What 20th Century Germany Teaches Us About 21st Century America

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously wrote “The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one’s bread; on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing. People should at least understand and concede this if they call themselves Christian.” It was a timely observation for what the German church was facing in the 1930’s. It is no less timely for our day as well.
 
Germany, like the U.S.A., had a rich Christian history. Germany was the seat of the Protestant reformation, the motherland of the most influential protestant reformer in history, Martin Luther. The country was also a historically important seat of Catholicism. Germany was very much what one might call a Christian nation.
 
During the 1920’s and 30’s, German Christians were under great pressure to compromise their theology and religion in favor of the hope promised by the Nazi movement. Their country had been crippled by the reparation payments spelled out in the peace treaty that ended World War I. The country defaulted on their payments and the value of the German mark plummeted. The price of a loaf of bread soared to near 200 billion marks.
 
Well-meaning Christians would fall victim to the Nazi’s nationalistic propaganda machine. In very short order, church leaders would concede power to the Nazi party, rewrite the Bible jettisoning the Old Testament and all Jewish references in the New Testament, ban Jewish converts from the ministry, and burn thousands of books deemed anti-Arian.
 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a key figure in rescuing a remnant of the true church in Germany from Hitler’s synchronistic agenda. Bonhoeffer was deeply affected by the racism he saw in the American south on a visit to the U.S.A. in the late-1930’s. For him, nothing was more antichristian than racist hate. While others remained blind to the racism of the Nazis, Bonhoeffer bravely and defiantly called it out.
 
Most German Christians ignored Bonhoeffer’s warnings and bowed to Hitler and the Nazis not because they were ruthless anti-Semites (Jew haters). The truth is that they were fooled. Bonhoeffer observed that their lackadaisical approach to the faith had eroded their devotion to Christ. Christ was no longer their bread, but a mere dinner-mint after supper.
 
The church he served and loved was consumed by the frenzied mob mentality of the Nazi movement. While they might not have been willing to surrender the whole of their Christian heritage, they were at least willing to contort their theology at the suggestion of anyone who promised them a brighter future. That compromise by individual Christians and the church as a whole is what laid the foundation for the most atrocious event in human history.
 
It is so important for us to learn from the mistakes of others. We live in a time where hope is highly demanded and shortly supplied. There are dozens of different movements out there vying for the attention of well-meaning but weak-minded Christians. They all offer the bread of hope and justice, but we must see them for the cruel traps that they are.
 
For the Christian, Christ must be the bread… the supper… the full meal and not merely the dinner mint. We do not need a particular political party to give us hope. We do not need the promises of another politician. We do not need another movement. We need Jesus. He is our only hope and peace.
 
Any political platform that calls you to compromise your Christian values should be adamantly denounced. Any movement that questions the plain teaching of the Christian Scriptures is to be avoided like the plague. You should resist the urge to get caught up in the frenzied movements that characterize the American culture wars.
 

We are called to be the salt and the light of the world. If we learn anything from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his weak minded contemporaries in the German church it is this: you cannot be salt and light if you are following the crowds. If you want to truly make a difference, you will follow Jesus. If hope is what you are hungry for, it is found in Him. If joy is what you are thirsty for, it is abundantly available to those who serve him. Stand firm. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus comes to give you life and life abundantly (John 10:10 paraphrased).


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Joining the Father in the Workshop of Life

A few weeks ago I received the most special request from my son. He asked if, for his ninth birthday, I would build him a set of bunkbeds for his room. But that was only part of his request. He also asked if he could help me do the building. I was honored, and I happily obliged.
 
The first task, after finding the plans online and buying the wood, was to cut up the boards used to build the head and footboards. I taught him to use a tape measure to make a mark down to the sixteenth of an inch. Then I showed him how to lay the square on the board to mark a straight line for the cut. At last, I would cut the board and he would lay it in the correct stack. We repeated this process until all the boards were cut to the correct lengths.
 
The plans for this bunkbed set called for several hundred pocket holes. This requires the use of a special jig. I showed him how to use the jig. I would clamp the jig down on the board and drill a hole. Then, he would drill the second hole. He drilled about forty or fifty the pocket holes and thought he was really something.
 
