My Jesus Fair

There’s a song called “My Jesus Fair” that we sang in church this morning. The first verse is:

My Jesus, fair, was pierced by thorns,
By thorns grown from the fall.
Thus He who gave the curse was torn
To end that curse for all.

I love the message of this song because it emphasizes God’s omniscient sacrifice for mankind on the Cross. The chorus says:
O love divine, O matchless grace-
That God should die for men!
With joyful grief I lift my praise,
Abhorring all my sin,
Adoring only Him.
Recently I was called to be the next pastor of the Rapids Street Baptist Church in Adel, Iowa. I have been a member of the Trinity Baptist Church of Westfield, Indiana for almost 13 years now. Today I said goodbye to many of my church family since this was our last Sunday at TBC. We are definitely looking forward with anticipation to the blessings and challenges that God has for us in Adel, but anytime we leave brothers and sisters behind, we experience “joyful grief” (as the song says).
As a believer I must go where God wants me to go. Because only in doing what He wants can I find joy and peace and meaning in my life, firmly in the Will of God.  As I told many people today, since we know Christ as Savior, in 100 years we will all be together again no matter what else happens.


Soli Deo gloria.

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Dementia

I have had conversations recently with an elderly person who has dementia. This means that she frequently forgets basic information such as where she is, what year it is, and even sometimes who she is. This condition means that she does not believe people who remind her where she is, etc. Even if you manage to convince her of the truth of what you say, she very quickly forgets that she agreed with you, and goes back to believing it’s 40 years ago and asks where her husband is, who died over a decade ago.

It occurs to me that many people living today, both Christian and non-Christian alike, suffer from the same spiritual disease: they believe lies. The woman who believes that she is good enough to get to heaven on her own. The man who thinks he can cheat on his wife and get away with it forever. The teenager who thinks that life is not worth living. The person who believes that sin is preferable to th path that God wants them to walk.

Every choice we make, every word we say, every course of action we pursue should be processed by the question is this right? Is this what God wants me to do? And if the answer is anything but yes then we should think long and hard about whether or not we should do what we are about to do. If the answer is a definite no then it is the height of insanity to choose to do that which is bad for us.

A cactus is covered with spines. Most of us would shake our heads at someone who would willingly run into a cactus. Like a cactus spine, sin is never a good thing. To paraphrase Randy Alcorn’s “The Purity Principle” “sin is always stupid.” Every time you have the opportunity to do right or wrong and you choose wrong, it’s like you’re choosing to walk in a patch of cacti instead of a smooth path. And then you get upset when the spines hurt, make you bleed, and possibly even stop you from walking.

I tell people how they can be saved but they don’t believe what the Bible says. I tell them avoiding sin will give them a better future, but they deny the danger they are in. I beg them to stop the self-destructive cycle that they are in, but they just keep right on thinking that they know better than God does.

I think we all have a little bit of dementia.

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Afraid vs Prepared

In reading the activity on social media in the past several days after the most recent evil person decided to kill a bunch of people in Florida, I’ve heard one comment several times in several places. It’s some variant of the statement, “What are you gun lovers afraid of, that you need guns?”

I’m wondering if these people have ever been in a situation where someone with a gun wants to kill them (probably not) or have seen a movie or tv show where people encountered an evil person with a gun. Am I afraid of someone or something that causes me to own and carry guns? No.

I am not afraid of getting in a car accident. I am not planning on getting in a car accident. But if I do, I have insurance to protect me.

I am not afraid of dying and leaving my family without support. I am not planning on dying anytime soon. But if I do, I have insurance to protect them.

I am not afraid of losing my contacts while on vacation. I am not planning on losing my contacts. But if I do, I have brought an extra pair to replace them so I can see.

I am not afraid of my phone’s battery dying. I am not planning on my phone’s battery dying. But if it does, I have a battery recharger with me to recharge the battery.

You see, I don’t carry a gun because I’m afraid. I carry a gun because I want to be prepared.

Do I expect to ever get in a situation where I will need to use my gun? No. But if it should ever happen, I want to be as ready as possible to protect myself, my loved ones, and other innocent people.

I’m not afraid to protect those I love. I’m prepared.

