Jess’ Guide to Election Sanity

I noticed that while the candidates of both parties are going at each other, as I would expect them to, some of my friends are going at them also and at each other. Let me offer some scriptural balance to this whole thing. Remember we are to be salt (flavor and preservation) and light (guidance and clarity). Here are 4 quick guidelines:

  1. Who to vote for: Exodus 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. Vote for the folks who most closely manifest the qualities above. There are other qualities, but remember you’re voting for political office, not church elder. Also, you should use the same standards to select local representatives. That means you vote in local elections.
  2. To be left alone: 1 Timothy 2:1-2 I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men, for kings and all that are in high place, that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity. The first goal of our involvement in the political process is so that we can serve the Lord and share His name! We get to select our leaders; we should pray as Paul exhorts and use his words as a guideline for voting. Which candidate will let us serve Him with the greatest freedom and peace?
  3. Don’t get ambitious: Well, this one could be 2a because it’s connected to the above. It is okay to branch out in your goals through the political process as long as you don’t destroy the peace mentioned above. All the other political goals are secondary. Saving the whales and coal mines is important (along with a lot of other things) but not at the expense of freedom to share the gospel.
  4. Be Christlike: 2 Peter 2:11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, bring not a railing judgment against them before the Lord. Jude 8-9 Yet in like manner these also in their dreamings defile the flesh, and set at nought dominion, and rail at dignities. But Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing judgment, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. Let’s watch our manners, folks. Be ruled by a spirit of moderation and grace. Support your candidate. Oppose the other, but leave name calling to the world; it doesn’t really become you or the Lord. Oh, one more verse: John 16:33 These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. Remember, Christ followers are first of all citizens of heaven.

Happy campaigning!

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Engaged & Involved Dec 2105

Greetings! It has been too long since I have communicated through this newsletter. I hope to be back on track and more active in the future. Here are just a few things to think about that touch on topics from guns to Christmas.   Jess

This may be a bit out of character for me, but I suggest you buy whatever ammo, magazines and firearms you can now while the price is low. I expect the rhetoric to increase dramatically as the election gets closer, causing panic buying and price increases. Also, the President has pledged to take unilateral action in his last year.

Note:

  • Prices are down now.
  • Common firearms and ammo are available.
  • The market is not saturated (Black Friday record sales show that).
  • So, all this adds up to: This is the best time to buy!

Folks, the National Rifle Association needs your help. Of the approximately 125 million gun owners in the U.S., only about 4% are members. The NRA is vilified by news media and labeled as an enemy by presidential candidates. Why? Because the NRA is the foremost voice protecting our 2nd Amendment rights. The enemies of liberty and your freedom to defend yourself want to silence the NRA so they can have their way. I want the NRA stronger with an even louder, clearer voice. Please help me.

If you are not a member, you can join at discounted rates using the link below. If you are a member, you can renew or expand your membership. Rates, which have been unchanged for years, will go up in 2016 as the NRA ramps up for the election cycle. Join now, save money and get in the fight for your rights.

One more thing. The link shows a life membership for $750. That is discounted from the regular rate of $1000. Don’t delay though; the normal life membership increases to $1500 after the first of the year.

Here’s the link:  https://membership.nrahq.org/forms/signup.asp?campaignid=XI012357

Church security is an ever-increasing challenge. One of the leading experts on the mental and physical aspects of violent attacks is coming to the Fort Wayne area in October to conduct the Sheepdog for Churches seminar. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has an impressive resume and will bring his Christian perspective to the issue of church safety. Use this link to mark the date and find out more about the seminar and the presenter. Sheepdog for Churches

Firearms training is only seen as important by those who know there are things they do not know. You may have a firearm, but that will not protect you. Using it properly and effectively may help you. Firearms are tools and every tool requires a skill set. Do you know the difference between cover and concealment and when to use them? Do you know when you are allowed to use deadly force (Indiana law is specific)? Do you know the proper grip for using a handgun effectively under extreme stress? If any of this small sample of questions shows a gap in your training, then there are things you can learn to better care for yourself and your family. Contact my friend Greg. Spring will be here soon, and so will a new class schedule. You will learn and you’ll have fun shooting. Here is his email: mailto:gremcc@att.net

