Friday, March 31, 2017

A Tribute to Grandpa: Building a Legacy of Dignity & Honor


Last week there was a mass shooting in Wausau, Wisconsin that claimed the lives of four people one of them being a police officer.  A man distraught by a pending divorce came into Marathon bank and shot two people, one of whom was a close friend of my grandpa Bernie.  The man shot a lawyer involved in the divorce case, and a police officer in a stand off.  He was later arrested.

The situation upset my grandpa a great deal.  The woman he knew was just about to retire, and had told grandpa how excited she was about finally retiring.  Grandpa was very upset, and all that morning he was sorrowful.  He had a heart attack later that day, and he passed away.

I'd like to tell you about my grandpa and what he meant to me.  Many of us have a story that involves ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, and often that story reaches a turning point.  The turning points tend to be at a moment when we learn about who Jesus Christ is and what His place in history is.  

At the age of 17 my parents divorced, and I was expelled from high school a few months later after using drugs in frustration over my issues in the world.  From there my life spiraled, and soon I was accumulating charges, jail time, and probation as one accumulates groceries in a shopping cart. 

Little did I know that as I passed into my twenties, binging further and further into outer darkness there was a quiet revolution taking place in my family.  It started when my grandpa Bernie began attending a biblical Christian church called Good News church of Mosinee.  Grandpa found a vital personal relationship with Jesus Christ at this church and was baptized into the living body of Christ.  And a few years later my mother, inspired by this victory, began attending this church as well, and was baptized into the body of Christ soon after.  As I meandered into addiction and darkness, embracing self destruction and petty pleasures, a band of renegade Christ-followers, real radicals, began praying for me.  This bible study prayed for me for many years, unbeknownst to me. 

I think I was about twenty-six when Grandpa asked through my mom if I would meet with him to talk about things.  I don't know why I agreed to this.  Normally I would refuse completely to be scolded and slapped for being a bad boy.  But for some reason I accepted this offer.  

Grandpa sat down with me one and one, and had the courage and boldness to hand me my first Bible.  It was a gift, and I accepted it.  He then talked to me about Jesus.  And I raised my various complaints and objections to the faith.  What about the gnostic gospels?  What about people who never heard about Jesus?  Who made God?  Why does God allow evil in the world?  Why is Jesus the only way?  And Grandpa answered me the best he could.  But I never forgot the way in which he presented Jesus to me.  He presented a loving Christ, and Christ that had given him joy and transformed his life.  I never forgot the joy on his face when he told me about Jesus.

I thought he was a fool.  I thought it was a nice thing that he did.  But I fundamentally thought it was stupid.  But I had done my part.  I had humored him and his nonsense.  So I went on my way.  And continued with the drugs, the drink, and the pariah lifestyle.  But for some odd reason, as I trucked around town walking from here to there, carrying my laptop computer in a bag, going from coffee shop to basement couch and on and on, I carried that Bible with me too.  And I started to read from it. It was after all a fascinating part of our culture and society.  I read a lot from the book of Genesis.  I enjoyed the stories.  I read from it and wrote about it.  

For a solid year I did this.  And again I received a gift that Christmas.  For some reason I asked for Christian stuff.  I think I wanted to learn more.  In a stroke of genius my cousin purchased for me a movie called "The Gospel of John."  The movie being word for word, the actual book of John from the Bible in narrative visual format.  Being obsessive, I watched this movie probably over 200 times.  For some reason I kept watching it over and over.  There was something special coming through from the words and the dialogue.  

Soon as I reached rock bottom, after overdosing in the emergency room twice and almost dying in ICU intensive care I finally had had enough.  I knew I needed something different in my life.  I knew I needed help.  So one night, wretched to the core, I fell down on my knees by the old fire place and something came to my mind that I ought to cry out to Jesus for help.  So I did.  I cried out to Jesus begging him to help me in total despair and abandon.  

Today I'm a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.  I've been clean from drugs for 4 years and 5 months.  I'm a graduate magna cum laude from Liberty University with two degrees.  I'm an accepted candidate for officership in the Salvation Army Central Territory (USA).  And it all began when my Grandpa Bernie handed me my first Bible and told me about Jesus.

Ever since then Grandpa has meant a lot to me.  He was the one man in my family I could look up to as a man of honor and dignity.  Grandpa was part of a rare breed, a generation of men who had dignity and honor.  He was part of a generation who fought in Korea, who stood for justice in the world.  

There's one story I always recall from Grandpa's war time service in Korea.  He was an MP.  All of the MPs would head into the towns nearby to go after the women, and drink and carouse and all that.  He told me how he had gotten married right before going to Korea.  And only him and one other guy would sit on the sandbags as the rest of the guys went and did that.  And the guy sitting next to him would say,"Everybody else is going out to have a good time.  And I'm stuck here with this dumb pollock."  

But what Grandpa did then, had eternal consequences.  What he did then was he began establishing a legacy.  95% of the guys went into town to throw decency, honor, and dignity to the wind.  Grandpa stayed behind.  

Later, Grandpa served as the chief of police of Rothschild, Wisconsin.  He kept scales on his desk, a reference to the scales that lady liberty holds in which she is weighing things rightly, to uphold justice and truth.  And on one side of the scales he kept a picture of his daughter Kelly as a child.  And in the other, his work duty.  I imagine whenever he was tempted to bend the truth, or bend the law to suit his own desires or to protect someone or to help a wealthy individual, he looked at that scale.

In fact the story was told of how a member of the community, well, his wife had been caught shoplifting.  The man walked into Grandpa's office with a case of expensive alcohol, and suggested that they might come to some sort of arrangement.  And Grandpa took a deep breath, and told him to get out. He did the right thing.  Another time he was offered a bribe, again, he refused it.  He was establishing an eternal legacy.

