Tuesday, November 15, 2016

 

You do not have to be a Republican or a Democrat to follow Jesus

One of the problems in reaching people in our culture is the fact that many people think God's people are closely identified with one or the other political parties.

So...

You do not have to be a Republican to belong to the church.

You do not have to be a Democrat to follow Jesus.

We all reflexively nod our agreement here and then go right on confusing people.

Here is how we do it.

Celebrate loudly in God's name when your candidate wins.  Some of you were seriously scaring our kids before the election.  If I am not a Republican, I would really wonder about the celebrations many Christians had after the election.  So now everything is wonderful in our world?

Moan and groan and weep and wail over the fact that your candidate lost.  You are scaring our kids after the election.  If I am not a Democrat, I might really be confused about the despair shown by many Christians after the election.  Who do we really trust and believe in?

You may think I should not even talk about this because I do not vote.  Then stop reading.  I do not vote because I belong to a different kingdom.  Mine was here way before the United States and will be here way after.  I have one allegiance and it is not to any earthly kingdom.  You do not have to agree with me.

In fact...

I have admiration for those who vote but refuse to label their decision the one Jesus wanted.  Some just could not vote in this election because of their love for the marginalized, the babies, people who are different, and marriage.  Others did not vote because they were afraid of persecution or deportation.  Others could not in good conscience vote for a greedy bully or a greedy liar.

But please think what your reactions -- before and after -- the election have communicated to others.

Fear.  Some of you come across as if the world is ending.  But God calls us to be courageous.  To give our anxiety to him.  And if the world really is ending... good for us.  We finally get to go home.

Mixed allegiance.  What kingdom are we serving?  Are we really calling people out of this world to follow Jesus?  Shouldn't we Christians be counter-cultural by our very nature?

Unity.  How attractive is our Christian family to those watching us?   Too many have implied -- or outright stated -- that your brothers and sisters that disagree with you politically do not love people, do not love babies, do not care about truth, and did not follow Jesus in this election.

Courage of your convictions.  Many people talked about how God is in control and He has this.  Then after the election, you went into a deep and dark depression.  And by the way, if the election had gone the other way some of you would be in a deep and dark depression.

So please understand that our God rules.  America is not his chosen nation.  Non Christians will never act like believers so stop expecting them to.

And what an opportunity to share the good news of a family that accepts everyone.  To invite people into a life of joy and peace no matter where you live on this earth.  To offer hope in a lost and dying world.  To help people find their true calling in following Jesus.

Be brave.  Be happy.  Love each other.  Love those who do know Jesus.  And then do something about it.

God you are in charge.  Forgive us when our actions do not reflect our faith.  Help us seize the opportunity to invite people into a Kingdom bigger and better than anything this world has to offer.  We pledge our lives to this purpose.  We will stop being afraid.  We will be courageous.  You and Son are with us.  Just like always.

  

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

 

A Guide for Christian Voters

I know today is election day and most have made up their mind and may have already voted or chosen not to vote.  But there will be more elections, so here are some things I think Christians must consider during elections.

Above all, honor Jesus.  Do not let differences of opinions over earthly things harm your relationships with other Christians.  And people that disagree with you are not ignorant or unfeeling.

And I am calling on elders to shepherd their flocks in this regard.  Do not let your churches harm the body of Christ and wreck our influence by how we act during election season.

So...

A Christian must first decide if it is appropriate to vote or not.  It is clear to most of you what I think, but that may not be what you decide.  You have to decide how to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven and how to live in an earthly country or kingdom.  I know passionate followers of Jesus who will not vote, others who will vote only in local elections, and some who vote in national elections.  Determine what is right for you.

If you do vote, do so in the proper context.  You are never voting for a Christian system or in a way that makes the country Christian.  That is not possible.  There are no Christian nations.  And only by making followers of Jesus can you make any place more Christian.  You may decide to vote according to your Christian values,but that is hard to do.  Impossible in this presidential election.  I just cannot see Jesus in the policies or actions of either candidate.  So vote on earthly political values.  Decide what you think is best for your country and vote accordingly.

