What to Say When a Jehovah’s Witness Knocks on Your Door

JW door(My wife took this picture of our interaction to remember to pray for them)

The doorbell rang on Saturday morning. As I walked to the door, my two middle daughters (ages 3 and 6) scampered along with me. As I opened the door, there were two females. One was in her mid to late forties, while the other was just starting her teen years. I knew exactly who they were the moment I locked eyes with them: Jehovah’s Witnesses!

Over the years, I have been approached by Jehovah’s Witnesses many different times. It was always groups of two or three people, usually an older person along with someone who was learning how to go “door to door” and reach the world for Jehovah. Before I opened my mouth, I prayed silently that this would be a moment for these two women that would change their eternal destiny.

“You’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, aren’t you?” This is how our conversation started. They did not know that they had knocked on the door of a pastor who had actually taught about their form of religion in a class called “Cults and other World Religions.” I was ready to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

Many people wonder whether or not Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians. The answer is a definite “no” when you ask them what they believe about basic, orthodox Christianity. Jehovah’s Witnesses and traditional, historical Christianity do not have much in common when you look at what is taught by each side. In this article, I am going to give you a few main topics to talk with Jehovah’s Witnesses about so that when you are approached by a JW, you will be comfortable interacting with them. You should burn with a desire for them to see the truth of the Bible so that they realize what they believe is not only false, but will send them to hell.

Jehovah’s Witnesses will probably bring up all of these topics in the course of your conversation. Here is how I answered them from a biblical perspective. Please read through all four. The last one is the most important and has really shaken them to their core. Topic #4 is worth the entire read in this article. But all of these topics will come up with a JW if you talk long enough with them.

Topic #1: Who exactly is Jehovah?

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Jehovah’s Witness: We believe in Jehovah and only He is God.

Christian’s Response: I also believe in Jehovah (Yahweh), but I believe that Jesus and Jehovah are the same God. Let’s look at these verses that prove that Jesus is fully God:

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

Jesus even said that “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58).

“In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word [logos] was with God, and the Word [logos] was God” (John 1:1).

You will have a hard time convincing a Jehovah’s Witness with the verse in John 1:1 because their leadership has translated it “the Word was a god.” But this is an inappropriate translation. If you talk with any Greek scholar, you will find that one should never place an “a” before the word god in this context. As you can see, this is why it is difficult to really talk through truth with someone who has been misinformed about the Bible.

A response you will probably hear from a Jehovah’s Witness when you try to tell them that Jesus is God is this verse:

Jesus stated himself that “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).

Does this mean that Jesus is denying His godhood? No, it doesn’t. You cannot use just one verse to try to prove your point. That is why I presented several verses a few paragraphs above. But the lady that Saturday morning just kept repeating this one verse. She was taught this one verse and apparently none of the other ones. And too often, we forget to look at the context of the verse that becomes a proof text. In this context, Jesus is promising the Holy Spirit to the apostles after the resurrection. Jesus says repeatedly that He is doing the Father’s will, implying that He is somehow subservient to the Father. The question then becomes how can Jesus be equal to God when by His own admission He is subservient to the will of God? The answer lies within the nature of the incarnation (i.e. when Jesus became man and came to this earth).

During the incarnation, Jesus was temporarily “made lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9), which refers to Jesus’ status. The doctrine of the incarnation says that Jesus took on human flesh. By taking on human nature, Jesus didn’t relinquish His divine nature. How do we reconcile the fact that the second Person (Jesus) of the Trinity is fully divine yet fully human and by definition lower than the angels? The answer is found in Philippians 2:5-11. When Jesus took on human form, something amazing and mysterious happened: “Christ made Himself nothing.” What does this mean? Jesus voluntarily made Himself different as He was on this earth. Somehow, someway, Jesus gave some things up to become a servant unto death on the cross. This “emptying” included following the will of His Father in heaven. And remember, subservience in role does not equate to subservience in essence.

You will most likely talk through this topic most of the time. You believe that Jesus is God, but they deny that Jesus is fully God. This is why topic #4 will put all of this together! Read the others first.

Topic #2: The Trinity

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Jehovah’s Witness: We believe in one God called Jehovah and you believe in three gods.

Christian’s Response: I believe in the three persons of the Trinity: Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit. All three persons are one God. They are mysteriously separate and yet one at the same time. Let’s look at these verses which teach the Trinity:

“I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

Thomas said to Him [Jesus], “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)!

“You’ve lied to the Holy Spirit…You’ve not lied just to human beings but to God” (Acts 5:3-4).

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor [Holy Spirit; John 14:26], Mighty God, Everlasting Father [Father; 14:16], Prince of Peace [Jesus; John 14:27]” (Isaiah 9:6).

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

“Baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

Jesus states that He is of the same essence of His heavenly Father. When Thomas saw the resurrected Jesus, he cried out that Jesus was now his God. And we see in the book of Acts that the Holy Spirit can be lied to and there is a direct reference to the Holy Spirit being referred to as God.

These last two verses don’t say the word Trinity, but they do present three distinct persons in the form of God. These first two topics connect with each other and one must accept the deity of Jesus before they will accept the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity can really trip up many people who want to believe. As Christians, we must be humble about this and state clearly that the Trinity is a mystery that we must accept in faith. There is biblical evidence, but we do not know exactly how it all works.

Topic #3: The 144,000

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Jehovah’s Witness: We believe that only 144,000 believers will go to heaven. The rest of us will stay here on paradise earth.

Christian’s Response: It appears that the 144,000 in Revelation 7 are referring to actual tribes of Israel. Each of the tribes represents 12,000, possibly hinting towards the idea that this number is symbolic and that during the Great Tribulation God will save a large number of Jews who rejected Jesus earlier in their life. There also seems to be another group of people who are believers and this multitude cannot even be counted (Revelation 7:9). To say that there are only 144,000 individuals going to heaven totally disregards the rules of biblical interpretation.

I would like to talk about your three main leaders and their false prophecies. Here are four examples:

False Prophesy #1: The return of Jesus Christ in 1914. Charles T. Russell, the man who founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses, calculated when Jesus Christ was going to return to this earth: 1874. When Jesus didn’t show up, he changed the year to 1914. When 1914 came and went, he redefined the second coming of Jesus to mean that Jesus came invisibly as a spirit in 1914 to help set up his organization.

False Prophesy #2: Return of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob between 1925-1929. Joseph Franklin Rutherford, the second main leader of Jehovah’s Witnesses, prophesied that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would return to this earth to promote the kingdom of God between 1925-1929. He built a large mansion in San Diego for these three patriarchs to live in when they arrived. But by the end of 1929, they never showed up, so Rutherford moved into the mansion himself and lived there until he died in 1942.

False Prophesy #3: The 144,000. After Rutherford became president of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1917, he started prophesying that Armageddon was right around the corner. To increase membership, he taught that only 144,000 people were going to make it to heaven. By 1935 they grew larger than 144,000 people. Heaven was filled and Armageddon had yet to occur. Another revelation came to Rutherford: everyone who became a Jehovah’s Witness before 1935 would go to heaven, while everyone who became a Jehovah’s Witness after 1935 would stay here on earth and live in a new paradise.