We don't seem to realize how much it matters, when we think no one is watching, when we think "who would know?"  or "why would it matter anyway?"  It turns out it really does matter.  Those hard decisions we make, when we think no one is watching, well, the truth is those decisions reverberate off the walls of eternity and affect everything about us, and our lives.  Those decisions don't end when they happen, and either those tough stands or those compromises and capitulations come to define us, and come to shape our stories in expansive over-arching ways.  

Grandpa established a legacy of standing firm, to do the right thing.  He was very simply, a good man.  We toss that phrase around today like it's nothing.  The people that get called good men are often not good men.  My generation in fact, is chock full of some of the most despicable, womanizing, drug infested, pornography addicted, self-serving cowards, the most pathetic ridiculous excuses for men ever seen on this Earth are part of my generation, I know, I was one of the worst!  

It's a tragedy when the world loses someone like Bernie Check, because good men are so rare today.  They are such an endangered species today.  Party boys and bros?  Well, we've got tons of them.  Good men, honorable, decent, dignified men are an endangered species today.  But today, I'm trying to be one of the few.  And I hope you are too.  

Don't get me wrong, Grandpa Bernie wasn't perfect.  Though some of us maybe viewed him that way, it just isn't so. Grandpa would've been the first to say that he was a sinner in need of the grace found in Jesus Christ.  That is just the truth.  He needed Jesus just as much as I do. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  

Grandpa's war stories inspired me.  Grandpa's service to the Wausau police department and the Rothschild police department awed me, even if he loathed the memory of his mistreatment by them.  Grandpa's joy and comfort as he spoke about Christ deeply impacted me.  Grandpa's example of love and service to his country, his family, his wife, and his God set the bar for me in my life.  He wasn't perfect.  But he was a godly man.  He knew Jesus.  So I know I'll see him again, if I succeed in following Jesus day and night until the last day of my life.

Grandpa was deeply concerned with the state of our country, the moral decay, the secularism, and the young turning away from Christ.  He saw hope, but he also saw great strife.  Ultimately he focused on Jesus Christ and carrying the gospel.  Grandpa was a man of dignity and honor.  He was a Christian.  And I hope that through me his legacy of faith and dignity can continue.  I hope that in the future, when I'm faced with difficult decisions, and when I'm faced with opportunities to compromise my ethics and compromise my values that I'll remember Grandpa Bernie, and stand firm and do what is right, instead of what is convenient.  That is a rare thing in our society.  But if enough good men decide to live that way, to do what is right instead of what is easy, then our country and our world still has a chance to carry on.  Ultimately though, the ability to do that is found only in Jesus Christ the savior of the world.  He provides the new desires, he provides the firm foundations, he provides the hungers for justice, for righteousness, for honor, and for truth.  Grandpa Bernie was a Christian who lived it and he will be missed.  But he would tell us to be joyful, because if we have that vital personal relationship with Jesus Christ then we will see him again in the kingdom eternal. 



Related Posts:
  1. Eulogy: A Tribute to Grandma
  2. The Return of Jesus Christ & the New Jerusalem
  3. What will the New Universe be like?
  4. Origin, Meaning, Morality, & Destiny: An atheist and a Christian on discuss Worldview
  5. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  6. Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider
  7. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics
  8. Believing in the Miraculous: The Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross
  9. Can you see through the illusion?
  10. Philosophy, Science, Logic, and History: Presentations on the Truth of Christianity from Multiple Disciplines

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Humility which leads to Repentance: Living a Pure & Victorious Christian Life


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Accompanying Video:

Audio Message:


"I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God." -Philippians 1:9-11

I hope that today, during this Lenten season and beyond that your goal is to glorify God and bring him much praise. God has made us perfect forever through Jesus Christ. The sum of his righteous life, his righteous character, and all his righteous living, including his selfless, righteous death on the cross has been imputed to you. We receive this imputed righteousness through faith alone in Jesus Christ.

You wear daily the perfect robe of righteousness which is the gift of Jesus. Essentially Jesus made a trade with us. He took my filthy torn robe, covered in the sins I’ve committed over my life, the addiction, the depravity, the immorality, the evil works, the thefts, all the lies, and all the evil and put that on for me. Someone had to deal with it. And in exchange he gave me the perfect, spotless white robe that he had rightfully earned through his perfect life.

Romans chapter 13 verse 14 says “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”

Every morning for the past few months I’ve been praying a simple prayer: Lord Jesus, I put you on as my perfect coat of righteousness.” And if I’m having a tough day or facing spiritual warfare, I also include; “And I put on the armor of God, that I may stand against every attack of the enemy.”

The truth is we have an enemy in this world. And we have to be prepared to fight him every day. Thankfully as the word says, greater is Him (Jesus) who lives in me, than he who is in the world.

I remember when I first got saved. I was amazed, stupefied really. I had gone from the blackest darkness, a sorrowful rebellious life and I’d been moved into the kingdom of God. The presence of God was with me. My thinking had been so permanently dark. And suddenly I was in the light. The joy of that was astonishing. I was so grateful to God for giving himself to me in Jesus. My life was truly fundamentally transformed.

Many things in my life changed instantly, as a necessary response to the spiritual rebirth. But there were many issues in my life at that time. I was a mess. I knew I had begun a lifelong journey of walking with Jesus, week in and week out, and I had also begun a lifelong journey of repentance.

Which is what we’re talking about today: Humility which leads us to repentance. In fact lent is all about repentance as we approach the celebration of the resurrection.

As the scriptures say, “ You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,[a]
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
he took the humble position of a slave[c]
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

Humility is so vital in our lives, more and more so I think as we get older and achieve accomplishments. As I begin this journey of lifelong ministry I see more and more that the single greatest danger that faces me is pride. Pride, ego. Slowly but surely over the years the danger seems to be that it could slowly start to become not about Jesus, but about the person. Slowly but surely it could become about the organization, and not the glory of God. What a terrible, dangerous thing pride is! It’s insidious in that it can take anything that is fundamentally good and pervert it to serve evil.