Over the next weeks, we screwed everything together according to the plans and sanded, and sanded, and sanded some more. He would ask me several times a day what was left to do on the project. Each time I would run down the list of what still had to be finished.
 
Finally, last Friday after school, we were ready to start staining. I showed him how to handle the brush and apply the stain with the grain of the wood to make a smooth finish. After everything was stained then we set about applying the clear top coat of polyurethane. He glowed with excitement as the beauty of the work we had put in began to be revealed by the clear topcoat.
 
Saturday was the day. He got up early and cleaned his room. With the help of his older sister, we carried all the pieces in and assembled the bed while mom went to purchase the mattress for the bottom bunk. At the end of the day, the boy was on cloud nine and declared more than a few times that this was “the best birthday ever!”
 
I tell you this story because I think a lot of times we overstate that God is all-powerful and does not need our help. While this is true, if we are content to just let God work and never seek to pitch in with Him, we miss out on so much. No, he does not need our help, but there is so much that we have to learn from Him. Do not forget, it is His desire to be a Father to us and have a relationship with us. That is why He saved us in the first place.
 
I did not need my boy’s help. I had all the power and knowhow to complete the project on my own. After all, I am thirty-seven years old and have a wealth of experience building things. Likewise, our heavenly Father does not need our help to accomplish His will and plan. The truth is we probably get in the way more than we “help,” but He is a patient Father who loves for us to learn and work at His side.
 
It is true that “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8). There is no work that you could accomplish that is going to win you favor with God. This, however, does not negate the other side of that truth… “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). There is real work that He has for us to do. Work that He prepared beforehand.
 

Let me encourage you to join your Heavenly Father in the workshop of life. There is so much for you to learn. There is so much for you to do. You can make a real difference and find the joy that comes in living a life that is pleasing to Him.


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Living with Joy

It was the first day of the Seventh month of the year 445 B.C. The captives of Israel had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. In less than six months’ time, Nehemiah had led and completed the reconstruction of the city walls despite many trials and conflicts from without and within the Israelite community. He has now gathered the whole assembly together into the square facing the Water Gate.
 
A giant wooden platform had been erected in this square. Standing atop the platform was Ezra the priest along with a delegation of Levites. Ezra stood behind a podium upon which sat The Book of the Law. In this book were written the first five books of the Bible which outlined the community’s beginnings and the righteous requirements of the Almighty for His people.
 
Ezra opened the Book of the Law and began to read. He would pause periodically and one of the Levites would speak and give the sense of what had just been read. Ezra would pick up where he left off and begin reading again. The people sat in quiet attention as the severity and the kindness of God was read and explained in perfect detail.
 
By the end of the book, the people had come to realize, through Ezra’s reading and the Levites’ preaching, why they had been tossed out of the promise land in the first place. God had set before their ancestors a blessing and a curse. They had chosen the curse rather than the blessing by worshipping false gods and transgressing their covenant. Forty years later and the nation was still suffering for this error. They all understood clearly, were broken-hearted, and wept bitterly under the shadow of the great platform as the word was read and preached over them.
 
In the midst of their brokenness, Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites spoke again and commanded the people not to weep. One of them said, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Absolutely amazing. Here the people are convicted and broken over their sin having been moved by the preachers’ bold proclamation of the word. Now the preachers move from preaching the Law of God to preaching grace the grace of God.
 
The nation had erred. For future reference, the people needed to know just how serious was that error. They needed to be broken, however, it was not profitable for them to remain in that brokenness. It was just as important for them to know that God’s anger had abated, and His covenant was being restored. They needed their mourning to be turned to joy, for the joy of the Lord was their strength.
 
This is such an important lesson for us. Too often our view of God gets skewed by unbalanced preaching or lack of communion with God. If your pastor is always preaching the severity of God in His judgments and omitting the preaching of grace, or if you are not spending time with God in personal prayer and Bible study then you can start to see God as a ruthless tyrant that is just out to get you. The reality is that God is good. He is slow to anger. He is abounding in steadfast love and mercy. His desire is for you to find joy in the grace that he supplies.
 
