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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Part 4

Charlie Brown is depressed at Christmastime. He knows it is supposed to be a season of joy and that he’s supposed to be happy. But he isn’t. He tells this to his best friend Linus. Linus, as a good friend does, listens to Charlie Brown and doesn’t offer advice (although he does offer an assessment of Charlie Brown as the “Charlie Browniest”).

Charlie Brown heads over to Lucy for “psychiatric help” (5¢ please). It is here that we get to the heart of the matter. Charlie Brown just doesn’t understand Christmas.

Lucy suggests involvement will help Charlie Brown. He is named the director of the Christmas play. But that doesn’t work.

Charlie Brown tries to set the mood with music, thinking that might work. It doesn’t (but most likely because it isn’t the right “Christmas” music – music might work and often does in many situations).

Charlie Brown then turns to the enduring symbol of the season – a Christmas tree. But when he is not wishy-washy for once, he’s berated by everyone – even his dog – when he brings back a real Christmas tree (albeit pretty shabby).

In anguish, Charlie Brown cries out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

And that is our cry as well. Do we really understand what Christmas is all about? At Christmastime we fill our lives with cards, gifts, dinner parties, trees, travel, music, and worship. But strip all that away and what is left?

Linus speaks to all of us, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

It isn’t about what we do. It isn’t about the proper mood. It is about God loving us so much that He sent Jesus to be our savior.

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Part 3

According to a Gallup poll from 2004, 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas. I imagine that every single one of them will have a Christmas Tree of some kind as part of their celebration.

Real or artificial? The great Christmas debate.

One of my earliest memories is as a very young boy going out on a rainy December day with my mom and dad and cutting down a Christmas tree in the mountains outside of San Francisco. I don’t remember much except that it was really muddy.

After we moved to Lake Villa, Illinois, I remember having an artificial tree. But I missed the real tree smell, going out and looking for the perfect tree with family, the whole experience. So when Nancy and I were married, we both committed to having a real tree each year – and so we have, for the last 18 Christmases.

We have our favorite kind of tree – a fir of some kind. Fraser, Noble, Douglas, that kind of thing.

That’s for us. You have different ideas. Some like Balsams, others like Scotch Pines.

Then there are those of you that prefer artificial trees. Cost, environmental impact and safety are very good concerns in the decision to choose an artificial tree.

I’m not here to argue one way or another about Christmas trees. I respect all decisions for the type of tree that you use.

But when it comes to Christmas trees, there are very many opinions, aren’t there. That’s apparent in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

A Christmas Tree sets the mood like nothing else does.

Charlie Brown knows that Christmas-time is a season of joy and happiness, but he doesn’t feel happy. He’s depressed. He doesn’t know why he doesn’t feel good at Christmas-time. He actually provides himself with the answer but that doesn’t help him much – it’s because he doesn’t understand what Christmas is all about.

So, he goes on a quest to find happiness. This leads him first to Lucy. Her advice is to “get involved.” So, he gets involved as the director of their Christmas play. That’s a good thing, because it puts Charlie Brown in the place he needs to be in order to understand what Christmas is all about, but we haven’t reached that point yet.

Charlie Brown’s direction style hasn’t accomplished what he’s looking for, so he goes in a slightly different direction. He tries to “set the mood.”

This, too, is powerful. Think about Christmas Eve worship services – the “mood” is important, isn’t it? The proper lighting, the proper music. Hollywood figured this out a long time ago – that lighting and soundtrack can make or break a movie.

Charlie Brown tried to set the proper mood with music, but that didn’t work. So he turns to that greatest of Christmas symbols in the modern era – the Christmas Tree.

Like most things in today’s world, opinions abound as to what kind of Christmas Tree Charlie Brown should get. You may have chuckled a little about a “shiny aluminum tree.” As it turns out, the first aluminum tree was introduced to the American market in 1958, only seven years before A Charlie Brown Christmas was first aired on TV and it was still quite popular.

The pressure is put on Charlie Brown to get the right tree, as the opinion is that only the right kind of tree will do to set the mood. This is typical human nature – that our opinion on things is most important. This leads us to what one person told me about two weeks ago – the “sin of expectation.” If our opinion is not considered and used, then things are ruined, that we are “doomed.” This, of course, is based squarely in our self-centeredness and not in being disciples of Jesus. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have your opinion or that your opinions don’t matter. What I am saying is our opinions – indeed our whole lives – should not be inward-looking but outward –leading. As Jesus put it, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind,” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19 & 22).

That certainly doesn’t fit the modern spirit of humans. My feelings, my opinion, my way, my thoughts, - that’s what’s important. The stark and unnerving mirror of God’s Law reveals this about ourselves and it isn’t comfortable. So we hide behind all our opinions, our ideas, and our feelings – especially at this time of year. That has led so many to feel just like Charlie Brown feels. There is a solution, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

The modern spirit of Christmas seems to be based on the type of tree one chooses.

Charlie Brown and Linus go out to get a tree. Linus warns Charlie Brown about following Lucy’s advice. Charlie Brown – for all his wishy-washyness – stands his ground and picks a real tree.

Charlie Brown recognizes that the tree “seems to need him.” And that’s interesting to me. The tree seems to call out to Charlie Brown. Perhaps it really has. God has often used parts of His creation to get the attention of people.

Charlie Brown doesn’t realize it but this tree chooses him because it moves Charlie Brown ever closer to the place where he will need to be to truly understand what Christmas is all about. When Charlie Brown gets to that place he will find the peace, happiness and joy that he – and us – are looking for at Christmas-time.

Charlie Brown says that he thinks the tree needs him. The reality is that we need the tree! And not the Christmas tree, but the Tree that the Christmas tree points to.

When you look at a Christmas tree, what do you see? I see a symbol of the Christmas season. But like most symbols this is a complex symbol. There’s more to it than initially meets the eye.

Some see a Christmas tree and see the mess of needles that will need to be cleaned up the rest of the year. Some see a frightful expense. Some are reminded of Christmases past. But consider this:

The Christmas tree is an evergreen. It is green and “fresh looking” year round. It isn’t a deciduous tree that loses its leaves and is bear every winter. This points us to the never-ending nature of God Himself, that Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

The shape of (most) Christmas trees is also a symbol. To me, it is an arrow shape, pointing up to heaven, pointing us to God, the source of all good and perfect gifts. Which is why we also put gifts under the tree each year, yes?

But the most powerful symbol that is the Christmas tree is that it is a tree. What’s the big deal about that?

23When they hurled their insults at [Jesus], he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:23-25) (emphasis added).

The ultimate symbol of the Christmas tree is that Jesus Christ was hung on a tree to die to save us from our sins. And that, my friends, is what Christmas is ultimately all about and where our true joy will be found. Not only at Christmas but throughout the year and throughout our lives!

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Part 2

We need to be involved, both with God and with others. This is how A Charlie Brown Christmas starts. Charlie Brown is not happy even though he knows he should be at Christmas time. Lucy’s advice to him is get involverd as the director of the Christmas play.

We need to be involved, both with God and with others. This is the heart of the 10 Commandments – Love God and Love Your Neighbor.

God gives us the power to be involved with Him and our neighbors by first becoming involved with us – He became one of us when Jesus was born.

What we do with that involvement is important, not only to having the Christmas that God wants for us, but also to have the abundant life that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10).

The problem is that when we are not involved with God, when we don’t realize just how much He is involved with us (by becoming a human being just like us), we try to find involvement on our own. That leads to a happy-go-lucky existence or a self-centered existence.

Charlie Brown is looking for happiness at Christmas time. He knows he should be happy, but since he doesn’t really understand what Christmas is all about, he can’t find that happiness. Lucy’s suggestion of involvement is a good one, because it puts Charlie Brown where he needs to be to understand what Christmas is all about – but more on that at another time.

Charlie Brown knows that Christmas-time is supposed to be a time of joy and good feelings. I wonder if that isn’t ingrained in us from the beginning of our lives. It certainly is a promise that God made a long, long time ago. God has promised us that Christmas is supposed to be joyful. The messengers of God tell us that Christmas is “good news of great joy, which is for all people.”

The prophets Isaiah and Nahum said, centuries before Christmas, record the promise that it would be Good News.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" – Isaiah 52:7

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…. - Isaiah 61:1

Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace! Celebrate your festivals, O Judah, and fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed. - Nahum 1:15

Christmas is a time of joy, of Good News, of happiness. The first step to finding that happiness is involvement. But it has to be involvement the way that God intends. We cannot invent our own. We can’t go about this our own way.

Sarah tried that with Abraham and Hagar.
Rachel tried that with Jacob and her handmaiden.