Time and again in the scriptures we see how pride destroys great leaders. Think of King Solomon and all he accomplished, yet all of it was undermined by pride and sexual immorality. King David, same thing, great leader, wise, humble man, yet sexuality immorality and pride damaged his ministry, and caused him to murder. The Pharisees allowed pride to blind them to the coming of their own glorious savior.

We must remain humble, no matter what we’ve accomplished, no matter how much we’ve done to serve the Lord. Because ultimately it all rests on what Jesus Christ has done to die in our place. Our works are filthy rags when compared to the eternal glory of Christ. So we rest upon Jesus, humbly, looking to his ultimate example of humility, and so we ought become increasingly willing to repent.

We’ll never repent if the ego is out of control. Why? Because how could someone so perfect and powerful and awesome be doing something wrong? Or if someone in the church came up to me, and they rebuked me for a sin in my life. “How dare they say that to me, don’t they know who I am? I’m the pastor, I’m the intern. I’m a lay leader.” Etc,etc.

So humility leads us to repentance. What is repentance? Well according to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, which I don’t know if any of you know this, but Noah Webster the founder of the dictionary insisted that he felt called by God to write a dictionary. Amazing stuff. He calls us all to different things, right?

One of the several definitions he gives is: “Repentance is a change of mind, or a conversion from sin to God.”

And it also says: “Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice, from conviction that it has offended God.”

The idea of the repentance is always carried hand in hand with the gospel message. As Jesus said in Mark 1:15: “The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!"

A few other times this combination is used in scripture, Matthew 4:17, Luke 24:46-48, Acts 3:19, Romans 2:4, Revelation 3:3, and 2nd Corinthians 7:9-10.

So repentance is vital. Repentance is the fruit of our response to the incredible grace of God found in Jesus. We repent and believe. John the Baptist gathered the people preparing the way for the Lord, baptizing them in the baptism of repentance from dead works.

During lent it’s customary that we give up certain things in our lives, maybe it’s meat, maybe it’s candy, maybe it’s chocolate, or soda, or alcohol, or things like that. But I’d like to challenge you to go a step further: What can we give up permanently that is displeasing to the Lord in our lives?

I know in my life, I’ve been tempted to not take sin as seriously as I should. But time and again in the New Testament we’re instructed to take sin very seriously and as a just response to the grace of God, to live the most pure lives. We shouldn’t set that aside.

So let’s look at four areas of repentance, some very practical ways that we can challenge ourselves, and invite the Holy Spirit to set us free.

William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army penned this phrase in his diary: "God shall have all there is of William Booth." I hope that is your prayer as well, a total surrender to God, a total giving of yourself to the Lord, so that you may cry out to Him: God you must have all there is of me.” Let’s look at four areas where we must fight to surrender all to God.



1. Money 

Uh oh. Some of us can be real “jokers” when it comes to money. In this area, I’d like to share a blessing. I had never tithed 10% in the past. I don’t know why exactly. I think I was suspicious early on, that the church just wanted my money. But when I first got to this church a member here talked to me about tithing. He spoke very much from his own experience, not really telling me “you have to tithe!” But, “I tithed, and this is what happened in my life.”

Ten percent God asks for from us. He owns 100% of it. Yet he asks for ten from us, to donate back to his cause. He doesn’t need it. But he asks us to give it. This member of the church told me how he always tithed ten percent and in return, he received joy, and financial blessings. Ironically we think we have so little that we can’t possibly give 10%. But when we’re faithful and we do give that ten percent, it’s like God pours out blessing after blessing for honoring him. I noticed that. When I didn’t tithe, it was like I never had enough money. Yet ironically, when I did tithe that ten percent, I seemed to have more money than I knew what to do with. In the area of the tithe, God challenges us in the scriptures to “test Him.” We are told to never test God, but in this area, God invites us to test him. That’s from Malachi chapter 3 if you want to study that. Give 10% of the 100% that God gives you. You won’t regret it. I know I haven’t.

On a side note, let me tell you, every single time I repent in an area, and God grants the victory, it’s like I get a new joy in my life. I don’t feel dirty as I live my life, but I feel more pure and clean, and the sunlight of God’s presence, which is joy, becomes stronger and more perceivable to me.

We have the wrong attitude about repentance much of the time I think. It’s not a grueling drudgery; it’s actually a joyous turning to God, and growing closer to Him. It’s almost like a role playing video game, when you level up, you know your level 23 paladin, then you level up to level 24, and your stronger and have more keen abilities and strengths.

Next area. Uh oh.



2. Sex
For those of you who are married, the biggest dangers you face are pornography and the possibility of an affair. Especially for Christian leaders, these are two of Satan’s favorite weapons.

For single people like me, well, it’s a lot more tough. Welcome to the minefield, for those who are single. Our culture today, our media, magazines, billboards, television, internet, social media is utterly saturated with sex. From booze commercials to music videos to movies and just walking along a beach, it’s a constant battle with tempting images of half-clad men and women. And as Jesus said, if one lusts after a person in their heart, it’s the same as committing adultery with that person.” Additionally, even if your single and you meet someone, God’s design is for sexual intimacy to occur only after a lifetime commitment has been made.

This is such a tough area, and a tough subject. Our culture is absolutely saturated and I am 100% certain that is by design of the enemy. If the enemy can get us hooked on sexual addiction, on masturbation, or on relationship-addiction, he really has us under his thumb.

