That’s Not Fair!

That’s not fair!

Isn’t that the cry of every kid when he doesn’t get his way? And the rejoinder from most parents is usually ‘life isn’t fair, get used to it’. But are we any different? What’s our response when we get treated poorly?

  • When someone at work gets the promotion we thought we deserved?
  • When someone cheats us in a business deal?
  • When a so-called friend stabs us in the back. Isn’t our cry, that’s not fair?
  • What about after living healthy, we get cancer anyway? And the guy you know that smokes like a chimney lives to be a hundred.
  • What about when death comes too early to someone we love because of a drunk driver that walked away from the accident?
  • What about losing our house to a bank even though the neighbors that squander all their money keep their home?

It’s times like these that test our faith. Does God really love and care about us? Is He impotent in the face of pain and evil to stop it? Is He just sitting up there somewhere watching the show?

The Bible is clear that God cares and loves us. It’s also clear that He has the power to stop the pain and evil. So why doesn’t He? It’s not fair! Even a cursory reading through the books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes shows that the human authors struggled with these questions too. And invariably, their answer was ‘I don’t know why this is happening, but I’m going to trust God that He is good and loving and has some good purpose for allowing this’.

You, my reader, may be expecting some grand answer to this age-old problem, but I’m going to disappoint you. I don’t know why God allows evil and pain and oppression and injustice. Maybe it’s so we will learn to lean on and trust Him. Maybe it’s so we learn to stand up and fight these things in His name and in His power.

I’m going to leave you with the words of an old gospel hymn that has served me well through the years. This song speaks to my heart when I want to scream out it’s not fair God.


Farther Along (W. B. Stevens)

Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.

Refrain:
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

Sometimes I wonder why I must suffer,
Go in the rain, the cold, and the snow,
When there are many living in comfort,
Giving no heed to all I can do.

Refrain:
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

Tempted and tried, how often we question
Why we must suffer year after year,
Being accused by those of our loved ones,
E’en though we’ve walked in God’s holy fear.

Refrain:
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

Often when death has taken our loved ones,
Leaving our home so lone and so drear,
Then do we wonder why others prosper,
Living so wicked year after year.

Refrain:
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

“Faithful till death,” saith our loving Master;
Short is our time to labor and wait;
Then will our toiling seem to be nothing,
When we shall pass the heavenly gate.

Refrain:
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

Soon we will see our dear, loving Savior,
Hear the last trumpet sound through the sky;
Then we will meet those gone on before us,
Then we shall know and understand why.

Refrain:
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

*There are contradictory claims for the authorship of this song. The words and music are frequently attributed to W. B. Stevens, although others have attributed the words to W. A. Fletcher.

As You Go

Just before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus told his closest followers:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

What we THINK Jesus said; “Leave your homes and go to the farthest corner of the world, make converts of the heathen, and indoctrinate them in the ways of the church.”

What He meant; “As you go about your world, at work or home or market, tell everyone about Me. Teach them how to be My student. Help them learn to be immersed in My very character.”

That is the Great Commission!


The two ideas that stuck with me throughout my time in the college course, Evangelism: Presenting Grace, are Evangeliving and Thoughtless Witnessing. The biggest concern I had with the class, indeed with much evangelism teaching, is the seeming underlying assumption that the job of the evangelist (or witness) is over when the person is converted.

Evangeliving is a great concept and I think carries with it the meaning that Jesus had when He said “go therefore”. Evangeliving means that I am living out the power of the Gospel in such a way that others are drawn in and desire to know what the difference is in my life. Others can see that while there are struggles in my life, I do not respond the way everyone else does. And that intrigues them.

Evangeliving assumes that there IS something different in my life, of course. I cannot give to others what I myself do not possess. Evangeliving also requires that I have ‘earned’ the right to speak into your life. It means that I have spent time with you and listened to your story as you have listened to mine. One of the greatest problems with some types of evangelism is that we never take time to invest ourselves into the other person’s life, we just spew some generic Gospel presentation and move on to the next prospect when we get no response.

Thoughtless Witnessing is the idea that I am so conversant with the Gospel that I do not need to recite a program or look things up. Rather, I am able to spontaneously tell you what God has done in and for me and how He can work in your life too. It means that I am able to walk you through God’s plan of salvation without it seeming forced or stilted.

Many of us have a hobby or interest that we are passionate about. We are able and love to talk about it to anyone and at any time. That is what Thoughtless Witnessing is. It doesn’t mean we ramble on when the other is clearly not interested or just prattle off some bible verses. It means being passionate about sharing God’s story with whoever will listen.

The second part of Jesus’ command to His disciples, and to us, is to make disciples not just converts. He said to teach all that He has commanded us. If we stop witnessing as soon as someone comes to faith in Christ, we will have failed in our assigned task. Remember Jesus’ parable of the sower and the four soils (Matthew 13:1-9)? The second and third soil were rocky and thorny ground in which the seed sprouted then quickly withered. Perhaps part of the reason many fall away from God soon after conversion is that they were not properly discipled, IE. taught and led by mature believers into a strong, mature faith?