In A Charlie Brown Christmas we see that the kids have their own ideas about “involvement” and what happiness at Christmas should be. For the kids it is doing what they want to do. If there is anything “dated” about A Charlie Brown Christmas, this might be it. In the middle of the 60’s “do your own thing” was all the rage. Whatever makes you feel happy, do that. I don’t think this story is quite that blatant about it, but it does hint at this philosophy – if it makes you happy, do it. Of course, that isn’t really “dated” at all. It is the original sin!

Whenever, that is tried – and that happiness is not tied to what God has done for us in Jesus – than happiness is rarely, if ever, found. True joy can only be found in God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When you are involved in God through Jesus, joy is found every single time. Every single time!

Let’s get back to director Charlie Brown. He starts assigning parts – shepherds, in-keepers and their wives, and the animals. We all have a role to play in this life. God is the great author of this epic story of salvation and life. A story that began long before we were born, in which God gives us a part that is our very own. We have been given the costumes, props, and lines, if you will. We all have a part. But remember that Christ is the star, the lead character in this epic story. We have supporting roles.

Yet, we tend to try to make our role the starring role. This is what I call self-centeredness. Lucy is a great example. Her part is “The Christmas Queen.” She’s made her part up, hasn’t she? I mean, I don’t remember a Christmas Queen in the Bible, do you?

Making our part greater than it’s supposed to be, and doing things our own way, is all part of the “problem of Christmas” that Charlie Brown has identified. It is about expectations. Remember what Lucy wanted for Christmas? Sally – Charlie Brown’s little sister – also has expectations of what Christmas is supposed to be that is based on self-centeredness. Making up our own role is part-and-parcel of having unrealistic expectations.

When it comes to Christmas, many people have expectations that, if not met, seem to ruin Christmas. Or at least disappoint us about Christmas.

I was the king of expectations when it comes to Christmas. Growing up, even into my young adult years, there were certain things that I felt must happen for me to have a joyful and happy Christmas.

- There must be snow on the ground – because of one of my favorite songs (White Christmas).
- I must be able to watch
o A Charlie Brown Christmas
o It’s a Wonderful Life
o The Bishop’s Wife
- I must be able to walk down State Street and Michigan Ave. in Chicago sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Those of you who know me might be thinking that nothing has changed for me. I still do all these things at this time of year. Which is true. But what has changed is my expectations of Christmas. You see, there’s nothing wrong with doing these things, just as there is nothing wrong with dancing like in A Charlie Brown Christmas. It all comes back to the heart of the matter. Why do we do these things?

Do we do them in order to make Christmas a joyful time of year? Or do we do them in response to the joy that is ours at this time of year because of what God has done for us?

Charlie Brown tries to make things go his way. He tries to do things the way he thinks they should be done. And we see the result. Good grief!

But if we truly understand the great gift that is the heart of Christmas, everything we do will be a response! If we start with the Gift of Jesus Christ and the salvation He brings through His death and resurrection, then this truly can be the most wonderful time of year.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Part 1

For many, Christmas is a real bad time of year. And this is so for various reasons from living on after a loved one dies to going through war at Christmas time. I know of people who go away for Christmas each year because the holiday reminds them that their husband died at that time of year. And I’ve read several autobiographies of men who fought in the Battle of the Bulge who find no joy at Christmas because they spent the Christmas of 1944 in the woods of Belgium, freezing and fighting and getting shelled and shot at.

For me, Christmas is usually just like the songs say it’s supposed to be – White Christmas, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Silent Night. But I also know it isn’t that way for many people.

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown identifies a very important truth. That Christmas-time is supposed to be a time of year of joy and family and good feelings, but for many people it is not.

Charlie Brown knows he should be happy at this time of year, but isn’t. He hasn’t figured out why and I think that we can relate to him and learn something from him. Many people have not been looking forward to this time of year, if not actually dreading it. And this is nothing new.

We tend to think that a cynical view of the Christmas season is something relatively new. But A Charlie Brown Christmas is now 43 years old!

Actually, we can see that a cynical view of the Christmas season goes back even further.

The December 23rd, 1900 “edition of the Chicago Tribune carried an editorial which … decried the cynicism surrounding Christmas. It pointed out that gift giving had become a matter of calculation and vulgar display. The happy occasion had left people with empty pocketbooks, blasted expectations, and the pains associated with overeating and indigestion.” [Chicago Christmas, Jim Benes, page 11]

Even 108 years ago, the cry of Charlie Brown was loud and clear.

I think that we can identify with Charlie Brown – that we know in our hearts that we should be happy at this time of year, but we’re not. There’s something inside of us, deep down, that tells us that Christmas is a happy time of year. And that something, that voice, is correct. The coming of Jesus Christ, being born, is good news. But there’s a lot of history, a lot of the world, a lot of our own fears and insecurities that are piled on top of that voice, which is trying to drown out that voice. And I wonder who has a vested interest in that? Hmmmm.

Let’s see if we cannot recapture the good feeling of this time of year. Let’s see how Charlie Brown did it.
First he goes to Lucy to talk about it. Lucy’s initial advice is to pinpoint fears. That’s an interesting first move. Could it be that Charlie Brown is feeling depressed because he’s afraid of something? Could he be afraid of being happy? Could he be afraid of being disappointed by Christmas? Could he be afraid of stairs?

Fear is one of the reasons, I think, that there are bad feelings at this time of year.
People are afraid of Christmas because this will be the first Christmas without a husband or a daughter.
People are afraid of Christmas because they know they will be disappointed with the gifts they get.
People are afraid of Christmas because there won’t be any gifts because there isn’t any job.

I think Lucy is on to something here with Charlie Brown. Fear is at the core of not being happy. But it isn’t the surface fears that Lucy mentions. It is a more basic fear.

Who’s truly afraid of Christmas? Who is afraid of the birth of the Son of God? Who is afraid of God-becoming-man so that He can die to save the sins of all the people?

That’s right. Satan. The Devil. The Evil One. That’s where all this bad feeling comes from! Once we recognize that, we’re on the road to recovering what God has given us at Christmas!

An integral part of recovering what God has given us at Christmas is to understand what Christmas is all about. Charlie Brown admits that he doesn’t really know. Lucy’s answer is involvement. If Charlie Brown gets involved with other people, then he’ll discover what Christmas is all about and that will lead him to recover the good feeling that he’s searching for.

That’s pretty good advice, actually. Get involved. God intended that for us from the very beginning. God intends for us to be involved with other people.

The involvement here is being involved with God and His Kingdom. There’s something powerful about being involved in the Kingdom of Light. The reason we can be part of this powerful kingdom is because God is involved in our lives. He created us. He guides us with His Law, and He became one of us at Christmas! Follow God’s lead by being involved in His Church, with other Christians, and ultimately you’ll find the peace and the happiness that God intends for you.

Like Charlie Brown, we make our excuses. But being involved means you’ll get help, just as Lucy is ready to help Charlie Brown.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that Lucy knows exactly how to help Charlie Brown. She doesn’t. She doesn’t actually know the real reason for Christmas anymore than Charlie Brown does. She reveals this when she tells him what she really wants for Christmas (what she really wants each year is real estate).

This is important. Sometimes we head into the Christmas season with expectations that God never intended us to have. And most of the time, we were extremely disappointed because those expectations were not met. Thus, we don’t look forward to Christmas the way we feel we should. That, I think, is the number one reason we find ourselves in Charlie Brown’s boat at this time of year. We have unrealistic expectations and we’re afraid those expectations will not be met. We bring our expectations of what we think Christmas should be and miss what Christmas actually is.

We know we should be happy, but we’re not. We need to explore what we are afraid of, realize where those fears come from, and then we can begin to understand what Christmas actually is by being involved with other people in learning and worshiping God for the gift of Jesus Christ, gift that first came at Christmas and continues to come to us today.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Giving Thanks In All Things

Whenever you undertake a journey, it is always a welcomed time when you can stop and rest.

Hiking in the mountains and after a couple of hours, stopping by a cold stream, taking off your boots and soaking your tired feet in the water. Do you know that feeling?

After a long day of traveling, either by car or by plane, and you get to sit down in a comfortable chair and take your shoes off and stretch your toes. Do you know that feeling?

After a whole day sitting at your desk, with only walks to the coffee pot and restroom, and you fight your way through the traffic and sig alerts, and you get to sit down to a clean house and prop your feet up and take a sip of a very cold beverage. Do you know that feeling?

That feeling is the feeling of thanksgiving that I think God wants us to enjoy. It is created in us, it is part of the men and women God made us to be.