I’ve seen so many Christian leaders fall to affairs. And I can imagine how it happens. His wife is driving him nuts. And then he meets “the girl who understands.” And the chemistry between them is just electric. They become friends, and spend time together. And eventually the conversations and lunches turn to flirtations. Nothing wrong with that right? As long as it doesn’t go anywhere. And eventually the lunches become dinners, and the dinners become visiting the home. And pretty soon this leader is in the pulpit, apologizing, and resigning from the church. And he’s trying to pick up the pieces with his wife and children. I imagine the relationship appears so great at first, then after the first affair, a terrible feeling of shame comes over like a storm cloud. That’s exactly how Satan works. Bait the trap, get all the emotions going in one direction, then once the deed is done, Satan moves in as accuser, as shame, as guilt, and as darkness to condemn the person for what he just conned them into doing. He always seems to find a way to bring it out into the open too, so everyone knows about it.

Pornography, well, pornography addiction is rampant within the church. It’s ugly, and terrible for several reasons. 1, often those involved are slaves, sex trafficked persons forced to perform for the cameras. 2, pornography accustoms our minds to objectify those of the opposite sex. 3, pornography the images we see, often will remain with us for years. And they can be conjured by our mind, voluntarily or involuntarily at any moment. It is a terrible thing.

If you struggle with pornography, there are many great books, audiobooks, and ways to get over that addiction. Always start with prayer, and take action to find resources to deal with the issue. One excellent book I can recommend is “Every Man’s Battle” by Stephen Arterburn. And the Sex Addicts Anonymous big book. 



3. Addiction 

Speaking of addiction. We could talk about cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs but I think most of us understand those sorts of addictions and where to go for help. But specifically for lent, let’s talk about over-eating. It’s something our culture and society don’t talk about much. But it seems to be a big problem. Several of the leading causes of death in the United States are related directly to eating, such as heart disease (#1) and diabetes (7th) according to the CDC.

Our bodies are temples of the Lord. I’m certain that God wants us to honor him in how we eat. Something I’ve done recently is trying to cut back on my portions. I had really been fooling myself on portions. 8 eggs for breakfast? Sheesh. Now I eat 5. I cut out a lot of the meats and fatty chicken in my diet. I tried to cut about 1/4th from my portions. And I try to eat more vegetables now. Something terrible going on for me, was soda addiction. I was up to about 5 pops a day. By the grace of God, I’m now totally free of soda. And I’ve noticed, I eat less. The stuff in soda makes you hungry, I really think. And quitting soda is tough, because something in the soda is quite addicting. How can you begin to address this issue in your life, if you have an issue with it? There are lots of great ways to help overcome overeating. As always, start by praying about it every night.

I can’t. God can. So I think I’ll let God take away the problem. Not that he’ll help me, but that he’ll actually do the mighty work and complete it in me, as long as I surrender to His lordship over the area of my life.

There are so many other areas we could talk about, lying, stealing, and honoring our parents. But for the sake of time, we’ll move on to our final area for today: 





4. Selfishness
Once again, we live in a culture where it’s all about me. It’s perfectly embodied in the selfie. Take pictures of me, and put them on the internet! Me me me. What do I want? What’s on my bucket list? What can I do to please me? To pleasure me? Who do I want to be with? What do I want to be when I grow up? How can I get what I want?

Selfishness is ultimately idolatry. In ancient times they bowed down to false gods and idols made of wood and stone. Today we bow down to ourselves and our own hungers. I want what I want when I want it. Me, me, me. 



Life isn’t about me, or what I want. Life is about God, and the work he wants to do in my life. I hope your prayer everyday is: “Lord, your will be done, not mine.” And: “Lord what do you want me to do? What do you want next from me in my life?” Seek to do His will. This is a practical teaching, not a theoretical one. I’m in Escanaba, Michigan right now because I decided to follow God’s will and not my own. I know a friend who knew she was called to officership. But there was a competing hunger in her life, she wanted to go into fashion design. And she’s there right now, doing fashion design, and I can only imagine how lonely that must be, to know God’s will and to do the opposite. We’re where were suppose to be when we follow God’s will. The wisdom in that is if we chase after what we want, we’ll never be fully satisfied. Only in God’s will do I find the truest form of who I am, and the purest form of my mission in life. It’s better that way.

God must be first in our lives.

God is sovereign over our money.

God is sovereign over our sex lives.

God is sovereign over our appetites.

God is sovereign over our wants and desires.

Jesus Christ humbled himself, to die on the cross to set us free from sin. This humbling leads us to humility. And Humility leads us to repentance, and repentance leads to joy. Embrace that process this Lenten season, and challenge yourself, in the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome everything in your life that dares to hold you back, so you can become all God has designed you to be.




Additional Articles:
  1. The Return of Jesus Christ & the New Jerusalem
  2. What will the New Universe be like?
  3. Origin, Meaning, Morality, & Destiny: An atheist and a Christian on discuss Worldview
  4. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  5. Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider
  6. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics
  7. Believing in the Miraculous: The Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross
  8. Can you see through the illusion?
  9. Philosophy, Science, Logic, and History: Presentations on the Truth of Christianity from Multiple Disciplines
  10. No Evidence for God?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pray for that Schmuck



One of the best ways to get over being pissed off at someone is to pray for them.  No, I don't mean praying for them to fall into a pit of a volcano.  Or to pray for God to help them become less of a jerk.  I mean praying for them all the things you want in life.  Pray for them to have a happy life.  Pray for them to have a joyous marriage.  Pray for them to have a wonderful job.  Pray for them to have all the joys you want in life.  For especially difficult cases, like family and annoying coworkers, do this for 1-2 weeks, everyday before bed.  It's a powerful prescription.  It turns out when you pray for someone for extended periods, you can't help but begin to love them.  And yes, it's OK to love someone from a distance, who is a danger to your sanity or has been abusive in the past.  There's nothing in the Bible that says we have to return to abusers for more abuse.  But pray for them.  And love them from a distance. Because our word says "Pray for your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44).  