Our strength is not in fear. Our strength comes from the joy that God supplies. His grace, that is greater than our sin, empowers us to live lives characterized by joy. We are among those who have been confronted with our sin, and who have come to know the One who saves us from sin. Our mourning has been turned to rejoicing. We have been crucified with Christ, and like Him, we have been raised from the dead by His perfect and unbounded love.
 

I encourage you to live in joy. Yes, you have sinned against God, but if you have repented and believed in Jesus as Savior then you have been set free from sin. You have died, and yet you live. So live! Live in the strength of His joy.


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The Peace Offering and The Lord’s Supper

I recently embarked upon the task of leading my congregation through the book of Leviticus on Wednesday nights. I have never before attempted to do this mostly because I have never felt ready. Leviticus is a tough book to study, but I have found that if you put the hard work in, it will yield delightfully rich fruit.
 

Take the peace offering introduced in Leviticus 3 for example. This was an offering that the Lord prescribed for those who wished to have fellowship with God. It could be an expression of thanks or praise to God. It could also be offered in petition for God’s help in times of hardship.

Here is what was so special about peace offerings. In it, only the fat (the premium choice cuts) of the animal and its blood were burned upon the altar. The rest was divided between the priest and the offeror(s). It was the only kind of sacrificial burnt offering where the individual bringing the offering was permitted to eat a portion of the sacrificed animal.

God gave his people the peace offering so that they could have communion with Him. Think about it, sitting down around a table in a home or at a restaurant is one of our favorite things to do with the people we love. We share meals together after weddings and funerals. A meal was involved in most lifelong sweethearts’ first dates. This is what the Lord afforded his people in the peace offering, a chance to share a meal with the God who loved them and whom they loved.

There are several notable instances in the Old Testaments where peace offerings were given. A peace offering was prescribed in Leviticus 23:19 as a part of the Feast of Weeks celebration (what the Greeks called Pentecost). A peace offering was sacrificed in Deuteronomy 27 just before Moses’ death. Another was given in 1 Samuel 11 after a great victory over the Philistines. My favorite reference to a peace offering is in 1 Kings 8:63, where King Solomon, to dedicate the newly built temple, sacrificed a peace offering so large that the whole nation was able to share in a communion feast with God!

I was wonderfully blessed by studying the peace offering in the Old Testament, but what really blew my mind was when I shifted to studying how the peace offering relates to the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is the tricky thing about Old Testament studies. We have a bad habit of leaving the Old Testament in the Old Testament instead of allowing it to point us to the Christ of the New Testament.

I began to ask the question, is there anything like a peace offering in the New Testament? Is there a place where the worshippers gather around to eat the flesh of a sacrifice? There is!

In John 6:47-57, Jesus told His Jewish inquisitors that unless they ate His flesh and drank his blood they would have “no life.” They thought He was senile, but if they had understood what He was saying and how it related to the peace offering, they would have had peace and fellowship with God. They would have been there at the last supper when Jesus said, “This bread is my body which was given for you… this cup is my blood which takes away sins and gives life.”

What has the Spirit revealed except that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was a peace offering in reverse? It was God sacrificing His most precious possession. It was Him inviting us to a feast upon the Lamb that was slain by eating the bread which symbolizes the flesh of the sacrifice and drinking the cup which symbolizes His blood. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper we demonstrate to God that we accept His peace offering.

 
One other thing: In the Old Testament it was forbidden to eat the blood of any animal. All clean animals were given for food, but the blood belonged only to God because the blood was the animal’s life. With that in mind, ponder this: Jesus invites us, not only to eat His flesh but to drink His blood. My English will not allow me to describe how significant is this statement. In it, He invites us to feast on His life and take it into ourselves. His blood gives us life!

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What Does It Mean To Live A Christian Life?

Ask a dozen Christians this question and you will get a dozen different answers. Most of the answers will be some form of “live a good life, please the Lord, be like Jesus, and set the example.” These answers are not necessarily wrong. Good works that please the Lord and set the example for others are fruit of the Spirit, but there is a more biblical answer.
 
