarily wanted, but she received it with grace and faithfulness as we find within Scripture,

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38, ESV

These words are simple, but show a sense of humility and faithfulness. Now, of course, when I address this here, I am speaking to those who are followers of Christ and trust that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (I do question, however, how one could call themselves a Christian and not believe the Bible and pick and choose). Now I do know that this comment may cause some controversy for some readers, but I will move on from here. At the time of Mary, the a virgin being pregnant would be seen as it would today, not possible and a story that would not be believed. For her it could have affected her betrothal and her life could’ve been put at great risk. Some may argue that there would be no way out, but if one were to do a simple search on a search engine you will find countless texts on Greek and Roman views on abortion and you can find the many tinctures that they would use that would be the equivalent of a chemical abortion we would find today. The ending of pregnancy is nothing new, as the Preacher says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV) Sin is sin and it, unfortunately, requires little imagination. So, we can still appreciate Mary caught in a situation where her faith would have found “getting rid of the child” as anathema while still being aware that it could mean risking of her own standing and possibly life.

Now, I know I write this just before Christ the King Sunday and we will then be entering into Advent and one may ask, “Why?” We live in a troubling time as we look and see a reality that we may have a President and a Vice President that have publicly taken the most pro-Abortion stance of any predecessor, which is troubling. This is not meant to be a political statement and my prayer is that the rhetoric that has been put out there was more appeasement than praxis. My prayer is that the protection of innocent life is something that isn’t minimized or the voices are not silenced. I trust in God’s control and power, however, and do believe that regardless of the leadership of the day, our moral calling is to speak out and teach our faith families the importance of protecting life. As followers of Christ, we are called to be faithful and pray for our leaders while maintaining our views and stances that are central to the faith. We feed the hungry because that is what we do and who we are. We visit the sick, fatherless, imprisoned, and hospitalized because that is what we do and who we are. We proclaim the Gospel and the hope that is within us because that is what we do and who we are. Our mission does not change. Fundamental change does not happen through governmental mandate, but through faith families standing firm in the biblical Christian faith raising up disciples and teaching what we have been taught.

What this election has taught me, maybe more than others, is that it is my responsibility as well as those whom God has placed under my charge to be more vigilant in the proclamation of the Word and doing the good Work that God has called us to do. It is what has become a hot button word that sometimes does not have a great depth of meaning, Discipleship. Sitting at the feet of Jesus and seeking to do what we are called to do and be and focusing on raising up disciples to lead and evoke positive change for Christ in the world. We have some many issues that are systemic because sometimes we focused more on teaching societal ideals that may not have been entirely inline with God’s Word.

Life is a central ideal of God, particularly the preservation of life – namely the life of the eternal kind. When put in the context of eternal life we can see the differentiation of it as one could easily argue throughout the historical books of the Old Testament we find a lot of lives being taken by people of God and some at the command of God. I have actually had people tell me how evil that was and there is an atheist group that regularly protests the Ark Encounter in Kentucky because of how God wiped out life on earth sparing the few on the Ark. It is interesting to me how those that deny the existence of God or the reality that the main moral tenets that we find within the Western world are centered in the Word of God that they impugn the morality of God and the faith that we who believe in Him espouse with such arguments. Morality, without a foundation, is subjective otherwise. Why not do what you want to do? As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone that does not deserve it, right? We fail to see that there are those who struggle with the reality of what it is that God is doing, both Christian and non-Christian alike. God, being sovereign and all knowing, has a reason and an understanding beyond our own when it comes to the issues we find within the Old Testament, particularly in Joshua. God was seeking to preserve a select group people to be set apart from all other, but that would require that they not be influenced by other cultures that worshiped idols. God had seen what had occurred in Egypt and how His people had not been worshiping Him as He desired, yet they were oppressed. For a long time the people of Israel had become comfortable and complacent since, because of Joseph, they had lived a favored life for a time. In that time did they turn to God? We don’t know truly, but for a long period of time they lived in Egypt even after the death of Joseph and then we hear of their suffering at the hands of the Egyptians who had begun to see them as a threat. We have the story of how God provided protection for Moses who would become the one who God chose to lead His people back to the Promised Land. It is amazing how quickly God’s providence is forgotten and taken for granted.