The world really needs prayer today.  Our country really needs prayer. I believe in the power of prayer.  I believe it really changes everything.  God is sovereignly in charge of reality.  Yet He works through people.  Fundamentally he works through people.  In fact in every great move he's made in the world, it's always through a person.  Moses, delivering the Israelites from Egypt.  He worked through a person.  Gideon, challenging the midianites.  He showed his glory and power through His people.  Joshua, Abraham, Joseph, Debra, Paul, on and on the list goes.  Jesus Christ himself, God worked through the God-man Christ Jesus to offer blanket redemption to the world, for those who would believe.

I try to pray three times a day, like Daniel (Daniel 6:10).  I hope you do too.  I usually pray the "Our Father."  I was raised Catholic after-all, though I'm now simply a Christian follower of Jesus.  I pray the "Our Father" slowly, with emphasis in my heart and soul.  I also often make use of the serenity prayer; "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can't change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." 

I'd like to recommend the five finger pray.  It's really easy to remember, you just look at your hand.  The thumb is to pray for those who are closest to you.  Here I pray for my mom, my dad, and my sister.  And my extended family, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.  The pointer finger is to pray for your spiritual leaders.  I pray for my corps officers (pastors) here and I also pray for leadership in the Salvation Army overall.  The middle finger is to pray for government leaders, because it's your tallest finger.  I tend to pray for Congress, the courts, the president, and his cabinet.  I pray for my representatives, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin's 7th district.  He does a great job in Congress.  I even pray for Senator Ron Johnson, even though he's a bit of an establishment, big government schmuck.  But he's solid on some issues.  I pray for the representative for the yoopee here, retired general Bergman.  We'll see how he does in Congress.  Definitely I should be praying for those two nutty democrats representing Michigan, Marx and Engels, wait, oh that's right, Peters and Stabenow.  Yes, they really need prayers.  But don't we all? Next, the ring finger, you pray for the weakest of those in our society.  "The least of these."  I tend to pray for drug addicts, alcoholics, sex addicts, the abused, the abusers, the homeless, the sex trafficked, that God would open doors of escape and recovery in their lives.  I will also pray for specific people I know who are trapped in addiction.  The pinkie finger is to pray for yourself last.

I tend to pray a threefold prayer:  God grant me a healthy body, that I would honor you in how I eat, a clean mind, that I would think your thoughts, and a pure heart that seeks only to do your will.

Prayer is insanely important.  It's like breathing to the Christian.  The truth is they need the prayers, and we need the practice!  Prayer changes the world, but it also changes us.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Eulogy: A Tribute to Grandma

Audio:


I’d like to share with you about the faith of Monica Steckbauer. I never knew her as Monica though, but as Grandma Steckbauer. So that’s what I’m going to refer to her as. Grandma Steckbauer was a devout Christian. We all knew that about her.

We today, tend to write that off as superstition. We think about how backwards the older generation is, with their myths and organized religion. But I’ve found, after a great deal of struggle, addiction, and almost death, that the faith Grandma Steckbauer had was not a myth, a superstition or a nice tradition, but in fact, a real, living faith, in a God who is actually real.

I was so certain that I wanted nothing to do with Christianity. It was nothing. It was less than nothing. It was bigotry. It was judgment. It was backwards. And then Jesus Christ entered my life, in a real way, and changed everything.

For Grandma Steckbauer, she knew all along. She lived her faith in Christ. She served those in need, ministered to the shut ins, faithfully attended mass, and served her family first.

Grandma Monica and her husband George were a dynamic duo, a team. I don’t think most of us truly understand just how much they loved each other. Grandma was a wife who supported George is all his ventures, with music, family, and travel. And she was a loving mother to her children.

But I think the most important thing about Grandma Monica was her faith. It’s a part of her many of us didn’t really understand. She was always inviting us to church, telling us about the saints, giving us cards and devotional pamphlets, which I would promptly toss in the garbage. Yet she continued, day in and day out, to serve as a faithful Catholic.

She was a prayer warrior for me when I was addicted to drugs. For 10 years she watched me crumble, piece by piece. She never stopped praying for me. When I would come to her house and beg her for money so I could buy more dxm, she would give it to me. When I went into her house and stole from her, she would forgive me. When I would be terribly in need, and despairing of life itself, she would pray for me.

The light was always on at grandmas house. During my earliest years, during my youth and upbringing I felt like I was constantly at her house. I cherish those memories of sitting around the table, playing cards, listening to grandpa tell jokes. And I think of the times when we’d be out at the farm. I used to look forward to that as a kid like nothing else. And we’d ride the 3 wheelers. We’d go swimming in the pond. It was a golden time.

Grandma Monica was a lover of souls. Let me tell you. Her devotion to us as a family was central. She was a servant. In fact she loved us so much that we were accustomed to knowing that we were loved, and cared for.

She encouraged me to be creative. She encouraged me to write, to paint, and to learn. She encouraged me to live a moral life. Including the timeless maxim “Eat for the hunger that’s coming.” Any of you remember that one? Oh yes. “It’s nice to be nice” Grandma used to say to me. And “It costs nothing to be polite.”

She had a way of diffusing tense situations. I recall one time when Travis and I had a serious argument at her house, she made sure neither of us left. She would grab us gently by the face and pull us into her arms until we calmed down, we’d cry, and all would be well again. She was that kind of person. Sometimes I didn’t like what a “force of nature” grandma could be. But she always meant it for the best.


Her dumplings and gravy were to die for. And her poppyseed cake was a delight. It’s the little things I think I’ll miss. That kitchen, that table in the old house, our conversations.

Things changed as the years went by, and grandpa passed away. She struggled more and more. But I think I’ll always remember that kitchen. And Grandma smiling. Her welcome, her presence.. as a place of joy. As a place where Grandma’s love provided a refuge of peace and safety from the world out there.

Her and grandpa always kept the family together. The joy of the family get togethers I’ll never forget. Her encouragement I’ll never forget. Her unconditional love I’ll never forget.

She wasn’t perfect. Grandma was not perfect. But she was a lover of souls. And ultimately her love came from Christ’s love for her.