Just do not claim you are voting for the candidate of Jesus.  And don't write in Jesus.  He is not interested in ruling over any political or geographic system.  Jesus wants to be Lord, not president.

Stop holding up politicians as heroes and role models.  Some might be.  Most are not.  I would not want my family to look at either candidate as someone to emulate.  Find your heroes in your own family.  Many of you have role models there.  Find them in your churches.  There are lots of real heroes and role models there.  

And one last thing.  If you really want to see a Christian nation, then start making disciples in your world.  The disciple maker who does not vote has done more to make this a "Christian" nation than the disciple who votes but has never talked to their neighbors or friends about Jesus.

And by the way... however today turns out I am happy and blessed.  I am saved.  My family is saved.  My Lord is still in control.  He won a long time ago.  And because of him I win too.

Go God.  Thanks Jesus.

So God I ask that your will be done in this election.  I'll pray for whoever wins.  And I'll do my part in changing this country and this world by being your ambassador to share the message that Jesus died for our sins and you raised him the dead.  

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

 

Maybe God Does Not Want Your Candidate to Win...

I have been told by a number of Christians who I should vote for for President.  Some have a strong opinion, some are adamant, some find it incredible that I might not agree with them.  Some are sure of the candidate God wants elected.

There are a number of reasons given for supporting a candidate.  Some see it as a character issue -- tho it seems to be much more about what is wrong with the other candidate than what is right with the one they support.  Others make their case on what they believe is best to keep -- or to restore -- America as a Christian nation.  Some advocate for the candidate that they think will best preserve our Christian convictions and protect us from persecution.

But here is what I wonder... what if God does not see it your way?

Full disclosure:  I am not voting.  The Kingdom I belong to is not of this world.  It is not bound by geographic or political boundaries.  My Kingdom will outlast America and every other kingdom of this world.  My Kingdom cannot be defeated.  The ruler of my Kingdom is Jesus.  His will is going to be done.

But I am interested in this election.  I have prayed about it.  I want God's will to be done in this election.

But here is what I wonder...

What if God does not view us as a Christian nation and he knows that the church will be stronger if persecuted?

What if God wants us to live in a culture that is not "Christian" so that our light will shine brighter?

What if God does not want us deceived into thinking that we are a Christian nation and so we lose the passion to tell people about the real Kingdom?

What if God wants us to live radical lives of forgiveness in a culture that does not honor God?

What if he wants us to serve intently in a selfish world so people will see a different way to live?

What if God wants us to speak boldly the good news of Jesus into a culture that is full of bad news?

What if God's plan is not to do what is best for a country of this world but what is best for his kingdom?

What if his plan is to do what is best to awaken a hunger for joy, peace, hope, and purpose in a lost and hurting world?

What if his will is to have someone elected that gives us more opportunities to speak Jesus?

Maybe God wants us to be love and grace in a world of hatred and anger.  Even if our candidate loses.

So God there is lots I do not know or understand.  But I want our world to know your Son.  I pray your will be done in this election.  I pray we will live, serve, and speak with courage and conviction.  I pray for the outcome that gives the best opportunity for our witness and testimony to be seen and heard.  And I pray that we will be like your Son on November 8.  And every day after that.  No matter who wins this election.  And thank you for letting us belong to a Kingdom that will last forever.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

 

My mother-in-law is home for good

Jean Herttenberger, Marsha's mom, is home.  It was a long journey and we knew it was coming. God's promise of no more pain and tears is real now in her life.  Here are a few of the thoughts shared at her funeral celebration.

She died like she lived.  Faithful.  She was baptized when Marsha was just a couple of months old.  Realized she wanted to be a Christian wife and mother.  And she was.

She loved her family.  Married to Grandpa over 71 years.  Some of those years were hard and sometimes they fought.  But they always loved.  What a testimony to faithful marriage.  For better or worse.  Richer or poorer.  Sickness or health.  They modeled all of that for us.  She was the emotional center of their home.

