Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Pray for Your Pastor's Wife

The old saying says that, "behind every great man is a great woman."  I'll submit that behind every great married pastor is a great wife.  Being married is by no means a requirement for someone to be a great pastor, but if a pastor is married his having a good wife is very important.

As a church member and as the son of a pastor I know that pastors' wives face high expectations and low exaltations.  Let me give you three reasons that you should pray for your pastor's wife.

1) She Supports Him at His Lowest.

"... mourn with those who mourn."  Romans 12:15b

Few people exercise that command more than pastors.  Pastors are alerted to medical emergencies, church infightings, failing marriages, unfulfilled longings and much more on a monthly, weekly and daily basis.  Pastors often bring that sorrow home with them.  Pastors face immense pressure and spiritual combat.  LifeWay has reported that 1 in 4 pastors have struggled with mental illness.  The pastor's wife is there to support your pastor at his lowest.  In his struggle with sorrow she often preaches to him.  In his darkness her love often reflects the love of God to him like the moon reflects the sun.

2) She Sees Him at His Worst.

Your pastor is not perfect and no one knows that like your pastor's wife.  More Sunday mornings than you will ever know he has been a jerk to her at home and then she has sat and listened to him preach to her and the whole congregation.  The pastor's wife knows third only to the pastor himself and God  Himself the sins that best grip her husband's heart.  The humility she has to listen to what God is saying to her through the vessel that she uniquely knows the vast imperfections of is not a humility that is easily had.

3) She Sees You at Your Worst.

Pastor's wives get the experience of seeing congregants at their worst.  They have to know about that barbed e-mail you sent her husband and still treat you with respect and honor.  Much like pastors, elders or any church leader; pastor's wives get to see the sometimes ugly inner workings of church relationships and it can be difficult to see the beauty of the local church when the gunk creeps to the front of their minds.

Pastor's wives face high expectations and low exaltations to be sure.  She's many times unfairly expected to be a perfect wife, mother and all around great woman.  Yet those in the church too often forget to say thank you or too many don't know all the reasons to be thankful for them.  In fact, how many of you knew there was such a thing as Pastor's Wife Appreciation Month?  I didn't either.

So, let's pray for our pastor's wife (pastors' wives).  Let's lift her up in prayer and ask Christ Himself to encourage her.  And let's be an answer to our own prayers.  I encourage you to pray for your pastor's wife and to encourage them in some way.  You could send a card, get a small gift, have a conversation with her or send her a note, e-mail, text, etc.  However you do it, I ask that you let your pastor's wife know that you appreciate all that she does, seen and unseen, today.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Steeple Prayers

The Church is the bride of Christ.

"...Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."  Ephesians 5:25b-27

The Church is the bride of Christ and we should treat her as such.

The Church, through the power of God, is also a major instrumental in bringing about change in the lives of individuals and nations.  We should treat her as such.

I firmly believe that one cannot reach Christian maturity without being a part, a.k.a. member, of a local church and loving the Church Universal.  Being a member of the church is so important and the local church is the way that we can effectively do that.  This post isn't about that, but here's a link to a post that is.

What I want to share today is a practical way to love the Church Universal.  When I say the Church Universal I mean every Christian in the world versus local church which is the local body of believers that has covenanted to love and serve one another and Christ.

We pass a lot of church buildings every day.  As you drive if you take notice you'll see a number of steeples.  Many times we fail to notice them; other times we notice them and think of all the reasons we're not a member of that church, we think of the theological differences, musical styles or dress codes that keep us from going into that church building on Sundays.  Often when we point out these differences in our minds or out loud to another we think we're mature because we just dissected all the reasons a "true Christian" wouldn't go there, when in fact we are being wildly immature and are picking apart the very bride of Christ.  We aren't more mature because we put down a local church, we are less mature and I'm guilty of doing this.

So, here is the practical way to practice love toward a small part of the Church Universal:  when you see a church building pray for that local church.  I call these Steeple Prayers.

Steeple prayers don't have to be long and complex, a sentence will do fine.  The complexity of a prayer doesn't make it effective, the One prayed to does.

Here's some examples of Steeple Prayers:

"God, I pray for the unity of Peace U.C.C.  Give them unity with you and with one another."