I think it would be her dream for each of you in the family, to come to know the love of Jesus Christ. I thought it was fake. I thought it was nothing. I was wrong. Could you be wrong too?

Who is this Jesus? He is God, who came to Earth. God came on a rescue mission to Earth, to save a wayward humanity. Our sins separated us from the love of God, yet Jesus Christ came and lived a perfect life on Earth. And he willingly gave himself to suffer, and to die on the cross, as a substitute, a payment for our sins. And then he was a laid in a tomb. 3 days later, jesus Christ the God-man resurrected from the dead. And when he did that, he was saying to us today, if you believe in me, you will live forever. Though you die physically, you will be resurrected.

To me, it became clear that God is real when I considered all the harmonious complexity around me. The stars and moon at night. The wildlife, the trees, the sunrise and sunset, the plants and life about me. All of this couldn’t come about by chance. No, God is real. And His Bible, though it’s so hated by our culture today, remains His word.

Buy yourself a Bible. Read through it. Tonight ask God to reveal himself to you, if he’s really out there. I found that Jesus Christ is real. And that he still opens the door for those like me. I found a protestant church, the salvation army, where God is using me now. Protestant or Catholic, we worship the same glorious God.

Grandma knew exactly where she was going. She was going to be with Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Grandma’s legacy is one of faith. And if we are wise, we will pursue that as well.

I will remember Grandma Monica, but more so, I will see Grandma Monica again, in the eternal city. That is the truth. Truly truly, She lived for Christ. And that is the legacy of Grandma Monica Steckbauer.


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Monday, March 20, 2017

What does it mean to Repent?


Repentance is not only a change of mind, but a change in action. In repentance, we are so amazed and happy for what Jesus Christ has done for us, in giving us new life, forgiveness, and eternal hope, that we change our ways, by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

If I have books that I never returned to someone I borrowed them from, I return them. If I have movies or CDs that I burned from the internet without paying for them, I throw them away. If I have clothes that don't belong to me, I return them. If I engaged in watching pornography, I end that. If I smoke cigarettes, I quit. If I drink to excess, I limit my drinking, or quit all together. Drugs obviously, I would need to quit. If I've hurt others, I go to them and apologize and ask how I can make amends. Stolen or pirated software, delete it. Still owe money to others? Pay them back. Accounts in collections? Pay them off (a small monthly amount is fine). 

Engaging in promiscuity? Find resources to learn how to overcome that issue. Do you over-eat? Order a copy of over-eaters anonymous or other Christian counseling workbooks to address that issue. And pray through all of your repentance. It won't happen all at once, its a process over many years. But get started now. Jesus has saved us, so we are very happy to respond with behavior that shows our gratitude and respect for God.

The truth is we've all sold our souls to make ourselves number one in life. Everything can be about me, at least for a little while, but I have to sell my future down the river if I want that. it seems like an easy trade at the time, exalt myself, receive praise about my looks, about my skills, seek in life to make myself important, to show the world that I matter, that I'm a big shot. But it's a big price to pay, my very soul. But when I invert that, and deny myself, and take up my cross, and radically decide to exalt another, my God, I trade a life of luxury and selfishness for a tough life of self denial, self sacrifice, and struggle, fighting my own desire for self importance. But in the end the trade off is eternal life itself. To live forever, and know the One who designed my soul. Ultimately life is all about that, not me.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Philosophical Transformation Series: Sociology: The Divine Image, the Family & the Social Order


Accompanying Video: 



Audio Message:


My grandma passed away on Tuesday. Actually while I was preparing this message, I received the phone call from my dad that she had passed away. I know none of you knew her, but I’d like to share something about her. I gave her a wind chime when I was young, and she hung it on her back patio. For years during my wayward times, I would be in a mental hospital, or in a rehab, or in jail, or overdosing, in the emergency room, and grandma would listen for the wind chime. And the wind chime would be blowing all over the place, making all sorts of noise. And she knew at those times, that I was in danger. And she would pray for me. The wind chime never broke, but boy did it take a beating.

The last time I saw grandma, it was early January. We went to see her at the nursing home. She hated it there. Someone had broke her tv. Other residents would randomly come into her room and stand over her bed at night. The nursing home had drained her bank account and taken her house. She was in a great deal of sorrow. She didn’t know who I was at first. And she was terribly confused. So I closed my eyes for a moment while I was there, and prayed that God would clear her mind for just a moment. And sure enough, God answered that prayer. And she remembered who I was. She said, her favorite grandson. Grandma Monica wasn’t perfect, none of us are, but she was a devout Catholic, a prayer warrior, a caring loving grandmother, and she will be missed.

Today we’re talking about family. The official title of this message is “Sociology: The Divine Image, the family, and the social order.” But ultimately what we’re talking about is family. Society broken down to it’s simplest repeating structure is the family unit. Husband, wife, and children. We’re going to see how God has designed society to function, and how that beautiful sovereign plan is being undermined in our world today.

God made all things, at the beginning of time, and he said after each creative act: “This is good.” He made the universe, the galaxies, the various plant life, animals, creatures, and then he made humanity. But he made man different than any other creation.

Genesis 1:26-27: Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

So if we are to trust the Bible as the definitive word of God, then this short paragraph makes it abundantly clear that every single human life is sacred and precious. You’ve never met a mere person, but every single person walking around doing their thing is a being made in the image of God. All of them. All people have that spark. Which means every single person matters.

Even the ones we disagree with. Even the people who make us angry. Which is why we should treat each person with dignity and respect. Even and especially the homeless, the addicted, the abused, and even the abusers. They are all made in the image of God, and therefore, able to receive knowledge of salvation and new birth through Christ Jesus our Lord.

So God designed humanity, and society, and he made it to be good. But, something went wrong, right? The first humans succumbed to a temptation, choosing to disobey God and this act of rebellion led to dire consequences.