The third part of Jesus’s command is to remember that He is with us always, to the end of the age. We are not alone in our witnessing or in our life. Indeed as soon as we try to live out the Christian life on our own is when we fall flat on our face.

As a student of Chaplaincy with a mission to help men and their marriages, I understand that discipleship is crucial. God desires not just that men and women know Him, but that they learn to follow Him too. As a chaplain to truckers, I will seek out men who need to hear the Gospel and experience God’s redemptive power of salvation. Being prepared to share what God has done and what He can do will be critical.

Currently, as a driver trainer, I have the opportunity every few weeks to spend a month or so in the cab of a truck teaching driving, and hopefully getting a chance to tell my story of what God has done in my life. I get to plant the seeds of faith and hope in few men each year.


Good News!

God loves you! He made you! He created you to be like Him, to love Him and to be holy (to live right).

BUT, there’s a problem. We don’t love God. We choose ourselves over Him. God calls that sin. That sin has made us bent and broken people. Our sin has made us dead, unable to even call out to Him on our own.

But He still loves us. He loves us so much that He sent His own Son to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. He offers us the chance to be alive again, to be able to love Him, to be able to live right. He offers us forgiveness.

God promises that if we:

• BELIEVE in Jesus,
• ACCEPT his offer of forgiveness,
• REPENT of our sin, and
• CONFESS Him as Lord,

He will make us new, living creatures and will adopt us as His children. These are not separate steps, but rather all needed aspects of coming to Christ.

What The World Needs

The world needs Godly men!

Take a look at the U.S. today. No really, take a close look. What do you see? If you’re like me, you see families in chaos, wives being neglected or abused, husbands choosing alcohol or drugs or pornography over intimacy with their wives(1). You see children growing up not knowing one parent or the other, or being shuttled between the two like a piece of luggage. Worse yet, you find children being used as a pawn in a tug of war between the parents(2). You therefore find a leadership and identity vacuum in the home. And that vacuum is too often filled by independence, self centeredness, and strife rather than inter-dependence, love, and harmony.

What has caused this problem? Men who abdicate and abandon their leadership role in the home. Men who choose work over home. Men who choose to stare at the TV instead of leading their family. Men who are emotionally and spiritually weak and choose the apparently easy way of escape instead of the difficult right way of leadership. The Bible has many examples of men who were weak and chose the easy way instead of God’s way.

In Genesis 3 we find Adam shirking his duty to lead and protect Eve. God had made Eve for (and from) Adam as a suitable helper, and as the other half of him, that is as a ‘completer’ if you will (v.24a ‘…and they shall become one flesh’). He was to love her, and cherish her, and defend her (see note 1). But instead we find him standing by as the serpent tempted her and even joining her in her sin rather than losing her. In Genesis 16 we find Abram giving in to his wife’s ungodly advice to found his dynasty through her maidservant. King David in 2 Samuel 11 was lounging around one day instead of performing his duty as the king and leading his armies in battle. That led to seduction, pregnancy, murder, cover up, and finally the loss of his son.

So, How can we fix the problem? A man needs to be physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy. A man needs to find an identity that builds up rather than destroys. A man needs to step up and lead his family from a Godly perspective. In short, a man needs to live a Biblical masculinity.

In an article on www.cru.org, Dennis Rainey(3) says there are 5 themes that help to define Biblical masculinity:

  1. A man controls his emotions and passions.

  2. A man provides for his family.

  3. A man protects his family.

  4. A man serves and leads his family.

  5. A man follows God’s design for true masculinity.

Promise Keepers, an organization devoted to building up Godly men, states(4) there are seven promises of a Promise Keeper, or in our terms a biblical man:

  1. HONOR A Promise Keeper is committed to honoring Jesus Christ through worship, prayer and obedience to God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.

  2. BROTHERHOOD A Promise Keeper is committed to pursuing vital relationships with a few other men, understanding that he needs brothers to help him keep his promises.

  3. VIRTUE A Promise Keeper is committed to practicing spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity.

  4. COMMITMENT A Promise Keeper is committed to building strong marriages and families through love, protection and biblical values.

  5. GENEROSITY A Promise Keeper is committed to supporting the mission of his church by honoring and praying for his pastor, and by actively giving his time and resources.

  6. UNITY A Promise Keeper is committed to reaching beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity.

  7. OBEDIENCE A Promise Keeper is committed to influencing his world, being obedient to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

How can our families (our wives and children) hope to have a healthy identity while their men refuse to be Godly leaders and are absent from the family, either physically, emotionally or spiritually? To fill the vacuum left by the absence of Godly men, our families will seek their identity and leadership from unhealthy sources; the world of their peers, the surrounding culture found in television or movies or music or magazines, or maybe darker sources such as the subcultures of drugs or alcohol or pornography.