"Dear Lord, give Heritage Methodist. a love for your truth.  Let them hold on to it firmly."

"Heavenly Father, use St. Paul's Lutheran to reach the people of this town with the Gospel."

"God, please help the Vineyard understand how wide and long, high and deep is love of Christ for them."

"Dear Lord, strengthen the leaders of Riverwood to lead the church well.  May they grow in numbers and in depth of love for you."

"Lord, give St. John Lutheran the wisdom to know how to use the many gifts you've given them.  Make them effective in furthering your Kingdom in our community."

Steeple Prayers don't need to be complex, but I guarantee they will be effective.  God will answer your prayers for that local church in His infinite power wisdom and He, through your own prayers, will grow your love for the Church Universal in, as Al Roker says, your neck of the woods.  It is hard not to love and cheer for people you're praying for.

Do this for me, try Steeple Prayers for one week.  I promise that you'll be surprised by the number of church buildings you see and the way your excitement for the successes of the local churches around you will grow.  Who knows, after a week you may have a new powerful habit.

Offer Steeple Prayers with me this week and let's begin today.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Happy Anniversary, Christine

"He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD." Proverbs 18:22

Today is our 3rd anniversary and I know this proverb to be true.

Christine is perhaps the most tangible demonstration of grace God has ever bestowed on me.  There are many times I look at her and am thankful for the favor I've received from the LORD.  There are many times when I think about what a good woman I have.

See, before I started dating Christine I wondered if what type of woman I would end up with.  I'd begin to wonder if I'd need to settle.  I thought I could either find a woman that was nice and fun but someone I was less than completely attracted to or I would find an attractive woman who was less than what I dreamed of in every other way.  Then I found Christine and was amazed that I didn't need to settle, in fact I got more than I ever wanted.  Christine is everything I ever wanted in a wife.

My wife is my definition of beauty.  She is so beautiful and I can't believe some times that someone that looks like she does loves me.  What's even more amazing is that I occasionally have to try to convince her that she's beautiful... I'm teaching her though.

My wife is a woman of incredible character.  To quote Jack Nicholson, Christine "you make me want to be a better man."  I am a more understanding and patient man because of Christine.  My wife pursues God with more effort than I ever have and that inspires me.

A year before I met Christine I wrote this and she's been an exact answer to this prayer:

"What I want is someone to hold my hand as we run toward Christ together.  I want a companion who will encourage me to run with more endurance and speed than I am now.  I want to pick up the pace every day as we run side-by-side."

Happy Anniversary, Christine.  We've only been married three years and we've not had a hard season yet, but know that I meant what I said on August 17, 2013: I will be here.  There will be tough days ahead I've been told, but I will always be here.  I will choose to love you for the rest of my life and when I find that difficult I will remind myself that "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD."  You are a gift of God with skin on and I cherish that.

Happy Anniversary, Christine.  And for the rest of you, thank you for your continued prayers, love and support.  May God bless you nearly as much as he's blessed me today.

Monday, August 8, 2016

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

I finally finished the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  It took me forever, not because it is a difficult read, but because I loved thinking and imagining Heaven after each chapter.  More than answering all of my questions about Heaven, which Alcorn did attempt to do, Heaven ignited my anticipation for the New Heaven and New Earth.  I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants a more Biblical understanding of Heaven or to one who has a Biblical understanding but wants their passion for it increased.

This isn't the tone of most of the book but let me share with you a short story that Alcorn shared in the second to last chapter.  This piece is variously attributed to Henry Scott Holland and Henry Van Dyke.

I'm standing on the seashore.  A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.  She's an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other.  Ant then I hear someone at my side saying, "There, she's gone."

Gone where?  Gone from my sight, that is all.  She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side.  And just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination.  Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "There, she's gone," there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, Here she comes!"

And that is dying.

"If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought the most of the next."  C.S. Lewis.

So read the book if you'd like, but one way or another I invite you to be heavenly minded, I implore you to think about life and death in a Biblical way and let that Heavenly thinking affect your earthly life today.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Is Voting 3rd Party Wrong?