Thomas Cole's "The Expulsion"


Genesis chapter 3 verses 17 to 19. God indicated the consequences of man’s rebellion, and self exaltation. “"Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.“

Cursed is the ground because of what was done. So today we live in a fallen world. Which for me, aches my heart a little bit everyday. I think about it as I live my life. What it means to live in a fallen world. It means people suffer. It means people do wrong. It means nations fight and war. To this very day, Russia struggles to take control of the Crimea. Syria is in the midst of civil war. In Iraq an armed insurgency is taking place. On and on the list goes. And people die. Recently my grandma died. My cousin Elizabeth died when she was five years old, drown in a pond. Someday I’ll die. This is a fallen world.

Man was made in the image of God. Theologians indicate that the fall caused a distortion of the image of God upon each man. We are still made in the image of God, with eternity stamped upon our souls, yet we struggle with sin. Our mindset and attitudes as we grow up are grounded in the ancient fall event: We tend to be selfish, instead of serving.

We tend to exalt ourselves, instead of others.

We tend to want to take control, instead of allowing God to be in control.

And each of us, each individual, made in the image of God, is accountable to God for how we live. Each person has certain responsibilities and certain inalienable rights.

In fact our society, our legal system was founded on that premise. Group rights were immaterial. There were no group rights or group identities. Our system was based on the premise that each individual person is made in the image of God, and endowed by their creator with inalienable rights. Government, society at large had no say in those rights, they were transcendent, beyond government’s authority. Government’s only job was to make sure none dare infringe on those rights.

Unfortunately when the Christian underpinnings of our culture and system of laws is swept away, as is happening today across our country, these rights tend to get swept away with them.

See, if people are not made in the image of God, but simply evolved animals, then it would make sense that it would be fine to exterminate unborn children. If they’re just evolved animals, then why not remove the unwanted ones? If people are just evolved animals, creatures, then why not euthanize the elderly? There are many countries considering such possibilities today. If people are just evolved animals, why not allow for assisted suicide? In fact countries like Belgium allow assisted suicide. I read about a 24 year old girl who was deeply depressed, who nearly went through with an assisted suicide. Thankfully she changed her mind.

These are just a few examples of how, when a society loses it’s identity, society begins to crumble. The truth is we are made in the image of God. Which means each life, even unborn lives, are absolutely precious. And it means that the elderly should be cared for, not euthanized in old age. And it means that suicide should always be unthinkable for someone made in the image of God.

Ultimately at the very core of society, of our sociological system is the family. The family is very simply, the father, the mother, and the children. This is a strong foundation for society. The mother and father support one another, love and care for one another, and they work as a team to guide their children and raise them up to be godly, ethical individuals who will support and contribute to the larger society.



Our entire society: our economy, our education system, the arts, entertainment, the laws, the government, and the church all rest in the arms of the family. Husband, and wife, and children. That is God’s design for the family.

Some say oh come on one man and one woman isn’t even in the Bible. Yes it is. Genesis 2 verse 24: “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” One man, leaves his father and mother, one father, one mother, and is united to his wife. Not wives, wife. Singular. One man, one woman. Some say hey there are multiple wives in the Bible. That’s true. The Bible isn’t just a straight teaching book, it includes history and tells what really happened. And every time there were multiple wives did it go well? Nope. Not with Jacob, and not with Solomon.

So God’s design according to Genesis 2:24, the family is one man and one woman. This is an eternal design. It doesn’t change. And if you think about it, it works pretty well; woman and man compliment each other quite well. And through this coupling children can be born. Wild how God’s design is not only elegant, but functional.

Today in our culture, man passionately argue, why can’t we allow man to marry man, or woman to marry woman? They say: If two people love each other why isn’t that enough? That is an emotional argument. But God has designed marriage in a particular way. He has designed the family in a particular way. And when we go outside God’s design, and breach his teachings on this, we do so at our own peril.

Romans chapter 1 verse 25-27: “They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”

That is a tough teaching for our day and age. Should we just read the fun verses in the Bible, just the John 3:16s, the Jeremiah 29:11s, and the Philippian 4:13s? Is every word of the Bible the word of God? Or do we get to ignore the passages we don’t like, like Romans chapter 1, verses 25-27?

The whole Bible, cover to cover is the word of God. If we get to ignore the parts we don’t like, then we might as well toss out the whole thing and just make it up as we go along.

Some might say, “Well who are you to judge? We’re not suppose to judge others.” I would simply reply, “I’m not judging anyone. I’m teaching the word of God. That’s my job as a pastor. The word says what it says, and doesn’t say what it doesn’t say.”

Love those who disagree with us on marriage, those who practice those relationships, befriend them, and minister to them, and invite them into the church, to know Christ, but don’t condone or encourage what God has told us not to do. His word and teaching is true, eternal, and unchanging. We can disagree on marriage, and still love one another and befriend one another.

I want to move on, but I think it’s vital that we understand that God designed the family in a particular way, and that God’s design is good. It is very good.

It’s a blessing that I want in my life. I want to be married, and to have a family. And God willing someday soon I believe I will.

One more thing regarding family: And Jesus talked about it a lot actually.

Mark Chapter 10: “‘God made them male and female' from the beginning of creation. 7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

So Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 and emphasizes it, this is God’s design of marriage, he affirms Gods design, of man and woman, united, and bearing children. And he even strengthens it saying, don’t split about whom God has brought together.

There are several implications.

First, divorce is a serious breach of family. Let me preface by saying that it is sometimes necessary. But the damage is severe for divorce. It’s a fundamental breaking of God’s design. Today in our society, about 50% of marriages end in divorce according to the American Psychological Association. The damage this does to children is severe, though some do deal with it better than others. My parents divorced when I was sixteen years old. I know how divorce feels to the children. It’s something you never forget.

Second implication, assuming you’ve followed God’s will in your life, then you’ve married the person God wanted you to be with. Isn’t that beautiful? God actually designs you to be with someone. I’ve seen many couples like that, where you just know they were made for one another. I’m trying not to be jealous. I really am.  It's a blessing.