The best answer for what the Christian life is all about is summarized in Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
 
The first sentence says, “I have been crucified with Christ.” By this Paul means that he has died to any notion that he can live the life required to please God. He had already blown it. God had created him, given him life, and made it clear what were His righteous requirements. Paul had come up short. Add to this that God had sent His only son to Paul’s rescue, an offer he had initially rejected. Worse, he was a persecutor of the church. It was because of rebellious people like Paul that Jesus suffered condemnation and death.
 
When Paul came to the realization that he had blown it, the man that he once was died. He was nailed to the cross with Christ. He had experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit when he came face to face with Christ on the Road to Damascus. Sorrow over His sin led him to identify with and comprehend the suffering of Christ. He died of godly sorrow.
 
However, he did not remain dead. The next phrase reads, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” When Paul reached the realization that he had blown it… when he died to himself… the crucified and risen Christ came into Paul and took up residence in his heart. By this, Paul, who was once dead and crucified with Christ, was raised up and made to live. Before this occasion where Christ came into Paul, he had been unable to please God, but now, by the power of Christ living in him, he would be able to live for God’s glory. It would not be Paul who was pleasing the Lord, but the Christ who was living in him.
 
After his experience on the Damascus road where he died and was raised again, Paul would not be satisfied with just hanging out and waiting for Jesus to return or call him home. Paul would L-I-V-E. He planted churches all over the Roman world. He was instrumental in raising up new leaders of the Christian faith who would carry on the leadership of the Church after the apostles were martyred. He prayed. He studied. He gave generously. He was honest. He would author much of the New Testament under divine inspiration. All of this represented the life that Paul lived, “in the flesh.”
 
He tells us in Galatians 2:20 that that life he lived in the flesh, he “lived by faith in the Son of God” who loved and gave Himself up for Paul. This is to say that Paul lived not by trusting in his own accomplishments or goodness, but by trusting in Jesus, His life, death, burial, and resurrection. It was the good work that Christ had done for him that caused him to be able to live an abundant life, bringing honor and praise to God the Father.
 

So here is the most biblical answer to the question, “What is the Christian life all about?” First, it is about dying… everyday realizing that the penalty for your sin was suffered by Christ on the cross. Apart from Christ, there is no chance of you pleasing God. If you ever had an opportunity to honor God in your life, you blew it a long time ago. Second, it is about living. If you have died to yourself, then you have also been raised to a new life. So live! Jesus loved you and gave Himself up for you so that by faith in His sacrifice you could live, and with Him living in you, you could make an impact for His glory.


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One Bible Text That Will Radically Change the Way You Handle Conflict

There is one passage of scripture (just one), that if godly people would hide it in their heart it would change the world. It is a passage that I had to memorize in my spiritual formations class in seminary. I am so glad that I did. It has made a tremendous difference in my life and ministry over the past 11 years.
 
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
 
The first line says, “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone…” The word for “servant” is more accurately translated as “slave.” If one is a slave to Jesus, then he or she cannot help but be kind. To fight and quarrel is a part of their old nature that has passed away. Kindness is the characteristic of their Lord and the whole reason why they are able to serve Him in the first place. Being right, being vindicated, and coming out on top of a conflict takes a backseat to showing kindness to the one who is in err. Servants of Christ know how being shown kindness will draw the erring one to repentance and new life.
 
The passage goes on to say that the slave of Christ must be “able to teach…” The word implies that the servant must go beyond just sound teaching. One is to be apt in his or her ability to teach. When there is conflict, rather than return evil for evil, escalating the conflict into a war of words, the servant of Christ is able to provide a timely word of instruction. The ability to teach is derived from the servant’s wealth of experience in walking in step with the truth of the gospel and profound confidence in who he is in Christ. People who fly off the handle in times of conflict reveal the insecurity in their hearts and their lack of godly wisdom.
 
The Lord’s slave must be “patiently enduring evil…” As slaves of Christ, we are going to be treated badly at times. Jesus said in John 15:20, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” The problem with a lot of people who call themselves servants of Christ is that they think being a servant of Christ entitles them to better treatment. The truth is that we deserve worse. The Lord, in all of His great love and grace, has patiently endured our sin and evil. Should we not show patience and grace to those who are doing us evil?
 