False Prophesy #4: Armageddon is coming in 1975. Nathan H. Knorr, the third main leader, prophesied that in 1975 Armageddon would come to usher in the end of the age. In 1976 and 1977 over one million Jehovah’s Witnesses left the organization because of this false prophecy.

The first three leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Organization were all false prophets. This would be like having Paul, John and Peter give specific predictions in the early church and none of them are fulfilled. It would dishearten all the followers to the point of asking: “Is this really the right way to God and heaven?” If your main leaders have falsely predicted future events that have not come to pass, then how can you trust them with other teachings? Try your best to help them see that their own leaders are deceiving them. It will feel like it is impossible, but you have God on your side who wants these wonderful people to see the light so that they will no longer be led astray by falsehood.

Topic #4: The Book of Revelation

Christian: Can I show you a few verses in the book of Revelation?

Jehovah’s Witness: Sure, I love that book!

After talking through the first three topics, I felt like it was time to use a few verses in Revelation. I knew that this would make these two ladies run from my house, but it was time to present to them some powerful truth about Jesus. I asked the forty-something lady to turn in her Bible to Revelation 1:8. I always use their New World Translation because they will be much more comfortable with that. I even asked her to read it:

JW alpha omega“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

I asked her who was speaking. Who is the Alpha and Omega? She responded with a resounding, “Jehovah God.” I told her that she was right and I asked her to turn to Revelation 21:5-7.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

“Who is this?” I asked. Once again, she stated that Alpha and Omega is Jehovah God. “Could you turn to Revelation 22:13 and read it?”

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

By this time, she was losing patience with me, but told me again that the Alpha and Omega refers to Jehovah God. I asked her if she could turn to one last passage. I had her read it out loud. It is Revelation 1:17.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.”

I had her stop at verse 17 and asked her, “Who is the First and the Last? She said that the First and the Last is Alpha and Omega, who is Jehovah God. Then I had her read verse 18:

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

“When did Jehovah die?” I looked her in the eye and asked her this question. She just stared at the page and then looked at me. And then she kept repeating, “Jehovah never died! Jehovah never died!” I told her that this is referring to Jesus and that Jesus is Jehovah God and that He died on the cross for our sins! She had no answer. She told me that she was not familiar with these passages and that it was time for her to go. I could tell that she was frazzled. She gave a bewildered and concern look to her daughter as they walked away. As she was walking away, I pleaded with her to study the verses and ask God to show her the truth about Jesus. I shut the door and that was it. I had won the argument, but I also had a sick feeling in my stomach. Here was a wonderful lady and a young girl who were headed in the wrong direction. Their blindness kept them from understanding the truth. I prayed for them, that this interaction might shake them in such a way that they will find the truth and the truth will set them free!

4 Reasons Why I Don’t Observe LENT  

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I must admit that I did not grow up observing Lent.  I am a non-denominational pastor of a fairly non-traditional church.  So, some people might dismiss me before they read any further because of my background.  But with anything in life, sometimes an outside view is the best one when something on the inside might need to be reconsidered.

According to the Roman Catholic Church, Lent is a 40 day period of preparation for Easter Sunday.  It is a season marked by prayer, fasting, abstinence and giving.  For most people who follow Lent, it begins on Ash Wednesday, which is today.  In theory, the idea of Lent can be a good one.  But here are a few cautions I have observed over the years from my friends who decide to “give up something for Lent.”

Caution #1: Lent can lead us to focus on giving up the wrong things and leads to a false righteousness.   In high school I dated a Catholic girl during the season of Lent.  I remember that she gave up chocolate.  I also remember that she cheated on me with her ex-boyfriend who was away at college during that same season of Lent.  When we started dating, we had made a commitment to remain pure with each other because that was the right thing to do.  The logic behind “give up chocolate” but engage in “sexual immorality” has just never made sense to me.  But sadly, many Christians do something similar to this when they observe the season of Lent.  They give up chocolate, but not sin.

Maybe, instead of giving up chocolate and coffee for Lent, we could give up what the Bible actually tells us to give up: “Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed…rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:5,8-9).

Caution #2: Lent often involves a fast which is frivolous.  When we give up candy or soda pop or something like that and call it fasting, we need to be careful to not make that which is holy all too common.  I used to teach that fasting was anything that you would give up for a time period to show God that you were serious about acknowledging Him as the leader in your life.  Fasting could be giving up television for a week.  Fasting could be just about anything.  I don’t believe that anyone.  Why?  Because a couple months ago I came across the teachings of someone who was dedicated to fasting.  It changed the way I will think about it until the day I die.  This “spiritual giant” has fasted for years.  He has fasted for a 24 hour period and also for 21 and 40 day periods.  He fasts by withholding from himself food and sometimes water.  This is what he said about fasting: “Biblical Fasting is always connected to food and water.  And there is a reason for that.  We cannot live without food and water.  When we give up one or both of these things for a period of time, we are showing God that we hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

If you want to give up coffee or candy for Lent, go ahead.  Just be careful about calling it fasting.  When your stomach growls because you haven’t eaten for a day, you are reminded that you are to hunger for righteousness.  When you decide to not drink water for a day, you are reminded that the true Living Water is the only One who will quench your thirst.  True fasting involves food and water because the substitutes (coffee, soda) fall short in bringing the human soul to acknowledge the supernatural work of God in your life.  Giving up candy doesn’t cause you to hunger or thirst.  Giving up your favorite television channel doesn’t cause you to hunger or thirst.  An empty stomach and a dry mouth has much greater potential to remind you of your need for the God of the universe.

Caution #3: Lent can wrongly lead people to believe that they can be saved by their works.   Since the beginning of the early church, people have engaged in asceticism in order to find salvation.  Let me give you a few example of asceticism over the centuries.  In the middle ages, monks would…

…mix sand with their bread and then eat it.

…stand for 7 years without ever sitting.

…allow beetles to eat them and do nothing about it.

…only eat uncooked food for 7 years.

…live in a swamp for 6 months.

…refuse to lie down for 40 years to sleep.

…not speak for one full year.

…keep a record of how long they would go without seeing a woman.

…even carry heavy weights everywhere they would go.

All this would be done so that they might become righteous before God.  They believed that by denying themselves of certain things, that would make them more spiritually fit as a Christian.  But when Jesus told us to deny ourselves, He was not referring to standing for 7 years or sitting in swamps.  He was referring to selfishness.  A certain kind of pride often creeps in and we think we are better than others when we do things in the name of denial.  So if you do some things in the name of Christ, don’t tell other people.  If you fast, do it in secret and only tell those who really need to know about it.  Don’t announce to the world what you are giving up for Jesus!  Just do it and let the world know that there is something different about you.