Sometimes I look at your children and I think wow, that kid looks like a combination of her mom and her dad. Which, would certainly make sense. But it’s just amazing. We’re so blessed by God. We meet, we get married, it isn’t perfect or easy, but it’s fundamentally good. And then we have these children and raise them up with our values. It’s a blessing. We’re so blessed.

Sometimes we take our family for granted. But often times, like the soldier returning to his children, or her parents, we realize at times just how much it means. It’s love. Love and unity that binds our families together. Love and unity.

And just as our families are created in the image of God, as a community, just like the trinity is a community of Father, Son, and Spirit, so is our church and our society designed as a community.

Though we are born physically of parents and grandparents, we are born spiritually by the power of Jesus Christ, in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we are born again, and baptized into a new spiritual family.

One of the hardest things in following God’s design for my life was leaving behind my family in Wausau Wisconsin. Family is very important to me. Which is why you’ll often see my mom or my dad here at services. They come visit a great deal.

But Jesus said, Luke Chapter 14 verse 26: “"If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Jesus calls us to leave behind everything to follow him. He calls us to love Him above our friends, our family, and even our very lives.

Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and we are the church, not the building, the people. You and me.

Ephesians chapter 5 verses 31 to 33, big shocker, first we had Jesus quoting Genesis, now we have Paul quoting Genesis. It says “31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Husband and wife, become one. A unity. They become one. What did Jesus say about his relationship in the Trinity? The Father and I are. One. Unity. We are the church, and this scripture says Jesus and the church are: one. Unity. Paul writes also, that the church should be: one. Unity.

We start out joined to our family, as a unity, then we go and join with our wife or husband, and we are one. A unity. Then we meet Jesus Christ, and we become one with Him, through union with the church. The church is called the bride of Christ. As a guy, not my favorite comparison. I tend to picture myself in a white dress. Not sure why. But ultimately what it’s saying is that our destiny is unity, oneness with Christ, with the church, in the Spirit, unified with God the Father in the eternal city. That is our ultimate destiny.

Unity is our destiny. Oneness.

So in conclusion, sociology, the study of society shows us that the basic foundation of all of our society is the family. Husband, wife, and children. This institution is under attack today. But we can reclaim a biblical basis for family in our own lives. Ultimately though, the most important sociological structure for us is our connection to Jesus Christ, as the church of Christ. Our spiritual family, our church family, is so important. Churches ultimately unite society together across our country, and without the churches that sow our society together, I don’t know what America would look like. But the simple truth about our society is this: America is a blip on the radar of history. Countries are not usually this free, they aren’t usually this prosperous, and not usually this religious. As we see the United States battling in a culture war between the religious foundation and the militant secular revolutionaries, I hope we’re praying that God’s unity would be found in our societal structure, in our country, in our cities, in our churches, and in our families. 



Church of the Assumption, Malta
A Philosophical Transformation Series

8: Government & Law: The Unique American Experiment 
9:  The Future Destiny of Man: The New Heavens & New Earth
10: Everything is about Jesus: Closeness with Christ & Living Missionally

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Be a Game-Changer: We each must carry the message, No one will do it for us



I'd like to challenge you today to be more than you are.  That is ultimately the goal of this blog, to provoke you be more than you are now, by the power of Jesus Christ.  We live on this globe, this ball, floating through space in it's orbit of the sun.  And we each have countries, regions, and communities that are within our direct influence.  

I hope you'll be a dynamic game changer in your area.  Do you know what I mean?  I never thought I could do something like that, really influence people in my area.  After all, I'm just a young guy, an introvert and I don't really have many special abilities.  But the truth is, when I decided to be more and to do more, it was that decision that began a process.

We have to believe.  Believing can cause anything to happen.  How can you believe?  Choose to.  Choose to believe in what you can do in Christ.   More specifically though, it's about hope.  Hope becomes an assurance that what we are now is not who we will be in the future.  Hope knows that I'm on a mission to change the world. Present circumstances have little bearing.  Yet most importantly it's about love.  If your a Christian you love the people around you.  It's just a fact.  And your afraid for many of them, because they don't know Jesus.  I know I am.  Ultimately it will be about love when you decide to make a difference.  Love for Christ and love for these people you know.

I know where many of you hail from, the United States of course, the Ukraine, France, Slovakia, Russia, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, Austria, India, and so many other countries.  For those of you in the United States and Europe especially, your ability to courage to carry the gospel into your area may well be the only hope for those around you.  The churches are closing their doors.  The churches aren't really reaching into communities.  The churches don't necessarily penetrate certain people groups.  Your their only hope.  Your their only possible future.  

Everything is at stake.  Life and death hang in the balance.  Jesus Christ is God, and he is alive.  So many out there simply don't know about this.  You've got to tell them!

I'd like to make a suggestion.  Start a Bible study!  You need zero capital, no 501c3 status.  Just a Bible and the will to do it.  I did that early on.  I started one, and several of my friends came.  Honestly I think a lot of them came just because they loved me and wanted to be around me.  But who cares!  They came, and then others came.  We started to invite people.  And eventually we had a good group studying the Bible every week.  

Many of us have had the attitude that someone else will do it.  I'm afraid that's just not the case.  There is no one else.  We're it.  Just us.  There isn't anyone else to do it.  We have to do it.  The gospel is true.  The Bible is the word of God.  And young people have been so led astray by media, by the television, by academia, and by the atheistic types, comedians and talking head hacks on the screens.  

Is there any hope?  What can we do?  Start a Bible study.  Start a house church.  Be a prayer warrior.  Distribute tracks.  Write a blog.  Make a website.  Do open-air preaching.  Do something!

Not somebody else.  Not some church or ministry.  You.  One person. You can change the world.  God be with you.  Seek His will and you will never go wrong.  Amen. 


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