That’s why very early on in the Ten Commandments, God says, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” God tells us that we should work six days and then take one full day for Sabbath Rest.

Sabbath Rest includes worship, meditating on God’s Word, talking to God – alone and with others – and thanksgiving!

Giving thanks is sometimes not what we want to do. I know many people who do not feel much like giving thanks because they don’t have a whole lot to be thankful for because of the economic problems our country faces, or because they can’t find a job, or that they have to move because they can’t afford their mortgage payments, or because they are dealing with a loved one’s illness or death.

These are all real problems, real situations, that real people are facing today. How in the world can anyone be expected to give thanks?

It can be done. Paul writes that we are “rejoice always” and, in everything give thanks.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” - 1 Thess. 5:18

Why? Because no matter what we have or don’t have, no matter what happens to us or doesn’t happen to us, no matter where we are or where we are not – this one thing remains true: we are sons and daughters of God the Father Almighty. We are made that way through the forgiveness of our sins, purchased and won for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Have a great Thanksgiving week!

©2008 True Men Ministries

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I find myself paranoid a lot as a pastor. This person is not happy and is leaving the church – what did I do? That person is mad and won’t come to worship – what did I say?

It isn’t about me. I’ve got to get over this paranoia because all it is, really, is self-centeredness.

Soldiers who go to war tend to band together in a brotherhood that will last their lifetimes. Those who are only interested in saving their own skins, thinking of only themselves, tend to not even survive the war. But those who think of others first, sacrificing even their own lives, they have figured out what God has been trying to tell us all along. This isn’t about you. At least, it’s not about you alone.

A tontine is a financial agreement that quite often led to greed and – in story, at least – murder. I first came across the term in a TV episode of M*A*S*H, however. The story was about five men who served together in World War I and came across a cache of brandy. They saved one bottle and agreed that the last of the five to be left alive would drink a toast to the other four.

It was a story about friendship, brotherhood, thinking of others and the relationship that was forged in war and lasted a lifetime.

This story’s lesson – for me – is to think of others first. It tells me that there is more to this life than just my part in it. That life’s story is actually larger than me.

I think God has been trying to teach me this lesson for a long time. The first Bible verse I ever memorized was John 3:16. Have you noticed that it isn’t about an individual? It’s about the world! It doesn’t say that God loved me so much that He gave His only-begotten Son. It says that God so loved the world.

Of course, God loves me and you as individuals. After all, we’re part of the world. But the emphasis isn’t on the individual. I think this is because God doesn’t want us to focus on ourselves. He wants us to also look to the needs of others. Have you ever noticed in the Ten Commandments that after the first three that deal with our relationship with God the next seven deal with our relationship with others? This is something that God doesn’t want us to miss.

This life isn’t about us. It’s about God and His love for us in Jesus Christ. He saved us from our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We then respond by sharing this love with other people. The best way is to band together, to work together in bringing the Gospel to the whole world.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

VETERANS DAY, 2008



Ephesians 6:13; 16-18b
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. . . . [b]e alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (NIV)

This is the devotion for today – November 11, 2008 – from Sportsman’s Devotional.

I used to teach science to middle school kids. Every Veterans Day, there would be a couple of student who would ask if I was a veteran. These kids' idea of a veteran is colored by what they see today on television. I told them I was in the air force. Then the obvious question was, did I fly an airplane? I would explain to them that only a small percentage of the active military people in the air force are pilots, that most of the airmen are supporting our pilots/aircraft. I was in communications. (TB)

There are two ways to remember the men and women of our country who have given their time, their families, and some, their lives. First, ask someone today whether he or she is a veteran and what it was like when they fought for America. Visiting with a family member or a friend of a veteran and asking about their experiences helps to preserve our proud heritage and pass it along to others so these soldiers won't be forgotten. Too many times in today's world, with the media always looking for the sensational story, the stories of our young military men and women are flavored with what was done wrong; and not with the multitude of good actions that our people are doing to protect us at home and the people of the country for which we are fighting.


Second, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints,--the men and women now serving our country. We at home can't put on our body armor, pick up our weapons, or physically fight alongside our soldiers; but we can put on the body armor of God, our salvation, pick up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and support our troops with our prayers.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Living Life

A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions, and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar. The tragic results of this spirit are all about us. Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit; these and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul. – A. W. Tozer

If you have a headache, what do you do?

Stop what you are doing, sit or lie down, maybe put on some soothing music from the Classical Stream. Right?

No? You take an aspirin or some kind of pain reliever and hope it works in the next 10-15 minutes so you can get on with your life.

Tozer is on to something with his above quote. We want instantaneous communication, results, and processes. The faster the better.

Or is it?

Is it really better? Don’t get me wrong, I love speed. I love my fast computer, fast internet connection, fast rollercoasters, and fast flying.

But I’ve come to realize that we really are missing something if all we focus on is the goal and forget – or worse, don’t want to – enjoy the journey getting there.

And what we miss is life.

Yes, we have goals. There’s nothing wrong with that. We are not just aimlessly moving around in life. We are moving toward something, and as Christian we are moving toward God and heaven.

That’s the goal and through faith in Christ it is an assured goal – we will make it.

But there’s life to be lived between here and there. That’s the reason Jesus came.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

The question, or more accurately the quest, is how to live the life that Jesus came to give us.

Through His death and resurrection, Jesus makes the life possible. But it is up to us to actually live it.

Here are some ideas on that living.

1. We don’t live it alone. We were created to live life with others. Adam had Eve. David had Jonathon. Jesus had Peter, James, and John (and the other disciples). Who are you living life with?

2. We live in the ups and downs. Life isn’t meant to be go-go-go all the time. There are “down” times, like when we sleep. But also when we need to take a break, sitting in front of a fire on a cold November evening.

3. Life is an “active” word. We don’t usually live life just sitting around. That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately in relation to the Church. Church and life, for many people, are opposites. Church is where you go to sit. Life is where you are when you are not sitting in church. But even Church can be alive! In fact, it should be!

Living life, truly living, is not easy, but it is possible. You can do this.

Here’s how:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Things Are Not What They Seem

Here in Southern California, the calendar says that it is Autumn. The leaves in my neighborhood (on trees all planted in the last 20 years because I live in a converted high desert) are changing color.

But on my morning jog this morning, it sure didn't feel like Fall!

That's just more evidence that things are sometimes not what they seem - kind of like this life. We are in this world, we can see the world around us. But there's that feeling in our hearts - for some its an ache - that there must be more to this life than what we see! And so there is.

There is more to this life than what we experience. There are beings hidden from our physical eyes, that are battling for us against the powers of evil. The powers of evil - Satan and his minions - want to destroy us. Why? What did we do to him? Nothing, other than be the object of God's love. Satan hates that because he once felt that love but rejected it and was banished from heaven. Now it is his mission to destory all that God loves.

So many are going through this life oblivious to the war being waged all around us. Its time to open our eyes, focus on Christ who is our Warrior-Shepherd, and step up to the battle against darkness. Christ is a true leader - He leads from the front. He went first into the very pit of Hell to vanquish Satan. Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. He gives us new life, abundant life, eternal life. Let us follow Him as we bring this Good News to a dark world

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Afraid of the Truth?

What are we afraid of? Why are we scared to death of speaking the Truth?

I know why I am. I want people to like me. That’s not such a strange, out-of-the-question desire, is it? I want people to like me. I want people to be happy with me. I want to live and work and play in such a way that people aren’t mad at me or disappointed with me.

But God has slapped me upside the head. Not literally. I wouldn’t be able to survive that. But God has gotten my attention, through books, through ministry, through being a pastor of three different congregations. Don’t intentionally make people mad, He says to me. But also don’t shy away from speaking the Truth, He’s also telling me.

And you, too.

God’s Word – the Truth – is very clear in many places. Like John 14:6 “"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is no salvation, no heaven, no paradise, unless we believe in Jesus Christ. That’s the Truth.

And we’re afraid to tell it because this truth will offend people. There’s no way around that. Look at what happened to Jesus when He said it! They nailed Him to a cross. So we can expect pretty much the same.

But tell it we must. Why? Because even though many people will not want to hear the Truth, they desperately need to! We all need to hear the Truth. We all need to hear that Jesus Christ came to this earth from heaven. That God sent Him because He loves us so much He didn’t want us to suffer an eternity separated from Him. The Truth is that Jesus Christ took all that separates us from God – our sin – on Himself and paid the price for that sin. And Jesus’ death and resurrection are the only means of salvation for all of us. All we need is faith in Christ. There is no other way.

Yet “other ways” are exactly what people look for. Why, I don’t know. It’s so simple. Faith in Christ means salvation. Yet two thirds of the people of this world struggle to find other ways to save themselves.

