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prayer invite

A Kansas City, Kansas police officer was shot and killed on Tuesday. Police Captain Robert Melton was 46 years old. He gave 17 years of service to the Kansas City Police Department. He also was a veteran of the Kansas Army National Guard, who served in Afghanistan.

He was a dedicated servant who deeply cared for others. He understood the meaning of sacrifice and service. He lived out a calling to help people in distress even if it put his own life in peril.

Pray for his family and friends, the KC police department, and the Army community. Ask that God would comfort the friends and family of Captain Melton and strengthen them for the days ahead.

 

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Today America celebrates 240 years of independence. As many are inclined to celebrate with fireworks, picnics, and parades, the Forth of July also provides the perfect opportunity to look back on the document and the ideas that brought us to this place in time.

When one looks at the Declaration of Independence the emphasis is clearly on reasons to separate from England.  It also articulates the fundamental ideas that form our nation:  all men are created free and equal and possess the same inherent, natural rights. These rights are not imagined, decreed, or penned on paper by mankind, but found in the eternal “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” When rights are viewed and expressed as “God-given” the Declaration’s meaning transcends the particulars of time and circumstance.  It means that these rights are inherently possessed by all men because of the Almighty.

There are five references to God in the Declaration of Independence, two in the first paragraph, one in the middle, and two in the last paragraph.

As we continue our Fourth of July celebrations, may we take time to appreciate the idea that we are free people, but ultimately that our American freedom was born of God.

fig tree

Things aren’t always as they seem. How long was the Hundred Years’ War? It lasted 116 years. When do Russians celebrate the October Revolution? They celebrate it in November. What country sells the most Panama hats? Ecuador is known for the famous straw hat.

In Mark 11, Jesus makes a similar observation. Jesus is walking from Bethany to Jerusalem.  From a distance, He sees a beautiful green fig tree. It looks wonderful. It is full of leaves and seems to be a bastion of good health. When Jesus arrives at the tree, hoping to eat a hand full of young fig buds, there is nothing. The tree is barren. It has no fruit. It produces nothing.

Typically, fig trees make buds each March and they eventually turn into delicious figs. The buds are green like the leaves of the tree, so you need to carefully inspect the tree. When Jesus looks it over, there is nothing to find. The tree gives shade but no nourishment. It gives comfort with no provision. Help but no hope. The green, leafy, tree unfortunately produces nothing.

Jesus curses the tree for that very reason. It yields nothing. Despite all of the right signs and appearances, the tree is not what it seems to be. Jesus doesn’t condemn leaves, they are necessary for trees to live and grow. But we cannot be content with leaves alone.

Things aren’t always as they seem. A church might appear to be “healthy” when you look at it from a distance, only to be disappointed on closer inspection. The fruit it bears will tell the story. Individuals are the same way. A person may show all the right signs of “health” like a leafy fig tree, but bear no spiritual fruit.

The lesson of the fig tree is that we should bear spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). If we only appear to bear fruit, then we have missed the point and purpose of what God desires. God judges fruitlessness, and expects that those who have a relationship with Him will “bear much fruit” (John 15:5-8).

May our lives yield a bumper crop of spiritual fruit that benefits mankind and pleases the Lord.

closet

I had the privilege of officiating a wedding on Saturday. Everyone dresses up for a wedding. The bride and groom look sharp. The wedding party put on fancy outfits and fix up their hair. Even guests get into the act. They dress up, no matter how hot the weather may be. People always want to look their best for a wedding. We clothe ourselves differently from day to day attire, because a wedding is a special occasion.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:12-14, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

As Christians, we should clothe ourselves in love each day. We should “look sharp” all the time, no matter the event or the location. Love is not a unique garment that should be worn on special occasions, but an item to wear every single day.

Before you put on your socks or lace up your shoes, remember that there is one more item to wear before you head out the door. Clothe yourself in love.

 

 

Pray for Orlando

prayer invite

Sunday’s horrifying attack was the worst mass shooting in America’s history and it is the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.

Pray for the injured in this tragedy and the families of all the victims who lost their lives. Ask God to comfort those who mourn the loss of family and friends.