Politics are getting nastier and more interesting. The Democrat nominee seems to be wrapped up, but there will be plenty of fireworks ahead. The Republican field is narrowing, and there has yet to be a primary or caucus. The media is largely untrustworthy, and you should view wire service reports without a name attached as especially questionable. I have a Facebook page where I try to post things that are informative. Find some way to get reliable information. This next election will shape the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) for the next 20 years. That is a frightening and motivating thought. Here is the link to the FB page: Patriot Prayer League

Merry Christmas! The Lord of all who came to this earth as a baby and who is returning as a King has all history, yours and mine, in His hand. He came that first time at the perfect time, because His timing is always perfect. It is now and it will be tomorrow. This Christmas, rejoice that He has all things in His hands.  Galatians 4:4-5  But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

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Institutionalized Christians

In prison, there is a uniform schedule and sameness day after day that prisoners must adapt to in order to survive. Most decisions are made by someone else, and inmates learn to keep their eyes down and do what they are told. They keep going by blending in or melting into the life of the larger institution that surrounds them.

Long-term prisoners often find it hard to live outside an institution. The outside is full of new challenges, responsibilities, and other frightening prospects. They can miss the safety and sameness of the world they knew. The outside can be such a scary and intimidating place, they sometimes commit some crime so they can return to the world they know and where they are comfortable.

Jesus did not call us to comfort.

Many Christians I know can be considered “institutionalized Christians”. They are not comfortable in the scary world Jesus told us to engage, so they cloister together in institutional communities where they blend into the structure of the organization and draw security from their submissive anonymity.

Here are some characteristics of the institutionalized. They are very involved in the activities of the institution. They perceive meeting times as set apart for God. They are often involved in multiple ministries and programs of the institution. They think of ministry as a group or institutional process or event. They ask other Christians about their institutional connection and largely ignore Jesus. They are impressed with the size of institutional meetings and the number of programs. (They also love to ask about this.) They are very obedient to church authority as long as it protects their institutional security. They think discipleship is a class. The institutionalized Christian believes that Christian life and ministry are centered in an institutional relationship that involves membership, meetings, and a group approach to all of life’s challenges.

Folks, this is exactly the mentality Jesus sought to free us from. Believers have a relationship with Him that cannot be contained within the walls of a building or an itinerary of meetings and programs. He set us free to take Him wherever He leads. He is not leading us into a walled compound but into a wide, wild, exciting and frightening world. We are not to be afraid because He goes with us.

Lift up your eyes to the field. Don’t be like the rest of the institutionalized pack; think and pray on your own terms. Ask Jesus what He wants you to do. Don’t depend on the institution for comfort or ideas. Climb over that wall, breathe free, love the world He loves, and go give yourself to serve Him in it.

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Discipleship is NOT Summer Camp

I used to work at a summer camp.  No one can live there.

We filled the week with activities that kept the kids going from breakfast till bedtime.  Each activity was designed to convey some biblical truth, or provide a fun way to wear them out. Where do kids get all that energy?  The evening services would have made any revivalist proud.  Emotions ran high and the children were challenged with the gospel message that Jesus died for them.  After the evening meeting, there was time for snacks, and hopefully a wind-down where their counselors could really get serious with them in small groups or personal ministry.

This of course all culminated with the final night’s meeting and the dismissal service the following morning.  The emotion and activity of the week coupled with being in a strange environment and now saying goodbye to new friends often overwhelmed them.  To some that week was the highlight of their life.  Every so often I hear from someone who remembers their time there with fondness. Memories are good.

Discipleship is not a summer camp. We are called to live here.