And so many Christians – the other third of the planet – let them struggle by telling them it’s ok to believe in some other way of salvation. So many of us are afraid of offending them, thinking that it wouldn’t be very loving if we ticked them off by telling them that there is only one way to heaven.

Yet, that is the Truth. It is simple and yet very hard. What needs to happen is that we Christians need the courage and strength of Joshua. To stand up for what God has done for us and not “go along with the crowd.” It won’t be popular but Christianity isn’t a popularity contest.

It is a life-and-death struggle against evil. It can be won, but only by believing and telling the Truth.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why We Fight

I’ve been reading the memoirs of some of the men who served in World War II as part of Easy Co. of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. I’ve been fascinated by these men’s stories and they are told so well. But this goes beyond just a good story. My grandfather fought in World War II as a member of the U.S. Army’s 1st Division (the “Big Red One”). I never really got to talk much to my grandfather and never about the war. He’s been dead for over 20 years now. But these memoirs of Easy Co. soldiers helps me understand what my grandfather lived through.

These men went to war because their country needed them. Easy Co. men were all volunteers. Many men were drafted in World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. But that doesn’t make them any less honorable. Whether draftees or volunteers, these men went to war because they loved their country. They believed in the ideals of the United States of America, in her promise, in her future.

But when they were “boots down” in the theaters of war, love of country only takes you so far.

They fought heroically not for love of country but for love of their brothers in arms. Winning a war wasn’t the day-to-day priority, survival was the number one goal. Getting themselves and their buddies, their brothers, through the day alive.

I will never understand this as they do. I had my chance to serve in the Unite States Military and passed it up to go into full-time church work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not embarrassed by that. We all serve where we are best suited. I truly believe that. God puts us exactly where we need to be and where we are needed to be. I’m sure I could be of better use writing and speaking and teaching then I could ever be firing a rifle (I’m a lousy shot – I couldn’t hit a bullet with the broad side of a barn).

But while I’m not embarrassed for never having served in the military, I deeply and greatly admire those men and women who have. They will never admit it and will fight me for saying it, but they are heroes to me.

Heroes don’t do heroic things, as such, they simply do the job that needs to be done with more regard for others than for themselves.

And that’s exactly what Jesus Christ did, isn’t it? He’s the Son of God, through whom God the Father created the entire universe. Still, Jesus gave it all up to become a human being. He lived His whole life for others. Never a thought for His needs, His comforts. His desire was for others, not for Himself.

Jesus is the ultimate brother in a band of brothers. He gives up, sacrifices, everything for His brothers and sisters. And in doing that, He wins the war. He defeats, completely, the enemy. His victory brings us peace and eternal life.

What will we do with what Jesus won for us?

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself about the sacrifice of our nation’s heroes. They served, fought, bled and many died to give me freedom. Freedom to vote – and so I will. Freedom to worship – and so I will. Freedom to speak – and so I will.

By their sacrifice, I’ve been given so much. And so I will give back the best ways I know how and in the best ways I’ve been gifted.

Jesus gave me freedom from sin, death, and the power of the devil. I will use that freedom to share this good news with others – and if necessary, I’ll use words!

What will you do?


©2008 True Men Ministries

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Lord Is a Warrior!

One of the things that the Christian Church – that’s you and me, folks – has forgotten or just missed is that we are at war! We are at war, not with flesh and blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

The American Christian Church is especially susceptible to a complacency of thinking that we are at peace. Except for being made fun of, American Christians do not know persecution first hand. So it’s easy to see why we might think we are in peace-time.

It is time for the American Church to open her eyes! We are at war and have been for nearly two thousand years.

War can mean fear for a lot of people, and understandably so. What we need to remember is that the one who fights with us is more powerful than the one who fights against us.

Here are words that have encouraged Christians for millennia:

The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. (Ex. 15:3 NIV)

The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. (Isa. 42:13 NIV)

But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. (Jer. 20:11 NIV) [The NASB translates mighty warrior “dread champion.” Goliath was a dread champion; the mighty men of David were dread champions. King James has it as “a mighty terrible one.”]

Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. (Ps. 24:7–8 NIV)

Our God is a warrior, mighty and terrible in battle, and he leads us. He fights for us. He fights by our side.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

As the Head of the Family Should Teach

In the front of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, the first thing it says is, “The Ten Commandments: As the head of the family should teach them in a simply way to his household.” I’ve been teaching confirmation classes since the Fall of 1995 and I am sad to report that most families don’t know that the head of the family is the one that’s supposed to teach everyone in the household about the Christian faith. I’ve seen so many moms and dads drop their kids off at church for worship, for Sunday school and for confirmation classes, without coming in themselves. It is frustrating when I’ve been trained to supplement the initial teaching of the faith by moms and dads, but in reality I’m just about the only one teaching the faith.

And that’s not good. I don’t have the required relationship with a child, other than with my own, to be able to effectively teach them. Thankfully, God is a good and loving God and makes up for my failures.

But since we love our kids more than just about anything else, I would think that this part of the parent-child relationship would be more important. What could be more vital to a child than their faith in Jesus Christ?

This year’s confirmation class has proved to be a little different than in years past. I see evidence that I’m not the only one teaching the faith, and it is great to see! There are more dads now taking an active role in sharing their faith in Jesus with their kids.

This weekend, take a look around in church. Will you see more dads in our church than seems to be the norm in the American church today? When a dad is worshipping with his family, that family is tremendously blessed. The kids, especially, are given a foundation that will see them through all the pitfalls and storms of life that certainly await them.

There are some great examples of dads in my church, and I’m proud to be associated with them. If you want to be a better dad raising strong sons and daughters, start by getting out the family Bible and just reading to your kids before bedtime (or another time that works for you). Attend worship each week with your family. And pray for your kids. I know dads that actually pray over their sleeping children each evening – what a powerful way to be the head of the family that Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism for.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fear of Sharing

A parent announced to his child’s teacher that he disagreed with his philosophy.

“We let him say anything to us, call us any name he wants. We don’t want to give him the impression that free speech – no matter what that speech is – is wrong.” The result was that this child could call his mom and dad things that would make a drunken sailor blush.

I’m tempted to write, “needless to say the teacher was speechless.” But the word “needless” wouldn’t be inaccurate. It is evident to me that there are some – if not many – in today’s society that do not understand or even know that God has a specific way for us to live. To the teacher’s credit, he responded, when he could respond in an articulate and as loving way as possible, that God doesn’t it like it when His children talk this way. The parent responded, “Really? I didn’t know that.”

This happens not because our society and culture have reached a stage of sophisticated communication, or enlightened form of language. It is because, in my opinion, that people today simply don’t know how God wants us to live.

God loves us. He has a way for us to live. It is the best way because God is perfectly good! But more and more people don’t know this. They have grown up in a world that is increasingly distant from any message from God or teaching about God.

I have been afraid of tell people this. I make my living as a preacher of the Gospel and yet I’m afraid of telling people about God. Not on Sunday morning, but that’s too easy. After all, I’m telling people about God who pretty much already know about God. In other words, I’m not telling them anything they don’t already pretty much know.

It is the people who don’t know about God or about His way of life that I need to tell. And yet I’m afraid. I’ve always been afraid of that. I think it is because I’m afraid of not being liked. Let’s face it; if you are going to share with people both God’s Law and God’s Gospel, you are going to upset people. No one really likes to hear that they are a sinner deserving God’s wrath, even when you can follow up such a message with the sweet Gospel of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.

Yet, while I am still afraid of doing this, I think I’m doing a decent job of teaching my kids how to do it. And if we teach best by doing, I may not do it well because of my fear, but I am trying to do it. And if my kids see me doing something even though I’m afraid of doing it, that may just be a powerful lesson that they’ll take with them into adulthood.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stupid Bird

Friday morning I was sitting on my patio with a cup of coffee checking email and what-not, as I usually do nearly every morning.

And nearly every morning I witness what I think is the world’s dumbest avian. It is a humming bird that visits our back yard regularly. Why, I’m not really sure. We don’t have a humming bird feeder and the flowers in our back yard are few and very far between. But I do have colored Christmas lights hanging from our patio trellis (why take them down in January when you’re going to put them back up 10 months later?).

Like I said, this humming bird is not too bright. He (or she, I don’t know what gender it is) comes nearly each morning and tries to get nectar from the multicolored Christmas lights, only to be disappointed. I imagine a genuinely started and somewhat crestfallen look when he (or she) realizes that the bulb isn’t a flower. But that doesn’t stop the bird from coming back the next morning to try again. Maybe tomorrow the bulb will be a flower!