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The picture you are looking at is the 12th century Ladder of Divine Ascent in Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Egypt.  This picture shows monks, led by John Climacus, ascending the ladder to Jesus, at the top right.  These monks are climbing on a ladder with 30 steps.  They are to do 30 things in order to find their place with Jesus, to be worthy to get to heaven.  But along the way are demons with arrows that are trying to take them down.  This is asceticism and it has no place in the doctrine of salvation by grace.  The belief that if you work hard enough in certain areas, you will succeed in your entrance to heaven, has sent many well meaning people to hell.  It is not asceticism which saves you.  It is the grace of Jesus Christ.  Lent can sometimes turn into asceticism.

Caution #4: Lent often becomes ritualistic instead of deepening our relationship with God.  Even though I didn’t grow up Catholic, I did grow up with my own set of rituals and traditions that I was taught to follow.  Over the years, I have decided that most of the traditions I was taught were extra-biblical and do not lead me into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.  So, I have decided to stop following those traditions.  It has been an important part in my spiritual journey.

In the local church I lead, I estimate that we have at least 100-150 people who grew up in the Catholic Church but now attend Central Church.  As much as they have appreciated their heritage and the good foundation that the Catholic Church gave them, they almost always share with me a common theme after attending for a while: “For the first time, I realize that my Christian faith is about a relationship with Jesus Christ.”  For too many church-goers, it is all about going through the motions of a mindless ritual, and yet they are just as far from God as before they entered the church building.

Maybe Lent is a spiritually moving event for you.  Maybe you grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ like no other time because you are giving something up for Him.  But maybe it has become a tradition that you do because you were taught it was important for a good Christian to do.  Maybe, just maybe, God’s plan for you is much bigger than 40 days.  Maybe, God wants you to deny yourself 365 days a year and get rid of your sin and instead clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12).

In the words of Job, who once had ashes on himself: “I know that my redeemer lives” (Job 19:25).  The season leading up to Easter should be one of complete joy, for we know that our redeemer lives!   We are not in a season of death, for our redeemer lives!  Our redeemer has paid the ultimate sacrifice!  We cannot and should not add to our Savior’s sacrifice.  Our redeemer lives!

Angels in the Operating Room

 

The last twenty-four hours have been some of the best hours of my life. Little Annalise Joy was born. She is a perfect conclusion to our family. During the last day, I have had two thoughts which keep coming to mind. And I think they are somehow connected.

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Thought #1: “Four daughters.” Every time I think about the fact that I now have four daughters, my mind shifts to another thought: four son-in-laws. And then my mind shifts yet to another idea: “What are the odds of my four daughters finding four great guys to marry?” I fear the worst. I am concerned that my daughters will have a hard time finding a boy who loves God the way she is brought up to love God. I am sure that I am being unreasonable here, but that is what my greatest fear is with having four girls.

Honestly, I love having daughters so much that I wouldn’t mind having ten of them. A few people have asked if I wanted at least one boy in the family, and I tell everyone that I am used to being the only boy. I grew up with three sisters and I was the only boy. I am now in a home with four daughters, one wife, and a girl dog named Sally (and we think the fish, turtles, and lizard are all females). I like all these “little women” around me. What I don’t like is the thought that in the future they might introduce a young man to me who doesn’t measure up to what God wants for them.

Have you ever heard of the term “arranged marriage?” It has a great ring to it. All joking aside, hoping my daughters find a godly man is a concern of mine and I have wondered why this is my greatest fear. Maybe it is because I have observed too many immature boys tease my daughters. Maybe it is because this is what most dads want for their daughter: a good, godly man. But then there are times when I meet a nice, young man who impresses me, and it gives me hope. But are there four of them out there? I sure hope so. My greatest hope is for my daughters to find a man who seeks after Jesus Christ and His supernatural presence. My greatest fear is that this won’t happen for all four of them.

Thought #2: “I could feel the presence of angels standing with us in the operating room.” If you are not a Christian, you will probably not understand what I am about to write because I am going to share an experience which was supernatural. When I was standing by Amy in the operating room, there was a moment when I could feel the presence of angels standing around us. If I had to guess, I would say there were probably at least four to six angels standing there. I sensed that they were right beside us, and yet much taller than us. And my heart confirmed this truth, as if an angel were whispering this to me: “A few thousand Christians are praying for you, and we are here to protect your wife and your newborn baby so that everything will happen according to God’s perfect plan.” I was so overwhelmed by the presence of this small angelic army that I almost crumbled to the floor sobbing, but then I was given the strength to hold it all together as I was holding our little baby girl and watching them operate on my wife.

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Why was it so important for those angels to be near us? A few hours before the scheduled C-section, our doctor noticed that my wife Amy was having several contractions close together and asked if she wanted to consider doing a natural birth. We talked about it for a few minutes, but decided not to do a natural birth because there was a slight chance that the uterine wall might rupture and the baby could possibly die. Then, when the doctor opened her up in the operating room, she could see what is called a uterine window. The wall was so thin you could see through it and it would have ruptured and that could have been a disaster for the baby and Amy if she would have gone into labor. But God’s holy angels were protecting us with giving us wisdom to make the right decision.

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It was important for those angels to be near us because my wife had an emergency hysterectomy yesterday. She didn’t have a choice. We were not planning on having one, but because the placenta was intertwined with the uterus, our surgeon made the difficult, yet right call: hysterectomy. If this wouldn’t have been done, my wife could have lost her life. God heard the prayers of His people, and He protected my wife with the surrounding angels.

I have had this feeling of angels around me several times before, and it is always filled with a comfort that caused me not to fear the future. Today, I thought about the Christmas story, and how angels appeared to four different people: Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, and they were all told the same thing: “Do not fear.” They were all told at different times to not be afraid of what was about to happen to them. For a believer, the presence of angels should be a comforting experience. Even though I have never seen one, I know that I have felt their presence in my life. And it has almost always been connected with how many people are praying for me at that particular moment in time.

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(A dear friend gave this bracelet to Amy early in the pregnancy when a subchorionic hemorrhage threatened Annalise’s life)

Even though I have not told my daughters yet, my greatest prayer and highest hope is for each of them to eventually find a man who loves God with all of his being. I want them to find a man who is moved by the Holy Spirit of God to be a righteous leader in his home. I know that he will not be perfect, for I am not perfect (far from it), but I want each of them to find a man whose heart lives to please God. And in those sacred moments, when God and His holy angels are near, I want these men to be spiritually sensitive enough to feel the presence of the Almighty Creator of the universe.

 

 

 

 

 

The Baby is Coming!

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In one week, my wife will be having another baby. Yes, we do know whether the baby is a boy or girl. But we are not telling anyone until the day of the baby’s arrival. My wife wants there to be at least one surprise on this important day.

The journey of pregnancy is about ready to end. In less than seven days, our doctor will perform a C-section on my wife so that we can welcome our final child into this world. The journey began this spring when my wife found out that she was pregnant. If you have been following our journey, you remember that we were not sure if this baby was going to survive. You have probably prayed for us. Thank you.

Even though this journey of “being pregnant” is about ready to end, a new journey of taking care of a newborn is about ready to start. This is exciting and exhausting to think about at the same time. But I am not going to focus on the future in this article. I will let the future take care of itself. I will trust that God is in control.