And where can the men who have been so long absent hope to find their identity? In the Father God who seeks each of us and through a network of healthy, God honoring men. By following the leadership of the Father and the principles laid out in Scripture, we can start to reverse the pain and damage caused by our years of neglect. Then we who have are on the path to healing can finally lead our families to wholeness.

Note 1: The role of husbands and wives is a complex and somewhat controversial and contentious subject. In this article I have accepted the position as laid out in a straightforward reading of Ephesians 5:22-33, summed up in v.25 as ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her’. From that command we infer that husbands are to love, cherish, and protect, etc.


(1) Promise Keepers website

https://promisekeepers.org/promise-keepers/about-us/

(2) Pew Research – The American Family

https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/1-the-american-family-today/

(3) 5 Themes of Biblical Manhood, Dennis Rainey,

https://www.cru.org/us/en/communities/families/5-themes-biblical-manhood.html

(4) 07 Promises of a Promise Keeper

https://promisekeepers.org/promise-keepers/about-us/7-promises/

Life and Death

It’s been a while since I’ve posted… been real busy in my new iteration of life. About a year and a half ago I came off the road and took a local job hauling wood chips. Wow. After nearly a quarter century of being a part time husband and dad, in and out every few weeks for a couple days, it’s a welcome change to be home every night and weekend. Of course it’s also been a challenge as Lynn and I sort through our priorities and relationship issues. We’ve had to re-establish some boundaries and jobs within the house and that’s not always easy, the give and take of any normal marriage.  I’ve also taken some new responsibilities at our church and have started doing an online Bible College to get a degree. You might say I’m busy!

One challenge and blessing (even if it was hard to see at times) is that my Mother in Law has been living with us for the last four years. Now living with anyone requires grace and patience, but mom needed extra from me (and I from her) as she and I never really meshed very well through the years, likely because we’re both bull headed and bossy!

Mom went home to Heaven yesterday. She had had a good Christmas, but had been feeling a bit more tired than usual. While her caregiver was helping her to bed, in the middle of smiling at a joke, she laid down and breathed her last breath. She went easy.

We are sad of course.. but not broken. We grieve for her… and for ourselves. We regret the words left unsaid.. and a few that were said through the years. But we also have hope. Hope that she is with God. Hope that we will see her again. Hope that she is out of pain now.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 (ESV)

Let me tell you about the Hope that we find in Jesus.

Paul, a writer in the Bible said:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”

1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

We believe that a life lived with Jesus and in accordance to God’s principles results in a better life. Mom was proof of that. God made her a better person, not perfect of course, but better than she could have been on her own. But that change is more than just changing habits.

It’s more than a self-help program. It requires a deeper change.

Once a man came to Jesus to find out what the secret of life is… and Jesus said this very strange thing:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:3 (ESV)

The change that Jesus desires for us is so great that it looks like we become a whole new person!

Later in the Bible, Paul said:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

Jesus also told his closest followers:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5 (ESV)

We also believe that when the time comes to leave this world, Jesus will usher us into the presence of the Father God where we long to be.

Once Jesus was at a funeral for a friend and to comfort the grieving sister He said:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26 (ESV)

We believe that this life is not all there is. There is something more and better that is waiting for us on the other side of death’s doorway. Mom knows the truth now.

Let me leave you with the most well-known saying of Jesus:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
John 3:16-18 (ESV)

Birthdays and Visions

Another trip around the sun is in the books… Birthdays are God’s gift to us!

A time to reflect on and enjoy the people and things He has loaned me. A time to redirect and rediscover where He is leading me.

Last year I was driving over the road and training new drivers, gone from home and those I love most for many weeks at a time. Each hometime was increasingly more difficult to return to the truck. And it seemed as though that would be our life for the foreseeable future.

Then seemingly out of the blue, I was offered a local job that met all my needs (and they are high!). Now I’m home every night and weekend, and able to find my place in community again.

We’re in a new church where I’m able to serve and learn. I’m part of a small group where we’re learning to be God’s men. I’m able to attend other groups and events I’ve missed in the past.

Perhaps most importantly, God is shaping in me a vision and a calling to ministry. Whether official or not, paid or not, I dont know yet. Helping people find God and His holiness and wholeness in Him is what is important to me.

But I have no training, no education in this area, at least officially. So… I’m going back to school. But at 56 it makes absolutely no sense to me to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a degree from a government certified school, when all I really need is the training.

Therefore I have enrolled in a Bible College that seems to fit my needs;

Christian Leaders Institute

https://www.christianleadersinstitute.org

  • Online and self-paced, it suits my schedule.
  • Inexpensive, it suits my budget.
  • Video lectures and intensive reading, it suits my learning style.