We must correct our opponents “with gentleness.” Too often, when we correct opponents we do so to prove that we are right and they are wrong. There is, however, something more important than being right—your brother’s soul. The goal is to get him or her to turn away from the evil that they are doing or the untruth that they are teaching or believing. You are not going to accomplish this by issuing a harsh correction. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Our goal should always be to point our opponents to Christ, and this requires us to do so in the character of Christ.
 
The last few lines of the passage say, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” There are a few gems here. First, God is the one who grants the erring one repentance. The outcome of God granting a person repentance is two-fold. One, it leads them to the knowledge of the truth, and two, it delivers them from the snare in which they have been trapped by the devil. If we believe that we are right and they are wrong, then only God granted repentance will change their minds. It is to this end we should work and pray in every conflict.
 

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A Lesson from the Cricket Basket

In first-century Corinth, there was a great debate over food offered to idols. It was an old pagan practice around which everyone in the region grew up. The pagan temples would offer sacrifices to the gods. The meat from these sacrifices would be sold in the marketplaces and at banquets sanctioned and or hosted by the temples.
 
A shift to a monotheistic (one God) worldview was wrought by the introduction of Christ to the city. Converts began to have a conflict of conscience about the tradition. Soon, everyone had an opinion. That is what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 8:1 when he said, “now concerning food offered to idols: we know that all of us possess knowledge.”
 
The majority of people held one of two opinions. One group held that the meat was the derivative of pagan worship and inherently evil. No Christ follower should be able to eat any meat from the marketplace with a clear conscience. The other group, quite strong in their faith, stood on the truth that there was only one God, so if the pagan gods to whom the animal was sacrificed did not exist then there was no harm in consuming the meat.
 
One group condemned the other for presuming upon God’s grace. One group held the other in contempt for being legalistic. The two were vehemently opposed and divided between one another. This is why Paul said, “this knowledge, puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1b).
 
He is explaining to them that nothing good can come out of this debate. It reminds me of when, as a child, we used to buy a basket of crickets for fishing bait. If they were not all used and got left in the boat for a few days, they would eat each other one by one. Soon all you would have was one big fat cricket in the basket. That is where this debate was headed in the first century.
 
There is a huge debate going on in our nation right now. The debate centers around flags and monuments. The two sides, those who want to see the emblems removed, and those who want to see them kept, are diametrically and sometimes militantly opposed to one another.
 
I imagine Paul speaking into our current situation, “now concerning flags and monuments: we know that all of us possess knowledge. This knowledge puffs up…” All of us have an opinion, and that is the problem. The harder we grip our knowledge the more convinced we are that we have to win and our opponent has to lose. Our opponents are just as convinced of their position and that they must come out of the contest on top. Anybody see a problem here?
 
Friends, there is a better way. Love. Take a look at the rest of 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”
 
What we see daily played out on the evening news is a demonstration of our collective ignorance. It is obvious that we know nothing when we imagine that we know everything. If we imagine that we know, then we demonstrate that our “knowledge” is immature. But when we love God, we show ourselves to be known by Him. When we are known by him, our actions and reactions show themselves to be in submission to Him.
 
I wish I had space to explain the rest of the chapter. Paul goes on to conclude that neither side is right because neither of them is loving God (looking to God). If they were, then they would know as they ought.
 

This is the knowledge to which we should all cling: one single soul is worth more than all the flags and monuments in the world. Arguments could be made for leaving them standing, and arguments could be made for taking them down. You are free to have your own opinion. Only, do not allow your freedom to become a stumbling block for your brother. It is better to sacrifice your freedom for the sake of your brother’s soul. “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).


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What is a Pastor?

I am currently reading the book entitled The Pastor, by Eugene Peterson and have been reminded just how much our increasingly secularized culture has shaped the perception of what it is to be a pastor. When we think of a pastor, we get one of two pictures in our minds. One is of a clean shaven, sharply dressed fellow who stands behind the pulpit and wows the congregation with his oratory and poetic skill. The other, a tattooed hipster with gelled hair in a tee-shirt and skinny jeans with the masterful ability to communicate the mysteries of spirituality all the while keeping you relaxed enough to not spill your overpriced coffee. Neither of these caricatures even come close to what is a real pastor.
 