No one can live in an emotional or spiritual high, nor should we try.  Following Jesus is about walking around in the dust of this earth.  The kind of dust and dirt that He understands and washes from our weary feet.  Discipleship is about us dealing with the hurt and struggles of this broken world, our own and those who journey with us. We are not perfect; we carry our broken hearts and bad habits and we try, if we are really disciples, to submit to the healing hands of the Lamb Who Was Slain.  A skillful Physician, He firmly and lovingly cuts away the remnants of our life without Him and shapes His image in our being as we lay bare our souls before Him.  His work in us, which is to be passed on to others, causes us to glory in His grace and love and marvel in Him.

A commitment to follow Jesus as a disciple is not a series of orchestrated emotional responses.  It is, in good or bad, the home of our soul.  It is where we live.

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Here Be Beasties!

Here be Beasties!

The ancient maps had unknown places labeled with frightening names and pictures.  I’m sure they thought they were doing a service by warning those who recklessly ran to the edge of the world that they were going too far.  Thankfully, some of those folks went to BeastieLand and came back.  The world was bigger than we thought.  These intrepid folks took great pains to write down where they went.  The areas that before had been inhabited by beasts were now often named after the just-returned explorer.  Skilled map makers became some of the most important and sought-after people of the day.  Accurate maps made repeatable navigation possible.  The world changed.

God has provided a reliable and accurate guide that allows us to navigate this broken world, understand ourselves and know Him; the Bible.  It is apparent and appalling that much of modern culture and too many of those who call themselves Christians have abandoned the map of God’s word.  When we ignore the map, we don’t even know it when we venture off the path or into danger.

Unlike the imaginary beasties of times before, there are real monsters we have to deal with.  The perils of greed, self-centeredness, self-dependence (atheism) and a host of other issues threaten our every step.  We daily walk a mine field of dangers that threatens us, our marriages, our families, our communities and our nation. We need true guidance.

The map God gave us through the Bible was the rule of life in this country for generations.  It provided the repeatable navigation we needed for our lives.  The country and culture that developed became a beacon of religious and economic freedom. We delivered the world from tyranny in two world wars and paid the bills for the victors and the vanquished.  Sure, there were problems, we frequently ignored the map and strayed, but we always had the map and found our way back on course.

Today’s cultural navigators should be found in our pulpits.  Unfortunately, many who fill those pulpits no longer see the old map (the Bible) as necessary.  Perhaps they are swollen with self-importance or persuaded no one will listen to the old guideposts.  Maybe they are less concerned with true navigation than they are with pleasing the followers.  Blind guides can lead only to the ditch of destruction.

Do you have a dusty old map on your shelf?  Do you use it in your search for direction every day?  Do you submit to it, or do you foolishly believe it should change to meet your travel goals?

Maybe the beastie out there is each of us?

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Cinematic Convictions

Noah looks a lot like Captain Jack Aubrey.

Oh, that’s right, it is the same actor.  Yes, I’m talking about the current movie, Noah. I haven’t seen it and probably won’t.  I don’t see many movies, and there is nothing about this one to motivate me out of my normal lethargy.  Rather, there is much to make me forgo it even if I were a movie goer. Here’s a short list:  It is reported the director is an atheist; I already know the story and believe the one I read in the Bible; I don’t want to reward their degradation of scripture with my money.  To sum up, it doesn’t appeal to me.  If you want to go, have at it! Just don’t look to it for theology or for some insight into the world, God or man, unless it is man’s depravity.  That may be what the movie is all about!

The Bible tells us that man lives in rebellion against God, that man’s tendency is toward evil and self-serving behavior.  It also tells us that man needs a savior.  You cannot be a Christian and believe other than the above.  You can call yourself whatever you want, but you cannot “be” anything other than what you are.

Some believers have been upset that the movie does not accurately portray the events and teachings of the Bible.  I can understand that.  Others have responded with a visceral contempt for anyone who criticizes.  They remind us that it is only a movie; that it is supposed to make money, not converts; and that critics are both petty and overbearing by trying to sway the public from seeing it.  I think the rabid response of the movie’s defenders betrays their motive.  They really know the movie is about ideology, even theology.  It represents some segment of their worldview, and it must be protected. Rebellion is a reason unto itself.