May Christian men and women rise up to support each other in this time of tragedy. Help us to remember that you are the strong tower we seek when times are tough. Guide our hands and feet to respond in a Christ-like manner.

difficulty1

It may seem like a paradox, but difficult times strengthen our faith and nourish relationships. Talking with my grandparents and their friends, I could detect a trend that seemed almost universal.  They would reminiscence and share stories on truly tumultuous times.  They would talk about WWII, the Great Depression, dust storms, blizzards, or the loss of crops and livestock.

We are no different. Ask any strong, stable family where they got such strength, and you will likely hear a story of crisis.  Times of hardship allow us to see where our faith and confidence is placed.  Biblical characters like Job and Abraham survived excruciating trials of faith.  Ultimately, the purest faith emerges from these difficult circumstances.

1 Peter 5:10 shares, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

May God strengthen us for today and the days ahead.

boy and girl

I read a story on parenting a few years ago.  It was eye opening to say the least.

A mom and a dad wanted to start a family.  They wanted to raise their child in a better way than they had experienced.  The parents wanted to raise their child to have better choices free from social norms that they considered harmful in our world.  This all sounded fine and dandy until I read their plan.

You see, they believe that society imposes certain gender norms on people.  And these norms make us who we are.  Biology has nothing to do with it.  Boys are wrapped in blue blankets and girls are wrapped in pink blankets at the hospital.  We are all hapless victims of circumstance and society after that.  Boys play with toy guns and girls play with dolls.  This forms us.  Boys take wood shop in school while girls take home economics.  This determines who you are.  All of these social constructs are then forced down on the individual child and that is what makes us a guy or a gal.  We become products of our environment and mirror the social norms around us.

The couple has a child and launch out on their parenting plan.  From this point on, the story reads more like a strange sociology experiment.  They give their child a gender neutral name.  They dress their child in neutral clothes, so that it could decide if it wanted to be a boy or girl.  They give their child a neutral haircut or hair style, so that it can have the freedom to choose its own gender.  You see the parents are just waiting for the child to tell the parents how it wants to be raised, known, and identified.  Will the child play with boys or girls on the playground at school?  They will stay out of the way until the individual child makes a decision.

This libertine parenting method struck me as very odd.  Why would these parents purposefully keep truth from their own child?  If there is no truth from mom and dad, what kind of life will this kid endure?  What other choices are they leaving up to their child?  Why wouldn’t they try to help, protect, and actually raise their kid?

A laissez-faire approach to life can only get you so far without dramatic consequences.  I am personally grateful that my parents taught me that fire is hot, some snakes are poisonous, and to come in from the rain.  That sounds ridiculous, but so is laissez-faire parenting.  Perhaps it is best to share the truth with those that we love.  Living in the example of Jesus, wouldn’t that be a better way?

Part of that truth is that we are made in the image of God.  Psalm 139:14 declares, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . . .”  Each life is a wonderful masterpiece made by our Creator, the Living God.  God does not make garbage.  While people may question who they are or why they are here, they always bear the fingerprint of the Master.

God made us male and female.  Pointing to Genesis 1:27 is not bigotry, but science.  Our DNA is unique from our parents.  Gender is determined immediately upon fertilization or when life begins. The 23rd pair of chromosomes will establish the sex of a baby.  Biology, not feelings or childhood toys, determines our gender.

We are all called to honor God with our body.  This means living in purity.  This is accomplished by upholding fidelity in marriage and upholding chastity outside of marriage.  We need to be aware of potential temptations and be transparent with those who hold us accountable.  This is also where parents need to speak truth to their children.  A laissez-faire parenting plan in this arena is reckless and harmful.  Teach your kids what is right, don’t ignore the truth.  Scripture calls us to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” and to be “transformed by the renewing of your minds” Romans 12:1-2.  Heaven help us all to live by this standard.

As the bathroom wars of 2016 go on, let us remember to speak the truth to those we love.  Let us also remember that parenting is a ministry of the heart that deserves our very best and sharing what we know is never the wrong answer.

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