How often do we talk the lives we are given for granted? The sad reality is that we don’t know what potential has been lost in our world because of the loss of life. God knows and God even knew the prospect that the lives would be lost. Each person who elected to abort did have a choice – turn to God who will show a path or turn to the World who will take care of the “problem.” For those who chose to take care of the “problem,” God is still there to heal them but, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, they often feel the overwhelming impact of what they have done they flee from God or those who carry His Word because of fear of being seen naked/exposed. As the Church, followers of Christ are meant to be a source of comfort to those who feel exposed. Unlike Ham, who went and told his brothers about their father, Noah, and the shameful act he had committed to become drunk and lie naked/exposed, Shem and Japheth cover up their father’s nakedness and do not look upon him and we are to do the same for those who feel the overwhelming sense of shame for what they have done. “Peace to you” means exactly that do not be troubled or feel like you are exposed but let us cover you in Christ’s love and let you know the door which leads to eternal life.

I write these words as I reflect and celebrate the many victories for life that have been won over the past four years as funding for abortions have been reduced as well as the number of abortions being performed annually. We still have the battle to be fought against the abortion pill and other abortifacients that are in our world, but ultimately those battles are not won in the courtroom but in the hearts and minds of people. The greatest tool we have for transformation is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is as the writer in Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV) That is why many do not like to be in the Word of God or do all they can to discredit it because when we submit ourselves to the Word, it kills us. How so? It kills that old sinful self, i.e. the old Adam, then Christ can raise us up, i.e. the new Adam. That is its purpose and power. In it we find our hope and in it we bring salvation to a fallen world.

We, as people of faith, are reminded that Christ is King and we are His people. Let us stand up in our faith and pray that our leaders will know Him and follow Him. This is something that we, as a Nation, should have been doing all along.

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A New Home

Preparing for the Future

Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

1 Corinthians 9:10–11, ESV

In every place that I have been blessed to serve as a pastor, I am aware that there have been those ahead that have sown seeds that I will have a great harvest. Sometimes, those seeds were less fruitful and other times there were some great things laid out. I have also seen the Sower of Weeds’ work that has stunted the good seed that had been put out. The great thing that I have learned is that not all that is good or that is bad that may come from the people of each congregation can be directly related to the prior pastor. The spiritual growth of any people is reliant upon the Holy Spirit. As a pastor, it is my calling to be faithful in the work to which God has called me to do.

Each call that I have received has been different with different blessings and different challenges. I have always made some great relationships and have been sad to leave parishioners behind. At times I can reflect to some extent and understand more fully the words of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem as a hen gathering her chicks (Matthew 23:37) because my heart aches for their smiles and their presence. That is the heart of ministry, I believe. I also love the excitement of a new Call and the hope of “what is in store.” As I begin at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Gillett, WI, there is a lot of joy in my spirit. Now it didn’t begin the way I had hoped, catching Covid-19 was certainly not in the plan, but the love that has been poured out by many from the congregation after hearing the news and then throughout has been wonderful.

Officially, I am out of quarantine but most of my family will remain in quarantine until the first week of November and I am thankful that those of us who tested positive in the the household have only suffered what would be considered minor symptoms (though some of those symptoms are not pleasant and others, like the loss of taste and smell, are odd and a little annoying). This is the season we find ourselves in today and will be a defining and redefining of how we will do things from now on. The great blessings that I have received in this has forced me to recognize my own limitations and some of my shortcomings, i.e. I don’t often like to sit and wait but like to get things going. I have been blessed to see what God has been doing in this congregation and the wonderful foundation I am being given an opportunity to build upon. Developing a group of loving and faithful people to better understand and further live out their callings that God has placed on them. Some are at points of life that are transition points which can also be a difficult thing to navigate as, in life, we are called away from one calling into another. This I understand, as it is difficult to leave behind something that you “know” into an unknown full of pitfalls and uncertainty. It is the finding of a new home and new surroundings in a sense. Like my family and I moving into a new Call with a new home and community, if we constantly were to look back we may miss out on what God has in store for us and ahead of us in our lives.