Want to go to a believer’s movie?  Here are three:

Irreplaceable by the folks at Focus on the Family

A Ragamuffin’s Legacy about the life and music of Rich Mullins

God’s Not Dead, a college student’s battle for the faith

These movies will be encouraging, faith building and will support people who want to honor God.  Your choice!  I really did like Master and Commander, but he won’t get my money this time.

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God is in the Ice!

 

What ice does!

Ice is hard.  It is hard when you land on it, it is hard when it lands on you, and it makes walking hard.  Something as perfectly normal for most of us as walking becomes a comedy of embarrassment when ice is our footing.  Walking on ice makes me feel totally inadequate.  I want to hang on to something that will provide some stability and aid my balance.

I take walking for granted most of the time, and that is my problem.  Walking is a complex combination of muscle and nerve coordination.  Because the wonderful body that God gave me does it without effort, it lulls me to believe it is easy and I don’t have to think about it.  Ice reminds me how frail is my connection with the earth.  The Bible tells us to beware when we find ourselves walking thoughtlessly. 1 Corinthians 10:12 –  Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

Here we are told to walk wisely: Ephesians 5:15Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise. Ice puts things in the proper perspective; it causes me to watch, to be cautious, to find a source of stability outside myself, things I should do always.  Spiritually, I do not want to fall.  It may mean I move more cautiously, more thoughtfully and prayerfully.  Maybe I’ll hang on to someone near me; surely I’ll need to lean more on the Lord and depend less on my own ability.  Ice is hard; it shows me how weak and vulnerable I am.

Ice can also be beautiful.  Earlier this winter as I was driving, I watched the sun come up as its rays bounced off tens of thousands of ice-covered trees.  It was beautiful.  That ice made me realize how small I am compared to God.  He put into motion the process of coating each tree with ice — acres upon acres of woods, all those trees, each one decorated by winter, each one a work of art. How puny my attempts at beauty and wit and profundity.  His foolishness is greater than my wisdom.

The sparkling trees were also a hint at what I do not know.  Heaven is not a glorified earth. Heaven is beyond my imagination.  The beauty of the trees served as a reminder that there are things awaiting me, beautiful, wonderful things, which I am not yet ready to perceive. I gratefully, humbly wait.

God is in the ice!

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Santa Is Not My Enemy

Santa Claus is not my enemy!

I’ve always enjoyed Christmas. As a kid, my parents somehow found a way to make it special and fun.  When Marlene and I had kids of our own, it was especially enjoyable to see Christmas through their eyes. But frankly, I’m a romantic.  I love carols, trees, lights, old-fashioned store windows and decorations.  Well, most decorations; I can do without seeing another inflated Grinch or Santa Homer.

We played Santa with our kids.  When they got older, we explained what was going on; but they always got something from Santa.  We also included other Christmas traditions.  Since our kids were home-schooled, we could talk to them about how Christmas was celebrated in other lands and times.  We incorporated Christmas with geography and social studies.  Though they heard about Christmas in 19th century Scandinavia and 18th century colonial America, they still learned that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus the Messiah.

Christ followers have a lot to take issue with in our culture.  Ungodly thinking, rebellion and selfish priorities are manifested everywhere.  I’ve written about some of those things in my Pastor’s Pen column; others I have confronted right here in this blog and on Facebook.  Though we do have cultural foes, Santa is not one of mine.  Everyone bemoans the materialism of Christmas, and there is truth in that.  Our entire culture is materialistic, even the Christian crowd.  What a wail there would be if our projector or air conditioning didn’t work.  Our bookstores, which used to be centered on Bibles and study helps, are now filled with jewelry, exercise plans and recipes.  If we really got serious with God, we could change that; and we can make sure Christmas is about more than glitter and gifts.

I’m afraid we show our pettiness and lack of creativity when we pick on poor old Saint Nick.  It’s easier to condemn and withdraw from our culture than to engage it and challenge it to do better.  This Christmas let’s celebrate the Gift God gave us, His Son. Let’s also pledge to be like that Son and interject ourselves into this broken world bringing hope, faith and the gift of love.