I’ve heard it said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result the next time you do it. At the very least it isn’t too bright.

Yet, that’s kind of what I do sometimes. I end up with the same pet sins, same feelings when I don’t get my way, do the same things and then wonder why I didn’t get a different result.

The writer of Proverbs 26:11 says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”

Jesus came so that we wouldn’t have to be fools like this anymore. It’s time to trust that His power is greater than ours. I need to give up my pet desires and surrender to Christ. Then I’ll find a true flower with real nectar.


©2008 True Men Ministries.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

We Stand Alone ... Together!

“I can take care of this myself.”

“If I want something done right, I have to do it myself.”

“Don’t’ worry about it. I’ll take care of it.”

I’ve said all these things – usually many times each week. There’s something in my character that prompts me to be self-sufficient and take care of things by myself. Last week I was making pizza for our Friday night dinner – like we do just about every Friday night at my house. Lately, my sons have been coming into the kitchen to ask if they can help. I’ve been shooing them away because I want to do it myself, I want it done right.

Same thing on Saturday mornings when I make pancakes for the family. I usually take care of it all by myself. But not this time. This time I let go. Saturday morning I let them help, take a part in making pancakes, doing it with me.

When Jesus Christ came walking out of the Judean wilderness after forty days of fasting and preparation for His earthly ministry, He didn’t have the attitude of, “I’ll do this myself.” Yes, there were some things that only Jesus could do – like die on the cross in our place. He alone could save us from our sins. We simply could not help Him with that.

However, even though there were some things only Jesus could do, He didn’t do everything by himself. The first thing He did coming out of the wilderness was to build a team of men around him. The message of salvation takes many voices and Jesus started with twelve.

“Go it alone” is not how a true man of God is called to operate. Instead, because we have a desire to do things on our own but can’t do everything on our own, true men need to take the rallying cry of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne in 1943 – “Curahee!” – “We stand along together!”

Don’t make the mistake that just because you are a member of a Christian church, then you don’t have to worry about this. This “I’ll do it myself” mentality is even prevalent in the church! How did this happen, even when the Church started not with one person but with twelve?

I believe it has been a lack of balance. The message from many pulpits has been that we need to rely on God for all we need. Of course, I’m not going to say that is not true. It most certainly is true. God gives us all we need. But He didn’t intend for us to use what He has given us by ourselves. Remember what God said after He created Adam? “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

We must rely on God but also recognize that God gives us friends and family!

We stand alone … together!

©2008 True Men Ministries.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dad's Shoulders

I was at the pool one day while on vacation and I watched a dad with his two-year-old son. The son was on his dad’s shoulders in the pool and the dad was bobbing up and down in the water. The look of shear delight on the son’s face said it all. However, if the son was bobbing up and down in the water by himself, this wouldn’t have been nearly as fun – and it would have been terrifying if the bobbing wasn’t controlled.

Water can be a lot of fun but also very, very dangerous – especially for one so young. But when the son was attached to his father, there was no fear, even in a potentially very dangerous place.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

We are all the “sons” (and daughters) and God is the Father. If we are attached to Him, there is nothing that can harm us – even in a very dangerous place. But if we are detached from God, then there is fear and there is danger.

We never outgrow our need for God our Father. There comes a time in every boy and girl’s life that we no longer can be on our dad’s shoulders. We get too old, or too big, or dad is no longer there. Life get’s scary for just that reason. When I left home for the first time, I was scared. I went away to college when I was 19 and I was scared because my dad and mom wouldn’t be there like they were before. Thankfully, they are still around for me and my family. I get to see them regularly and talk to them nearly every day. But I can’t get on my dad’s shoulders and bob up and down in the pool. I’m too big, too old. I miss those days of care-free and no fear with my dad.

But I still have them with my heavenly Father. He is always with me and I can never out-grow Him or His love. I’m still “on His shoulders” and I don’t have to fear anything in this world. I still do, but I don’t have to. When I am afraid, it isn’t because God isn’t there. It’s because I’m trying to get off His shoulders and bob in the pool by myself.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Fatherhood from the Band of Brothers

I am becoming convinced that most of the problems in our world are caused by father’s not being godly fathers to their children. But I am also convinced that railing on fathers, casting blame, and degrading fathers for this is not the answer to the problem. The answer is to reach as many fathers as I can with the life-changing, and generational saving, good news of Jesus Christ.

Don Malarkey was strongly motivated to do what he did in World War II by his father. His father had a successful business in Astora, Oregon. Their family lived in upper middle-class comfort. But in the latter part of the 1930’s, the Great Depression finally caught up with the Malarkey’s and Don’s father lost the business, and then the house. Don’s dad then “checked out.” They moved into their vacation cabin in the woods (because they had lost their house) and Don’s dad sat in his chair and just stared. He rarely talked to anyone. The rest of the family had to take up the slack. Don’s dreams of a good school and career were tremendously altered. In December of 1941, they were changed forever when he enlisted in the Army and volunteered for paratrooper training.

At Camp Toccoa, Don met another man who also had a pretty drastic relationship with his own father. He made his son drop out of high school at age 15 and go to work in the mines. Because of this he was always embarrassed that he couldn’t speak well, write well, and was, in general, not well-educated like the other guys. However, he made up for it by being , in Don’s opinion, the best soldier in Easy Company.

These two men’s fathers negatively motivated them to do great things – no less than having an important part in saving the world from evil tyranny.

But I can’t help but wonder what these two men would have been like had they been positively effected by their fathers. What would they have been like if their relationship with their dads during their developmental years had been as God intended it to be? Because, you see, after they saved the world, they had a rough life for along time after. The discipline that they had in the army – what they really needed from their fathers, disappeared after they got out of the service. They were not exposed to what they needed as men long enough while in the army. Nor is the army a good substitute for a good father. It can certainly help, but it is much better for the army to build on the foundation that a good father lays in a child.

I’m not saying that these guys are bad. They are good men who have done extraordinary things. But a major lesson for us is the “what could have been” lesson. The army gave them the discipline and – for lack of a better word - “love” that their fathers should have given to them when they were younger. It changed them. But it still took longer for this change to be for the good for them.

When God our heavenly Father comes into our lives through Word and Sacrament our lives are changed, transformed. It is a change that lasts and grows and is good as we are nourished through continued use of Word and Sacrament. As we involve ourselves in a fellowship of believers, our hearts grow strong and our relationships with our spouses, our children, grow and will be instruments of transformation for many generations.

When most men become fathers, they want to be good fathers. But it is becoming increasingly rare that men know how to be good fathers. There is still an excellent example of good fatherhood for all men – God the Father Almighty. It is never too late to learn from our heavenly Father. It is never too late to come to Him. Your relationship with your earthly father may not have been all that good, but your relationship with your Heavenly Father can be – come to Him today! It will transform you and one of the transformations will be your own relationship with your children – for the good!

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Don't Quit

Don huddled in the freezing cold with a group of other guys around a pitifully small fire. The guys were chatting but Don was lost in thought, staring at the embers. “One shot,” he thought. “One shot and it would all be over.” He was fondling the frozen, wooden grip of his pistol. The “one shot” was a well-aimed pistol-shot through his foot. One carefully self-inflicted gun-shot wound would end the freezing, the pain, the hunger. It would get him off the line and, most likely, back to England and out of the war – perhaps for good.

Yes, it would be quitting. But it was so cold! And the things he had seen! Just yesterday, one friend had died and another two had been severely wounded and were heading home.

One shot would end the war for him. But at what cost? He realized that it would cost him his integrity and that would be too high a cost.

Nearly ten years earlier, his father had quit. It was during the Great Depression. It had finally caught up with his father’s insurance business. They lost everything – money, the house, everything. But to Don, there was no sin it that. Most everyone was affected by the Depression. The sin was not that his father lost everything. It was that his father had quit.

Now, in that foxhole in the forest outside of Bastogne, Belgium in January, 1945, Don was faced with a similar choice. Quit or fight on?

Don chose to fight on.

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! – Hebrews 12:1-3 (The Message)

We all face times when we want to quit. We’re tired, we’re weary, we couldn’t possibly go on like this. A marriage that has fallen on near-impossible times. A job that we detest. A boss that we can’t work for. A member at church that we just are tired of with all their complaining. It would be easier to just give up, to quit.

But at what cost? God did not create us to be quitters! He sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins to give us the power to overcome everything in this life. Through the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we can get through our “winters.” We can fight on, run the race, strive for the prize. Christ did! He blazed the trail for us. Don’t give up! Stay on that trail, because Christ came back and now walks with us – side-by-side, and sometimes carrying us – as we run the race.