The only thing lacking is a serious writing component, but I’ve found several good resources online and will work on my writing through this blog.

I would appreciate any prayers, encouragement, and advice my friends would care to send my way.

God’s peace on you all.

How to Heal Our Culture

Seemingly every week the media bombards us with a new atrocity to lament, the furor Du Jour. Our leaders wring their hands or rail against this group or that one, while commercial media and social media both throw gasoline on and fan the flames of hatred and divisiveness.

Our great melting pot societal experiment has reduced itself to cliques and enclaves of like minded individuals pointing fingers at everybody else. We are addicted to the high that comes from a mob mentality of societal righteousness and the numbing of the soul that comes from hatred of others.

We need a new Great Awakening, a Cultural Shift, a Societal Healing.

There is a program that has helped millions of people overcome addictions. We must apply it to our culture. Soon.

12 Steps to Societal Wholeness

– We admitted we were powerless over our society–that our culture had become unmanageable.

– Came to believe that only God could restore our society to sanity.

– Made a decision to turn our society and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

– Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and our culture.

– Admitted to God, to ourselves and to other human beings the exact nature of our wrongs.

– Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

– Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

– Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

– Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

– Continued to take personal and societal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

– Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

– Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

One Job

My heart is heavy of late.

Jesus’ bride, the Church, has done so poorly at the primary job He gave her:

As you go about your world,  teach people about the real nature of God, helping them to be imitators of Christ; loving, doing good, and being holy.


There are some 7 billion souls on this earth. About 330 million in my country. Maybe 4 million in my state. Roughly 100 thousand in my county.  5 thousand in my town. 500 Facebook friends. A few dozen in my sphere of influence. And only a couple hands worth in my inner circle.

And so few, at least in my culture, are living as an all in, fully committed, no holds barred, disciple (follower) of Jesus.

Research tells us that for those who claim the name of Christian (in the U.S.) there is statistically no difference in the way they live compared with those who don’t claim Christ. They talk the same. They have the same morals and ethics. They enjoy the same entertainment. They have the same numbers of divorces, affairs, abortions; the same use of pornography. There are the same numbers of liars, and cheaters, and abusers inside the church as outside.

According to research, many people who regularly attend church have a dismal lack of understanding (or acceptance of) basic historic biblical doctrines: Who is God? Who is man? What is salvation and regeneration?

 

The church is to be a hospital full of healing and new life, a seminary filled with God’s teaching and hope, and a banquet table filled with spiritual meat that builds the soul.

Instead it’s become a first aid kit offering quick fixes that don’t heal, a kindergarten room full of shiny toys, and a buffet where you get to pick and choose what you like.

Is it any wonder then that we have such an ever decreasing impact in the world?

Are we stuck in our (not so holy) enclave,  preaching to the choir, and making Christ a laughingstock or worse, insignificant, to the world?

What can we do to be the Church God wants us to be, and to impact the world for God?

It starts with each one of us. As the man or woman of God grows, so grows the Church. As the Church grows, so grows the world.


5 Steps


Be. Learn. Model. Proclaim. Teach.

 

Be

Be a Disciple. Make sure you have actually bent your knees in submission and reverence to Jesus and His authority.  Let Jesus change your heart, your spirit, your mind. Part of that means the willingness to give up anything that He has said is wrong for you.



Learn

Learn from the scriptures who God is and what He wants. Find out what the consensus of the historic Church has been in understanding the more difficult parts. If what you learn doesn’t challenge you to be different, you probably don’t understand that part.

Model

This is the hard part. Actually start to act like Jesus. Do the things He said. Love. Forgive. Don’t sin. Be Holy. Find the parts in the bible that describe God And describe what a Christian looks like. Find the representative lists in the bible that teach which thoughts and actions are right and which are wrong, and follow them. As you let Christ lead you in goodness you will soon find He is adding particular things to your list.

Only after were have learned from and modeled Christ will we then be able to effectively do the next two things.

.

Proclaim

When people ask why you’ve changed, why you’re different, then you can tell them about Jesus and what He’s done.

Teach

According to Jesus, even after they’ve seen miracles, many will still turn away disbelieving and unwilling to change. We must accept that. But those  who respond must be taught the whole cycle.. Be. Learn. Model. Proclaim. Teach.

P.S. You’ll notice I haven’t written anything about the role of God’s grace and power in all this. That’s because He is the Author and Perfecter of all:

He draws us to Himself, and saves us by himself, so that we may BE.

He teaches us by His Spirit so that we may LEARN.

He empowers and changes us so that we may MODEL.

He draws others around us so that we may PROCLAIM.

He fills and guides us so that we may TEACH.

While God’s grace enable all these things, they won’t get done if we don’t follow His leading and act.

God’s grace is not opposed to effort.

God’s grace is opposed to earning.