By the way, in case you wondered.  My three home-schooled children all have college degrees; two are post-graduate.  Credit goes to the Lord and their patient mother!

 

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Are you in it for life or just a one-night stand?

All about harlots and wives: The number one problem with our churches and culture!  Let me ask you a question.  When did we abandon the excellent and embrace the exciting?

Solomon, in Proverbs 7 and other places, warns us about the wily seduction of the harlot.  He tells of watching the youth fall prey to her charms and deception and warns us not to fall into destruction in the same manner.  His description of the harlot gives us a glimpse into her character and the excitement she offers to her unsuspecting victim.

Solomon also talks about the excellent woman in chapter 31 of the same book.  He likewise describes her character and her deeds.  He tells us she is worthy of praise and her family calls her blessed. She is the model of every mother’s day message and personifies godly womanhood.

The same theme is related elsewhere in Scripture in both testaments.  Some women are carnal and lean on their appearance, jewelry, etc., to attract and please a man.  Others, who wish to serve God, focus on their hearts and having a godly attitude.  The obvious moral is that men who are seduced by the shallow and exciting temptress will soon regret their involvement while those who choose the excellent woman will continue to be blessed by her character, productivity and godliness.

The point is not about harlots, but what causes us to seek them.  We (humanity) are rarely satisfied without some constant titillation.  We crave excitement to our own detriment. We read Scripture to find something new and exciting to bolster our flagging faith and pass over principles and truths that are as solid as a boulder, and just as boring.  Instead of choosing the excellent, we lust for spiritual get-rich-quick schemes and one-night stands that leave us spent, broke and broken.

Much of western Christianity has silently accepted the concept of excitement over excellence.  Our bookstores and television programs are filled with the results of it. Even some of our churches have dolled themselves up to appeal to the carnal man and his appetite for inner titillation.  The excellent is seen as too boring and commonplace and doesn’t satisfy “felt needs”.  We (Christians) have turned God’s priorities on their heads.  We have set a standard for our culture that leads to destruction.

Choose the excellent this week.  Guard your heart, lest you too find yourself on the street that takes you by her house.

Proverbs 7, 31:10-31, 1 Peter 3:1-6, 1Timothy 2:9-10, 2Timothy 4:3-4

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Biblical Reality Check!

Goulash again! Yep, more leftovers thrown together because there isn’t enough of any one thing to make a dish!  I hope it’s tasty, or at least thought provoking.

 

“Jesus talked more about money than any other single subject.”  Have you heard that said before?  Well, it is simply not true!  It is usually said to emphasize the importance of finances, money and our attitudes, and how we use it.  Some say this because money is very important to them and they want to justify their carnal worldview.  Sure, Jesus talked about money; but in almost every instance, He used money to illustrate another point.  The other point was what he was really talking about, not money.  Check it out yourself.

 

The gospel (good news) is not about having a better life.  Contemporary Christianity is so obsessed with putting butts in seats and all that represents, that it has changed the gospel, something that would draw anathema from the Apostle Paul.  Sure, it is better to die to self and make Jesus Lord. But usually the die-to-self part is left out because it is offensive and too dogmatic for a self-focused generation.  Mark it down — there is no salvation without repentance and death to self.  Language like “new birth” and “new creation” and even baptism points to a crossing over from self-life to God’s life.  Any gospel that allows the hearer to add Jesus to his own self-focused lifestyle should receive the Apostles’ wrath and be rejected by those who read the Bible.

 

“Jesus loves me, this I know…”  I bet you know that song.  Well, it is true.  Jesus does love you, and He wants to be intimately involved in every area of your life.  He will do better at running your life than you can or did.  He will also allow you to participate in bringing glory to Him. All you have to do is determine to no longer live for yourself and to give your life, dreams, plans, possessions, thoughts and all you are to Him.  He has wonderful things in store for us, if we will only let Him do His good work.  Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

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