Don’t quit. All may seem lost but it really isn’t. You can keep fighting. God will give you that power. When you feel like quitting, remember this: This is exactly what Satan wants you to do. This is the moment that he’s most fearful of. C.S. Lewis wrote, in The Screwtape Letters, (a fictional account of one devil’s letters – Screwtape – to another devil, Wormwood), “Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human … looks round upon a universe from which every trace of the enemy [God] seems to have vanished, asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys” (emphasis added).

I'm homesick—longing for your salvation; I'm waiting for your word of hope. My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise; how long must I wait for your comfort? There's smoke in my eyes—they burn and water, but I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post. How long do I have to put up with all this? How long till you haul my tormentors into court? The arrogant godless try to throw me off track, ignorant as they are of God and his ways. Everything you command is a sure thing, but they harass me with lies. Help! They've pushed and pushed—they never let up—but I haven't relaxed my grip on your counsel. In your great love revive me so I can alertly obey your every word. Psalm 119:81-83 (The Message)

©2008 True Men Ministries.

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Join with True Men Ministries to help other men become True Men of God by visiting www.truemen.org and committing yourself to God and His plan for you.
True Men Ministries needs your support! Your donations of $10, $20, $50 or whatever amount you feel led to give are greatly appreciated. They are also tax-deductable. You can also join the True Men Prayer Warriors at the TMM web site.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dark Nights of the Soul

A friend of mine told me about the book "Dark Nights of the Soul" by Thomas Moore and the way he described it intrigued me. I picked it up yesterday and started reading it. Good insight so far.


It started me thinking about the dark nights that I have experienced, especially in recent years. The ending of one ministry, the beginning of another.


At the end of that one ministry, we sold our first home. The summer before we did that, we took these pictures.


I recently was looking at this and I noticed that both my wife and I are in "the shade" or in the "dark."



Coincidence? Maybe. But its good metaphor nonetheless. We were happy, but evcen while we were happy, I now recognize that we were also going through a "dark night."



I've realized that it wasn't a problem to be solved, but a time to experience and listen for God's "still small voice." It was hard to hear, and it is only now that I'm in sunny Southern California that I can look back at that time and understand what God's still, small voice was saying.



More to come....

Monday, July 7, 2008

Problem solved?

Divorce.
Job loss.
Death of a child.
Incarceration.
Bankruptcy.
Flunking out of school.
End of a relationship.

These are all problems that people face. And in today's world, these are all problems that need to be solved - the sooner the better.

I don't think that's true. I also don't think that its healthy to face these or any problems we have with that mindset.

When you boil everything away and get to the core of a human being, there is only one problem that has to be solved. That problem is sin.

The problem of sin is solved when sin is forgiven. And sin is forgiven by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In other words, the only problem we truly face is our sin and Jesus solves that probem for us.

So, what about the rest of these so-called problems?

They are part of the human experience and God allows them in our lives to shape us into the people He intends for us to be.

They are not problems to be solved, but experiences to be, well, experienced. Learn from them, go through them with eyes wide open. Soak in all that they bring. They may seem like they can destroy you, but they can't. Not really. Jesus is our protector, He is our shield.

I once read a prayer suggestion for a person who is going through what Thomas Moore calls a "dark time of the soul." It goes something like this:

God, help me to learn all that I'm supposed to learn during this time so I don't have to go through it again.


I'm still working through my thoughts here, but I wanted to get them down so I wouldn't forget them.

More to come.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Declaration of Independence

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

What was going through his mind after the fact? Samuel Adams, along with Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Josiah Bartlett and 52 others put their signatures to a document that for 250,000,000 people today is a symbol of freedom and independence. But 231 years ago, it could just as easily have been their death sentence – and for several that is exactly what it was.

The Declaration of Independence. A piece of paper. Fragile. Easily destroyed. Extraordinary measures are taken today to preserve it. In the end, these measures will prove unsuccessful, as they must with anything made of such fragile stock. We’ve enshrined the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives in Washington D.C. But it is the power of the idea that gave – and continues to give – life to these words of Thomas Jefferson so long ago.

Something much more powerful is enshrined in the heart of the Christian. Not words written with ink on parchment but life written in blood on the heart and soul.

Our independence from sin, death and the power of the devil – paid for by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – is the power of the Christian’s life. Our individual independence comes in the words “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The lives that were freed from England with the Declaration of Independence were now lives full of responsibility. Two wars would be fought against England because of the Declaration. It is a fact that freedom is never free.
Our freedom from sin is a completely free gift from God (grace) but it is not free. It cost the life of the Son of God. Now a life lived for God is a life with responsibility.
We live in God’s Kingdom, sharing the Good News about Jesus, doing the things that need to be done – not to get to heaven, but because we are going to heaven!

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, let us not look at this as a “midsummer respite” with nine more weeks of summer left. Rather, let us give thanks to God for that independence. In the freedom given us as citizens, let us exercise the freedom of religion (not from religion) and share the Good News about Jesus that gives us independence from sin through his death and resurrection.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Christ the Rock

When I was looking for a place to hold this year’s version of “True Men in the Mountains” someone suggested Joshua Tree. So I drove out there and when I saw the rocks at Indian Cove campground, I thought that might be a good place to camp and maybe do some rock climbing. Which led me to invite Craig DeMartino to come out and lead that part of it.

Those rocks looked so inviting. They looked easy enough to climb. Lot’s of places to find handholds and footholds. And with a climbing leader like Craig, I thought, “Piece of cake.”

But looks can sometimes be deceiving. When you get up close to these rocks, they get bigger and bigger, and more intimidating. When you place your hands on them, they seem to change right before your eyes. What looked easy turned out to be one of the most difficult and scary things I’ve ever attempted.

Craig made it look easy, too. He scampered up those rocks like nothing. At first, I thought, “Hey, he’s only got one leg, this should be easy.”

I have a new and greater and deeper appreciation for Craig DeMartino and anyone who climbs on a regular basis.
After I got back, and I started the finishing touches on this message, I had to stop and just be amazed at how God works. This weekend is the time when we Christians have the opportunity to thank God for the life and work of Saints Peter and Paul. Peter the Rock and Paul who wrote so passionately about Christ – the Cornerstone!

In the Old Testament, God is described as a rock. Last weekend, I got a new appreciate of why. From a distance, you think you can get a grip on God, understand Him, think He’s “not such a big deal.”

But the closer you get to God, the more He changes in your eyes. Not that He changes – He doesn’t. He’s immovable, He’s unchanging. But we change, our position, our outlook, in relation to God. We are also changed by our proximity to God.

The Church, since Christ’s time, has referred to Christ as “The Rock” – long before Dwayne Johnson arrived on the scene. Peter was a follower of Jesus – which was part of the reason that Jesus called him “The Rock.”

Romans 9:31-33, Paul says that those “who pursued a law of righteousness, [have] not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

This “rock” theme permeates both Peter and Paul. It is a good way for us to look at Christ and our relationship with Him.
As a Rock, Christ doesn’t move easily. We can’t really shape him into what we want Him to be. When we try to shape rocks into what we want them to be, we must forever alter what they are and what they can do. With Christ, if we try to make him into what we want we end up with a Christ that really isn’t The Christ of Scripture.
Rather than try to change Christ, it is us that need to be changed.

Last weekend, I was challenged by the rocks and I was ultimately conquered by the rocks. I couldn’t get further than about six feet off the ground for at least two reasons: 1) I lacked the physical strength to carry this body up the side of the rock. 2) I didn’t have very good foot-gear. That motivated me to work on #1 – with more jogging and swimming and better eating habits. #2 will take planning and saving – also good exercise for life.
But in the end, I won’t be able to conquer that rock anyway. Rather, I’ll have a relationship, of sorts, with that rock. It presents different challenges in foot-holds and hand-holds each time I try to climb it. In the end, it is the same rock and it is a different rock each time I try to climb it.
That’s Christ as well. He is the rock that cannot be conquered – rather He conquers – sin, death, and the power of the devil. With Jesus’ death, that which haunts each one of us – death – is destroyed. We no longer have to fear what is to come because Christ has already been there and conquered it!
With Christ’s death and resurrection, our sin has been conquered and we are now free to really live life.
I appreciate that life right now for a lot of people is not the most joyful experience – gas prices rising, housing values dropping, fear of the future escalating, political campaigns decreasing into mud-slinging – no, life is not full of joy and peace at the moment.
But if we want peace and joy in life, there is only one way to look, only one way to go – the Rock of Christ! Immovable, unchanging, forever challenging us to great heights of discovery.
That was the attraction for Peter and Paul – although they may not have known it at the time.
Peter and Paul epitomize most of us. They thought they had all the answers. Peter looked to a full and happy life out on the lake with his fishing business. Paul was content with his life of study and contemplation. Both suffered from pride and arrogance that their ways were best and immovable.
Until both of them came to the rock. Christ freed Peter and Paul from their pride and in doing so, he freed them from their sins and their fears.
Christ does the same thing for us. Christ gives us a future when all around us the future looks dim.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wilderness Experience






The desert can be a hot place. I found out the truth of that statement! I spent nearly 3 days and 3 nights in the California High Desert with six other guys on a weekend camping retreat. During the day it was about 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Complete sunshine, no clouds to provide relief until the last afternoon we were there and then only about a half hour of daylight relief.