Raised three faithful kids.  Not perfect but faithful.

Left a faith legacy.  One of her grandsons, Joe Don, helped do  her funeral.  Pretty special when your son, son-in-law, and grandson all speak at your funeral.

She had a really special bond with her daughter Marsha.  Granny taught Marsha to love Jesus and to live her faith.  Marsha and Granny taught our daughter Julie to love Jesus and live her faith.  And then Granny, Marsha, and Julie taught Julie's daughter Avery to love Jesus and live her faith.  We called them #1, 2, 3, and 4.  Sweet and special.

She made a home.  There is no way to tally the number of people who ate around their table.  Or how many meals Granny fixed for people.  Everyone that came to see her got her hug, her smile, and an "I love you".  Everyone.  Her son, Donnie, talked about how she always made him feel special.  So did Joe Don.  So did I.  It was one of her gifts to all of us.

Everyone thought that they were her favorite.  I did.  Marsha did.  Julie did. Avery did.  And on and on it went.

She loved prayer circles.  Holding hands and praying.  Really loved to hear her great-grandkids pray.
Loved singing.  In her last months, she came to love the song This Is the Day.  Not sure how this all happened but I do know that Joe Don and his family sing it at breakfast.  I know Julie's two sing it on the way to school.  I heard Marsha sing it to her, I sang it to her, her greats sang it to her.  We all sang it to her.  Often she would sing it with us.

It was how she lived life.  Every day was a gift from God.  A day to be happy.  A day to love Jesus.  A day to live her faith.

She was special to me.  Loved me when she didn't have to -- and maybe shouldn't have -- but did.

We knew I would probably be off preaching somewhere when she went home.  We talked about it.  She told me to go talk about Jesus.  Just come back and do her funeral.

I was in Nicaragua the day she died.  Made it home and did the funeral.

Looking forward to when I get to see her again.

And I will.

Thanks God for Granny.  Thanks for loving her home.  She loved you and loved us.  She made us feel special.  Her life is still seen in Marsha, Julie, and Avery.  She died like she lived.  She honored you.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

 

Elder Authority


I believe in elder authority.  I believe that elders/overseers/leaders have the authority to make decisions for the church.  And I believe the elders have authority to speak into individual lives under their care.  Many people seem to bristle at that concept so I thought I would share where elders get their authority.

Scripture.  The Bible talks about elders being overseers, that the members are under our care, that they are to submit, that we have authority, that they should obey, and that we will give account for the souls under our care.  So I do believe God expects me to speak into the lives of my sheep.  I do believe elders can, and should, speak to how you live.  But we better do it in the right way.  We do not lord it over the flock.  And we will answer for your soul.

Knowledge of Scripture.  When we speak into your lives, we better be using Scripture.  When we are rebuking, teaching, correcting, and instructing ... we better be using Scripture.  That is what it is useful for.  Elders are to know Scripture so we can protect you from false teaching by others.  One of the characteristics of elders is that they are teachers.  Using Scripture.  In fact, elders that direct the church well, and especially those who teach and preach, are even worth paying.  So when an elder sits with you and tells you what to do, or how to live ... they will have an open Bible.

Example.  Elder authority comes not just from the Scriptures and from knowing Scripture.  It also comes from who we are.  You are to follow the example of elders.  You are to study how their life has turned out and imitate them.  Elders have healthy marriages and faithful kids.  You should look to your elders and their families to learn how to be married and how to parent.  You should watch elders to learn how to serve and how to tell others about Jesus.  Elder families should model forgiveness.  Elders should show you how to live forgiven.  How to face sickness and death.  How to deal with sin.

Maybe that is why your elders/overseers/leaders are well... elderly.  We have learned about life as a Jesus follower.  We have figured out how Scripture speaks into our lives.  And we know how to share that.

Scripture gives elders authority.  And it tells them how to use it.