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The Map Is Wrong

18 shootings

I have seen this map floating around on the internet stating that there have been 18 school shootings so far this year. Actually that map is misleading.

If we define a “School Shooting” as an incident where someone shoots random victims on school grounds (like Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland), then there have only been three school shootings this year. That’s still three too many, but not the 18 pictured above. The “school shooting” in Maplewood, MN on that map was a police officer’s gun accidentally firing. The one in Arizona was a student committing suicide. Alone. Of the three shootings that were “school shootings”, the one in Louisiana saw nobody killed or even injured by gunfire.

That leaves us with two: Benton, Kentucky and Parkland, Florida.

Nineteen dead from these two shooters, and countless other people traumatized, some for life.

Here’s my idea:

1. Pass a law that if a person commits first degree murder on school property they automatically get the death penalty.
2. Get rid of the “gun free zones” policies entirely. Pass legislation stating that people who hold a license to carry a firearm may not be barred from carrying in any building.
3. Train teachers on a volunteer basis to handle firearms and train them to be prepared in the eventuality that they may be called on to defend their students. And have the taxpayers of their district buy them a firearm.

I firmly believe that these things would disincentivize shooters to the extent that school shootings would by and large go away. There would still be shootings, but with far fewer victims and the shooters would be held accountable via the death penalty.

So what do you all think?  I welcome honest opinions and real solutions, even ideas I disagree with, but comments with profanity or insults will not be allowed.

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Something Must Be Done

Something must be done.

We all agree on that. No more kids should die.

But how that should happen we all disagree sharply. Some of my friends believe that we need to tighten down on the mentally ill. Some believe that it is the fault of the gun manufacturers, the NRA, or lawmakers.

But I submit that the problem of murder has existed since the beginning of recorded history, with Cain and Abel. God is very clear in the Bible that murder is wrong, and yet we humans keep doing it. The problem with the idea of gun control is the premise that we need to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of people who would use them to murder.

If it were possible to identify every person who is going to commit murder with a gun before they do it, I would be 100% on board with taking away those people’s right to own a gun. But it’s not possible.

And so we are left with the main problem. It’s the problem humans have been dealing with since the Garden: sin.

We could rephrase the question thusly: how do we keep people from sinning against each other? The answer is: we don’t. We witness about what God has done for us and what He can do for them. We show them that there’s a better way: the Way of Jesus Christ.

The Bible says that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. That’s all of us. It’s only through the murderers like we witnessed this week in Florida do we see just how desperately wicked we humans can be. I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that the tragedy of Florida, Sandy Hook, and Columbine is massively eclipsed by the tragedy of the 60 million children that have been killed in abortion clinics all over the country since 1973. Their deaths are no less tragic. But back to the topic at hand: what to do about school shooters?

I believe God wants me to love my enemies, but He also wants me to protect my family. Doing that against armed assailants would be difficult if I didn’t have a gun myself.

The answer isn’t to get rid of the guns, but to fix the hearts of the people holding them. I pray for the hearts of the victims’ families. I pray they are comforted during this time of sorrow. But mostly I pray that they will find the peace that can only come through trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I also pray for the murderers; those who have killed and those who are even now planning the next school shooting. Lord, please turn their hearts to You.

Something must be done. And yet, something has already been done two thousand years ago on a hill just outside of Jerusalem. Never forget that God is in control, He has a plan, and He works in our situations to draw us closer to Him and to glorify Himself.

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Taxes

I haven’t seen the GOP tax plan.  Without even looking I’m sure it is not that much different than what we have now, and will probably not change much. Why? Because they never go far enough.

What would I suggest, you say?  I actually have two ideas, either one of which I would be happy with.

Steve Forbes introduced the idea of a “flat tax” to me back in 1996.  If everybody paid 10% of their income to the government, that would be a fair and equitable system. If you make 40,000, you pay 4,000 in taxes and everything else is yours.  If you make 10 million dollars, you pay 1 million dollars in taxes and everything else is yours. No sales tax, no social security tax, etc.  Just one percentage amount that comes from everybody and goes into a big pool and we use that to pay our bills (just like a home budget).  Why is this a good system?  Because it doesn’t discourage working hard (like our current system does).  Have you ever heard the expression, “The more  you make the more they take”?  This system would eliminate that.  With our current system, working overtime means you are actually making less money because you will be taxed at a higher rate.  you are, in effect, punished for working hard.