But it was a great experience! Being there gave me insight into a “wilderness experience” similar to what Jesus experienced for 40 days, that Elijah experienced on the run from Jezebel, and that the Israelites experienced for 40 years in Sinai.



I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with Christ.
- I can endure that kind of heat for extended periods of time, as long as the water holds out and I drink it.
- I’m thankful for a few minutes in the shade of a rock or a tree.
- The encouragement of a friend goes a long way of making a frustrating experience into an upbeat and enjoyable experience.



During the day, we climbed several rocks with ropes and harnesses, led by our climbing leader Craig.



In the evenings, we explored the leadership of Jesus Christ in the Gospels.



Not a patience man all the time, I found that a peace from Jesus Christ enveloped me throughout the retreat even though I expected the heat and sun to burn off any patience I brought with me.



I learned that simple water can taste like ambrosia after a long, hot hike.



Following leaders like our climbing leader, Craig, examples like Dick Winters (from Band of Brothers) and Jesus Christ as related to us in the Gospels, changed me from a man who thought he pretty much had things figured out into a man who’s horizons have been deeply broadened.



Being in the wilderness helped me see in a more real way the extent of Jesus’ love for me. He experienced this just like I did. He was tempted to give up, to give in and didn’t. He didn’t back down, he kept walking even when he was tired.



My Joshua Tree wilderness experience brought me closer to six guys, it brought me closer to Christ, and it brought me a closer understanding of myself.



©2008 True Men Ministries.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Elections and the True Man

We, the people of the United States, should not cast a vote for a person who will solve our problems.
God has given us the means to solve all our problems in His Son Jesus Christ. Because the number one problem is sin.Once sin is conquered by Jesus Christ on the cross, we are freed to live lives to God's great glory.
And God promises to bless us as we live for Him.Social Security? We don't need it. We have all we need to survive in this world no matter what. And God gives us a little more than we need to help others (which is how He fills their needs, I suspect). Food? God gives daily bread. Peace? Well, there will always be wars. Security? God gives us all the security we need.
So, in reality, Christians don't have to worry about electing anyone president. We will survive no matter who is elected because God is our Shepherd, we shall not want.
If a President of the United States is elected that outlaws Christianity, then it will only drive the Church underground. No problems. We've been there before.
If a President fo the United States is elected that is a strong Christian and leads from a solid, Christian moral base, then that presents its own set of challenges - we'll need to work harder on being humble, not being complacent that the Government will do the work Christ has given us to do.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Life Is Like a Bunch of Rocks



These rocks are a lot like life. At the top is the Great Light of heaven, but it sure seems like an awful lot of work to get there.

But in a little over two weeks, I'm going to be climbing these rocks. The key? I won't be doing it by myself. I'll have an experienced guide leading me on and - probably more importantly - encouraging me on.

The greatest part of that encouragment is that my guide has been there before. He knows what he's doing. He's going on ahead of me. He's going to coach me up. He's going to have me hooked into him by a sturdy rope.

That's life. I'm heading up to heaven. It is going to be a rocky road. But Christ is leading me on. Christ is encouraging me on. He's been this way before. And I'm tied into Him by an unbreakable rope.

Life ain't easy. But it sure is exciting. Yeah, there are times when I wish it were a bit less exciting. Less rocky. Less hard. And there are times when it is. I'm hoping I'll get better at recognizing those times so I can enjoy them.

But I'll take the excitement, too. Because I've found that's a lot of fun, too!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is known as the “Unofficial Start of Summer” as most Americans have the day off from work and school. It is common to grill meat outside and have friends and family over; in general, have a good time.


And there’s nothing wrong with this. I’ll be doing this with my family and we all look forward to it every year. We’ll be grilling pork steaks and potatoes, having cake decorated as an American Flag. I’ll probably play catch with my sons, definitely lounge around the backyard and enjoy the day.


But I will also share with my sons what Memorial Day is really for – the reason we have this day in our nation’s calendar.


It began as “Decoration Day” by freed negro slaves in 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina who created a Union Cemetery near the place for many Union prisoners of war had died and were buried in a mass grave. Out of gratitude – it is said – of the soldiers’ sacrifice for their freedom, they reinterred the bodies and decorated the graves with flowers.


The following year cities in the Northern United States began to hold what would become yearly observances of memorial and decoration of those who had died during the United States Civil War. After World War II, Decoration Day became more commonly known as Memorial Day and in the 1960’s it was officially designated as such.


Now in 2008, there are no survivors of the Civil War nor the Spanish-American War. There are no more than three surviving veterans of World War I. The veterans of World War II have reached their middle 80’s and older.


For World War I and all previous wars, they are truly second-hand history for us. World War II and more recent wars are still “memories.”


We must never forget what these men and women did to ensure our freedoms. I say we should also thank God for their sacrifice, especially those who gave their lives during the conflicts. And that is what Memorial Day is for.


Remembering is a biblical thing. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He celebrated remembrances such as Passover and Purim. In the “Law” as recorded in Deuteronomy, God instructed His people to remember what they have gone through to get where they are now and to pass on those memories to their children and their children’s children (Deuteronomy 6:7).


This is a basic tenant of our faith that we pass on what we believe about Jesus Christ, to teach and confess it to our children and others.


Memorial Day is a great opportunity to do both: to share a bit of the history of our country and to share our faith in Christ. I pray that you will do this and also have a blessed Memorial Day.


©2008 True Men Ministries.

We Learn By Doing

Can we learn about life simply by reading, watching TV or movies?

No. You actually have to live it first. While I believe that many of the lessons that God wants to teach us can be found in the stories we hear, that isn’t the only way that God wants us to learn.

It is important to also go out and live life.

The movie Blast from the Past is essentially about a 35 year old man who is raised in a bomb shelter and the only thing he knows of the world is what his parents have taught him, what he has read in books and magazines (up to the 1960’s) and TV shows from the 1950’s. He’s never seen the sky and has never met another human other than his mom and dad. When he emerges into the late 1990’s Los Angeles, hilarity ensues when he does fit in with real life because what he learned never was real life.

We learn by doing. Many people have expressed this concept – from Aristotle to Freud to Admiral James T. Kirk. But it is more than just a philosophical, psychological or fantastical concept. It is also a biblical concept.

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." – St. Paul, recorded in Philippians 4:9 (emphasis added).
I’m a “movie” guy. I like to watch movies – all kinds of movies. That shows up in my preaching and teaching quite a bit.

But over the last couple of years, I’ve realized the importance of getting out of the house or the theater and actually living as God intended for me to live. I’ve hiked in Idaho, camped in the mountains and, this June, will be trying rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park (www.truemen.org/mountains). Taking what I have learned about God from books and movies I try to put into practice out in the wild as well as in the wilds of suburbia.

What have I learned that I could put into practice?

To take a leap of faith. God wants me to trust Him. He wants me to trust Him in everything. Like in rock climbing. Trusting in a person that I can see cannot possible hold me up because I outweigh him by about 200 pounds. I can see that he can’t possible take care of me, save me from falling. Yet it isn’t true. It may look true but it really isn’t. Kind of like the movies. I can lean back on the rope and know that I’m in safe hands despite what my eyes see.

There are other things that I’ve learned that I can put into practice, but I’ll save those thoughts for a future devotion.

In the mean time, now that you’re at the end of this email, close it and turn off the computer and step out and live life following God’s leading.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Monday, May 12, 2008

On Fire - The Passion of the Spirit

It was on this day nearly 2000 years ago that the disciples of Jesus “took it to another level.” They had been called by Christ to “follow” him. They had listened to and learned from Jesus. Some of them had been witnesses to Jesus’ death. All of them had been witnesses to His resurrection. Then 50 days later, they reached the next level.

My brothers and sisters, it’s time! It’s time to take ourselves to the next level.

Jesus Christ has died and rose again. We are His witnesses in this time and place. He sends His Holy Spirit to us.

The Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as:

Wind

Breath

Fire

In John 7 Jesus adds another element – the Holy Spirit causes rivers of living water to flow out of us.

I think we can take this analogy to the beach.


Waves. Surfers “catch” waves. At least those who want to surf successfully do. The waves come no matter what. A successful surfer will “catch” the wave. The surfer will be “pushed along” by the wave, riding the board in front of the wave and moving along.

The unsuccessful surfers – those who are not ready or not paying attention – miss the wave. The wave goes over them, under them, passes them by.

Healthy churches – which we are, by the way – catch the wave of the Holy Spirit. They don’t let the wave wash over them and pass them by.

Healthy Christians – which make up healthy churches – do the same thing.

The Holy Spirit moves us along, to new places, but using the “same old,” changeless Word and Sacrament of Christ! The challenge is that we don’t do things just because “we’ve always done it that way.”

Look, there is nothing wrong with doing some things “the way we’ve always done them” – things like the Sacrament of the Altar, parts of worship, the Lord’s Prayer. The important things are to not apply that thinking to everything and to know why we are doing them.

We have a promise from Jesus that when we have caught the wave of the Holy Spirit that “streams of living water” will flow out of us.

That means that we will be “on fire” with passion for Christ and the mission of the Church – which is to reach, teach, and nurture a thirsty world with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

And we’ll know when that has happened. Things will be happening to us and through us. In Acts 2, the disciples began to speak in tongues. This can mean several different things – different human languages or a heavenly language of some kind. An important point here is that there is also a reference to this happening in the OT – in our lesson for today, Numbers 11. I want you to note that while it happened, it didn’t happen continually.

I think we can also identify rivers of living water in other things. Our faith in Christ through the Word of the Apostles (NT), the confessions of our church, our hymns, prayers, sermons, being a congregation that gathers together around Word and Sacrament.

But it is vitally important to note the “order” of such things. Jesus promises that this will happen in John 7, but something else must first take place – His death and resurrection. As one commentator put it (Lenski,The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, page 580)

“And that Spirit would make rivers of living water flow from the believers throughout the New Testament era. [Yet] no believer was ready or able to function as Jesus wanted him to function as long as he did not understand the sacrificial death of Jesus and his glorious resurrection.”

That’s the key. We have to understand and believe that Jesus Christ died for us and that He rose again from the dead. That isn’t the end of the mission, that’s the beginning.

So, I’m going to start a new series of messages this summer to help us understand how the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is used by the Holy Spirit to take us to the next level. We’ll explore the “whys” of what we do – prayer, offering, the Lord’s Supper, missions, and the like.

Right now, I ask you to spend a few minutes in silent prayer, asking God to make you ready for this wave of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Authentic Faith

Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia was a Christian monarch who left a lasting legacy in that Northeast African nation. By the time he ascended to the throne – after years of delay due to espionage, civil war, kidnappings, imprisonment, and a jailbreak that would make a great Hollywood screenplay – he was on track to leave footprints that would stabilize the nation for generations to come.

During his reign:

Ethiopia’s first modern bank

First postal system

A nation wired for telephones

Paved roads for cars

Cities plumbed for modern efficiencies – whether they existed or not.

He lowered the crime rate by installing an electric chair. Not to be used as intended, mind you. The country had no power plants at the time to actually hook the thing up. Rather, he used the electric chair as his throne and it had the effect of discouraging crime!

Menelik was a successful ruler. We might call him “authentic.”

And he was a Christian. But his Christianity was not so authentic.

For the King’s Christian faith was not based in the Bible but rather in the pages of the Bible.

Menelik believed the Bible had the power to cure illnesses and therefore every time he felt sick he ate a few pages from God’s Word. After suffering a serious stroke, Menelick prescribed for himself a strict diet of 1st and 2nd Kings. He ate both books, page by page which led to internal complications resulting in his death. It was an authentic idea … but he should have stuck with Jell-O.

Authentic Christians – that’s what I’m after. I want to be real, just as Christ is real. And I think this is what Christ was praying for in John 17. Our text ends with the prayer that we all be one. One of spirit, heart, mind, and soul. Believing in Christ as our only savior.

This past week I heard of a lot two different kinds of churches, and of at least two different kinds of Christians.

But Christ wants us to be one. He tells us that He’s the only God. We’ve heard from Jesus that He’s the way, the truth, the life. If there is only one Christ, then it makes sense that there’s only one way to be a Christian, only one way to salvation.

How can we know what that way is? The answer is the Bible. Genesis to Revelation – in its original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts – are the inspired, inerrant Word of God. It is how we know of Christ. But unlike Menelik, we don’t need to literally eat the Word to receive its power. We do read, learn and inwardly digest the Word of God, but we do that by living the Word, doing what it says, not eating its pages.

As you do this, I think you will find that the Bible draws us together into One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church, it doesn’t fragment the people of God into white Christians, black Christians, Indonesian Christians, German Christians.

Recently in the Thursday morning True Men Study we looked at the part of the Book of Revelation where John sees the Church at the end of time. People from every nation, tribe, and language. This is authentic Christianity, this is the result of authentic faith.

A word about authentic faith. Authentic faith is to believe in Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem, lived a perfect life without sin, was punished and killed because of our sin, and rose from the dead. And the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us the power to live the life that He calls us to live.

Living an authentic life is a desire that is deep inside all of us. We want our lives to have purpose, to count. At the end of our lives, we want it to have mattered that we were here, that we made a difference. That’s a desire that is deep down inside of us. Don’t worry if you don’t feel that desire quite like that, though. People like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Condoleezza Wright, these people didn’t do what they did because they had some overt sense of wanting to make history. I mean, they didn’t wake up one morning and say to themselves, “I will become father of my country because I want to live an authentic life.”

That isn’t usually how it works. Rather, a person that wants to live an authentic life tends to wake up each morning and face the day with prayer and giving glory to God, with words like, “I yours, Christ, do with me what you will. I will live this day to your glory, in the power of your resurrection.” Maybe not those exact words, but that spirit.

Being an authentic Christian means not “eating the pages.” That is, it means not being one in name only but making your Christian faith a part of your whole life – and this is key – for the glory of God and not the glory of yourself. Of all the news reports that I’ve seen in the last week – giving reverends a bad name – it seems to me that the problem is that what is being said has been about self and not about Christ. This is nothing new and won’t end with this current news cycle. As people we are inherently selfish. After all, the original sin was about “me” and “my feelings, wants, and desires.”

But an authentic Christian faith transforms. Menelik was transformed by eating his Bible – he grew constipated, nauseated, and finally died because of it. But when we are transformed by the Word of God living rather than eating its pages, we become new men and women. We become True Men and True Women – what God originally meant for us to be. It doesn’t happen overnight. George Washington didn’t become the father of our country immediately – he went through 20 years of character transforming as a junior officer in the British Army and then leader of the Virginia Regiment –a part of the British Army in the French and Indian War.

Abraham Lincoln didn’t just show up to be president in 1861. He went through hard character transformation which included many failures.

The keys to this character transformation that is part of Authentic Christianity, is that God’s Word has a prominent place in your life. Making it a part of your everyday living. Another key is that you don’t go through transformation alone.

The Christian Church – of which Redeemer congregation is a part of – is a family that helps implement the transformation. Word and Sacrament is what we sometimes call it. Being a part of a family of believers, reading and discussing God’s Word (in small groups), and partaking of the gifts of Christ in the sacraments – these are all part of authentic Christianity that leads to transformation

There will be set-backs. There will be disappointments. Transformation to an authentic faith and life means that some things have to be “torn down.” An authentic life and faith is an “extreme makeover” of our lives by the Law and Gospel of God. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is one of our favorite TV shows at our house. What’s the first thing they do after they send the family to Disneyland? They tear down the existing house!

There are times when in our quest for the authentic faith and life that it will seem like we’re taking two steps back for every one step forward (which doesn’t move you forward at all). Don’t be discouraged. This isn’t going to be easy. Life is hard. As Wesley says in The Princess Bride, “life is pain. Anyone who tells you different is selling something.” And that’s so true! The “Prosperity Gospel” is a lie – if only you believe enough God will give you everything you ever wanted. “Liberation Theology” leads down the wrong path, because it focus is on liberation from oppression and not liberation from sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

You will fail. That’s for sure. You’re going to make mistakes. But make sure your family is around you when you do make those mistakes. They can help turn you around, pick you up. And family, help those who fail around you, help pick them up, carry them home – what a great example of that we had in women’s college softball this past week.

That’s what our family is for. To help each other get back up after we fall and to encourage each other to carry out our mission to bring the gospel to the world.

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