My focus in this article is the last ten years of our life.

In 2004, we had our first child.

In 2006, we lost our second child.

In 2007, my wife had an unviable ectopic baby.

In 2008, we had a baby who almost died and needed to stay two weeks in the NICU.

In 2010, my wife had another unviable ectopic baby.

In 2011, we had a healthy baby…but mom almost died.

In 2014, we are having another child.

People keep asking me if we are done having children. And my answer has been: “We better be done!” This chapter of my life is about to close, and I am ready. We all go through different chapters in our life. Some chapters are longer than others and some of them are filled with more joy than others. Here are a few things I learned along the way in this ten year chapter of my life.

It didn’t go the way I thought it would. When we started having children in 2004, I thought we would have a few healthy children and then eventually decide to stop on our own terms. We didn’t know that we were going to become the poster child for “what can go wrong in the pregnancy, will go wrong.” I had a plan. We were not going to get pregnant until after the first four years of our marriage. That went according to plan. And I also wanted to be finished having children by my early thirties. You could say that I missed my goal by a few years. Even though nothing went according to plan for these ten years, it was still worth it. God still gave us a family. And we are grateful. Here is something that should comfort us all when things don’t go the way we think they should: “God was never surprised by any of the events and He was in total control…and ultimately, God knows what the best plan is for you family.” So, hold onto your plans lightly, because if God has different plans, prepare yourself for a difficult, but rewarding journey.

Children are a gift, not a burden to raise. When you lose a child to death, or when you try month after month to get pregnant, but it is unsuccessful, it gives you a profound appreciation for the little one(s) that you do have with you. When we had “just Lily” for the first four years of our parenthood, we learned what a gift she was to us because we weren’t sure if we would have any more children. The trials I have had to go through in these ten years have given me a desire to show my children how much they are loved. They can count on their daddy hugging and kissing them several times a day. Just yesterday I was visiting with another dad at his house. Two of his children were trying to get his attention, but he kept telling them, “Go and play, I’m busy.” This dad has four children. When I have been around him before, I get the indication that he would rather not be bothered by his kids. That makes me sad. I wonder why some families even have kids if they spend little time with them. What’s the point of having kids if you don’t want to hang out with them? Soon enough, those little four year olds will turn into fourteen year olds and will not need your attention like they do now. In fact, the tables will turn and you will try to get their attention, but they might tell you to go off and play because they are now too busy for you.

Stories give evidence of God’s goodness in our lives. Maybe it is just my kids (I doubt it), but they love stories. Every single night before they go to bed, they beg for me to tell them a story. Most nights I tell them at least one story. Just last night, I told them each a story about them when they were younger, and they loved it. That is the power of being a parent. When we can reach back into our memories and bless our children with a past event from his or her life, it teaches them a few things about themselves. It teaches them that they are maturing and don’t do some of the silly things they did in the past. But it also lets them know that we, as a parent, were there for them when they were younger. We remember. We cared. We changed that “awful diaper.” We wiped up the vomit. We drove them to the ER when they broke their arm. We have a picture of the first fish they caught. We held them upright all night when they had the “croup.” We are mom. We are dad. And we have stories of God’s goodness to us in the trials and triumphs of life.

Being “okay” with the chapter ending. In my heart, I know that this should be our last child. But I will miss the excitement of having babies and getting to see little ones grow both physically and spiritually. I was talking with a man the other day whose wife had her final child when he was 46 years old. And what he told me shocked me: “Jeremy, I wasn’t done yet. I wanted to keep going, but my wife had to stop because of a procedure.” It is really hard for some people to end a chapter, but I believe God gives us the peace when it is time. Amazingly, God didn’t give us a peace after our most recent baby was born in 2011. I always wondered why. But now, I know why. He wanted us to have one more. Just remember, in order to experience the joys of a new chapter in life, the previous chapter must end first. Be willing to shut that chapter if God is gently calling you to. Listen to His voice. His voice is calm and yet there is peace associated with His voice.

Let me give you one last thought. Amy and I have to admit, that as December 17 gets a little closer, we have a few fears that well up within us. Look at our past story. Search the last ten years of our lives and I think you would agree that we have reason to be apprehensive. But we trust in God. And we appreciate your prayers.

 

Should Christians Carry a Gun

guns

One of the most controversial subjects over the last few years has been “gun control” and whether or not the government should regulate the use of weapons in the United States of America. There are good people on both sides of this argument. This is a complicated issue because there are various types of weapons. There are also two extremes that we must avoid; yet sadly, too many people place themselves within one of these groups:

Extreme Group #1: All guns should be banned…just let the police and military protect us.

Extreme Group #2: Every kind of gun and weapon should be legal to use.

With this in mind, let us look for the truth in this complex issue. In this article, we will first look at what the founding fathers have to say about “gun control” and then we will take a look at what the Bible has to say about “defending” yourself. Also, let me state that this is not a comprehensive study. All your questions will probably not be answered.

Those who argue for the right to “bear arms” often say something like: “It’s my second amendment right to carry a weapon!” What does the second amendment actually state?

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Over the last two hundred years, most United States’ citizens have interpreted this amendment in a straight-forward way. Most citizens believe that this amendment ensures that one can defend themselves against any kind of illegal force that comes against them, whether that is from a neighbor, an outsider, or even from your own government.

Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794) was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He helped frame the second amendment in the First Congress. This is what Mr. Lee wrote:

“… to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…”

Yes, life was very different back then. Most people had guns. Hunting was more of a necessity back then. And there wasn’t a developed police force to protect people. Yet, part of the freedom the signers of the Declaration of Independence were envisioning was the ability for every free person in this country to be able to protect himself or herself from evil. This should always be our vision as a country. We have gotten to the point where we want everyone else to protect us. But that is not always possible. If we truly live in a free country, we must give people the right to “bear arms” to protect themselves. Therefore, it appears that our founding fathers saw freedom as the ability to protect yourself from evil.

Does the Bible say anything about the right to bear arms? Obviously, the Bible does not specifically address the issue of gun control, since firearms like we use today were not manufactured in ancient times. But accounts of warfare and the use of weaponry, such as swords, spears, bows and arrows, darts and slings were well-documented in the pages of the Bible. I’d like to make four statements based on biblical truth.

Statement #1: A weapon can be used for good or evil.

You have probably heard the statement: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Guns are not the issue here. The heart of mankind is the issue. When someone is determined to murder someone else, he or she will use whatever weapon is available to succeed in the evil plan. For example, the Bible doesn’t tell us what kind of weapon the first murderer, Cain, used to kill his brother Abel in Genesis 4. Cain could have used a stone, a club, a sword, or perhaps even his bare hands. A weapon was not mentioned in the account.

Weapons in the hands of law-abiding, peace-loving citizens can be used for good purposes such as hunting, recreational and competitive sports, and keeping peace. Beyond self-defense, a person properly trained and prepared to use a firearm can actually deter crime, employing the weapon to protect innocent lives and prevent violent offenders from succeeding in their crimes.