So listen to us.  Watch us.  Follow us.  We will get you home safely.  God entrusted your soul to us and we are watching out for you.

So God thank you for elders and wives who have taken care of me and mine.  Men like Jack, Bill, my Dad, and so many more who have used the authority you gave them to speak into my life.  Thank you for my elders that still have lead me today.  They have made sure that I -- and my family -- are going to get home to you.  Thank you for those you have entrusted to me.  I will do everything I can to get them home to you.



Tuesday, October 04, 2016

 

I am going to make the United States better...

I am really concerned about a number of things happening in the United States recently.

Election season with the overwhelming majority of campaigning done on both sides consists of character assassination and lies.

Living in a culture where everyone is encouraged to make their own decisions about what is right and/or what is wrong.  And should you disagree with someone, you are reviled and attacked.

It is time I did something about it.

But here is what I am not going to do.

I am not going to lament the good old days in our country.  Because there were no good old days.  Injustice, greed, hatred, racism, and evil have been around since our country started.  Civil war, slavery, abortions, robber barons, These are just a few of the ways evil is -- or has been -- demonstrated in our country.

I am not going to lobby for moral laws so we can legislate Christian behavior.

I am not going to huddle in fear of what this world is coming to.  This world is coming to the same thing it came to with Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Satan is powerful and evil abounds.

I am not going to hope somehow the Church will become relevant in our society.  Not going to put my faith in bigger and better buildings.  Or in devising more relevant programs.

Not going to write a few checks to local charities to ease my conscience.
 
No... it is too easy to moan and groan and complain.  Too easy to put trust in politics.  Too simplistic to hope the corporate Church can do something.  Too easy to write a check for someone else to do something.

I believe it is time to be courageous.

So here is what I am going to do.  Come to think about it... what I have been doing.  What I was called to do when I decided to follow Jesus.

Live the way Jesus did.  I am going to try every day to follow him.  To do what he would do.  To not do what he would not do.  I will live counter to my culture.  Loving God with everything I have.

I am going to radically love the people I connect to in my life orbit.  I am going to serve.  Helping my neighbors.  Being a friend to the lonely and the friendless.

And I am going to talk about Jesus.  I am going to tell people about the one who died for our sins and was raised back to life.  And I going to invite people to join me on the Jesus journey.  Helping them learn to love God and love their neighbors.

And when I do that, my corner of the world changes.  And when the people who follow Jesus make other followers, the world changes a little more.

That is how to change a family, a neighborhood, a city, a nation, and a world.

And I can do that.  Not elections, not programs, not other people.

Me.  I can make a difference.  I have.  And I will.

You can too.

So Father, give us the courage to live in our world.  To serve in our world.  To speak good news into our world.  Help us to live as your followers.  Forgive us when we think elections and programs are better than our getting into the lives of those you put in our world.  Help us to love you radically and to love others radically.  Use us -- use me -- to change the world forever.     

Thursday, September 29, 2016

 

Flu Shots and Spiritual Disciplines

Stupid flu shot.  I had mine today.

They told me older people need one.  I just don't think I am old.

I probably wouldn't get the flu anyway because I am generally healthy.

Besides, shouldn't health be proactive and not just preventative.

You know... like spiritual disciplines -- Bible reading, praying, fasting.

The truth is that of course I want my spiritual disciplines to help me be a better follower of Jesus.

But sometimes my spiritual disciplines better be preventative.

Because sometimes I am weaker spiritually than I want to be.  I don't want to think I am weak, but of course it is a good idea to build up my defenses.

And I will be tempted.  No way Satan stops fighting me now.  We have been at war for a long time and I guess we will be till I am home for good.

So the flu shot may be very smart in preventing a future illness.

And spiritual disciplines may be very smart in preventing future spiritual illness.

So God keep me healthy so I can be active doing your work.  Use the flu shot if you choose to.  And keep me spiritually healthy so Satan does not harm me.  Use our conversations thru prayer and your Word to protect me.  And grow me.

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