As I reflect and look ahead, I can look back and see how God has continually provided for my family and for me and be thankful for where He has placed me. I can see the great work that He has been doing and humbly pray for His guidance to proclaim His glory in order to be a blessing for this congregation and this community. I see the seeds that have been planted that are bearing good fruit and am preparing to plant new seeds that will continue the good work with His people. We are all in His hands, let that give us peace.

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Message Minute – July 28, 2020

Originally aired on WAMW Memories 107.9 FM Washington, IN
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Message Minute – July 27, 2020

Originally aired on WAMW Memories 107.9 FM Washington, IN
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As Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17 is one of my favorite verses to think about growth in faith. I am sure that is true for many of us, especially guys. It is a good word of how we lift each other up in the faith. Most modern translations write it this way,

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17, ESV

I decided to study this verse a little more and found that the KJV places the word “countenance” in the verse as does the MEV which is the Modern English Version of the King James which says this,

Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17, MEV

Looking at the Hebrew, the change from the countenance or face of a friend would be more true to the text, so why does the ESV and NASB change it? The reasoning could be for ease of understanding, but I think that something was lost. The other may be understand as “friend” in the word “another,” but it does not highlight the need of a friend to someone that seeks to better their friend as well as to see a friend as one that not only speaks the positive words to you, but also the difficult words that may not be easy to say but necessary for positive correction.

As followers of Christ we are called to lift each other to live our lives in a way that glorifies the God to whom we belong. This means not only supporting us with positive words of encouragement, but healthy encouragement. I know what it is like to have people say negative things about me behind my back, as I am sure that many of us are. I am also have enjoyed the positive things spoken to me. A friend, however, will say the negative in private in a way that is not meant to discourage and tear down, but to lift up. A friend will speak the difficult words that are meant to enable us to be better.

I love to reflect on things, not that I love to hear negative, but I do like feedback. I have been open to this for most of my life because of the many Counselors that I have seen in my life. As a child, my mother placed me in counseling to help me with anger that I had to work through because of my parents divorce and things that I had to process because of some of the things that I had witnessed. In the beginning, this taught me a lesson on how to be open about my feelings and express things, unfortunately, I had to learn another painful lesson in learning to be careful about with whom I shared. This is the reality of this verse.

As followers of Christ, it is vital for our faith walk to find brothers or sisters, I would recommend that the greatest confidants aside from that of a spouse should be of the same gender to prevent any inappropriate affections to develop, with whom you can walk and talk about issues of faith. Develop that relationship with clear boundaries and understanding with hopes that as time progresses that they will be respected. It is a difficult journey, but one that is important because the faith we walk within is not an easy faith but needs to be supported. As we build up and sharpen to faith of our friends, we are to build them up to put you in front of them at all times. That they may be built up to reflect more of you in every aspect of their lives and the friends that sharpen us are to build Christ up more and more in our reflection too. With that the Church is lifted up and more and more will see the face of Christ.

The Benediction that I give after every service is one that another pastor shared when I was preparing to enter my first call and it is this,

May the Christ who walks on wounded feet, walk with you to the end of your road.

May the Christ who serves with wounded hands, teach you to serve one another.

May the Christ who loves with a broken heart, be your love forever.

May you find the face of Christ in every one you meet and may everyone you meet find the face of Christ in you.

Amen.

These words have resonated with me since the first time I heard them and my hope is that they resonate with all who hear me speak them and all who read them on this Blog. As we are sharpened in the faith by our close friends of the faith, we are being sharpened for a purpose, to glorify God. That is the greatest gift and opportunity that we are given as followers of Christ. We should not desire that people see us first, but that they see in our lives and actions the One who we worship. He is the hope for our daily living and the salvation we should strive for within our lives. My prayer is that each Christian seek out that friend, if they don’t already have one, and that the work of the faith be worked out together. In our world today we have too much division, let us be united in the One who will always be faithful!

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