Statement #2: The Israelites were expected to have their own personal weapons.

Every man would be summoned to arms when the nation confronted an enemy. They didn’t send in the Marines. The people defended themselves. Each man had a sword in this passage:

David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies” (1 Samuel 25:13).

Could you ever envision the United States in such turmoil that citizens need to be able to protect themselves from terrorists who infiltrate the country? “No way, that would never happen,” you might say. But just look at other countries. It is happening. Go to the movie theater. It seems that countless movies are based on this premise. And look to the news. It is happening on a small scale in our country. What makes any of us think that things are going to get better before they get worse?

Statement #3: Weapons were used in the Bible for the purpose of self-defense.

Weapons were never forbidden. In fact, we see clear commands in the Bible for people to defend themselves when someone is trying to attack them.

If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed (Exodus 22:2).

From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked (Nehemiah 4:16-18).

Jesus is well-known for his statement about teaching his followers to turn the other cheek when an enemy strikes them. When I was younger, I remember listening to a kind-hearted Christian husband stand up in church and state that if an intruder broke into his house and started to assault his family, he would try to turn the other cheek and allow the intruder to do what he wanted because this is what Jesus taught. Even at a young age, I knew this wasn’t truth. My heart burned with anger at this man’s poor interpretation of the biblical text. Whenever we interpret the Bible, we must take the entire context of the Bible into account. What else did Jesus have to say about weapons and self-defense?

I believe that the “turn the other cheek” principle applies to individuals. If someone wants to harm me, I will try to get away from them, but I will try my best not to harm them. On the other hand, if they are trying to harm my wife, children, or someone else, I will definitely step in and try my best to protect them. And I think Jesus teaches this principle.

Jesus appears to promote the use of weapons for self-defense in a statement he makes right before he is executed. While giving his farewell discourse to the disciples before going to the cross, he instructed the apostles to purchase side arms to carry for self-protection. He was preparing them for the extreme opposition and persecution they would face in future missions:

He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied (Luke 22:36-38).

It appears that Jesus is preparing his followers for a revolution. But when Jesus is later arrested by the Roman soldiers, Jesus lives out his “turn the other cheek” philosophy. As soldiers seized Jesus, Jesus warned Peter to put away his sword:

“For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

Some scholars believe this statement was a call to Christian pacifism, while others understand it simply to mean in a general sense that “violence breeds more violence.” Jesus told Peter to “put your sword back in its place.” The phrase “back in its place” is important here. That “place” would be at Peter’s side. Jesus didn’t say, “Throw it away.” After all, he had just ordered the disciples to arm themselves. The reason was obvious: to protect the lives of the disciples, not the life of the Son of God. Jesus was saying something like this: “Peter, this is not the right time for a fight.”

Here is something interesting: Peter openly carried his sword, a weapon similar to the type Roman soldiers employed at the time. Jesus knew Peter was carrying a sword. He allowed this, but forbid him to use it aggressively. Most importantly, Jesus did not want Peter to resist the inevitable will of God the Father, which our Savior knew would be fulfilled by his arrest and eventual death on the cross. Scripture is quite clear that Christians are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), and to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-40). Thus, any aggressive or offensive violence was not the purpose for which Jesus had instructed them to carry a weapon just hours earlier. This leads me to the last statement.

Statement #4: To allow evil to happen and not do anything about it is morally wrong.

According to the Old Testament Law for the Jews, if a thief is caught breaking in and is killed by the homeowner, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed (Exodus 22:2). But…

If it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed. Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft (Exodus 22:3).

In this passage God stated that it’s okay to protect yourself and your family. In the dark, it is impossible to see and know for certain what someone is up to; whether an intruder has come to steal, inflict harm, or to kill, is unknown at the time. In the daylight, faces can be seen, weapons can be seen. We can see if a thief has come just to swipe a loaf of bread through an open window, or if an intruder has come with more violent intentions.

To permit a murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong.

To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil.

To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable.

Not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission. Ultimately, the decision to bear arms is a personal choice determined by one’s own convictions. As a believer, the use of deadly force would be applied only as a last resort, when no other option is available, to prevent an evil from being committed and to protect human life.

Here are three questions to ask yourself as you ponder this issue:

  1. If I am placed in a situation where I might need to “pull the trigger,” have I thought through the domino effect of killing another person? The legal battle? The family of the deceased and their reaction? Being convicted of murder and losing my own freedom? The idea of sending someone to eternity when they are most likely not saved?
  2. Are some weapons (and accessories) just completely unnecessary for the common citizen, or should all weapons be available to us?
  3. Even though the disciples (Peter, James, John, etc.) all had swords to defend themselves, none of them did, even when they were persecuted and ultimately were martyred by evil authorities. What does that teach us about our high calling of being a peace maker as an individual?

Why Your Vote Doesn’t Really Matter

why your vote doesn't matter

I know that the title of this article sounds really un-American. It is definitely politically incorrect. But just stay with me for a few minutes and I think you might just agree with me. Over the last few days, we have all seen these short little “sayings” sweep across social media:

 “I just voted…I did my part.”

 “Get out and vote…this is what our soldiers died for.”

 “Vote early and vote often.”

 “Vote biblical values.”

 “It is your American duty to vote…do it before they take your rights away.”

 “Every vote counts.”

I agree with the last statement that “every vote counts” if we are referring to what happens when I physically go down to the voting booth and cast my vote. One vote could win an election. There are instances where this is the case. That is why I have exercised my freedom and right to vote since I was old enough. My first opportunity to vote dates back to 1996. I voted for Bob Dole. Some of you don’t even know who that is. He lost the presidential election to Bill Clinton, who would later be publically shamed for his extramarital affair with an intern. Since this election, I have voted during every major election. I have been able to vote for a president five different times in my life. I have been on the winning side and losing side. I have seen plenty of political commercials which make me not want to vote for any politicians anymore. That is what this article is all about.

monicagateMaybe it is just me, but I have lost hope in our system of government to do the right thing. The last few elections, I have had a hard time casting my ballot for anyone because I feel like no candidate is really running in order to “serve the people.” But I vote anyway. I vote because it is the right thing to do. I vote because of peer pressure. I vote because I hold onto the hope that someday a leader will rise up and do what is right for his or her people.

As a pastor, I feel like I need to help people understand what the role of the government is in the life of the citizen according to the Bible. I have been convicted to pen a few articles with this question in mind: What does God want a government to look like and what kind of leader does God want to lead our country?

It saddens me to state that too few men and women who are in politics are actually the kind of leaders that would make God proud. That is why I have told a few individuals in my church to run for political office. But it might not be worth it for them to leave the private life and go into the public realm. Why? Because it seems that as a man or woman with godly values rises in political power, the media seems to make every effort to destroy his or her dignity with mockery and disdain.

watergate

For some reason, America keeps voting into public office a certain type of leader. The Bible talks about this type of leader with three descriptions.