This presidential election we've been told that we must choose between the Republican Donald Trump and the Democrat Hillary Clinton.  For much of the nation that seems to be an untenable position to be in, but we've been told that that is our choice.  Many of us simply will vote for against one of them rather than for one of them.

But what about voting third party?

Well, voting third party for many feels like not voting and some have painted voting third party as part and parcel to voting for the candidate you despise most.  "A vote for third party is a vote for Hillary... a vote for a third party is a vote for Trump."

I am a Christian and a conservative who finds voting for Hillary a non-option based on my political and religious convictions.  I cannot vote for a person who promotes and defends abortion as she does and I disagree with her political ideology in many ways, hence I'm not a Democrat.  I also cannot vote for Trump even though I am a registered Republican.  I cannot support a man who is as morally deficient and untrustworthy as he is.  The man who is, as Ted Cruz said, a serial philanderer.  The man who owns strip clubs and brags about his sexual conquests and unfaithfulness in marriage in his books and on programs like the Howard Stern Show.

Christians Republicans, I can understand why you don't want to vote for Hillary Clinton.  What I can't understand is how we can vilify Bill Clinton for his adultery and lying and then claim that we can give Donald Trump our full support.  What I don't understand is why we give Mr. Trump so many passes that we would NEVER give a Democrat or even another Republican.  The only word that seems to explain it is hypocrisy.  The only way I can explain it is that we've bowed down to a golden elephant and disregarded our supposed moral values in the process.  Donald Trump is not only a flawed candidate; he is perhaps the most unfit candidate since George Wallace in 1968.

So, I cannot vote for Hillary or Donald.  But is voting third party acceptable?  Theologian Wayne Grudem says "no." He says voting for Donald Trump is a morally good choice and voting third party is therefore immoral.

I disagree with Dr. Grudem, but let's look further into that.

Has voting third party in the past worked, if our definition of worked is getting a third party elected?  The answer in the modern two party system is, no.  Have the voters of a third party succeeded in only getting the person they most disagreed with elected?  Yes.  In 1992 conservative voters cast a huge percentage (third party huge that is, 19%) for the Reform Party headed by Ross Perot and that led to Republican George H. W. Bush being defeated by Democrat Bill Clinton.  In 2000 liberal voters cast enough votes for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader to tip the scales in favor of Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore.  So, it would appear that voting third party backfires.

But what if voting third party wasn't simply about this election?

I believe that the candidate for the party I'm registered with is the worst candidate the Republicans have ever nominated.  We need to keep that in mind, because we aren't simply talking about conservatives that are less than pleased with their candidate and considering a third party.  We are talking about conservatives that are watching a man slam the family of a fallen soldier, make one racially charged comment after another, one who repeatedly offends women and has often used them as sex objects, one who mocks the service of a man like lifelong Republican and war hero John McCain and one who has a history of supporting partial birth abortion... to name only a few of his major flaws.

If the Republican Party moves from being the party of Lincoln to the party of Trump then I'm done.  I'm voting third party to send a message to the Republican Party.  I'm voting third party as a warning shot to the Republican Party.  When I registered Republican it wasn't a life sentence.  I have not nor will I pledge allegiance to a party, I've pledged allegiance to my God and because of that I cannot vote for Mr. Trump.  I will be voting for a third party candidate as an effort not to affect the next four years, but to affect the long-term political future for conservative people and all people across this nation.

I believe we should vote third party for the good of America's political future.  If we accept the prison of two choices no matter what, then Republicans and Democrats can continue to nominate candidates that we can only begrudgingly give our votes.  I say we vote third party, and that includes those of you disliking your choice on the other side, to say to the two major parties that we expect better.

This November please vote.  If you support Hillary or Donald then vote for them.  But if you cannot vote for them in good conscience then don't get guilted into not voting for a third party candidate.  Our civic responsibility is to vote, not to vote for one of two choices.  So, give a hard look and pray about who you should cast your vote for this election.

(Below are a few resources for thinking about this subject.)

Check out http://www.isidewith.com/political-quiz to find out who you might want to vote for.

Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. Russell Moore's thoughts on why they can't vote for Trump.

My thoughts about the ideal conservative party as printed in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.