Idea #2 is this:  Eliminate the income tax entirely.  Get rid of it.  Replace it with a national sales tax.  Make it 10%. Make it 15%. I don’t care.  This plan would work because then everybody gets to keep every dollar they earn.  Exempt necessities like food, $1000 worth of clothing per year (or whatever), rent and utilities.  That way if you worked an overtime shift, you get to keep the entire amount.   And an added benefit of this system? The people who are deep in debt could pay their way out.  Have too much in student loans? Work an extra shift every week and send the extra to your loans, knowing that money didn’t get taxed.

Because it’s obvious our current system doesn’t work.  The rich people are upset because they pay so much, and the poor people are upset because somehow they think the rich people should pay “their fair share” (a term that I still have never gotten quantified by any liberal I’ve asked).

Let’s look at a scenario:

Two married couples. Their spouses stay home with their three kids. One is a nurse and the other is an office worker.

At the end of the year the nurse made $92K working every weekend, overtime, holidays, and night shift. The nurse pays just over $5K in income tax. The office worker makes $36K and doesn’t pay any income tax, but actually receives $3K as a “refund” from the govt.

These are solid numbers. How do I know? Because both were me separated by 6 years. I made that much as an entry level computer programmer, and then went to nursing school and earned that much as a nurse by working every weekend, 48-60 hours a week, almost all holidays, and night shift. I earned it. Now if I had NOT done any of that extra stuff, I would have earned about $40K instead of $92K, and I would have gotten a “refund” instead of paying tax. Why should my hard work be punished by a 8K deficit?

The answer is: it shouldn’t.  If my options were: work no extra and get 36K (10% flat tax) or work all that extra and get $83K (10% flat tax which I rounded up), I would have been happy to pay the 10%.

So let’s see what the GOP and Trump have in store for us.

 

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Nakedness

Reading Genesis chapter 3 I am struck by the fact that Adam and Eve, upon eating the fruit, had their eyes opened and they realized that they were naked before God. We tend to focus on the meaning of the word naked the way we use it to mean “without clothing” when in fact I believe what the Bible is trying to convey is not just that they were without clothing but that they had something to be ashamed of and had no way of hiding it.

The nakedness of Adam and Eve was not the problem. Their lack of clothing was not an issue before they sinned. Why not? Because they had nothing to hide. When we say that you are naked we mean that you cannot hide what it is that you want to hide. When we are referring to clothing, you obviously want to hide the parts of your body that nobody else is supposed to see. But, the nakedness that Adam and Eve experienced before they sinned had nothing to do with their lack of clothing because it wasn’t a problem. The fact that they were naked was perfectly acceptable to them because they had nothing to hide nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to repent of.

Perhaps one of the problems in our society today stems from the fact that we do not realize how truly naked we are without the covering of the blood of Christ as we stand before God who sees all and knows all. We think we can hide things from Him. We think nobody knows what we do behind closed doors. But the Bible says in Hebrews 4:13
“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

No matter how much you think you have hidden from God, you can be sure that you have hidden absolutely nothing from him. The idea that God doesn’t know or doesn’t understand the sins you have committed could not be more wrong. One day your sins will be laid bare before Him and you will have to acknowledge that He has known all along that you do not deserve Paradise but rather an eternity in hell. How much better to recognize that fact and be forgiven for those sins while there is still time?

When a person trusts in Christ as Savior, the Bible makes reference of receiving a cloak. When we get to heaven we will receive new robes. Adam and Eve received robes made of skins from a dead animal. The reason why those of us in heaven are given robes is to signify the fact that the only reason we are there is that Jesus has taken away our shame. He has taken away our reason for wanting to hide something. Since we will be wearing the robes of the righteousness of Christ, we have nothing to hide from God. We have already been forgiven for every sin we have ever committed as followers of Jesus Christ.

So the question is not, “Are you naked?” because we all are naked before God. The question is, “Has your nakedness, your shame at your sin, been covered by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ?”

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