The duplicitous ruler. I call this the chameleon leader. Many politicians have been caught on video saying one thing at one dinner party and then an entirely different thing the next month. His or her behavior is motivated by what will get him or her the most votes. This type of person has no firm values. Jesus called this kind of leader a fox:

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal’” (Luke 13:31-32).

The conspirator. Did you know that Adolf Hitler rose to power claiming to be a Christian? Did you know that in the swastika (the ultimate picture of evil today), the Christian cross was embedded in it? And many Christians thought Hitler was the servant of God and therefore they were supposed to submit to him. Deception can run deep. From Watergate to Monicagate, our nation’s leaders have proven this ancient saying:

 Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it (Micah 2:1).

The deceitful governor. How many government leaders do you trust? How many of them have your best interest in mind? How many of them would love to sit down with you and serve you? Or would you walk away from a meeting with them feeling the way the Magi did? Those of us who know the Christmas story understand that King Herod didn’t intend to worship baby Jesus. Instead, it was his plan to find where the baby was born and kill the innocent infant.

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him” (Matthew 2:8).

These types of evil rulers should be resisted, but it seems like these men and women are on the majority of the ballots every election. According to Psalm 58:1, there are two things that government leaders will have to answer for:

  1. Do you tell the truth?
  2. Do you judge honestly?

If you are a leader of the American people, you will stand before a Judge someday and He will ask you these two questions. Can you answer in the affirmative? If not, maybe political office isn’t for you. But what about those of us who are not public figures? What can we do to change the system?  There are a few things that we can do:

Vote for politicians who tell the truth and judge honestly. No exceptions.

Involve yourself in the public realm. Get on public school boards, run for local offices, be political! Too many honest people sit back and complain and yet they are the answer to the problem.

Rebuke government leaders when they appear to be deceiving the people.   Call their office, send letters, let them know that you are unhappy with their decisions.

Instill the right values in as many young people as possible.

Pray for a revival to sweep this nation so that a new wave of integrity will rise out of the darkness.

I don’t think I am asking too much when I want to vote for an honest man. Maybe one of the main reasons Abe Lincoln is considered one of the most beloved politicians of all time is because of a word that was used to describe him. “Honest Abe.” Lord, please raise up another “Honest Abe” to lead this country.

 

Who will be president in 2164?

who will be president

If you are a Christian, you have probably heard that Jesus fulfilled dozens of prophecies predicted long before He came to this earth. I personally believe that these prophecies prove that He is the Savior of the world. But there have been a few times in my life when those Messianic prophecies were just not enough for the skeptics I was trying to convince. That is why over the years, through research, I have discovered two significant prophecies in the Old Testament which help prove the supernatural aspect of the Bible. These two prophecies help my mind and heart believe that the word of the Bible are truly God-breathed.

Fulfilled prophecy is the greatest reason to believe that the Bible is trustworthy. The Bible contains precise fulfilled prophecies. The Bible has to be reliable about the things of this earth if we are to believe it about the things of heaven. Some biblical prophecies are so specific, so unambiguous, and so accurate that we must conclude that the writers were inspired by God. Biblical prophecy names places, events, and even people in great detail. We might wonder the when and why, but when we read it, it is in plain language. I would like to present two significant prophecies that can be used to help convince any skeptic that the Bible might just be a supernatural book.

Prediction #1: King Cyrus of Persia. How would you like to predict who will be the president of the United States 150 years from now? And at the same time, describe what will be his most important foreign policy decision? Isaiah does so in Isaiah 44. Read the words of Isaiah with me.

It is I who says of Jerusalem, “She shall be inhabited!” And of the cities of Judah, “They shall be built.” And I will raise up her ruins again…It is I who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.” (Isaiah 44:26-28)

Cyrus is mentioned as the man who will let the Jews return to their land and rebuild Jerusalem. Isaiah has more to say:

Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand…so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. (Isaiah 45:1-3)

Ezra records the fulfillment of the prediction:

Now in the 1st year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom. (Ezra 1:1)

Understanding the timeline is important here in this passage. Isaiah was written approximately 700 B.C., while Cyrus began his reign in 559 B.C. Also, King Cyrus sent the Jews back to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. Isaiah named Cyrus and predicted that he would send the Jews back to Jerusalem 141 years before he became king! God put His own reputation on the line by naming Cyrus!

This is a big deal. Now, if you don’t believe that the Bible is true, then you can’t really get too much out of this prophecy. But I think that this is one of the greatest prophecies in the entire Bible because God (through Isaiah) names a man/king before he is even born. For me, this deepens my faith.

This would be like predicting that Barack Obama was going to be president, but you predicted it in the 1860s. Just think about how hard it would be to predict who will be the next president in 2016. Maybe it will be a Democrat, but it could be a Republican. Or maybe an independent. And this is only two years away. Or, how would you like to predict who will be the president of the United States 150 years from now? In 2164, you are able to state the name of the next president, and at the same time, describe what will be his most important foreign policy decision.   Very impressive, you might be thinking.

Prediction #2: The four kingdoms. Daniel predicted the rise and fall of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires in such detail that even honest skeptics must admit that he received his visions from God. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, and Daniel was the only man who knew what it was about. God gave Daniel a vision of the dream. In his first vision, he saw a statue of a man:

The gold head represented Babylon.

The silver breast/arms represented Medo-Persia.

The bronze belly/thighs represented Greece.

The iron legs represented Rome.

After telling the king what he had dreamed, Daniel interpreted it for him:

You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength, and the glory…You are the head of gold. And after you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron. (Daniel 2:37-40)

If you have any doubt about the kingdoms predicted, they are actually identified in Daniel 8 by name:

The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia (8:20).

The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king (8:21).

Before these kingdoms even existed, they were named by God! What is most startling is that Daniel gave vivid details of the rise of Alexander the Great and that after his death his kingdom would be divided among 4 rulers:

A mighty king will arise, and he will rule with great authority and do as he pleases. But as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendants, nor according to his authority which he exercises, for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others beside them. (Dan. 11:3-4).

Well over 200 years after Daniel wrote, Alexander, who had no heirs, arose. After his death, Alexander’s kingdom was divided among his four generals.

Next time you are talking with someone who doubts that this ancient book is trustworthy, ask him or her about these two prophecies. A few years back, I sat down with a self-proclaimed skeptic who did not believe that the Bible was worth reading. So I took him through these passages. His eyes lit up when he saw the name Cyrus on the page in the Bible decades before he breathed his first breath and he just shook his head when he saw the Medo-Persian and Greek Empires listed in the Bible before they even existed. But even with that evidence, he still would not believe. It is because head knowledge must become heart knowledge. It is when we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus Christ from the grave that we are saved. So, while it is great to prove that the Bible is true, we must remember that a skeptic’s mind is blinded to truth and he or she will not experience that “light bulb” moment until he or she surrenders their heart to God. But remember, sharing these two prophecies with them might bring them a step closer to believing someday, and that is exactly what God asks us to do.