I guess the simplest definition for “pastor” is the person who leads a church, but that definition does not help unless we define what is a church. A church is a body of believers. What is a body? It is a metaphor illustrating how many members are joined together to function as one person. Just as your hand has a specific function in your body but is not independent of the feet, so also each member of the church has a specific function but does not operate independently of the rest of the members. The body that is the church was fashioned by God and has Jesus as the head.
 
The pastor leads this body, but I must be careful with that word “lead” too. He leads by being a servant. He cares for the members and makes sure each is functioning properly. This is a daunting task in this dark and evil age. His members are navigating difficulty, loss, temptation, and the consequences of sin. He keeps them fed with the word of God. To do this, he has to know them. He has to be available to them in their hardest darkest days and able to encourage them with the truth of God’s word.
 
Perhaps there is an even better definition. A pastor is one who cares for a congregation. What is a congregation? It is a collection of people. His congregation is made up believers and unbelievers. There are people in the congregation who are loving servants of the Lord, and there are some still wrestling with whether or not to follow Jesus. There are others who have been deceived, either by themselves or others, into believing that they are Christ followers, but they are really not. The pastor must care for all in this congregation of people. He must be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged and able to correct gentleness (cf. 2 Timothy 2:21-25).
 
Additionally, I would say that the office of pastor is a vocation. By “vocation” I do not mean that he is a professional. The word vocation literally means a calling. Pastor is not just a title. It is definitely not just a job. A pastor may attend seminary and receive training in his vocation, but a pastor does not become a pastor by earning a degree(s). Neither does he become a pastor by being ordained. The title of pastor is earned as he works in his vocation and is formed into the role by his God.
 
I am in no way offering myself as the picture of what a good pastor looks like. When it comes to leading the body, caring for the congregation, and learning the vocation, I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. I want to be better though. I want to earn the honor of being called “pastor” by the people I love and serve. I know that I have been called by God, and I pray daily that He will form me into my vocation.
 
If your pastor leads the body, cares for the congregation, and takes his vocation seriously, then you can count it another blessing from God. If your pastor is not the leader he should be, then pray for him. He is probably just like me, still learning. Be patient with him. Be understanding. Encourage him regularly.
 
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’” 1 Timothy 5:17-18

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Learning to Live With Her in and Understanding Way

I met my wife 17 years ago. We have been madly in love almost since that very day. We have learned so much about each other and about doing life together. Every day seems to carry a new lesson.
 
I received a fresh lesson this past weekend. I asked her on a date. Yes, you read that right. She excitedly said yes. I was thrilled! I wanted this date to be different. I was going to really out do myself, so I decided that we would, in lieu of dinner and a movie, do dinner and a jet ski. Yes, you read that right as well.
 
Dinner was fantastic. We treated ourselves spending an inordinate amount of money, but it was just fine considering that it had been a while since we had indulged in such a treat. Then, we went down to the beach and rented a jet ski. Once again we spent a lot of money, but this was going to be the date to top all dates. We decided to rent only one machine, so we could ride together. It was going to be romantic.
 
All was going wonderfully until we climbed aboard the machine. Every male under the age of 70 understands what a jet ski is designed to do—mainly to go really fast and do donuts on the water. God gave his prized creatures jet skis and big waves to satisfy their heart’s longing to soar above the surf.
 
After about one minute on the machine, it became clear that God had not revealed this little nugget to the girl that he created bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. I totally misread the look of sheer terror on her face. I thought it was like, you know when you ride a rollercoaster; you are having a blast, but you look terrified. Little did I know, she definitely was not “having a blast.”
 
It was not until the thing tipped over and delivered us into the warm salty waters of the gulf, that I started to realize that she was not having a good time. No worries, I thought, now she sees that falling off is not as bad as she feared. But then we tipped over a second time, and she gave full vent to what she thought about me, the jet ski, the sea water, the jet ski rental place, the sun, the moon, the stars… you get the picture.
 
She was ready to go to the shore and leave me to ride the evil contrivance by myself, but I was eager to salvage the date and more than that to make the woman I love happy. So, for the last thirty minutes, I drove the ski like a man three times my age.
 