One Thing Your Marriage Can’t Live Without

marriage

When someone walks down the aisle, the last thing that is on their mind is, “I am going to divorce this person someday.” But it happens at what seems an alarming rate. I have heard for years that the divorce rate is 50% inside and outside the church. I have read other researchers present a lower number for divorce, 26%. And just the other day I read that divorce in the church is possibly as low as 10-15%. Statistics, statistics, statistics. Can you really believe them?

I have performed 81 weddings. Out of these 81 weddings, one couple has gotten a divorce. That is a 1.23% divorce rate. Now, let me state that many of these marriages have almost ended. Several of these couples separated for a time. A few of them told me that they were thinking about getting a divorce. But 80 of the couples have remained together to this day.

These 81 weddings span almost 14 years. I have officiated weddings for couples…

…just out of high school.

…in their seventies.

…who have both been divorced.

 …who have blended as many as seven children into their new marriage.

 …who met online.

And somehow only 1.23% of the marriages have ended in divorce. I am surprised by this low percentage. I am humbled by this statistic. I ask myself, “Is it just an anomaly? Do I need to give it another decade and then see if these people have still made it?” Probably. But over half of these marriages have already lasted beyond the 7 year mark, which is when most people call it quits if they are going to divorce their spouse.

Before you jump to the conclusion that if you have Pastor Jeremy officiate your marriage you will be divorce proof, just realize that this statistic is not about me. As I officiate these weddings, I am also an observer. I see what will make a marriage last. As I get to know the couple through pre-marital counseling, I try help the future husband and wife answer this important question.

Do we have the same VALUES? This is by far the most important question because it will make or break a marriage. The one couple that did get a divorce didn’t have the same value system. They wanted different things in life. And they were both Christian! Many people think that being a Christian gives people the same values, but it doesn’t. You find out what a person’s values are when you figure out the answers to the following questions. Remember, values determine actions.

The Value of Family. How many children do you want? Do you want any children? Are you going to be a stay-at-home mom or will you have a full-time babysitter? Is the dad going to stay at home with the kids while the mom goes to work? How are we going to spend our holidays? Which “In-Laws” will get more attention over the holidays? Am I going to work long hours and put extra effort into my job, or will I sacrifice that latter of success so that I can come home before supper starts every night?

The Value of Church. How involved do you want to be in the church? How important is it for my children to go to church? Do you want to hang out with friends from church? Do I believe what the church teaches? Am I going to be a once a week church goer or be there every single day? Or am I going to just attend on Christmas and Easter?

The Value of Hobbies. How do you like to spend your time? Do you like to do the same things that your future spouse does? Or do you lead separate lives because you don’t have much in common? Never underestimate how important it is to spend quality time together doing something both of you enjoy. I once officiated a wedding for a couple who loved playing computer games together. It wouldn’t be my choice in how I spend time with my wife, but they could spend countless hours well into the night staring at a computer screen. By the way, they met online when they were playing a game!

The Value of Finances. Do I like to spend or save? Do I need to make lots of money or just enough money to get by? Am I tempted to buy things just so that other people will notice me? Am I generous to my church, to various missionaries, or am I skeptical of giving away my money?

The Value of Marriage. Do I truly believe that my marriage will last for my entire life? Do I only have eyes for my spouse? Do I hate divorce just like God says that He hates divorce? Do I look at my spouse as a companion? Do I look forward to being romantic even when we have kids? Do I strive to have a healthy sex life?

For a Christian, all of your values should be driven by what God’s Word teaches. God teaches us about the family, the church, finances, marriage, and even how we should spend our time.

How do you figure all this stuff out before you get married? Is it possible? Every couple who is married by a pastor at Central Church is required to take a 150 question assessment about their value system and they will then be involved in pre-marital counseling. So much time and energy is invested in the actual wedding day. Often thousands of dollars are spent for this wonderful day where two people become one. But just remember how important it is to discover a person’s values before you decide to tie the knot.

For those of you who are not yet married, please understand how important values are in your future marriage. Be determined to keep your own God-given values. You will never regret it!

The “C” Word

Cancer. It is one of the most dreaded words in the English language. When someone hears the phrase: “You have cancer,” their mind immediately fears the worst. I heard the other day on a medical commercial that one in every two people will get cancer at some point in their life. That got my attention! Those kinds of statistics are scary, because it means that there is a good chance that you will get cancer eventually. And it guarantees that someone you love dearly will get cancer.

My first experience with the word “cancer” came when I was only six years old. Because I was so young, I did not remember many of the details of the challenges that cancer can bring into a family’s life. But I saw enough to know that cancer had the ability to take away someone I loved deeply.

His name was Gilbert. He was my grandpa. He battled lung cancer. He developed this kind of cancer because he was a smoker. He smoked for approximately five decades. For almost fifty years he inhaled harmful smoke into his lungs. He started when he was only thirteen years old.

One of my fondest memories of my grandpa was his willingness to let me help him make his coffee. He put me in charge of determining how much sugar and cream would be poured into his cup of Joe. After I had stirred in the cream and sugar, he allowed me to take the first sip. I would dip a spoon over the top of the coffee and slurp the tablespoon of coffee into my mouth. I can still taste the sweet liquid on my tongue. This was a yummy memory.

Many details are overlooked in the mind of a six year old witnessing his grandpa dying of cancer. My parents protected me from the ravaging effect that cancer has on a human’s internal organs. They did not share with me the details of the doctor visits that ended with bad news. They did sit me down and tell me that grandpa was very sick and that he might be going to heaven soon.

“But I don’t want him to go to heaven!” I wanted him to stay here on earth so that I could grow up on his farm and play with the chickens, pigs, and dogs. I wanted him to lay right beside me in the living room as we would watch The Price is Right on a lazy week day. I did not want him to die. But he died anyway.

Even though I do not remember every detail of the struggle cancer brought into my family, I do remember one profound picture of love that I would like to share with you. I believe that when people go through a tragedy, no matter what the age, they remember acts of love like nothing else. Often, we forget what people tell us to comfort our grieving hearts. We seldom remember the daily details of living with cancer or living with someone who has cancer. But we almost always remember an act of love shown to us in our most challenging moments.

In the latter stages of his battle with cancer, my grandpa was too weak to walk. He could not place his feet on the floor so that he could walk to the bathroom to take a bath. He could not engage in an act that is normally viewed as simple and routine. He just did not have the strength to walk. My grandpa served in World War II. He worked in the factory. He was a farmer. His strength was above average. He was once chased by a frenzied bull on his farm, and with those same legs was able to jump over a fence just in time to avoid the horned beast. But those same legs would no longer work. That is the destructive power of cancer.

I will never forget the first time I saw my dad carry my grandpa. He placed his hands gently under my grandpa’s back and lifted him to his own chest. He then walked my grandpa to the bathroom and laid him into the bathtub. This act of love touched my soul at the tender age of six.

Physically, my dad carried my grandpa. As a young child, I did not make the spiritual connection as I watched this act of love. But as an adult, I now see that my dad did something with both physical and spiritual implications. My grandpa had the burden of a weak body. My dad carried his weak body. And in this He fulfilled the law of Christ, which is love.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

From a spiritual perspective, my dad showed compassion to his father-in-law. The kindness in my dad’s heart overflowed into a simple act of meeting someone’s basic needs. Society often paints the wrong picture of what a real man looks like. We falsely believe that a real man is rugged, independent, athletic, and overly confident. But that night I witnessed a real man, and this man was filled with a tremendous capacity to care for a sick human being.

My dad did not carry another man for notoriety. My dad did this act of love in the privacy of a home where only a few people were present. My dad did not carry another man because he felt pressured to do the right thing. Professional medical staff can meet those same needs. And there is nothing wrong with people asking for help from medical professionals when these needs arise. But my dad carried another man because of love. He genuinely loved my grandpa and wanted to honor the father of his bride.

Do you love other human beings with that kind of love? When the need arises, do you make yourself available to care for them in their weakness? Is there someone in your life right now who needs your loving touch? Don’t make excuses to avoid carrying this person’s burden.

At some point in our life, we all might find ourselves asking this question: “When I am old and dying, will someone be there to carry me to the bathtub?” And we hope that the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes.”

(This article is dedicated to Leland…a great dad!)

 

 

leland truck

’57 Chevy my dad restored

10 Good Things About Tragedy

10 good things about tragedy

Every person wants to avoid hardship. There is something inside everyone who wants to walk the smooth path filled with blessings. But sooner or later, tragedy strikes us all. In the midst of these trials, it is important to remember that there is good which can be discovered. Here are ten good things each person can find when he or she is struggling with adversity (note: if you are still “raw” from a recent tragedy, it might be too soon to read through all of these).

Good Thing #1: Drives us to PASSIONATE PRAYER. King Hezekiah became ill and was told that he was going to die. He was told that he would not recover from this mortal illness. His initial response was this:

“Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord” (Isaiah 38:2).

God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and he ended up living many more years. Hezekiah looked at death in the face and he knew that the only One who had power over death was the One he needed to talk to. There is something inside a Christian that draws them to prayer when tragedy strikes. Christians who have a shallow prayer life become mighty warriors in prayer when life socks them in the stomach with a trial.

Good Thing #2: Awakens us to the SWEETNESS of SCRIPTURE. We can find comfort in reading God’s written word in the midst of the storm.

“Trouble and distress came upon me, but your commands give me delight” (Psalm 119:143).

When a Christian opens the Bible and reads it when they have just been given bad news, it is amazing how many times a particular verse speaks directly to what he or she is going through. Just the other day I was with a family who had just been given some really devastating news about someone they love dearly. That morning, the Scripture verse in their devotional applied directly to them. I do not know what I would do without the Bible when storms come into my life that Satan uses to destroy the foundations of my faith. I remain strong when I feed off of God’s promises to me. It doesn’t make it less tragic, but it does give me hope.

Good Thing #3: HUMBLES our HEARTS. Sometimes, when people don’t go through any problems for an extended period of time, they begin to believe that God is happier with them than others. Therefore, they secretly believe that they deserve to be blessed more than others. Pride then finds its way into their heart.

“In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Paul, the great missionary, the spiritual leader of the early church who saw glimpses of heaven, could have become exceedingly arrogant. But he remained humble because God allowed a “thorn” to bother him. I have a thorn in my life that keeps me humble. What is your thorn?

Reason #4: Develops in us PATIENT ENDURANCE. Are you someone who is willing to endure great trials and still remain strong? Will you be faithful to your spouse even when you have reason to throw in the towel? Will you be faithful to your company even when they don’t treat you with the kind of respect you deserve? Will you be faithful to your church after all the opportunities you might have had to leave when things didn’t always go your way?

When we go through situations that are not fair and we endure them, there is something rewarding about it. Endurance satisfies our souls because we conquered…evil.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3).

Good Thing #5: Leads us to spiritual INTROSPECTION. Tragedy motivates us to look into the deep corners of our hearts. And when we shine some light into these dark areas, we almost always find something that shouldn’t be there.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word” (Psalm 119:67).

People cry out all the time to God in the midst of a trial. They say things like, “God, I will eliminate this sin from my life if you fix things!” And they mean it, for a while. But when life gets back to normal, they allow the sin to creep back into the heart. Be that person who is transformed by your tragedy. Allow this tragedy to reshape your heart to such an extent that you grow in your hatred for evil around you and especially in your heart.

Good Thing #6: Proves that you have a GENUINE FAITH. This one is really hard to explain on paper. Peter explains it well in his first letter:

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:6-7).

When you courageously journey through a tragedy, other people notice. God notices. When a storm strikes a Christian’s home, people usually go one of two directions: towards God or away from God. Those who run away from God become bitter and disillusioned with the bad luck of life, while those who run closer to God develop a deeper love for the God who gives and takes away.

Good Thing #7: Awakens others to PRAY. Nothing can unify hundreds of believers in Jesus Christ faster than finding out about a tragedy. Every Christian knows what to do: pray! When I have had thousands of Christians praying for me (and my family) during certain tragedies, I have felt a spiritual blanket of God’s love and protection come over me like never before. I have felt this blanket only a few times in my life. I wish I could experience it more often.

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:13-14).

Good Thing #8: Allows us to EMPATHIZE WITH and COMFORT others. When someone is going through a tragedy, there is something comforting about talking with a wise Christian who has gone through some heartbreak of their own. This “battle worn” Christian doesn’t throw out clichés at you. They seem to know how to comfort you in a deeper way than those who have ran away from tragedy in their life.

“God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (1 Corinthians 1:4).

But let me caution you here: just because you have gone through a trial, it doesn’t make you an expert in how to help everyone through their own individual situation. Too many people offer too much advice because they have gone through a “mini-episode” in their life, and they now have all the answers to life’s problems. Don’t be that guy.

Good Thing #9: Heightens our desire for HEAVEN. When we have lost a loved one to death, there is a part of our soul that seems to die with them. If we have hope that we will see them someday in heaven, it makes us yearn for that day when we will reunite with loved ones who have gone before us.

“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me” (Job 19:25-27)!

When life is difficult here on earth, our minds naturally drift to the time when all will be well. In some instances, things will never be okay here on this earth again. Maybe someone we know is dying and they only have a certain amount of time left. Life will never be the same from the moment you heard the news to the time when you say goodbye to him or her at the funeral. But heaven gives us hope that life on earth is a blink (75 years) while in eternity we will keep our eyes open forever!

Good Thing #10: We can GLORIFY God with our RESPONSE. Lazarus died. His sisters wept. Jesus even wept. This is what Jesus said about the tragedy:

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4).

Please understand that God does not directly cause bad stuff to happen in our lives. But God can take the bad stuff and turn it into something that will be used for good. This is the perspective all of us need when we go through a trial. Be encouraged that God will use the bad stuff that you are going through for His ultimate purpose. That purpose might be realized in heaven, but if you are a Christian, you must keep that perspective. Live not just for today. Live not just for tomorrow. But live knowing that your soul will live somewhere a thousand years from now.