It was on about the third turtle-paced lap around the boundary area that it happened. As we were on a south heading, I peek around to look at her. The sunset was reflecting off one side of her smiling face, and the light of the almost full moon shined on the other. She did not have to say it. The look in her eyes expressed just how deeply in love she is with me.
 
Here is the lesson, men: Peter, who was a happily married man, nailed it when he wrote, “husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life…” (1 Peter 3:7). If you truly love your wife, then you will be understanding of her. Even when she is unreasonably terrified of things you find amusing, you will show honor to her. She is your mate and heir with you of the grace of life. You were meant to enjoy sharing your lives together as you both prepare for the bliss of heaven.
 
No matter how right you are, when you insist on your own way, you cause her to feel scared and insecure. Her fear and insecurity will affect both of you. She will be terrified, and you will be miserable. However, if you will be understanding… if you will just slow down, then you will be the thrill of her life. She will be happy. You will be happy, and the two of you will be able to show the world the happiness found in sacrificial love.
 

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I Want to Change the World

I want to change the world. I know; it is crazy, right? I want to be a part of something big, something revolutionary and earth shaking. I want to leave my mark on society, a legacy for generations to come. I want to honor the Lord and make my parents proud.
 
It is frustrating though. I am nearing halfway through my earthly journey, and I cannot seem to get any traction on attaining my dream. Honestly, changing the world is hard work. With all my heart, I strive to set the world afire with passion. With enthusiasm, excitement, and a sense of purpose, I fan the flame within me expecting it to consume the world, but the cold winds of discouragement, doubt, and anxiety constantly blow in the opposite direction. Sometimes I wonder if I am making any impact at all.
 
I have been studying the lives of the great reformers of church history. Martin Luther was born in 1483. I was born in 1980. Call me crazy, but it just strikes me, the similarities between the last two digits of our birth years (83 vs 80). Guess what Luther did in 1517. He nailed his ninety-five thesis to the door of the church at Wittenberg, a move that stoked the flames of the Protestant Reformation into an out-of-control inferno. He was three years younger than me which makes me wonder, why is it taking me so long?
 
Did Luther have a greater cause than me? Did he want to make a difference more than me? No, I believe we share a common cause and passion. I concede that He was much smarter than me and much more talented. This, however, does nothing to quell my heart’s question. Why can I not seem to make a difference?
 
In a much more exhaustive study of the life of Luther and that of other reformers, I receive my answer. I am like them in passion, however, I am different from them in mindset. To change the world was not their first objective. Rather, to serve God faithfully was their primary objective. Compared to me, their priorities were much more in line. Indeed, they changed the world, but only through their faithful service to God. Like Joshua at Jericho, it was not their passion or talent but their faithfulness that brought down the walls.
 
They got discouraged just like me. Men like Huss, Luther, Knox, Calvin, and Spurgeon were known to suffer from depression and anxiety. They were hard pressed on every side, but they pressed on and overcame by the strength and joy of the Lord.
 
Their lives gave witness to the truth of Romans 5:2-4, “…we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Suffering persecution and endless doubt did not quell their hope. Rather, it was under the tutelage their trials that they learned to hope all the more in the glory of God. Tribulation did not cause them to hope less. It caused them to cling to Him even more.
 
This is how they were strengthened and made able to endure. Their sufferings and discouragement did not reduce the temperature of the fire within them. Every frustration, difficulty, trial, and tribulation served as fuel for their heart fires. With every lash of the enemy’s whip, they grew more obedient, more faithful. It was not in their determination but in their emotional and physical vulnerabilities that Christ was shown to be powerfully at work in them.
 
I still want to change the world, but now I understand that I must be faithful first. What about you? Do you want to change the world? Then be faithful. Christ is in you. Do not place your confidence in your passion or talents, nor your enthusiasm. Instead be confident and “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
 

Every challenge is an opportunity to show that He is faithful. Every weakness is an endowment from Christ, who through your weakness shows Himself to be strong. Tribulation is your tutor from whom you will learn perseverance. Every moment of suffering is a gift from God, given to refine your faith and prove your character. With every great trial, you will accumulate more hope. Just be faithful. Then, watch the walls come tumbling down.


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